This could be the closest Oscar race in years.
The nominees list for the 86th Annual Academy Awards March 2 contains a lot of top notch contenders -- with tough competition, so there are very few obvious winners. But I'm going to take a shot at guessing them, as I do every year. And this was such a great year for movies that I've included several names/films which were left out of the nominations -- check them out if you haven't.
Join me, movie fans, and let me know your thoughts on Hollywood's big night.
BEST PICTURE NOMINEES: American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, 12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street
PREDICTION: In a maddeningly close race between three front-runners, American Hustle is going to win. 12 Years a Slave and Gravity both have shots at this prize, but Hustle, a crowd-pleasing dramedy about a 1970s scam filled with terrific performances and frenetic, virtuoso filmmaking from director David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook, The Fighter) has the edge.
TOO BAD IT WASN'T NOMINATED: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug; Inside Llewyn Davis; Prisoners; Saving Mr. Banks
BEST DIRECTOR NOMINEES: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity; Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave; Alexander Payne, Nebraska; David O. Russell, American Hustle; Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
PREDICTION: For his astounding achievement in creating a viscerally-authentic outer space environment in Gravity -- the biggest box office hit of the Best Picture nominees --Alfonso Cuaron is practically a shoo-in for this award despite strong competition.
TOO BAD THEY WEREN'T NOMINATED: Peter Jackson, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug; Spike Jonze, Her; Denis Villeneuve, Prisoners
BEST ACTOR NOMINEES: 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
PREDICTION: Until January, Ejiofor was the smart bet here, for his heartwrenching performance in the horrifying story of Solomon Northup, a businessman-turned-slave in the mid-1800s. But last month's Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards for Best Actor both went to Matthew McConaughey for playing another real life character, homophobic AIDS patient Ron Woodruff, in the 80s-set drama Dallas Buyers Club. Both of them are fantastic in these movies. But with McConaughey's standout smaller roles in Mud and The Wolf of Wall Street, both also released in 2013, he's got more momentum in this race. The gold will go to him.
TOO BAD THEY WEREN'T NOMINATED: Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips; Michael B. Jordan, Fruitvale Station; Joaquin Phoenix, Her; Robert Redford, All is Lost; Forest Whittaker, Lee Daniels' The Butler
BEST ACTRESS NOMINEES: Amy Adams, American Hustle; Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine; Sandra Bullock, Gravity; Judi Dench, Philomena; Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
PREDICTION: Talk about powerhouse. The women in this category have amassed 38 nominations and 6 wins among them. How do you choose? In this case, put your money on Cate Blanchett. Her riveting performance as a jilted ex-wife of a Bernie Madoff-type mongrel in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine is the one to beat in this varied group of absolutely first-rate performances. The runner-up is Adams, a five-time nominee and the only woman in this bunch who's never won. It's been more than 40 years since a tie in this category -- could her fearless and funny role as a con-artist in Hustle be recognized too?
TOO BAD THEY WEREN'T NOMINATED: Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha; Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Enough Said; Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR NOMINEES: 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
PREDICTION: This is the only category that's fairly devoid of suspense. Jared Leto is the clear favorite to win for his touching and transformative turn as Rayon, a trangendered AIDS patient in Dallas Buyers Club.
TOO BAD THEY WEREN'T NOMINATED: Steve Coogan, Philomena; Benedict Cumberbatch, Star Trek Into Darkness; Harrison Ford, 42; James Gandolfini, Enough Said; Jake Gyllenhaal, Prisoners; Tom Hanks and Colin Farrell, Saving Mr. Banks; Sam Rockwell, The Way Way Back
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS NOMINEES: Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine; Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle; Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave; Julia Roberts, August: Osage County; June Squibb, Nebraska
PREDICTION: In what might be the closest of the top Oscar races, Lupita Nyong'o's role as an abused captive in 12 Years a Slave stands to edge out Lawrence's much-praised turn in American Hustle. But really, any of these five nominees are worthy. (If you haven't, you must treat yourself to the 84-year-old Squibb's riotous performance as Bruce Dern's sharp-tongued, foul-mouthed wife in Nebraska.)
TOO BAD THEY WEREN'T NOMINATED: Annette Bening, Girl Most Likely; Melonie Diaz, Fruitvale Station; Toni Collette and Allison Janney, The Way Way Back; Oprah Winfrey, Lee Daniels' The Butler; Shailene Woodley, The Spectacular Now
Scott Shriner: 330-541-9426