"12 Years a Slave" for Best Costume Design or Best Production Design
The design categories have been conceded for some time to "The Great Gatsby," and indeed, that makes sense. Lavish wins in these arenas (particularly costume design), regardless of perceived quality. But while some are banking on "American Hustle" for one (nothing like that has ever won Best Costume Design) or the other (Best Production Design would be even more of a shock), and a few might even expect craft juggernaut "Gravity" to reign in production design (that seems far too inspired for the Academy), it might be worth it to consider the, um, PERIOD PIECE NOMINATED AND POTENTIALLY SET TO WIN BEST PICTURE. Not that "12 Years a Slave" is eye candy in this regard, but voters don't often read too much into these categories and just go with their gut. The film already won the period honor from the Costume Designers Guild and it has a variety of sets on display (if not intensely ornate on the whole). Just think about it, that's all I'm saying.

"Happy" for Best Original Song
Frankly the Best Original Song race seems generally up for grabs. Most expect Disney's latest ballad, "Let It Go," to triumph. And yeah, that's likely. But meanwhile, everyone is certainly aware of how the campaign cylinders started firing for U2 and "Ordinary Love" going into the final lap — culminating with that rousing rendition on the first episode of "The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon". But just the latest example of Grammy winner Pharrell Williams' "Happy" being nearly as inescapable as Daft Punk's "Get Luck" (also, funnily enough, featuring Williams)? It was playing at my freakin' dentist's office this afternoon, teasing me: "YOU'LL NEVER GET AWAY FROM MY CATCHY CLUTCHES." I frankly wouldn't be shocked at all if it pulled off a win and but a big bow on Pharrell's year, and nor should you.

"American Hustle" for Best Picture
This shows up here only because literally no one is picking it. Look, heading into the SAG Awards and certainly throughout most of the following 24 hours, "American Hustle" looked like the one to beat. The logic still holds, even if the wins — PGA/DGA/WGA — aren't necessarily there to back it up: this is a film that is tailor made for the preferential ballot. It will receive tons of #2 votes along the way. Like we kept saying about "Argo" last year, it's simply a "generally agreeable" sort of film that could catch up as the rounds of voting tick by. It's soft enough not to enrage but thematically sound enough to look like a serious player. But, again, the guilds didn't really line up for it after that SAG win, and here we are, with everyone trying to decide between "Gravity" and "12 Years a Slave." If you want to color outside the lines, you'd do a lot worse than picking this one for a huge shocker on Oscar night.

So there are just a handful of things I was pondering while settling on my final predictions. Steady wins the race, you see, so being conservative — if you really want to outguess your buddies — is the way to go. But sometimes the need to pick that thing no one saw coming can be a tough itch to scratch. Figure on some of the logic above and maybe you'll leave a few jaws on the ground.

Or maybe I have NO FREAKIN' CLUE what I'm talking about. Always a possibility.

Check back later tonight to see what Team HitFix is predicting in all 24 Oscar categories!

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