We're less than 24 hours from one of the most exciting days on any movie prognosticator's calendar, Oscar Nomination Day! This year, thanks to a wide spectrum of strong filmmaking, many of the races are overcrowded with talent dying to hear their name called tomorrow morning. Here's how I envision the 6 major categories playing out, when the Nominations are announced tomorrow:
Best Supporting Actress
This race seems fairly locked down, but teetering on the edge of in/out is ironically one of the most powerful women in the world, Oprah Winfrey. While I was on the anti-Oprah side of the argument, her star-power alone makes her a difficult omission by the Academy. Although the Golden Globes passes her over with ease, I don't see the Oscars doing the same. As a result, Blue Jasmine's Sally Hawkins looks to be the odd-woman odd in this dogfight.
Nominees: Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle), Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave), Julia Roberts (August: Osage County), June Squibb (Nebraska) and Oprah Winfrey (Lee Daniels' The Butler)
Best Supporting Actor
No one quite knows where the biggest wildcard this year, The Wolf of Wall Street, stacks up in any of the major battles. Will the Academy embrace the excellent work from a legendary director, or will they turn their back to it amidst controversy that the film glorifies its subject matter? If the Oscars go all-in with Scorsese's work, then Jonah Hill has a legitimate shot of hearing his name called tomorrow. However, with an always over-stuffed Supporting Actor race, I find Hill to be on the outside looking in, unfortunately. The Academy will find other ways of recognizing The Wolf of Wall Street, while Jonah Hill will sadly miss the cut like other Oscar-hopefuls such as the late James Gandolfini, the "never really had a shot" James Franco and Tom Hanks for Saving Mr. Banks.
Nominees: Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips), Daniel Bruhl (Rush), Bradley Cooper (American Hustle), Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave) and Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
Plenty has been made about Meryl Streep's surprising defeat this weekend at the hands of American Hustle's Amy Adams during the Golden Globes. But it's important to remember that the Globes do their own thing, and it isn't necessarily a sign of things to come. Streep has a proven track record with the Academy, and I'd put my money on those odds any day. Also, while attempting to ride the Amy-Adams-wave, I searched near and far for a proper exclusion on her behalf. Sure, American Hustle is backed by some much-needed momentum, but outside of Emma Thompson from the quickly fading Saving Mr. Banks, I just don't see the room for Adams. Sorry, can't sit here!
Nominees: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Judi Dench (Philomena), Meryl Streep (August: Osage County) and Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)
Once again, we're tasked with deciphering The Wolf of Wall Street's effect on the voting body. And while Jonah Hill is gonna find himself couch surfing in early March, I anticipate that there's enough love to catapult Leonardo DiCaprio into the final five. It's a bold move considering the long documented history of Leo-snubs, even as recent as last year's Django Unchained. Christian Bale always felt like an outsider and Inside Llewyn Davis' Oscar Issac never built a head of steam, but the biggest casualty at Leo's expense is the wonderful Robert Redford. The All Is Lost star refused to play "the game" and it looks like he could very well miss out on a nomination because of of it.
Nominees: Bruce Dern (Nebraska), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street), Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips) and Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
When it comes to the directing race, the Golden Globes seemed to reinforce what we already knew ... How can you not reward Alfonso Cuaron's groundbreaking work in Gravity? While there's three secure picks along with Steve McQueen and David O. Russell, any of the other five major players find themselves scratching and clawing for the final two spots. It's really a coin flip as to how this could unfold, but I feel like Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips), Spike Jonze (Her) and the Coen brothers (Inside Llewyn Davis) will be left of the list.
Nominees: Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity), Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), Alexander Payne (Nebraska), David O. Russell (American Hustle) and Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Finally, it's the wacky and wild circus surrounding the Best Picture race. Ever since the rule changes have allowed anywhere from five to ten nominees depending on number of first-place votes, these predictions have become a refined art that many of us still can't seem to master. For me, I expect nine titles to make the cut. Unfortunately, that means omissions to Blue Jasmine, Philomena, Lee Daniels' The Butler and Saving Mr. Banks.
Nominees: 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska and The Wolf of Wall Street
*** Starting tomorrow I'll be posting live from the Sundance Film Festival, so stay in touch and get a first-look at the best independent film 2014 will have to offer!