Best Animated Feature
No Pixar to default to this year. The Croods and Despicable Me 2 should be happy with their nominations. As should Ernest and Celestine, which may have some strong support, but it is too small of a film. As Miyazaki's last film things could definitely swing in favor for The Wind Rises, but the buzz is just not there. Disney is also going to be pushing harder for their own movie, Frozen, which has the box-office and critical acclaim to take the category with a fair amount of ease.
Best Original Screenplay
Dallas Buyers Club won't win and Blue Jasmine isn't enough of a "good Woody Allen" for him to win another. There is an outside chance for Nebraska, but that is a stretch. David O. Russell has not yet won for writing, with the large amount of nominations American Hustle could take it. Spike Jonze's Her seems to be the frontrunner, but the film is not a big enough contender in other categories to consider it a lock. My money is on Her, but do not count out a surprise win for Hustle which would signal that movie could win across the board.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Before Midnight and Captain Phillips won't go anywhere. Slim chance for Philomena, but not a huge one. Controversy could help or hurt Terence Winter for Wolf of Wall Street, it definitely has a shot. But you can pretty much guarantee John Ridley to win for 12 Years a Slave. This is the only really clear win that the former frontrunner has.
Best Supporting Actor
Jonah Hill was a surprise nomination and Barkhad Abdi does not have the buzz for a win. American Hustle is bound to win in one of the four acting categories, there is a chance for Bradley Cooper to be the film's acting winner but voters have to really love the film for him to surprise. There will be quite a bit of support for Michael Fassbender. But his villain has been overshadowed by Jared Leto who has swept all of the important precursors.
Best Supporting Actress
Sally Hawkins' nomination was her reward. Julia Roberts does not have enough steam with this role for a second win. There may be some sentimentality for June Squibb, but she is not well known enough of a veteran to surprise. The race is between Jennifer Lawrence and Lupita Nyong'o. Lawrence has the popularity factor and a second consecutive win for her would definitely bring attention to the Oscars. However she won last year, which many felt she was too young for. She stands a strong chance to win, but voters may wait to reward her again. That does not mean Nyong'o has a strong chance at winning. She is unknown and has been upstaged quite a bit by Lawrence. It is going to be close between the two, but I am going to guess that Nyong'o's more emotional performance will play better at the Oscars.
Christian Bale made it because of good will for his movie. Leonardo DiCaprio could win this time, a lot of people really feel strongly that he is owed an Oscar win. However there is a lot of competition and he wasn't even guaranteed a nomination. Bruce Dern is a veteran, but his buzz has died quite a bit. Chiwetel Ejiofor has done great in precursors and definitely leaves an impact with a strong performance. Conventional wisdom says that Matthew McConaughey will win. All of the buzz is around the popular actor and his career shift. His career is in a better place than the other nominees and he is easier to recognize than the subtle work of Ejiofor or Dern. I think that McConaughey's popularity gives him the bigger edge and he will win, but there is plenty of competition to allow a surprise (I am leaning towards Ejiofor to potentially upset, but that is a bit of a long shot).
Meryl Streep just won her third Oscar, she probably will not win again. Judi Dench is not a strong enough nomination. If Gravity ends up sweeping then it could carry Bullock to a win. However many feel she did not deserve her last Oscar which could factor in to her losing this one. Amy Adams has five nominations and is the only nominee without a win. With the popularity of Hustle she could represent the film as its acting win. Cate Blanchett did the best with the precursors, but it was an early release of a smaller film. Blanchett is a safe bet, but someone will surprise this year. I am actually taking a chance on predicting Adams to win.
Tough one. Alexander Payne will have to wait another year and Martin Scorsese already has his Oscar and legendary status. It is a close race between McQueen, Russell and Cuaron. David O. Russell has his career in the right place and could be considered the most due. Steve McQueen has the more emotional film and underdog status. Alfonso Cuaron has the advantage of a longer career and some technical achievements with his film. It looks to be a split between director and picture this year, any of their three films could win. I think that Cuaron has the edge, but it will be a close race.
It is of course down to 12 Years a Slave, Gravity and American Hustle. One is a moving period piece. One is a big budget spectacle. The other one is a fun, energetic throwback. Each represent different trends and do different things really well. I think that Hustle is the weaker film, but it is fresher in peoples' minds. Gravity has the box-office and technical aspects, but it lacks an important writing nomination. 12 Years a Slave deals with social issues and human emotions, but it is not as flashy as the other two. This is a really difficult one to judge. I am guessing splits across the board for editing, writing, acting and directing. Each of these movies will get some nominations. I think that emotion will factor into 12 Years a Slave winning, but I cannot say any is a sure thing. Going to be exciting to find out.