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The Cricket
Sean P. Means
Sean is the movie critic and columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @moviecricket.

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This film image released by Paramount Pictures shows Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort in a scene from "The Wolf of Wall Street." The movie is nominated for an Oscar for best motion picture of the year as well as four other nominations. This year's best picture race at the 86th Academy Awards on Sunday, March 2, 2014, has shaped up to be one of the most unpredictable in years. (AP Photo/Paramount Pictures and Red Granite Pictures, Mary Cybulsk, filei)
Oscars ’14: Predictions, part five - The majors

OK, put-up-or-shut-up time. Here are The Cricket’s predictions in the major categories for the 86th annual Academy Awards.

The Cricket predicted the technical categories on Monday, the craft categories on Tuesday, the short-film competition on Wednesday, and the specialty features (animated, documentary and foreign-language) on Thursday.

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The Cricket will be live-tweeting the Oscar ceremony (which starts at 6:30 p.m. Mountain Time, with the pre-show red carpet coverage starting on ABC at 5 p.m.) on Sunday, at @moviecricket.

Actor

Nominees • Christian Bale, "American Hustle"; Bruce Dern, "Nebraska": Leonardo DiCaprio, "The Wolf of Wall Street"; Chiwetel Ejiofor, "12 Years a Slave"; Matthew McConaughey, "Dallas Buyers Club."

Who will win • Matthew McConaughey, who has been showing his acting chops more than his abs recently, famously lost 45 pounds to play HIV-infected Texas good-ol’-boy Ron Woodroof. Even with strong contendors in Ejiofor and a much-hyped DiCaprio, McConaughey’s got this one in the bag, alright.

Who should win • Ejiofor’s quiet resiliency as the enslaved Solomon Northup wasn’t as flashy as McConaughey’s Woodroof or DiCaprio’s high-flying stock trader, but his performance was more moving. (If we’re allowing write-in votes, I’d pick Robert Redford for his one-man performance in "All Is Lost.")

Actress

Nominees • Amy Adams, "American Hustle"; Cate Blanchett, "Blue Jasmine"; Sandra Bullock, "Gravity"; Judi Dench, "Philomena"; Meryl Streep, "August: Osage County."

Who will win • There’s been talk of a late surge by Amy Adams as the tough con artist with the bruised heart. Don’t believe it. Cate Blanchett’s take on a modern-day Blanche Dubois is a lock.

Who should win • Sandra Bullock had to play much of "Gravity" as a soloist, while also dealing with the demands of an effects-heavy production.

Supporting Actor

Nominees • Barkhad Abdi, "Captain Phillips"; Bradley Cooper, "American Hustle"; Michael Fassbender, "12 Years a Slave"; Jonah Hill, "The Wolf of Wall Street"; Jared Leto, "Dallas Buyers Club."

Who will win • McConaughey’s co-star, Jared Leto, also went through a physical transformation — not only as an HIV sufferer, but as a transsexual. Oscar voters love that sort of performance.

Who should win • Barkhad Abdi made us feel the menace of Somali pirates and understand what forced him into this life. And he did it as a first-time actor going up against one of America’s greatest stars, Tom Hanks.

Supporting Actress

Nominees • Sally Hawkins, "Blue Jasmine"; Jennifer Lawrence, "American Hustle"; Lupita Nyong’o, "12 Years a Slave"; Julia Roberts, "August: Osage County"; June Squibb, "Nebraska."

Who will win • Oscar voters love to discover new actresses, especially in this category. This year, that’s Lupita Nyong’o, who became a star for her role as a long-suffering house slave. There’s been talk of Jennifer Lawrence snatching this one away from Nyong’o, the way she stole "American Hustle," but don’t count on it.

Who should win • June Squibb’s salty performance as the frustrated wife of Bruce Dern’s ornery alcoholic was a pure delight.

Director

Nominees • Alfonso Cuarón, "Gravity"; Steve McQueen, "12 Years a Slave"; Alexander Payne, "Nebraska": David O. Russell, "American Hustle"; Martin Scorsese, "The Wolf of Wall Street."

Who will win • Best Director usually matches Best Picture — but expect a split this year, with Alfonso Cuarón receiving the reward for pulling off the technically demanding "Gravity."

Who should win • Cuarón continues to do things with a camera that other directors can only dream about.

Screenplay — Original

Nominees • Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell, "American Hustle"; Woody Allen, "Blue Jasmine"; Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack, "Dallas Buyers Club"; Spike Jonze, "Her"; Bob Nelson, "Nebraska."

Who will win • The favorites here are the retro-cool of "American Hustle" and the charming future of "Her." This may be the one category the academy uses to honor David O. Russell’s much-nominated con-game caper.

Who should win • Spike Jonze’s microchipped romance is, by definition, the most truly original screenplay in this bunch. Also the sweetest, most thought-provoking and spellbinding.

Screenplay — Adapted

Nominees • Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, "Before Midnight"; Billy Ray, "Captain Phillips"; Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, "Philomena"; John Ridley, "12 Years a Slave"; Terence Winter, "The Wolf of Wall Street."

Who will win • John Ridley, for translating Solomon Northup’s story to a modern audience while keeping some of the 19th-century flavor intact.

Who should win • As raunchy and reprehensible as its characters’ behavior could sometimes be, Terence Winter’s dissection of greed and excess in "The Wolf of Wall Street" was never less than fascinating.

Best Picture

Nominees • "American Hustle," "Captain Phillips," "Dallas Buyers Club," "Gravity," "Her," "Nebraska," "Philomena," "12 Years a Slave," "The Wolf of Wall Street."

What will win • OK, that three-movie race is really a two-movie race, because "American Hustle" doesn’t stand a chance. It’s between the stately "12 Years a Slave" and the space-going "Gravity" — and, in this case, the gravity of the subject matter will send "12 Years a Slave’s" producers (including Brad Pitt) to the podium to collect the last statuettes of the night.

What should win • Three of these nine nominees were on my top 10 list: "Her," "Gravity" and "12 Years a Slave." Of those, "Her" was the most touching and most challenging, and would get my vote.



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