<p>Could Alexander Payne&#39;s &quot;Nebraska&quot; get some big love in a few unexpected areas?</p>

Could Alexander Payne's "Nebraska" get some big love in a few unexpected areas?

Credit: Paramount Pictures

5 longshot Oscar predictions that could make you look like a smarty pants

If you're looking to shake up your office pool, give these a whirl

The Oscars are coming Sunday and as you look around the web, you can see that all the pundits are getting their final predictions in just under the buzzer. What's fascinating to me is how, really, everyone seems to mostly agree. The degrees of fluctuation in those who might disagree on this or that category is minimal. And where some might diverge in one category or another, there are certainly others there to back them up.

Basically, no one is way out on any limbs alone and we're all more or less expecting the same range of activity. That means we're all, of course, WRONG — at least somewhere. So what will the surprises be? That's the question I keep hearing, even from publicists and strategists who have their ear closer to the ground than us lowly pundits.

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Oscars Lowdown 2014: Best Actor - An amazing year likely to yield to the McConaissance

Oscars Lowdown 2014: Best Actor - An amazing year likely to yield to the McConaissance

But that doesn't mean it's not competitive right up until the very end

In the lead-up to the 86th annual Academy Awards on March 2, HitFix will be bringing you the lowdown on all 24 Oscar categories with multiple entries each day. Take a few notes and bone up on the competition as we give you the edge in your office Oscar pool!

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<p>Sandra Bullock in &quot;Gravity.&quot;</p>

Sandra Bullock in "Gravity."

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Roundup: How this year's Oscar nominees reveal the gender gap

Also: Netflix's latest Oscar acquisition, and voters reveal their ballots

We're used to the familiar (yet valid) complaints about the shortage of female roles in contemporary film, but Kevin B. Lee has found a different way to measure the Hollywood gender gap -- and finds it perfectly demonstrated by this year's Oscar nominees: "One disquieting finding from my research is that this year’s lead actors average 85 minutes on screen, but lead actresses average only 57 minutes. (When you add in supporting categories, all competing actors averaged 59 minutes, while all competing actresses averaged 42 minutes.) Last year’s results were even more imbalanced: nominated male stars averaged 100 minutes on screen to the lead actresses’ 49 minutes." Sandra Bullock's 87% of screentime in "Gravity," meanwhile, is quite the exception. [New York Times]

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Oscars Lowdown 2014: Best Documentary Feature - '20 Feet from Stardom' lightens up a dark bunch

Oscars Lowdown 2014: Best Documentary Feature - '20 Feet from Stardom' lightens up a dark bunch

With everyone voting, popularity will reign more than ever

In the lead-up to the 86th annual Academy Awards on March 2, HitFix will be bringing you the lowdown on all 24 Oscar categories with multiple entries each day. Take a few notes and bone up on the competition as we give you the edge in your office Oscar pool!

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Oscars Lowdown 2014: Best Documentary Short - Survivors of different stripes dominate the race

Oscars Lowdown 2014: Best Documentary Short - Survivors of different stripes dominate the race

As usual, this is one of the hardest categories to call

In the lead-up to the 86th annual Academy Awards on March 2, HitFix will be bringing you the lowdown on all 24 Oscar categories with multiple entries each day. Take a few notes and bone up on the competition as we give you the edge in your office Oscar pool!

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Oscars Lowdown 2014: Best Actress - No reason for Blanchett to be 'Blue'

Oscars Lowdown 2014: Best Actress - No reason for Blanchett to be 'Blue'

A heavyweight field of actresses, but it's not much of a contest

In the lead-up to the 86th annual Academy Awards on March 2, HitFix will be bringing you the lowdown on all 24 Oscar categories with multiple entries each day. Take a few notes and bone up on the competition as we give you the edge in your office Oscar pool!

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Interviews with the 2014 Oscar nominees

Interviews with the 2014 Oscar nominees

Catch up with this year's players ahead of the 86th annual Academy Awards

It was pencils down for Academy members yesterday at 5pm PT. The votes are in and being tabulated as you read these words. We'll know in due time what the winners of the 86th annual Academy Awards will be, but in the meantime, how about a crash course in how all of these films came to be, right from the horses' mouths? We've collected all of our interviews with the Oscar nominees in one easy-to-navigate guide below, so dig back into the talking points one more time before the big show on Sunday.

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<p>Joaquin Phoenix in &quot;Her.&quot;</p>

Joaquin Phoenix in "Her."

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Roundup: The incredible shrinking Oscar race

Also: Ranking every Best Picture winner, and how the Spirits blur into the Oscars

One of my favorite writers, Nick Davis, doesn't often do long-form work on the Oscars these days, so his piece in The Advocate on this year's unusually narrow Oscar field -- with just a dozen films taking all the slots for picture, director, acting and writing -- is a treat. The race has got harder, he says, for dark horses and discoveries. "If you’ve been paying any attention to TV spots or popular magazines since September, you’d already heard of every movie in every category where the victor speaks for more than 20 seconds ... In the top ranks, Oscar risks feeling gratuitous, furnishing extra hype to already well-hyped entertainments. If that’s all he’s good for, why not let him wander off into that Nebraskan good night?" Not that it's all bad news, he says: "Whenever Academy glory and global notice extend to an urgent, brilliantly filmed commemoration like 12 Years a Slave or to Her’s sly, searching meditation on what we mean by 'love,' an angel gets its wings."  [The Advocate]

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<p>Martin&nbsp;Scorsese at the Academy&nbsp;Nominees Luncheon earlier this month.</p>

Martin Scorsese at the Academy Nominees Luncheon earlier this month.

Credit: AP Photo

Martin Scorsese looks at the changing face of Oscar season over four decades

Also: What is he hoping to do with 'Silence' as an artist?

For years, the Oscars and Martin Scorsese just didn't seem to jibe. His films didn't resonate with that crowd. Maybe it was because he was an outsider. Maybe it was because he didn't trade in the breed of films that typically found footing with the Academy. Whatever the case, it became, for decades, a consistent note: How does Martin Scorsese not have an Oscar?

Things began to change nearly three decades into his career. Until 2002, a Scorsese film registering with the group was not nearly the consistent occurrence it is today. Yet since "Gangs of New York," four of his last five films Have received Best Picture nominations and he finds himself a perennial fixture on the Oscar circuit, a circuit he has seen change drastically over the course of his career.

With Oscar voting drawing to a close, I spoke with Scorsese recently about that very phenomenon, how zealous campaigning by Hollywood magnate Harvey Weinstein may well have played a hand in catapulting the director into this new frame, and how perception of his work, whether from the industry or from the public, has always seemed to dance on a thin line. And here he is, "The Wolf of Wall Street" recently having become his most successful film to date, a culmination of sorts as many threads have slowly drawn together over the last decade.

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Oscars Lowdown 2014: Best Original Score - Arcade Fire aiming to defy 'Gravity'

Oscars Lowdown 2014: Best Original Score - Arcade Fire aiming to defy 'Gravity'

Three perennial nominees round out a slightly flat category

In the lead-up to the 86th annual Academy Awards on March 2, HitFix will be bringing you the lowdown on all 24 Oscar categories with multiple entries each day. Take a few notes and bone up on the competition as we give you the edge in your office Oscar pool!

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