Oscars '14: Predictions, part five - The majors
OK, put-up-or-shut-up time. Here are The Cricket's predictions in the major categories for the 86th annual Academy Awards.The Cricket predicted the technical categories on Monday, the craft categories on Tuesday, the short-film competition on Wednesday, and the specialty features (animated, documentary and foreign-language) on Thursday.The Cricket will be live-tweeting the Oscar ceremony (which starts at 6:30 p.m. Mountain Time, with the pre-show red carpet coverage starting on ABC at 5 p.m.) on Sunday, at @moviecricket.ActorNominees • 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."Who will win • Matthew McConaughey, who has been showing his acting chops more than his abs recently, famously lost 45 pounds to play HIV-infected Texas good-ol'-boy Ron Woodroof. Even with strong contendors in Ejiofor and a much-hyped DiCaprio, McConaughey's got this one in the bag, alright.Who should win • Ejiofor's quiet resiliency as the enslaved Solomon Northup wasn't as flashy as McConaughey's Woodroof or DiCaprio's high-flying stock trader, but his performance was more moving. (If we're allowing write-in votes, I'd pick Robert Redford for his one-man performance in "All Is Lost.")ActressNominees • Amy Adams, "American Hustle"; Cate Blanchett, "Blue Jasmine"; Sandra Bullock, "Gravity"; Judi Dench, "Philomena"; Meryl Streep, "August: Osage County."Who will win • There's been talk of a late surge by Amy Adams as the tough con artist with the bruised heart. Don't believe it. Cate Blanchett's take on a modern-day Blanche Dubois is a lock.Who should win • Sandra Bullock had to play much of "Gravity" as a soloist, while also dealing with the demands of an effects-heavy production.Supporting ActorNominees • 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."Who will win • McConaughey's co-star, Jared Leto, also went through a physical transformation not only as an HIV sufferer, but as a transsexual. Oscar voters love that sort of performance.Who should win • Barkhad Abdi made us feel the menace of Somali pirates and understand what forced him into this life. And he did it as a first-time actor going up against one of America's greatest stars, Tom Hanks.Supporting ActressNominees • Sally Hawkins, "Blue Jasmine"; Jennifer Lawrence, "American Hustle"; Lupita Nyong'o, "12 Years a Slave"; Julia Roberts, "August: Osage County"; June Squibb, "Nebraska."Who will win • Oscar voters love to discover new actresses, especially in this category. This year, that's Lupita Nyong'o, who became a star for her role as a long-suffering house slave. There's been talk of Jennifer Lawrence snatching this one away from Nyong'o, the way she stole "American Hustle," but don't count on it.Who should win • June Squibb's salty performance as the frustrated wife of Bruce Dern's ornery alcoholic was a pure delight.DirectorNominees • Alfonso CuarÃ³n, "Gravity"; Steve McQueen, "12 Years a Slave"; Alexander Payne, "Nebraska": David O. Russell, "American Hustle"; Martin Scorsese, "The Wolf of Wall Street."Who will win • Best Director usually matches Best Picture but expect a split this year, with Alfonso CuarÃ³n receiving the reward for pulling off the technically demanding "Gravity."Who should win • CuarÃ³n continues to do things with a camera that other directors can only dream about.Screenplay OriginalNominees • Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell, "American Hustle"; Woody Allen, "Blue Jasmine"; Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack, "Dallas Buyers Club"; Spike Jonze, "Her"; Bob Nelson, "Nebraska."Who will win • The favorites here are the retro-cool of "American Hustle" and the charming future of "Her." This may be the one category the academy uses to honor David O. Russell's much-nominated con-game caper.Who should win • Spike Jonze's microchipped romance is, by definition, the most truly original screenplay in this bunch. Also the sweetest, most thought-provoking and spellbinding.Screenplay AdaptedNominees • Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, "Before Midnight"; Billy Ray, "Captain Phillips"; Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, "Philomena"; John Ridley, "12 Years a Slave"; Terence Winter, "The Wolf of Wall Street."Who will win • John Ridley, for translating Solomon Northup's story to a modern audience while keeping some of the 19th-century flavor intact.Who should win • As raunchy and reprehensible as its characters' behavior could sometimes be, Terence Winter's dissection of greed and excess in "The Wolf of Wall Street" was never less than fascinating.Best PictureNominees • "American Hustle," "Captain Phillips," "Dallas Buyers Club," "Gravity," "Her," "Nebraska," "Philomena," "12 Years a Slave," "The Wolf of Wall Street."What will win • OK, that three-movie race is really a two-movie race, because "American Hustle" doesn't stand a chance. It's between the stately "12 Years a Slave" and the space-going "Gravity" and, in this case, the gravity of the subject matter will send "12 Years a Slave's" producers (including Brad Pitt) to the podium to collect the last statuettes of the night.What should win • Three of these nine nominees were on my top 10 list: "Her," "Gravity" and "12 Years a Slave." Of those, "Her" was the most touching and most challenging, and would get my vote.