By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Mar 01, 2014 at 2:06 PM Photography:

We are just on the outskirts of 24 hours before the Academy Awards finally begin, so I suppose that makes it about time to grab a ballot and actually start making some picks. I went 19 for 24 in my picks last year, so hopefully I can continue to not embarrass myself. It’s one of the closest competitions in years, so we'll see. Be sure to make your own picks and follow along Sunday night. 

Best Picture

Will Win: "12 Years a Slave"

Should Win: "12 Years a Slave"

The buzz for "American Hustle" had a nice month, but the high from all of the hairspray seems to have worn off. "Gravity" could pull an upset for its pure cinematic spectacle of the highest order, but this has been "12 Years a Slave’s" Oscar to lose ever since it premiered. Even with the talk of it being too difficult to win, McQueen’s film is too powerful, too artful – and for some, too significant – to vote against.

If "American Hustle" or "Gravity" were up against "12 Years" one-on-one, I could see one of them pulling the upset. But for those looking for something lighter and more entertaining to give their nod, the vote will be split between the ABSCAM period piece and Bullock’s adventures in space, giving "12 Years" the win.

Best Actor

Will Win: Matthew McConaughey, "Dallas Buyers Club"

Should Win: Leonardo DiCaprio, "The Wolf of Wall Street"

The McConaissance reaches its apex Sunday night. McConaughey gives a great performance in "Dallas Buyers Club," and not only that, it’s the kind of physically transformative performance that the Academy loves more than they love themselves (a tough feat). His rom-com bum to esteemed in-demand actor narrative is just too tempting to pass up.

His only real competition is Chiwetel Ejiofor in "12 Years a Slave." He’s terrific in it, and I originally had him in my "Should Win" spot … but then I remembered Leo. Poor, poor Leo. In the past two years, he’s delivered the two best performances of his career so far – his charismatic and comedic powerhouse in "Wolf of Wall Street" and his bloody villainous turn in "Django." And both will go unrecognized. Damn shame.

He’ll get an Oscar someday … probably an honorary make-good Oscar when he’s 75.

Best Actress

Will Win: Cate Blanchett, "Blue Jasmine"

Should Win: Cate Blanchett, "Blue Jasmine"

I could maybe see Amy Adams pulling an upset … nah, who am I kidding. All of the awards so far have gone the way of Blanchett’s spellbinding performance, and no amount of uncomfortable Woody Allen post-Oscar talk will convince the Academy to be any different.

Best Supporting Actor

Will Win: Jared Leto, "Dallas Buyers Club"

Should Win: Michael Fassbender, "12 Years a Slave"

Oh, there has been backlash. LOUD backlash. But that won’t stop Leto from winning Best Supporting Actor. Returning actor narrative + physically transformative role = have speech prepared. Unfortunately, that means Michael Fassbender – disturbingly vicious yet human monster in "12 Years" – will go home empty-handed.

Best Supporting Actress

Will Win: Lupita Nyong’o, "12 Years a Slave"

Should Win: Lupita Nyong’o, "12 Years a Slave" 

Sorry, Jennifer Lawrence; you’ll have to trip up the stage again some other year. As much as people love her high-energy, low accent-consistency performance in "American Hustle," America’s darling will likely be left watching as newcomer Lupita Nyong’o takes the prize. Her turn as the unfortunate apple of her slave owner’s eye and a brutalized pawn in a crumbling marriage absolutely punctures the soul.

Best Director

Will Win: Alfonso Cuarón, "Gravity"

Should Win: Alfonso Cuarón, "Gravity"

McQueen does remarkable things in "12 Years a Slave," but for 90 minutes, Alfonso Cuarón lifted audiences out of their seats and into space with incredible long takes and impeccable technical craftsmanship. A deserving win, though I’ll still try to convince myself it’s for Cuarón's 2006 film "Children of Men." A movie nerd can dream …

Best Original Screenplay

Will Win: "Her"

Should Win: "Her" 

People love "American Hustle," but original screenplay is where voters tend to bounce outside the norm and reward creativity and, well, originality. Charlie Kaufman won this award back in 2005 for "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," for instance, and "Her" is very much in that film’s vein. Since its chances for Best Picture are slim, the film’s significant fan base will likely make a strong push for this award.

I say Jonze’s heartfelt, unique love story gets a win here over "American Hustle," though I might be voting with my heart more than my head.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Will Win: "12 Years a Slave"

Should Win: "12 Years a Slave" 

John Ridley is a long ways away from "Red Tails." His screenplay impressively managed to make the difficult archaic colloquialism of the era sound like actual conversation, not like stiff community theater.

Best Animated Film

Will Win: "Frozen"

Should Win: "Frozen" 

"The Wind Rises" could maybe pull an upset, considering it’s legendary animated director Hayao Miyazaki’s last film. That’s a major maybe, though, for a movie that some found morally questionable. So "Frozen" wins. You can’t stop "Frozen;" you can only hope to contain it.

Best Foreign Film

Will Win: "The Great Beauty"

Should Win: "The Great Beauty"           

The sumptuous Italian film "The Great Beauty" has won the title of Best Foreign Film at many awards so far. In a category often judged by word-of-mouth and name recognition, that should push it to the podium. Depressing fun fact: many voters don’t watch all of the films in these smaller, outlier categories.

Best Cinematography

Will Win: "Gravity"

Should Win: "Gravity" 

A category filled with deserving – and very much due – candidates. I’d love for Roger Deakins to finally turn one of his 11 Oscar nominations into a win; his haunting, shadowy work in "Prisoners" is definitely worthy. However, much like last year with "Life of Pi" beating out "Skyfall," it seems spellbinding technical visual achievement will beat him out.

I’d be more upset about it if, well, if "Gravity" wasn’t a spellbinding technical visual achievement. Emmanuel Lubezki is yet another incredibly deserving cinematographer with plenty of nominations (6) but a goose egg in the wins category. He should’ve won for "Children of Men" back in 2007 (have I made it clear yet that this upsets me?). He should’ve won in 2012 for "The Tree of Life." They’ll get it right this time.

Best Editing

Will Win: "Gravity"

Should Win: "Captain Phillips" 

Thus begins the part of the Oscar predictions where "Gravity" wins everything. Even if sharp editing in "Captain Phillips" made its final act one of the most intense extended action sequences of the year, "Gravity" is a marvelous technical achievement. Here’s where it will make bank on that.

Bottom line: If you’re nominated for a technical award and the word "Gravity" comes after your name, you better have a speech ready Sunday night.

Best Production Design

Will Win: "The Great Gatsby"

Should Win: "Her" 

The production design on "Gravity" was certainly impressive, but I expect the Academy to go with the more traditional, bright, showy glitz of "The Great Gatsby." It’d be nice, though, if it went to "Her," which created a world both uniquely futuristic and sci-fi yet also incredibly real and plausible.

Best Costume Design

Will Win: "The Great Gatsby"

Should Win: "The Great Gatsby"

"Her" and its high-waisted pants aren’t even nominated for costume design, an utter crime against future fashion and foot-long zipper flies. Out of the actual nominees, people might like the cleavage-rific, egregiously ’80s fashion of "American Hustle," but "The Great Gatsby" once again has the copious, in-your-face flash to snag the win.

Best Makeup

Will Win: "Dallas Buyers Club"

Should Win: "Bad Grandpa"

Will the Academy allow themselves to give an Oscar to the "Jackass" gang? I doubt it. Instead, they’ll go prestige and give it to "Dallas Buyers Club," which probably gave itself the winning nudge when it revealed its total makeup budget was $250. The makeup budget for the dead crow on Johnny Depp’s head in "The Lone Ranger" was probably higher.

Best Score

Will Win: "Gravity"

Should Win: "Her"

A fairly weak year for Best Score nominees. I enjoyed Arcade Fire’s vaguely futuristic, soulful notes, but I expect Steven Price and "Gravity" to come away with this one. With no outside sound, Price’s score had to do a lot of heavy lifting with a light touch. For the most part, he succeeded.

Best Song

Will Win: "Let It Go" from "Frozen"

Should Win: "Let It Go" from "Frozen"

"Let It Go" wins, unless Academy voters want their children to never speak to them again.

Best Sound Mixing

Will Win: "Gravity"

Should Win: "Gravity" 

Is it a technical award? Is "Gravity" nominated? You have your answer.

Best Sound Editing

Will Win: "Gravity"

Should Win: "Gravity" 

I said, you have your answer.

Best Visual Effects

Will Win: "Gravity"

Should Win: "Gravity" 


Best Documentary

Will Win: "20 Feet From Stardom"

Should Win: "The Act of Killing"

"20 Feet From Stardom" charms the audience and gets them on their feet with classic catchy tunes; "The Act of Killing" makes you feel like crap. Voters probably feel like they got enough feel-bad with "12 Years a Slave," so they'll go feel-good here (much like they have the past two years with "Undefeated" and "Searching for Sugar Man").

Plus, considering the political gangsters reference famous film gangsters inspiring them, "The Act of Killing" doesn’t exactly paint movies in the most glowing light, something that goes very much against the Academy’s mission statement.

Best Documentary – Short Subject

Will Win: "The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life"

Should Win: "The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life"

Merely being a short documentary about the oldest Holocaust survivor would’ve made "The Lady in Number 6" just about a lock. Considering its star, 110-year-old Alice Herz-Sommer, just died this past Sunday, it’s reached whatever is above lock status.

Best Animated Short Film

Will Win: "Get a Horse!"

Should Win: "Possessions"

Most voters have seen "Frozen," which means they’ve seen "Get a Horse!" Sadly, that alone means it’s a favorite. It is quite charming though.

Best Live Action Short Film

Will Win: "The Voorman Problem"

Should Win: "Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)" 

Thanks to the presence of Bilbo Baggins himself Martin Freeman, people have heard of "The Voorman Problem." There are no stars in the other four categories, so people have not heard of them. So congrats on your Oscar, "The Voorman Problem"!

Matt Mueller will be live-tweeting the Oscars Sunday night starting at 6 p.m. Follow him on Twitter (@aManAboutFilm) and join in the conversation.

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.