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Oscar nominees 2014: Our critic's predictions

Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof in a scene

Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof in a scene from "Dallas Buyers Club." Credit: AP

With the Golden Globes out of the way, it's time to focus on the Oscars, whose nominees will be announced tomorrow morning. (The statuettes will be presented March 2.)

As a film critic, I usually moan and groan when my personal favorites get snubbed during awards season. This year, however, I'm feeling oddly conformist. At the Globes, the crowd-pleasing crime film "American Hustle" picked up three major awards (including for Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence) even as the heavy-duty "12 Years a Slave" won the top prize for best dramatic picture. That seems like justice to me, and it's probably how things will shake out at the Oscars as well. The Globes also gave a much-deserved acting award to Matthew McConaughey for "Dallas Buyers Club," whose Academy Award potential now looks much stronger.

On the eve of the Oscar nominations, I'm announcing my own list of should-be contenders. I haven't fully abandoned my role as the voice in the wilderness; you'll see a few names and titles here that clearly don't stand a chance. But for once, I expect my dream roster will end up looking a lot like the real one.

Best Picture

"12 Years a Slave"

"Blue Jasmine"

"Captain Phillips"

"Don Jon"


DREAM PICK "12 Years a Slave." It's clearly the most deserving film, but the frothy crowd-pleaser "American Hustle" could pull an upset.


Best Actor

Bruce Dern, "Nebraska"

Chiwetel Ejiofor, "12 Years a Slave"

Tom Hanks, "Captain Phillips"

Oscar Isaac, "Inside Llewyn Davis"

Matthew McConaughey, "Dallas Buyers Club"

DREAM PICK McConaughey. As an emaciated AIDS victim, he delivered the year's best performance, bar none. Still, the critical favorite, Robert Redford, in "All Is Lost," might yet take this award.


Best Actress

Amy Adams, "American Hustle"

Cate Blanchett, "Blue Jasmine"

Elle Fanning, "Ginger & Rosa"

Scarlett Johansson, "Her"

Emma Thompson, "Saving Mr. Banks"

DREAM PICK Blanchett, who walked the perfect line between tragedy and comedy in "Blue Jasmine." As for Johansson, heard but never seen in "Her," she was ruled ineligible for a Globe; an Oscar nod might be too much to expect.


Best Supporting Actor

Barkhad Abdi, "Captain Phillips"

Bradley Cooper, "American Hustle"

Jonah Hill, "The Wolf of Wall Street"

Jared Leto, "Dallas Buyers Club"

David Oyelowo, "The Butler"

DREAM PICK Leto. He seems destined to win, too, but there'll be no justice if Hill and Oyelowo aren't at least recognized for rising above so-so material with outstanding performances.


Best Supporting Actress

Jennifer Lawrence, "American Hustle"

Lupita Nyong'o, "12 Years a Slave"

Sarah Paulson, "12 Years a Slave"

Lea Seydoux, "Blue is the Warmest Color"

June Squibb, "Nebraska"

DREAM PICK Nyong'o. She gives it her all as the wretched slave Patsy, though as a new face she may lose to the much-adored Lawrence.


Best Documentary Feature

"20 Feet From Stardom"

"The Armstrong Lie"

"The Act of Killing"

"Stories We Tell"

"Tim's Vermeer"

DREAM PICK "The Act of Killing." In a year of exceptionally good documentaries, this fascinating story of mass murder, dormant guilt and the unexpected power of Hollywood cinema really broke the mold. The more likely winner, however, is the feel-good rock doc "20 Feet From Stardom."


Best Original Screenplay

"American Hustle"

"Blue Jasmine"

"Don Jon"

"Ginger & Rosa"


DREAM PICK "Her." If we're talking original, nothing beats Spike Jonze's visionary look at love in the modern era. Realistically, though, expect this award to go to "American Hustle."


Best Director

Steve McQueen, "12 Years a Slave"

Paul Greengrass, "Captain Phillips"

Spike Jonze, "Her"

Sally Potter, "Ginger & Rosa"

David O. Russell, "American Hustle"

DREAM PICK McQueen. He's the standout in a field of standouts this year. Once again, however, Russell's "American Hustle" just might nab the gold.

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