THE REEL predicts Oscar winners

THE REEL with Ben Conniff

Ben Conniff

Best Picture: “12 Years a Slave”

 Though not my very favorite film in the field (that distinction goes to “Gravity”), there’s no denying the visceral power of “12 Years a Slave.” It’s already taken home BAFTA, Golden Globe, and Critics’ Choice awards as the year’s best movie. I anticipate “12 Years” to head home with Oscar gold as well. “American Hustle,” my least favorite of the nominees, is the only real competition in this category.

 Best Actor: Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”

 Having dropped 45 pounds for his role as Ron Woodroof, McConaughey fully commits to the finest performance of his career. That commitment, thus far, has not sent him home empty-handed. McConaughey has been recognized with Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice, SAG (Screen Actors Guild) and Gotham award wins as the year’s finest leading man. He’ll only need to keep an eye on fellow nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor from “12 Years a Slave”. 

 Best Actress: Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”

 Sandra Bullock’s arresting performance in “Gravity” would normally have my vote, but I grudgingly make my judgment here based on merit. I’ve done my homework. It will be hard to deny Blanchett the Oscar when she’s been cleaning up the other major awards in her category, including those from the National Society of Film Critics, Golden Globes, BAFTA, SAG, and Critics’ Choice.

 Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club

 Like his co-star McConaughey, Leto gives his all to a transformative role that simply outmatches the competition. I laughed and cried on all the right beats while watching him as Woodroof’s feisty assistant & fellow patient Rayon.  With nods from the Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice, and SAG, this looks to be a one-horse race come Oscar night.

 Best Supporting Actress: Lupita N’yongo, “12 Years a Slave”

 The beautiful N’yongo shows us the ugly side of plantation life in “12 Years a Slave.” This young unknown showcases a broad range of emotion and makes the audience sympathize with her in a way that no other actress in this category has all year. N’yongo proves she belongs on the A-list and already has the Critics’ Choice and SAG brass to boot.

 Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron, “Gravity”

 Last year, Ang Lee won for the dexterity he showed in filming the VFX-heavy “Life of Pi.”  It’s not easy when you have to develop an entirely new 3-D technology in order to fully realize your vision, but any director who takes a chance and succeeds in pushing the medium into the future deserves to be commended. Cuaron did that this year with “Gravity,” featuring some of the most gorgeous space sequences ever captured. Though he may need to watch out for “12 Years”‘s Steve McQueen, BAFTA, Golden Globe, and Critics’ Choice prizes already make Cuaron the man to beat.

 Best Animated Feature Film: “Frozen”

 Though my initial review was a bit harsh, I enjoyed “Frozen” much more the second time. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard lines and songs quoted every single day since its release last Thanksgiving, so it’s getting a little stale by now. That being said, if you aren’t banking on one of Disney’s best in years for the top prize, you might find yourself left out in the cold. 

 Best Original Song: “Let It Go” from “Frozen”

 You know all the words and will likely hear it again on Broadway someday soon. Can you say that about any other song in this category?

 Best Visual Effects: “Gravity”

 There aren’t many films that I condone seeing in 3-D, but “Gravity” is one that demands viewing on the biggest, loudest screen available. The 3-D visual effects allow “Gravity” to transcend the bounds of cinema, making you feel like you’ve been sucked into the vacuum of space right alongside the actors. It’s a jaw-dropping experience unlike any other in years. 

 Best Adapted Screenplay: John Ridley, “12 Years a Slave”

 As the scribe of arguably the best film in this category, it should be easy pickings for Ridley on Oscar night. He’s already earned accolades for his work, including Critics’ Choice and USC Scripter awards – two of the closest predictors of this category. 

 Best Original Screenplay: Spike Jonze, “Her”

In terms of sheer originality, Jonze should take home the brass for giving us something we haven’t quite seen in a film before – albeit one which presents an endearing snapshot of the present and future of the human condition.