BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Keira Knightley for The Imitation Game is a lock because that movie is going to get nominated anywhere it can get nominated. Meryl Streep for Into The Woods is Meryl Streep doing Good Acting in a popular, financially successful, critically well-received movie and really, it has to be an amazing year for Meryl Streep not to get nominated in that scenario. Birdman is a movie about movies, and Hollywood fucking loves movies about movies, and Emma Stone has gotten good nods for her turn in it – including a sweep of nominations for the other major film awards and a shit-ton of awards from critics’ circles – and ALSO she’s a young actress who hasn’t gotten an Oscar nom yet in the category that almost always goes to either “elder stateswoman as yet unrecognized” or “young ingenue” so I think she gets it easy. Patricia Arquette in Boyhood seems very likely because Boyhood is, I think, the prohibitive favorite to Win Everything.
That fifth nod is tough for me to call. The smart money is on Jessica Chastain in A Most Violent Year but there isn’t a lot of buzz about that movie or her; it feels like people still have leftover Chastain enthusiasm from the last few years where she’s been so good (and maybe don’t want to give her award for a genre piece like Interstellar, where she was very good). I don’t think she gets it. I think there’s two serious options: Rene Russo in Nightcrawler (a little movie that nobody expected to be good, was very good, and has been gathering steam) and Carmen Ejogo in Selma (a good – if small – role in a good movie and a nomination which would make the category not all-white, which a significant part of the Academy prefers to not have happen nowadays). I lean towards Ejogo, mostly because I saw Selma more recently.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: JK Simmons is winning it for Whiplash. Who gets a nomination as a consolation prize? Ethan Hawke for Boyhood seems likely. Ed Norton for Birdman because it is a movie about movies. Robert Duvall for The Judge, because fuck it it’s Robert fucking Duvall and how many more times will the Academy get to celebrate him? Annnnnnnnd I dunno geez maybe Tom Wilkinson for Selma? Or Mark Ruffalo for Foxcatcher maybe? I’m flipping the coin and betting on Wilkinson.
BEST ACTOR: Michael Keaton for Birdman is already the favorite here to win the whole thing, so duh, he’s in. Benedict Cumberbatch for The Imitation Game is Benedict Cumberbatch and he’s going to get the nod. Eddie Redmayne is British and he’s playing someone in a biopic and said person has a visible disability, so really the nomination is his to lose, regardless of whether The Theory of Everything is good. I think the I Can’t Believe It’s Not A Controversy over Selma is going to pass and David Oyelowo gets in for playing MLK.
Conventional wisdom has either Steve Carell for Foxcatcher or Jake Gyllenhaal for Nightcrawler getting in for the fifth slot, and I think Gyllenhaal gets it; I think Foxcatcher is going to be the snubby loser this year in terms of nominations. But I’m going to throw a curveball here: I think Bradley Cooper is going to displace one of the four non-Keaton people just mentioned (Cumberbatch, Redmayne, Oyelowo or Gyllenhaal) for American Sniper, because the Academy fucking loves Clint Eastwood and because he’s a classic Hollywood leading man type doing a traditional Hollywood leading man performance in a category that doesn’t have one of those. Probably Cumberbatch is safe too but he’s not a super-lock like Keaton is.
BEST ACTRESS: Julianne Moore has never won an Oscar (amazingly) and she has a big meaty role in Still Alice where she is a person dealing with early-onset Alzheimer’s, which is a big worry to people in the Academy voter demographic (well, maybe just regular Alzheimer’s). I have no idea if the movie is good and half of the Academy voters won’t even have watched it before they fill out their cards and she’s still the frontrunner to win, let alone be nominated. Reese Witherspoon for Wild seems very likely because that is an Oscar Movie and the Oscars are, in their way, quite predictable. Rosamund Pike for Gone Girl is the category’s nod at movies that made actual bank; she won’t win, the nomination is her prize.
Those are the three locks, I think. After that it’s harder. A lot of people are thinking Jennifer Aniston gets a nod for Cake, but nobody has seen it yet (like Still Alice it got a very tiny limited release to qualify for the awards and opens nationally only after nominations hit) and unlike Still Alice its sexy issue is less age-specific to the Academy (chronic pain). It’s basically the same role as Still Alice except that Aniston’s nomination story is “finally I get recognized for being good at acting” and Moore’s is “I should have three awards already” and… I don’t think it happens. I could easily be wrong about that. I think Marillon Cotillard for The Immigrant gets that fourth slot.
As for the fifth, fuck it, Felicity Jones for The Theory of Everything, which is this year’s Crash – a movie that Looks Important but probably isn’t any damn good, not that this matters.
BEST DIRECTOR: Richard Linklater is the favorite for Boyhood and I think he wins it, both for that and as a long-overdue consolation prize for not even being nominated as Best Director for any of the Before trilogy or even Dazed and Confused (and is there seriously a movie that has aged as spectacularly well as Dazed and Confused?). Ava Duvernay for Selma is a black person and a woman and I think the double-dose of diversity, combined with Selma being very good, does the job for her nomination. Alejandro G. Iñárritu for Birdman because I think it gets nominated everywhere possible and because it’s very “directorly.”
After that it gets harder. The Academy will want one or two big names in the category, which means one of David Fincher for Gone Girl or Clint Eastwood for American Sniper. I don’t think Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel is a Big Name per se but he’s big enough to be considered, especially since I think Budapest is a possible spoiler nominations-horse (Ralph Fiennes for Best Actor seems more plausible every time I think about it. I don’t even know who directed Imitation Game and Theory of Everything and I don’t care enough to check. I think it’s Anderson and Eastwood taking the final two slots.
BEST PICTURE: Boyhood, Birdman, Selma and Grand Budapest Hotel all seem likely to me. After that… I dunno. Imitation Game probably, because it’s the sort of biopic that Oscar loves. Theory of Everything probably not because I don’t think anybody who likes it as a potential Best Picture will like Imitation Game less, which is what it needs in order to get that Best Picture nod. American Sniper because it’s Clint Eastwood and there is literally no other reason. And then… man, I’m only at six? Seems low. Let’s add Whiplash as a seventh just because.