Oscars 2014: 12 Years a Slave, the hot favourite

The harrowing story of a free black man’s nightmare experience of slavery is set to win the biggest prize in the movie world, with experts predicting that 12 Years a Slave is all but certain to win the Oscar for the year’s best picture.
The leading nominees are Gravity and American Hustle, each with 10 Oscar nominations, one more than 12 Years a Slave. But online bookies are taking bets at short odds of 4:1 that the drama by Steve McQueen will be the big winner on Sunday night when Hollywood’s royalty assembles to hand out the 2013 honours.
The status of 12 Years a Slave as the overwhelming favourite to take home the best picture prize is mirrored on the awards website Goldderby.com where all but five of the 29 experts polled picked the shocking slave drama as their Oscar favourite.
The five hold-outs gave their vote to Gravity, the gripping space thriller from Alfonso Cuaron that stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as a couple of astronauts stranded in outer space.
The other early favourite for the Oscar, American Hustle, which picked up the Golden Globe for best comedy or musical, is no longer regarded as a realistic best picture frontrunner. This is due largely to the penchant often displayed by Oscar voters for more serious films that tackle heavyweight issues.
Other top nominees
“Several of the nominees are smaller, more personal stories with only a few tackling big ideas in scope or emotion,” says Eric Larnick, film critic at moviefone.com. “Ultimately, it comes down to “Gravity” and “12 Years,” and the Academy has always favoured the movie about the human condition against the one that’s about the visual spectacle.”
The other top nominees with six nods apiece are Captain Phillips, based on a true story about a ship hijacked by Somali pirates, Dallas Buyers Club about a sick cowboy’s attempt to secure experimental treatments for AIDS sufferers, and Nebraska, about an old man’s quixotic road trip to claim an imagined lottery prize.
All the above movies will compete for best picture, along with Her, a futuristic romantic comedy about a man who falls in love with a computer avatar; Philomena, about an ageing woman’s search for the son taken away from her as a baby; and The Wolf of Wall Street, which tracks the life and excesses of a young millionaire trader in the US financial markets.
If McQueen’s slave drama is the hot favourite for best picture, Gravity looks certain to be rewarded elsewhere on Oscar night, with all 29 experts picking Cuaron as the likely recipient of the director’s award for his work in recreating the visual effects of space on a sound stage through the use of new camera techniques.
The acting awards are a tougher call. Mathew MaConaughy has won most of the earlier season prizes for his role in Dallas Buyers Club, in which he plays a cowboy diagnosed with AIDS, who ends up saving hundreds of other patients by important experimental drugs. His co-star Jared Leto is favoured for the supporting actor prize.
Blue Jasmine’s Cate Blanchett is strongly tipped to take home the award for best actress, while Lupita Nyongo of 12 Years a Slave will battle it out with Jennifer Lawrence of American Hustle for the supporting actress award.
Among the films nominated in the best foreign language category, the odds favour the lavish and sensitive Italian film by Paolo Sorrentino, The Great Beauty, which looks back at the life of an ageing bon vivant in Rome.
Oscar nominees in major categories:
BEST PICTURE: American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, 12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street
ACTOR: 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)
ACTRESS: Amy Adams (American Hustle); Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine); Sandra Bullock (Gravity); Judi Dench (Philomena); Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
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)
DIRECTING: David O, Russell (American Hustle); Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity); Alexander Payne (Nebraska); Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave); Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street)
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: The Broken Circle Breakdown – Belgium; The Great Beauty – Italy; The Hunt – Denmark; The Missing Picture – Cambodia; Omar – Palestine
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Before Midnight; Captain Phillips; Philomena; 12 Years a Slave; The Wolf of Wall Street
SCREENPLAY: American Hustle; Blue Jasmine; Dallas Buyers Club; Her; Nebraska
CINEMATOGRAPHY: The Grandmaster; Gravity; Inside Llewyn Davis; Nebraska; Prisoners
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM: The Croods; Despicable Me 2; Ernest & Celestine; Frozen; The Wind Rises
DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: The Act of Killing; Cutie and the Boxer Dirty Wars; The Square; 20 Feet from Stardom

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