Yesterday, to help you out with your pool, Grierson made predictions in all the technical Oscar categories. Today, we both make our predictions for the eight major categories, the ones you actually care about. Let's go to it.
Before Midnight, Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke
Captain Phillips, Billy Ray
Philomena, Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope
12 Years a Slave, John Ridley
The Wolf of Wall Street, Terence Winter
Leitch: Someday Billy Ray, one of the more underrated screenwriters you'll find, is gonna win one of these, but not this year. As charming as the Before Midnight nomination is, this is an obvious win for 12 Years a Slave and John Ridley. For solid insight as to why this is the correct pick, read this excellent Glenn Kenny piece on just how impressive of a feat Ridley, in particular, pulled off.
Grierson: This is one of the few categories where 12 Years a Slave is the clear frontrunner all by itself. Older viewers may prefer Philomena, indie-minded voters will lean toward Before Midnight, and The Wolf of Wall Street's foul-mouthed bastards will have their champions. But 12 Years a Slave seems like a slam-dunk here, setting the stage for its run at Best Picture.
American Hustle, Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell
Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen
Dallas Buyers Club, Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack
Her, Spike Jonze
Nebraska, Bob Nelson
Leitch: There's still a tiny chance Dallas Buyers Club —my least favorite of the nominated films—gets hot thanks to its possible two actor wins and sneaks in here, but this looks like a rather easy pick of American Hustle. Particularly now that it's looking like it'll be the only award it can win.
Grierson: I don't think Blue Jasmine or Nebraska has the mojo to pull off an upset. Dallas Buyers Club could have enough supporters to carry its writers to victory here, especially when you consider the film's arduous path to the screen. But this category looks like a two-man race between American Hustle and Her. Both films have compelling cases, but I wonder if Her will simply be too "small" and "weird" for a lot of Academy members, while American Hustle is the much bigger hit, filled with colorful characters and dialogue. Plus, I think American Hustle is going to be a bridesmaid in the Best Picture and acting races, leading voters to give it Best Original Screenplay as a consolation. Her's win wouldn't surprise me, but I have to go with American Hustle.
Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
June Squibb, Nebraska
Leitch: Sort of a weak year in this category, though my favorite might have actually been Margot Robbie's understated, hilarious turn in Wolf of Wall Street. It is awfully tempting to pick Jennifer Lawrence here, even though I'd argue she has the least interesting character of any of the big four in that film. But the movie's not as hot as it was a couple of months ago. Lupita Nyong'o, who has charmed every person who has met her during the campaigning process (which, sad to say, does matter), is the call here.
Grierson: Tom Hanks was the last actor to win Oscars in back-to-back years. Can Jennifer Lawrence accomplish that same feat after winning her first for Silver Linings Playbook? Her performance in American Hustle is a fun, flashy turn—the sort that, if this was a Woody Allen movie, would almost certainly snag the prize. But now that American Hustle's momentum has slowed, I'm less convinced she has a chance. Instead, I'm thinking it'll be Lupita Nyong'o, who steals 12 Years a Slave from her much-starrier cohorts.
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Leitch: My least favorite performance on this list is the most obvious, slam-dunk winner in any category. It's Jared Leto, annoyingly and obviously.
Grierson: Every time I look at the Best Supporting Actor field, I think, "Leto can't possibly win, right? There has to be someone else with a more compelling case." But there isn't: Michael Fassbender and Bradley Cooper seem to have disappeared off everyone's radar, Abdi didn't leave a strong-enough impression, and Hill's performance feels a little one-note. Though he had basically given up acting to focus on his band, Jared Leto quickly emerged as this category's mortal lock once the nominations were announced.
Christian Bale, American Hustle
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Leitch: This felt like McConaughey's category for the longest time, but Leonardo DiCaprio has come on strong as more people have warmed up to the movie and, particularly, his towering performance in it. (I like DiCaprio as tortured men — his default mode — but this is solid evidence that comedy might be his secret bread-and-butter.) I really want to go all the way with it and make him the pick ... except that McConaughey, whatever my problems with that film, is at his career peak right now. They'll want to reward that. Is it possible "True Detective" will end up winning Matthew McConaughey an Emmy and an Oscar?
Grierson: With this crop of Best Actor nominees, it's best to forget the movie and just focus on the performance. 12 Years a Slave is a powerful film, but Chiwetel Ejiofor (to his credit) is reserved in it. The same goes for Bruce Dern in Nebraska. Fireworks are more often rewarded, which leaves us with Leonardo DiCaprio and Matthew McConaughey. (As good as Bale is in American Hustle, he seems to have been completely overshadowed by his costars.) Michael Douglas won an Oscar in the '80s for playing a horrible Wall Street denizen, but that felt like a career-capping performance. That's not the case with DiCaprio, who's still in the prime of his life. I think the Academy will recognize Matthew McConaughey: His Dallas Buyers Club turn is the cherry on top of his recent comeback.
Amy Adams, American Hustle
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Judi Dench, Philomena
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
Leitch: Here's two rather safe bets: Amy Adams, the only nominee here never to have won Best Actress before, won't be without an Oscar for much longer ... and this is the last time a star of a Woody Allen movie ever wins an Oscar again. Cate Blanchett, barely.
Grierson: It's kind of amazing that Gravity is such a serious awards contender and yet nobody thinks Sandra Bullock has any chance for Best Actress. (I don't, either.) Amy Adams is the only person in the field not to have already won—that could make the difference, but I'd still bet on Cate Blanchett. Some people may be turned off of Woody Allen now, but they won't punish her performance because of it.
David O. Russell, American Hustle
Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Alexander Payne, Nebraska
Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
Leitch: That Gravity exists is a tribute to the imagination of Alfonso Cuaron, who conceived of the madness out of nothing and made it look seamless and amazing. (He also, unfortunately, wrote the dialogue.) This might not win Best Picture, but it'll give him an Oscar, even if McQueen would have been my choice.
Grierson: This prize and Best Picture are so closely connected in most voters' minds that it seems bizarre that this year may defy decades of tradition. Just about every Oscar blogger is saying that Alfonso Cuarón will win, while most give the Best Picture edge to 12 Years a Slave. In the past 32 years when there's been a Director/Picture split—and both movies were in both categories—the Best Director prize has gone to the more prestigious/serious film and/or director (Spielberg with Saving Private Ryan, Roman Polanski with The Pianist, Oliver Stone with Born on the Fourth of July), while Best Picture went to the more emotional, crowd-pleasing, heartwarming movie (Shakespeare in Love, Chicago, Driving Miss Daisy). If you follow that pattern, it would seem that McQueen wins Director and Gravity (or even American Hustle) wins Best Picture. But not this year: Gravity's degree-of-difficulty points will be enough to impress voters that the award should go to Alfonso Cuarón.
Dallas Buyers Club
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street
Leitch: Gravity still has a real chance here, and there's a possibility American Hustle could sneak in the back door, but I'm thinking the Academy goes prestige this time with 12 Years a Slave. The irony here is that "prestige" is pretty much the exact opposite of what McQueen was going for, which is why the film is so powerful. By the way, if this happens, this will be the second time in 23 years that the film I picked as Best Film of the Year actually won Best Picture. It also happened in 2003 with Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King; Grierson had it happen in 2002 with Chicago.
Grierson: A couple months ago, I was convinced American Hustle was going to win Best Picture, based entirely on the fact that it was more "fun" and crowd-pleasing than 12 Years a Slave (which has had to battle the "hard to watch" stigma all season) and more comfortably familiar than Gravity (which has had to contend with the Academy's general indifference to sci-fi movies). Those three movies are still the frontrunners, but now it seems to have narrowed to Gravity and 12 Years a Slave. There are plenty of reasons to go with Gravity, but I just have a sense that the Academy will view 12 Years a Slave as the more meaningful/important film. Put another way, 12 Years is The Hurt Locker to Gravity's Avatar.
Grierson & Leitch is a regular column about the movies. Follow us on Twitter, @griersonleitch.