2015 Oscar Picks Pre-New York Film Festival

I really can’t help myself. Pundits may hate that anyone can be an expert now when it comes to making Oscar picks, but when it’s this easy and fun to think about, is it really hurting anyone?

This year I’m staying away from most of the analysis, instead picking up on the rest of the buzz and using that to rank individual contenders week to week. You can read all of that each Thursday at Sound on Sight in my column The Hype Cycle. Here’s my introduction to the column, and here’s Week 1 Part 1 and Part 2 following Toronto, Telluride and Venice.

But like I said, I have to throw my hat into the ring, and I may yet prove to be more right than many of the so-called experts. These are my sight-unseen picks ranked in order of likelihood, along with just a pinch of analysis as to why I’m not pulling things out of my ass. These will change as the movies are actually released and I actually get a chance to see them. And yes, I get how silly it is to be predicting movies I haven’t seen yet, but then the Oscars are really silly to begin with.

Best Picture
The Imitation Game
Gone Girl
Inherent Vice
The Theory of Everything

American Sniper
Big Eyes
The Grand Budapest Hotel
St. Vincent

Long Shots
Mr. Turner
The Homesman
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Into the Woods
A Most Violent Year
Love is Strange
Exodus: Gods and Kings
The Fault in Our Stars
Get on Up
The LEGO Movie

There you have it. I’ve picked nine, count ’em, nine Best Picture nominees, because when every year since that stupid rule change has resulted in that many, why would you bet any other number? “Unbroken” looks like an on-paper homerun, “The Imitation Game” is already being said to be a homerun, “Birdman” is both insider enough that it gets in and awesome enough that it’s a frontrunner, and the rest just seem pretty damn likely. I’ve got “Boyhood” however at the far end of my spectrum, and others may have it near the top. The movie is getting real buzz, like, regular, normal people have actually seen it and loved it and are talking about it buzz. That’s buzz you can’t buy. And the movie is the real deal, and it’s not a slog to watch either. But does anyone think it might just be too modest when the Academy has their say, that maybe it isn’t that good (it totally is), and it ends up with the biggest snub of the year? At this point “Selma” and “American Sniper” are the other on-paper contenders that could be wonderful and shake up the race, but they could be duds too. Maybe “Wild” gets “The Theory of Everything’s” spot in a pinch, or maybe “Inherent Vice” is too weird and it goes to “Nightcrawler,” or maybe we get lucky with a 10th movie and we get “Grand Budapest” in there, because by God we need another comedy on that list. In another year, “The Fault in Our Stars,” “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” or even “The LEGO Movie” gets in, but they’ll have to settle for Golden Globes or MTV Movie Awards.

Best Actor
Michael Keaton – Birdman
Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game
Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything
Steve Carell – Foxcatcher
Ben Affleck – Gone Girl

Joaquin Phoenix – Inherent Vice
Bradley Cooper – American Sniper
Ralph Fiennes – The Grand Budapest Hotel
Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler
David Oyelowo – Selma
Brad Pitt – Fury
Channing Tatum – Foxcatcher
Bill Murray – St. Vincent
Timothy Spall – Mr. Turner
Matthew McConaughey – Interstellar
Jack O’Connell – Unbroken
Chadwick Bosman – Get on Up

Long Shots 
Brendan Gleeson – Calvary
Robert Downey Jr. – The Judge
Oscar Isaac – A Most Violent Year
Alfred Molina – Love is Strange
John Lithgow – Love is Strange
Gael Garcia Bernal – Rosewater
Miles Teller – Whiplash
Ellar Coltrane – Boyhood

Keaton’s got the comeback story on his side, but ask Robert Redford about that rule. Cumberbatch and Redmayne are in, Steve Carell is supposed to be plain transformative, and I have a sinking suspicion Ben Affleck knocks it out of the park with Gone Girl. He’s really perfect casting, and it could be a career role for him. That said, the same might be said about Bradley Cooper or Jake Gyllenhaal. Ralph Fiennes seemed like a one-time lock, but now faces an uphill battle, and it’s really hard to bet against Joaquin Phoenix in a PTA movie. Supposedly Timothy Spall is fantastic, but he’s my pick for “Most Likely to Be Snubbed”. Both Jack O’Connell and Oscar Isaac are big question marks that could shake up the race, and me? I’m just sitting here on Team Ellar Coltrane.

Best Actress
Front Runners
Julianne Moore – Still Alice
Reese Witherspoon – Wild
Hilary Swank – The Homesman
Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl
Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything

Jennifer Aniston – Cake
Jessica Chastain – A Most Violent Year
Shailene Woodley – The Fault in Our Stars
Nicole Kidman – Grace of Monaco
Amy Adams – Big Eyes
Meryl Streep – Into the Woods
Anne Hathaway – Interstellar

Long Shots
Marion Cotillard – Two Days, One Night
Mia Wasikowska – Tracks
Jessica Chastain – Miss Julie
Jessica Chastain – The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby
Emma Stone – Magic in the Moonlight
Marion Cotillard – The Immigrant

People are saying this category is light, but I’d say that Top 5 is pretty locked up. Apparently Moore is jaw-dropping, and she made my list of Great Actors Who Still Haven’t Won an Oscar (at four nominations right now). Witherspoon though could pick up a second trophy, and Swank a third. Pike is also a question mark until tomorrow, but if she nails the part of Amy Elliott Dunne, HELLO! And poor Jessica Chastain: three movies and possibly no nomination. Again, “A Most Violent Year” is the one to watch for. And then of course Streep or Adams are always spoilers.

Best Supporting Actor
Front Runners
Edward Norton – Birdman
Ethan Hawke – Boyhood
J.K. Simmons – Whiplash
Domnhall Gleeson – Unbroken
Josh Brolin – Inherent Vice

Tom Wilkinson – Selma
Tim Roth – Selma
Logan Lerman – Fury
Shia Labeuof – Fury
Robert Duvall – The Judge
Neil Patrick Harris – Gone Girl
Albert Brooks – A Most Violent Year
Ansel Elgort – The Fault in Our Stars
Ansel Elgort – Men, Women and Children

Now HERE’s a light category. Outside of Norton, Hawke and Simmons, it’s really hard to know how much any of these performances are going to pan out. Gleeson seems likely if “Unbroken” is any good, and Brolin seems likely if his role in “Inherent Vice” is big enough. You can’t count out anything from “Selma” just yet, and Logan Lerman is a strong enough actor that he might surprise everyone. Albert Brooks again could light it up, but he was snubbed before for a movie like this, “Drive”.

Best Supporting Actress
Front Runners
Patricia Arquette – Boyhood
Emma Stone – Birdman
Keira Knightley – The Imitation Game
Laura Dern – Wild
Kristen Stewart – Still Alice

Wait, I stand corrected; this one is even lighter. I can’t even begin to predict supporting roles in some of these films. All I know is that right now its Patricia Arquette’s Oscar to lose and Emma Stone’s to steal. Kristen Stewart is supposed to have given two career performances in both “Still Alice” and “Clouds of Sils Maria,” holding her own against big time actresses like Julianne Moore and Juliette Binoche, so we’ll see. Maybe Jessica Chastain pops up in this category with “Interstellar” rather than the Lead Actress category.

Best Director
Front Runners
Richard Linklater – Boyhood
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu – Birdman
Morten Tyldum – The Imitation Game
Angelina Jolie – Unbroken
Bennett Miller – Foxcatcher

Paul Thomas Anderson – Inherent Vice
David Fincher – Gone Girl
Ava DuVernay – Selma
Clint Eastwood – American Sniper
Christopher Nolan – Interstellar
James Marsh – The Theory of Everything

Long Shots
Mike Leigh – Mr. Turner
Wes Anderson – Grand Budapest Hotel
Jean Marc Vallee – Wild
Rob Marshall – Into the Woods
David Ayer – Fury
Dan Gilroy – Nightcrawler
Tim Burton – Big Eyes
Tommy Lee Jones – The Homesman
J.C. Chandor – A Most Violent Year

Linklater deserves the shit out of this. 12 YEARS? Even if you’re Inarritu and you had the balls to make your entire movie look like it was done in one shot, how do you beat that narrative? Unless you’re Ben Affleck, you can look to the Best Picture frontrunners to see who stands a chance, and newcomer Tyldum and Jolie with the chance to be the second female winner sound pretty promising. Bennett Miller is just three films in and already has a strong Oscar track record, so he seems likely to duke it out with PTA, Fincher, Eastwood or Nolan. Wouldn’t it be great to see Wes Anderson get something other than just a token screenplay nod though?



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Lists, Oscars

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