12 Years a Slave
August: Osage County
Inside Llewyn Davis
Saving Mr. Banks
Falling off: Fruitvale Station, The Wolf of Wall Street
Rising star, still: Dallas Buyers Club
The skinny: Since expanding to more than five nominees in 2010, there’s only one occasion where a film scored just a Best Picture nomination and a nod for its lead performance: The Blind Side. And many think this was one of the film’s that had to be added to round out the field to 10 that year. Still, its combination of AIDS, gay rights, and underdog heroics could make it find a spot. Then again, if it wasn’t good enough for Philadelphia, will it be good enough for a film with a smaller box office and lower profile?
Falling off: Ryan Coogler
Rising star: Alexander Payne, Nebraska
The skinny: So, I said I was sticking by Fruitvale Station for the long haul, but that may be a mistake. It’s simply too crowded a year, though its early screeners will help. While it was the hot-button movie for the moment, it burned out too quickly and now The Weinstein Company will have to scramble to get it back into voters’ minds.
Falling off: Michael B. Jordan
Rising star: Forest Whitaker, The Butler
The skinny: Yes, I have now drunk the Nebraska Kool-Aid, even though I have yet to see it. Alexander Payne has been right up the Academy’s alley for more than a decade now, and he could reap big rewards on Oscar night. This is going to be a hard group to break up. Sorry, everyone else.
Falling off: None
Rising star: Julie Delpy, Before Midnight
The skinny: I’m beginning to sound like a broken record. Julie Delpy is fantastic in Before Midnight, but the film will be lucky to score a screenplay nomination. Wamp-wah.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Tom Hanks, Saving Mr. Banks
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Falling off: Daniel Brühl
Rising star: Will Forte, Nebraska
The skinny: Rush is going to fall the biggest victim to poor box-office performance. While Brühl could have been seen as the front-runner a month ago, the field is now too crowded with films that will have much better marketing campaigns. And how great would it be if Will Forte, the unsung SNL cast member with only two dreadful lead performances, become among the few to score an Oscar nomination?
Falling off: Carey Mulligan
Rising star, still: Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
The skinny: Always the toughest category to predict, this one has a formidable slate of contenders, including two first-timers. I think the August: Osage County group cancels each other out.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Inside Llewyn Davis
Falling off: Fruitvale Station
Rising star: Gravity
The skinny: I really like the mix here, even if all the films have more comedic elements than your typical five. Gravity could still find its way here if the film is one of those 10-nomination juggernauts. But the script was always the one criticism against the film.
Falling off: None
Rising star: Blue is the Warmest Color
The skinny: I’m sure all these films have very good scripts (and I can vouch for Before Midnight and Captain Phillips), but I’d love to see something a little out of the ordinary mix it up a bit. That’s why three-hour lesbian relationship drama Blue is the Warmest Color, adapted from a French graphic novel, is the perfect wild-card nominee.
Falling off: Ernest and Celestine
Rising star, still: O Apóstolo
The skinny: The big question mark remains Despicable Me 2. It’s the second-biggest movie of the year (until Catching Fire overtakes it), but with its predecessor failing to make it and most agreeing the sequel isn’t as good, can it even get nominated? My money’s still on no. That leaves The Croods, surprisingly not terrible, to make it in.