Best PictureThis year, the contenders for the best picture nominations fall into three different categories – there are four that are fairly safe – another nine that are fighting for the other spots. What’s interesting is that we have no idea how many that will be. Since the Academy went to their current system – where the Academy could vote in anywhere between 5 and 10 films, they have always nominated exactly 9. But in a year this wide open, it is conceivable that we could see a full 10 films nominated. It’s also just as conceivable that only 6 or 7 films make the cut. Who the hell knows?
The Safe Five1. Boyhood
3. The Imitation Game
4. The Theory of Everything
5. The Grand Budapest Hotel
Boyhood has been the favorite since the beginning of the season – and I don’t see that changing so far. True, it may still get upset for the win – but not for a nomination. Birdman is perhaps too weird to win – but again, for a nomination it’s as safe as it gets. The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything are exactly the type of films that get nominated for Oscars – and are roundly dismissed as Oscar bait by cynics. Normally, I defend these types of movies. Not this year – but hey, they’re safe to be nominated. The Grand Budapest Hotel was seen as a long shot most of the season – but has come on very strong, so I think it’s a safe nominee.
The Battle for the Last 2-5 Spots1. American Sniper
3. Gone Girl
In truth, I could pretty much see any combination of these films getting in, and any one of them being left off. The Academy loves Clint – so American Sniper could get in – but then again, this isn’t 2006 anymore, so despite the recent wave of support, it may not be entirely safe. Until the PGA and DGA snubbed it, I had Selma in the top category – and I still think it gets in, but the question now really is if enough people saw it. Whiplash is well loved by all – but it didn’t do well at the Box Office, and is in danger of being a performance only winner. Gone Girl was easily the most talked about film of the year – but is far too divisive to win the Oscar, and perhaps to even be nominated. Unbroken was a presumptive frontrunner all season – until people saw it. Still, audiences seem to love it, and it could easily play better with the older Academy than with critics, so it could still sneak in. Wild may not have quite the precursor support that the others have – but doesn’t the race need at least one film with a woman in the lead role? The Academy did like Vallee’s last film, Dallas Buyers Club, more than the critics did. Foxcatcher was a presumptive nominee for much of the year – and despite it being great, it hasn’t quite gotten the support that signifies a slam dunk. Nightcrawler, on the other hand, has come on strong late in the year – but perhaps not strong enough.
Best DirectorTop Two
1. Richard Linklater for Boyhood
2. Alejandro G. Innaritu for Birdman
I am not positive that any other director makes it in this year except for these two. Anyone else could sneak in, or be left out – these two I would be stunned to see not make it.
Filling Out the Lineup3. Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel
4. Clint Eastwood for American Sniper
5. Ava DuVernay for Selma
Anderson looks good for his first nomination ever – and well deserved at that. Clint is a legend – and that seems to be enough this year for him. I think DuVernay will get in – it’s not a given, since it hasn’t done very well with the guilds – but the Academy got screeners, and they didn’t, so I think it will do better here.
The Others6. Morten Tyldum for The Imitation Game
7. David Fincher for Gone Girl
8. Damien Chazelle for Whiplash
9. James Marsh for The Theory of Everything
10. Angelina Jolie for Unbroken
11. Bennett Miller for Foxcatcher
Truly, I am not sure how this is going to play out. Could any of these five knock out Eastwood or even DuVernay or Anderson? Yes. But they may not as well. Tyldum has the best shot, because of the DGA nomination, but it may well be tight.
Long Shots13. Mike Leigh for Mr. Turner
A former nominee, so you never know. Leigh has done the lone director nomination before – and in a wide open year, I wouldn’t be stunned to see it happen again.
Best Adapted Screenplay1. Gone Girl
2. The Imitation Game
3. The Theory of Everything
5. American Sniper
The OthersInherent Vice, Unbroken, Whiplash
In a strange reversal from the norm, the adapted screenplay category is far less crowded than the original one – meaning that it seems fairly easy to figure out who is going to be nominated. Or is it? American Sniper and Unbroken have come out late, and turned into audience pleasers – so I think one gets in. I hope they find room for Inherent Vice – but that is seeming less likely with each passing day. But The winner is one of the top three, I think. The big one could be Whiplash – who we learned, very late in the game, that the Academy considers an Adapted Screenplay – even though it was campaigned as an original all season. Had they campaigned as Adapted – I think it would join the top 3 – but confusion may well keep it out of the lineup.
Best Original Screenplay
3. The Grand Budapest Hotel
4. Mr. Turner
Nightcrawler, Foxcatcher, A Most Violent Year
As mentioned above – a much more crowded category than adapted screenplay. The top three are safe bets – I would be shocked to see one miss. I still have faith that Selma is a real Oscar player, so its screenplay will make it through. Mr. Turner may seem like an odd choice – except when you remember they ALWAYS seem to nominate Mike Leigh (he has been nominated for five of his last seven films). Having said that, they have four other possible choices in Nightcrawler, Foxcatcher and A Most Violent Year any of which could easily get a nomination. We won’t know until we do – even WGA noms don’t help, since they somehow find reasons to disqualify seemingly half the contenders every year.