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Golden picks: Our critics place their bets on who will (and should) bring home a statuette Add to ...

AP

BEST PICTURE

What will win: Gravity. Though this is not the obvious top contender, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’s absurd preferred voting system, implemented since the expanded slate of best-picture nominees, makes everybody’s second or third choice the default winner. 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle were polarizing, and Gravity, largely, is admirable and ethically weightless.

What should win: 12 Years a Slave, and no, not because it’s a worthy but tough film about slavery, but because it’s spiritually meaningful. Like Steve McQueen’s previous movies, Hunger and Shame, it’s about paying witness to suffering, which, as author Pico Iyer puts it, brings clarity and shakes us out of our short-sighted complacency. 

- Liam Lacey 

What will win: 12 Years a Slave.

What should win: A tie, 12 Years a Slave and Her As Slave ‘s ad campaign goes, “It’s time.” Time for a serious, unflinching film about this subject to win. Time for a black director/producer to win. And I’d vote for it, too, because I think it brings history forward and demands us to re-examine not just who we were then, but how we live now. For the same reason, I also wish I could vote for Her: It looks forward in a way that makes us take a hard look at where we are, and seriously think about where we’re headed.

- Johanna Schneller

What will win: 12 Years a Slave. If history is to be considered, this one hits on all of Oscar’s most coveted themes: race, tolerance, underdog endurance and liberal piety. An old-school message movie told in elegant style.

What should win: Gravity. If any movie points to a future where technology, drama, artistry and feel-good humanism are aligned, this is it.

- Geoff Pevere 

EVAN AGOSTINI/AP

BEST DIRECTOR

Who will win: Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity. A technical tour-de-force, Gravity is particularly inspirational to other filmmakers, a celebration of wonder-inducing big-screen cinema.

Who should win: Martin Scorsese for his sulphurous black comedy about capitalism on drugs, The Wolf of Wall Street, which is as riotously inventive as 12 Years a Slave is controlled. With its vertiginous camera work, shape-shifting narrative and audacious disruptions, it’s the nominated movie that will still startle in 20 years.

- Liam Lacey

Who will win: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity.

Who should win: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity Cuaron and his crew invented equipment and techniques for this film. He added more magic to movie magic, and for that he deserves this. I wish the film itself weren’t quite so empty. But Cuaron remains one of my favourite directors (Y Tu Mama Tambien, A Little Princess and Children of Men are on my list of all-time greats), so I will be happy to see his beaming face.

- Johanna Schneller

Who will win: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity. There’s no avoiding the fact that, even with the density of technical effects required to make it, Gravity maintains an intimacy, immediacy and point of view that are astonishing. It’s a knockout directorial feat.

Who should win: Cuaron.

- Geoff Pevere 

BEST ACTOR

Who will win: Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club. A worthy cause, a movie about a reformed rake played by a Hollywood lightweight who shows his depth. And he lost more than 40 pounds.

Who should win: Leonardo DiCaprio for The Wolf of Wall Street. In the best performance of an underrated career, DiCaprio finally finds a role where his charisma and boyish energy are a perfect fit in the role of a charismatic young slimeball. DiCaprio’s fearless performance follows a man’s rise from wide-eyed youth to charismatic cult leader, and includes the year’s most brilliant physical comedy.

- Liam Lacey

Who will win: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club.

Who should win: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street No one is a bigger fan of the McConaissance than I, so I will be smiling when he drawls, “All right, all right, all right” from the podium. But if I had a vote, I’d give it to Leo, for his Quaalude-slide out of that wrecked car.

- Johanna Schneller 

Who will win: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club. No one has failed to notice this formerly glib beefcake slice’s recent re-invention as a formidably effective and daring actor, and the Oscars love a second-act career makeover.

Who should win: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street. As Jordan Belfort, the irredeemably soulless multimillionaire junk-bond trader, DiCaprio sustains an attitude of giddy sociopathic glee that summons every character he’s ever played including, one imagines, Leonardo DiCaprio. But the movie rubs a lot of people the wrong way.

- Geoff Pevere 

AP

BEST ACTRESS

Who will win: Cate Blanchett. Blanchett’s star role in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, a portrait of an unpleasant but tragically deluded New York socialite brought low by her husband’s financial crimes, is the class of the field here, an ingenious update of A Streetcar Named Desire ‘s Blanche DuBois, whom Blanchett has played onstage. Amy Adams, with five Oscar nominations already at the age of 39, is due for recognition, but not this year.

Who should win: If the Oscars were truly open to international movies, Bérénice Bejo in The Past, Zhang Ziyi in Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster or Adèle Exarchopoulos in Blue Is the Warmest Colour would offer Blanchett some serious competition, but in American movies, Blanchett’s the standout.

- Liam Lacey 

Who will win: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine.

Who should win: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine It’s just one of those things – the role is as rich as her character was, and she fills it to the brim.

- Johanna Schneller 

Who will win: Sandra Bullock. It’s a one-woman show performed by an actor who is as stranded alone amid isolating technology as her character is in space. She’s the heart in the machine, and it’s an achievement that’s impossible to ignore.

Who should win: Bullock.

- Geoff Pevere 

AP

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Who will win: Jared Leto for The Dallas Buyers Club. The academy has a long history of giving nominations and awards to actors, especially straight ones, who take on LGBT roles – including Tom Hanks, Greg Kinnear, Hilary Swank and Felicity Huffman. Also, Leto’s Rayon is sassy and brave and then she dies.

Who should win: Michael Fassbender, for 12 Years a Slave. As the cruel slave-owner Epps, Fassbender is an unattractive character – a not-so-bright alcoholic with a sadistic streak, but he’s no stage villain. While doing nothing to soften the character, Fassbender does a brilliant job of showing the torment within the tormentor.

- Liam Lacey

Who will win: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club.

Who should win: Michael Fassbender,12 Years a Slave While I love Leto’s commitment, I think Fassbender had a harder road, and navigated it brilliantly. He didn’t flinch from being an utter monster, yet we still saw the aching man behind it.

- Johanna Schneller 

Who will win: Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave. He’s quickly established himself as both a dreamy leading man and versatile talent, and in Steve McQueen’s movie he plays the white-racist villain who absorbs the bulk of the film’s otherwise quietly modulated outrage. We love him because we’re free to hate him.

Who should win: Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street. As Jordan Belfort’s primary lickspittle, enabler and cheerleading toady, Hill proves that being funny needn’t necessarily mean being limited. This a comic performance of extraordinary depth, but in a movie that makes people want to wash.

- Geoff Pevere 

NATHAN DENETTE/THE CANADIAN PRESS

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Who will win: Despite strong competition from 12 Years a Slave ‘s Lupita Nyong’o, Jennifer Lawrence should take the Oscar as the consensus choice. As the star of The Hunger Games and the Oscar-winner for last year’s Silver Linings Playbook, she’s one of Hollywood’s key assets.

Who should win: Jennifer Lawrence. She stole every scene in American Hustle, and pushed an already over-the-top comedy into orbit, and, frankly, Nyong’o’s overwrought performance in 12 Years a Slave was among the movie’s weak points.

- Liam Lacey 

Who will win: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave.

Who should win: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle Nyong’o is deserving, and I hope we see more of her. But Lawrence steals a film about thieves out from under the thieves. Not only does she own every scene she’s in – take her crazy wild card out of the mix, and the whole movie falls flat.

- Johanna Schneller 

Who will win: Julia Roberts, August: Osage County. Going out on a limb here. Haven’t seen the movie, but Roberts sticks out as one of those performers whose past role as crowd-pleasing, revenue-generating, A-list Hollywood star – now of a certain awkward age – probably makes her the sentimental favourite.

Who should win: June Squibb in Nebraska. As the long-suffering, barb-tongued wife of Bruce Dern’s cranky, elderly alcoholic, Squibb injects this otherwise quiet, grey and muted movie with regular jolts of pure, unbridled earthy energy.

- Geoff Pevere 

FRANCOIS DUHAMEL/AP

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Who will win: Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell for American Hustle. It’s fast and funny, it made $150-million (U.S.) at the domestic box office, and actors can’t help appreciating a film with so many juicy roles.

Who should win: Spike Jonze’s Her, which starts off as a story about a guy falling in love with his cellphone and turns into a meditation on artificial intelligence and time travel. In other words, it’s actually an original screenplay.

- Liam Lacey

Who will win: Spike Jonze, Her.

Who should win: Spike Jonze, Her. Literally, the most original screenplay of the year, and I’d say the most purely beautiful film, elegantly subtle, sweet and sad, as well as wise. Jonze’s future is not dystopian, but it’s chilling all the same. I wish more people would see this movie.

- Johanna Schneller

Who will win: On a limb again here, but something tells me Spike Jonze might take this one for Her. He’s widely recognized as a consistently original and singular talent, but his movies have generally been too strange to sit comfortably with Academy voters. This may be a way of acknowledging him without getting too close.

Who should win: Spike Jonze. It actually is a brilliant script.

- Geoff Pevere

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Who will win: John Ridley for 12 Years a Slave. Ridley, a novelist and playwright as well as the screenwriter of Oliver Stone’s U Turn and David O. Russell’s Three Kings, is a Hollywood known quantity. As the writer of a well-structured film that’s a favourite for best picture, he’s the likely winner.

Who should win: The script for the marriage drama Before Midnight is a collaboration by director Richard Linklater and the movie’s two stars, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, which counts as “adapted” because it’s based on two previous movies they made about the same couple. Unique in its emotional flow, intellectual digressions and psychology, Before Midnight is writing that makes you forget about writing.

- Liam Lacey

Who will win: John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave.

Who should win: Steve Coogan, Philomena This is a tricky one to predict. If there’s a Slave juggernaut, it may carry this category with it. On the other hand, if Wolf of Wall Street is shut out everywhere else, this may be a bone the Academy throws Scorsese’s way. But I’d give it to Steve Coogan, who wrote a screenplay that combines crowd-pleasing charm, genuine wit, intelligence, anger and thought-provoking ideas. That is insanely difficult to do.

- Johanna Schneller

Who will win: John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave. This is adaptation with a capital A: drawn from a 19th-century memoir, and rendered powerfully cinematic and emotionally potent. As worthy as winners in this category get.

Who should win: Terence Winter, The Wolf of Wall Street. It’s screwball dense, epic in length and gives its cast a feast of tart-on-the-tongue goodies to chew on. And it turns Jordan Belfort’s memoir into pure, molten, self-lacerating satire.

- Geoff Pevere 

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