Gold Derby has assembled a ragtag group for the first predictions sweep (Movie City News’ Gurus of Gold will also post soon) of Best Picture. These are mostly spit in the wind choices, though I follow Anne Thompson’s lead by never predicting a film to win that I haven’t seen (it’s tempting, hope springs eternal).  Therefore, I currently think, all things considered, that Alexander Payne’s sentimental, moving story of an elderly man rediscovering his own life through the lens of Dementia has the best shot of taking home the prize. But then, I haven’t seen any of the “major” contenders yet. No one has.  What I know is this: Alexander Payne is one of the greatest unrecognized American directors who came close to winning with Sideways (screenplay) and then again with The Descendants (screenplay). I don’t know a more consistently good storyteller who is as reliable as Payne when it comes to delivering flawed, memorable characters.  There is something haunting and unforgettable about Nebraska, which seems to fold in so much of what revolves in the collective now.  If it isn’t the best film in Payne’s career, it is close. Therefore, given that the Coens have won with No Country, Scorsese with The Departed, there are a couple of big time directors in the mix who are also overdue, David O. Russell among them.

Still, no one has seen American Hustle so predicting that movie to win, despite everything, is like accepting a proposal to marry someone whose profile you liked on Match.com.  You only know what it looks like on the surface. Surely that’s no way to find “best.”

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In my view, it’s always better to go with what you know than what you don’t know. Of this list, only Fruitvale Station, The Butler, Nebraska, Inside Llewyn Davis have been seen. Therefore, they have the most clout right now heading into the race. The other movies are good bets, of course, because of whose involved, subject matter, publicist’s confidence.

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