Prediction: Leo DiCaprio will pounce as the wolf of Oscar night

Yes, I know, I know, 24 of the 25 Experts posting their predictions at Gold Derby say Matthew McConaughey will win Best Actor, but go ahead and growl. I proclaim it anyway: Leonardo DiCaprio will pounce as the wolf of Oscar night.

Other pundits don’t see it coming because they’re making faulty assumptions. First off, they say that McConaughey has already won “everything” this derby season, so therefore he’s a cinch to keep on trotting. Not true. He didn’t win the New York and L.A. film critics’ awards, as expected. Yes, he won the Golden Globe, but so did Leo – in that separate category for Best Comedy/Musical Actor.

McConaughey won SAG and Leo wasn’t nominated there, true – but Leo was overlooked for the same reason Christoph Waltz (“Django Unchained“) was snubbed last year. Their movies were released too late to be seen by all members of the SAG nominating committee. As you may recall, that didn’t hurt Waltz one bit. He went on to snag the Oscar and I was one of only 5 out of 27 Experts at Gold Derby who predicted it would happen.

Bottom line is this: McConaughey and Leo haven’t yet competed against each at a major award show. We haven’t had a chance to see if Leo can take McConaughey down in a fair fight, so you shouldn’t assume that he can’t.

We’re not going to learn much this weekend at BAFTA because McConaughey isn’t nominated there. Neither is Jared Leto. Studio folks say that “Dallas Buyers’ Club” opened too late in U.K. for it to get widely seen by voters. Hmmm … isn’t that the same thing that happened to “The Wolf of Wall Street” at the SAG Awards?

It’s possible that we’ll see evidence of Leo’s Oscar potential this weekend if he wins BAFTA, but, even if he loses, I don’t think that hurts him much at the Academy Awards. Chiwetel Ejiofor (“12 Years a Slave”) has a secret edge at BAFTA: he’s British.

In the end, I think Leo has run a much smoother and more aggressive Oscar campaign. He’s everywhere behind the scenes at industry events – most recently at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, guild awards (ACE Eddies and Art Directors), Oscar luncheon – always with Marty Scorsese at his side, which bolsters his prestige factor. Leo’s getting his message across with subtlety and class – he’s a veteran overdue for this gold. And he’s keeping a jaunty sense of humor, too, by doing stints like “Saturday Night Live.”

To which I add this: Leo is arguably the biggest movie star in the world giving the biggest performance of his career in the most talked-about film of the year. That looks like Oscar to me.

Lastly, on screen in this “Wall Street,” Leo looks a lot like the star of the previous “Wall Street” 25 years ago – Michael Douglas, Oscar’s Best Actor of 1987.

Don’t you dare steal my prediction. I want to own this all alone on Oscar night when I’m proven to be correct.

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