As the world readies itself for the most awaited film awards, Arjun Bolangdy picks his favourite from this year’s Oscar nominees.

Unlike 2012, 2013 had some of the most powerful releases from Hollywood and going by the reviews this year’s Academy Awards will be one of the most closely contested one's in its long hitsory. An 80 year old (June Squibb for Nebraska) getting her first Oscar nomination, the return of distinguished actors who one thought would just about manage romantic comedies in the latter half of their careers, and a comedienne host who fought for what she thought was right and revamped the outlook of the contemporary talk show host – the award ceremony will definitely be an exciting one this year. With such close encounters and nail biting contests, we pick our favourites in the four most popular categories.

12 Years a SlaveBest Picture
Nominees: American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, 12 Years A Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street
My pick: 12 Years A Slave
Although this category attracts the highest level of competition given the abundance of talent showcased in all of these films, 12 Years A Slave has been a master class by director Steve Mcqueen. One of the most powerful films ever made (also supported by its Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild accolades), 12 Years tells a story of the torturous decade faced by Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) in the later 1800s, under the widely prevalent plague of slavery. The film doesn’t just show the cliché sufferings of the African American slaves but also represents the progression that humanity has strived to achieve in the last century and a half. Despite the strong competition from Her and American Hustle, 12 Years A Slave is a favourite and one of the best Hollywood has ever produced.

Best Actor in the Lead RoleMatthew Mcconaughey - Dallas Buyers Club
Nominees: Christian Bale (American Hustle), Bruce Dern (Nebraska), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street), Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave), Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club).
My pick: Matthew McConaughey
There is a certain charm associated with watching Leonardo DiCaprio delivering what’s arguably his best performance yet as Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street. But DiCaprio might be unlucky one more time given to the competition from Matthew McConaughey. His portrayal of a doomed HIV-positive homophobe overcome by grief at the thought of being terminally ill is simply magnificent. And although some would say that it is easy to sympathise and be won over by an AIDS patient in his struggle against the Administration, McConaughey takes the film by storm and is certainly the frontrunner to win this category.

Cate Blanchett - Blue JasmineBest Actress in the Lead Role
Nominees: Amy Adams (American Hustle), Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Judi Dench (Philomena) and Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
My pick: Cate Blanchett
A clear winner in my opinion, Blanchett portrays the role of Jeanette “Jasmine” Francis, an anxious middle-aged woman who recently lost her affluent husband to suicide, amidst his confession of several affairs. Francis moves in with her financially unstable younger sister as the film follows her struggle to associate with the ugly premonition of reality. Woody Allen has created a convincing character in Jasmine, showcasing the destructive emotional framework of a woman in her doomed fight to make ends meet.

Best DirectorAlfonso Cuaron
Nominees: Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity), David O. Russell (American Hustle), Alexander Payne (Nebraska), Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave), Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street)
My pick: Alfonso Cuaron
In a competition sphere containing Martin Scorsese, Steve McQueen, Alexander Payne and David O. Russell, calling a likely victor would be the act of a fool. However, it comes as no surprise that Gravity has transformed the face of Hollywood in its own way. Alfonso Cuaron couples the stunning technical work of renowned cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki with an outstanding performance by the Bullock-Clooney pair. The gripping suspense associated with Gravity from start to finish is definite proof that Cuaron has weaved his magic once again to achieve that perfect combination of grit, thrill, and edge-of-the-seat cinema viewing.