Vulture’s Oscar Futures: The Race Begins Now!

'Gravity.' Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Every week between now and January 16, when the nominations are announced, Vulture will consult its crystal ball to determine the changing fortunes in this year's Oscar race. Check back every Friday for our Oscar Futures column, when we'll let you in on insider gossip, confer with other awards season pundits, and track industry buzz to figure out who's up, who's down, and who's currently leading the race for a coveted Oscar nomination.

Let's check out this week's chart:

Best Picture

Foxcatcher. We're starting this year's Oscar Futures on a bit of a down note, as some of the strong contenders have been delayed to 2014 (or fled there, to escape a brutally crowded 2013 season). Director Bennett Miller earned Best Picture nods for his first two films, Capote and Moneyball, but we'll now have to wait till next year to see whether Foxcatcher can make it three for three.

Wolf of Wall Street. The hot buzz is that Martin Scorsese won't make his early November release date for this highly anticipated Leonardo DiCaprio vehicle, but some are murmuring that it'll be pushed all the way to 2014, Shutter Island style. If Scorsese does stay in the race, will Wolf feel rushed?

Current Predix: 12 Years a Slave; American Hustle; Blue Jasmine; Lee Daniels' The Butler; Captain Phillips; Gravity; Inside Llewyn Davis; Nebraska; Saving Mr. Banks
Best Director

Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity). "How do you eat an elephant?" Alfonso Cuarón asks in our big profile this week. The answer: "One spoonful a day." That bit-by-bit approach will serve him well during the endless, one-thing-after-another gauntlet of Oscar season, but his astonishing directorial feat Gravity could almost speak for itself.

Martin Scorsese (Wolf of Wall Street). If we lose Scorsese, that opens up a fifth slot in this category, presumed to be crowded with mortal locks (Cuarón and Steve McQueen) and returnees (Paul Greengrass, David O. Russell). There are several strong contenders for that fifth spot, but for now, we're going with Academy favorite Alexander Payne, whose Nebraska will strike a chord with aging voters.

Current Predix: Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity); Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips); Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave); David O. Russell (American Hustle); Alexander Payne (Nebraska)
Best Actor

Bruce Dern (Nebraska). As The Hollywood Reporter's Scott Feinberg tweeted, "Bruce Dern must be doing cartwheels over exit of 2 best actor rivals today (Carell/Tatum) + possibly 1 more to come (in-studio rival Leo D)." Indeed, Dern's disheveled dad performance in Nebraska now looks like a solid pick for the category rather than the long shot it once appeared to be. And make no mistake: Dern wants this nomination, and will kiss all the babies and shake all the hands he can to get it.

Steve Carell (Foxcatcher). Carell looked intriguing as hell in that Foxcatcher teaser that briefly leaked yesterday, but our anticipation was dashed hours later when Sony Pictures Classics announced the film's move to 2014. Oh well!

Current Predix: Bruce Dern (Nebraska); Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave); Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips); Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club); Robert Redford (All is Lost)
Best Actress

Sandra Bullock (Gravity). Sandra Bullock's Gravity press blitz continues, as the actress made a pit stop in Hollywood this week to put hands and feet in cement outside the Chinese Theatre. Cuarón keeps noting the intense physical stamina it took for Bullock to play her Gravity role; she's got that over her comparatively coddled competitors, at least.

Nicole Kidman (Grace of Monaco). The footage of Nicole Kidman's Grace Kelly biopic looked awfully mild when Harvey Weinstein teased it this past summer in Cannes; we're not surprised that he's moved it out of a crowded awards season where he's already fielding numerous Best Actress contenders.

Current Predix: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine); Sandra Bullock (Gravity); Judi Dench (Philomena); Meryl Streep (August: Osage County); Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)
Best Supporting Actor

Matthew McConaughey (Mud). The first screener to go out to Oscar voters this year was Mud, the well-reviewed summer indie from director Jeff Nichols. McConaughey has an appealing supporting turn in that film, and it'll need all the lead time in the spotlight it can get before McConaughey's vivid lead role in Dallas Buyers Club begins to pull focus.

James Gandolfini (Enough Said). Oscar pundit Mark Harris makes a strong case for Gandolfini's viability as a Supporting Actor candidate, and he's not wrong. Warm and tender in Enough Said, Gandolfini could benefit from the same sort of awards attention Heath Ledger received for The Dark Knight: a posthumous career celebration pegged to a role where he went out on top.

Current Predix: Daniel Bruhl (Rush); Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave); James Gandolfini (Enough Said); Tom Hanks (Saving Mr. Banks); Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
Best Supporting Actress

Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave). Savvy awards-watcher Dave Karger thinks newcomer Nyong'o will win for her work in 12 Years a Slave, and though you should never count out her competitor Oprah Winfrey, can Oprah's single centerpiece scene in The Butler (you know the deliciously slurry one I'm talking about) really compare to Nyong'o's several shattering sequences in 12 Years?

Margo Martindale (August: Osage County). Martindale is fab in August: Osage County, but her Emmycast performance reminded us that she'll have a stink-bomb sitcom airing all through at least part of awards season, barring cancellation. She'd better hope that Oscar voters ignore it, as they did when granting Melissa McCarthy an Oscar nod despite her lowest-common-denominator CBS show Mike & Molly.

Current Predix:Margo Martindale (August: Osage County); Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave); Octavia Spencer (Fruitvale Station); June Squibb (Nebraska); Oprah Winfrey (Lee Daniels' The Butler)