Know your Academy Award nominees

The 86th annual Academy Awards will air Sunday at 7 p.m., and although this year had some notable snubs, the Academy Award nominees are some of the best-nominated in years.

This year, the Oscars boast a presenter list full of big names, performances of popular songs by popular artists and a beloved host in Ellen DeGeneres.

Here is a look at the eight biggest categories and their respective nominees’ chances of winning, including predictions from noted Oscar pundits.

Best Picture 

The nominees: “12 Years a Slave,” “American Hustle,” “Captain Phillips,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Gravity,” “Her,” “Nebraska,” “Philomena” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

Could win: “Gravity” and “American Hustle” both have a lot of support in their corners, from critics and audiences alike. Noted Oscar blog, though, lists “Gravity” as the likely winner, with a 48.12 percent chance against the 26.54 percent attributed to “12 Years a Slave.”

Should win: As much as “Her” truly deserves the Best Picture title, it’s time for the academy to make a significant change in its voting practices, which have been notoriously closed-minded. “12 Years a Slave” is the movie to ensure it.

Best Director 

The nominees: Alfonso Cuarón for “Gravity,” Steve McQueen for “12 Years a Slave,” Alexander Payne for “Nebraska,” David O. Russell for “American Hustle” and Martin Scorsese for “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

Could win: McQueen very well could be the first black man to win Best Director. Alternately, if the overly technical direction of “Gravity” and the harshness of “12 Years a Slave” make voters too uncomfortable, Russell would be next in line.

Should win: Because Spike Jonze didn’t make the cut, McQueen is, apart from being the one who would make history by winning, the most deserving.

Best Actor 

The nominees: Christian Bale for “American Hustle,” Bruce Dern for “Nebraska,” Leonardo DiCaprio for “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Chiwetel Ejiofor for “12 Years a Slave” and Matthew McConaughey for “Dallas Buyers Club.”

Could win: For every loss he’s sat through, DiCaprio has gained pity points from the voters. The word colorful doesn’t even begin to describe DiCaprio’s performance as greedy Wall Street tycoon and party animal Jordan Belfort. If he’s going to finally win an Oscar, it might as well be for a performance as memorable as this one.

Should win: Hands down, Dern gives the best and most heartfelt performance of the bunch. He’s a seasoned-but-underrated actor who’s never gotten his due, and in “Nebraska” he gives the flat-out best performance of his career. He’s in almost every scene, but, unlike DiCaprio, who spends the majority of his three-hour-plus movie yelling and snorting cocaine, Dern plays them with a quiet, reserved realism that effectively veils the thoughts beneath.

Best Actress 

The nominees: Amy Adams for “American Hustle,” Cate Blanchett for “Blue Jasmine,” Sandra Bullock for “Gravity,” Judi Dench for “Philomena” and Meryl Streep for “August: Osage County.”

Could win: Factoring in all of the recently dug-up controversy around Woody Allen’s alleged sexual assault, Blanchett’s chances of winning could be a little lower than before the Farrows took to Twitter to malign Allen’s repeated Oscar recognition. If this does happen, and Blanchett doesn’t secure enough votes, it could, after five nominations, be Adams’s time to win.

Should win: Blanchett takes an extremely interesting, dynamic, well-written character and elevates it to new heights. It’s Blanchett’s most deserving performance to date.

Best Supporting Actor 

The nominees: Barkhad Abdi for “Captain Phillips,” Bradley Cooper for “American Hustle,” Michael Fassbender for “12 Years a Slave,” Jonah Hill for “The Wolf of Wall Street” and Jared Leto for “Dallas Buyers Club.”

Could win: Leto all but has it in the bag.

Should win: In all honesty, Cooper (who was one of the saving graces of “Hustle”), Fassbender (who gave another in a career full of uniquely brilliant performances) and Hill (who, with this second nomination, proved that he is a legitimate character-actor) all turned in performances that I think are more deserving.

Best Supporting Actress 

The nominees: Sally Hawkins for “Blue Jasmine,” Jennifer Lawrence for “American Hustle,” Lupita Nyong’o for “12 Years a Slave,” Julia Roberts for “August: Osage County” and June Squibb for “Nebraska.”

Could win: Desite the fact that she plays more than she acts in “American Hustle,” Lawrence is America’s sweetheart, and the academy loves to honor scene-stealers. Scott Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter, who has been forecasting Oscar winners since 2001 (In 2006 and 2013, he correctly predicted 21 of the 24 winners), predicts that Lawrence will win.

Should win: Nyong’o puts herself in shoes that are far harder to wear than any of the other nominees’, and she still comes out on top.

Regardless of who wins, though, the Oscars will most likely still top the ratings, as audiences love to see the films and actors they love get recognized.