The 86th Academy Awards are just four weeks away, but it’s often in the last month before the Oscars that the tide can turn and upsets come about. (This time last year, Lincoln was expected to win Best Picture, not Argo. Two years before that, the same thing happened between The Social Network and The King’s Speech.) Much can change between now and March 2. For now, though, here’s how 2014’s Oscar race is shaping up.
In October, Gravity was the frontrunner. In November, 12 Years a Slave started to build even bigger buzz. Then in December, American Hustle threw its hat into the ring. Those three are still the main contenders (although there is a growing movement boosting Nebraska).
Gravity’s director, Alfonso Cuarón, is very likely winning Best Director – and the Academy showed just last year they don’t mind splitting the Picture and Director trophies between two films – so Gravity may find itself left adrift here. 12 Years a Slave could definitely take the top prize, but Hollywood’s love for American Hustle has been continually growing through January. As of now, American Hustle’s the one to beat.
Alfonso Cuarón has won almost every directing award over the last year, even when Gravity itself has lost for corresponding Picture awards. Whether or not Gravity wins the Oscar for Best Picture, Cuarón is pretty much a lock for Best Director.
Chiwetel Ejiofor, once the undisputed frontrunner for his work in 12 Years a Slave, has been eclipsed over the last month by Matthew McConaughey and his performance in Dallas Buyers Club. If the American Hustle fan club gets a real movement going, it’s possible Christian Bale could pull off a dark horse victory for Best Actor, but it’s currently McConaughey’s to lose.
Much like Christian Bale, Amy Adams could very possibly see a last-minute surge in popularity through her involvement in American Hustle. Short of that movie sweeping all the categories, Cate Blanchett is the one to bet on for her role in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club. No one else is even in the running.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Right now, it’s down to Jennifer Lawrence for American Hustle and Lupita Nyong’o for 12 Years a Slave. One the one hand, the Academy clearly loves Lawrence, having given her an Oscar just last year. On the other hand, they did already give her an Oscar just last year. Lawrence, like all others involved, could receive an American Hustle boost in the coming weeks, but otherwise the Academy will likely feel it’s too soon for her to get another Oscar, awarding it to Nyong’o for stunning debut performance.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Frankly, any of the five nominees could win and it wouldn’t be a surprise. The category’s a complete toss-up. When in doubt, though, always go with the Woody Allen screenplay. Blue Jasmine stands a slightly better chance than the other four – though that could easily change.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The Wolf of Wall Street was too divisive, Philomena was too treacly, and the controversy about the accuracy of Captain Phillips has all but sunk its chances. It’s a close call between Before Midnight and 12 Years a Slave, but assuming American Hustle and Gravity take most of the other categories (as it’s looking might happen), the Academy will probably give Adapted Screenplay to 12 Years a Slave as consolation.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
A two-horse race if there were one this year. One contender, Frozen, has been touted to be the greatest animated (non-Pixar) Disney movie since The Lion King. The other, The Wind Rises, is the final film of anime legend Hayao Miyazaki. It’ll be close, but Frozen’s momentum looks too strong to beat.