Which films are leading the pack as we head into the holiday season?

So the Golden Globe and SGA nominations are in and several key critics groups have announced their winners, but in a close awards season we are none the wiser as to who will win the major awards for movie and some actor categories.

As a bellwether of likely Oscar nominees, the Golden Globes pretty much does the job, if only because the 90 or so members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) cover so much ground with the drama and musical/comedy split.

Most of the HFPA’s 10 selections for best movie from both disciplines will overlap the eventual five-10 best picture Oscar nominees to be announced on January 16 2014.

Looking at the Golden Globe nominees, I reckon 12 Years A Slave, American Hustle, Gravity, Captain Phillips and Inside Llewyn Davis are dead certs for Academy Award nods. The second tranche would include Her, Philomena and Nebraska.

I’d add Saving Mr. Banks to the list of dead certs and indeed would be surprised if it were not top of many Academy voters’ choices. It’s a fabulous movie that contains everything the Academy loves: Hollywood folklore, classy screenplay, winning performances and a sentimental pay-off that doesn’t seem too manipulative.

Plus everyone loves Tom Hanks, while Emma Thompson is putting her best foot forward on the campaign trail. There will be respect too for a depiction of Walt Disney that smashes the frosted glass of iconography and delivers a satisfyingly complex and human portrait.

Academy voters may not go for The Wolf Of Wall Street, which is not one of Martin Scorsese’s better movies, although the director and his muse Leonardo DiCaprio have quite rightly won them over before.

Rush could struggle to get a nod given the alienating subject matter for a predominantly North American voter base (Formula 1 racing), and there may be a repeat of the HFPA’s omission of Dallas Buyers Club. The movie deserves recognition more for its performances than for the overall package.

This is a ridiculously strong year for acting and the Globes nominations appear to have all bases covered. Bruce Dern and Matthew McConaughey are the frontrunners for the Oscar and the former is going to be the first name on most Academy voters’ cards, given the older demographic of the membership base.

The Nebraska lead was recognised by both the HFPA and the Screen Actors Guild, while his contemporary Robert Redford earned a Golden Globe nod but – shock horror – was overlooked by SAG.

Redford was the New York Film Critics Circle’s choice for best actor. A groundswell of support from numerous critics groups might have some bearing on the race, however the odd win here and there will not – and this is proving to be a term in which critics groups are spreading the love.

I will be stunned if Redford’s name isn’t read out on January 16: he’s stitched into the fabric of modern US cinema and has graced some of the best movies of the last 45 years.

It’s unlikely he’ll get another role as good as the one in All Is Lost and the Academy, a sentimental conclave if ever there was one, will see this as an opportunity to at least recognise the handsome motif of yesteryear’s contribution to acting with a first actor nod.

McConaughey is shooting Interstellar for Christopher Nolan and has been under the radar compared to Dern, who has been working the trail hard. The star of Dallas Buyers Club is marginally behind Dern but will push him all the way.

The best actress contest is populated with wonderful talent this year. It’s one of the strongest fields in recent years. Overlooked by SAG and included by the HFPA, Amy Adams’ extraordinary and complex work in American Hustle would deserve to be the frontrunner in any other year, however the Oscar is Blue Jasmine star Cate Blanchett’s to lose.

In the supporting categories, Jared Leto feels like the popular favourite for Dallas Buyers Club, but it would be foolish to count out Leto’s fellow SAG and Globe nominee Michael Fassbender for 12 Years A Slave and Daniel Bruhl, so good in Rush.

Speaking of Steve McQueen’s movie, Lupita Nyong’o edged into the lead when she added a Globe nod to her bag after netting one from SAG. Fellow SAG nominee Oprah Winfrey presents her biggest competition and we shouldn’t be distracted by Winfrey’s omission from the Globes – Harvey Weinstein still has time to work his magic for The Butler star.