With December on the horizon, we’re hitting the end of Phase One of the Oscar race this year. That doesn’t mean some kind of “Avengers“-style team up movie where Stephen Hawking, Alan Turing, Martin Luther King and J.M.W. Turner battle evil, but it does mean that basically all of the movies will have been screened to critics (“Into The Woods” and “Exodus: Gods And Kings” are the only leftovers at this stage), the early buzz will be established, and everyone takes a breather for Thanksgiving. Then, it jumps straight into the precursor awards: the New York Film Critics Circle, the first to kick things off, announce their winners on December 1st, and the awards ceremonies come thick and fast from there.
We’ve been looking at some of the bigger categories in the weeks and months that have passed, but this week, ahead of the Thanksgiving break and the start of the precursors, we wanted to dig down and look at where all the categories stand at this stage, before the various other awards start to firm things up even more. Below, we take a look at some of the technical categories, plus bigger sections like Score, Best Foreign Language Picture and Best Documentary.
Best Sound Editing:
Annual reminder: Sound Editing involves capturing and creating the sound, Mixing is the post-production process leading to the final track. Of the Best Picture contenders, “American Sniper” is the best bet for a “Lone Survivor“-style nod (WWII often does well here too, so “Unbroken” has potential as well, and “Fury” should be a lock). “Godzilla” is the most likely from the blockbuster world, and with the second “Hobbit” movie making the cut, we could see that one returning, though “Transformers” will be in the hunt too. Everyone’s talking about the sound in “Interstellar,” not necessarily in a good way, but it should also register here.
“The Hobbit: Battle Of The Five Armies”
Best Sound Mixing:
“Interstellar” is a movie that would normally register hugely in the sound categories, and while we think it’ll be fine with the sound editing, the controversy over the theatrical mix for the movie makes a nod here more debatable. Musicals, or music-themed pictures, always do well here, which should make both “Into The Woods” and “Get On Up” nominees, while all the “Transformers” movies are prior nominees in the category, so expect that to follow through. “Unbroken” and “The Hobbit” are strong possibilities, but we’d wager that “Fury” and “American Sniper” figure in again here.
“Get On Up”
“Into The Woods”
Best Visual Effects
Depending on whether or not “Interstellar” makes it to the big prize, this could turn out to be the first instance of the category since 2007 without a Best Picture nominee among the shortlist (unless “Unbroken“‘s effects, including CGI slimming, make the cut, or “Into The Woods” or “Exodus” end up with Best Pic nods). Christopher Nolan‘s film is at least a dead cert nominee here, but will likely be battling “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes” for the win, though “Guardians Of The Galaxy” will put up a fight. The previous “Hobbit” movies were nominated, so “Battle Of The Five Armies” should return too, while the fifth slot is up for grabs between “Godzilla,” “Maleficent” and “Noah” — our money is on the latter.
“Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes”
“Guardians Of The Galaxy”
“The Hobbit: Battle Of The Five Armies”
Best Production Design
For once, we probably won’t be seeing a Tim Burton movie here, with “Big Eyes” too real-world to make much impact. But another quirky director will finally crack the category: Wes Anderson‘s “Grand Budapest Hotel” is arguably the director’s most lavish playground yet, and could be the frontrunner in the category. Expect subtler period work like “A Most Violent Year” and “Inherent Vice” to be overlooked, but Best Picture contenders “Unbroken,” “The Imitation Game” and “Selma” should all be in the conversation (perhaps less so the last one), and “Mr. Turner” is a solid lock. “Into The Woods” should beat out “Maleficent” for the Burton-esque slot, while in terms of fantasy, the lavish sets of “Exodus: Gods And Kings” likely has the advantage over “The Hobbit,” “Noah” and the excellent, but sterile “Interstellar.”
Arthur Max, Celia Bobak – “Exodus: Gods & Kings”
Adam Stockhausen, Anna Pinnock – “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Dennis Gassner, Anna Pinnock – “Into The Woods”
Suzie Davis, Charlotte Watts – “Mr. Turner”
Jon Hutman, Lisa Thompson – “Unbroken”
Best Costume Design
With an iconic design already a favorite among drag queens, “Maleficent” should be a lock here, though “Into The Woods” will certainly end up giving it a run for its money. Again, “Grand Budapest Hotel” should convert its love to a nod here, even if the film can’t make the Best Picture cut, while “Mr. Turner” will likely fill the annual British costume drama slot (the “Imitation of Everything” double-header might be period, but probably isn’t showy enough to register). Don’t count out “Big Eyes” entirely, but the fifth slot will probably be a battle between “Exodus: Gods And Kings” and “Selma,” but we think the latter’s growing Best Picture momentum will convert to a “12 Years A Slave“-style nomination here.
Milena Canonero – “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Colleen Atwood – “Into The Woods”
Anna B. Sheppard – “Maleficent”
Jacqueline Durran – “Mr. Turner”
Ruth E. Carter – “Selma”
Best Make-Up And Hairstyling
Always a tricky one to call (given that seemingly sure-fire contenders can end up missing out on the bake-off altogether) — this was of course the category that last year nominated “The Lone Ranger” and “Bad Grandpa.” That said, “Into The Woods” seems like a safeish bet for the transformation of Meryl Streep, though we’re less certain of “Foxcatcher” (Nicole Kidman‘s nose might have won her an Oscar, but the make-up team weren’t even nominated). “Guardians Of The Galaxy” is probably going to have the advantage over other fantasy pictures like “Maleficent,” “The Hobbit” and “Exodus,” and don’t count out “Get On Up,” “Inherent Vice” and, in particular, “Mr. Turner.”
“Into The Woods”
“Guardians Of The Galaxy”
Best Original Song
Everyone’s least favorite category doesn’t have a “Let It Go”-style home run this year, but “Begin Again” is the closest thing to a surefire nominee, given that John Carney‘s earlier, and similar “Once” took the prize a few years back. The more enjoyable “Blame Canada”-style novelty song nomination is likely to go to “The Lego Movie” earworm “Everything Is Awesome,” though we’d have preferred Batman’s Song (Darkness! No parents!). There’s some heavyweight closing-credit numbers brewing as well — Common & John Legend‘s “Glory” from “Selma,” Billy Boyd closing off Middle Earth with “The Last Goodbye,” Patti Smith‘s “Mercy Is” from “Noah” (the latter getting a big push from the studio), and Coldplay‘s “Miracles” from “Unbroken.” But there’s usually a favor towards in-movie numbers, so that might end up favoring “Muppets Most Wanted,” Ethan Hawke‘s “Split The Difference” in “Boyhood,” or one of the numbers from “Beyond The Lights” (providing the film’s distributor are better at getting the movie in front of voters than they were with critics). And Lana Del Rey has a couple of new songs in “Big Eyes” too, though we don’t expect them to make the grade.
“Lost Stars,” performed by Keira Knightley – “Begin Again”
“Grateful,” performed by Rita Ora – “Beyond The Lights”
“Everything Is Awesome,” performed by Tegan & Sara & Lonely Island – “The LEGO Movie”
“Mercy Is,” performed by Patti Smith – “Noah”
“Glory,” performed by Common & John Legend” – “Selma”
Best Original Score
As usual, the prolific Alexandre Desplat (who’s somehow never won an Oscar) looks to be a major presence here: his “Imitation Game” score is a lock, he’s likely for “Unbroken,” and could even muster a third for “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (to our mind, his best of the year was “Godzilla,” but whatever). Johan Johansson should pick up his first nod for “The Theory Of Everything” too, while Hans Zimmer‘s relatively likely for “Interstellar,” unless there’s some kickback for how high in the mix it was. Keep an eye on Jason Moran and “Selma” and the great Alberto Iglesias and “Exodus,” along with Marco Beltrami’s score for “The Homesman,” a potential dark horse, while John Powell‘s work on “How To Train Your Dragon 2” and Reznor and Ross’ on “Gone Girl” are both possibilities, but are likely overshadowed by earlier achievements. We suspect Antonio Sanchez‘s drum-heavy work on “Birdman” could get overlooked, but keep an eye on Thomas Newman: he’s among the most nominated composers without a win, and though Oscar prospects for “The Judge” are slim elsewhere, he might well crack the field here.
Alexandre Desplat – “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Alexandre Desplat – “The Imitation Game”
Hans Zimmer – “Interstellar”
Johan Johansson – “The Theory Of Everything”
Alexandre Desplat – “Unbroken”
Best Documentary Feature
As ever, expect some shocks and snubs when the shortlist is published next month: like the Foreign Language category, this one’s always hard to call exactly. That said, expect movies like “CITIZENFOUR,” “Life itself,” “The Overnighters,” “Tales Of The Grim Sleeper,” “Red Army,” “The Salt Of The Earth” and “The Case Against 8” to be in the conversation. Don’t rule out “Finding Vivian Maier,” “The Great Invisible,” “The Green Prince” (a particular one to watch, we’d wager) “Supermensch” and “Whitey” either.
“The Green Prince”
“The Salt Of The Earth”
Best Foreign Language Feature
Trying to guess what the foreign language committee are thinking is usually a fool’s errand, so again, this is one of the trickier categories to call ahead of time. But the consensus is that Poland’s “Ida” has real potential to make an impact, and Russia’s surprise pick of the anti-Putin “Leviathan” will likely pay off with a nomination. Movies like South Korea’s “Haemoo,” France’s “Saint Laurent,” Hungary’s “White God,” Australia’s “Charlie’s Country” and Israel’s “Gett” all have potential, and in general, there are a lot of Cannes graduates in the hunt here, including Canada’s “Mommy,” Sweden’s “Force Majeure,” Argentina’s “Wild Tales,” Mauritiana’s “Timbuktu,” and Palme D’Or winner “Winter Sleep” from Turkey, not to mention the Dardennes with “Two Days, One Night.”
“Two Days, One Night” (Belgium)
“Wild Tales” (Argentina)
We’ll have more predictions soon for the Acting and Screenplay categories, Editing, Cinematography, Animated Feature and The Big One: Best Picture. And in the meantime, let us know your own predictions in the comments.