12 Years a Slave or Gravity? Or something else? Oscars' tightest race for the top prize in years will come down to a photo finish Sunday (8:30 p.m. ET / 5:30 p.m. PT, ABC). In the meantime, let's make some predictions. Check out the nominees here, make your picks and compare them to ours below.
American Hustle, Gravity lead Oscar nominations
Who will win:
12 Years a Slave
This one is coming down to the wire between 12 Years and Gravity, with an outside shot for SAG ensemble champ and one-time front-runner American Hustle, which co-leads the field with 10 nods with Gravity (12 Years has nine). Despite not dominating at ceremonies, 12 Years has won Best Picture at the Golden Globes, Critics' Choice Awards, BAFTAs and Producers Guild Awards, where it tied with Gravity, which has won all the director statuettes. Picture/director splits, which have occurred 22 times in 85 years and six times in the last 30, are usually surprises or anomalies (see: last year when Ben Affleck wasn't nominated for Argo), but everyone seems to have agreed on a split this year. 12 Years' unflinching naked brutality is difficult to watch (some voters have admitted to not watching it), but its importance and impact might be too much for the academy to ignore, not to mention the historic significance of awarding the top honor to a film about the black experience for the first time.
Watch out for: Gravity
The groundbreaking, awe-inspiring visual masterpiece benefits from the preferential voting system, where consensus trumps passion. Gravity is liked by (mostly) all, meaning it will likely be ranked higher on ballots than a challenging film like 12 Years. Except for the PGA, which also uses a preferential ballot, all of 12 Years' other Best Picture wins were determined via a singular vote. As every academy member can vote in all 24 races, Gravity will also have massive support from the tech categories, which it ought to sweep. It would be the first sci-fi film to win Best Picture.
Did you know? Gravity does not have a screenplay nomination, and only seven films have won Best Picture without one, four of which were in the first six years of the Oscars. The other three: Hamlet (1948), The Sound of Music (1965) and Titanic (1997).
Who will win:
Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Regardless of what happens in Best Picture, Cuaron has got this in the bag, having helmed an ambitious, effects-laden film that resonates emotionally. He has made a clean sweep of all the major prizes, including the Critics' Choice, the Globe, BAFTA and the Directors Guild Award, which has only mismatched with Oscar seven times in its 65-year history. Cuaron, who was born in Mexico, would be the first Latino winner of the Best Director honor.
Watch out for: Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
McQueen's harrowing, unforgiving direction is ambitious in its own right, and 12 Years would be nowhere near as powerful had he held moviegoers' hands in confronting America's greatest shame. He's only the third black director up for the award and would be the first to win.
Did you know? The last time Oscar split picture and director two years in a row was 61 years ago, when John Ford won for The Quiet Man while The Greatest Show on Earth won Best Picture, a year after George Stevens (A Place in the Sun) and An American in Paris won.
Who will win:
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
The McConaissance will come full circle at the Dolby Theatre. McConaughey's transformative portrayal of HIV-afflicted hellraiser Ron Woodroof, who refused to go down without a fight, is worth its weight in Oscar gold alone, but his recalibrated career and narrative the past few years will put him over the edge. He also has two ace cards in his pocket: his scene-stealing, chest-thumping appearance in rival Leonardo DiCaprio's The Wolf of Wall Street and his likely future Emmy-winning work on True Detective, aka his anti-Norbit. (The critically panned flick killed then-front-runner Eddie Murphy's Oscar hopes in 2007 for Dreamgirls.)
Watch out for: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
If it were up to us, we'd give all the awards to Leo for that Quaaludes scene. The Inter-webs has been trying to make DiCaprio happen in recent weeks for his compulsively watchable, outrageously repugnant turn as Wall Street bad boy Jordan Belfort, but he really needed the BAFTA win, where McConaughey wasn't nominated, to legitimize his threat. (Chiwetel Ejiofor won the BAFTA.) Still, there is a small glimmer of hope for DiCaprio, who won the comedy Globe: He has yet to face McConaughey head-to-head at an awards show.
Did you know? This is the first time in 47 years that all five Best Actor nominees are in Best Picture nominees.