Six months of anticipation for four hours of award giving: that’s what you signed up for. The Oscars 2014 has its host, and now it has its favorites. Which director will be hurtling through an acceptance speech at breakneck speed, and which actor will be practising their sad-yet-humble loser face?

George Clooney and Sandra BullockSandra Bullock [L] and George Clooney [R] In Gravity

It’s Oscars season.

It seems like this every year, but in 2013, the competition seems fiercer than ever before. We had takes on slavery in the U.S with Django Unchained and Lincoln in 2012; the staunch political thriller Argo taking major awards, while the academy were prone to a little escapism, handing Ang Lee’s Life of Pi some nods.

George Clooney is all but guaranteed an Oscar come February. He stars and directs in The Monuments Men – a crew of art historians set out to reclaim priceless artworks before Hitler’s Nazi soldiers destroy them. But he’s also leading the highly anticipated and critically acclaimed Gravity alongside Sandra Bullock.

The Alfonso Cuaron-directed film only cost $80m to make, so the studio will be happy whatever happens –box office success is inevitable – but if the early reviews from the Venice Film Festival are anything to go by, Gravity is a front-runner. It’s been a while since an outer-space thriller dominated the Academy’s thoughts, though, and the current focus on civil rights within cinema could see anyone of 12 Years a Slave, The Butler and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom take a big prize.

Idris ElbaNaomie Harris
Elba and Naomie Harris star in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

The former tells the story of Soloman Northrup, a man stolen from his own free life and forced into slavery. The second stars Forest Whitaker – another candidate for Best Actor with his performance – and focuses on Cecil Gaines, a butler who saw an incredible amount during his 34 stint at the Whitehouse. Finally, Idris Elba heads up Mandela, a chronicle of the South African leader’s life, from his childhood to his election as president.

Elswhere in the Best Picture category, Ridley Scott’s The Counselor looks like it’ll be the slick thriller its trailer paints it to be. Michael Fassbender is owed at least a nomination since his Shame snub, while an all-star cast including Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz and Cameron Diaz provides real promise for the Corman McCarthy-penned film. Pitt is overdue a statuette, too.

Michael Fassbender and Brad PittMichael Fassbender and Brad Pitt in The Counselor

Another man due some Academy love is Tom Hanks, who has a double chance this year with Saving Mr Banks and Captain Phillips. Both true stories, both showing excellent promise. If we had to stick our neck out, we’d say his best chance is with the latter film – his hostage drama – it’s just that much more exciting.

Other favourites include August Osage County, American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street – three films that could have easily headed this predictions article as lead examples, such is the strength of competition this year. August: Osage County will dominate the acting and screenplay categories, so expect an award for either Meryl Streep and/or Julia Roberts.

Tom Hanks in Captain PhillipsPhillips became a national hero for his exploits back in 2009

Blue Jasmine has slipped down to 25-1 at the time of writing, but that doesn’t mean the Academy will be able to resist Woody Allen’s overtures. However, with fifteen nominations for screenwriting to his seven for directing, you can see where his nod is likely coming from if it comes at all. At the very least, Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins will be expecting a name call come Thursday, Jan. 16 when the runners are announced.

Who doesn’t love an underdog? No, seriously, who doesn’t? No one, that’s who, and Michael B. Jordan represents a delectable one for his turn in Fruitvale. The film has been gathering momentum since the first critic turned in his-or-her sixpence, and he remains an outsider at 10-1. Worth $10. Don’t bet kids.

Finally, a man who probably won’t win an Oscar ever again because he’s mean to the guys and girls at the Academy, but he’s so cool that he deserves a mention: Joaquin Phoenix. He receieved a token recognition for his role in Paul Thomas Anderson’s brilliant The Master last year, but was never likely to win due to his outspoken comments. He looks excellent in Spike Jonze’s Her, but only you, me, and everyone else that watches it will know that.

Joaquin Phoenix in HerJoaquin Phoenix in Her

And after much ado about something, here are our want to wins and will wins for The Oscars 2014.

Best Picture: Will win – The Monuments Men. Want to win – Fruitvale Station

Best Actor: Will win – Idris Elba for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Want to win: we’d be delighted with Elba, but Michael Fassbender needs an Oscar.

Best Actress: Will win – Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine. Want to win: We can’t deny our love for Meryl Streep, although we don’t know if she’ll be Best Supporting material for August: Osage County.

Best Supporting Actor: Will win – Tom Hanks for Saving Mr. Banks. Want to win: Michael Fassbender for 12 Years a Slave.

Best Supporting Actress: Will win – Oprah Winfrey for The Butler. Want to win: Go on Oprah, take over the world.

Best Screenplay: Will win: Woody Allen for Blue Jasmine. Want to Win: Cormac McCarthy for The Counsellor.

Check out the teaser trailer for Gravity

And here's that slick teaser for The Counselor