american-hustle 3

Tomorrow will offer the announcements for the Oscars, which means that part of the journey is almost over. We’re at the midway point of season, and we’re about to see things get really interesting. Especially when you have incidents like David O. Russell comparing Jennifer Lawrence‘s Hunger Games contract to slavery.

Here are the four things it’s important to keep in mind:

1. The Academy has Bad Taste

Sure, we may see a film like Her sneak into a couple categories, and fans may be upset when Gravity fails to win best picture, but the academy is rarely right, and for the last couple years has been on a losing streak. I’ll give them The Hurt Locker, but The King’s Speech, The Artist and Argo? American Hustle, Gravity and 12 Years a Slave are the front runners. Only 12 Years seems the sort of “good” film that’s inarguable as a choice for best. If the other two win, it’s going to work against them. Because they’ll have won the best picture Oscar. Which is generally won by middlebrow films.

And, on that front, expect some doozies, possibly in the resurgance of Lee Daniels’ The Butler.

2. The Golden Globes Don’t Predict Anything

No prognosticator worth his salt thinks that anything the Foreign Press picks means anything when it comes to Oscars. Leonardo DiCaprio may not be nominated for best actor. That’s just the way it goes. There is no overlap in the voting bodies, but the pool of deemed great films has already been narrowed, so there was always going to be overlap in the nominees and winners. But you can’t handicap anything based on their picks.

3. Look to the Guilds

If you’re trying to win an office pool, see who wins the SAG, the DGA, the PGA and WGA awards. There’s isn’t a 1:1 overlap in terms of winners and nominees, but these are the people who are voting for Oscars, so they’re more likely to match up. There’s always the wild cards, and not all nominated writers are in the WGA, so a lot can change, but…

4. Keep an eye on the temperature

Look, David O. Russell may have hurt himself with the slavery comment, and though American Hustle came on strong, when it became a front-runner, backlash was due to kick in. There is a game to be played in winning awards, even if the best strategy for some is to not campaign. There’s still time for people to spike their chances (Jared Leto could say some dumb things and hurt his near lock), and time for rival studios to start whisper campaigns against a film. Remember last year when John McCain wanted senate hearings on Zero Dark Thirty?

We’ve still got time, and it ain’t over until it’s over. But starting tomorrow, the players will be in place. As for what to expect? Here would be my picks for best picture in order of certainty (the top three are locks):

  1. American Hustle
  2. 12 Years a Slave
  3. Gravity
  4. Dallas Buyers Club
  5. The Wolf of Wall Street
  6. Captain Phillips
  7. Nebraska
  8. Saving Mr. Banks
  9. Her

Inside Llewyn Davis has a very slim chance, as does Before Midnight, but…

What do you want to see nominated?