Oscar Circuit: ’12 Years a Slave’ Tries to Keep Its Lead Over the Holiday Movie Rush

’12 Years a Slave’ looks to have challengers in films like ‘Gravity’ and ‘American Hustle’ but what will AMPAS watch over the holiday break?

american hustle

2013 Oscar Predictions - American HustleOSCAR PREDICTIONS 2013: Well, here we are…many of the studios will be closing up for business today to go on their holiday leave, save for a couple of publicists that will be standing by to assist with any last-minute screenings to organize.  The Academy at large will be gathering up all the screeners they’ve collected over the past few weeks and going on their holiday leave to watch what they must to make an informed decision on the year 2013.  It was a fantastic year for cinema and I hope they are taking it as seriously as many critics and other general fans are when thinking about what was the very best.  I’ve taken the opportunity to make a huge update to the official Oscar Predictions page with the exception of Foreign Language Film, which is rumored to have their shortlist released very soon, Live Action Short, and Documentary Short.  Over the past few weeks, many critics’ awards weighed in on their thoughts and while Steve McQueen‘s 12 Years a Slave has dominated, there is still plenty room for surprises to occur.

Beginning with the Lead Actress race, it’s seemed all but sewn up with the conventional five being named by SAG: Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, Judi Dench, Meryl Streep, and Emma Thompson.  There are a few pundits out there with enough guts to predict a Streep snub in favor of someone like Amy Adams in American Hustle or Adèle Exarchopoulos in Blue is the Warmest Color.  If you listened to last week’s podcast, or if you’re a general Oscar-ologist, you’ll know the answer to this question.  Do you know the last time that Meryl Streep was nominated by both the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild but lost out on an Oscar nomination?  It was in the first year of the SAG awards, Streep was nominated for her performance in Curtis Hanson’s The River Wild, coincidentally something I feel she shouldn’t have missed for.  In other words, when Streep is nominated by her peers and HFPA, it means something.  Don’t underestimate her.  I do believe however that the British voting bloc will be spreading their love between two, maybe three contenders: Blanchett, Dench, and Thompson.  That could present a surprise exclusion of Dench or even Thompson, whose film has been absent from many of the major precursors so far.  In the end, I don’t think we’ll have a surprise.  I think it is, what it is.  Though I do think that Bullock’s work in Gravity has more power than people are giving her credit for.  She may be someone to charm her way to a second win in four years.

I’m not sure if we’re going to be open to any shocks in Supporting Actress either.  The Globes gave us an unforeseen snub of Oprah Winfrey in Lee Daniels’ The Butler, in favor of GG Winner Sally Hawkins in Blue Jasmine, but her star power seems too big to be passed over.  The vulnerable actress in the SAG lineup seems to be Julia Roberts for her work in August: Osage County.  Quality certainly has nothing to do with the possibility of an exclusion rather than the cloud of category fraud that seems to be hovering over her name.  The film opens on Christmas Day and could be something that brings the family around the movie screens.  That should keep her chances alive especially with a mention from all the major award bodies thus far.  Lupita Nyong’o has really taken a strong hold on the season and has won over a dozen citations.  With Oprah not present to give a speech at the Globes, perhaps a heartfelt and moving speech will persuade the voters to tip their hats to her.  Not to mention that 12 Years a Slave is getting stronger by the moment.  If Winfrey was absent from a final Oscar lineup, it would be all but assured.

2013 Oscar Predictions - Barkhad AbdiWhen it comes to the men this year, it’s a lot more complicated.  Supporting Actor has resurrected two thought to be dead contenders in the past two weeks, Barkhad Abdi and Daniel Bruhl.  Both these actors nabbed Golden Globe, Critics Choice, and Screen Actors Guild nominations, all critical to their campaigns.  By no means do those three things equal a locked up nomination.  Bruhl, who is simply superb in Rush (and also someone in a LEAD role), has an aura that’s starting to feel like Maria Bello in 2003, when she was nominated by the HFPA and her peers for her work in The Cooler but was later omitted by the Oscars.  When it comes to Abdi in Captain Phillips, he’s one of three villains vying for a spot in the lineup, which could be a little bit of overkill.  However, the “first movie, never acted before” story will go a long way and Sony Pictures did an excellent job trotting him on the circuit next to two-time Oscar-winner Tom Hanks.  I think it will pay off.  The category is about eleven contenders deep that all have a chance of making it.  I do wonder if the Oscars will fall for the sentiment of James Gandolfini in Enough Said or the fraud-ness that is Will Forte in Nebraska.

In Lead Actor, we have the most competitive race I’ve witnessed in years.  A few pundits out there, and I’ll admit that I jumped on it too, ripped Robert Redford out of their predictions after missing out on a Screen Actors Guild nomination.  Terence said astutely on our special GG podcast last week that Forest Whitaker is probably the real threat to make the final lineup in the end.  If we’re looking at voters checking off Oprah Winfrey’s name, wouldn’t he be a natural check off if you like that film?  Now granted, Redford’s film, All is Lost, is not exactly an easy sell, and voters may be hesitant to watch it over the holiday break.  Bruce Dern is one that has just been doing everything right.  His talented daughter Laura has put him in front of all the right people and making people recognize how great of a talent he is.  His work in Nebraska is much more subdued than his other competitors but I think he’s going to be a formidable threat to Chiwetel Ejiofor at the end of the season.  Over the break more and more AMPAS members will be seeing Martin Scorsese‘s The Wolf of Wall Street and hopefully that will rally up the troops behind Leonardo DiCaprio for his career-topping work.  The thing against Leo is that Oscar continues to pass over him when it looks like its “his year.”

Her_ProductionDesignThe trick to Oscar predicting is trying to foresee surprises before they occur.  I attempted to see some of those with these set of predictions.  As one who adores Spike Jonze‘s Her, I’m not entirely sure that the Academy at large is going to “get it.”  Critics are in love with it and it’s won some very big awards including National Board of Review and Los Angeles Film Critics.  Currently, I have the film receiving one nomination in Original Song.  Best Picture may be tough with the 5% rule and Original Screenplay tends to offer up some head-scratching surprises like Dirty Pretty Things and Frozen River being nominated in their respective years.  Currently, I’m feeling a resurgence coming for Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station, which could result in a nomination in Screenplay.

In the technical categories you’ll see some other pictures getting their mentions like Denis Villenueve‘s Prisoners, still delivering a respectable campaign, Peter Berg‘s Lone Survivor, a potential last-minute Best Picture nominee that surges in, and Jean-Marc Vallee‘s Dallas Buyers Club, something that may pull in more than we initially thought.

As we head into the holidays, pay special attention to the Christmas film’s reception as they open this week.  American Hustle, August: Osage County, Her, Saving Mr. Banks, and The Wolf of Wall Street all open in the next six days.  E-mails will be flooding AMPAS computers and they’ll be buckling down.  It’s exciting.  Take a couple of moments and go to the Oscar Predictions page and click-through the categories to see the updates.  You can also return here to include your own predictions in the comment section.

What are your 2013 Oscar Predictions?

What do you think?

268 points
Upvote Downvote
Binge Watcher

Written by Clayton Davis

Clayton Davis is the esteemed Editor and Owner of Born in Bronx, NY to a Puerto Rican mother and Black father, he’s been criticizing film and television for over a decade. Clayton is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association where he votes and attends the kick off to the awards season, the Critics Choice Awards. He also founded the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association, the first Latino-based critics’ organization in the United States. He’s also an active member of the African-American Film Critics Association, New York Film Critics Online, International Press Academy, Black Reel Awards, and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. Clayton has been quoted and appeared in various outlets that include The New York Times,, Variety, Deadline, Los Angeles Times, FOX 5, Bloomberg Television, AOL, Huffington Post, Bloomberg Radio, The Wrap, Slash Film, and the Hollywood Reporter.


Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Phillip Milner

I don’t understand how 12 Years a Slave has “dominated.” I know you’re a fan and all, but the fact is that it hasn’t really won any of the “big” precursors. It has one a couple of state/city awards, but none of the biggies. It would appear that Her has had the biggest wins in precursors that matter, American Hustle has matched 12 Years in nominations for Critics Choice and Globes, and Cauron has essentially beat out Mcqueen in several precursors as well. I believe that, if anything, 12 years has lost a step leading up to January. Is it… Read more »

Cornelius Buttersby

I think it’s interesting that you’re not going heavily on ‘Her’. It’s bold after the precursor love it has received, but I can understand your thought process. It is a very contemporary piece that the academy won’t be entirely used to. Despite this however, I believe that it is one of the surer bets in the screenplay categories. The screenplay is one of the most praised aspects of the movie, it’s screenplay has been sited by many precursors and the writer’s branch seems to be warmer to “out-there” choices than other branches. On top of this, it is globe nominated,… Read more »

Ethan Wasdovitch

I think Her will receive a best picture nom and Phoenix will be the surprise Best Actor nom of the year.

Anthony Moseley

The thing about Bruce Dern is that he started out strong by winning a couple of awards in Boston and L.A., but as the season has rolled on he seems to have lost some traction. At this point, I’d say Ejiofor’s biggest threat is probably Matthew McConaughey, who has been racked up some big wins recently. Not saying I think Dern will be snubbed, I’m just not sure if he’s Ejiofor’s biggest threat right now. Of course, it’s always possible that he can jump back in with a SAG and/or a Globe win.

Kev Dantzler

Okay… I finally got to see American hustle on yesterday… And I honestly do not understand where all of the praise and accolades are coming from… IT WAS JUST OKAY! It was one of those movies I could watch on HBO and Showtime and I’m kind of disappointed that I spent money on it. Jennifer Lawrence was good but I must say that she over-acted at some points… I just have to agree to disagree with the critics… So disappointing


Ellen Oscars

Academy Unveils Oscar® Trailer Starring Host Ellen DeGeneres, Directed By Paul Feig

about time scene

Utah Film Critics Choose ‘Gravity’ as their Favorite Film, Bill Nighy wins Supporting