Jan 22, 2014 11:00 AM EST

Oscar Buzz at All-Time High: With Academy Award Nominees Set, Which Front-Runners Are Sizzling and Which Are Fizzling?

The Academy Awards are now a little over a month away. Over the course of the last year, stellar performances have captured the attention of critics all across the world. With an award season packed with potential Oscar winners, it has been nearly impossible to track who the current front-runners are. However, the recent Academy Award nominations shortened the field, leaving out some notable names in the process.

"Inside Llewyn Davis," "Saving Mr. Banks," "All is Lost," and "The Butler" were all snubbed of Best Picture nominations. Despite great performances in "Saving Mr. Banks," and "Captain Phillips," Tom Hanks will not be among the nominees for Best Actor. Emma Thompson, who acted alongside Hanks in "Saving Mr. Banks," was also left without a nomination. Even after his acclaimed role in "All is Lost," Robert Redford was cast aside, joining the long list of snubs this year.

With the award season coming to its conclusion, earlier award shows may give insight into who and what will come out in front. At the Golden Globes, "12 Years a Slave," "American Hustle," Cate Blanchett, Matthew McConaughey, Amy Adams and Leonardo DiCaprio all won top honors. The recent Critic's Choice Movie Awards named "12 Years a Slave" its Best Picture, while "American Hustle" won for Best Acting Ensemble. Once again, Matthew McConaughey and Cate Blanchett won acting honors. Jared Leto and Lupita Nyong'o were also recognized by critics for their supporting roles.

Trending front-runners have come and gone in one of the tightest Oscar races to date. Each of the nominated movies have had its spike in popularity. "12 Years a Slave," a current top contender, started the discussion back when it was first received. It wasn't long before the film gained critical acclaim and grabbed an early lead in the Oscar race. Since then, movies like "Gravity" and "Wolf of Wall Street" captivated audiences (for very different reasons). The controversy surrounding "Wolf of Wall Street," however, has seemingly hurt its chances of taking Best Picture. "12 Years a Slave" and "American Hustle" have pulled away from the pack, and are now widely considered the two Best Picture favorites.

The acting categories have been fairly consistent throughout the award season so far. Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto have won multiple times in the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor categories for their roles in "Dallas Buyers Club," while Cate Blanchett for "Blue Jasmine," and Lupita Nyong'o for "12 Years a Slave" have also walked away with the most nods. However, there are many nominees that can't be overlooked. Leo already has a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Jordan Belfort in "Wolf of Wall Street," and could easily snatch the Oscar away from McConaughey. The main cast of "American Hustle" are all nominated as well. Jennifer Lawrence, who won last year for her knockout performance in "Silver Linings Playbook," is in position to take home an Oscar for the second year in a row.

The race is tight, and it all comes to a head on March 2nd.

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