EVANS: Who will win (and who should win) on Oscar Sunday?

We’ve finally arrived at Oscar Weekend, which, deservedly or not, is indeed the culmination of every year in popular cinema. While it’s exciting to see so many great films nominated, there will only be a few winners and a lot of losers – so let’s see who those winners will be, and who they should be.

Nominees: American Hustle; Captain Phillips; Dallas Buyers Club; Gravity; Her; Nebraska; Philomena; 12 Years a Slave; The Wolf of Wall Street
Who Will Win: This category is tough to call this year. On one hand, 12 Years a Slave drew heaps of praise for its stark, brutal portrayal of slavery; on the other, Gravity dazzled audiences with its spectacular visuals and exciting survival story. But based on its awards-season plunder and accessibility, I’ll take the third hand, the one extending the trophy to American Hustle.
Who Should Win: Gravity, 12 Years a Slave, and The Wolf of Wall Street were among my favorite movies of the year, but Her, Spike Jonze’s astoundingly beautiful technological love story, very well might be the best movie of the year, and it’s certainly the best widely-distributed one. “It’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you cry” is a cliché, but Her is the rare movie that ticks all the boxes on the human spectrum of emotion – and it’ll make you think, too.

Nominees: Christian Bale (American Hustle); Bruce Dern (Nebraska); Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street); Chiwitel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave); Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
Who Will Win: McConaughey took home a Golden Globe (and gave us an incredible acceptance speech) for his skin-and-bones Dallas Buyers Club performance, but I have a feeling the Academy will lean more toward Ejiofor for his triumphant, impassioned performance as a free man stolen into slavery.
Who Should Win: Ejiofor is great in 12 Years a Slave, but DiCaprio still hasn’t won an Oscar in his impressive career, and his psychopathic, hilarious and highly physical portrayal of real-life corrupt stockbroker Jordan Belfort is certainly deserving.

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 a bit of doubt surrounding this one, considering that all five of these actresses have gotten substantial acclaim for their performances, even despite some mixed reviews of the films (especially August: Osage County and Philomena). The love for American Hustle could tip the scales in Adams’s favor (and she was probably the best part about that movie), but Blanchett has pretty much owned equivalent categories thus far this awards season and appears to be the frontrunner for the Oscars, too.
Who Should Win: I don’t have much of a preference here; I’ve only seen two of the five movies, and I liked the lead actresses in both: Adams was great in a film that left a lot to be desired, and Gravity made me like Sandra Bullock more than I have in a long time (The Blind Side left a bad taste in my mouth). I’d be fine with either winning.

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: Jared Leto is the favorite after winning other awards for his transformation into a transgender woman in Dallas Buyers Club, and I’d be surprised to see the award go to anyone else.
Who Should Win: My opinion on this category isn’t particularly strong, but it’s worth noting that Michael Fassbender is quietly becoming one of the current film generation’s preeminent actors and that in 12 Years a Slave he pulls of a seething, menacing performance that most actors couldn’t even try without digressing into camp.

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: In a race that’s particularly hard to call, the best bet might be Lawrence, considering that American Hustle has garnered so much acclaim for its performances and that she’s still riding the wave of Oscar love that started with Winter’s Bone.
Who Should Win: Nyong’o’s performance is certainly powerful, and it’s exciting to see a previously-unknown actress break out in such a big way, so I’ll pull for her, though I also like J-Law in pretty much everything I’ve seen her in (discounting the first Hunger Games).

Animated Feature Film
Nominees: The Croods; Despicable Me 2; Ernest and Celestine; Frozen; The Wind Rises
Who Will Win: No animated film this year has been as adored by critics and audiences alike as Frozen, so I’ll put my money on that.
Who Should Win: I haven’t seen any of these, but The Wind Rises (which gets a wide US release in February) is supposedly the swansong for Hayao Miyazaki, who may well be the single most influential animator of the last 30 years, so I’ll root for it.

Nominees: The Grandmaster; Gravity; Inside Llewyn Davis; Nebraska; Prisoners
Who Will Win: Roger Deakins is one of the most prolific and well-regarded artists in any aspect of cinema, and his work on Prisoners could very well come away with the win.
Who Should Win: Ironically, Inside Llewyn Davis is one of the few films the Coens have made without Deakins (whose notable achievements include Fargo, O Brother Where Art Thou, and No Country for Old Men), but Bruno Delbonnel paints the oppressive New York cold in grays, beiges, and blues that perfectly complement the protagonist’s struggle, and ILD needs to win something.

Costume Design
Nominees: American Hustle; The Grandmaster; The Great Gatsby; The Invisible Woman; 12 Years a Slave
Who Will Win: What a surprise, the nominees are all period pieces. American Hustle wins on American Hustle Awards Night.
Who Should Win: Baz Lurhmann’s The Great Gatsby may be a comparatively vapid interpretation of Fitzgerald’s literary classic, but darn if those really aren’t such beautiful shirts.

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 Will Win: David O. Russell is the Academy’s darling and could win the Oscar, but he’s got formidable competition in a diverse, visually minded gamechanger (Cuaron), a potential Next Great Director (McQueen), and one of cinema’s legends (Scorsese).
Who Should Win: McQueen hit a note of success that most directors couldn’t dream of in making a gorgeous yet brutal film about America’s greatest horror that never becomes manipulative, cheesy, or dishonest (and he’d be the first black director to ever win the Oscar); Cuaron crafted one of the most astounding cinematic achievements ever to hit the big screen. Both are deserving (but if I had to pick one, McQueen made the better film).

Music – Original Score
Nominees: John Williams, The Book Thief; Steve Price, Gravity; William Butler & Owen Pallett, Her; Alexandre Desplat, Philomena; Thomas Newman, Saving Mr. Banks
Who Will Win: I haven’t seen The Book Thief or heard its score, but I’ve read the book it’s based on, and knowing that an adaptation is ripe for sentiment – something the Academy loves in films and their scores – I’d bet on Williams.
Who Should Win: The score for Her is credited to Will Butler and Owen Pallett, but the whole credit essentially belongs to Butler’s band Arcade Fire, and the resulting music is subtle, dreamy, and moving – and great, of course; it’s Arcade Fire.

Writing – Adapted Screenplay
Nominees: Before Midnight by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke; Captain Phillips by Billy Ray; Philomena by Steve Coogan & Jeff Pope; 12 Years a Slave by John Ridley; The Wolf of Wall Street by Terence Winter
Who Will Win: 12 Years a Slave is already a frontrunner in major categories, so a screenplay win wouldn’t be a surprise at all.
Who Should Win: With Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, director Richard Linklater and stars/co-writers Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke began one of the greatest romances in modern film. Before Midnight is a worthy addition to that tradition.

Writing – Original Screenplay
Nominees: American Hustle by Eric Warren Singer & David O. Russell; Blue Jasmine by Woody Allen; Dallas Buyers Club by Craig Borten & Melissa Wallack; Her by Spike Jonze; Nebraska by Bob Nelson
Who Will Win: Again, the Academy loves David O. Russell, so even in a stacked category, American Hustle seems to be the frontrunner.
Who Should Win: Spike Jonze’s first full writing credit in a feature film is one of the most beautiful works in film.