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Who Should Win & Who Will Win: Predicting The 2015 Oscars

Who Should Win & Who Will Win: Predicting The 2015 Oscars

Has this been the longest Oscar season ever? It certainly feels like it. The period spanning September through February in which campaigning is in full effect seems to take up more and more mental and physical real estate every year, but 2014 was particularly stretched out: two major contenders premiered last January at Sundance,  twelve months before another Best Picture nominee, “American Sniper,” opened wide in theaters to record-breaking box office returns. We’ve also had the earliest-opening Best Picture nominee in a decade in the shape of “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” as well as a contender that only opened on Christmas Day in “Selma.” Somehow, the Oscar year now lasts for fourteen months.

But that weirdly extended year is finally coming to an end as the 2015 Academy Awards ceremony arrives on Sunday. And that can only mean one thing: it’s time to hunker down and make our final predictions. We’ve been covering the awards race in depth for all this time, and it’s shifted wildly, from the assumed frontrunners being Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” and Angelina Jolie’s “Unbroken” to those films being mostly out of the race, and the two biggest hitters are now Richard Linklater’s unlikely decade-in-the-making passion project “Boyhood,” and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s bravura “Birdman or (The Unnecessary And Pretentious Subtitle).”

But there are still many, many more question marks to answer on Sunday night and a lot to play for. So below, we’ve run down every single category, and picked out who will win, who could win, the dark horses and who should win. Take a look, feel free to copy us for your own Oscar pools, and let us know your own predictions in the comments. And then we’ll see you back here on Sunday for the ceremony itself.

Best Documentary Short

“Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1”
“Our Curse”
“The Reaper”
“White Earth”

Will Win: I ran this category down in detail, as with the other shorts, last week, and though it’s a tight three-way race, my money’s on “Crisis Hotline,” a film that examines combat veterans and PTSD through the lens of a call center designed to help them, and thus lands a little closer to home with the right mix of feeling “important” a genuine heart.
Could Win: That said, it’s got stiff competition from two enormously powerful Polish films in “Joanna” and “Our Curse.” “Joanna” is the better made of the two, yet “Our Curse” might cut closer to the bone. I wouldn’t be surprised to see either take the prize.
Dark Horse: “White Earth,” if only for being the cheeriest of the five, “cheery” being a very, very relative term. But given how bleak the five are together, not lingering on death might be enough to give it the prize.
Should Win: “Joanna” was my favorite of the five, though all have their strengths.

Best Live-Action Short

“Boogaloo & Graham”
“Butter Lamp”
“The Phone Call”

Will Win: Anything can happen in this category, but there’s been a definite swing in recent years towards English-language films. But I think this year could be the exception, and Swiss film “Parvaneh,” about an Afghan immigrant befriending a teenage girl, seems like it potentially has the right stuff: while it’s well-made and entertaining, it feels a little more significant.
Could Win: It might only be my antipathy to the film itself that sees me ruling out “The Phone Call,” an English-language film starring Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins and (the voice of) Oscar-winner Jim Broadbent: it’s a glossy tear-jerker in the manner of recent winner “Curfew.” It’s likely neck-and-neck between that and “Parveneh.” 
Dark Horse: That said, don’t rule out Northern Irish charmer “Boogaloo & Graham,” which is very sweet and funny and took the BAFTA a week or two ago. It’s pretty rare for the Academy to line up with the Brits in this category, but this could definitely surprise.
Should Win:Butter Lamp,” a genuinely inventive and strange film that’s much too artsy to be victorious here; it’s the sort of film you’d be more likely to see at Rotterdam than in the Dolby Theater.

Best Animated Short

“The Bigger Picture”
“The Dam Keeper”
“Me & My Moulton”
“A Single Life”

Will Win: Everyone and their moms are predicting Disney to take the prize this year with “Feast,” and it’s not unthinkable, but given that two years ago the prize went to the company’s “Paperman,” the Disney/Pixar Goliath could be defeated by a little independent David. My money’s on the bittersweet “The Bigger Picture,” easily the best of the nominees, already a BAFTA winner and the most inventive and innovative possibility.
Could Win: That said, it could well be “Feast,” or “The Dam Keeper,” made by ex-Pixar employees and which melds Miyazaki-indebted tone to a gorgeous painterly style.
Dark Horse: Most would describe “The Bigger Picture” as the dark horse here, but given that I’m backing it for the win, I suppose that “Me & My Moulton” might fill that slot; it was my least favorite of the five, but director Torill Kove already has one Oscar under her belt, so she clearly knows what voters like.
Should Win: “The Bigger Picture.” Seriously, check it out, it’s great.

Best Sound Mixing

“American Sniper”
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance)”

Will Win: Agh, a surprisingly tough one in a category that’s usually easier to predict. Ruling out “Interstellar,” which was probably too controversial in its mix even among casual voters to take the prize, and “Unbroken,” because “Unbroken” isn’t going to win anything, you’re left with three Best Picture nominees (which the prize usually goes to). And my gut says “Whiplash,” just because it’s more musically-driven (and it’s the worthiest winner here).
Could Win: “American Sniper.” It’s pretty rare for an indie pic to triumph in this category, and the studio bangs of ‘Sniper’ are perhaps showier for the layman. There’s also likely to be a contingent that votes for ‘Sniper’ in everything, but conversely, there might be another segment that refuses to vote for it for anything, so that might balance its chances out.
Dark Horse:Birdman.” It’s not a film that immediately makes you think of its sound, but if it wins here, look for it to win everywhere (Keaton and Best Picture will probably follow).
Should Win: “Whiplash.” Exactly my tempo.

Best Sound Editing

“American Sniper”
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance)”
“The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies”

Will Win: Without “Whiplash” to compete with, this becomes the category for “American Sniper” to lose. Even more so than the other sound category, this favors action movies (see “Skyfall” and “Zero Dark Thirty” sharing the prize two years ago).
Could Win: I’m pretty confident in that first choice pick, but “Birdman” is the closest competition. “Unbroken” and “The Hobbit” aren’t winning, and the sound mix for “Interstellar” came in for very public criticism.
Dark Horse: That said, voters tend to pick the winner of this category without thinking too carefully, and if they remember the loudest movie, maybe it could be “Interstellar.”
Should Win: I’m tempted to go for a pass, but the work in “Birdman” is smart and subtle, so that gets my pick.

Best Visual Effects

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”
“Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes”
“Guardians Of The Galaxy”
“X-Men: Days Of Future Past”

Will Win: This is a battle of Christopher Nolan vs. Caesar, and the former likely takes the prize. Nolan’s got a history in this category, and the tactility and old-school wizardry of “Interstellar” is appreciated by most.
Could Win: That said, after the first film in the rebooted franchise was inexplicably robbed by “Hugo,” WETA have a very good chance with “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes.”  The work might not be quite as groundbreaking this time around, but it’s still stunning and the film’s well-liked too.
Dark Horse: Only two comic book movies have ever won in this category (the original “Superman” and “Spider-Man 2”), but if there’s a third from a lineup heavy on Marvel movies, it’ll be “Guardians Of The Galaxy,” which has strong character animation work mixed with the whiz-bang.
Should Win: Everything here’s worthy, but I’d probably just stick with “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes,” which gets closer and closer to photorealism with every movie.

Best Make-Up And Hairstyling

“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
“Guardians Of The Galaxy”

Will Win: Always the home of some of the weirder nominees, yet voters tend to go with a Best Picture nominee when they have the option (“Dallas Buyers Club,” “Les Miserables,” “Benjamin Button” —1997 was the last time a non-nominated film beat a Best Picture contender), so I suspect that “Grand Budapest Hotel” and its aging of Tilda Swinton takes the prize.
Could Win: That said, “Foxcatcher” is close to being a Best Picture contender (after all, it picked up a Best Director nod), and the transformation of its actors is startling, though has its critics too (“The Hours,” another recent famous prosthetic-nose-aided performance, wasn’t even nominated).
Dark Horse: “Guardians Of The Galaxy” certainly shouldn’t be counted out. If weird creatures are a boon anywhere, it’s in this category, though the film might have problems in getting voters to distinguish between the CGI and practical characters in a way that, say, “The Wolfman” or “Pan’s Labyrinth” or even “Star Trek” didn’t.

Best Original Song

“Lost Stars” – “Begin Again”
“Grateful” – “Beyond The Lights”
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” – Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me
“Everything Is Awesome” – “The Lego Movie”
“Glory” – “Selma”

Will Win: Consolation prize time. “Selma” has only two nods, and there’s a general consensus that it’s likely to win here (the category it took at the Golden Globes) to make up for its lack of support elsewhere. That the song (paired with the corny end credits) is one of the few missteps in an otherwise fantastic film feels like some kind of ironic punishment.
Could Win: The subject of the little-seen Glen Campbell doc has now reached the end of a long career, meaning that “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” is likely to be the last thing he ever records. That’s the kind of tear-jerking narrative that could see an upset over “Selma” here.
Dark Horse: John Carney’s “Once” picked up in this category, and the song from “Begin Again” shouldn’t be dismissed: it’s performed in the movie itself (tick), by a movie star (tick), and it’s a pretty decent tune, penned by reclusive New Radicals frontman Gregg Alexander (tick).
Should Win: “Everything Is Awesome,” if only because the performance of the earworm is my most anticipated element of Sunday’s show, mainly because of how much I’m looking forward to baffled/angry reaction shots from Robert Duvall when it happens.

Best Original Score

Alexandre Desplat – “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Alexandre Desplat – “The Imitation Game”
Hans Zimmer – “Interstellar” 

Gary Yershon – “Mr. Turner”
Johann Johansson – “The Theory Of Everything”

Will Win: This’ll be tight, but I think relative newcomer Johann Johansson will emerge victorious. His Golden Globe-winning score is the most memorable and distinctive part of James Marsh’s “The Theory Of Everything,” and is a crucial element of the film’s emotional effectiveness.
Could Win: Alexandre Desplat is a real threat (and before you ask, his votes aren’t likely to cancel each other out: voters only get the name of the movie on the ballot, not the composer). “The Grand Budapest Hotel” won the BAFTA, and is the stronger possibility —it’ll undoubtedly have a lot of fans in the Academy.
Dark Horse: Desplat could also sneak in for his less memorable “The Imitation Game” score, but don’t rule out Hans Zimmer either. The organ-tastic “Interstellar” score was loud, thematic and crucial to the movie, so he could pull off an upset.
Should Win: “The Theory Of Everything” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” are both terrific scores, but “Interstellar” is the one I find myself returning to more often.

Best Production Design

“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
“The Imitation Game”
“Into The Woods”
“Mr. Turner”

Will Win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Amazingly, none of Wes Anderson’s immaculately designed films have ever won (or even been nominated before), so this should take it in a walk, especially with relatively thin competition.
Could Win: “Interstellar” is probably the closest competition, but as with make-up, voters can be wary of voting for sci-fi films because they’re never quite sure what’s CGI and what isn’t (the answer: it’s mostly real, but even if it wasn’t, someone still has to design it, guys).
Dark Horse: “Into The Woods” —musicals are popular winners in this category, and a fairy-tale themed one is certainly a threat. That said, Rob Marshall made the film look like it was almost entirely shot on the same twig-filled backlot from slightly different angles, so I can’t seriously see it winning.
Should Win: “Grand Budapest Hotel,” obvs.

Best Costume Design

“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
“Inherent Vice”
“Into The Woods”
“Mr. Turner”

Will Win: This and production design often go together, and I suspect that’ll be the case here, if only because it’s quite hard to imagine anything else taking it. So “Grand Budapest Hotel” takes another, which it deserves.
Could Win: Of the two fairy-tale pictures, “Into The Woods” seems the mostly likely: Colleen Atwood is a legend in her field, the film’s at least better dressed than it’s set-designed, and musicals tend to do well in this category. It’s still a longer shot.
Dark Horse: “Maleficent.” Sure, this film and Oscars don’t seem like a match made in heaven, but Angelina’s outfits alone are pretty spectacular, and don’t forget that the similarly gaudy “Alice In Wonderland” won a few years ago. “Grand Budapest Hotel” looks pretty unbeatable, though: Disney will have to wait for “Cinderella” in 2016 to reclaim this prize.
Should Win: “Grand Budapest Hotel” —Wes World’s costumes aren’t as attention-grabbing as the sets, but they’re still a crucial part of the web he weaves.

Best Animated Feature

“Big Hero 6”
“The Boxtrolls”
“How To Train Your Dragon 2”
“Song Of The Sea”
“The Tale Of Princess Kaguya”

Will Win: “How To Train Your Dragon 2” looks likely to make up for a rough few years for Dreamworks Animation (and the original film’s defeat by “Toy Story 3”) by taking the prize here. It’s the right mix of art and commerce, not as nakedly commercial as “Big Hero 6” or as esoteric as “Boxtrolls,” and though it’s not as good as the first film, it’s a perfectly worthy winner.
Could Win: Laika have done some consistently good work and received three nominations for three films without a win so far, but “The Boxtrolls” might be their best bet. Focus have run a smart campaign focusing on the film being “lovingly handcrafted,” which voters could respond to if sequel fatigue turns them away from ‘Dragon.’
Dark Horse: “Big Hero 6” shouldn’t be counted out, but it’s everyone’s second favorite animated film of the year, so I’d be surprised to see it victorious. “The Tale Of Princess Kaguya” could in theory win some love as the most painterly film here and as a final hurrah from Studio Ghibli, but it’s unlikely the general Academy membership will be that aware of it, or that GKIDS’ campaigning dollars were able to compete with their bigger competitors.
Should Win: Assuming there’s not chance of a write-in vote for “The Lego Movie,” I pick  ‘Princess Kaguya,’ a firmly grown-up fable which stands head and shoulders above the rather middling other movies in contention. 

Best Documentary Feature

“Finding Vivian Maier”
“Last Days In Vietnam”
“The Salt Of The Earth”

Will Win: Absolutely, 100% “Citizenfour,” which has won virtually every award it was nominated for in the run-up and got enough steam that some were suggesting it could even crack the Best Picture field. It’s a genuinely important film that happens to be brillliantly and grippingly made, and anything else taking it would be one of the biggest shocks of the night.
Could Win: That said, “Finding Vivian Maier” is beloved, and fits more neatly with the Academy demographic. If anything was going to upset Laura Poitras’ film, it’d be this one.
Dark Horse: Netflix have fought hard and fought smart for “Virunga,” and with the star backing of Leonardo DiCaprio, it shouldn’t be totally counted out.
Should Win: All five of these films are excellent: this is one of the best lineups I can remember in the category. ‘Vivian Maier’ is especially terrific, and I should give special mention to “Last Days In Vietnam,” which doesn’t stand much chance of winning but is excellent nevertheless.

Best Foreign-Language Feature

“Wild Tales”

Will Win: Most likely “Ida,” which has a ton of acclaim, the lion’s share of precursor awards, and most crucially, a nomination in another category (Cinematography, and deservedly so). It’s a gorgeous, brilliant film, one that would (and almost certainly will) number among the better winners in this category in recent years.
Could Win: But it’s got serious competition in the shape of “Leviathan,” which has heftier backing via Sony Pictures Classics and arguably more heft in general. If the vote was being held nine months ago, when the film premiered at Cannes and Vladimir Putin was public enemy number one, this might have won. As of now, it’s still the biggest threat to “Ida.”
Dark Horse: “Wild Tales” —what it lacks in not being about the Holocaust or Putin’s Russia, it makes up for in being crackingly made and hugely entertaining. It’s by some distance the biggest crowd pleaser here and is a serious contender to upset.
Should Win: Another category in which all the nominees are very good (“Tangerines” slightly less so, but it’s still worthwhile), and “Ida” and “Leviathan” are legitimately great. Those films received plenty of attention, so I’d love for the astonishing and very timely “Timbuktu” to take the prize.

Best Film Editing

“American Sniper”
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
“The Imitation Game”

Will Win: This is one of the tougher categories to call, in light of the turmoil caused by the absence of “Birdman,” but I’m (just) gonna call this for “Whiplash,” the most self-evidently and thrillingly edited of the nominees. The film has the BAFTA win in this category, which might be a good indicator.
Could Win: “Boyhood,” which took the top ACE award (editor’s guild, essentially), and was obviously carefully assembled from reams of footage over more than a decade. Many if not most are predicting this film to win, and this is certainly one of the tightest races of the year.
Dark Horse: Particularly given that the action-heavy “American Sniper” and the finely wrought comic timing of “Grand Budapest Hotel” are just behind: the genre of the former can sometimes swing it, the latter also took an ACE award.
Should Win: Again, a tough one, but I’d just lean towards “Whiplash.”

Best Cinematography

Emmanuel Lubezki – “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance”)
Robert Yeoman – “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski – “Ida”
Dick Pope – “Mr. Turner”
Roger Deakins – “Unbroken”

Will Win: It took years of snubs and near-misses to happen, but only a year after he finally won the trophy for “Gravity,” he’s a lock to be back on the stage again: anything other than a victory for Emmanuel Lubezki and the bravura “Birdman” would be a stunner.
Could Win: If there’s anything that might upset, it’s probably “Ida,” which is eye-meltingly composed, but the film’s much less widely seen than the competition and is in black-and-white: it’d be the first winner to be so since “Schindler’s List.” Plus it’s not all (seemingly) in one take.
Dark Horse: “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is one of the more viable threats should there be a sudden backlash to Lubezki for some strange reason (perhaps if there’s a feeling that he had already awarded last year). Robert Yeoman is overdue recognition for his collaboration with Wes Anderson, and the film’s obviously beautiful. But my suspicion is that voters will feel that awarding the production and costume design is enough, unless ‘Grand Budapest’ is a much stronger force than anticipated.
Should Win: Definitely “Ida.”

Best Adapted Screenplay

Jason Hall – “American Sniper”
Graham Moore – “The Imitation Game”
Paul Thomas Anderson – “Inherent Vice”
Anthony McCarten – “The Theory Of Everything”
Damien Chazelle – “Whiplash”

Will Win: This is one of the tighter races this year (both screenplay awards gratifyingly are), and it’s complicated significantly by the Academy having differed from every other awards body and placing “Whiplash” in Adapted, rather than Original (quickly, one last time: Damien Chazelle’s film was preceded by his Sundance-winning short of the same name, but it was made from a complete scene of the already completed feature screenplay). It likely wouldn’t have won in the other category, but with the two Brit biopics arguably splitting the vote from a similar constituency, it makes sense that Chazelle could end up with the trophy.
Could Win: But “The Imitation Game” is a WGA winner (though it wasn’t competing against either ‘Whiplash’ or ‘Theory’), and more importantly this is the film’s most realistic chance. This category often ends up being a place where voters can reward a movie they love (and with eight nods, they love “The Imitation Game”), but not quite enough to give any other awards to.
Dark Horse:The Theory Of Everything.” Anthony McCarten’s script won the BAFTA in this category here (though again, without “Whiplash” to compete with). Obviously, it appeals particularly to the British vote, but could it pull off a repeat here? The film wasn’t WGA-eligible, so “Imitation Game”’s victory there isn’t necessarily an indication of anything. This is definitely a three-way race. 
Should Win: Wrangling Thomas Pynchon into (semi-) comprehensible form is no mean feat, and to do so in the form of a film as woozily sad and eerily funny as “Inherent Vice” is an even less mean one.

Best Original Screenplay

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris Jr, Armando Bo – “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Richard Linklater – “Boyhood”
E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman – “Foxcatcher”
Wes Anderson, Hugo Guinness – “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Dan Gilroy – “Nightcrawler”

Will Win: Goddammit, this is another really hard one, with two Best Picture frontrunners in the mix. That said, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” took both the WGA and BAFTA prizes in the last few weeks, and there’s a sense that Wes Anderson is due an Oscar at this point, particularly with ‘Grand Budapest’ being his most successful and widely acclaimed film ever. Looking at the recent history of this category (Woody Allen, Quentin Tarantino, Spike Jonze), he’s the one that fits.
Could Win: Yet “Birdman” won the Golden Globe and crucially wasn’t eligible for a WGA nod, so it’s hard to say if it might have beaten it. Unlike “Gravity,” it’s also a writerly film with literary allusions and sharp dialogue (well, sometimes…). It wouldn’t be remotely surprising to see it win.
Dark Horse: Or there’s “Boyhood,” an undeniably monumental achievement. The writing’s more invisible than the other nominees, which is probably why I’d place it in third, but Linklater’s definitely a contender. Would a win for the film suggest that Best Picture was heading its way too? Or would it be a consolation prize?
Should Win: A strong line-up, but I’d love to see some recognition for “Nightcrawler,” a bold and original screenplay that’s the sort of film that frankly doesn’t get made that often anymore.

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”

Will Win: J.K. Simmons, who’s won EVERYTHING in the run-up, and as a veteran hard-working character actor type finally in the limelight in a movie that people love, with a killer, career-defining role, there’s too much in the ledger to suggest anything else. His name’s already carved on the statue.
Could Win: Edward Norton. Sure, he’s playing Edward Norton, but he’s doing it really well, and after a few years in the semi-wilderness (his Wes Anderson collaborations aside), it was a great reminder of his immense talent.
Dark Horse: I can’t emphasize enough that Simmons will win this. Ethan Hawke’s likely getting the figurative bronze here, but I suppose that the best reason for an upset would be a career-achievement vote for Robert Duvall, the oldest ever male acting nominee. In a movie even slightly better than “The Judge,” he might have actually had a shot.
Should Win: I was delighted to see Mark Ruffalo’s subtle, understated “Foxcatcher” work nominated, but who am I kidding? J.K. Simmons.

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”

Will Win: Even more so than with the supporting dudes, this is locked firmly up: Patricia Arquette takes it for “Boyhood.” Anyone telling you anything else is essentially certifiable.
Could Win: No one except Arquette. My guess is that Emma Stone gets the second biggest amount of votes behind her, but by a large margin.
Dark Horse: There are no dark horses, unless voters are so used to ticking next to Meryl Streep’s name, or if Jared Leto reads out the wrong name.
Should Win: There aren’t a lot of performances I truly love here, so Arquette again. 

Best Actor

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”

Will Win: All the tea-leaves are pointing towards Eddie Redmayne, who took the Golden Globe, BAFTA and SAG prizes. He might be a relatively new face to Oscar voters, but the old playing-disability card is always a huge boon, and Redmayne’s turn is technically impeccable, plus he’s been charming on the circuit. And stop talking about “Jupiter Ascending” and “Norbit,” because it’s not on the Academy’s radar.
Could Win: That said, Redmayne doesn’t have this locked up: “Birdman” is a better-liked film, and Michael Keaton’s a more obviously appealing narrative —veteran star returning from the wilderness with a self-referential performance and dominates the movie in the process. Redmayne has the precursors, but this wouldn’t be the first time there was a turnaround at the last minute, especially with the sense that he’s only getting started (if more people knew he was playing a transgender character in a Tom Hooper movie that’ll be out next Oscar season, that could have swung it in favor of Keaton).
Dark Horse: Don’t rule out Bradley Cooper either. He wasn’t up against Redmayne at BAFTA, at Golden Globe or at the SAGs, and most of those nominations were done before “American Sniper” exploded into such a phenomenon. With three nominations in a row, Cooper feels increasingly due, and though he’s still an outside bet, he’s the wild card that could cause a real upset.
Should Win: Steve Carell’s transformative, career-changing performance in “Foxcatcher” is definitely my favorite of the five here, though is the least likely to win. Ain’t that always the way?

Best Actress

Marion Cotillard – “Two Days, One Night”
Felicity Jones – “The Theory Of Everything”
Julianne Moore – “Still Alice”
Rosamund Pike – “Gone Girl”
Reese Witherspoon – “Wild”

Will Win: As with the supporting categories, the precursor awards have gone entirely one way, and that’s with Julianne Moore. The actress has never won despite multiple nominations, she had a great year (also taking Best Actress at Cannes for “Maps To The Stars”) and plays a woman with early onset Alzheimers. Producers of her upcoming movies have probably already tagged ‘Academy Award Winner’ onto her name in preparation.
Could Win: It’s hard to imagine anyone else upsetting the apple cart here, but it might be Reese Witherspoon: the actress was put back on track by “Wild,” she also had a good year producing “Gone Girl” and appearing in “Inherent Vice,” and her very good performance was seen as the frontrunner until “Still Alice” arrived.
Dark Horse: Not sure there is one, but maybe Felicity Jones? People adore her in the film (even if the part’s wildly underwritten), and there might be a temptation to reward her as much as Redmayne. Not a very big temptation, though.
Should Win: 100% Marion Cotillard, who’s the best she’s ever been in the Dardennes’ film. The film’s too small to stop the Julianne Moore juggernaut, but I was delighted it was nominated anyway.

Best Director

Wes Anderson – “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu – “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance)”
Richard Linklater – “Boyhood”
Bennett Miller – “Foxcatcher”
Morten Tyldum – “The Imitation Game”

Will Win: It’ll go right down to the wire and prognosticators are split right down the middle, but I’m gonna go with Inarritu and “Birdman” here. Firstly, the film, like “Gravity” last year, is more of an obvious showcase for a director than “Boyhood.” And secondly, Inarritu took the DGA prize, and the only time that hasn’t matched up with the Oscar since 2002 was when Ben Affleck wasn’t Oscar nominated, while BAFTA are (slightlier) spottier in their  match-ups.
Could Win: But this outcome is on a knife-edge, and Richard Linklater could easily be the winner: he’s better-liked, an indie veteran come good, and oh, spent twelve years making his magnum opus. The film’s direction is mostly invisible, which doesn’t help, but if voters like the movie enough, it won’t matter.
Dark Horse: It’s hard to imagine neither Linklater or Inarritu taking it, but I suppose Wes Anderson’s the greatest threat beyond them: again, he’s a beloved director finally making good with the Academy, and his film is with “Birdman,” the most nominated.
Should Win: Morten Tyldum. JK! Lots of fine work here, but I’d love for Bennett Miller to be recognized with a win, given his stellar work not just on “Foxcatcher,” but on his two previous movies as well.

Best Picture

“American Sniper”
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance)”

“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
“The Imitation Game”
“The Theory Of Everything”


Will Win: Again, it’s super close, even more so than last year, but I think “Birdman” takes it in the end. The film swept the guilds; like “Argo” and “The Artist,” it reflects a mirror on Hollywood in many ways; and it has across the board support, with both technical and acting nominations, in a way that its biggest rival doesn’t. Much of the same could have been said of “Gravity,” but that was a genre film (still mostly a dirty word with the Academy) in a way that “Birdman” wasn’t. Oh, and it’s had bigger campaigning dollars behind it too.
Could Win: But “Boyhood” is a historic film, perhaps more immediately emotional than “Birdman” and beautifully made. And it did beat “Birdman” to the BAFTA, and the Academy has matched up with the Brits every year since 2008 (when “Atonement” took the golden mask, but “No Country For Old Men” won the Oscar). That said, the last film to take DGA, PGA and SAG without winning the Oscar was “Apollo 13,” and while stats are made to be broken, that just edges “Birdman” ahead.
Dark Horse: Again, it’d be a shock to see anything but “Birdman” or “Boyhood” win, but there are still other potentials. The record-breaking box-office of “American Sniper” (which has now grossed more in the U.S. than all the other movies combined) is nothing to be sniffed at, and the film’s been most in the memory during the voting process. “The Imitation Game” is well-liked as well, and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” had a ton of nominations as well.
Should Win: I’d be delighted with wins for ‘Budapest’ or “Whiplash,” but “Selma” would make me happiest of all, partly as a way of sticking two fingers up at the Academy voters who snubbed it elsewhere.

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