The Imitation Game
Into the Woods
The Theory of Everything
Other Contenders - A Most Violent Year, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wild, American Sniper, Whiplash, Mr. Turner, Fury, Exodus: Gods and Kings, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Big Eyes, Inherent Vice, The Hundred-Foot Journey, St. Vincent, Still Alice, Calvary, The Judge, The Fault in Our Stars, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Snowpiercer, Obvious Child, The Skeleton Twins
Commentary - I am still predicting ten at this point, knowing that it will probably be nine again. This race is really starting to shape up, and as of December 1st, we will finally know the verdict on Unbroken, the last piece to the puzzle. Recently Into the Woods screened to great response, and apparently is being heavily invested in by Disney, as they are peeved that Saving Mr. Banks turned into an Oscar dud. I think that with the cast involved, the below the line and actors' support, and what will probably be a huge box office number right in the thick of voting, it will make the cut for Best Picture. It also doesn't hurt that it is truely a unique entity in this year's race. Not just because it is a musical, but because it has a fanciful and comedic side to it, that might be a nice change of pace for some voters. Moving on now. Prestigious pure-Academy bait films The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game continue to hold on strong, and Unbroken continues to be a favorite, sight unseen. Birdman is eccentric, but it also has a vibe that appeals to actors, writers, directors, and technical folks as well. It could be an unusual and strong contender going into the nominations. I have held off on Boyhood, just because it seemed too experimental, and too subtle for Academy voters, but months in and it is still all people can talk about. So it finally earns its spot on the list. Newcomer to the game Selma proved its pre-release buzz when it stunned at AFI Fest, and planted itself squarely in the thick of things. These are our leaders in this race that has yet to actually produce a front runner. That is seven, and right now they look like a pretty solid seven going into the critics race a week from today. The last two/three spots are tricky. Despite mixed reviews, I think Interstellar is still very much in this race. It will have tons of below the line support, and every year since the expanded field they have gone for at least one big sci-fi/action film. Of course the previous nominees (Avatar, Inception, Hugo, Life of Pi, Gravity), all had much better critical support than Interstellar. And finally, despite losing a ton of buzz, and despite their dark subject matter, I still think that Gone Girl and Foxcatcher are not to be underestimated. They both have directors with a good Oscar history, and both are big productions with great reviews. I say they live to fight another day. Beyond those ten, there are five that are the biggest competition. A lot of people are lining up behind Whiplash, but besides J.K. Simmons, and maybe a screenplay nod, I don't know if there is going to be enough broad support across the branches. It will need some big precursors for me to include it. A Most Violent Year is another smaller film that needs precursors for me to include it, although it could have some critical support. The Grand Budapest Hotel is hoping to make a comeback (and working hard at it), and Wild hopes to regain some of its festival buzz and manage another Dallas Buyers Club-esque comeback. Finally, Mike Leigh should always be in the equation, and Mr. Turner could be this year's BAFTA inclusion.