The 86th Academy Awards are still months away, but that won't stop us engaging in some vaguely informed conjecture about the nominees and winners of the 2014 Oscars. Wthout further ado, here are our tips for the top come March 2nd…
Unsurprisingly, the field is wide open at this point for the winner of Best Picture. There's plenty of Oscar bait already out there though, and we'd be amazed if Tom Hanks' two biggies - true piracy story Captain Phillips and behind-the-magic look at the making of Mary Poppins, Saving Mr Banks - don't pop up in the nominations. Slavery drama 12 Years A Slave and the Coen brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis have also pretty much booked their places, and following Silver Linings Playbook, it'd be a surprise if David O Russell's American Hustle doesn't get read out too.
With up to ten films nominated for Best Picture, the rest of the list could easily hold a few surprises. Dysfunctional family black comedy August: Osage County will probably be in there, as will Jason Reitman's escaped convict drama Labor Day, but there's always room for a couple of Friday night audience pleasers, especially if George Clooney's in them. Don't be surprised to see Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity or George' own The Monuments Men propping up the weightier fare. There's always room for Woody: Mr Allen's Blue Jasmine is easily worthy of a Best Picture nod.
For Tom Hanks to headline a film and not be nominated for Best Actor is too weird, so expect him get the nod for Captain Phillips. Hollywood royalty Robert Redford carries castaway drama All Is Lost entirely by himself, so he's a shoo-in too. The Academy loves Christian Bale and his crazy accents, so his turn in American Hustle should get recognised, and Chiwetel Ejiofor's role in 12 Years A Slave will help Bale keep the British end up. And Matthew McConaughey's performance as a homophobic junkie with HIV in Dallas Buyers Club is currently receiving plenty of awards buzz.
Oscar Isaac (Drive's Standard Gabriel) may be nominated for playing the Llewyn Davis inside whom the Coen brothers' film goes, while Idris Elba's portrayal of Nelson Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom is also in with a chance. The reteaming of Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese in The Wolf Of Wall Street could earn the former a nod, and Bruce Dern may well get recognised for his turn as a grumpy old codger in Nebraska. There might even be room for Chris Hemsworth and/or Daniel Brühl for their takes on James Hunt and Niki Lauda in Rush.
After a year off from Academy-bothering, queen of Hollywood Meryl Streep will undoubtedly be scoring her 18th Oscar nomination for August: Osage County. Her British equivalent, Judi Dench, should pick up her seventh nom for Philomena, while Blighty's Emma Thompson is also in with a shout for her role as Mary Poppins creator PL Travers in Saving Mr Banks. Amy Adams is also a safe bet for her performance in American Hustle, and it seems reasonable to expect Cate Blanchett's name to be mentioned for her part as a rich housewife brought crashing to earth in Blue Jasmine.
Nominated only once before, and taking the statuette home that time, Sandra Bullock will be hoping to make it two out of two for her part as a stranded astronaut opposite George Clooney in Gravity. It's also possible that of the films we've already looked at, Julia Roberts and Kate Winslet could both get nods for August: Osage County and Labor Day respectively. Meanwhile, coming up in the outside lane, Julie Delpy's role in Before Midnight and Adèle Exarchopoulos' performance in Cannes-pleasing lesbian drama Blue Is The Warmest Colour could see them both nominated.
It's not entirely impossible that Tom Hanks might wake up on March 3rd with two acting Oscars if his supporting turn as Walt Disney in Saving Mr Banks and his leading role in Captain Phillips are deemed equally award-worthy. Michael Fassbender will be hoping to pick up a well overdue first nomination from the Academy for his role as a cruel plantation owner in 12 Years A Slave, and Bradley Cooper (American Hustle) and Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher) also deserve nods. That said, a posthumous award for James Gandolfini in middle-age romcom Enough Said may scupper them all.
Expect The Butler, 12 Years A Slave, Blue Jasmine, American Hustle and Nebraska to provide Oscar nominees, with strong candidates for Best Supporting Actress in all of them: Oprah Winfrey, Lupita Nyong'o, Jennifer Lawrence, Sally Hawkins and June Squibb will be representing those films respectively. Winfrey was last nominated for an Oscar in 1986 for The Color Purple, while J-Law took Best Actress last year (along with 27 other awards) for Silver Linings Playbook: at 22 years and 193 days old, she was the second-youngest ever winner of the Best Actress Oscar.
The host is comedienne Ellen DeGeneres, so expect a few callbacks to Seth MacFarlane's widely-panned attempt last year. We're sure she's above a female equivalent of MacFarlane's chronically misjudged "We Saw Your Boobs" song, so fingers crossed for the first non-cringeworthy hosting gig in years. In other awards, it would be unlikely for the Academy not to honour the mighty Hayao Miyazaki in the Animated Feature category for his final film The Wind Rises, especially with the lack of any decent competition.
Hans Zimmer could be up against himself for Best Score with Rush and 12 Years A Slave, but Steven Price's score for Gravity will provide strong competition. Best Documentary Feature will be a scrap between the likes of killer-whales-in-captivity exposé Blackfish and actress Sarah Polley's family revelation doc Stories We Tell, but there's also plenty of advance buzz for Tim's Vermeer, the story of a brilliant amateur painter, directed by Teller of Penn & Teller fame.
Finally, anyone who's seen the American Hustle trailers will eat their wigs if the film doesn't receive recognition for those incredible hairstyles and amazing costumes. So place your bets now, but we absolve ourselves of responsibility if you lose everything.
Are you looking forward to next year's Oscars? What's your pick for success? Let us know in the comments section below.