Gone are the days when the Academy Awards were a one-horse race. No longer can a Forrest Gump or Titanic shut the door on the likes of The Shawshank Redemption, condemning it to the cold exterior of Oscar obscurity. Recent years have seen a far wider distribution of the coveted statuettes and 2014 is likely to follow suit.

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Best Picture

The nominees for Best Picture are an eclectic mix. We've got the debauched excess of Wall Street , a rodeo clown pushing illegal aids medication, an A.I. love story and a startling portrayal of slavery; and that’s just four of the nine hopefuls. The line-up is vastly superior to last year’s and even more difficult to call. So who will emerge victorious on the night?

If all goes according to plan, it’ll be a close finish between Alfonso Cuaron’s space-thriller Gravity, David O. Russell’s riveting American Hustle, and Steve McQueen’s historical masterpiece 12 years a Slave . The latter looks like it might just steal the crown and absolutely should. It’s a film of extraordinary artistic sense that packs a serious emotional punch.

A loss would be as big a travesty as the voter’s failure to acknowledge The Great Beauty, Paulo Sorrentino’s epic ode to a decadent Rome (which only managed a nod in the foreign language department). Keep an eye on Spike Jonze’s Her – the Americans loved it.

Should win: 12 Years a Slave

Will win: 12 Years a Slave

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Best Actor is a particularly strong category this year. Seasoned film fans would surely love to see Bruce Dern take the glory for his sumptuously senile turn in Nebraska, but all indications point towards Chiwetel Ejiofer or Matthew McConaughey.

In 12 Years a Slave, Ejiofer carries the weight of one of film’s most challenging subjects, delivering every single expression with startling flair. McGonaughey, though, has made six or seven films on the trot that have each added a fresh pile of dirt to the hole in his garden where he keeps his atrocious rom-com filmography. Roles in films like Mud and The Lincoln Lawyer have established his place among Hollywood’s elite; not forgetting his grotesque part as the disturbing, southern-fried Killer Joe. But his complete physical immersion into the life of aids-sufferer Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club has taken the Texan rogue to the next level.

Should win: Matthew McConaughey

Will win: Matthew McConaughey


Best Actress in a Leading Role

This year’s Best Actress category couldn’t comprise faces more familiar to the Oscars. Amy Adams, Sandra Bullock, Judie Dench and Meryl Steep will all know they stand little chance against Cate Blanchett, who produced a career-defining performance in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine.

Of course, there is the possibility the Academy won’t have taken kindly to recent controversy surrounding Allen, in which case Bullock might be the go-to reserve – despite ruining some of Gravity’s most important scenes. Oh, and you can never discount Dench.

Should win: Cate Blanchett

Will win: Cate Blanchett

Best Directing

Best Directing has seen many interesting show downs in recent times. Last year saw Ang Lee snatch the prize from under the enigmatic Austrian Michael Haneke’s nose, with Ben Affleck’s Best-Picture-winning Argo not even nominated. 2014 is a little less complex. Gravity and 12 Years a Slave are out in front, as they are for the Best Picture accolade. In all likelihood, the award will go to Gravity’s Cuaron in compensation for losing out to McQueen in the night’s main stand-off, or vice versa. In an ideal world, McQueen would scoop both. Watch out for American Hustle ’s David O. Russell.

Should win: Steve McQueen

Will win: Alfonso Cuaron

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Should win: Lupita Nyong’o

Will win: Jennifer Lawrence

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Should win: Michael Fassbender

Will win: JaredLeto/Narkhad Abdi

Best Documentary Feature

Should win: The Act of killing

Will win: The Act of Killing

Best Foreign Language Film

Should win: The Great Beauty

Will win: The Great Beauty