The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything
Other Contenders - Whiplash, Into the Woods, A Most Violent Year, Nightcrawler, American Sniper, Mr. Turner, Interstellar, Wild, Still Alice, Fury, The Lego Movie, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Big Eyes, St. Vincent
Commentary - So despite being this deep into December, there are still so many unknowns left in this Best Picture race. I think there are five that are locked, and I would be surprised if they didn't make the cut. Boyhood, Birdman, Selma, The Imitation Game, and The Theory of Everything are leading right now, and if there were only five nominees, they would be the five in the race. But there are probably going to be more than five, and while a lot of pundits are predicting less than nine, I am sticking with nine, because history, and the math, seem to favor that magic number. It looked like Whiplash was going to ride a wave, but it has been mostly J.K. Simmons show so far. It did get a lot of love from the BFCA, and I suspect Chazelle is a good Original Screenplay candidate. That being said, it needs some guild love to prove to me it can play with the Academy as a whole. Into the Woods got some Globe love, but that was expected, and its SAG Ensemble miss was a bit surprising to me. But it is still in play, and will do well at the holiday box office. A Most Violent Year, Mr. Turner, Nightcrawler, American Sniper, and Interstellar all have gotten, and will continue to get enough support to stay in the conversation, but will need to pull off some guild nods. So there are four I think are ahead of these films at the moment. Gone Girl and Foxcatcher are dark films that I think could still play with the Academy. Foxcatcher's miss at the Critics Choice is a bit unnerving, but I still think it will get in. Gone Girl is one that is playing well and both films are borderline as to whether they get in or get left out. The Grand Budapest Hotel has made a hell of a comeback, and it is being re-released into key theaters to follow its triumphs at the Globes, SAG, and the BFCA. I think it will easily get PGA and WGA, and definitely some of the craft guilds, and I think Wes Anderson is a bigger contender than people are giving him credit for in the Best Director race. Finally, Unbroken is hanging on after hitting well with the BFCA. Its fate, like so many of these films hangs on its fate with the guilds and BAFTA. It still probably will play well with older voters, but its reviews are hampering it. It is still in, for the moment.
Wes Anderson "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Ava DuVernay "Selma"
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu "Birdman"
Richard Linklater "Boyhood"
Morten Tyldum "The Imitation Game"
Other Contenders - James Marsh "The Theory of Everything", David Fincher "Gone Girl", Bennett Miller "Foxcatcher", Angelina Jolie "Unbroken", Mike Leigh "Mr. Turner", Damien Chazelle "Whiplash", Rob Marshall "Into the Woods", JC Chandor "A Most Violent Year", Christopher Nolan "Interstellar", Dan Gilroy "Nightcrawler", Clint Eastwood "American Sniper"
Commentary - Linklater and Inarritu are locked and loaded, probably for a fight to the finish. Ava DuVernay is such a big personality, and is such a well-liked person with such a daring vision, I find it hard to think that she will be left off. And Morten Tyldum has not gotten any major precursors yet, but he is the type of nominee that rides in on the back of his film's popularity. It is that fifth slot for the moment that is tricky (although with the directors, I would say all of the slots except for Linklater and Inarritu are vulnerable). David Fincher got the Globe nod, and is a well-respected director that could easily land the DGA nod like he did for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. He didn't get in last time for the Oscar, can he do it this time? Not so sure. The Theory of Everything is a great actor's vehicle, but for director, it might not have quite enough steam for Marsh to beat out bigger competition. Bennett Miller, Mike Leigh, Clint Eastwood, and Rob Marshall are all previous nominees with pictures in the Oscar hunt. And newer additions like Damien Chazelle, Angelina Jolie (to directing), JC Chandor, and Dan Gilroy add some intrigue to the mix. But I see a star on the rise in the form of Wes Anderson. The Grand Budapest Hotel is raking up accolades, he got in at the Globes, and has certainly paid his dues to earn his first directing nomination. If the film continues to perform the way it has, he could finally pull it off.
Steve Carell "Foxcatcher"
Benedict Cumberbatch "The Imitation Game"
Michael Keaton "Birdman"
David Oyelowo "Selma"
Eddie Redmayne "The Theory of Everything"
Other Contenders - Jake Gyllenhaal "Nightcrawler", Timothy Spall "Mr. Turner", Bradley Cooper "American Sniper", Ralph Fiennes "The Grand Budapest Hotel", Oscar Isaac "A Most Violent Year", Joaquin Phoenix "Inherent Vice", Ben Affleck "Gone Girl", Bill Murray "St. Vincent", Jack O'Connell "Unbroken"
Commentary - Still a tough race, that seems to have settled into a five, which makes me concerned. David Oyelowo missed at SAG, but rebounded at the Globes, I still think despite the SAG snub he is still in. The sixth here is Jake Gyllenhaal, who has done really well so far, and is a previous nominee. The one thing holding him back, and me back from predicting him, is the darkness of the film. Critics love it, actors respect it, but once more see Oyelowo, I think he encompasses Gyllenhaal. But these six are not the only ones in it. Timothy Spall is going to have the British contingency behind him, so he is the dark horse (think Gary Oldman). Bradley Cooper has come back twice to earn a nod, and he is the heart and soul of American Sniper. Ralph Fiennes could benefit from the aforementioned resurgence of The Grand Budapest Hotel, and while I am probably gasping at straws, I still am rooting for Oscar Isaac to make a comeback. This is still the race to watch, and unfortunately the Critics Choice snub shows that it might actually be Carell that is not safe, but then again except for maybe Keaton and Redmayne, no one really is.
Jennifer Aniston "Cake"
Felicity Jones "The Theory of Everything"
Julianne Moore "Still Alice"
Rosamund Pike "Gone Girl"
Reese Witherspoon "Wild"
Other Contenders - Marion Cotillard "Two Days, One Night", Marion Cotillard "The Immigrant", Amy Adams "Big Eyes", Jenny Slate "Obvious Child", Gugu Mbatha-Raw "Beyond the Lights", Helen Mirren "The Hundred-Foot Journey"
Commentary - I think poor Marion Cotillard is going to have to sit out yet another year, despite a Weinstein push, and two excellent performances. And Amy Adams might have pulled off a nod last year despite a SAG or Critics Choice nod, but American Hustle was a huge Oscar player compared to Big Eyes. So that leaves the five SAG nods, which also matched up with the five nods for Actress-Drama at the Globes. BAFTA might throw in Cotillard or Adams, which could change my predictions. But if that last slot is between them and Aniston, I still think Aniston pulls it off. She has been front and center campaigning for the film, and is a popular actress who is finally getting a role that shows her depth. Oscar voters eat up that kind of stuff, and I bet it pays off for her with an Oscar nomination.
Best Supporting Actor
Robert Duvall "The Judge"
Ethan Hawke "Boyhood"
Edward Norton "Birdman"
Mark Ruffalo "Foxcatcher"
J.K. Simmons "Whiplash"
Other Contenders - Josh Brolin "Inherent Vice", Christoph Waltz "Big Eyes", Tom Wilkinson "Selma", Tim Roth "Selma", Miyavi "Unbroken", Albert Brooks "A Most Violent Year"
Commentary - Boy is this race top heavy. The top four contenders that have played across the board make for an interesting race: Simmons, Hawke, Norton, and Ruffalo. And then it drops off a steep slope. Robert Duvall has made it in at SAG and the Globes for The Judge, a decent role in a less-than-stellar movie, that in any other year wouldn't even crack the top ten. This could easily be our five, but I feel like something is going to happen that squeezes him out. The one that is on the rise is Christoph Waltz. He is once again being pushed in supporting when he is clearly the lead, got a Globe nomination, and it is a brash over the top performance that actors love. The one thing going against him is that Big Eyes is not as big of a Best Picture contender as Django Unchained or Inglourious Basterds. So even if he manages a nomination, I doubt he can win a third, or beat the likes of Simmons and Norton.
Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette "Boyhood"
Jessica Chastain "A Most Violent Year"
Keira Knightley "The Imitation Game"
Meryl Streep "Into the Woods"
Emma Stone "Birdman"
Other Contenders - Laura Dern "Wild", Naomi Watts "St. Vincent", Tilda Swinton "Snowpiercer", Carmen Ejogo "Selma", Anna Kendrick "Into the Woods"
Commentary - Some interesting choices have popped up in the race: Naomi Watts at SAG, Tilda Swinton at the BFCA (who should be in the conversation, but will most likely be overlooked by Oscar voters). But in the end it looks like the final five could match the Globes. Watts' nod was great, but I really don't see that translating, and for Swinton see above. Jessica Chastain has so many films out this year, and is well-liked among voters. Plus she is dynamite in A Most Violent Year, and I honestly think that her performance could be the one that upsets Patricia Arquette. She just needs to get in.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Gillian Flynn "Gone Girl"
Graham Moore "The Imitation Game"
Paul Thomas Anderson "Inherent Vice"
Anthony McCarten "The Theory of Everything"
Joel and Ethan Coen, William Nicholson, and Richard LaGravenese "Unbroken"
Best Original Screenplay
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, and Armando Bo "Birdman"
Richard Linklater "Boyhood"
Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Paul Webb "Selma"
Damien Chazelle "Whiplash"