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Oscars: Who will win, who should win

  • Johnny Tamayo pushes an Oscar statue as preparations are made for the 86th Academy Awards in Los Angeles, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014. The Academy Awards will be held at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday, March 2. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

A seemingly endless movie awards season finally concludes Sunday with the Academy Awards. By now, many of the front-runners have established themselves, but the night's big honor — best picture — remains a dramatic question mark.

Associated Press film writer Jake Coyle and Jessica Herndon both see “12 Years a Slave” eking out the win. But they have plenty to say about not only who will win, but who should win and who should have been a contender.

Best Picture

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

Coyle — Will Win: “American Hustle” feels too light — actors in wigs having a ball. And “Gravity,” for all its galactic splendor, lacks the force of a solid story. So it must be “12 Years a Slave,” the candidate with the heft of history. But make no mistake: There's no certainty in this close contest.

Should Win: “12 Years a Slave.” It's an unforgettable odyssey, a reckoning of past movie portrayals of slavery and a uniquely unflinching tale of perseverance.

Should Have Been a Contender: Few movies capture boyhood like Jeff Nichols' soulful Mississippi River coming-of-age tale “Mud.”

Herndon — Will Win: Since “Gravity” stood out as an innovative prodigy advancing visual and 3-D possibilities, it'll clean up in the tech categories and will be crowned the night's big victor.

Should Win: “12 Years a Slave.” With its disturbing subject matter and factual significance, it's the year's most epic and vital narrative.

Should Have Been a Contender: “Before Midnight.” A deliciously candid look at the dark and deeply romantic evolution of love.

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