Rene Rodriguez: Best Picture Oscar race comes down to 12 Years a Slave vs. Gravity


Academy Awards

The 86th Academy Awards air at 8:30 p.m. Sunday on ABC.

Rene’s picks

Here is the complete list of the 86th Academy Awards. Herald Movie Critic’s Rene Rodriguez’s predictions are in bold.

Best picture

“12 Years a Slave”

“American Hustle”

“Captain Phillips”

“Dallas Buyers Club”





“The Wolf of Wall Street”


Alfonso Cuarón, “Gravity”

Steve McQueen, “12 Years a Slave”

Alexander Payne, “Nebraska”

David O. Russell, “American Hustle”

Martin Scorsese, “The Wolf of Wall Street”

Best actor

Christian Bale, “American Hustle”

Bruce Dern, “Nebraska”

Chiwetel Ejiofor, “12 Years a Slave”

Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”

Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Wolf of Wall Street”

Best actress

Amy Adams, “American Hustle”

Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”

Judi Dench, “Philomena”

Meryl Streep, “August: Osage County”

Sandra Bullock, “Gravity”

Supporting actor

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”

Supporting actress

Sally Hawkins, “Blue Jasmine”

Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle”

Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”

Julia Roberts, “August: Osage County”

June Squibb, “Nebraska”

Animated feature film

“The Croods”

“Despicable Me 2”

“Ernest & Celestine”


“The Wind Rises”


“The Grandmaster,” Philippe Le Sourd

“Gravity,” Emmanuel Lubezki

“Inside Llewyn Davis,” Bruno Delbonnel

“Nebraska,” Phedon Papamichael

“Prisoners,” Roger A. Deakins

Costume design

“American Hustle,” Michael Wilkinson

“The Grandmaster,” William Chang Suk Ping

“The Great Gatsby,” Catherine Martin

“The Invisible Woman,” Michael O’Connor

“12 Years a Slave,” Patricia Norris

Documentary feature

“The Act of Killing”

“Cutie and the Boxer”

“Dirty Wars”

“The Square”

“20 Feet from Stardom”

Documentary short subject

(No selection)


“Facing Fear”

“Karama Has No Walls”

“The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life”

“Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall”

Film editing

“American Hustle,” Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten

“Captain Phillips,” Christopher Rouse

“Dallas Buyers Club,” John Mac McMurphy and Martin Pensa

“Gravity,” Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger

“12 Years a Slave,” Joe Walker

Foreign language film

“The Broken Circle Breakdown,” Belgium

“The Great Beauty,” Italy

“The Hunt,” Denmark

“The Missing Picture,” Cambodia

“Omar,” Palestine

Makeup and hairstyling

“Dallas Buyers Club,” Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews

“Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa,” Stephen Prouty

“The Lone Ranger,” Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua-Casny

Original score

“The Book Thief,” John Williams

“Gravity,” Steven Price

“Her,” William Butler and Owen Pallett

“Philomena,” Alexandre Desplat

“Saving Mr. Banks,” Thomas Newman

Original song

“Happy” from “Despicable Me 2”

“Let It Go” from “Frozen”

“The Moon Song” from “Her”

“Ordinary Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”

Production design

“American Hustle,” Production Design: Judy Becker; Set Decoration: Heather Loeffler

“Gravity,” Production Design: Andy Nicholson; Set Decoration: Rosie Goodwin and Joanne Woollard

“The Great Gatsby,” Production Design: Catherine Martin; Set Decoration: Beverley Dunn

“Her,” Production Design: K.K. Barrett; Set Decoration: Gene Serdena

“12 Years a Slave,” Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Alice Baker

Animated short film


“Get a Horse!”

“Mr. Hublot”


“Room on the Broom”

Live action short film

(No selection)

“Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)”

“Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just before Losing Everything)”


“Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)”

“The Voorman Problem”

Sound editing

“All Is Lost,” Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns

“Captain Phillips,” Oliver Tarney

“Gravity,” Glenn Freemantle

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” Brent Burge

“Lone Survivor,” Wylie Stateman

Sound mixing

“Captain Phillips,” Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith and Chris Munro

“Gravity,” Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick and Tony Johnson

“Inside Llewyn Davis,” Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland

“Lone Survivor,” Andy Koyama, Beau Borders and David Brownlow

Visual effects

“Gravity,” Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and Eric Reynolds

“Iron Man 3,” Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick

“The Lone Ranger,” Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier

“Star Trek Into Darkness,” Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann and Burt Dalton

Adapted screenplay

“Before Midnight,” written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke

“Captain Phillips,” screenplay by Billy Ray

“Philomena,” screenplay by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope

“12 Years a Slave,” screenplay by John Ridley

“The Wolf of Wall Street,” screenplay by Terence Winter

Original screenplay

“American Hustle,” written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell

“Blue Jasmine,” written by Woody Allen

“Dallas Buyers Club,” written by Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack

“Her,” written by Spike Jonze

“Nebraska,” written by Bob Nelson

Here’s something about Sunday night’s 86th Academy Awards broadcast you can’t say every year: This is going to be suspenseful.

Coming at the tail end of the awards season, after all the critics groups and guilds have anointed their winners, the Oscars often feel redundant because we already have a strong sense of which films will be taking home the prize.

But things are different this year. Awards have been spread all over the place — members of the L.A. Film Critics Association, for example, couldn’t even make up their minds for Best Film and went with a tie ( Gravity and Her).

Although some of the acting categories are easy to call, others are not. The technical categories — editing, cinematography, art direction — are just as exciting as Best Director. And the biggest prize of all, Best Picture, is still up for grabs, with the battle between the two leading contenders — the thrill-ride Gravity and the punishing historical drama 12 Years a Slave — too close to call.

Despite the growing chasm between big-budget tent pole movies designed to kickstart franchises and smaller, more intimate movies about characters who don’t drive fast or have superpowers, the diversity of this batch of nominees proves there’s still plenty of room in Hollywood for mature entertainment as well as popcorn fare.

Here are the Miami Herald’s predictions in the six big categories. Check the ballot on Page 4M for more picks.


Michael Fassbender’s performance as a sadistic plantation owner in 12 Years a Slave was a brutal piece of acting that found shades of humanity in an unredeemable monster. Much like he did in Moneyball (for which he was also nominated), Jonah Hill served as the perfect foil for the leading man of The Wolf of Wall Street. Bradley Cooper was fine in American Hustle, but his was the least memorable performance from that large ensemble cast. And Captain Phillips’ Barkhad Abdi turned what could have been a cartoon — a pirate — into a tragic, almost sympathetic figure.

But none of them will beat out Jared Leto, whose performance as an AIDS-afflicted transsexual brought gentle humor and pathos to the otherwise grim Dallas Buyers Club. Leto was practically unrecognizable in the role, the biggest compliment you could pay an actor.

SHOULD WIN: Michael Fassbender.

WILL WIN: Jared Leto.


Forget Blue Jasmine’s Sally Hawkins, Nebraska’s June Squibb and August: Osage County’s Julia Roberts. All their performances were fine — especially that of 84-year-old Squibb, who nearly ran away with the picture — but none was memorable enough for Oscar. This race comes down to American Hustle’s Jennifer Lawrence, whose performance as a loose-cannon wife gave the movie electricity and fire, and 12 Years a Slave’s Lupita Nyong’o, whose performance as a young slave was nothing short of heartbreaking. The Academy loves Lawrence — she already has one Oscar, for Silver Linings Playbook — but it is Nyong’o you remember most from 12 Years — and the one whose pain you really feel.

SHOULD WIN: Lupita Nyong’o

WILL WIN: Lupita Nyong’o


In almost any other year, Leonardo DiCaprio’s unexpectedly funny, loose performance as a corrupt investment banker in The Wolf of Wall Street would be the one to beat: DiCaprio is long overdue to win, and he holds this manic three-hour movie together with an astounding energy. But Wolf is probably too crude and vulgar for the Academy’s conservative tastes. The same fate awaits Chiwetel Ejiofor, who played the role of a man kidnapped into slavery with grace and stoicism. But that movie is probably too harsh and violent for Academy members, who prefer their entertainment to be genteel. American Hustle’s Christian Bale and his comb-over deserve a special Oscar of their own, but his performance was low-key and subtle. And although 77-year-old Bruce Dern (who has never won an Oscar) will earn some sympathy votes for his role as a man slowly descending into dementia in Nebraska, the stark black-and-white movie doesn’t have enough supporters for a win.

That leaves Matthew McConaughey, who has revived his career from rom-com star to serious actor ( Mud, Bernie, Magic Mike). His performance as the homophobic cowboy diagnosed with AIDS in Dallas Buyers Club is flinty and often unlikable, keeping the movie from sinking into corny melodrama. The fact that he is currently killing it on the HBO miniseries, which started airing before Oscar ballots were due, can’t hurt.

SHOULD WIN: Leonardo DiCaprio.

WILL WIN: Matthew McConaughey.


This race was settled the week Blue Jasmine hit theaters this summers. Cate Blanchett’s performance as a fallen high-society doyenne who loses everything and is forced to move in with her sister was a high-wire act of controlled mania. The actress went full-tilt with the part, running the risk of coming off as ridiculous, but instead making her brittle, pill-popping heroine understandable. Against her, August: Osage County’s Meryl Streep, American Hustle’s Amy Adams and Philomena’s Judi Dench don’t stand a chance. The only nominee with the potential to steal this one is Sandra Bullock, who was the only actor on the screen for much of Gravity. If the Academy’s love for the movie extends beyond its technical achievements, watch out.

SHOULD WIN: Cate Blanchett.

WILL WIN: Cate Blanchett.


In a perfect world, this one would end in a five-way tie. Martin Scorsese reawakened his wild-and-crazy side with the raucous The Wolf of Wall Street. Alexander Payne delivered one from the heart with Nebraska. Steve McQueen confronted the horrors of American slavery head-on in 12 Years a Slave. And David O. Russell took an ensemble cast and a story loosely based on fact and came up with American Hustle, the year’s most entertaining and pleasurable caper.

But none of them can top Alfonso Cuarón, whose revolutionary Gravity was so immersive and convincing, it looked like it was shot in outer space. Cuarón spent five years working on the movie, helping to invent technology that would allow him to pull off the effects he needed. Tonight, he’ll be rewarded for his efforts.

SHOULD WIN: Alfonso Cuarón

WILL WIN: Alfonso Cuarón.


Could the Academy’s love for Dallas Buyers Club extend to a Best Picture Oscar? Will the intoxicating fun of American Hustle woo voters? Could Scorsese’s mad-man antics cause the Academy to relax and go with a wild, popular hit?

The answer to all those is maybe. But this one probably comes down to Gravity, which is a monumental achievement that needed to be seen in the theater, and 12 Years a Slave, which is as artful and restrained as it is harrowing. Oscar voters usually sway toward historical movies, and the cultural importance of 12 Years cannot be denied. But Gravity is the kind of movie that comes along once in a decade, and if the darkness of McQueen’s film turns viewers off, this one could easily sneak in. Nail-biting time.

SHOULD WIN: 12 Years a Slave

WILL WIN: 12 Years a Slave

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