It is that time of year again. The 86th annual Academy Awards are slated for March 2. It is one of the most competitive races in recent memory. The award ceremony is always known for an upset or two to keep it riveting. This year is unlikely to have a surprise Best Picture winner. The frontrunners are ‘Gravity’ (10 nominations), ’12 Years a Slave’ (9 nominations) and ‘American Hustle’ (10 nominations). These three movies will duke it out for Oscar gold. Leading the pack with nominations is no guarantee for victory as Steven Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln’ experienced last year.
The Best Director Oscar has the potential to make history this year. If Steve McQueen wins, it will be the first black director to do so. If Alfonso Cuaron wins, it will be the first Latino filmmaker to take home the coveted award.
Although ’12 Years a Slave’ is an important film historically, it will be interesting how it plays out. It’s a tough film to watch and not one that you’re likely to view more than once due to its heartbreaking subject matter. It may prevail simply on the way the Academy wants to be perceived to the world. It’s not about what feel-good movie they like the best; it’s sometimes about making a politically correct vote.
Best Actor - Leonardo DiCaprio
While Matthew McConaughey in 'Dallas Buyers Club' and Chiwetel Ejiofor in '12 Years a Slave' seem like a sure bet, I'm going with the wildcard lead actor nominee Leonardo DiCaprio for the top prize. Although Martin Scorsese incites love and hate from audiences with 'The Wolf of Wall Street,' DiCaprio 's over-the-top performance is one of the best in his stellar career.
Best Actress - Cate Blanchett
Cate Blanchett is the frontrunner for the Best Actress Academy Award. She plays a delusional socialite in Woody Allen's 'Blue Jasmine.' She is a shoo-in for the top honor and deserves it. The controversy surrounding Allen and Mia Farrow's family will not effect the vote.
Best Supporting Actor - Jared Leto
Jared Leto plays a transgender woman with AIDS in 'Dallas Buyers Club.' He's a lock for the Best Supporting Actor award. He has earned raves for his performance and praise from the Golden Globes and SAG.
Best Supporting Actress - Jennifer Lawrence
Although Lupita Nyong'o of '12 Years a Slave' gives a moving performance and is considered a frontrunner, my choice is Jennifer Lawrence as the flighty housewife in 'American Hustle.' Her acting range is incredible and she steals every scene. If she takes home the golden statuette, she will become only the fifth actor or actress to win Oscars in two consecutive years.
Best Director - Alfonso Cuaron
This is a threeway race between Steve McQueen, David O. Russell and Alfonso Cuaron. Cuaron is my pick for Best Director. If it weren't for his perseverance, this groundbreaking film would never have been made. He will be the first Latin filmmaker to win the honor.
Best Adapted Screenplay - John Ridley
John Ridley's script is the indisputable frontrunner and my choice for Best Adapted Screenplay. '12 Years a Slave' is an important film historically and is based on Solomon Northrup's stirring memoir.
Best Original Screenplay - Spike Jonze
Films rarely get more original than Spike Jonze's futuristic love story 'Her.' The creative tale makes thought-provoking observations about where we are at with technology and where we may be headed.
Best Foreign Film - The Great Beauty
'The Great Beauty' is a surreal masterpiece. It pays homage to the great director Fellini and reminds us that Italian cinema can still be artsy and vibrant.
Cinematography - Gravity
The groundbreaking special effects and cinematography make it unbeatable in this category. 'Gravity' raises the bar in technological achievement as well.
Best Picture - American Hustle
The reason 'American Hustle' is my undisputed choice for Best Motion Picture is that it had the best ensemble cast of the year and it is an insightful look at America's desire to reinvent itself. It's also very entertaining and a film you want to watch more than one time.