** LITO’S ANNUAL OSCAR NOMINATION PREDICTIONS **
Here are my official Oscar predictions for all the most of the major categories. Nominees will be announced tomorrow at 5:30 AM (PST).
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
PATRICIA ARQUETTE in BOYHOOD
FOR HER: The only real “lock” in this race so far. Her role as a relatable and believable single mother has been winning raves since the film opened and with a slew of critics’ awards, and the Golden Globe under her belt and nods from BFCA, SAG and BAFTA. She’s a done deal.
AGAINST HER: *crickets*
JESSICA CHASTAIN in A MOST VIOLENT YEAR
FOR HER: She’s a respected Academy darling with two prior nominations and many feeling she’s one of the best actresses of her generation. Her body of work this year alone was impressive. Here, her fierce turn as a criminal’s wife has been earning her glowing reviews and a Globe and BFCA nod.
AGAINST HER: The film itself has been pretty much ignored by most critics’ groups and all the major industry guild awards which shows lack of support for the film… or was it just released too late? Also, her missing the SAG nomination was not the best thing.
RENE RUSSO in NIGHTCRAWLER
FOR HER: My ballsy call of this category comes from a very solid performance from an actress we haven’t seen in full form in quite some time. Russo’s ambitious television director was a memorable standout from Nightcrawler. The film itself has been gaining a lot of traction from not only critics, but also from the industry guilds which could make her a surprise nominee on Oscar morning.
AGAINST HER: Apart from a BAFTA nod, she’s missed out on BFCA, GG, and SAG nods. All of which are critical to be taken seriously as a contender.
EMMA STONE in BIRDMAN
FOR HER: Hers was a standout turn in a critically lauded film. She’s been doing good work for years and this may be her time to score her first Oscar nod. She deftly held her own opposite Michael Keaton and Edward Norton. It seems right. All the guilds and critics groups concur.
AGAINST HER: She could potentially be edged out if they feel she hasn’t paid her dues or they want to make room for a performance with more screen time.
STATUS: VERY GOOD
MERYL STREEP in INTO THE WOODS
FOR HER: Her royal Oscar majesty, Queen Meryl I has outdone herself again… (anyone surprised) for her rich and wickedly fun turn as the Witch in Into the Woods. She disappears so gleefully into a role that could have been plum with phony caricature and provides depth and gravitas to it. She has mentions from all the major places considering said places were lukewarm to the film at best.
AGAINST HER: Well, this would be her 19th nomination. Some people may want her to sit it out. Possible backlash on the film could also cause her to miss the nomination.
STATUS: VERY GOOD
WATCH OUT FOR: KEIRA KNIGHTLEY in THE IMITATION GAME
POSSIBLE SPOILERS: Laura Dern (Wild), Tilda Swinton (Snowpiercer), Carmen Ejogo (Selma)
LOWDOWN: Some may think I’m crazy, but I’m predicting that Keira Knightley sits this one out despite her appearing on every awards circuit so far. This category is aching for a surprise and I think if anyone will be eked out; it will be her despite how much traction her film is getting. Arquette looks to lead the way. Chastain is also vulnerable. Two surprise nominees could even happen.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
ROBERT DUVALL in THE JUDGE
FOR HIM: One of the industry’s most respected veterans could get his first nomination in 16 years after just turning 84. He also turned in a respectable performance in a film that apart from his contribution, pretty much tanked. He has gotten the necessary notices from BFCA, GG, and SAG. An Oscar nod seems almost to be almost inevitable. A rather weak race in this category also bodes well for his chances.
AGAINST HIM: Lukewarm to negative response for the film itself makes him the most likely candidate to be snubbed.
ETHAN HAWKE in BOYHOOD
FOR HIM: As the relatable and lovable divorced father in Boyhood, Hawke gets to shine like he hasn’t in quite a while. His frequent teaming with director Richard Linklater continue to pay off in this rich turn which feels so left-field and effortless. He has been mentioned by all the necessary groups and appears in a Best Picture frontrunner.
AGAINST HIM: Not much, really. He’s probably safe as a filler nominee, but there is a rare off chance that he could be eked out by a last minute contender.
EDWARD NORTON in BIRDMAN
FOR HIM: A respected actor with two previous nominations in the 90’s returns with a bang for his turn as a vain, arrogant stage actor opposite Michael Keaton. He knocked it out of the park and has been winning citations from some critics’ groups as well as all the needed precursor mentions. His time for a third nomination is nigh. Extra points for tackling a role that some deemed a facet of his persona and committing to the role with gusto and humor.
AGAINST HIM: Nothing really, unless voters think the role wasn’t much of a challenge for him. But, yeah… that’s not gonna happen.
MARK RUFFALO in FOXCATCHER
FOR HIM: As the film’s most sympathetic character, Ruffalo has been cited by many as Foxcatcher’s standout performance. Even the film’s detractors cede Ruffalo’s turns as Channing Tatum’s protective older brother triumphant. A previous nominee, Ruffalo continues to bloom as a seasoned industry professional whose transformative work here will likely be noticed. He has all the needed precursor mentions even while his leading counterparts have been ignored here and there.
AGAINST HIM: Foxcatcher wasn’t a film for everyone and could be turned off by the film’s more grim elements. Also, Ruffalo’s surprisingly soft-hearted turn is so quietly effective in its subtlety that voters who like their supporting actors to be more “showy” could potentially skip him on the ballot.
STATUS: VERY GOOD
J.K. SIMMONS in WHIPLASH
FOR HIM: The frontrunner for this prize ever since his film opened. His turn as the terrifying jazz instructor from Hell is easily a career best for the veteran actor. He has been winning almost every critics’ group award in sight, has all the precursor notices as well as coveting the Golden Globe. It feel like a done deal.
AGAINST HIM: …
WATCH OUT FOR: JOSH BROLIN in INHERENT VICE
POSSIBLE SPOILERS: Tom Wilkinson (Selma), Christoph Waltz (Big Eyes), Miyavi (Unbroken), Steve Carell (Foxcatcher)… he could technically get bumped here. BAFTA cited him as supporting!
LOWDOWN: The same five men have been appearing on almost every major awards group list including BFCA, GG, and SAG. BFCA has six nominees and included Josh Brolin. This is an indication that the race is somewhat slim. Nothing should stop J.K. Simmon’s march to the finish line. If Brolin makes it in, it will be a surprise, but if anyone else made it in, my jaw would drop. Expect the routine to follow in this category however.
JENNIFER ANISTON in CAKE
FOR HER: Her gutsy turn in a dramatic performance playing a woman obsessed over a woman’s suicide has been winning her rave reviews indicating that as an actress, she’s come into fine form. No longer just a glamorous sitcom and rom-com idol, this looks like the time for Aniston to graduate to A-list actor. Despite her film being a little-seen indie from a new film company, she has managed to rack up nods from BFCA, GG, and SAG. All fantastic news for her.
AGAINST HER: The film hasn’t been widely seen and apart from a few performances in the film, Cake itself hasn’t got stellar notices. Some may feel she’s not yet paid her dues as a “serious actress” to warrant an Oscar nod. Despite all the backing she has for this to happen, I still think it could all go either way. Perhaps it’s too good to be true.
FELICITY JONES in THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
FOR HER: A classically strong Oscar role (the supportive wife) of a disabled genius has nomination written all over it. But Jones admittedly transcends above the role trappings and makes the most of it. Support for the film has stayed strong since its November opening. Since her co-star and likely nominee Eddie Redmayne is almost assured a nomination, she’ll likely follow suit.
AGAINST HER: Many may argue that truly this supportive wife role is a supporting performance. After all, nominations like Jennifer Connelly in A Beautiful Mind, Laura Linney in Kinsey, Joan Allen in Nixon and Sophie Okonedo in Hotel Rwanda all fell into supporting. This could be construed as category fraud since it was a weak year. Some may also feel there are stronger turns to honor.
STATUS: VERY GOOD
JULIANNE MOORE in STILL ALICE
FOR HER: A four-time nominated actress who many believe is beyond overdue for a win, Ms. Moore’s raved about performance as a professor plagued with the early onset of Alzheimer’s has her pegged as the frontrunner. Her devastating turn has racked her up with numerous critics’ awards as well as the Golden Globe (Drama). A nomination should be in the bag.
AGAINST HER: For the nomination, nothing feels objectionable here. The film itself has been little seen and kept under the radar until its wide release, but that likely won’t matter here.
ROSAMUND PIKE in GONE GIRL
FOR HER: As the star of the category’s one true megahit, Pike’s icy turn as the titular character Amy Dunne has been whispered about for awards attention since the film opened in October. Since then, the Gone Girl star has racked up mentions from all the major awards groups and her film is a serious contender for a Best Picture nominee.
AGAINST HER: The film and the role itself are not classically Oscar-friendly. Some might think rewarding the film with Best Picture nomination or any other awards it might be nominated for is enough.
REESE WITHERSPOON in WILD
FOR HER: Nine years after winning in this category for Walk the Line, Witherspoon returns to the Oscar race in what many consider her best performance since as real-life Cheryl Strayed in Wild. Known for her success in romantic comedies, this turn as a woman going on a spiritual journey by hiking 1,100 miles, has found her on the nominees list of all of the major awards groups. An Oscar nod seems imminent.
AGAINST HER: Apart from her performance and perhaps the screenplay, the film isn’t gaining traction elsewhere. Some may want to give this spot to a more out of left field contender.
WATCH OUT FOR: AMY ADAMS in BIG EYES
OTHER POSSIBLES: Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night), Hilary Swank (The Homesman)
THE LOWDOWN: Four women: Moore, Witherspoon, Pike, and Jones seem like nearly perfect safe bets. There is a fifth slot up for grabs. Aniston seems the most sensible of choices. However, the Weinsteins are pushing Amy Adams hard for Big Eyes. She’s a loved Oscar darling with five previous nods playing a real-life artist. She won the Globe (Mus/Com) and has a BAFTA nod. Marion Cotillard has won raves and racked up critics prizes and has a BFCA nod. But Aniston will probably prevail in the end. Be prepared for a surprise though.
BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH in THE IMITATION GAME
FOR HIM: As Alan Turing, the mathematician who worked tirelessly to invent the machine that would crack the Enigma code, Cumberbatch disappears into the role with grace, passion, and excellence. No one is surprised. He’s missed out on nominations in the past and this is the perfect opportunity to score him his first nomination. He has all the necessary precursor support as well as being in a Best Picture hopeful. With the Weinsteins pushing him, it should be an easy sell.
AGAINST HIM: He hasn’t actually been winning any precursor awards. Some may have qualms with the portrayal of the character (from a narrative perspective). But, what counts against himself is virtually nil.
JAKE GYLLENHAAL in NIGHTCRAWLER
FOR HIM: A terrifically transformative and under the skin turn by this previous Oscar nominee is looking for a second shot at the gold. Despite years of good work, Gyllenhaal hasn’t been nominated since his first time nine years ago for Brokeback Mountain. Here, his sociopathic career opportunist has earned him all the necessary precursor nominations. A last minute surge of interest in the film itself in the awards community bode well, especially if Nightcrawler scores a Best Pic nod. This could happen.
AGAINST HIM: Despite BFCA, GG, SAG, and BAFTA nods, Gyllenhaal’s creepy turn isn’t the only sociopathic role vying for a Best Actor slot this year. Steve Carell’s chilling turn in Foxcatcher is desperately trying to take the fifth spot. If Oscar voters cool out on Nightcrawler, then Gyllenhaal may miss the cut. The pendulum could swing either way at this point.
MICHAEL KEATON in BIRDMAN
FOR HIM: Call him the comeback kid of the year. With decades of great work behind him, Mr. Keaton is in prime position to score his very first nomination. Bonus points for playing the part of a faded, former superhero actor trying to revive his career by directing himself in a Broadway debut with such humor, elegance, gravitas, and gusto. Keaton’s subtle yet effective turn was so out of left field without resorting to over the top showiness. Many feel he’s poised to win the award.
AGAINST HIM: Nada, truth be told.
DAVID OYELOWO in SELMA
FOR HIM: In the cherry role of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Oyelowo’s spot on incarnation of the late civil rights leader is undoubtedly the high point of Selma. Even the film’s detractors admit to his brilliance in the part. The BFCA and Globes mentioned him. For such a great part played so richly, a nomination seems a natural course of action.
AGAINST HIM: Due to the Selma controversy, the film has had a really rough time finding its place among the industry guild awards including the SAG nominations, which was a sorry miss. (Though some suggest that it was because the voters did not get their screeners in time). He also hasn’t been winning precursor awards. He could fall victim to the last minute backlash against the film.
STATUS: VERY GOOD
EDDIE REDMAYNE in THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
FOR HIM: As Stephen Hawking, Redmayne disappears into the part physically so effectively that it reminds many of the magic of Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot and that part won the Oscar in 1989. Redmayne won the Golden Globe (Drama) and is a serious threat for the win. He has BFCA, SAG, and BAFTA nods. This looks to be in the bag.
AGAINST HIM: Nothing. It’s probably going to be a fight between Redmayne and Keaton for the win.
WATCH OUT FOR: STEVE CARELL in FOXCATCHER or BRADLEY COOPER in AMERICAN SNIPER
OTHER POSSIBLES: Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Oscar Isaac (A Most Violent Year), Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner)
THE LOWDOWN: There are really seven men and only five spots. Keaton, Redmayne, and Cumberbatch will definitely be in the mix. Oyelowo is vulnerable, but the nature of his role should carry him to the nomination. It comes likely to be a battle between the sociopaths. Both Carell and Gyllenhaal are gunning for that fifth spot. Gyllenhaal has the stronger shot due to the passion for the film. Foxcatcher also has its supporters, but Gyllenhaal’s role has more screen time and is a more accessible character. However, since American Sniper has been making out like a bandit with its 11th hour momentum, Cooper could easily be a surprise nominee.
WES ANDERSON for THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
FOR HIM: A long respected director in the industry for his offbeat, but enjoyable work for over a decade, this is the first time that he’s been taken seriously for a nomination in this category. Despite the film having come out almost a year ago, he has received nominations from BFCA, GG, DGA, and BAFTA. If that’s not strong support, I don’t know what is. The film is also likely to score a Best Pic nod, so the stars seem aligned.
AGAINST HIM: The movie did come out so long ago and there are many who feel that the film was not his best work and that it is merely an excuse to get him nominated. There are other directors whose work many feel is stronger that are vying for a spot in this crowded race.
STATUS: VERY GOOD
AVA DUVERNAY for SELMA
FOR HER: Putting aside that Oscar would make history by nominating an African-American woman in this category for the first time and that she’d be only the fourth black director and fifth female director to be nominated here, DuVernay’s work on Selma is nothing short of powerful. The passion and commitment in crafting the film is undeniable and many have cited Selma as one of the year’s best and its director is most definitely responsible.
AGASINT HER: Being snubbed by the DGA was a hard knock. Unfortunately the controversy surrounding the film at the critical voting time may end up having the effect that happened to Kathryn Bigelow with Zero Dark Thirty two years ago. There are some who may feel incensed by the controversy and may punish her by having her sit out in this admittedly crowded race.
ALEJANDRO GONZALEZ INARRITU for BIRDMAN
FOR HIM: His wizardry as a director is unmistakable in this critically lauded film. His unique vision and commitment to getting this project made is a great achievement and has all the necessary precursor support to make this nomination happen. All four of Inartiru’s films have been nominated for Oscars, it’s clear this guy makes great movies. A second nomination here following one in 2006 for Babel seems a natural next step.
AGAINST HIM: Practically nothing unless some just thought the film was too “weird”.
RICHARD LINKLATER for BOYHOOD
FOR HIM: Championing a superb achievement in cinema by chronicling a narrative story of a young boy who grows up before our eyes over the span of twelve years without feeling gimmicky or cheap is an accomplishment that many have loved and celebrated including practically every critics group and the Globes. BFCA, DGA, and BAFTA have included him as a nominee. This is going to happen. The film is also the frontrunner for Best Picture.
AGAINST HIM: …
MORTEN TYLDUM for THE IMITATION GAME
FOR HIM: The Norwegian director of a British film distributed by the Weinstein Co, which is a critical darling and total Oscar bait should find himself a likely nominee. The DGA included him among their list, which is a promising foretelling. Momentum is on his side.
AGAINST HIM: Apart from his DGA nod, there isn’t really any major precursor support for him despite the film getting nominated frequently. Some may see the film as a strong achievement but may instead make room for a director whose talent and style really ignite the picture in a showier way.
WATCH OUT FOR: DAVID FINCHER for GONE GIRL or CLINT EASTWOOD for AMERICAN SNIPER
OTHER POSSIBLES: James Marsh (The Theory of Everything) Damien Chezelle (Whiplash)
THE LOWDOWN: Linklater and Inarritu are surefire bets. Other than them, there are many variables. Anderson seems pretty solid based on the continued strong showing for The Grand Budapest Hotel racking up many nominations from BFCA, GG and BAFTA. From there, DuVernay and Tyldum could pick up the remaining slots, but Fincher received a Golden Globe nod and the film is very likely to be up for Best Picture. Also, Eastwood scored a DGA nod which was a huge and very needed boost at the last minute. Things could easily go his way. This category will be most exciting during the reveal of nominees.
FOR IT: A true-life tale dealing with the war, the virtues of its soldiers and its consequences had a very late start to the party. Having been pretty much ignored, especially by the BFCA and Globes, the industry guilds (WGA, DGA, PGA) resurrected it at the critical juncture. The film is also likely to be a financial success helmed by an Academy favorite, Clint Eastwood.
AGAINST IT: Some have found the film’s leaning in favor of the war to be off-putting. While, it’s mostly stir-the-pot controversy, the more liberal leaning of the Academy (which constitutes a large majority of voters) could just as easily take a pass on this one. It may have made its big noise too late.
FOR IT: A celebration of bona fide collaboration of acting, directing, writing, and filmmaking, Birdman has been an early favorite with rave reviews behind it. The film has a strong following and even people not as crazy about it cite and recognize its originality and ambitious scope. It has been ranking very favorably with the precursors and seems to be destined for a slot here.
AGAINST IT: Some people may have found the film too odd or ‘meta’ to their liking. The film certainly will have less appeal to the Academy’s more conservative branch of voters.
FOR IT: The undeniable frontrunner since it opened last summer, Boyhood continues this with its big win for Best Picture (Drama) at the Globes. It has been unanimously praised by critics and has won almost all the critics’ awards for Best Picture. It may just go all the way. The achievement of the filmmaking process of the picture itself is worthy of a nomination. Even the film’s detractors praise the daring narrative concept that makes the film unqiue.
AGAINST IT: Absolutely nothing.
FOR IT: It’s complete Oscar prestige fare. A true-life drama anchored by excellent performances and handsome direction. The film has received very positive notices and its director Bennett Miller has had his previous (and only other) two films nominated in this category. Those films were Capote and Moneyball. The film has notices from the Globes and PGA.
AGAINST IT: Apart from the controversy surrounding the film’s accuracy of portrayal (typical for pretty much any Oscar-destined biopic these days), some may have found the film too icy and inaccessible. Not all were fond of the snail pace and lack of focus throughout the story. Some may see it as a stronger achievement in acting and writing than for the film overall.
FOR IT: David Fincher’s thriller adapted from the popular book of the same name was a solid box office success and may the race’s only true blockbuster in the mix. Opening to a glowing reception, the film’s craftsmanship, screenplay, and performances have made it one of the most memorable films of the year. BFCA and PGA have backed it with nominations.
AGAINST IT: Curiously, despite Fincher receiving a Best Director nod at the Globes, the film was absent from the Best Picture category. It is a grim and stark film that some may have found too bleak for Oscar tastes, especially the more conservative branch of the Academy. Thrillers generally have a tough time in Best Picture.
STATUS: VERY GOOD
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
FOR IT: Wes Anderson’s quirky ensemble comedy, which opened last March; has had an undeniable staying power. It was a surprise winner for the Golden Globe for Best Picture (Mus/Com). It received nods from BFCA, SAG, PGA, and is leading the BAFTA awards for most nominated film. It’s clearly more well liked than prognosticators may have perceived earlier in the race.
AGAINST IT: Apart from the Golden Globe win, the film hasn’t really won anything. It may be considered too “light” competing against more traditional and “powerful” Oscar material. Plus, it was almost a year ago that it opened. Maybe it’s not so fresh on voters’ minds.
STATUS: VERY GOOD
THE IMITATION GAME
FOR IT: The Weinstein Company is backing this complete prestige Oscar bait film about mathematician Alan Turing using his dedication, skill, and passion to crack the Enigma code during WWII. It also deals with Turing’s persecution of being homosexual. The film screams Oscar. Apart from that, it is also a well reviewed and has made a decent profit. In a less complicated year, this may even have been a frontrunner. It has been nominated by all the necessary awards groups to be considered a serious contender and the Weinsteins will be pushing hard.
AGAINST IT: Typical Oscar-friendly biopic allegations and controversy about its accuracy could dent it a bit. But other than that, it seems a pretty surefire nominee.
FOR IT: Here’s another fact based drama about a social and moral dilemma that’s been winning rave reviews. The timeliness of the film (dealing with Martin Luther King) bodes well. It has received nominations from BFCA and Golden Globes. This is the type of film that screams Oscar and finds itself a nomination. And the folks behind this one are campaigning… hard.
AGAINST IT: Here’s yet another film beleaguered by controversy. Perhaps of all the contenders this year, Selma could be the most affected. Supposedly, voter screeners weren’t sent in time for the SAG Awards to give it due credit. But then the PGA and DGA snubbed the film. Perhaps it’s not as well liked as initially expected. Also, it did indeed come into the race pretty late.
THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
FOR IT: Another well-reviewed biopic anchored by two strong performances enters the mix. This is pretty much standard fare Oscar bait. It is the type of film that generally finds itself in favor being nominated for Best Picture. This is reminiscent of A Beautiful Mind. It also has all the necessary precursor mentions.
AGAINST IT: Despite having good reviews, they aren’t quite as good as many of the other biopics. Some have stated that apart from the strong performances by its leads, that the film is pretty blasé and run-of-the-mill. Its director has had a hard time finding himself nominated apart from BAFTA.
FOR IT: LOCK
FOR IT: This may be the year’s little indie that could spot for Best Picture. It has won excellent reviews. The film’s masterful acting, directing, and filmmaking has been finding itself on the list of the precursors. The industry guilds have responded well to it especially with the PGA nod. BFCA also mentioned it. It might just happen.
AGAINST IT: Many may feel the picture is too “small”. Perhaps it may not have been viewed by as many voters compared to the rest of the competition. Also, the Academy may favor other films in its place.
WATCH OUT FOR: NIGHTCRAWLER
OTHER POSSIBLES: Unbroken, Into the Woods
THE LOWDOWN: Since this race is allowed to have as little as five and as many as ten nominees, predicting this category has always been difficult and a huge pain. There is no way to tell exactly how many nominees there will be. It all depends on how many #1 votes a film got during the nominating process. I’m calling Selma a lock for a nomination. Even though its director may be snubbed, the film itself should still find itself in Oscar’s graces. The PGA included both Nightcrawler and Whiplash, but I suspect that Oscar will only make room for one little indie and I bet on the latter… very narrowly over Nightcrawler. American Sniper is looking like it may be the 11th hour star of the year based on the PGA and DGA love it got. It’s very possible that Gone Girl and The Grand Budapest Hotel could miss in the end, but they seem to have ardent support enough to warrant that predicting against them would be unwise. Foxcatcher could also easily miss this race, but bet on its pedigree to take it forward. It will be an exciting time hearing the final limeup.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
THE IMITATION GAME
THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
WATCH OUT FOR: INHERENT VICE, UNBROKEN
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
WATCH OUT FOR: FOXCATCHER, MR. TURNER
That’s all for now! Let’s see what happens!