After months spent sitting in darkened theaters and on comfortable couches watching movie after movie, the film fanatics’ Super Bowl has arrived—it’s Oscar Sunday! More than any Oscars in recent memory, this one has a number of important categories that might still be too close for anyone to call ahead of time. From a Best Supporting Actress race for the ages to a Best Picture group without a clear favorite, this year’s ceremony is more difficult to predict than usual, but I think that’s going to make it even more fun to watch.
Below are my picks for all 24 categories, with analysis (and my sentimental favorites) for each of tonight’s major awards. Let me know in the comments what your ballot looks like, and don’t forget to join me on Twitter, where I’ll be dissecting everything from the red carpet fashions and Ellen’s sure-to-be-fabulous hosting skills to the night’s big winners and losers.
My Pick: 12 Years a Slave
My Wish: Her
My Thoughts: No movie I saw in this past year made me think or feel as deeply as Her, but I know it doesn’t stand a chance against the big boys in this category, despite its originality. In the three-horse race between 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, and American Hustle, I expect the Academy to choose the emotionally potent historical drama (a favorite genre of theirs over the years), and the choice is not without merit—12 Years a Slave was fearless and filled with strong performances.
My Pick: Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
My Wish: Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
My Thoughts: As much as I would love to see DiCaprio (my favorite actor since the age of 10) finally take home an Oscar for what many are calling his best work to date, I don’t think anyone is taking this Oscar from McConaughey. His physical transformation was astounding, but it was the emotional commitment he gave to this role that floored me. Also, his trademark charm helped make Dallas Buyers Club not just an emotionally compelling film but also a surprisingly warm and entertaining one.
My Pick: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
My Wish: Amy Adams (American Hustle)
My Thoughts: I still haven’t seen Blue Jasmine, but I’m not sure there’s been a performance more universally accepted as the best in its category this year. This award has been Blanchett’s since the film was released. As much as I’d love for Adams to finally get Oscar recognition in a year in which she served as the sexy but surprisingly vulnerable heart and soul of my favorite ensemble of the year (and turned in another excellent performance in Her), I’m sad to say it’s just not going to happen this year.
My Pick and My Wish: Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
My Thoughts: I went into my viewing of Dallas Buyers Club expecting to love Leto’s performance. I was blown away by the manner in which the warmth, softness, and strength he brought to this role exceeded my already high expectations. Leto made Rayon feel like a deeply-flawed but also deeply-lovable person rather than just a stereotype or a saint. From Rayon’s poker-playing introduction to her heartbreaking final meeting with her father, I never felt like I was watching great acting; I felt like I was watching something real. And that’s all I can ever ask for from an actor—to make me believe in the story they’re telling.
My Pick and My Wish: Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)
My Thoughts: Don’t count Jennifer Lawrence out, but I really think the Academy is going to reward Nyong’o for the grounded, quietly strong presence she brought to such a tormented character. There was such controlled desperation in her performance that it was impossible not to get swept up in Patsey’s story even more than Solomon’s. Nyong’o approached this role with a sense of dignity that never felt forced; it came from within. The scene where she begs Solomon to kill her still haunts me even a month after I saw the film.
My Pick and My Wish: Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity)
My Thoughts: All of the directors in this category told brilliant stories, but Cuarón created entirely new ways of filmmaking to tell his story. Gravity was technically astounding, but it was directed with a kind of seamless style that allowed you to focus on the story even as you were marveling at its visuals. Such blending of story and style is the hallmark of a great director, and it’s the reason why Cuarón is so deserving of this award.
My Pick: American Hustle
My Wish: Her
My Thoughts: If the Academy were in the mood to honor the “original” part of “Original Screenplay,” they should give the Oscar to Her without question. Its story was unlike anything else I’ve ever seen, and it was so much more than just the story of a man falling in love with his phone. It was a story of what it means to be human, what it means to connect with a person, and why technology can never really replicate the bonds human beings form with one another. But I have a feeling that the Academy is going to instead to choose to honor the “screenplay” part of this award’s title—aka the film with the most talking and the cleverest dialogue. Besides, there’s no way American Hustle isn’t winning some major award tonight considering the way it’s been honored at other award shows this year.
My Pick and My Wish: 12 Years a Slave
My Thoughts: I am currently in the middle of reading Solomon Northup’s account of his enslavement, and I am impressed with the amount of detail screenwriter John Ridley took right from the pages of the book. He also did a remarkable job of capturing Northup’s internal struggle between holding on to his dignity and pretending to be less than what he was for the sake of his own life.
And here’s what the rest of my ballot looks like.
Film Editing: Gravity
Production Design: The Great Gatsby
Animated Feature: Frozen
Animated Short Film: Get a Horse!
Documentary Feature: The Act of Killing
Documentary Short: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
Live Action Short: Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)
Foreign Language Film: The Great Beauty (Italy)
Costume Design: American Hustle
Makeup and Hairstyling: Dallas Buyers Club
Visual Effects: Gravity
Sound Mixing: Gravity
Sound Editing: Gravity
Original Score: Gravity
Original Song: “Let It Go” (Frozen)