If you’re still perusing the Best Picture Oscar list and flipping coins to pick your selection — potentially winning a bet is what the Oscars are really good for — here’s help, with ways to think about every one of the nine nominations. Nothing but educated guesses on my part. Are they more or less educated than yours? We’ll see about 11:30 pm ET. Don’t you wish they’d release how each film fared in the voting?
In descending order of chances of winning the 2014 Oscar for Best Picture
For my money, this is the strongest entry in a three-horse race. Yes, the Hollywood community as a whole would like you to know they think 12 Years a Slave is very, very important… but as voting individuals, they love this movie. It mixes classic Hollywood and futuristic technology, with A-list stars, an engrossing story, and remarkable visual design. And for those impatient twits, it’s a relatively short movie.
2. 12 Years a Slave
It’s the best film of the list, by far, and could easily win. If so, it needs two kinds of votes: a) those who THINK it should be the winner, regardless of their own personal tastes; b) those who recognize it’s immensely well-made and masterfully edited.
3. American Hustle
David O. Russell’s ensemble may be the most polarizing on the list, with plenty of detractors. But the well-liked cast — especially Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence — and obvious design, will garner plenty of fans who get the privilege of voting.
4. Captain Phillips
Those who appreciate the craft of this film, nominated for Billy Ray’s exceptional screenplay and for editing, may vote here. And lord knows Tom Hanks has enough friends in the business to draw attention to just about anything he does (except the sub-par Saving Mr. Banks, of course.)
If you put your ear to the buzz, you hear a lot of love not only for the film’s cast, who all performed above expectations, but for the screenplay and Alexander Payne’s direction. There’s enough aggregate happiness about Nebraska to keep it in the middle of the pack.
6. The Wolf of Wall Street
Sure, there’s a bunch of aging Academy members who are offended by the energy of this superb, grotesque movie. They complain about the drug use. The sex. The horrific greed. And they overlook everything that’s absolutely electric about Mr. Scorsese’s epic.
Steve Coogan and Judi Dench may be the most ingratiating pair of personalities of any movie on this list. If you’re going to vote for the most natural tearjerker in the group, you’re going to vote for this movie.
There are far too many Oscar voters who won’t see this as a parable about loss and desire. They’ll see it as a weird movie about a guy who loves his computer.
9. Dallas Buyers Club
This is the classic case of excellent performances (McConaughey and Leto will win) existing in a decent film. The idea of Dallas Buyers Club is, unfortunately, far better than Dallas Buyers Club, and I think nearly all voters will see the acting recognition as more than enough.
If you’re interested as a point of comparison, here’s my Top Ten for 2013.
And your pick?…