With less than a week before the big night, it's time to look back and reexamine the most noteworthy films of 2013. In countdown fashion, Moviefone will be releasing a set of staff predictions each day this week for the six major categories -- kicking it off today with Best Picture.
We've already given you the beat on the Best Picture nominees, so now let's break down our favorites to win the award. Here, we've listed the movies we expect to win, and then, more importantly, which ones we think should win.
What Will Win: "12 Years a Slave." At this point, pretty much everyone on the face of the planet thinks it's a toss up between "12 Years a Slave" and "Gravity," but my pick for the likely winner is "12 Years a Slave." It's a beautifully moving, expertly acted movie, with a very human, America-centric story. Historically, Academy members have favored character-driven films over flashier fare, with the recent exceptions of movies like "Titanic" and "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King," so "12 Years" pretty much has the statue in hand at this point.
What Should Win: "Gravity." If the Oscar went to the most risk-taking, visually stunning, and innovative movie of the year, "Gravity" would win. A years-long labor of love, Alfonso Cuaron's sci-fi masterpiece is a mind-blowing piece of cinema. More a ride than a movie, it pushes 3D, IMAX, and the theater-going experience to their limits and, much like its hero, left audiences gasping for air. Plus, look at all the puns we got out of it.
What Will Win: "12 Years a Slave." Several of the nominees are smaller, more personal stories with only a few tackling big ideas in scope or emotion. Ultimately, it comes down to "Gravity" & "12 Years," and the Academy has always favored the movie about the human condition against the one that's about the visual spectacle ("Annie Hall" vs "Star Wars", "Hurt Locker" vs "Avatar").
What Should Win: "12 Years a Slave." I'm of the opinion that the Best Picture should represent all the potential greatness in movie-making of that year; no offense to some of the nominees (which are still great movies), but they're not necessarily the kind of films that define a year or represent the pinnacle of cinematic achievement. "12 Years" was audacious in a way that others weren't -- closely examining a huge, undeniable chapter in American history with a fresh voice behind the camera and a willingness to be raw.
What Will Win: "12 Years a Slave." What were you doing last September? Desperately trying to remember not to wear white after Labor Day? "12 Years a Slave" was racking up awards at the Toronto Film Festival and it hasn't looked back since. Despite its tough subject matter, the strong and emotionally captivating performances have catapulted this film to frontrunner status for the last several months. Look for "12 Years" to ride that buzz all the way to the awards podium, even if it doesn't win many of the other major categories.
What Should Win: "Her." It was my favorite movie of 2013 and sadly it got lost in the shadow of "12 Years a Slave," "Gravity," and "American Hustle." While I enjoyed all of those films, I adored "Her" for its original take on what is very likely going to be our future. I mean, we all have a friend who is just a little too into their phone, right?
Editor's note: if you don't have that friend, you are that friend. Put your phone down and engage with humans. You're reading this on your phone, aren't you?
What Will Win: "12 Years a Slave." This is an incredibly close race between "Gravity" and "12 Years a Slave," but the subject matter of "12 Years" paired with its conservative look -- in contrast to the innovative "Gravity" -- should make it the winner. The technological advances of "Gravity" will probably put Alfonso Cuaron over the edge for Best Director, but when it comes to Best Picture, the Academy tends to lean towards more traditional films. Normally, I'm all for innovation, but "12 Years a Slave" was utterly beautiful (albeit difficult to watch) and cookie-cutter Oscar material. You can thank talented director Steve McQueen if they ultimately win.
What Should Win: "12 Years a Slave." The filmmakers took perhaps the most sensitive topic in United States history and tackled it with absolute rawness, so disturbing you have to look away at times -- and still found a way to make it beautiful. I was left speechless. Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong'o were both fantastic, but the film relied so heavily on the lead actor and -- man! -- Chiwetel Ejiofor delivered. In the end, it was the small things: the arthouse vignettes to the set design to the pacing.
What's your pick? Tell us in the comments below, and find out which movie wins Best Picture when the Oscars air live Sunday, March 2 at 7 ET / 4 PT on ABC.