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Oscar Season 2014 Comes to An End: My Pick, Our Picks – And Thanks

It’s been a fantastic ride, an awards season rich with excellence and rife with surprises

We made it. Here we are at the end of another Oscar season, knowing as little about the likely winner for Best Picture now as we did back in September.

But it’s been a fantastic ride, an awards season rich with excellence and rife with surprises, from the rapturous reception for “12 Years a Slave” and “Gravity” to the sneaky affection for “Her” to the surge in enthusiasm for “American Hustle.”

This year the race has been a series of wild cards, and what seemed likely to veteran prognosticators three months ago has not necessarily come to pass. Nonetheless, we have loved getting inside the best performances of the season, the daunting directorial ambitions, the latest technological barriers broken and the new frontiers explored in the art form.

Today, our Steve Pond gives you his final predictions  for all the awards but especially the Big One. The uncertainty around the Best Picture race is in stark contrast with the sense of fait accompli around nearly all the acting categories. It’s a bit anti-climactic to note that Matthew McConaughey (“Dallas Buyers Club”) is likey to win Best Actor, that Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine”) is apparently fated to take Best Actress, that Lupita N’yongo (“12 Years a Slave”) is favored over Jennifer Lawrence (“American Hustle”) for supporting actress and that Jared Leto need only show up to take home his Best Supporting statue.  But there were so many other incredible acting performances – I will point out Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup, Sandra Bullock as the unforgettable astronaut in “Gravity,” the unmatchable Judi Dench as Philomena Lee, to cite just a few. Do people even remember that Michael Fassbender – who declined to campaign at all – is nominated for his brave, villainous turn as a slaveowner?

Our executive editor Joseph Kapsch gave his own predictions on CNN’s New Day this morning too, check it out.

As for me, I’m going out on a limb and on the record for Best Picture (did so here: TheWrap’s Oscar Partygoers Pick Best Picture Winners (Video) )… with “12 Years a Slave.”

Much as I adore “Gravity” for its daring and its accomplishment (that’s the other real contender, I think), I feel “12 Years” should win. To me, “12 Years” is a lasting work of art that contains within it both elegaic beauty and a glimpse into the blackest part of the human condition. It bothers me that some Academy members may not have seen it out of fear of the emotional journey the film promises, and that may hurt the film’s chances.

But it’s not too much to watch (I took my teenaged son to our screening series, and I’m sure he’ll never forget hearing the cast discuss making this film, Lupita N’yongo describing the day of the whipping scene.) Steve McQueen has provided us a vision that as a country we needed, drawing the most authentic possible performances from his actors in the process. Here film serves its highest purpose – allowing us to share in an experience of artifice to better understand harsh reality.

It may or may not win, of course. And we will all rejoice with whoever does take home the gold statue. On the whole it’s been a delightful season. W e are all the beneficiaries of our cinematic artists reaching ever higher to tell their stories in innovative, unexplored ways.

Wishing everyone a great Oscar weekend.

Here’s that video of industry insiders picking their Best Picture favorites: