Donald Clarke's predictions for the Academy Awards

Putting his reputation on the line. Donald Clarke predicts the big prizes at the Academy Awards tomorrow night - and who deserves to win in each category



Will win 12 Years a Slave. After three months somewhere near the head of the pack, Steve McQueen’s slavery saga still looks like a slight favourite. But will enough of the notoriously timid Oscar voters have the guts to sit through their screener DVDs?
Should win 12 Years a Slave. Gravity and Her would be worthy winners. 12 Years a Slave has greater emotional traction, however. It would certainly be the oddest winner in many years.

Will win Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity). It looks as if the academy may reward the person who’s done the most directing.
Should win Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave). You don’t have to be a strict auteur theorist to believe that the best-director prize should go to the director of the best film. We refer you to our comments above.

Will win Matthew McConaughey (left) (Dallas Buyers Club). Massive weight loss? Check. Film deals with an important issue? Check. Character based on a real person? Check. The academy will also enjoy the story of McConaughey’s trip from romcom journeyman to serious actor.
Should win Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave). The south Londoner dares to underplay a traumatic role and so has been somewhat underpraised in the lead-up to the Oscars. Stillness rarely triumphs here.

Will win Cate Blanchett (left) (Blue Jasmine). That showy turn as a boozed-up Blanche DuBois clone pushed her to the head of the pack when the film opened in the US, last summer. The scandal around Woody Allen’s private life has not derailed the train.
Should win Judi Dench (Philomena). Am I getting old? Maybe, but the dame’s delicious balance of humour and frailty is a sight to behold. Hasn’t a chance.

Will win Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club). Loses weight? Check. Plays a transsexual? Check. Important issue? Check. We’ve already dealt with this. Hard to see him losing.
Should win Michael Fassbender (left) (12 Years a Slave). He’s surely going to win one eventually, and he deserves it for his portrayal of an unhinged slave owner. A bit one-note. But what a note.

21Will win Lupita Nyong’o (left) (12 Years a Slave). Nyong’o’s loss at the Baftas surprised everyone, but she still has momentum. Should Jennifer Lawrence win she will be the first actress to take back-to-back Oscars since Katharine Hepburn. Them’s big boots.
Should win Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave). Grasps a small role and wrings every ounce of emotion from it. Whatever else happens, awards season has made her a proper star.

Will win Her. This is a tight race. If Spike Jonze’s off-centre romance beats American Hustle then that fancied film could end up going home empty-handed.
Should win Her. Spike Jonze finally escaped the shadow of Charlie Kaufman, once his writer and mentor, to blossom in the story business.

Will win 12 Years a Slave. Also a close battle. It helps that neither of its rivals for best picture, American Hustle and Gravity, is in the same race. But is 12 Years a Slave really a “writer’s picture”?
Should win Philomena. It could so easily have been a worthy slog. But Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope made something surprisingly lively out of a tragic story.

Will win Frozen. The only other serious contender is Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises, but the Studio Ghibli film has not won over
all viewers and has very contentious subject matter.
Should win Frozen. It is, quite simply, the best full-length Walt Disney animation in close to a generation. Amazingly, it would be that studio’s first win in this category.

Will win The Great Beauty. Or something else entirely. This category has had a terrible history of unworthy upsets. One suspects many voters don’t bother to watch the films.
Should win The Great Beauty (above). Paolo Sorrentino’s tribute to Rome and to Fellini is staggeringly beautiful, gorgeously scored and insidiously funny. It should have been a best-picture contender.

The 86th Academy Awards are on Sky Movies Oscars on Sunday night at 1.30am, with highlights on RTÉ Two on Monday at 9pm

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