My official ‘Beat the Critic’ Oscar predictions — can you do better?

The 86th Academy Awards are almost upon us and next Sunday, March 2, Hollywood will hand out Oscars to its best and brightest while 225 countries and territories worldwide watch the televised broadcast. This year, we’re giving you a chance to win prizes by playing our Beat the Critic contest.

First: Get more points than I do from correctly picking the winners of the feature-film 2014 Oscar categories. Secondly, the person with the most points (and who wins the tie-breaker if need be) wins free movie passes, rentals, and concessions from our pals at Liberty Hall Cinema.

So, in the interest of fairness, here are my picks, along with who I think deserves to win. Good luck!


The nominees: “American Hustle,” “Captain Phillips,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Gravity,” “Her,” “Nebraska,” “Philomena,” “12 Years a Slave,” “The Wolf of Wall Street”

Will win: “12 Years a Slave,” because it fits the Oscar mold of an important film — even as it upends it by avoiding obvious sentimentality. A great choice, if only it weren’t for …

Should win: “Gravity,” because it pushes the boundaries of filmmaking and it’s a gripping first-person story of one woman’s courage in extraordinary circumstances. There’s never been anything like it.


The nominees: Alfonso Cuarón, “Gravity”; Steve McQueen, “12 Years a Slave”; Alexander Payne, “Nebraska”; David O. Russell, “American Hustle”; Martin Scorsese, “The Wolf of Wall Street”

Will win: Cuarón, hands down. It took the visionary director four years and innovation after innovation to make this technologically advanced film happen, and he was still able to keep it focused on his characters’ emotional journey.

Should win: Alfonso Cuarón, “Gravity”


The nominee: 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”

Will win: Matthew McConaughey, because he’s won all the other precursor awards and his performance was electric.

Should win: Everyone in this category is totally deserving, but it would be a treat to see Dern acknowledged for the most subtle work of his career.


The nominees: Amy Adams, “American Hustle”; Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”; Sandra Bullock, “Gravity”; Judi Dench, “Philomena”; Meryl Streep, “August: Osage County”

Will win: Cate Blanchett. Even the latest accusations thrown Woody Allen’s way can’t stop her momentum.

Should win: Sandra Bullock. It’s too bad she already won for “The Blind Side,” because this is by far her strongest performance to date.


The 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”

Will win: Leto, although his acceptance speeches so far this season haven’t done him any favors.

Should win: Fassbender’s conflicted, self-hating plantation owner in “12 Years a Slave” was a monster whose mind and body were constantly at odds. Riveting.


The nominees: Sally Hawkins, “Blue Jasmine”; Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle”; Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”; Julia Roberts, “August: Osage County”; June Squibb, “Nebraska”

Will win: First-timer Nyong’o will win because she imbued her character with a quiet, heartbreaking dignity, and Jennifer Lawrence already won best actress last year. Too soon.

Should win: Nyong’o


The nominees: “American Hustle,” Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell; “Blue Jasmine,” Woody Allen; “Dallas Buyers Club,” Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack; “Her,” Spike Jonze; “Nebraska,” Bob Nelson

Will and should win: “Her,” Spike Jonze


The nominees: “Before Midnight,” Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke; “Captain Phillips,” Billy Ray; “Philomena,” Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope; “12 Years a Slave,” John Ridley; “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Terence Winter

Will and should win: “12 Years a Slave,” John Ridley

Predictions in other categories:


CINEMATOGRAPHY: “Gravity,” Emmanuel Lubezki

EDITING: “Captain Phillips,” Christopher Rouse

ORIGINAL SCORE: “Gravity,” Steven Price

COSTUME DESIGN: “American Hustle”

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: “20 Feet from Stardom”

FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM: “The Broken Circle Breakdown”


ORIGINAL SONG: “Let It Go” from “Frozen”