Alright, moment of truth. The big categories on Oscar night have a couple of certainties, a contentious race, and a pair of toss-ups. How will everything shake out? This has been one of the more challenging years in recent memory and I certainly wavered on a couple of these, but here goes nothing.
Best Animated Feature Film
Big Hero 6
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Song of the Sea
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
Had The LEGO Movie been here this would’ve been a more solidified race, but nevertheless it seems like How to Train Your Dragon 2 is our frontrunner. The sequel is well-liked and, frankly, the rest of this category is fairly weak. It’s possible The Tale of Princess Kaguya could pull off a bit of an upset, and while Disney broke its losing streak with Frozen winning last year, it’s tough to see the Academy embracing the superhero-centric Big Hero 6 the same way.
Will Win: How to Train Your Dragon 2
Dark Horse: The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
Should Win: How to Train Your Dragon 2
Should Have Been Nominated: The LEGO Movie
Best Foreign Language Film
Wild Tales (Argentina)
The top contender here is the devastating drama Ida, which seems pretty primed to take home the trophy, but this is a fairly open race. Sweden’s crowdpleasing Force Majeure would’ve given it a run for its money, but that film missed the cut. Wild Tales is earning some very strong notices so it’s a possible spoiler, and there’s significant support for Leviathan and Timbuktu, but my money’s on Ida given that it’s not only a tremendous piece of filmmaking, but because the Academy tends to award films in this category that acknowledge some difficult piece of the country’s history, and the Holocaust is some heavy stuff for Poland.
Will Win: Ida
Dark Horse: Wild Tales
Should Win: Ida
Should Have Been Nominated: Force Majeure
Best Documentary – Feature
Finding Vivian Maier
Last Days in Vietnam
The Salt of the Earth
This one is pretty much settled, and also may be a case of a film’s subject matter overshadowing the quality of the filmmaking. Nevertheless, it’s tough to argue that Citizenfour isn’t important, as it provides an intimate, minute-by-minute account of the NSA leak from the perspective of Edward Snowden. Whatever your thoughts on the man himself and the morality of his actions, it’s impossible to deny that this is a vital piece of 21st century history, and Laura Poitras’ account is candid and all-encompassing.
Will Win: Citizenfour
Dark Horse: Virunga
Should Win: Citizenfour
Should Have Been Nominated: The Internet’s Own Boy
Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette – Boyhood
Laura Dern – Wild
Keira Knightley – The Imitation Game
Emma Stone – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Meryl Streep – Into the Woods
Both of this year’s supporting categories have been pretty solidified for a while now, with Patricia Arquette picking up award after award for her groundbreaking work in Boyhood. It’s not easy to craft a character arc over the course of 12 years, and I think voters will want to honor the commitment of Arquette and the strength of her performance. In many ways she’s the heart of the movie, and I think her portrayal of a single mother navigating life speaks to a lot of people.
If you’re looking for a spoiler, Streep has a long history with the Academy and is indeed great in Into the Woods, but that movie didn’t really strike a chord with the voters. Instead, I think Emma Stone’s the one to watch. People love Birdman and people love Emma Stone, so if anyone’s gonna pull off the upset, it’s her.
Will Win: Patricia Arquette
Dark Horse: Emma Stone
Should Win: Patricia Arquette
Should Have Been Nominated: Carrie Coon – Gone Girl
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
I still remember coming out of the very first screening of Whiplash back in January 2014, wondering whether it was too early to call Simmons a contender for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar. It may have been, but it looks like the longtime character actor will receive his due praise on Sunday night in the form of a little gold man.
Norton has been ramping up his own campaign pretty hard throughout the final voting period, and given the propensity for surprises in the Supporting categories I’m not willing to totally rule a Norton win out, but Simmons has won virtually all the Best Supporting Actor trophies possible. Not only does he deserve it, but this is a way for the many voters who love Whiplash to recognize the film in a category in which it has a good shot at winning.
Will Win: J.K. Simmons
Dark Horse: Edward Norton
Should Win: J.K. Simmons
Should Have Been Nominated: Riz Ahmed – Nightcrawler
Marion Cotillard – Two Days, One Night
Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore – Still Alice
Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon – Wild
It’s odd that Julianne Moore is the far, far, far ahead frontrunner in this category and Still Alice has barely registered as a movie that exists on most people’s radars. No matter, Moore has been due to win an Oscar for years now, and Academy voters were sent screeners of the film so they could witness her skill at playing a woman with early on-set Alzheimer’s first hand. Moore is unbelievably talented and this is her year. There’s very little chance of anyone else winning here.
Will Win: Julianne Moore
Dark Horse: Reese Witherspoon
Should Win: Rosamund Pike
Should Have Been Nominated: Jenny Slate – Obvious Child
Steve Carell – Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper – American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything
This has been an interesting race to watch play out, but the frontrunner has solidified in recent weeks. For a time it seemed like Michael Keaton was destined to pick up a well-deserved Oscar not only for Birdman, but in recognition of his work as a whole. That’s still very much a possibility, but Redmayne has been collecting a number of awards in his wake, moving to the front of the pack. If you pay attention to the Oscars at all you’re aware they like recognizing actors who play real people, so I think the “old guard” gives Redmayne the votes he needs to win.
But, I also think we can’t rule out the possibility of a surprise on Oscar night. American Sniper burst onto the scene in December, and while critical response has been a bit divisive and controversy has built in recent weeks, the strength of Bradley Cooper’s performance is undeniable and the film has been in the media non-stop. Cooper’s been heavy on the campaign path over the last few weeks, both as the star and producer of American Sniper, and I think that, coupled with the Academy’s apparent obsession with the actor (this is his third nomination in a row), it could maybe result in a possible upset come Oscar night.
But I’m sticking to the evidence: the bounty of trophies that Redmayne has picked up. Moreover, will the Academy be able to resist such a striking physical transformation? History says “no”, so I’m picking Redmayne for the win. Just don’t be shocked if Cooper’s name is read instead.
Will Win: Eddie Redmayne
Dark Horse: Bradley Cooper
Should Win: Michael Keaton
Should Have Been Nominated: David Oyelowo – Selma
Wes Anderson – The Grand Budapest Hotel
Alejandro González Iñárritu – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Richard Linklater – Boyhood
Bennett Miller – Foxcatcher
Morten Tyldum – The Imitation Game
And you thought last year’s Best Director race was tough. Look, Tyldum is just happy to be here, and without a Best Picture nomination Miller is pretty much out of the running as well. Anderson could play the slight spoiler if the Academy just goes nuts for Grand Budapest, but I see this as a two-way race between Linklater and Iñárritu.
A split between Best Picture and Best Director used to be an uncommon occurrence, but it happened the past two years in a row and I’m predicting it to happen again this year. The question is “If a split occurs, which way will it go?” Do you award Iñárritu the Best Director prize for his innovative one-shot conceit and “make fun of everyone” bravado, or do you recognize Linklater for having the moxie to spend 12 years on a film and have it come out as a masterpiece?
This is a very, very close race and yes, Iñárritu has the DGA prize (which more often than not results in an Oscar), but I’m thinking the Academy Award goes to Linklater. Not only did he succeed in making a truly groundbreaking piece of work, but it actually turned out to be an incredible film. I have a feeling that even those not voting for Boyhood for Best Picture won’t be able to deny the fact that what Linklater accomplished was incredible. Moreover, while Birdman is indeed unique in both aspiration and execution, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki could reasonably be considered a sort of co-director for making the continuous shot technique a reality.
Again, this race is super close so it could really go either way, but I’m going with my gut and saying Linklater takes the Best Director prize.
Will Win: Richard Linklater
Dark Horse: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Should Win: Richard Linklater
Should Have Been Nominated: Ava DuVernay – Selma
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything
I have agonized over this category for weeks, and it’s the last one I’m filling out for these predictions because I’m still not 100%. It’s basically a two-way race between Boyhood and Birdman, with The Grand Budapest Hotel or American Sniper playing the possible spoilers. Given the Academy’s preferential balloting system (it’s complicated, but here’s my attempt to explain how it works), the decision over who wins will likely come down to the film that gets the most #2 votes. Both Boyhood and Birdman have their detractors, and both films have passionate fans.
Perhaps Birdman has more widespread support in the Academy, but Boyhood is a groundbreaking achievement in cinema—it’s literally something that’s never been done before. I’m thinking there will be a split between Best Picture and Best Director, and it really could go either way, but the statistics overwhelmingly favor Birdman to win Best Picture. Only one movie in recent memory has won the PGA, DGA, and SAG and lost the Best Picture Oscar (Apollo 13 in a year when the Oscars took place in March, giving Braveheart extra time to gain momentum), so mathematically speaking, Birdman is probably the winner. But everything about Boyhood has been atypical. A film this small shouldn’t have made it this far, a movie shot in this way shouldn’t have worked—it’s the little movie that could, so can it go all the way?
I’m going to lean on the statistics here and go with Birdman for the win, but it’s very possible Boyhood could take home the trophy—or, if the Academy is feeling extra playful, a Grand Budapest or American Sniper win could result in one of the biggest upsets of all time.
If you’re filling out a ballot at home and are also predicting a split, you’d be smart to cover your bases and pick one movie for both Best Picture and Best Director. As you can see, I am not smart.
Will Win: Birdman
Dark Horse: Boyhood
Should Win: Selma
Should Have Been Nominated: Gone Girl
Click here for Part 1 of my Oscar predictions
Click here for Part 2 of my Oscar predictions