City Lights: Send us your Oscar picks

Forget Best Picture, forget Best Director, forget the screenplay and acting categories. On Oscar night, my attention is going to be focused squarely on Best Makeup and Hairstyling.

That's the one where "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa" scored a nomination. Yes, "All Is Lost," that magnificent survival tale starring Robert Redford, and "Before Midnight," Richard Linklater's brilliant meditation on love and middle age, got the same number of nods as a movie with "Jackass" in the title. Well, as the founder of Sundance, Redford has a history of spotlighting unlikely winners, so no doubt he understands.

Not that "Bad Grandpa" is likely to win. "Dallas Buyers Club," which is up for Best Picture, seems a lock to take the makeup-hair category, unless voters opt for "Jackass" or "The Lone Ranger," one of the year's most dumped-on releases. Still, seeing those titles on the ballot together has a surreal aura — somewhat akin to a musical supergroup comprised of Bob Dylan, Pauly Shore and the bass player from the Wiggles.

It's those quirks that make the Academy Awards so unpredictable, as we learned in our last Oscar guessing contest. Each year, Times Community News South invites readers to handicap the winners for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress. In 2013, no one guessed more than half the categories right, so we had a year without a winner. (Those who have lived through multiple Best Picture races and presidential elections may consider that an underrated concept.)

So this time, I hope our entrants do better. I hope I do better too. If you think you can beat my predictions for the top six categories — in addition to Makeup and Hairstyling — please email your picks to and include your full name and city of residence. Deadline is Feb. 28. And we're off!


Best Picture

Right now, "12 Years a Slave" and "American Hustle" appear neck-and-neck in terms of momentum, but as entertaining and popular as the latter film is, my conviction hasn't changed that Steve McQueen's searing captivity drama will take the top prize. Twenty-thirteen was a banner year for black actors and filmmakers, and with a series of real-life cases — Trayvon Martin and Jonathan Ferrell most notably — dominating the news, the issue of race will likely be high on voters' minds when they cast their ballots. Let's just hope that 2014 is an equally rich year for minority cinema and that studios don't view the "black renaissance" as a passing trend.

The pick: "12 Years a Slave"


Best Director

Oscar voters have shown a willingness in recent years to split the vote for Best Picture and Director —how many jaws dropped when "Shakespeare in Love" topped "Saving Private Ryan" or Roman Polanski won in absentia for "The Pianist"? So now that it's no longer much of a shock, I predict that Alfonso Cuarón, whose "Gravity" set a new standard for 3-D filmmaking, will take the prize on the basis of technical wizardry.

The pick: Alfonso Cuarón


Best Actor

He's a durable Hollywood brand name who's persevered as a leading man and an edgy character actor; he's coming off a career year with three heralded performances; he plays a real person in a socially conscious film ("Dallas Buyers Club") and lost 45 pounds to play the role. How many ways are there to say...

The pick: Matthew McConaughey


Best Actress

Sandra Bullock seemed to have early momentum for "Gravity," but Cate Blanchett has eclipsed her with her turn as a mentally unstable social climber in Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine." Plus, it's almost unthinkable that an actress with so many Best Picture contenders on her resume ("Elizabeth," "Babel," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy) hasn't won yet in the leading category. Count on her Supporting Actress trophy for "The Aviator" to get a big sister.

The pick: Cate Blanchett


Best Supporting Actor

Bradley Cooper ("American Hustle") or Michael Fassbender ("12 Years a Slave") could ride Best Picture momentum to a win here, but I predict that Jared Leto, who snared the Golden Globe and a slew of critics' awards, will prevail for his turn as a transgender woman who befriends a homophobic straight man in "Dallas Buyers Club." (As with costar McConaughey's weight loss, never underestimate the power of physical transformation in impressing voters.)

The pick: Jared Leto


Best Supporting Actress

I know Jennifer Lawrence won the Golden Globe, but I can't picture her continuing that streak to Oscar night. She won Best Actress just last year; it's been tough to buy a Subway sandwich without seeing her face on "Hunger Games" merchandise (call it the overkill factor); and while she nailed her small "American Hustle" role, that's just what it is: a small role. The Academy seems to like making discoveries in the supporting categories (Haing S. Ngor for "The Killing Fields," Anna Paquin for "The Piano") and Lupita Nyong'o's visceral turn in "12 Years a Slave" would fit that bill nicely.

The pick: Lupita Nyong'o


Best Makeup and Hairstyling

I think "Dallas Buyers Club" will win.

The pick: "Dallas Buyers Club"

MICHAEL MILLER is the features editor for Times Community News in Orange County. He can be reached at or (714) 966-4617.

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