Rarely do I feel as confident about my ballot heading into Oscar Sunday as I do this year.
Of course, the lack of suspense in some of the major categories — best actor, actress, supporting actor and director are all locks — could make for a boring telecast. Especially if, like me, you’re not exactly inspired by the selection of Ellen DeGeneres as host again. Ellen is hilarious, but she doesn’t make me want to rush to my spot on the couch.
But come Oscar Sunday, I will be watching closely, just as I have every year since I was a kid.
I am a movie addict. I don’t just love watching films, but I love talking about them, rating and ranking them, and debating endlessly. I recognize the Oscars can be a little hokey and boring to some, but it’s something I always look forward to.
This year, as is usually the case, I managed to see every film nominated in the eight major categories. And I finished up early enough this time around to see many of the other top critically acclaimed films.
I happen to agree with a lot of the favorites this year.
So here’s my Oscar picks for this year. As I have in the past, I present who I think will win, but also share who I would have voted for and a candidate I think should have been nominated in the five major categories.
This year, I’ll be defending my title in my own Oscar pool for the second straight year. Feel free to copy my ballot to bring home a prize of your own.
“12 Years a Slave”
I left the theater thinking “12 Years a Slave” was missing something. Maybe it was the hype? Or maybe the gritty style and the lack of melodrama that made it a great film is to blame?
It featured a good story and a great cast — too good a cast, considering the distracting cameos — but it didn’t move me the way I thought it would.
“Gravity,” on the other hand, felt like a best picture to me. It featured unrivaled visual effects, a score that sucked me right in and I left the theater feeling fully entertained. It was that rare film that mixes popcorn blockbuster with art house. Alfonso Cuaron, master of the long tracking shot, has taken his game to another level with a film that’s sure to net him a much-deserved Best Director Oscar.
That said, “12 Years” will be the winner.
Should have been nominated: “Short Term 12” — the best movie you probably didn’t see this year.
Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”
I never saw Jordan play in person. And the Beatles broke up years before I was born.
But thanks to the accessibility of film and television, which I can stream in my living room, I can say I’ve seen lots of great actors at the top of their game.
The prolific Matthew McConaughey is the latest example. He’s why I’ll stay up past 1 a.m. Oscar Sunday, so I can watch “True Detective” after the awards end.
This year he gave two great turns as a leading man in film — “Dallas Buyers Club” and “Mud” — and also as a scene-stealing bit part in “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
It’s the leading man in the latter film that will give him his stiffest competition. Leonardo DiCaprio was at his best, too, in Martin Scorsese’s latest masterpiece. And there’s something to be said for Oscar voters wanting to reward great performers who’ve never won before. But can’t the same be said for McConaughey?
That’s why I have him as a lock.
Should have been nominated: Tom Hanks, “Captain Phillips” — maybe Hollywood has Hanks fatigue, but this was the legend’s best work in 20 years.
Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”
This is an intriguing category. It features my favorite actress working in Hollywood today in her best role yet in Blanchett; the greatest actress of all-time in what I believe to be one of her finest performances in Meryl Streep; and the best actress today who’s never won an Academy Award before in Amy Adams.
I didn’t even have to mention that the brilliant Judi Dench and stunning Sandra Bullock are nominated in this category. What a year it was for women in film.
All that said, Blanchett is so good in Woody Allen’s latest, the terrific “Blue Jasmine,” that she’s a lock to take home the statuette.
Should have been nominated: Emma Thompson, “Saving Mr. Banks” — I can’t imagine anyone else in that role.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”
Back when I was a freshman in high school, I never thought I’d be writing that Jared Leto will and should win an Oscar. Maybe that’s because he was so one-dimensional in “My So Called Life,” or maybe it was the fact that every girl I wanted to make out with has posters of him on their wall. Yeah, it was probably the latter.
His physical transformation in “Dallas Buyers Club” was outclassed only by the way he carried the most emotionally weighty scenes in the film. I hope this is the beginning of a great Hollywood comeback.
Should have been nominated: Daniel Brühl, “Rush” — a flawed but entertaining film with a dynamite performance at its core.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”
My least favorite of the major categories, there was no one performance that really did it for me this year. There wasn’t even that one big snub.
The race, in my eyes, is between Nyong’o and Jennifer Lawrence of “American Hustle.” Considering Lawrence won the best actress Oscar last year, when I felt it should have gone to Jessica Chastain for “Zero Dark Thirty,” I give Nyong’o the edge in a category where voters like to reward the newcomer (see Tomei, Sorvino and Hudson).
My personal choice would be June Squibb for Nebraska, who provided the best lines in a film chock full o’ great ones.
Here’s who I think will win in the remaining 19 categories:
Alfonso Cuarón, “Gravity”
Spike Jonze, “Her”
John Ridley, “12 Years a Slave”
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
“The Great Beauty”
Emmanuel Lubezki, “Gravity”
Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger, “Gravity”
Catherine Martin and Beverley Dunn, “The Great Gatsby”
Catherine Martin “The Great Gatsby”
MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews, “Dallas Buyers Club”
Steven Price, “Gravity”
“Let it Go,” from “Frozen”
Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro, “Gravity”
Glenn Freemantle, “Gravity”
Timothy Webber, Chris Lawrence, David Shirk and Neil Corbould, “Gravity”
BEST DOCUMENTARY, FEATURE
BEST DOCUMENTARY, SHORT SUBJECT
“The Lady in Number 6”
BEST SHORT FILM, ANIMATED
“Get a Horse!”
BEST SHORT FILM, LIVE ACTION
“The Voorman Problem”