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With the 86th annual Academy Awards ceremony drawing ever closer, I thought now might be as good a time as any to offer up my list of winners for this year’s event. This year actually marks the first time in quite some time (since the ’90s, I think) that I’ve been able to see a pretty fair percentage of the nominated films, so I hope that my “educated” guess end up being a bit more accurate than my “shot-in-the-darks” from the past.

Despite a concentrated effort to see as many nominated films as possible this year (including a last minute trip to the theater this coming weekend to see Philomena), there have still been several films that I truly regret missing. Any of these, I’m sure, would have been worthy contenders but I just never ended up getting to them before the ceremony: Her; The Wolf of Wall Street; August: Osage County; Ernest & Celestine; The Wind Rises; Inside Llewyn Davis; The Missing Picture; and Omar

Without further ado, no fanfare and a certain amount of self-doubt, then, I present my 2014 choices.

— Best Picture: I would love to see Nebraska win but I have a feeling that American Hustle might win, which will be a little sad.

— Best Director: My personal preference would be Alexander Payne but I could totally see Alfonso Cuaron taking the statue and I wouldn’t mind in the slightest.

— Best Actor: I feel that Dern and McConaughey are neck-and-neck for this but I think that McConaughey displayed the wider range and really inhabits his character completely. Any other time, I would be 100% behind Chiwetel Ejiofor but Dern and McConaughey were real show-stoppers.

— Best Actress: Without seeing Judi Dench in Philomena, I’m inclined to go with Cate Blanchett. My opinion might change after this weekend but Blanchett was pretty stunning in Blue Jasmine.

— Best Original Screenplay: They were both exceptionally sharp and witty but I fell completely in love with Bob Nelson’s script for Nebraska just a bit more than Woody Allen’s for Blue Jasmine. Either one are suitable choices, as far as I’m concerned, and Dallas Buyers Club would be up here in a less crowded year.

— Best Adapted Screenplay: My gut instinct tells me to go with Philomena on this one, even though I’ve yet to see it. Of the other two I saw (Captain Phillips, 12 Years a Slave), I felt that the former had a pretty bad script, to be honest, and that the latter had a pretty good script. Probable winner? Before Midnight, methinks.

— Best Supporting Actress: Before watching Nebraska, I felt that 12 Years a Slave’s Lupita Nyong’o was a total lock for this. Afterwards, however, there’s just no way I can’t throw love in June Squibb’s direction. Her performance as Kate was an absolute stunner: if you don’t have at least one relative like this, you probably don’t have any family at all.

Best Supporting Actor: Without a doubt, this deserves to go to Barkhad Abdi for Captain Phillips. I would also accept Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club but will flip my wig if Fassbender wins: I didn’t find anything exceptional about his performance in 12 Years a Slave whatsoever.

Best Animated Film: I’ve only seen the Croods, thus far, so I don’t have much to go on. I absolutely loved the film, however, so it would be just dandy if it won the gold statuette. My instinct? The Wind Rises, for the win.

Best Cinematography: Before Nebraska, Gravity would have been the no-brainer here. After soaking in Nebraska’s gorgeous and completely evocative black-and-white cinematography, however, I’m ready to call an audible and buck the obvious choice. Don’t get me wrong: the camera-work in Gravity was jaw-dropping. The camera-work in Nebraska, however, was heart-breaking.

Best Costume Design: The only two entries I saw in this category (American Hustle, 12 Years) didn’t blow me away at all, so I’m going to go with one I didn’t see: The Great Gatsby. No matter how empty Luhrmann films might be, the always look great and I’m sure Gatsby’s no exception.

Best Documentary Feature: In any other year, any of the other docs (with the possible exception of 20 Feet From Stardom) would have been easy contenders. This year, there’s only one that could: The Act of Killing. This will end up being the “Free Spot” in any Oscar-guessers Bingo card: mark my words.

Best Documentary Short: I didn’t manage to see any of these but my money is on The Lady in Number 6, particularly since the subject just died a few days ago.

Best Film Editing: I’m inclined to go with Gravity but Captain Phillips was pretty seamlessly edited, as well. Any picks for tech awards besides Gravity feel a little iffy this season, however, so Gravity is probably the safer best.

Best Foreign Language Film: I’ve only seen one, The Hunt, and I thought it was a stunner. That being said, I’ll be seeing two more before Sunday (The Broken Circle Breakdown and The Great Beauty) and there’s every chance that Broken Circle will wreck me completely. We’ll see.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling: If Dallas Buyers Club doesn’t get it, the award better go to Bad Grandpa so we at least get the chance of a pithy Knoxville quote.

Best Original Score: The only one I saw on the short-list was Gravity and, to be honest, I wasn’t overly impressed (most of the time). My bet is on Her, since William Butler and Owen Pallet did the score: that’s some serious indie-rock nirvana, right there.

Best Original Song: Without hearing any of them (or seeing the requisite films), I’m going to do the obvious thing and select Frozen’s “Let it Go.” My other choice would have been the odd Christian song but those jerks removed that option: what nerve!

Best Production Design: I’m inclined to say Gravity but, as mentioned above, I’m pretty sure that The Great Gatsby was a visual stunner. I could see either of those winning, with American Hustle serving as a sneaky wildcard.

Best Animated Short Film: I didn’t manage to see any of these this year but the retro-animated Disney short Get a Horse! seems like a pretty obvious contender.

Best Live Action Short Film: My knowledge of these entries, unfortunately, only extends to their titles, so this one is a complete wash.

Best Sound Editing: As mentioned above, any tech awards guesses that don’t feature Gravity are probably lost causes but I (for some reason) could see either Captain Phillips or The Hobbit 1.2 taking this award.

Best Sound Mixing: I’m going with Gravity, again, but this could also go to Phillips or The Hobbit. Possible wildcard? Lone Survivor, whose only nominations were for both sound categories. Perhaps the Academy knows something I don’t?

Best Visual Effects: I’m, obviously, inclined to give the trophy to Gravity. I wasn’t particularly impressed by the visual effects in the first part of The Hobbit and, since all three films were made simultaneously, I expect more of the same in the second installment. Furthermore, voters already rejected The Hobbit once, last year, in favor of Life of Pi. Is it so hard to imagine the same thing won’t happen again with Gravity?

So there you have it: my not-so humble picks for this year’s ceremony. All in all, this ended up being a pretty damn good year for movies: it will be interesting to see what long-shots and sure-things end up pulling through this Sunday.

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