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2014 Oscar Predictions: Meet the Lock-Down Winners, Dark Horses … and All Those Also-Rans

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2014 Oscar Predictions: Meet the Lock-Down Winners, Dark Horses … and All Those Also-Rans

Bookmark this page and come back often as Yahoo Movies experts Thelma Adams and Kevin Polowy update their Oscar predictions throughout awards season. Here's Round 1:

It's time for the rubber to meet the road. As movies that were hot out of the gates at the early prestige festivals — Toronto and Telluride — start to meet the marketplace, some rise and some fall. Is the box office behemoth "Gravity" supplanting critical darling "12 Years a Slave?" It's hard to imagine two films more different — a period ensemble drama and a sci-fi two-hander — so there could be a lot of room for maneuvering between those two poles.

That's good news for "Nebraska" a black-and-white father-and-son road movie from Alexander Payne, Judi Dench's crowd-pleaser "Philomena," "Dallas Buyers Club" and Tom Hanks's other movie, "Saving Mr. Banks."

And we're still holding our breath for unseen hopefuls like David O. Russell's "American Hustle" and Martin Scorsese's bashful collaboration with Leonardo DiCaprio, "The Wolf of Wall Street." Meanwhile, sadly, George Clooney's "The Monuments Men" has decamped to 2014 along with the Nicole Kidman vehicle "Grace of Monaco" and Bennett Miller's "Foxcatcher."

Will the fickle Academy remain high on "12 Years" and "Gravity?" Or be tempted by new high profile entries? We'll see. Early frontrunners in BOLD.

BEST PICTURE

Thelma Adams: While most Oscarologists are still holding onto "12 Years a Slave," a hit on the art-house circuit, the monster success of "Gravity" at the box office — and in early Academy screenings — show that there's a new boss in town.

Kevin Polowy: Consider me fickle. There was a short period of time after being rock(et)ed by "Gravity" that I thought it might take over the race. But in terms of staying power, the intensely visceral and potent "Slave " still seems like the favorite.

Early Predictions:

"12 Years a Slave" (T.A., K.P.)
"American Hustle" (T.A., K.P.)
"August: Osage County" (K.P.)
"The Butler" (T.A.)
"Captain Phillips" (K.P.)
"Dallas Buyers Club" (T.A.)
"Fruitvale Station" (T.A., K.P.)
"Gravity" (T.A., K.P.)
"Inside Llewyn Davis" (K.P.)
"Nebraska" (T.A., K.P.)
"Philomena" (T.A.)
"Saving Mr. Banks" (T.A., K.P.)
"The Wolf of Wall Street" (T.A., K.P.)

Other Contenders:

"All Is Lost"
"Before Midnight"
"Blue Jasmine"
"The Book Thief"
"Her"
"Prisoners"
"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"

Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in "Gravity"

Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in "Gravity" (Photo Credit: Warner Bros.)

BEST DIRECTOR

Adams: "Gravity," a director's achievement, has sent Alfonso Cuarón's career into the stratosphere, edging out the intellectual, art-school trained Steve McQueen for now. But looking over their shoulders is Martin Scorsese, now on track for Christmas Day's "The Wolf of Wall Street," a movie that promises to be both audience-friendly and artful. Returning to the top five for the second year in a row, David O. Russell is on the short list for for "American Hustle" — and he's still on fire after "The Silver Linings Playbook" and "The Fighter."

Polowy: This could be one of those rare years where the races are so close we get a split between Picture and Director. McQueen's "Slave" takes home the grand prize, but the innovative technical and visionary wonders of "Gravity" earn the well-respected Cuarón a little golden amigo. Of course, you're right, we haven't seen the efforts from big daddies Scorsese and Russell yet, so how the landscape could change very soon.

Early Predictions:

Joel and Ethan Coen, "Inside Llewyn Davis" (K.P.)
Alfonso Cuaron, "Gravity" (T.A., K.P.)
Steve McQueen, "12 Years a Slave" (T.A., K.P.)
Alexander Payne, "Nebraska" (T.A.)
David O. Russell, "American Hustle" (T.A., K.P.)
Martin Scorsese, "The Wolf of Wall Street" (T.A., K.P.)

Other Contenders:

J.C. Chandor, "All Is Lost"
Ryan Coogler, "Fruitvale Station"
Paul Greengrass, "Captain Phillips"
Spike Jonze, "Her"

Watch Cuarón discuss the making of "Gravity":

BEST ACTOR

Adams: This could be the most competitive and brutal of the Oscar races, pitting young against old, and David against Goliath. Right now, Chiwetel Ejiofor's holding the lead for "12 Years a Slave," but 77-year-old Robert Redford is angling for his first acting Oscar for "All Is Lost," a movie that he carries entirely on his ropy shoulders.

Polowy: It's oftentimes the most competitive field, right? You'd think there was an abundance of strong roles for men or something. Ejiofor's performance is so heartbreaking and understated, but with the politics of Oscar, all signs to point to The Sundance Kid winning for his boat trip from hell. And still, we are in the midst of a McConaughassaince, so it'd be nice to see him stay alive here.

[Related: Grumpy Old Men Robert Redford & Bruce Dern Crash Oscar Party at NYFF]

Early Predictions:

Bruce Dern, "Nebraska" (T.A.)
Chiwetel Ejiofor, "12 Years a Slave" (T.A., K.P.)
Tom Hanks, "Captain Phillips" (K.P.)
Michael B. Jordan, "Fruitvale Station" (T.A., K.P.)
Matthew McConaughey, "Dallas Buyer's Club" (T.A., K.P.)
Robert Redford, "All Is Lost" (T.A., K.P.)

Other Contenders:

Leonardo DiCaprio, "The Wolf of Wall Street"
Idris Elba, "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom"
Hugh Jackman, "Prisoners"
Joaquin Phoenix, "Her"
Forest Whitaker, "The Butler"

Robert Redford in "All Is Lost"

Robert Redford in "All Is Lost" (Photo Credit: LionsgateO

BEST ACTRESS

Adams: Sandra Bullock is buoyant with "Gravity" and could eclipse Cate Blanchett, who was out in front at the end of the summer for "Blue Jasmine." But with Meryl Streep, Judi Dench and Emma Thompson nipping at their heels, and Amy Adams in the wings for "American Hustle," this category has become a slugfest.

Polowy: Bullock and Blanchett are two of Hollywood's most beloved — the former a more populist choice, the latter more artistic — so this should be quite a showdown. And don't get me started on Dame Judi Dench; I'd be her long-lost son any day of the year. Blanchett still gets the edge here, though.

Early Predictions:

Cate Blanchett, "Blue Jasmine" (T.A., K.P.)
Sandra Bullock, "Gravity" (T.A., K.P.)

Judi Dench, "Philomena" (T.A., K.P.)
Brie Larson, "Short Term 12" (K.P.)
Meryl Streep, "August: Osage County" (T.A., K.P.)
Emma Thompson, "Saving Mr. Banks" (T.A.)

Other Contenders:

Amy Adams, "American Hustle"
Adèle Exarchopoulos, "Blue Is the Warmest Color"
Pauline Garcia, "Gloria"
Bérénice Bejo, "The Past"

Watch Blanchett in action in the trailer for "Blue Jasmine":

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Adams: Michael Fassbender benefits from a "12 Years a Slave" sweep — if that's still in the cards. Jared Leto, however, came out of semi-retirement to play a transgender AIDS victim and clinches the favorite spot early in the season.

Polowy: Fassbender's performance will leave you haunted for days after seeing "Slave," but Leto is so convincing in drag in "Buyers Club" that the film could've gotten away with a "Crying Game"-like reveal.

[Related: How Michael Fassbender Mastered Terrifying Turn in "12 Years a Slave"]

Early Predictions:

Daniel Brühl, "Rush" (K.P.)
Jared Leto, "Dallas Buyer's Club" (T.A., K.P.)

Michael Fassbender, "12 Years a Slave" (T.A., K.P.)
Tom Hanks, "Saving Mr. Banks" (T.A., K.P.)
James Gandolfini, "Enough Said” (T.A.)
John Goodman, "Inside Llewyn Davis" (K.P.)
Geoffrey Rush, "The Book Thief" (T.A.)

Other Contenders:

Barkhad Abdi, "Captain Phillips"
Bradley Cooper, "American Hustle"
Chris Cooper, August Osage County"
Jonah Hill, "The Wolf of Wall Street"
David Oyelowo, "The Butler"

Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey in "Dallas Buyers Club"

Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey in "Dallas Buyers Club" (Photo Credit: Focus)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Adams: Don't be fooled into thinking that Oprah Winfrey ("Lee Daniels' The Butler") has slipped as newcomer Lupita Nyong'o has arisen with "12 Years a Slave." No one has stronger ties helping other actors boost their movies, and Oprah has a major platform to sell her own. It’s payback time.

Polowy: Will Oprah be interviewing herself while on the awards campaign trail? We can only hope so. Nyong'o is a revelation and you just know Lawrence is going to walk away with "Hustle" (not an Academy Award, though, since she won one last year) but this one's all about Oprah for Oscar.

Early Predictions:

Jennifer Lawrence, "American Hustle" (T.A., K.P.)
Lupita Nyong’o, "12 Years a Slave" (T.A., K.P.)
Julia Roberts, "August: Osage County" (T.A., K.P.)
June Squibb, "Nebraska" (T.A., K.P.)
Oprah Winfrey, "The Butler" (T.A., K.P.)

Other Contenders:

Sally Hawkins, "Blue Jasmine"
Scarlett Johansson, "Her"
Melissa Leo, "Prisoners"
Margo Martindale, "August: Osage County"
Octavia Spencer, "Fruitvale Station"

Watch Oprah and the cast of "The Butler" discuss the film with Thelma:

Come back soon for additional categories, and see more predictions from Thelma Adams and Kevin Polowy plus a whole team of Oscarologists on Gold Derby.

Follow Thelma Adams and Kevin Polowy on Twitter.