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Oscar Futures: How Far Can Matthew McConaughey Go?

'Dallas Buyers Club.'

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

The Wolf of Wall Street. As plenty of other big contenders flee to 2014, Martin Scorsese's latest has come boomeranging back into contention with a Christmas Day release date and a giddy new trailer. The question now is which looming period player will screen first for pundits: Wall Street or American Hustle?

Monuments Men. George Clooney is vehement that he pushed his World War II caper to February because the effects wouldn't be done in time for an Oscar season berth, but according to Variety, that delay was "based on the assumption that [Paramount] would end up making the year-end release for Wall Street." Was Clooney afraid of Wolf's potential as a box office rival, or did he fear another potential Oscar juggernaut?

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

Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street). Wolf is said to run at 165 minutes, which is far shorter than initial reports of its running time but still awfully lengthy for a film that will supposedly be entered into the comedy category at the Golden Globes. Then again, we're just about ready to watch that fun new trailer for the 165th time, so who are we to complain?

John Lee Hancock (Saving Mr. Banks). So, is Saving Mr. Banks the Oscar sleeper that will arrive on a gust of wind and surge past 12 Years a Slave and Gravity? Based on its just-okay bow at the London Film Festival last week, this crowd-pleaser is expected to end up in Oscar's middle field, which will make it tough for helmer Hancock to crack this category.

Current Predix: Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity); Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips); Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave); David O. Russell (American Hustle); Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Best Actor

Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club). The New Yorker's David Denby hails McConaughey's "astounding" performance: "I’m thinking not simply of McConaughey’s physical transformation — the nearly fifty pounds lost, the change from an Adonis to a dark, spidery skeleton … it’s McConaughey’s spiritual transformation that is most remarkable. His gaze is at once desperate and challenging."

Mark Wahlberg (Lone Survivor). Peter Berg's war movie screened for the first time this past week, and while pundits continue to debate whether it's got a shot of cracking the Best Picture race, it's not expected to be much of a performance play.

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

Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks). The curtain is now pulled back on Banks, and Thompson's strong, expertly clipped performance is expected to make the final five.

Adele Exarchopolous (Blue is the Warmest Color). Blue bowed well in limited release this past weekend, but media gatekeepers continue to focus more on the film's director — and the question of his potential misogyny both on and off-screen — instead of lavishing love on its lead actress.

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

Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club). The Los Angeles Times hails Leto's sensitive Dallas performance as a "revelation," and he's handling his awards season tour of duty expertly: He's willing to do actors' roundtables for the Hollywood Reporter, and his unique narrative — this is the first role that the dissatisfied actor has taken in several years — makes the performance seem like even more of an event.

Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street). If anyone's chances were boosted by that new Wall Street trailer, it's got to be Jonah Hill, who makes a strong impression in just two minutes. And those teeth! While we were so focused on the outlandish hairstyles of American Hustle, we forgot all about Jonah Hill's mesmerizingly fake choppers!

Current Predix: Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave); James Gandolfini (Enough Said); Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street); Tom Hanks (Saving Mr. Banks); Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
Best Supporting Actress

Jennifer Garner (Dallas Buyers Club). Garner is sweet and sensitive in a key role, but she's bound to be upstaged by her flashier costars come awards time.

Cameron Diaz (The Counselor). It's never going to happen, but if Nicole Kidman could go on an awards season tear for peeing on Zac Efron in The Paperboy, allow us to dream that Cammy D's gynecological car wash in The Counselor could prove to be a similarly rewarding instant classic. No? Fine.

Current Predix: Margo Martindale (August: Osage County); Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave); Julia Roberts (August: Osage County); June Squibb (Nebraska); Oprah Winfrey (Lee Daniels' The Butler)
Photo: ANNE MARIE FOX/Focus Pictures