Oscar Nominee Predictions

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The real fun of the Oscar derby is right now…selecting the nominees.  Often, the winners have been de facto for weeks before the big ceremony in late February; such is the case this year.  Unless the continental plates shift at the same time, Michael Keaton, Julianne Moore, J.K. Simmons, and Patricia Arquette will all leave the Dolby with gold. 

The bigger question is who is going to be nominated tomorrow morning.  Some of the actors are shoo-ins, others are long-shots, but there is always at least one surprise.  Guessing which surprise has become one of the best parts of the whole shindig.  The witching hour is upon us, folks, so let’s take a look at the four acting categories and see who is likely to hear their name called on January 15.

Even a few weeks ago, most of the acting categories seemed to have 4 of the 5 nominees set to go.  Recent shifts in momentum – thanks largely to the BAFTA nominations (Britain’s Oscar equivalent) and the Golden Globes – have sent some of those sure-things sailing off into treacherous waters.  Now, with the exception of Best Lead Actress, there are only 3 go-to’s per category, so anything is possible.

Best Lead Actor:

Benedict Cumberbatch in “The Imitation Game,” Michael Keaton in “Birdman,” and Eddie Redmayne in “The Theory of Everything” are in.  David Oyelowo in “Selma” seems to be hanging on, and “Nightcrawler” has gained some serious steam, a good sign for likely fifth nominee Jake Gyllenhaal.  Steve Carell’s performance in “Foxcatcher” is certainly Oscar-worthy, but the category is simply too ferociously stacked this year; if he is considered a Lead Actor, he’s out.  If he is moved to Best Supporting Actor (as the BAFTAs did with his performance), he has a possibility of showing up there…but we’ll handle that in a minute.

My Final Guesses

Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Imitation Game"

Jake Gyllenhaal, “Nightcrawler”

Michael Keaton, “Birdman”

David Oyelowo, “Selma”

Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything”

 

Best Lead Actress:

The four actresses who have monopolized the discussions in this category remain unchanged: Felicity Jones (“The Theory of Everything”); Julianne Moore (“Still Alice”); Rosamund Pike (“Gone Girl”); and Reese Witherspoon (“Wild”).  It has always been that fifth slot that has been the point of focus.  And there are three main competitors for it: Amy Adams, fresh off a Golden Globe win for “Big Eyes,” Marion Cotillard, wonderful in “Two Days, One Night,” and Jennifer Aniston, looking at her first real shot with “Cake.”  Even though the Globes gave Adams a surge, I think Aniston will still pull it off.  Cotillard, winner for “La Vie en Rose” seven or so years ago, is more of a critics’ darling this year, so I don’t see her making the grade.  Is it possible that one of the seemingly solid first four will drop out, making room for, say, BOTH Aniston and Adams?  No.  Regardless, it’s ultimately a game of Who Gets to Be the Bridesmaid, because, come February 22, every one of them will smile, applaud, and watch Julianne Moore collect her overdue first Oscar.

My Final Guesses

Jennifer Aniston, “Cake”

Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything”

Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”

Rosamund Pike, “Gone Girl”

Reese Witherspoon, “Wild”

 

Best Supporting Actor

And then there were three: Ethan Hawke (“Boyhood”), Edward Norton (“Birdman”), and J.K. Simmons (“Whiplash”) are locked in tight.  Mark Ruffalo (“Foxcatcher”) was a fourth gimme until recently when his castmate Steve Carell was “demoted” to Supporting by the BAFTAs and came away with a nomination.  He didn’t knock Ruffalo out, but he could in OscarLand; further, they could split votes and both be knocked out by Robert Duvall (“The Judge”) and Josh Brolin (“Inherent Vice”).  It is more likely that both will be in then that both will be out.  If only one makes it, I still go with Ruffalo; I’m worried that Carell may get caught between Lead and Supporting and wind up nowhere.  But I don’t sense a lot of support for Duvall and, though Brolin has gotten terrific reviews, his film doesn’t seem to be showing up on much critical radar.  Still, it is in these Supporting categories where surprises most often rear their heads (Jonah Hill, Jacki Weaver) and I smell something for Slot #5.  Sometimes, we look for surprises when there really are none, but I’m thinking the “Nightcrawler” surge may fill a vulnerable spot.

My Final Guesses

Riz Ahmed, “Nightcrawler”

Ethan Hawke, “Boyhood”

Edward Norton, “Birdman”

Mark Ruffalo, “Foxcatcher”

J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”

 

Best Supporting Actress

Again, there were 4 performances which, up until very recently, looked like shoo-ins: Patricia Arquette (“Boyhood”); Emma Stone (“Birdman”); Keira Knightley (“The Imitation Game”); Meryl Streep (“Into the Woods”).  The first three seem nice and snug in their Oscar beds, but it may be Streep who loses out this year.  The danger with expecting surprises is that the lack of a surprise becomes a surprise itself.  Such may be the case here and Streep winds up getting in.  Still, two names keep circling in my brain: Rene Russo and Jessica Chastain.  I think Russo will get in regardless; her terrific performance is one reason for the “Nightcrawler” surge.  Plus, she just got her some BAFTA love.  Chastain has snagged Oscar notice two of the past three years and a third nom is not out of the question.  Plus, it would be a way to shower a well-regarded film with some praise.  Since “Into the Woods” will get notice in some of the technical categories, no one will weep if the category is Streepless.  So, even though it’s hard to deny the best there is a spot in the final five, I’m calling August: Osage Karma and telling Meryl she will have to wait a bit more for #19…maybe.

My Final Guesses

Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”

Jessica Chastain, “A Most Violent Year”

Keira Knightley, “The Imitation Game”

Rene Russo, “Nightcrawler”

Emma Stone, “Birdman”

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