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Oscar Analysis 2014: Breaking Down The Best Picture Race

We have been busy breaking down the major categories in this year’s Academy Awards race, naming the current frontrunners for Best Actor, Actress, Director and beyond. It all has been building to the Mack Daddy of them all: Best Picture!

I’ve been opposed to the expansion of the Best Picture category from Day One. Why change from five (5) nominees to as many as 10 in a given year? You are only increasing the number of movies that – on the Monday after the Oscars – can call themselves "losers." My argument is that the category should have shifted from five nominees to three. That would increase competition. Imagine how tight this year’s Oscar race would be if Academy voters could only choose between Gravity, 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle? Now THAT’s a race!

For some movies, the nomination is the win. So let’s start with the also-rans – an odd thing to say in the Best Picture category – and end with the movie we believe will win the Oscar this year.


You may be the captain now, Captain Phillips, but you are one of the three BP nominees that we don’t believe have any chance of surprising audiences and claiming Oscar’s top award. Nebraska and Her land in that crowd, as well, becoming movies that should be very happy to have an invite to the ceremony, but probably don’t have to bother preparing any speeches.

I say this because these movies haven’t won in any of the categories at major awards shows leading up to the Oscars. When it comes to Her and Captain Phillips, the movie was surprised to see Tom Hanks and Joaquin Phoenix left out of the Best Actor race… and both men carried their respective films. Nebraska earned several important nominations – including Actor, Director and Supporting Actress. But the lack of any real support leading up to the Oscars means the black-and-white drama lands in the "No Shot" classification this year.


The next batch of Best Picture contenders all have elements that we could point to and argue "Possibly," but the momentum swings haven’t happened over the course of the lengthy Oscar marathon.

Dallas Buyers Club, for example, has been collecting numerous acting awards over the course of the season for Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, and I view both of them as frontrunners in their respective categories. But 2013 has been a rare year where Oscar love looks like it’s going to be spread to multiple films, meaning Picture is probably out of the question. There has been some chatter that Philomena, which is beloved, could connect with the older members of the Academy – of which there are several – and the movie could somehow rise up and capitalize on a vote-split caused by movies like Hustle and Gravity. But that likely isn’t happening. The Wolf of Wall Street has a passionate, vocal fan base. Even though it runs 3 hours, it has crossed the $100 million mark domestically. It has a chance… but the chance feels slim.


Gravity and American Hustle If it were up to me, Gravity would win. It’s the best movie of the year, and the fact that Alfonso Cuaron has been collecting Best Director trophies left and right leads me to believe that the blockbuster awards contender has a solid shot at prevailing at the Academy Awards.

If it were up to me, American Hustle wouldn’t even be in this category. I don’t care for the movie, but I am in the EXTREME minority. Hustle cleaned up in the other categories, punching its ticket in almost every major category. Rarely do movies get nominations in categories like Picture, Director, Screenplay, every Actor category and NOT win Picture. It suggests that, across the board, it is appreciated. I still think that it’s going to lose to…

12 Years a Slave


Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave has been a powerhouse this awards season, grabbing top awards at multiple presentations leading up to the Oscars, even as it has split support with Gravity (in the director categories) and Hustle (in the acting categories), yet still getting Picture love. So while Lupita Nyong’o could grab Best Supporting Actress, it’s likely that Chiwetel Ejiofor and McQueen could lose BUT 12 Years could take Best Picture.

Which is fine with me, for so many reasons. McQueen’s movie is brilliant, and if something has to beat Gravity (my personal favorite), then I’m glad that it’s a masterpiece like this. And I appreciate an awards slate that isn’t dominated by one film. Appreciation should be spread to movies like Wolf, Dallas Buyers, Gravity, 12 Years and, yes, American Hustle. It’s the best possible scenario on Oscar night.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. He's frequently found on Twitter at @Sean_OConnell. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.