Saving Mr. Banks’ has been screened. ‘Gravity’ and ’12 Years a Slave’ continue to establish their dominance. ‘Nebraska’ and ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ make noise, and we’re still waiting on ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ and ‘American Hustle.’

In other words, the dust swirling around the first stage of the annual Oscar race is starting to settle, and select portions of the picture are beginning to clear.

As we head into the Thanksgiving holiday – when voters in various creative bodies spend quiet days absorbing Oscar contenders – let’s catch up on the latest frontrunners in our major awards categories.

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    Alfonso Cuaron, ‘Gravity’

    Last Week: 1

    Cuaron’s a brilliant director, and yet his three Oscar nominations have been for editing and screenplay (twice). This year, he seems poised to break into the Best Director category with ‘Gravity,’ a game-changing exercise in tension and execution that has consistently left jaws on the floor. Also, it has earned a staggering $516 million worldwide. If Cuaron’s blockbuster doesn’t earn a nomination, the entire system is broken.

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    Steve McQueen, ’12 Years a Slave’

    Last Week: 2

    Masterful direction on the part of McQueen makes the harrowing, brutal ’12 Years a Slave’ a can’t-miss proposition. It’s a lot to handle, this story of a free man (Chiwetel Ejiofor) having his existence stripped by deceitful slave traders. But it’s impossible not to appreciate McQueen’s calculated decisions as he brings this true story to the screen. ‘Slave’ earned a healthy amount of awards heat in recent weeks, and I believe he is locked into a Best Director slot.

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    Martin Scorsese, ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’

    Last Week: 3

    Scorsese was originally worried ‘Wolf’ wouldn't be ready in time for the end of 2013, but the Wall Street scandal now states it will make it to theaters in time for a Christmas Day release. Obviously, we’ll pass more accurate judgment on ‘Wolf’ once a finished cut is actually screened. But with Scorsese reteaming with Leonardo DiCaprio, I like the director’s chances of earning his seventh Best Director nom.

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    Paul Greengrass, ‘Captain Phillips’

    Last Week: 4

    Greengrass’ true-life account of the heroic Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks) and his fight to survive against Somali pirates has been simmering. It might be time for Sony to turn up the heat on the film’s Oscar campaign. Both Hanks and the movie, in general, received over-the-top raves … with several awards pundits saying the director could earn his second Director nomination. Seeing as how he was robbed for the blistering ‘United 93,’ a makeup win isn’t totally out of the question, either.

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    David O. Russell, 'American Hustle'

    Last Week: 5

    I’m starting to hear rumblings that this is going to be Russell’s year. He has been in contention lately with Oscar-winning dramas ‘The Fighter’ and ‘The Silver Linings Playbook.’ We don’t know a lot about ‘American Hustle,’ and it’s looking like it will be one of the last awards contenders to reveal itself, which just might work in its favor, seeing as we’ll have picked over ‘Gravity,’ ’12 Years’ and the Oscar frontrunners that come before it. Plus, if 'Hustle’ is as good as sources tell me it is, Russell will secure his fourth Oscar nomination.