Academy Awards race expected to be competitive

When 12 Years a Slave” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, it was met with resounding praise. Critics hailed the film as one of the year’s best and confidently predicted that it would win Best Picture at the 86th Academy Awards in March. Director Steve McQueen and stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong’o also garnered rave reviews for their work.

The response to “12 Years” was so decisive and thunderous it seemed that the race to the Oscars – still six months away at the time – was already over. But as other Academy Award contenders have stormed into theaters this fall, “12 Years” is looking at some stiff competition, and its frontrunner status is decidedly less clear than it was in September. The road to the Oscars is far from over: here’s a look at how the races for major Academy Awards are shaping up.


Best Picture

While “12 Years” is still pretty much guaranteed a Best Picture nomination, several other films have stolen the limelight over the past few months. The most formidable of these contenders is Alfonso Cuaron’s space-odyssey “Gravity.” The riveting film is a remarkable cinematic experience that boasts impressive performances and stunning visual effects. “Gravity” was a commercial success as well as a critical one, and has likely been buoyed by its solid showing at the box office.

But “American Hustle” and “Wolf of Wall Street,” both hitting theaters in December, could shake up the race. Both films – with all-star, Oscar-friendly casts and directors – have the potential to change the conversation significantly.

Moreover, since Hollywood loves movies about Hollywood, Disney’s “Saving Mr. Banks” should receive some attention in the next few weeks as this year’s showbiz film. In fact, the past two Best Picture winners have been movies about the film industry. Perhaps “Saving Mr. Banks” will follow in the footsteps of 2012’s “Argo” and 2011’s “The Artist.”

Other films that may receive nominations include “Blue Jasmine,” “Inside Llewyn Davis,” “Nebraska” and “Captain Phillips.”


Best Director

British director McQueen still has a solid shot at winning Best Director