We can all agree that it's been a pretty great year for movies. But when it comes to this year's best picture Oscar race, that's probably where our accord ends.

At the moment, the critically lauded historical drama "12 Years a Slave" and the equally acclaimed box-office juggernaut "Gravity" head the list. Their Oscar nominations are secure. Likewise, the high-seas hostage drama "Captain Phillips" looks like it's in, thanks to its estimable craft and strong commercial reception.

That leaves a crowded group of contenders vying for ... what ... four, five or six (if there are nine best picture nominees, as was the case last year) spots. Two films — Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street" and David O. Russell's "American Hustle" — haven't screened for the media (at least, at the time of this writing) but loom large as likely nominees if they approach the heights of the directors' best work.

FULL COVERAGE: Oscars 2014

What other movies might join them? Let's look at the arguments on both sides for some.

"Saving Mr. Banks"

Nominated: The behind-the-scenes story of "Mary Poppins" appeals to the thing Hollywood loves most: itself! An engaging cast — Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks (playing Walt Disney) — ensures a place at the top of the screener stack.

Neglected: Hanks as Disney is the spoonful of sugar, but the earnest story might be a bit dull for those who like stronger medicine.


Nominated: Director Alexander Payne's last two movies, "The Descendants" and "Sideways," earned best picture nominations. This movie's intergenerational story of yearning and regret could hit the sweet spot with voters of all ages.

Neglected: Black-and-white movie set in a fly-over state? Close-minded sorts may pass.

"Inside Llewyn Davis"

Nominated: Three of the Coen brothers' last four movies have been nominated, with "No Country for Old Men" winning. You're not dealing with morons.

Neglected: Title character, a '60s Greenwich Village folk singer, has few redeeming qualities. Then again, many in the academy will likely relate on some level to this struggling artist staying true to his self-imposed artistic nobility while surrounded by rubes who just don't get how great he is.

"Dallas Buyers Club"

Nominated: Actors branch likely to be all in with stars Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. True-life AIDS crusader story will also win points for relevancy.

Neglected: Reviews have fallen just shy of ecstatic. Will it have the passion vote to put it in among the nominees?

BUZZMETER: Pundits' picks for Oscar nominations


Nominated: Filmmaker Spike Jonze has a strong, devoted following, and his movies have earned nominations for the likes of Meryl Streep, Nicolas Cage, Chris Cooper (who won for "Adaptation") and, of course, John Malkovich. "Her," a probing, highly imaginative look at love and loneliness, could connect on a deep enough level to make this Jonze's first nominated film.