We’ve got less than one week to go until the nominations for Hollywood’s favorite popularity contest are announced. The nominees for the 87th Annual Academy Awards will be revealed on Thursday, January 15, with the awards themselves to be given out on February 22, 2015. As always, the race is full of sure-fire contenders, hopeful indies and controversies that – for the most part – are utterly pointless and stupid. (Hey, Selma critics: movies rewrite history for dramatic effect. That didn’t stop the Academy from rewarding Amadeus or Braveheart. Why should it stop now?)
Predicting the Oscar nominations and winners is an enjoyable but mostly pointless exercise, but it’s the closest thing movie fans have to the Super Bowl, so we embrace the practice here at CraveOnline. It’s artistically grotesque to force works of art – many of which bear few similarities to their fellow contenders – to compete for glory. The process transforms criticism into a binary equation, either worthy or unworthy, and history has proven that even those distinctions mean little to a voting body that often seems more interested in spectacle than quality.
But if nothing else, we all have our office betting pools to think about, and CraveOnline has indeed been paying attention to the Oscar race so far, so we are about to share our 2015 Oscar predictions, based on awards season trends and insider gossip, for which films and filmmakers are likely to wind up on the ballot next week.
Our Predictions: Birdman, Boyhood, Foxcatcher, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Nightcrawler, Selma, The Theory of Everything, Unbroken, Whiplash
Don’t Count Out: American Sniper, Gone Girl, Interstellar, Into the Woods, The LEGO Movie, Mr. Turner, A Most Violent Year, Wild
In a Perfect World: Guardians of the Galaxy
The Academy Awards currently allow as few as five and as many as ten nominees for Best Picture, so predicting even the number of nominees is a little difficult. We’re going with ten, although the average number of nominated films is currently nine. Birdman, Boyhood and The Grand Budapest Hotel are the only guaranteed nominations so far: the guilds and critics love them equally. The Imitation Game is the kind of respectful historical drama (with a little social commentary for flavoring) that the Academy eats up with a spoon, and Whiplash is just too potent a film to ignore.
Those remaining 0-5 slots aren’t exactly up for grabs. The playing field for Best Picture this year is pretty narrow. We expect the dark thrills and pointed themes of Nightcrawler will win over the Academy, as will the ponderous but oh-so-important-looking Foxcatcher. Two non-threatening inspirational films, The Theory of Everything and Unbroken, seem likely to jump into the fray as well.
As for that tenth slot, it could go to American Sniper, but it’s not a particularly good film and many audience members are responding unfavorably to its jingoistic undertones. Gone Girl is a very likely contender as well, although it’s a little pulpy for the Academy’s usual tastes. The LEGO Movie has a lot of love on its side, but we somewhat doubt it will have the traction necessary to make the jump from Best Animated Feature (where it’s the frontrunner) to the Best Picture field. Into the Woods might sneak in on pure ambition alone, but it doesn’t seem to be leaving too many people cheering, and A Most Violent Year has all the critics accolades but doesn’t seem likely to get more than a Supporting Actress or Original Screenplay nomination at this point. Interstellar doesn’t have the traction everyone thought it would, although the Academy just might be susceptible to the film’s suggestion that it’s actually important, and Mr. Turner may be brilliant, but it’s probably a little too subtle to wind up in the mix at this point.
Which leaves us with Selma, a film that by all rights should be the frontrunner to sweep the Oscars this year, but which was withheld from critics and guilds long enough to barely show up at all on the Academy’s radar so far. However, we predict that any Academy member who actually managed to see it in time will recognize the obvious Oscar trappings – historical subject, contemporary themes, bold performances – and the skill with which they were presented.
Guardians of the Galaxy won’t get nominated, but wouldn’t it be cool if it did? Everyone LOVES that movie.
Our Predictions: Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Ava DuVernay (Selma), Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu (Birdman), Angelina Jolie (Unbroken), Richard Linklater (Boyhood)
Don’t Count Out: J.C. Chandor (A Most Violent Year), Damien Chazelle (Whiplash), Clint Eastwood (American Sniper), David Fincher (Gone Girl), Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler), Mike Leigh (Mr. Turner), James Marsh (The Theory of Everything), Bennet Miller (Foxcatcher), Christopher Nolan (Interstellar), Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game), Jean-Marc Vallee (Wild)
In a Perfect World: Phil Lord & Chris Miller (The LEGO Movie)
All those frontrunners for Best Picture? They’re in the running for Best Director too, as always. Expect Wes Anderson, Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu and Richard Linklater to be nominated – it’s practically a sure thing – and expect those last two slots to be highly debated. They could go to worthy indie directors like J.C. Chandor and Damien Chazelle, they could go to old school Oscar standby talent like Clint Eastwood and Bennett Miller, or they could go to filmmakers who made competent but completely non-threatening Oscar bait, like James Marsh and Morten Tyldum.
But we’re betting one or more of those two slots will go to Ava DuVernay and/or Angelina Jolie, two women who directed the hell out of Oscar contenders this year. DuVernay has absolutely exploded onto the scene with Selma, proving herself to be one of the most impressive new(-ish) talents on the filmmaking scene, and Angelina Jolie is pleasing audiences (not so much the critics) with the inspiring World War II saga Unbroken. It doesn’t hurt that everyone loves her to death; don’t forget, the Oscars are a popularity contest.
And although CraveOnline wasn’t really the biggest fan of The LEGO Movie, even we have to admit that Phil Lord and Chris Miller co-directed the hell out of a film that had, if you think about it, almost no chance of even being mediocre, let alone a whole hell of a lot of fun. They deserve credit for that, but we’d be shocked if the Academy recognized their efforts outside the Best Animated Feature or, at most, the Best Original Screenplay categories.
Don’t Count Out: Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), Ellar Coltrane (Boyhood), Bradley Cooper (American Sniper), Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Oscar Isaac (A Most Violent Year), John Lithgow (Love is Strange), Bill Murray (St. Vincent), Joaquin Phoenix (Inherent Vice), Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner), Miles Teller (Whiplash)
In a Perfect World: Tom Hardy (Locke)
An enormous crowded field this year in the Best Actor category. Like all the major categories, there are lots of potential nominees, but unlike the rest of them, a lot of those potential nominees have a legitimate claim to being the best performance of the year.
If any two actors can sleep soundly the night before the nominations are announced, assured of their inevitable recognition, it’s Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne. Keaton has revitalized his career with the self-reflexive Birdman, playing a washed-up superhero actor desperately trying to prove himself as an artist (sound familiar?), and Redmayne finally found himself a great role in Prof. Stephen Hawking, portraying one of the world’s greatest geniuses at every stage of his degenerative disease.
As for the rest of the potential nominees, it’s a crap shoot. Literally none of them would surprise us if they wound up on the ballot. We’re predicting that Jake Gyllenhaal will get his second nomination for his instantly iconic antihero in Nightcrawler, and David Oyelowo will woo Oscar voters with his charismatic yet complicated performance as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma.
That last slot could go to Ralph Fiennes hilarious performance in The Grand Budapest Hotel, Timothy Spall’s career-best title role in Mr. Turner or Oscar Isaac’s subdued and calculated turn in A Most Violent Year, and we’d be happy. We’d certainly be happiest if it went to Tom Hardy’s amazing work in Locke, carrying an entire, riveting movie whilst driving on a highway and talking on a cell phone (trust us, it’s great), but it’ll probably wind up going to Benedict Cumberbatch, who gives a mannered but awards-friendly performance in The Imitation Game as Alan Turing.
Our Predictions: Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night), Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything), Julianne Moore (Still Alice), Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl), Reese Witherspoon (Wild)
Don’t Count Out: Amy Adams (Big Eyes), Jennifer Aniston (Cake), Emily Blunt (Into the Woods), Rosario Dawson (Top Five), Anne Dorval (Mommy), Scarlett Johansson (Under the Skin), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Beyond the Lights), Jenny Slate (Obvious Child), Tilda Swinton (Only Lovers Left Alive), Mia Wasikowska (Tracks), Shailene Woodley (The Fault in Our Stars)
In a Perfect World: Essie Davis (The Babadook)
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: it was not a great year for the Best Actress category. Oh, it was a GREAT year for actresses, but many of the standout performances this year were either in smaller films without much Oscar buzz, or in genre fare that the Academy doesn’t love to nominate. Case in point: Essie Davis, who gives one of the best performances of the year (hands down), but who seems like an unlikely candidate because The Babadook is a horror movie, no two ways about it.
As such, the field actually looks a little anemic. Julianne Moore is a lock to be nominated for Still Alice, although her performance is easily the best thing about the movie. Rosamund Pike turned a lot of heads with Gone Girl, Reese Witherspoon was unusually raw in Wild and Felicity Jones did nothing wrong in The Theory of Everything, although she doesn’t have any of the standout moments that usually earns the actual awards statue.
That fifth slot is the biggest wild card. Marion Cotillard seems likely to be nominated for Two Days, One Night, although she may split her own vote with The Immigrant (an actor can only be nominated once per category, per year). If she doesn’t make the cut, Jennifer Aniston might slip in for the little-seen Cake, or Scarlett Johansson impress enough of the cooler Oscar voters to get a nomination for Under the Skin. And we’re hoping Amy Adams can sneak into the top five for her remarkable, but understated performance in Big Eyes. We don’t expect that to actually happen though.
Best Supporting Actor:
Our Predictions: Robert Duvall (The Judge), Ethan Hawke (Boyhood), Edward Norton (Birdman), Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher), J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Don’t Count Out: Alec Baldwin (Still Alice), Josh Brolin (Inherent Vice), Miyavi (Unbroken), Tom Wilkinson (Selma)
In a Perfect World: Robert Duvall wouldn’t be nominated
Best Supporting Actor is an unusually tiny race this year, with Ethan Hawke, Edward Norton, Mark Ruffalo and J.K. Simmons all securing seemingly guaranteed nominations months ago. It’s that last slot that’s a mystery. Josh Brolin seemed like a safe bet for his grizzled, frozen banana-sucking performance in Inherent Vice, but he’s coming up short in the awards season ramp up. The same goes for Miyavi’s villainous turn in Unbroken and Tom Wilkinson’s impressive performance as President Lyndon B. Johnson in Selma (impressive yet controversial, for reasons that baffle us; it’s not like it’s the first historically inaccurate portrayal in movie history, or even in the history of the Oscars).
But Robert Duvall seems likely to grab that final spot, even though The Judge is one of the worst movies of the year. He’s not bad in the movie, but the maudlin, accidentally comical schmaltz he’s forced to endure over the course of The Judge is not worth rewarding, even by proxy. Alas, the Academy skews older, and the film’s paternal themes seem to have resonated with guild members so far this season. He’ll probably get nominated, but he probably won’t win.
Best Supporting Actress:
Our Predictions: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood), Jessica Chastain (A Most Violent Year), Carmen Ejogo (Selma), Emma Stone (Birdman), Meryl Streep (Into the Woods)
Don’t Count Out: Carrie Coon (Gone Girl), Laura Dern (Wild), Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game), Agata Kulesza (Ida), Rene Russo (Nightcrawler), Kristen Stewart (Still Alice), Naomi Watts (St. Vincent)
In a Perfect World: Tilda Swinton (Snowpiercer)
The likelihood that Patricia Arquette is getting nominated: 100%. The likelihood that she’ll win is pretty damned close to 100% too. So it’s up to the Academy to nominate a few other people just so they can say they completed the ballot.
Meryl Streep is considered a shoe-in by most pundits, mostly because she’s Meryl Streep. Granted, she really is good in everything, but there were worthier performances this year. Jessica Chastain is another Academy favorite, vying for her third nomination, and she’s a much more deserving candidate for her fiery and frustrated turn in A Most Violent Year. We think she’s a lock.
Those other two slots could go to Carrie Coon’s memorable supporting turn in Gone Girl (and really, we hope she gets in), Keira Knightley’s decent but safe performance in The Imitation Game, Agata Kulesza’s quiet work in the Best Foreign Language Film frontrunner Ida, or Rene Russo’s impressive performance in Nightcrawler. Kristen Stewart and Naomi Watts feel like real long shots, but they’re still a part of the conversation, and Laura Dern was seemingly a frontrunner before awards season began, but she’s been left off of every major ballot since it started.
So one of those last spots seems likely to go to Emma Stone, who really does give a fine performance in Birdman, and who may appeal to the Oscar voters who empathize with the problems of showbiz children, and who do, historically, love their ingenues. Along similar lines, Carmen Ejogo, giving a showcase performance as Coretta Scott King in Selma, seems likely to get the final slot, and deservedly so.
But if Tilda Swinton gets nominated for her deliciously juicy villain role in Snowpiercer, we’ll be ecstatically happy.
Best Original Screenplay:
Our Predictions: Birdman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Nightcrawler, Selma
Don’t Count Out: Chef, Dear White People, Force Majeure, Foxcatcher, The LEGO Movie, Love is Strange, A Most Violent Year, The Skeleton Twins, St. Vincent, Top Five
In a Perfect World: The Guest
Again, the three biggest contenders at the Academy Awards are all but guaranteed to be nominated here as well: Birdman, Boyhood and The Grand Budapest Hotel will be contenders come Oscar night. And despite its Oscar campaigning woes, we suspect the layered and intricate and thrilling script for Selma will earn itself a Best Original Screenplay nomination as well.
The final nomination seems likely to go to a more intriguing independent. Foxcatcher is a real possibility (the guilds seem to like this movie more than anybody else), as is J.C Chandor’s mature crime drama A Most Violent Year. Even The LEGO Movie has a real shot; we wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest to see its name on a ballot.
But Dan Gilroy‘s confrontational and impossibly dark thriller Nightcrawler is our last pick for this category. The film has earned accolades across the board and everyone seems to agree that the unconventional screenplay – along with Jake Gyllenhaal’s exceptional lead performance – is integral to the movie’s unexpected success.
If we had our druthers, however, Simon Barrett’s smart, funny, surprising and scary screenplay for The Guest would find its way into the mix as well. It seems highly unlikely to get any awards consideration at all, however, much to our enormous disappointment.
Best Adapted Screenplay:
Our Predictions: Gone Girl, The Imitation Game, Inherent Vice, Whiplash, Wild
Don’t Count Out: American Sniper, Obvious Child, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Theory of Everything, Unbroken
In a Perfect World: Snowpiercer
For whatever reason there weren’t a whole lot of amazing adapted screenplays in 2014, so the frontrunners for this category are pretty obvious. Gone Girl and The Imitation Game are sure things. Don’t vote against them. Wild isn’t quite so much of a guarantee but it seems likely to woo Academy members with its smart flashback structure and richly characterized heroine.
We would have said that the fourth slot was guaranteed to go to The Theory of Everything, but that was before Whiplash was ruled eligible for Best Adapted Screenplay instead of Best Original Screenplay. Whiplash was preceded by a short film, but the script for the feature was completed first. It’s a controversial decision that isn’t reflected in the WGA nominations, which nominated the script for Best Original Screenplay instead. If the confusion doesn’t cancel the script’s chances out entirely, it should earn a nomination, and it very well might win.
That last slot could go to safe but unremarkable screenplays like American Sniper and Unbroken, and surprisingly even Guardians of the Galaxy is a plausible contender after the WGA honored it earlier this week, but we suspect that the rambling, complicated and genuinely brilliant adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice will eke out a nomination, even if it’s the only nod the movie gets.
But we really hope the Academy isn’t scared off by the strange yet satisfying Snowpiercer, an insightful and unexpected sci-fi thriller with more to say about society and its ills than practically any other movie in 2014. Sadly, that’s a long shot.
Best Animated Feature:
Our Predictions: Big Hero 6, The Boxtrolls, How to Train Your Dragon 2, The LEGO Movie, The Tale of Princess Kaguya
Don’t Count Out: The Book of Life, Mr. Peabody & Sherman, The Penguins of Madagascar
In a Perfect World: Song of the Sea
We like to talk about how thin some of the competition is in these categories, but there are actually only so many films that even qualify for Best Animated Feature. The LEGO Movie and How to Train Your Dragon 2 are pretty much guaranteed to be nominated based on their visibility (and quality) alone. The same probably goes for Big Hero 6, although the popularity of the film has diminished over time. Not that anyone claims to genuinely dislike it, but rather they seem to have stopped talking about it either way.
Those last two slots are anyone’s to take. Mr. Peabody & Sherman and The Book of Life would both be worthy nominees, and we’re not counting them out entirely. But it seems more likely that the latest releases from LAIKA and Studio Ghibli, two animation studios the Academy has paid close attention to before, will round out the nominees: The Boxtrolls and The Tale of Princess Kaguya.
But the best animated movie of 2014, Tomm Moore’s Song of the Sea, isn’t that much of an underdog here. The film is incredible and the filmmaker has been nominated before, for The Secret of Kells, in an Oscar upset. So the Academy may make a point of actually watching Song of the Sea and may even recognize how great it is. We hope it works out. We’re just not counting on it.