Updated 2015 Oscar Nomination Predictions

A lot has changed since the last time I made Oscar predictions back in late September. So much has been discussed in these few months in fact that I could’ve been making new predictions just about every other week. But then who has the time for that? I’ve been not-so-steadily continuing my Hype Cycle column over at Sound on Sight, charting the rise and fall of these various films, but now that we’ve finally gotten some actual precursors in the bank, it stands to reason that I can make new picks and not wind up with egg on my face for declaring a movie dead when it clearly isn’t. Not so many other Oscar pundits will be so lucky, but I don’t think they’ll mind. An asterisk denotes films I’ve seen.

Best Picture

Likely

  • Boyhood*
  • Birdman*
  • The Imitation Game
  • Selma
  • Gone Girl*
  • Foxcatcher
  • Whiplash*
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel*
  • Unbroken

Possible

  • The Theory of Everything*
  • A Most Violent Year
  • Interstellar*
  • American Sniper
  • Wild
  • Big Eyes
  • Nightcrawler*
  • Inherent Vice
  • Into the Woods
  • Top Five
  • Turner
  • Still Alice
  • Citizenfour*

Long Shots

  • Vincent
  • The Homesman
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes*
  • Love is Strange
  • Exodus: Gods and Kings
  • Fury*
  • The Fault in Our Stars*
  • Get on Up
  • The LEGO Movie*
  • Annie

I should first point out that in just about all of these categories, it’s a safe bet to rule out almost any of the ones I’ve listed as “Long Shots”. If one of these movies show up, expect it to be a surprise to everyone.

With that said, there’s been an awful lot of movement on the charts. The first big shift you’ll notice however is that there’s been a swap between “Boyhood” and “Unbroken”. For Angelina Jolie’s movie, it was the on-paper winner until recently when people actually saw it. Funny how a movie called “Unbroken” now looks so much weaker and easily beaten. Now people are wondering if it can even get in, although it has enough pedigree and is riding its narrative and impressive display most of all. I’d say it can still find a lot of love in the Academy. “Boyhood” on the other hand looked initially like a movie that was just too modest to actually be a front runner. Now everyone can’t stop talking about it, and it’s the unusual front runner in that it seems averse to any sort of real criticism or scandal.

And yet the love has been spread pretty far this year, and the Best Picture race could belong to anyone. “Birdman” and “The Imitation Game” look like the strongest bet based on early awards performance, but I even wonder if anyone truly loves “The Imitation Game” enough to vote for it in the number one spot.

Keep in mind, this applies to all the films. Last year pundits looked pretty silly when “Saving Mr. Banks” found itself on the outs. It was a populist title, but who could honestly call it the best of the year? Can anyone say that about “The Theory of Everything”? Or “Wild”? Or “Big Eyes”?

It’s why I think “Gone Girl” and “Foxcatcher” still look strong, why “Whiplash” is packing a lot of heat and why “The Grand Budapest Hotel” could finally break Wes Anderson into the Best Picture race where he rightfully belongs. If there’s a spoiler among the bunch though, it’s “A Most Violent Year,” which a lot of people haven’t seen yet, but won the National Board of Review prize in a surprise whirl.

Best Actor

Frontrunners

  • Michael Keaton – Birdman*
  • Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game
  • Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything*
  • Steve Carell – Foxcatcher
  • David Oyelowo – Selma

Possible

  • Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler*
  • Bradley Cooper – American Sniper
  • Ralph Fiennes – The Grand Budapest Hotel*
  • Timothy Spall – Mr. Turner
  • Miles Teller – Whiplash*
  • Joaquin Phoenix – Inherent Vice

Long Shots 

  • Ben Affleck – Gone Girl*
  • Jack O’Connell – Unbroken
  • Matthew McConaughey – Interstellar*
  • Brad Pitt – Fury*
  • Channing Tatum – Foxcatcher
  • Bill Murray – St. Vincent
  • Oscar Isaac – A Most Violent Year
  • Brendan Gleeson – Calvary
  • Robert Downey Jr. – The Judge
  • Chadwick Bosman – Get on Up
  • Alfred Molina – Love is Strange
  • John Lithgow – Love is Strange
  • Gael Garcia Bernal – Rosewater*
  • Ellar Coltrane – Boyhood*

Here we are again with an absolutely stacked field of contenders. The major shift is that I’ve bumped Ben Affleck way down to an undeserving also-ran spot (he’s much better in “Gone Girl” than he’s getting credit for), to David Oyelowo being bumped way up, who has the biopic narrative on his side.

The caveat is that while we said last year the Best Actor race was really only a fight for one spot, we ended up with Robert Redford and Tom Hanks both out looking in. Only Keaton has been walking away with critics and precursor award prizes, and he probably stands to win, but do both Steve Carell or Eddie Redmayne fall out and make room for either Jake Gyllenhaal or recent golden boy Bradley Cooper? Maybe Cumberbatch isn’t as solid as he appears. Spall, Teller and Phoenix are all perfectly plausible spoilers, but I’d put my money on saying that Ralph Fiennes gave the best lead performance of the year.

Best Actress

Front Runners

  • Julianne Moore – Still Alice
  • Reese Witherspoon – Wild
  • Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl*
  • Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything*
  • Jennifer Aniston – Cake

Possibles

  • Marion Cotillard – The Immigrant*
  • Marion Cotillard – Two Days, One Night*
  • Amy Adams – Big Eyes
  • Hilary Swank – The Homesman

Long Shots

  • Anne Hathaway – Interstellar*
  • Shailene Woodley – The Fault in Our Stars*
  • Emily Blunt – Into The Woods
  • Mia Wasikowska – Tracks
  • Jessica Chastain – The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby
  • Emma Stone – Magic in the Moonlight

And here we are again with another disappointingly weak category. If it were up to me, I’d find a place for Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton and Keira Knightley in the upper tiers, but what are you going to do? Julianne Moore is your front runner and probably your winner, but Witherspoon still looks strong, and conversation about Pike will come back around as well. Jennifer Aniston has been the contender on the rise lately, but right behind her is former winner Marion Cotillard, who got a big boost from several parties in the last few weeks and is getting renewed support from Harvey Weinstein.

Best Supporting Actor

Front Runners

  • K. Simmons – Whiplash*
  • Edward Norton – Birdman*
  • Ethan Hawke – Boyhood*
  • Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher
  • Christoph Waltz – Big Eyes

Possibles

  • Josh Brolin – Inherent Vice
  • Miyavi – Unbroken
  • Tom Wilkinson – Selma
  • Tim Roth – Selma
  • Robert Duvall – The Judge
  • Johnny Depp – Into the Woods
  • Domnhall Gleeson – Unbroken

Long Shots

  • Logan Lerman – Fury*
  • Shia Labeuof – Fury*
  • John Goodman – The Gambler
  • Albert Brooks – A Most Violent Year
  • Andy Serkis – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes*
  • Neil Patrick Harris – Gone Girl*
  • Benicio Del Toro – Inherent Vice
  • Martin Short – Inherent Vice
  • Ansel Elgort – The Fault in Our Stars*

While there are some serious front runners here who look awfully strong, namely Simmons, Norton and Hawke, all of whom are legacy actors without a statue to their name, the Supporting Actor race is a little more in flux. Domnhall Gleeson looked like a good candidate sight unseen, but Mark Ruffalo has thrown his hat back into the ring in a big way, and the Golden Globes suggest that Waltz, a now two-time winner, could easily find his way back into this race. It could be the only thing “Big Eyes” gets. Robert Duvall had an uptick in attention from SAG and Brolin’s chances are far from dead, but the strength of “Unbroken” would be the biggest question.

Best Supporting Actress

Front Runners

  • Patricia Arquette – Boyhood*
  • Emma Stone – Birdman*
  • Keira Knightley – The Imitation Game
  • Laura Dern – Wild
  • Meryl Streep – Into the Woods

Possibles

  • Jessica Chastain – A Most Violent Year
  • Rene Russo – Nightcrawler*
  • Julianne Moore – Maps to the Stars
  • Carrie Coon – Gone Girl*
  • Kristen Stewart – Still Alice

Long Shots

  • Naomi Watts – Birdman*
  • Anna Kendrick – Into the Woods
  • Sienna Miller – American Sniper
  • Katherine Waterston – Inherent Vice
  • Jessica Chastain – Interstellar*
  • Jessica Lange – The Gambler

Can we just give the Oscar to Patricia Arquette already? Her performance lasted almost half as long as Emma Stone has even been alive. Stone will have another great performance in her, and God knows so will Meryl Streep. Jessica Chastain was moved to the supporting category from me classifying her as a lead before, and although Russo or Moore a second time are getting some attention, only Chastain seems like a plausible spoiler at this point.

Best Director

Front Runners

  • Richard Linklater – Boyhood*
  • Alejandro Inarritu – Birdman*
  • Morten Tyldum – The Imitation Game
  • Ava DuVernay – Selma
  • David Fincher – Gone Girl*

Possible

  • Angelina Jolie – Unbroken
  • Bennett Miller – Foxcatcher
  • Wes Anderson – The Grand Budapest Hotel*
  • Clint Eastwood – American Sniper
  • Christopher Nolan – Interstellar*
  • Paul Thomas Anderson – Inherent Vice
  • Damien Chazelle – Whiplash*
  • James Marsh – The Theory of Everything*
  • C. Chandor – A Most Violent Year

Long Shots

  • Mike Leigh – Mr. Turner
  • Jean Marc Vallee – Wild
  • Rob Marshall – Into the Woods
  • David Ayer – Fury*
  • Dan Gilroy – Nightcrawler*
  • Tim Burton – Big Eyes
  • Tommy Lee Jones – The Homesman

I’d love to see both Angelina Jolie and Ava DuVernay get nominated in the same year, making it an all-time record that two women are nominated in the same year, but I’m starting to think it might not happen. Linklater and Inarritu are both sure things, because their narrative ethos suggests that they’re visionaries, no matter how humble they try to come across. Tyldum is the newcomer, so his strength will hinge on his movie’s. DuVernay is the up-and-comer narrative AND the African American narrative, so she is starting to seem like a lock. For that fifth spot, default to what the Best Picture contenders are most likely to be. If “Gone Girl” is on that list, then a spot for an auteur like Fincher is a no-brainer. Otherwise, Bennett Miller could easily go 3 for 3, Wes Anderson and Christopher Nolan are very much deserving people who have never been nominated, and Clint Eastwood could spoil the whole party.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Front Runners

  • Gone Girl*
  • Inherent Vice
  • The Imitation Game
  • Wild
  • Unbroken

Possibles

  • The Theory of Everything*
  • Still Alice
  • Into the Woods
  • Rosewater*

Long Shots

  • The Gambler
  • The Fault in Our Stars*
  • The Homesman

I’m finally weighing in on the Screenplay categories, and boy is this slim-pickens. I’ve heard rumblings that the script for “Unbroken”, even if it is a great movie, is not its strongest suit. But then if it is a Best Picture contender, it seems pretty plausible, and then what do you put in its place? I’d stake my money on seeing the actual author of “Gone Girl” winning a screenplay Oscar as well. It could be the only Oscar the movie takes home, which is a damn shame too.

Best Original Screenplay

Front Runners

  • Boyhood*
  • Birdman*
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel*
  • Selma
  • Turner

 Possibles

  • The Lego Movie*
  • Top Five
  • Interstellar*
  • Foxcatcher
  • A Most Violent Year
  • Nightcrawler*

Long Shots

  • Begin Again*
  • Big Eyes
  • Love is Strange
  • Magic in the Moonlight
  • Dear White People

This screenplay category is a lot more interesting, with some serious heavy hitters in terms of Best Picture contenders, past winners and just ingenious writing. It’s why it would be a cardinal sin to leave out “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” and then how can you not nominate “Boyhood”? The last spot is a question for me, because normally this is exactly where the Academy would recognize a great movie like “The Lego Movie” that isn’t a Best Picture contender. Then again, can you really bet against Mike Leigh, and doesn’t his movie have the same sort of narrative? And don’t out the two Chris’s, both Nolan and Rock, as potential spoilers.

Best Cinematography

Front Runners

  • Emmanuel Lubezki – Birdman*
  • Hoyte Van Hoytema – Interstellar*
  • Roger Deakins – Unbroken
  • Bradford Young – Selma
  • Benoit Delhomme – The Theory of Everything*

Possibles

  • Dick Pope – Mr. Turner
  • Jeff Cronenweth – Gone Girl*
  • Greig Frasier – Foxcatcher
  • Robert Yeoman – The Grand Budapest Hotel*
  • Roman Yasanov – Fury*
  • Robert Elswit – Inherent Vice
  • Bradford Young – A Most Violent Year
  • Rodrigo Prieto – The Homesman
  • Bruno Delbonnel – Big Eyes

From now on, Cinematography is no longer a “technical category” that you fast forward through. The quality of work is too great to just lump it in with Sound Mixing. The only reason Lubezki doesn’t seem like a sure thing is because he just won last year. God knows Deakins deserves it but this might be yet another disappointing year for him. And it’s likely the Academy will go with the flashier choices of “Interstellar” and “The Theory of Everything,” but a lot of critics are making noise for “Mr. Turner,” and I’d love to see “The Grand Budapest Hotel” get recognized or conversely the chilly digital photography of “Gone Girl.”

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Oscars

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  1. Really solid predictions here. Personally, I’m always more invested in the original screenplay category, over adapted screenplay. There were so many good, original movies this year, but Boyhood had to be the most interesting from a filmmaking perspective.

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