Benedict Cumberbatch "The Imitation Game"
Ralph Fiennes "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Jake Gyllenhaal "Nightcrawler"
Michael Keaton "Birdman"
Eddie Redmayne "The Theory of Everything"
Other Contenders - Bradley Cooper "American Sniper", Steve Carell "Foxcatcher", David Oyelowo "Selma", Timothy Spall "Mr. Turner", Oscar Isaac "A Most Violent Year"
Commentary - This race has changed and morphed so many times, it is hard to tell how all the pieces will fall. A month ago, I was convinced that Steve Carell and David Oyelowo were locks, now I think that Carell could end up in supporting like at BAFTA (especially since there really is a fifth slot open), and that Selma is going to end up missing out on a lot of big awards, as it has simply been stalled by the guilds. So who goes in there place? First let me say that Eddie Redmayne, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Michael Keaton look pretty solid, so matter how this ends up, I see two spots that are for the taking. First is Jake Gyllenhaal, who I am actually feeling pretty good about. He has gotten all of the major precursors, including his recent BAFTA nomination. The last slot, right now, feels like it is between two contenders. And not I don't think they are Carell or Oyelowo. I am speaking of Bradley Cooper and Ralph Fiennes. Both of their films have done really well lately, and both are going to be big Best Picture contenders. Cooper has been underestimated before, but I give Fiennes the edge. He got the Golden Globe and the BAFTA nomination where Cooper has yet to be nominated for any major precursors. It is still a tough battle to the finish line, but I'll take a few precursor prizes over none.
Jennifer Aniston "Cake"
Felicity Jones "The Theory of Everything"
Julianne Moore "Still Alice"
Rosamund Pike "Gone Girl"
Reese Witherspoon "Wild"
Other Contenders - Amy Adams "Big Eyes"
Commentary - The BAFTA nod (Cake was ineligible there), and the Globe win have me really nervous, as this was the path that Amy Adams took last year, and earned a nomination in the process. But Big Eyes is no American Hustle, and as hard as Harvey as worked this year, Jennifer Aniston has worked harder. It will be a close race for that fifth slot, and Adams could easily breakthrough, she has a much better track record with voters than Aniston does. But in the end, I think that she will pull it off. The other four are solid, and have been so since about November.
Best Supporting Actor
Steve Carell "Foxcatcher"
Ethan Hawke "Boyhood"
Edward Norton "Birdman"
Mark Ruffalo "Foxcatcher"
J.K. Simmons "Whiplash"
Other Contenders - Robert Duvall "The Judge"
Commentary - Robert Duvall has felt like a placeholder all season, but until the BAFTA nods were announced, I didn't see a clear alternative. Now I do. They are going to pull a Kate Winslet here, just like BAFTA did, and put Steve Carell in supporting. Or I least I think it is a real possibility. Best Actor is just too crowded, and this is a place to honor a performance they clearly like. Or it is just a possible that Duvall continues to run the gamet.
Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette "Boyhood"
Keira Knightley "The Imitation Game"
Rene Russo "Nightcrawler"
Emma Stone "Birdman"
Meryl Streep "Into the Woods"
Other Contenders - Jessica Chastain "A Most Violent Year"
Commentary - There is a theme running through Actor, Supporting Actor, and Supporting Actress. Four solid nominees, with a wild card fifth slot. In that slot, I had Jessica Chastain for so long. She got the Globe nomination, and she is well-liked in this industry. But honestly, I kept her there because I felt like eventually A Most Violent Year would pick up steam, and become a bigger player than most people thought it would be. I had bet on it early on, and have kept up hope that I was not going to be completely wrong. But then again, there is usually one contender a year I have absolute faith in, that usually flops (remember when I thought Young Adult was going to be the film that finally got Jason Reitman Director/Picture, hey we all make mistakes). But there is clearly not enough support there. Nightcrawler on the other hand came out of nowhere a few weeks ago, and has been riding high ever since. Then Rene Russo got that BAFTA nod. For me that was the sign I was looking for. Kind of like Carell above, I just needed something to replace the placeholder, and I think this year it is going to be Rene Russo who earns her first Oscar nomination.