Best Picture Contenders
Clooney and Heslov's successor to Argo, with Clooney filling in the roles of not only producer but co-writer, director and star. The concept involves an allied group that is tries to save German art during World War II. Cast features Daniel Craig, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban and John Godman.
12 Years a Slave
Steve McQueen has paid his dues and should be on the Academy's radar by now. The issue of slavery was present in two of last year's contenders. Also features several great actors that have not yet been recognized by the Academy including Chiewetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and Benedict Cumberbatch.
David O. Russell is coming off of two director's nominations which both earned acting wins. This true story about a scandal and sting operation reunites Russell with Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence in addition to the prolific Jeremy Renner.
Lee Daniel's last movie was critically panned, but this is much more Oscar friendly material. A great role for Forest Whitaker, who is a great actor in need of a comeback, in a story that spans eight presidents and features a large celebrity cast.
Oscar pundits always put too much faith in Ridley Scott early on, who hasn't been nominated in a decade. But this could be a good vehicle for the veteran director. Original screenplay from Cormac McCarthy and a great cast.
August: Osage County
Theatrical adaptations such as Doubt, For Colored Girls, Carnage and Les Mis have not been huge winners with the Academy. But with Weinstein, Clooney and Heslov as producers this seems designed specifically for the Oscars. This will do well in the actress categories as it has five major female roles and decent female characters are difficult to come by.
Wolf of Wall Street
Since his comeback in 2002, Scorsese has only had one movie that was not up for Oscars. This is definitely Oscar friendly material. Based on a true story featuring an impressive cast.
Potentially this year's Beasts of the Southern Wild. It was cleaned up at Sundance and got picked up by Weinstein Company. With the academy becoming more open to smaller films, this indie hit definitely has a chance.
Bennett Miller's followup to Moneyball is based off of a really unsettling true story. Steve Carell plays a schizophrenic millionaire who kills his best friend, an Olympic wrestler played by Mark Ruffalo. Throw in Channing Tatum as Ruffalo's brother and there are enough interesting pieces to make this one a contender.
A father-son road trip movie from Alexander Payne should have no trouble earning acting and writing nods. May be too small to register, but this is a passion project for Payne, should have a lot of heart.
Best Director Contenders
George Clooney, Monuments Men
Oscars got in trouble for snubbing an actor in directing, doubt they will fail to nominate one of their favorite actors.
Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
An indie darling for his first two films. He should now be on voters' radar with this ambitious project. After slavery became a discussion point this year audiences should be more open to struggling with a serious look at it.
David O. Russell, Abscam
Russell has had two nominations in the past three years, definitely a contender for a win. This true story utilizes actors that he had previously directed to nominations and wins.
Lee Daniels, The Butler
A political true story spanning eight presidents with an expansive cast. Could be this year's Lincoln.
Ridley Scott, The Counselor
In the past ten years people have usually
Also in Contention: Martin Scorsese (Wolf of Wall Street), Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale), Alexander Payne (Nebraska), Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher), Jason Reitman (Labor Day)
Best Actor Contenders
Forest Whitaker, The Butler
Forest Whitaker has not had a decent role since he won an Oscar in 2006, but this could be a turnaround for him and Lee Daniels. Playing a real figure who witnesses politics firsthand and has a relationship with eight presidents is Oscar gold. Would not count out this great actor for a second Oscar.
Tom Hanks, Saving Mr. Banks
Walt Disney has more Oscars than anyone. This is the Academy's chance to give him a 23rd award or at least a 60th nomination. Tom Hanks is working back towards Oscar territory with this and Captain Phillips. Beloved actor and the most famous figure in Hollywood history is going to be recognized by voters.
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers' Club
McConaughey has had an incredible career turnaround in the last two years. Last year he received several critical awards and nominations. He is going to continue his streak this year with indie movies like Mud, a supporting role in Wolf of Wall Street and this difficult true story. McConaughey lost a considerable amount of weight to play a man dying from AIDs. This is going to be a tough role to ignore.
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Ejiofor was a rising star, but his career sort of stopped a few years ago. But McQueen does great work with actors and he will have a lot of screen time. Ejiofor is a talented enough actor to make this harsh material tolerable. Expect him to bring some subtleties to a very difficult role.
Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
While typed as a light comedic actor, Carell is always dependable no matter the movie. This is his most Oscar friendly role to date. A real life schizophrenic millionaire that kills he best friend will allow Carell to showcase a range that he normally doesn't get to. Expect this part to surprise a lot of people.
Also in Contention: Bruce Dern (Nebraska), Michael Fassbender (Counselor), Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale), Joaquin Phoenix (Her), Leonardo DiCaprio (Wolf of Wall Street)
Best Actress Contenders
Naomi Watts, Diana
Naomi Watts finally got another nomination last year. Playing one of the most famous figures in modern history should earn her a lot of attention. Outside of her there does not seem to be much prestige behind the project, but this is definitely in consideration.
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
Many people thought Streep would lose for Iron Lady because they expected her to win for this. Streep leads a great ensemble in a great recent stage role.
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
Another actor this year who could be working towards a comeback. May get moved to supporting, since this is a competitive category and may not want to compete with Meryl. But expect her to be a contender in either category.
Kate Winslet, Labor Day
Labor Day seems like a change for both Winslet and Jason Reitman. Winslet plays a mother who picks up a sketchy man. Reitman is great with actresses and the premise seems to offer Winslet a lot to play with.
Marion Cotillard, Lowlife
Cotillard has not received a nomination since she won, but she does great work every year. She seems to take center stage as a woman sold into a magic show in this upcoming James Gray project.
Also in Contention: Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks), Jennifer Lawrence (The Falling), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Emma Watson (Bling Ring), Michelle Pfeiffer (Malavita)
Best Supporting Actor Contenders
Josh Brolin, Labor Day
Brolin brings depth to scumbags like no other. He is taking center stage as an uneasy figure.
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Fassbender has been critically acclaimed in many roles in the past few years. Got his big start and most acclaim with Steve McQueen. Unless votes split with The Counselor, he
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
A dependable actor who is undergoing physical change for the athletic role. Ruffalo is bound to get a second nomination in the near future
Will Forte, Nebraska
It may take an Alexander Payne movie to get people to notice how talented of a performer he is. Forte is able to stand out in dreck, this could be a career changing role for the SNL vet
Ewan McGregor, August: Osage County
McGregor usually gets cast in Oscar bait, but has not been a major contender yet. With a large supporting cast, Osage is bound to receive some supporting actor attention. McGregor seems like the most likely candidate
Also in Contention: Javier Bardem (Counselor), Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers' Club), Harrison Ford (42), Channing Tatum (Foxcatcher), Benedict Cumberbatch (August: Osage County)
Amy Adams, Abscam
It seems like David O. Russell is the best director to lead actors to Oscar nominations and wins. Without knowing much about the project I am predicting Adams. After four nominations she is due for a win. Also her blockbuster exposure from Man of Steel will likely help such her like it did Hathaway and Lawrence.
Cameron Diaz, The Counselor
Surprisingly out of The Counselor cast pundits are predicting Cameron Diaz for a nomination. Diaz is a talented actress that does not often get a good movie. Could be her first Oscar nomination.
Octavia Spencer, Fruitvale
Won for The Help and has a major role in this year's Sundance hit. Spencer does very well in interviews and playing the Oscar game. Could be her second nomination.
Margo Martindale, August: Osage County
A very dependable character actress that has not received much exposure yet. Being a stage actress she will do well in Osage. She is the actress that most are expecting to do the best from the ensemble.
Oprah Winfrey, The Butler
A powerful public figure that is returning to acting for the first time since 1985 (where she received an Oscar nomination). She will be one of the few performers to be on screen through the whole movie. Expect her to do very well at campaigning.
Also in Contention: Jennifer Garner (Dallas Buyers' Club), Julianne Nicholson (August: Osage County), Juliette Lewis (August: Osage County), Catherine Keener (Captain Phillips), Cate Blanchett (Monuments Men)