Who should win: 12 Years a Slave. Sure, sometimes it’s painful, but every lush, lingering frame immerses us in an experience that transcends any talk of “message movie” and proves its worth as an enduring work of art.
Who will win/Wild card: With nine nominees, this category bites you in the leg. The Wolf of Wall Street made an impression, but isn’t prepped to win. Hipsters loved Her; effects nerds loved Gravity. Philomena, Nebraska and Dallas Buyers Club will get their accolades elsewhere. With the vote so split, if people insist on not awarding 12 Years a Slave, then the embarrassing-that-it’s-here American Hustle will take home the big one—and be forgotten by next year.