With a massive wave of precursor announcements behind us, a consensus — that may or may not match the Academy's ultimate perspective on the year — has formed: "12 Years a Slave," Steve McQueen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Cate Blanchett, Jared Leto and Lupita Nyong'o. That's obviously profoundly "12 Years"-heavy, and the film has managed the most adapted screenplay wins so far, too. But we'll have to see if that's how it plays out on March 2.
We've defended the consistent updating of The Circuit already, but to reiterate, consensus matters. In the various regional assessments, you begin to see what is the most generally agreeable choice, notable in a system like the Academy's that uses preferential balloting. And McQueen's landmark drama could absolutely qualify at the end of the season. But frankly, it could be that a film that takes the edge off finds more traction, and while once upon a time I surmised that it might be Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street," it could actually be that David O. Russell's "American Hustle" is the broad play to beat.