The Oscars circus rolls into Los Angeles for their annual schmooze-fest. Let's skip all the guff, trim away the fat about pretty clothes and cut straight to the bone of this corpulent beast...
Dallas Buyers Club
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street
Here's what should happen...
12 Years a Slave should rightfully win Best Picture, though from what I've read in the press over recent weeks, the Academy members seem to have no appetite for this gritty slavery epic, which is a shame because it's hands-down the best film on this list (from those that I have seen. Apologies to Philomena and The Wolf of Wall Street).
The main challenges will come from Dallas Buyers Club and Gravity, both of which are very good but not quite up there with Slave in terms of story and cinematic gravitas. Matthew McConaughey's AIDS drama is surely going to get some recognition for it's acting performances, while Alfonso Cuaron's Sci-Fi is a masterpiece in terms of groundbreaking technological effects and direction but the story suffers from the restraints of being set in space. It did very well at the BAFTA's so it may well go home with its pockets stuffed with statuettes.
Her is a bit of a wet blanket. It's a nice premise but it's not going to be anyones favourite film of the past 12 months. Captain Phillips was very disappointing for me. Having caught it on Sky last week I'm shocked that Barkhad Abdi managed to stroll off with Best Supporting Actor award in London a few weeks ago. Maybe he held a room full of BAFTA fellows hostage while they cast their votes but he certainly pulled some wool over a few peoples eyes. He won't be winning a thing tonight I'm afraid.
American Hustle is my big grumble of this year. Christian Bale is excellent in it but I cannot for the life of me fathom what makes people rate this film so highly. It's just not very good and it seems to have won people over on the strength of it's A-list cast alone. Take away the big names and the outlandish costumes and what you're left with is a very poor heist (minus the heist) drama. I'll be annoyed if this wins anything outside of the costume/hair/makeup categories.
Nebraska is our token art film that almost nobody has seen. It's very good but it's incredibly slow, acting as a vehicle for some great performances without having a compelling enough story to make it a truly great film.
So there we have it. If 12 Years a Slave doesn't win Best Picture then it's a fucking travesty but I wouldn't rule out Gravity opening up it's airlock and sucking away Slave's chances into oblivion.
The Best Actor category is very strong this year. Once again, apologies to Leo for not watching his film but from the others, I'll be majorly surprised if Matthew McConaughey doesn't walk away with this, not just because of his brilliant performance in Dallas Buyers Club, but because he's probably due an award for the films he's made in the past couple of years. His turn here is no better than that of Chiwetel Ejiofor, who is also remarkable as Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave, but I reckon a black, British luvvie won't carry as much popularity as Southern charm-machine MaConaughey.
Bruce Dern is fantastic in Nebraska and I've had a small bet on him at 40/1. I don't think he'll win because of the film's low profile, but he gives a very nuanced performance as a senile alcoholic and it's not beyond the realms of possibility that he might receive a few outside votes from those who can't pick between the category's two big guns. That's also a bit unfair on Christian Bale who is by far and away the best thing in American Hustle.
The winner? I'm going to say McConaughey but I'll be rooting for Ejiofor.
This dull list is made up of the usual suspects. These ladies have 37 nominations and 6 statuettes between them and the strong favourite is Cate Blanchett who seems guaranteed to walk off with this. Again, I haven't seen Judi Dench or Meryl Streep, the latter's film isn't even out yet, suggesting she's thrown in here for old time's sake rather than for any great work she's done. Sandra Bullock did a really good job in Gravity considering she was in a huge space suit for the majority of it. As long as Amy Adams doesn't win I'll be happy. She's the true imposter here, utterly terrible in American Hustle, with her fake English accent, which she's required to do throughout the entire film, buckling like a giraffe giving a piggy back to an elephant.
Cate Blanchett will win.
Best Supporting Actor
I'll keep it brief. Jared Leto will probably win for his portrayal of transgender Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club. However, Michael Fassbender is the true diamond here. His turn as a tormented slave owner in 12 Years a Slave is chilling, brutal and awesome. Forget the others, they are simple cannon fodder, but I think Fassbender can pull off a surprise here by beating the well-fancied Leto to the Oscar.
Best Supporting Actress
I've had a bet on June Squibb at 33/1. Once again, she's very unlikely to win but I backed her on the strength that the rest of the runners in this field are not very strong. J-Law is the hot favourite, and she's quite good in American Hustle, but I can't help but think she's included because she's flavour of the month. Everyone's in love with her but that doesn't mean she'll win here. Squibb gives a subtle turn in Nebraska, providing most of the humour and is very watchable alongside Bruce Dern, injecting the film with plenty of heart and realism. Julia Roberts and Sally Hawkins may well have done some good work but the odds are against them.
Lupita Nyong'o was overlooked at the BAFTA's and I'd be surprised if the same happens here. She's got to win for her role in 12 Years a Slave. If she doesn't, expect a Twitter meltdown.
Here's who I think will win but not necessarily who I want to win...
Oscars Drinking Game
If you are planning to stay up tonight, you may as well get drunk. Here's a game to get you through 3 hours of Ellen Degeneres.