2015 Oscar Nominee Predictions

Thursday morning begins the official countdown to Hollywood’s biggest annual event: the Academy Awards. After an intense couple of months that have seen several films emerge as viable contenders but no true frontrunner make its presence known, we’ll know in the morning how the months of campaigning have worked.

It’s worth mentioning the importance of the various critics groups and guilds that have announced their own award nominees and, in some cases, winners.

In the Best Picture field, Boyhood, The Imitation GameBirdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel have emerged as the closest thing to frontrunners. In a five-picture field, they’re the films most likely to make it in. Since the Academy adopted its current policy of allowing for anywhere from five to ten nominees, though, there’s no telling how many other contenders we’ll see. Selma is the most interesting case going in. It’s a critical favorite, but it missed out on nominations and wins from a slew of critics groups and the various guilds. The film just barely made it out of post-production, and decided to only send screeners to AMPAS (the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) and BAFTA. We’ll find out tomorrow if that gamble paid off or not.

The Best Director field will also prove interesting. The frontrunner here is Richard Linklater for his 12-years-in-the-making Boyhood, while fellow auteurs Wes Anderson and Alejandro González Iñárritu are also in contention for The Grand Budapest Hotel and Birdman. The field is notorious for not matching its corresponding guild, the Director’s Guild, which nominated the three of them along with American Sniper‘s Clint Eastwood and The Imitation Game‘s Morten Tyldum. It’s possible one or both could miss the cut; then again, this is the category that infamously left out both Kathryn Bigelow and Ben Affleck two years ago. Most notably, Ava DuVernay could make history as the first African-American female nominee in this category for Selma. Also in contention: David Fincher for Gone Girl and Damien Chazelle for Whiplash.

The acting fields appear more or less locked in, based on the various critics groups and guilds. Each category has a frontrunner for the win, with an arguable spoiler in each one. That doesn’t mean we won’t see some surprises, though – last year saw American Hustle overperform, with Christian Bale and Amy Adams emerging as surprising nominees in Actor and Actress.

Best Actor has three contenders who appear to be locked in: Michael Keaton (Birdman), Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) and Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game). The remaining two spots have five real contenders: Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), Bradley Cooper (American Sniper), Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler) and David Oyelowo (Selma). Of the four, Gyllenhaal and Oyelowo seem like the most viable options. Carell’s biggest issue is that he’s really more of a supporting player, and it’s possible that in spite of Sony Pictures Classics’ campaign, the Academy may follow BAFTA’s lead and slot him in Supporting. Surprise category changes have happened before, most notably in recent memory with Kate Winslet’s nomination (and subsequent win) for The Reader in Lead Actress after being submitted in Supporting. Then again, American Sniper could be peaking at the right time; its box office pull in limited release and strong showing at the guilds could give Cooper his third nomination in as many years.

Best Actress is even more “locked in” than its male counterpart. Julianne Moore (Still Alice), Reese Witherspoon (Wild), Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) and Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything) are all familiar faces this awards season. The likely contender for the fifth slot is Jennifer Aniston (Cake), who’s been mounting a campaign for a nomination like nobody’s business. Her film has received a slew of negative reviews, and it’s coming from a distributor created by the production company, Cinelou, just to get the film out. Could her campaigning work? Possibly. Then again, she could be knocked out by Amy Adams (Big Eyes), who’s garnered five Oscar nominations in the last decade.

Best Supporting Actor is, like its lead counterpart, locked in with three contenders. J.K. Simmons may be the closest thing to a guaranteed win among the acting contenders this year for his role in Whiplash, and he’ll be joined almost certainly by Edward Norton (Birdman) and Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher). Ethan Hawke is also a likely contender for Boyhood, which has been performing well through the critics groups and guilds. The fifth slot is a bigger question. Robert Downey Jr. has been campaigning like crazy for Robert Duvall in their film, The Judge, even though it wasn’t a critical or commercial hit. Steve Carell could potentially pop up here, if voters decide to fix his category placement for Foxcatcher. Tom Wilkinson could also take the slot if the Academy loves Selma, or Josh Brolin could score a nomination for Inherent Vice. Of those four, though, Duvall seems like the most likely fifth nominee.

In Best Supporting Actress, Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) appears to be the most likely winner, with Emma Stone (Birdman) being another solid contender. Keira Knightley will also likely show up for The Imitation Game, and Meryl Streep should add to her enormous nomination tally for Into the Woods. The fifth slot will likely give Oscar prognosticators the biggest clue about how this race will shape up. Jessica Chastain (A Most Violent Year) is the most likely contender to actually challenge Arquette for a win, but she’s also likely to be her film’s only nomination. On the other hand, Nightcrawler appears to be peaking at just the right time, with Jake Gyllenhaal’s slew of nominations this season turning into attention for the film itself and a surprise nomination for Rene Russo at the BAFTAs. If the Academy loves Nightcrawler enough, she could replace Chastain (or Streep or Knightley) for a nomination. Also in contention: a former winner in this category – Tilda Swinton – for her turn in Snowpiercer. I’m not predicting her, but that nomination would make my day.

Below, you’ll find my predictions for the Oscars in all of these categories, plus Original Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay and Animated Feature.

Best Picture

  • Boyhood
  • The Imitation Game
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  • Selma
  • The Theory of Everything
  • American Sniper
  • Gone Girl
  • Whiplash
  • Nightcrawler

NOTE: In this category only, predictions are listed in order based on potential number of nominees, since the number can vary here. If there are nine nominees, the first nine are my guesses for those positions.

thegrandbudapesthotel

Best Director

  • Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Ava DuVernay, Selma
  • Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  • Richard Linklater, Boyhood
  • Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

selma

Best Actor

  • Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
  • Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler
  • Michael Keaton, Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  • David Oyelowo, Selma
  • Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

wild

Best Actress

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

Best Supporting Actor

  • Robert Duvall, The Judge
  • Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
  • Edward Norton, Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  • Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
  • J. K. Simmons, Whiplash

Best Supporting Actress

  • Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
  • Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
  • Rene Russo, Nightcrawler
  • Emma Stone, Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  • Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

Best Original Screenplay

  • Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  • Boyhood
  • Foxcatcher
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Nightcrawler

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • American Sniper
  • Gone Girl
  • The Imitation Game
  • The Theory of Everything
  • Whiplash

Best Animated Feature

  • Big Hero 6
  • The Boxtrolls
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2
  • The LEGO Movie
  • The Tale of Princess Kaguya
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