After almost six months of debate, backbiting, speculation and guesswork (and yeah, it is close to six months—awards season got underway officially with the debut of "Gravity" in Venice in August, though some could trace it back even earlier to the arrival of "Blue Jasmine in the summer), we're almost there: we're less than 48 hours from the announcement of the nominations for the 86th Academy Awards.
We've been documenting the rise and fall and rise of the various contenders over the last few months, but now it's time, to borrow an expression from the Dalai Lama, to shit or get off the pot. Below, and over the next few pages, you'll find our (and by our, I mean mine) final, irrevocable predictions for what'll be nominated for what on Thursday morning. Take a look, and check back bright and early on the 19th to find out how wrong we were.
Best Documentary Short
"Karama Has No Walls"
"The Lady In Number 6: Music Saved My Life"
"Prison Terminal: The Last Days Of Private Jack Hall"
As ever, these nominations are the trickiest to call because so few outside of the nominating committees have seen the film, which haven't really popped up outside the festival circuit. But it's also possible to make some educated guesses fairly accurately based on the eight-strong shortlist. I reckon that "SLOMO," about a neurologist who gives up his life to become a Pacific Beach rollerblader, is a little too lightweight in subject to make the cut, while "Facing Fear," about a gay man confronting the neo-Nazi who attacked him, could seem too familiar. But I'm confident that "Jujitsu-ing Reality," about a paralyzed screenwriter, will connect with voters, while "Karama Has No Walls," about a protest in Yemen that led to 50 deaths; "The Lady In Number 6," about a 109-year-old Holocaust survivor and practicing pianist; and "Prison Terminal," about a WW2 vet and murderer dying in prison, all seem to be made of the right stuff. Beyond that, I've gone for "Recollections," about survivors of the Japanese tsunami.
Dark Horse: Don't rule out "CaveDigger," about an artist in New Mexico who digs "art caves"—it might not be as issue-driven as some of its rivals, but it ticks the artistry box.
Best Animated Short
"Get A Horse!"
"Requiem For Romance"
"Room On The Broom"
Unlike the other short categories, Best Animated Short can feature some big names in contention, and barring a serious upset, we should see Disney's Mickey Mouse-starring "Get A Horse!" and the charming "Room On the Broom," from the makers of the Oscar-nominated "The Gruffalo," among the final five. Beyond that, "The Missing Scarf" is sweet, but looks like an iPhone game, while Japanese ghost story "Possessions" and the somewhat slight "Feral" also feel like they'll be on the outside. Chris Landreth won in 2005 for his film "Ryan," but his latest, "Subconscious Password," is a longer bet, though it's distinctive (watch it in full here). So I reckon that the other three nominees will be the steampunkish "Mr. Hublot," lo-fi kung-fu break-up short "Requiem For Romance" (watch in full), and "Gloria Victoria," which is somewhat abstract, but hugely distinctive and has proved popular on the festival circuit.
Dark Horse: Stop-motion often does well, so we could see "The Hollow Land" sneaking in over "Room On the Broom" or "Gloria Victoria."
Best Live-Action Short
"Avant Que De Tout Perdre" (Just Before Losing Everything) *
"The Voorman Problem"
Again, this is a case of process of elimination. Finnish comedy "Pitaako Mun Kaikki Hoitaa" would be fun to see whichever Hemsworth brother ends up presenting the award on Oscar night try to pronounce, but is a bit lightweight, as is the Italian "Tiger Boy." The Spanish child-soldier drama "That Wasn't Me" and Serbian dark comedy "Two" are both technically accomplished, but tread familiar thematic territory. So I've got my money on French short "Just Before Losing Everything," the directorial debut of "Au Revoir Les Enfants" star Xavier Legrand, Indian drama "Kush," a prize-winner in Venice, Fantastic Fest-winning sci-fi short "Record/Play" (which is terrific, and you can watch in full here), Canadian Genie-winner "Throat Song," about an Inuit woman leaving her abusive husband, and British short "The Voorman Problem," based on a short story by "Cloud Atlas" author David Mitchell, and with some star power courtesy of Tom Hollander and the omnipresent (but always welcome) Martin Freeman.
Dark Horse: Danish sci-fi short "Helium." Director Anders Walter made the longlist last year with "9 Meter," but could step up to be a nominee this time around.
Best Sound Editing
"All Is Lost"
To recap, in case you've forgotten the difference, Best Sound Editing rewards the design and creation of a film's soundscape, while Sound Mixing is about how they've been put together in the final track. Here, "Captain Phillips" and "Gravity" both seem like locks, while the craft of the very noisy "Lone Survivor" will probably figure in both of these categories. Beyond that, the branch should recognize the very fine work in "All Is Lost," while I'd just give the edge to "Rush" over blockbuster "Iron Man 3," but it could go either way.
Dark Horse: Sometimes, the strength of support for a Best Picture nominee makes itself clear here, as with "Argo" last year, which got two sound nods. "American Hustle" is probably unlikely, but don't be surprised if "12 Years a Slave" figures in. "Pacific Rim" could also be a possibility.
Best Sound Mixing
"12 Years a Slave"
"Inside Llewyn Davis"
Again, "Captain Phillips" and "Gravity" will be in, as will "Lone Survivor." Music-related films often perform well here, so "Inside Llewyn Davis" should be a safe-ish bet here, if not in other categories. As for the fifth slot, it's trickier to call, but "12 Years a Slave" might have a better chance here than in the Editing category.
Dark Horse: "All Is Lost" was mostly stagebound, with the sound generally being created in post, which makes it a less likely nominee here. But if the branch go for the film, it could still double up.
Best Makeup And Hairstyling
"Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa"
"The Lone Ranger"
With likely bets "Rush," "The Hobbit," "The Butler," "12 Years a Slave" and "Prisoners" left off the Academy's seven-strong shortlist, it opened up the category quite a bit. "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters" probably isn't quite classy enough (though this is the branch that nominated "Norbit"), and "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" will be hurt by being a sequel, despite some of those gravity-defying hairpieces, but look for "American Hustle" to make it in, becoming the first film since "Hairstyling" was added to the category name last year to make it in purely on the basis of its hairdos. Meanwhile, the old-age make-up on, of all things, "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa," is likely to be recognized, and I'd take the impressive work on "The Lone Ranger" over the shinier "The Great Gatsby."
Dark Horse: "Dallas Buyers Club" is probably the least showy film on the list, but again, the movie is well liked across the board, and given its surprising achievements with the guild, don't be totally shocked if this makes it in.