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89th Annual Academy Awards – Final Predictions

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With the Academy Awards now hours away, it’s time for final predictions. I’ve given my detailed views on some of the categories already, but now it’s time for the full list, including what I think will win, and what I would vote for were I a member of AMPAS (none of this ‘should win’ nonsense on my blog, thank you!).

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BEST PICTURE

Predicted winner: La La Land

Preferred winner: Arrival

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DIRECTING

  • Damien Chazelle, La La Land
  • Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
  • Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
  • Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
  • Denis Villeneuve, Arrival

Predicted winner: Damien Chazelle

Preferred winner: Denis Villeneuve

With all its plaudits and despite its naysayers, La La Land looks set to pick up the big awards. I enjoyed the film fine, but do feel that others, including Manchester by the Sea and Hidden Figures, and especially Arrival, warrant as much if not more attention. So while I see La La Land dancing its way to Best Picture and Directing, my heart belongs to Arrival.

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ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

  • Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
  • Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
  • Ryan Gosling, La La Land
  • Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
  • Denzel Washington, Fences

Predicted winner: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

Preferred winner: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

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ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

  • Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
  • Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
  • Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
  • Dev Patel, Lion
  • Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

Predicted winner: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Preferred winner:  Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

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ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

  • Isabelle Huppert, Elle
  • Ruth Negga, Loving
  • Natalie Portman, Jackie
  • Emma Stone, La La Land
  • Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Predicted winner: Emma Stone, La La Land

Preferred winner: Emma Stone, La La Land (only one I’ve seen!)

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ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

  • Viola Davis, Fences
  • Naomie Harris, Moonlight
  • Nicole Kidman, Lion
  • Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
  • Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Predicted winner: Viola Davis, Fences

Preferred winner: Viola Davis, Fences

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All the acting nominees I’ve seen were impressive, and I’d be happy with most of them winning. But it would make me very happy if Nocturnal Animals could pick up something.

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)

  • Arrival
  • Fences
  • Hidden Figures
  • Lion
  • Moonlight

Predicted winner: Moonlight

Preferred winner: Arrival

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WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)

  • Hell or High Water
  • La La Land
  • The Lobster
  • Manchester by the Sea
  • 20th Century Women

Predicted winner: Manchester by the Sea

Preferred winner: Hell or High Water

Tricky ones, but I think I’ve said my piece.

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CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • Arrival
  • La La Land
  • Lion
  • Moonlight
  • Silence

Predicted winner: La La Land

Preferred winner: Arrival

It is always tough to determine if this award will follow patterns, or rely solely on the skill of the Director of Photography nominated. In this case, much as I love Arrival and would like it to win, I anticipate the long takes and crane shots on location in La La Land will shimmy the film to another award.

COSTUME DESIGN

  • Allied
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  • Florence Foster Jenkins
  • Jackie
  • La La Land

Predicted winner: Jackie

Preferred winner: Jackie

This award typically goes to period films, for good reason, and all but one of these nominees is exactly that. For La La Land to win here would be a bit odd, colourful as the costumes in that film are. After its victories at BAFTA, the Awards Circuit Community Awards and the Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards, Jackie seems like a safe bet here.

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FILM EDITING

  • Arrival
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • Hell or High Water
  • La La Land
  • Moonlight

Predicted winner: Arrival

Preferred winner: Arrival

This is an interesting one, as Hacksaw Ridge won the BAFTA but Arrival the Eddie (from the American Cinema Editors). I loved Arrival and found Hacksaw Ridge pretty good, and the potential overlap between the various institutions means this could go either way. But maybe Arrival will be this year’s Mad Max: Fury Road, picking up various post-production awards if none of the ‘major awards’. For that reason, I would like to see Arrival walk away with this award, and I believe it will.

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

Predicted winner: Star Trek Beyond

Preferred winner: Suicide Squad

I know nothing about A Man Called Ove, and the sheer range of weird and wonderful make up designs in Star Trek Beyond make it a likely winner. That said, I would like Suicide Squad to win, because I think the negativity this film received was excessive and it would greatly amuse me if the naysayers have to admit to the existence of ‘the Oscar-winning Suicide Squad’.

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MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)

  • Jackie
  • La La Land
  • Lion
  • Moonlight
  • Passengers

Predicted winner: La La Land

Preferred winner: La La Land

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)

  • ‘Audition (The Fools Who Dream),’ La La Land
  • ‘Can’t Stop the Feeling,’ Trolls
  • ‘City of Stars,’ La La Land
  • ‘The Empty Chair,’ Jim: The James Foley Story
  • ‘How Far I’ll Go, ‘ Moana

Predicted winner: ‘Audition (The Fools Who Dream),’ La La Land

Preferred winner: ‘Audition (The Fools Who Dream),’ La La Land

As a musical, it would be rather odd if La La Land did not win in these two categories. While I’m not the biggest fan of La La Land, I did find the solo ‘Audition’ to be very stirring (being one of those fools myself), and I would be happy to see that pick up an award.

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PRODUCTION DESIGN

  • Arrival
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  • Hail, Caesar!
  • La La Land
  • Passengers

Predicted winner: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Preferred winner: Arrival

An interesting collection here, with two science fiction films, one contemporary (and very colourful) musical, along with two period films, one which features fantasy elements and the other, like the musical, is about Hollywood. Due to its BAFTA victory, I see this going to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, although the nostalgia and self-love of La La Land and Hail Caesar! might bring them success. For me, the production design of Arrival was a key element to its eerie alienness, and something I would like to see rewarded.

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SOUND EDITING

  • Arrival
  • Deepwater Horizon
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • La La Land
  • Sully

Predicted winner: Arrival

Preferred winner: Arrival

Back in 2013, there was a tie for this award between Skyfall and Zero Dark Thirty. Both were favourite films of mine, and Arrival was my top film of last year. So maybe the pattern will continue. I would also like my top film to win something, hence my pick.

SOUND MIXING

Predicted winner: Arrival

Preferred winner: Arrival

Since Arrival is unlikely to win anything else, I can see it picking up both Sound awards. And I want it to, so there.

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VISUAL EFFECTS

Predicted winner: The Jungle Book

Preferred winner: Doctor Strange

After winning the BAFTA as well as an Annie Award and the Awards Circuit Community Award (as well as others), The Jungle Book looks set to pick up the Oscar as well. Much as the animals and landscapes impressed me in The Jungle Book though, the inventiveness and outright trippiness of the visual effects in Doctor Strange had me (sorry) spellbound, and it gets my vote for most impressive visual effects of last year.

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ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

  • Kubo and the Two Strings
  • Moana
  • My Life as a Zucchini
  • The Red Turtle
  • Zootopia

Predicted winner: Kubo and the Two Strings

Preferred winner: Zootopia

Kubo and the Two Strings has done very well at previous award ceremonies such as BAFTA and multiple Critics associations, but Zootopia/Zootropolis was one of my favourites of last year, so it gets my vote. It did win the Golden Globe, so maybe Disney’s delightful comedy about prejudice and tolerance might just strike a chord with the Academy members, in this time of strife and division.

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FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

  • Land of Mine, Denmark
  • A Man Called Ove, Sweden
  • The Salesman,Iran
  • Tanna, Australia
  • Toni Erdmann, Germany

Predicted winner: The Salesman, Iran

Preferred winner: The Salesman, Iran

The director of The Salesman, Asqhar Farhadi, has stated that he will not attend the Oscar ceremony in protest of President Trump’s policies. Whether Farhadi attends or not, as an act of defiance I hope that the Academy rewards the film, and I would too.

DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE)

  • Fire at Sea
  • I Am Not Your Negro
  • Life, Animated
  • OJ: Made In America
  • 13th

Predicted winner: 13th

Preferred winner: Life, Animated

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DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT)

  • Extremis
  • 1 Miles
  • Joe’s Violin
  • Watani: My Homeland
  • The White Helmets

SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)

  • Blind Vaysha
  • Borrowed Time
  • Pear Cider and Cigarettes
  • Pearl
  • Piper

SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)

  • Ennemis Interieurs
  • La Femme Et Le TGV
  • Silent Nights
  • Sing
  • Timecode

Pass – I know nothing about these films.

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Expression in Editing

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In the space of two days, I recently saw two films that could not be more different. The first was The Raid 2, Gareth Evans’ sequel to his explosive 2012 martial arts adventure. The second was A Story of Children and Film, a documentary by Mark Cousins that merges the conceits of his last previous works, The Story of Film: An Odyssey and The First Movie. The Raid 2 is a fictional drama, a martial arts/crime thriller that delivers a blistering ballet of brutality. Cousins’ documentary is lyrical, free associative and meandering. Both excel at what they do and each film offers particular delights and pleasures, and serve to highlight one of the most important tools in filmmaking – editing.

Alfred Hitchcock once said that the three most important components of any film were script, script and script. While this is a convenient soundbite for the critic who decries overreliance on special effects or glamorous actors, it is overly simplistic to describe cinema as being based primarily on the written word (and besides, Hitch could have been referring to screenplay, shooting script and another form of script). For sure, the written screenplay is important, but many a filmmaker subscribes to the belief that films are made in the editing room, in the assembly of otherwise disparate images. Small wonder that directors form lasting and productive collaborations with their editors, such as Martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker, Michael Mann and Dov Hoenig, and some, including James Cameron, Robert Rodriguez, Steven Soderbergh and Gareth Evans, edit their films themselves.

Sergei Eisenstein argued that the power of cinema lay in the juxtaposition of images rather than the sustained shot, hence his development of montage in such classics as The Battleship Potemkin (1925). Similarly, Evans uses fast cutting to express both the swift blows and dizzying impact of martial arts combat. Films like The Raid 2 are a testament to the merging of combat performance and editing, as the skills of performers like Iko Uwais and Julie Estelle are displayed to dazzling effect, while the cuts between different shots express the physical impact of the blows, leading to a visceral experience. Long takes of athletic prowess are impressive, and frequent in The Raid 2 as well, such as sustained pan shots of a prison yard during a riot as well as a warehouse towards the end of the film. Such shots, however, are generally at a distance, wide angle and encompass much of the cinematic space. Fast editing of close quarters combat helps to create a sense of being in the thick of combat, a vicarious experience for the viewer that gives us the experience of being in the ferocious fights of the film (without the inconvenience of pain).

By contrast, Mark Cousins uses editing to link together seemingly disparate scenes. Early in A Story of Children and Film, Cousins explains that he will not progress through films chronologically, but will be guided by how the behaviour of his niece and nephew reminds him of children in other films. The range of films referenced by Cousins is extraordinary, including An Angel at My Table (Jane Campion, 1990) and The White Balloon (Jafar Panahi, 1995). I consider myself reasonably familiar with cinema, but the only films referenced in Cousins’ documentary that I had seen were E. T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (Steven Spielberg, 1982) and The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955), making the film something of an education. I was a little disappointed at the omission of films about children and film, such as Hugo (Martin Scorsese, 2011) and Son of Rambow (Garth Jennings, 2007), but Cousins is interested in how film presents children, identifies and extrapolates their shyness, their defiance, their performativity. Editing enables Cousins to draw together his seemingly disparate examples, taking us from Japanese boys chasing dogs to an Iranian girl having a “strop” about goldfish. Cousins’ finale brings together films from various countries about kids with balloons, linking these unrelated movies in a moving and thought-provoking way.

Cousins’ cinematography favours a static camera, both of his niece and nephew in his living room as well as wide angle exterior shots of the Isle of Skye. Evans’ camera is more mobile, taking the viewer into the cinematic space of his drama and, as mentioned above, thrusting us into the thick of battle. Cousins’ camera also creates intimacy through dwelling on the events before it, both in his own footage and the scenes from other films that he refers to. The techniques of these filmmakers serve to draw the viewer in, and invite us to interpret meaning from the assembly of images, the editing both presenting meaning and allowing us to infer from the spaces between the shots.

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THE WINNERS WILL BE…

Oscars

Just before the big event takes place, these are my final predictions for the 86th Annual Academy Awards. At this time some people like to say what “should” win, implying that they know better than the homogenous, easily swayed entity otherwise known as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science. This is a gross misconstruing of the Academy, that consists of literally hundreds of people who vote on the various nominated films, not one monumental committee that simply hands out awards to their friends. I find the “what should win” position uncomfortably arrogant, but accept that we are all allowed to disagree. So as well as offering my prediction, I also offer what would be my pick if I were a member of AMPAS, which is not to say I’m right, but what I happen to prefer.

Best Motion Picture of the Year

12 Years A Slave

American Hustle

Captain Phillips

Dallas Buyers Club

Gravity

Her

Nebraska

Philomena

The Wolf Of Wall Street

12 Years A Slave has won multiple Best Film awards, including the Golden Globe and the BAFTA, and there is no reason to expect that will not change. I have seen six of these films (Her, Nebraska, Philomena are the omissions), and 12 Years A Slave is the most impressive, prompting knuckle-chewing and tears from me. This non-member agrees with the Academy majority.

Prediction: 12 Years A Slave

My vote: 12 Years A Slave

12-years-poster Best Achievement in Directing

Alfonso Cuarón – Gravity

Steve McQueen – 12 Years A Slave

Alexander Payne – Nebraska

David O. Russell – American Hustle

Martin Scorsese – The Wolf Of Wall Street

This looks to be another year when Picture and Directing go to different films, a relatively rare occurrence but increasingly common this century (Gladiator/Traffic, Chicago/The Pianist, Crash/Brokeback Mountain, Argo/Life of Pi). I see it continuing this year, as Alfonso Cuarón has been awarded by multiple award-giving entities and that tends to lead to the Oscar. I have no problem with this because if there is a more directed film than Gravity in the last year, I don’t know what it is. It is an astounding technical achievement, and I would have no problem with it winning Best Picture as well, but it does lack the socio-historical-political dimension of 12 Years A Slave, so it will not win that. But from a technical perspective of film craft, also known as directing, Gravity has few equals.

Prediction: Alfonso Cuarón

My vote: Alfonso Cuarón

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Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Christian Bale – American Hustle

Bruce Dern – Nebraska

Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf Of Wall Street

Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years A Slave

Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club

Matthew McConaughey has the Golden Globe, the Screen Actors Guild, Broadcast Film Critics Association Award and many more for Best Actor. He did not get the BAFTA, which went to Chiwetel Ejiofor, but then McConaughey was not nominated there either. His performance is everything the Academy members like – actual historical figure, suffering from an illness, requires physical transformation, so he will win. He would not be my pick, however, because I would vote for a full-on, jet-propelled performance that makes a thoroughly loathsome character endlessles compelling.

Prediction: Matthew McConaughey

My vote: Leonardo DiCaprio

Dallas Buyers ClubBest Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Amy Adams – American Hustle

Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine

Sandra Bullock – Gravity

Judi Dench – Philomena

Meryl Streep – August: Osage County

Having picked up the other awards, there is no reason to expect that Cate Blanchett will not pick up the Oscar. I haven’t seen Blue Jasmine so cannot comment, as I found Sandra Bullock compelling and absorbing throughout her extra-terrestrial activities.

Prediction: Cate Blanchett

My vote: Sandra Bullock

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Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips

Bradley Cooper – American Hustle

Michael Fassbender – 12 Years A Slave

Jonah Hill – The Wolf Of Wall Street

Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club

Once again, follow the pattern and Jared Leto will pick up the award. I have seen all of these and found all of them quite compelling, but Leto seemed a little slight. Were I in the Academy, I’d cast my vote for the BAFTA winner that we hadn’t heard of a year ago, who gives a sympathetic but frightening performance of ruthlessness and desperation. I hope we see more of him in the future.

Prediction: Jared Leto

My vote: Barkhad Abdi

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Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine

Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle

Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years A Slave

Julia Roberts – August: Osage County

June Squibb – Nebraska

This is a bit tricky, as it could go either way between Lupita Nyong’o and Jennifer Lawrence. They are the only two I have seen, and Lawrence is rather like DiCaprio in TWOWS in terms of being full-on and ferocious, while also very funny. But the Academy is more likely to reward drama than comedy, and because she moved me to tears, I would to.

Prediction: Lupita Nyong’o

My vote: Lupita Nyong’o

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

American Hustle – Eric Singer, David O. Russell

Blue Jasmine – Woody Allen

Her – Spike Jonze

Nebraska – Bob Nelson

Dallas Buyers Club – Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack

For all its nominations, I think this is the one award that American Hustle is most likely to pick up, and I have no problem with that. Dallas Buyers Club did not stand out for me, and the sheer creative excess of American Hustle makes it strong for me as well.

Prediction: American Hustle

My vote: American Hustle

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Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published

Before Midnight – Richard Linklater

Captain Phillips – Billy Ray

12 Years A Slave – John Ridley

The Wolf of Wall Street – Terence Winter

Philomena – Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope

As an unlikely winner of Directing, I see Writing as a far more likely award for 12 Years A Slave. This is OK by me, as the writing of the film creates an understandable and relatable world despite its period detail and the retention of 19th century dialogue.

Prediction: 12 Years A Slave

My vote: 12 Years A Slave

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score

The Book Thief – John Williams

Gravity – Steven Price

Her – William Butler and Owen Pallet

Philomena – Alexadre Desplat

Saving Mr. Banks – Thomas Newman

The music of Saving Mr. Banks was integral to the soulful aspect of the film, while music in Gravity was less noticeable. It’s hard to say, really, so a wild stab in the dark.

Prediction: Philomena

My vote: Saving Mr. Banks

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Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song

“Alone Yet Not Alone” – Alone Yet Not Alone

“Happy” – Despicable Me 2

“Let It Go” – Frozen

“The Moon Song” – Her

“Ordinary Love” – Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom

Take it, Disney!

Prediction: “Let It Go”

Best Achievement in Sound Editing

All Is Lost

Captain Phillips

Gravity

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug

Lone Survivor

In space, there is no sound, yet sound plays a major part in Gravity, the sudden collisions and silence in the surroundings adding to the heart-stopping drama.

Prediction: Gravity

My vote: Gravity

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing

Captain Phillips

Gravity

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug

Inside Llewyn Davis

Lone Survivor

The layering of sound to create the voice of Smaug really impressed me, so that’s my pick. But I think the sound love for Gravity might spread out a bit.

Prediction: Gravity

My vote: The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug

SmaugProduction Design

American Hustle

Gravity

The Great Gatsby

Her

12 Years A Slave

A nice bunch of nominees here – three period pieces and two science fiction films. Sci-fi sometimes gets a bone like this, but with Gravity heading for more major awards this might go to something else with less chance of winning other awards. Hard to be sure.

Prediction: The Great Gatsby

My vote: Gravity

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Best Achievement in Cinematography

The Grandmaster – Philippe Le Sourd

Gravity – Emmanuel Lubezki

Inside Llewyn Davis – Bruno Delbonnel

Nebraska – Phedon Papamichael

Prisoners – Roger Deakins

3D cinematography will continue its winning ways in this category. Simple as that. But Prisoners looked so good.

Prediction: Gravity

My vote: Prisoners

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Best Achievement in Makeup And Hair

Dallas Buyers Club

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

The Lone Ranger

Make healthy people look sick and a man look like a woman. No brainer.

Prediction: Dallas Buyers Club

My vote: Dallas Buyers Club

Best Achievement in Costume Design

American Hustle

The Grandmaster

The Great Gatsby

The Invisible Woman

12 Years A Slave

Period dramas, especially the Dickensian, have an edge here, and The Invisible Woman is literally Dickens, so pretty good chance. But the costumes in American Hustle for me were so garish and horrible that I think that deserves respect.

Prediction: The Invisible Woman

My vote: American Hustle

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Best Achievement in Film Editing

12 Years a Slave

American Hustle

Gravity

Captain Phillips

Dallas Buyers Club

Editing is the silver bullet for Best Picture, so it will go to the Best Picture winner. But I loved the assembly and fast cutting of Captain Phillips, so I’d go for that.

Prediction: 12 Years A Slave

My vote: Captain Phillips

Best Achievement in Visual Effects

Gravity

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug

Iron Man 3

The Lone Ranger

Star Trek Into Darkness

So much of Gravity is visual effects that it would be terribly churlish not to reward them.

Prediction: Gravity

My vote: Gravity

In these categories, I have seen none of the nominees, so I simply expect the pattern to continue.

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

The Croods

Despicable Me 2

Ernest & Celestine

Frozen

The Wind Rises

Prediction: Frozen

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Best Foreign Language Film of the Year

The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium)

The Great Beauty (Italy)

The Hunt (Denmark)

The Missing Picture (Cambodia)

Omar (Palestine)

Prediction: The Hunt

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Best Documentary, Feature

The Act Of Killing

Cutie And The Boxer

Dirty Wars

The Square

20 Feet From Stardom

Prediction: The Act of Killing

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Best Documentary – Short Subject

Cavedigger

Facing Fear

Karama Has No Walls

The Lady In Number 6: Music Saved My Life

Prison Terminal: The Last Days Of Private Jack Hall

Best Live Action Short Film

Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)

Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything)

Helium

Pitaako Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have To Take Care Of Everything?)

The Voorman Problem

Best Animated Short Film

Feral

Get A Horse!

Mr. Hublot

Possessions

Room On The Broom

I know nothing about any of these, so have no opinion.