-Is this a year when "feel-good" will triumph over "important"? The preferential ballot has yielded emotionally uplifting Best Picture winners for three straight years, but don't forget that in its inaugural season, it elected the grim war drama The Hurt Locker over crowd-pleasing phenom Avatar. Hangers-on of 12 Years a Slave have cited this as reason for hope that the austere historical drama could supplant the emotional elation of its chief rival Gravity. I might point out that Gravity doesn't have the biases levied against it as did Avatar, but if 12 Years a Slave does pull out the victory, it might permanently dispel the commonly accepted theory that only uplifting stories can win with the preferential ballot.
-Will American Hustle be blanked? True Grit was in this position three years ago and became one of only four films ever to earn ten or more nominations and lose all of them. That sort of thing is clearly a rarity, so will it happen again so soon after the last occurrence? Seems statistically unlikely, but I can only imagine it as a possible victor in three categories (Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay, Costume Design), and in none of those is it the odds-on favourite.
-Will "most" editing be enough to topple a Gravity sweep? The craft category I'll be watching with the most interest is Best Film Editing, for it is certainly the most unpredictable of the night. As much as Gravity is a post-production marvel, I can't help but feel that it could be vulnerable here. Since it isn't winning Production Design, we have to assume that a true sweep isn't happening, and if a true sweep isn't happening, I see no reason to doubt that it could lose this to a more traditional editing feat. Captain Phil fits the bill. This is probably my only upset prediction for the year.
-What of Best Live-Action Short? Boy, are they tough to gauge! Under the old system, the sentimental pull of Helium would be a slam dunk, but with everybody allowed to vote, could it become a star popularity contest that falls in favour of The Voorman Problem? I thought so this morning when I listed my predictions, but already I'm second-guessing myself and leaning back towards Helium. Or perhaps I'm being too pessimistic, and should have faith in the voting base to recognize the brilliance of entries like Just Before Losing Everything and That Wasn't Me.
-I wish we could have another Sound Editing tie like we did last year, only between Gravity and All Is Lost. They're both so exceptional in such different ways. It's killing me to pick between them for my own awards.
-Don't get me wrong: It would be a tragedy of the most severe order is Emmanuel Lubezki somehow loses, but if there's one impossible upset that I'd be willing to see, it's Roger Deakins. He is even more overdue, but at least his pending loss this time means that we can cross Chivo off our list of criminally un-Oscared craftsmen.
-Speaking of overdue craftsmen, I wouldn't mind seeing Alexandre Desplat sneak in there for Best Original Score, even if his maudlin music for Philomena was a bit much for my liking. An even more satisfying (but decidedly less likely) upset possibility would be Thomas Newman, whose jaunty score for Saving Mr. Banks I liked a fair bit more than the Internet seemed to.
-Not to give too much away in terms of my own Best Picture preferences, but the more I think about it, the more I really want 12 Years a Slave to win it. The Globes sorta had the right idea about this, and the Critics Choice and BAFTA Awards followed suit: Gravity for Director, 12 Years a Slave for Picture. It's the onl way to ensure that both Cuaron and McQueen go home with Oscars, and in a season this insanely close between two such incredible films, I can't think of a more appropriate outcome. I really hope it happens.
Tomorrow I will release my official Best Picture prediction. There's been a lot of brain-wracking, but I may as well just toss a coin and be done with it. That's as sound a prediction method as any.