On August 28th, "Gravity" premiered at the Venice Film Festival and pretty much marked the start, in full force, of the awards season. Between then and Oscar night on Sunday, six months will have passed. 27 weeks. 186 days. It's been a long, vicious, and sort of fascinating Oscar season, and one of the most unpredictable in years.
But the light at the end of the tunnel is approaching. Three days from now, on Sunday, March 2nd, the 86th Academy Awards take place. Which means that, before we disappear to a beach somewhere to watch nothing but vulgar auteur movies, we have one more thing to do: our final Oscar predictions.
We've certainly felt more confident in the past, as there's a lot still up in the air, but you know, go big or go home. Take a look at our final, final picks, for the films and people we believe will win, and the ones we wish were going to, below.
Best Documentary Short Subject
"Karama Has No Walls"
"The Lady In Number 6: Music Saved My Life"
"Prison Terminal: The Last Days Of Private Jack Hall"
Should Win: "Prison Terminal" was my favorite of the five. The story of a WW2 vet dying in a prison hospice, it's more complex, and more formally playful, than the other entries. It airs on HBO on March 31st, FYI.
Will Win: This category can be a shot in the dark, but "The Lady In Number 6," about the oldest living Holocaust survivor (who only passed away last week), a proficient pianist, seems to tick all the right boxes for the win. "Karama Has No Walls," about a massacre during the recent uprising in Yemen, could be a dark horse, but "The Lady In Number 6" is the safest bet.
Best Animated Short Film
"Get A Horse!"
"Room On The Broom"
Should Win: I was charmed by "Room On The Broom," from the makers of the also-nominated "The Gruffalo," and a significant tick up from that film. It's arguably a touch long, but beautifully animated and voiced.
Will Win: Many prognosticators are backing Mickey Mouse-starring Disney short "Get A Horse," but even aside from it leaving me fairly cold, I think that's optimistic: generally speaking, this isn't a category that favors the better-known competitors (Disney's "Paperman" won last year, but twelve years separate that and the last Disney/Pixar victor, 2001's "For The Birds"). A slight loosening up of the rules might give it more of a chance, but my money's still on the more distinctive "Mr. Hublot" to take the Oscar over the Disney behemoth.
Best Live Action Short Film
"Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn't Me)"
"Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything)"
"Pitaako Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have To Take Care Of Everything?)"
"The Voorman Problem"
Should Win: I didn't really like any of the nominees this year (that's not usual for this category, in fairness), but "The Voorman Problem," which stars Martin Freeman and Tom Hollander, was the least egregious—reasonably clever, and very well-acted, though not the home-run that something like "God Of Love" was a few years ago.
Will Win: American movies have dominated the category in recent years, but none are nominated this year. That might give "The Voorman Problem" an advantage, as it's the only English-language candidate, but the smart money is on "Helium," a sentimental would-be tear-jerker with some admittedly impressive visual effects. It's going to be close between them, but "Helium" feels more to voters' tastes in this category.
Achievement In Sound Editing
"All Is Lost" - Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns
"Captain Phillips" - Oliver Tarney
"Gravity" - Glenn Freemantle
"The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug" - Brent Burge
"Lone Survivor" - Wylie Stateman
Should Win: "All Is Lost." "Gravity" might be showier (and there's no denying it would be a deserving winner), but "All Is Lost" does more with less, and with even less dialogue, the soundscape does so much to maintain the film's mood. Plus the film was one of the most overlooked by the Academy this year, so it'd be nice to see it win something.
Will Win: "Gravity." This category veers between either a well-liked action movie (last year's tie-winner "Skyfall," "The Bourne Ultimatum," "The Dark Knight") or the noisiest of the Best Picture nominees ("The Hurt Locker," "Inception," "Zero Dark Thirty"), and Alfonso Cuaron's film ticks both boxes. Plus the film, like "All Is Lost," relies so heavily on sound that it'd be remarkable if it didn't win.
Achievement In Sound Mixing
"Captain Phillips" - Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith and Chris Munro
"Gravity" - Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christoher Benstead and Chris Munro
"The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug" - Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick and Tony Johnson
"Inside Llewyn Davis" - Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland
"Lone Survivor" - Andy Koyama, Beau Borders and David Brownlow
Should Win: Again, partly for the quality of the craft, and partly because it got so outrageously overlooked elsewhere, my vote would go to "Inside Llewyn Davis." The mixing of live performance is one of the trickiest things to do, and the songs in the Coen Brothers' movie all sound terrific. Sadly, it doesn't have much of a chance. As Adam Driver would say: Uh oh!
Will Win: As Adam Driver would also say: "Outer. Space!" This one, again, goes to "Gravity." More often than not, these categories go hand-in-hand, and there's no reason to think that won't be the case with "Gravity," especially as many Academy members can't tell, don't know, or don't care about the difference between mixing and editing. That's not to say it's not deserving, but again, the big Best Picture film is the one to stick with here.
Achievement In Visual Effects
"Gravity" - Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould
"The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug" - Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and Eric Reynolds
"Iron Man 3" - Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick
"The Lone Ranger" - Tim Alexander, Gary Bozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier
"Star Trek Into Darkness" - Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann and Burt Dalton
Should Win: Absolutely, 100% "Gravity." You can criticize other aspects of the film if you want to, but "Gravity," like last year's winner "Life of Pi," represents a new high watermark in visual effects, approaching absolute photo-realism while, crucially, imbuing the work with real weight and character.
Will Win: In theory, this should be a competitive field, because the work is very good across the board here (though there were some uncharacteristically patchy moments in 'The Hobbit' this time around). But there's no question that this chalks up another victory for "Gravity," nothing else is even within a sniff of winning.
Achievement In Makeup And Hairstyling
"Dallas Buyers Club" - Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews
"Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa" - Stephen Prouty
"The Lone Ranger" - Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua-Casny
Should Win: We almost can't believe we're saying this, but probably "Bad Grandpa." Old-age make-up can so often be a film's downfall, but for an unashamedly stupid movie, the work in the "Jackass" spin-off is world-class, turning Johnny Knoxville into a legitimately convincing pensioner.
Will Win: The Vanity Fair interview in which team "Dallas Buyers Club" revealed that their total budget was $250 was one of the campaigning masterstrokes of the season, making the film's work seem all the more impressive. But it was likely the front-runner even before that: in the relatively rare case that a Best Picture nominee is up for this award, it almost always wins (1997 was the last time that wasn't the case, when "Men In Black" beat "Titanic"). Had "American Hustle" been nominated, the many wigs might have seen it through, but with the film missing out, this is 'Dallas' all the way.
Achievement In Production Design
"American Hustle" - Production Design: Judy Becker; Set Decoration: Heather Loeffler
"Gravity" - Production Design: Andy Nicholson; Set Decoration: Rosie Goodwin and Joanne Woollard
"The Great Gatsby" - Production Design: Catherine Martin; Set Decoration: Beverley Dunn
"Her" - Production Design: K.K. Barrett; Set Decoration: Gene Serdena
"12 Years A Slave" - Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Alice Baker
Should Win: A strong line-up, but I'd lean towards "Her," which does a lot with a little in terms of creating a vivid and distinctive near-future world that's entirely plausible. Non-period work gets recognized so rarely that it's never going to have a chance of winning, but it would certainly be my pick.
Will Win: This is actually one of the harder categories to call this year, and could well be a crucial one in terms of indicating how the night that goes. Aside from "Her," anything is a viable winner. "The Great Gatsby" is perhaps the showiest of the nominees and picked up precursors like the equivalent BAFTA. But last year, the Academy went with the more dour "Lincoln" over razamatazz, which suggests that maybe "12 Years A Slave" is the one to watch. But "Gravity" could also continue its technical sweep, and if there's enough love for "American Hustle," it might figure in as well. I'm leaning towards "The Great Gatsby" for the win, but this is definitely an award to keep an eye on; this could be a category where voters just pick their favorite movie, and if that's the case, the winner might end up going on to Best Picture.