Making Oscar predictions is something of a fool's errand, if only because no one really has any idea what the quixotic Academy will do on Sunday.
Sure, you could make an educated guess based on reading the tea leaves and sussing out the trends established in prior awards shows, but the reality is that there will be a surprise or two, especially in a year like this one, which lacks a clear Best Picture front-runner.
At various times over the course of this awards season, which began in earnest with the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals last August and September, "12 Years a Slave," "American Hustle" and "Gravity" have seemed like the movies to beat. Days before the Oscars, the future remains cloudy.
Nonetheless, the following represents one man's crack at predicting the winners. Hopefully, at least some of these will pan out.
BEST PICTURE: GRAVITY
This is the toughest award to predict in 2014. If we had our druthers, the Academy would rightfully honor “12 Years a Slave,” which stands as perhaps the authoritative movie about its subject. But the race is probably a toss-up between “American Hustle” and “Gravity.” The sci-fi epic should take home the prize. (Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)
BEST ACTOR: MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY
"Dallas Buyers Club"
The fabled McConaissance, Matthew McConaughey’s extraordinary midcareer transition from shirtless eye candy to serious acting gets its coronation in the most competitive Best Actor category in years. He’s a sure bet and he narrowly deserves the award over Leonardo DiCaprio for "The Wolf of Wall Street."(Credit: Focus Features/Anne Marie Fox)
BEST ACTRESS: CATE BLANCHETT
Cate Blanchett is an unstoppable force this awards season and she’s going to take home her second Oscar for her volcanic, transfixing work as a Ruth Madoff/Blanche DuBois type in Woody Allen’s latest. Blanchett is one of the great screen actresses and she’s got plenty more of this ahead.(Credit: Sony Pictures Classics/Jessica Miglio)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: JARED LETO
"Dallas Buyers Club"
It’d be great if Barkhad Abdi, so memorable going toe-to-toe with Tom Hanks in “Captain Phillips,” took home this award, but it’s going to Jared Leto, who was so memorable as Rayon, the soul of “Dallas Buyers Club.”(Credit: Focus Features/Anne Marie Fox)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: LUPITA NYONG’O
"12 Years a Slave"
This is a tough category and predictions among most Oscar experts have evenly split between Lupita Nyong’o and a Jennifer Lawrence repeat for her “American Hustle” performance. Consider this pick an earnest plea for Nyong’o.(Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures/Francois Duhamel)