Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Oscar Nominations: Here's What I Think...

Tomorrow morning just after 8:30 a.m., the nominations for the 87th annual Academy Awards will be announced. Those of you who know me well know that I've been obsessed with the Oscars for some time, and I always get tremendously excited around nominations time. (You probably also know that for years now, we attempt, usually with near-perfect success, to see all of the films and performances nominated for the major awards.)

As I've done for the last few years, I thought I'd share my predictions as to which films, actors, and directors I believe will get the major nominations tomorrow. I usually do fairly well, but there's always at least a surprise or two. And I guess that's part of what I enjoy about hearing the Oscar nominations—the momentary burst of excitement just before the names are read in each category, thinking quickly in my head who is being excluded when the names are announced in alphabetical order, and who was able to sneak in. (When I get the chance to see all of the 2014 movies, I'll then be able to ascertain which films and actors I would nominate if I were a member of the Academy, but that's often a whole different ball of wax.)

So, here goes:

Best Picture
American Sniper
Gone Girl
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything

Analysis: One of the quirks of the Oscars in recent years is that there is no fixed number of Best Picture nominees, beyond a minimum of five and a maximum of 10. Some years there have been eight, last year there were nine, so who knows? I predicted 10, although you can count on the Academy to be contrary. There's an outside chance that the Academy could nominate Unbroken, although it's been shunned by critics' and other awards thus far. If there's one or two that might not make the cut, I'd say they would be Whiplash and/or Foxcatcher.

Best Actor
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler
Michael Keaton, Birdman
David Oyelowo, Selma
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Analysis: I feel fairly confident about Redmayne, Keaton, and Cumberbatch. If there's any justice, Oyelowo will get a nod, because he is absolutely magnificent, although Selma has been the object of some controversy in its interpretation of history. I'm picking Gyllenhaal because this is a unique turn for him which was nominated for both Golden Globes and SAG, and the Academy loves when young actors come into their own. I'm guessing Steve Carell will get passed over for his major dramatic performance, much as Jim Carrey did in 1998 and 1999, although I wouldn't be surprised to see him on this list instead of Gyllenhaal or Oyelowo. And I wouldn't count out Bradley Cooper for American Sniper if the film does well in the nominations tomorrow. Last year he didn't receive Golden Globe or SAG nominations for American Hustle but received an Oscar nod; this would be his third consecutive nomination if he gets in.

Best Actress
Amy Adams, Big Eyes
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon, Wild

Analysis: I agonized over this one, I must admit. I'm fairly certain that Moore, Pike, Witherspoon, and Jones are locks (although Jones may be on the weakest ground by virtue of not being as well known), and that the fifth slot is between Adams and Jennifer Aniston for her breakthrough performance in Cake. The Academy loves to reward actresses for playing against type, and when actresses known for their comic skills do a dramatic role, sometimes it spells Oscar, like Helen Hunt in As Good As It Gets. I think Adams' Golden Globes win the other night demonstrates that she may have the edge, but I wouldn't be surprised if Aniston bumps her. And to complicate things, it's entirely possible 2007 Best Actress winner Marion Cotillard could sneak in for her performance in Two Days, One Night, for which she won a number of film critics awards.

Best Supporting Actor
Robert Duvall, The Judge
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Edward Norton, Birdman
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Analysis: As with the other categories, I feel confident about four nominees—Hawke, Norton, Ruffalo, and Simmons. Duvall, of course, is a legend, and he was nominated for both the Golden Globes and the SAGs for this role, which seems Robert Duvall-ish, but the movie didn't do well, and the last time he played a similar role that was more critically acclaimed (in 2011's Get Low) he missed out on an Oscar nod. But the truth is, no one else rises to the top in my mind—depending upon how their films do tomorrow, it's possible Tom Wilkinson could get nominated for his performance as LBJ in Selma, or Josh Brolin could get his second nomination for Inherent Vice. And there's a very outside chance Steve Carell could wind up in this category despite being campaigned for in the Best Actor category.

Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year
Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
Emma Stone, Birdman
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

Analysis: I feel as if it's nearly a lock that Streep will get an unprecedented 19th nomination tomorrow. Naomi Watts could sneak in instead of Chastain for her role in Birdman, and if Selma has a good showing, there's a slight outside shot that Carmen Ejogo could make it for her performance as Coretta Scott King. Critics have been touting Rene Russo for Nightcrawler, which would be cool.

Best Director
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Ava DuVernay, Selma
Clint Eastwood, American Sniper
Alejandro Gonzales Iñarritu, Birdman
Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Analysis: I had the toughest time with this category. I feel that Linklater, Gonzales Iñarritu, and Anderson are pretty strong locks. Eastwood is a perennial favorite, having been nominated for Best Director four times previously, and he was recently nominated by the Directors Guild. DuVernay, who would be the first African American woman nominated in this category, seemed more of a sure thing a few weeks ago, before Selma has taken a beating for its alleged liberties with history. Other definite possibilities include David Fincher for Gone Girl, wunderkind Damien Chazelle for Whiplash, and DGA-nominated Morton Tyldum for The Imitation Game.

How will my predictions fare this year? Tune in tomorrow, and I'll report back on how I did.

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