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Oscar nominations 2014: Laying odds on the six major races

We won't have to wait long to see what kind of final decisions Oscar voters will be making out of Thursday's Oscar nominations. This weekend brings the Screen Actors Guild and Producers Guild awards, with the Directors Guild following on Jan. 25. Those awards will give us plenty of concrete clues about where the most contentious contests -- picture, actor, supporting actress, director -- might be headed.

Meanwhile, Cate Blanchett and Jared Leto can likely work on some new material for their anticipated acceptance speeches. And that screenwriter who recently told "The Wolf of Wall Street" director Martin Scorsese that he should be ashamed of himself ... well, he's probably not all that happy right about now.

Here's an early peek at how the major Oscar races look for the long haul this morning:

Oscars 2014: Complete list of nominees

PICTURE

"American Hustle," 2-1

"12 Years a Slave," 4-1

"Gravity," 9-2

"The Wolf of Wall Street," 15-1

"Nebraska," 15-1

"Dallas Buyers Club," 25-1

"Her," 30-1

"Captain Phillips," 40-1

"Philomena," 50-1

Analysis: This race might be over and done when the Producers Guild hands out its trophies Sunday. The PGA winner has matched the academy's pick six years running, largely because the guild uses the same preferential ballot (with voters ranking their choices) that the academy employs. If "American Hustle" wins the PGA, it will confirm what many have suspected for the last several weeks: A fizzy throwback trumps a harrowing history lesson, simply because it has a broader appeal. More voters are likely to place "Hustle" higher on their ballots than "12 Years a Slave." Entertainment over art.

PHOTOS: Oscars 2014 top nominees

Fox Searchlight can certainly counter this by appealing to voters' consciences, highlighting the way that "12 Years" tackled an important subject in an uncompromising fashion. The film's three acting nominations indicate support among the academy's biggest branch; a SAG ensemble win Saturday would help hammer that point home. 

"Gravity," with 10 nominations, remains a viable alternative, though one suspects the film will be rewarded much in the same way "Life of Pi" was last year. "Gravity" will likely win the two sound categories, visual effects, original score and cinematography. And director Alfonso Cuaron stands as the front-runner for director. Five Oscars would be a satisfying haul.

ACTOR

Matthew McConaughey, "Dallas Buyers Club," 2-1

Chiwetel Ejiofor, "12 Years a Slave," 4-1

Bruce Dern, "Nebraska," 6-1

Leonardo DiCaprio, "The Wolf of Wall Street," 8-1

Christian Bale, "American Hustle," 20-1

PHOTOS: Oscars 2014 snubs and surprises

Analysis: The year's most competitive category has started to tilt toward McConaughey, particularly as it has become increasingly apparent that "Dallas Buyers Club" has strong support throughout the academy, not just the actors branch. McConaughey's profile has also been helped by his fantastic, five-minute supporting turn as DiCaprio's mentor in "The Wolf of Wall Street," a performance that really sets the tone for the three hours to follow. (Money chant!) Add to that "True Detective," the smart, subtle HBO mystery miniseries that pairs McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, and the McConaissance is complete and unassailable. It feels like his moment and then some.

ACTRESS

Cate Blanchett, "Blue Jasmine," 2-1

Sandra Bullock, "Gravity," 10-1

Amy Adams, "American Hustle," 20-1

Judi Dench, "Philomena," 25-1

Meryl Streep, "August: Osage County," 50-1

Analysis: Did Meryl Streep pull a Tonya Harding on Emma Thompson when she slammed Walt Disney while paying "tribute" to Thompson at the National Board of Review gala? It sure feels like it in hindsight, as Streep delivered the last -- and most pointed -- blow to Uncle Walt and, by extension, "Saving Mr. Banks," the movie that exalted him.

PHOTOS: Oscars 2014 nominee reactions

Thompson's surprising snub doesn't change the category's dynamic much. Has an actress other than Blanchett won anything this year?

SUPPORTING ACTOR

Jared Leto, "Dallas Buyers Club," 2-1

Michael Fassbender, "12 Years a Slave," 10-1

Barkhad Abdi, "Captain Phillips," 25-1

Bradley Cooper, "American Hustle," 30-1

Jonah Hill, "The Wolf of Wall Street," 50-1

Analysis: There were several actors with meaty, substantial roles -- Hill, "Rush's" Daniel Bruhl, James Gandolfini in "Enough Said," among them -- competing for this category's final slot. Hill prevailed, with voters perhaps rewarding the way "Wolf" director Martin Scorsese let him run free with his improvisational skills.

OSCARS: Live blog | Full coverage

Leto, like Blanchett in lead actress, has been a rock-solid bet to win for quite some time. He and McConaughey can compare notes on expanding their mantles.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Lupita Nyong'o, "12 Years a Slave," 3-2

Jennifer Lawrence, "American Hustle," 2-1

June Squibb, "Nebraska," 30-1

Julia Roberts, "August: Osage County," 40-1

Sally Hawkins, "Blue Jasmine," 50-1

Analysis: Can anyone resist Lawrence these days? Critics' groups have rewarded the 23-year-old actress for her madcap Joisey girl in "Hustle," and she won the Golden Globe for the turn too. The case for newcomer Nyong'o, besides the obvious merit of her heart-rending turn in "12 Years," is that Lawrence just won an Oscar last year. And, for whatever reason, academy voters have a long history of looking to reward rookies in this category.

Oscars 2014: Play-at-home ballot

Then again, with nominations in all four categories, you have to figure that someone from "Hustle" will win. That was the case last year with "Silver Linings Playbook," which saw Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver and Lawrence earning nods, with Lawrence getting the victory.

DIRECTOR

Alfonso Cuaron, "Gravity," 2-1

Steve McQueen, "12 Years a Slave," 3-1

Martin Scorsese, "The Wolf of Wall Street," 8-1

David O. Russell, "American Hustle," 10-1

Alexander Payne, "Nebraska," 25-1

Analysis: Scorsese and Russell have legitimate shots here, but the race probably will come down to a choice between Cuaron and McQueen, who, with a win, would become the first black director to win this Oscar. Many voters will be inclined to make history, but Cuaron is more of an industry favorite. Directing a huge commercial hit that also advanced the medium, Cuaron has the edge. 

ALSO:

FULL COVERAGE: Oscars 2014

Oscars 2014: Complete list of nominees

PHOTOS: Oscars 2014 nominee reactions

Follow @GlennWhipp

glenn.whipp@latimes.com

MORE OSCAR COVERAGE

PHOTOS: Show highlights

Oscars 2014: Behind the scenes

PHOTOS:Red carpet arrivals

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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