One great thing about having your own movie website is that you can write your top ten of the year in early January – a celebration of the wonders of cinema – and then go silent until March as studios dump their most horrific mutants into theaters (I see you Son of God, Winter’s Tale, Robocop, Pompeii, 3 Days to Kill, Endless Love.)  It’s really been nice not having to sit through that shit.  So before I return to the dark recesses of the cinemahouse here’s my best guesses at the big Oscar categories for this Sunday’s gala.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

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 Should Win: Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)

Listen, I love Jennifer Lawrence as much as the next red blooded American man but Lupita Nyong’o’s tortured performance as Patsey towers above the rest in this category.  Nyong’o is borderline revelatory.  Lawrence is a blast as the hysterical spouse of Christian Bale’s Irving but to me this is Nyong’o’s category to lose…and she won’t.

Who Will Win: Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)

Pile on the hyperbole here…I just hope her speech is wonderful.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

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 Should Win: Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)

I really can’t believe I’m stumping for Sack from Wedding Crashers to win an Oscar.  But David O. Russell knows what makes Bradley Cooper tick and can bring out the weirdest, gruffest, wildest performances in him.  Cooper’s disheveled Richie DiMaso is a firecracker in American Hustle and gives the film just enough unhinged gonzo lunacy to keep it from being run of the mill.

Who Will Win: Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

I still haven’t seen Dallas Buyers Club but by all accounts the lead singer from 30-Seconds to Mars is very good in it.  He’s been ripping through the early season awards circuit so don’t expect Health healthcare exchange is a contract between you and the healthcare exchange company that says that the healthcare exchange company will pay a portion of your medical expenses if you get sick or hurt and have to visit a doctor’s office or hospital. him to stop here.  I wish I had more to say about his performance but I can comment on his music…it’s terrible.

81st Academy Awards¨ Press Kit ImagesBest Actress

Nominees: Amy Adams (American Hustle), Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Judi Dench (Philomena), Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)

Who Should Win: Amy Adams (American Hustle)

This is Amy Adam’s 5th Oscar nomination and she probably won’t win again.  That’s criminal.  Adam’s is the true heart of American Hustle and she sells the shit out of it.  The movie too often relies on the hair and costumes but Adam’s consistently underplays Sydney while outplaying all the buffoons around her.  It’s a testament to her that in a film stacked to the rafters with big, boisterous actors she still stood above the rest.

Who Will Win: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)

The wild Woody Allen controversy aside, Cate Blanchett did deliver the most well-defined performance in the category this year.  Her Jasmine is so slimy, so diluted its incredible audiences responded so well to the film in the first place.  You can imagine her Jasmine livin’ in a van down by the river; sitting around a tire fire explaining to her tousled comrades how the late night fires in the village were so much more ravishing.  I begrudgingly accept Blanchett’s radiant dominance even though I’ll be silently pulling for Ms. Adams.

Best 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 Should Win: Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)

Chiwetel Ejiofor’s performance in 12 Years a Slave seems to be pigeonholed recently by the sentiment that it’s “underplayed.”  I’m not sure what film they were watching.  Ejiofor imbues Solomon Northup with such conflict, resolve and emotional resonance I can’t imagine anyone reading it as underplayed.  I suppose compared to Leo it’s underplayed but so is every performance previous to his in Wolf of Wall Street.  In the “will we remember this performance in 20-years test” Ejiofor passes easily.

Who Will Win: Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)

Again, still haven’t seen the movie but his Royal McConaughnecense seems to have this locked up based on awards season so far.  I’m kind of rooting for this anyway just to see his stoner incoherence on stage in one of the stuffiest rooms in America!

Best Director

Nominees: David O. Russell (American Hustle), Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity), Alexander Payne (Nebraska), Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street)

Who Should Win: Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity)

Have you seen Gravity on the big screen!?  Well if you did this category would be pretty easy to choose.

Who Will Win: Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity)

Seriously…all these Director’s created fantastic films this year but only Alfonso Cuaron invented ways to make his film appear more realistic…INVENTED STUFF.

Best Picture

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

What Should Win: 12 Years a Slave or Gravity

Both of these films are stunning master classes in craft, vision and execution.  It’s really a shame that there is no precedent for ties at the Oscar’s because this would be the year to award Best Picture to both films.  The best part about them is they are great for entirely different reasons so comparison is ridiculous.  I think in a year stacked with incredible performances and filmmaking Best Director and Best Picture will split – essentially yielding a tie.  So…

What Will Win: 12 Years a Slave

It’s the best film of the year.  I knew it the moment I walked out of the theater and no film since has changed that opinion.  Gravity is as quintessential Hollywood thrill ride buoyed by ground breaking effects and direction but nothing was as uncompromising a vision as 12 Years a Slave.  Director Steve McQueen, the cast and crew should be commended.  2013 was a stunning year and the Academy should celebrate its pinnacle achievement.