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Final Predictions for the 2015 Oscar Nominations

Predicting Oscar nominations is far from an exact science. While there are indicators of how a film will do in the race — mainly guild nominations — you’re relying a lot on buzz and media hype. Going with your gut instinct over logic can pay off big, or be a killer in the office pool.

It’s also hard to ignore personal biases. There are certain films I might not like, but have to acknowledge that the majority of the industry does. Sometimes it’s a pleasant surprise; as much as I loved films like “Nightcrawler” and “Whiplash,” even I have been caught offguard to see how well they’re doing in precursor races. And my respect for “Selma” has me ignoring all the warning signs and hoping it bounces back in the Oscar noms.

“Selma” failed to register with guilds (and was ineligible for WGA), but I’m chalking that up to the fact that screeners weren’t made available to voters. They were, however, sent to Academy members. Relying on the Academy to get it right is a bit of a gamble, especially with recent editorials questioning the historical accuracy of the movie, but I’m holding out hope that Ava DuVernay’s wonderful work will be recognized.

For that matter, movies that have been on the bubble all season could end up playing well with Academy voters — don’t count out a surprise surge for films like “Mr. Turner” or “Unbroken.”

So below are my final, completely unscientific guesses for the 2015 Academy Award nominations.

Best Director
Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Ava DuVernay, “Selma”
Clint Eastwood, “American Sniper”
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, “Birdman”
Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”

With the exception of Morten Tyldum for “The Imitation Game,” this is the DGA list. Again, I’m hoping the Academy makes history by recognizing Ava DuVernay, who would be the first black woman to be nominated. But other possibilities include Damien Chazelle for “Whiplash,” Dan Gilroy for “Nightcrawler” and David Fincher for “Gone Girl.” Or Tyldum could still show up if the love for his film is strong enough, even displacing Eastwood.

Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”
Keira Knightley, “The Imitation Game”
Rene Russo, “Nightcrawler”
Emma Stone, “Birdman”
Meryl Streep, “Into the Woods”

I’m gambling on the love for “Nightcrawler” to push the fantastic Rene Russo into the race. The only question is, whom does she displace? Not the beloved Meryl Streep, whose movie is a giant hit. And not Patricia Arquette, who has this race sewn up. Emma Stone could be vulnerable since her Broadway schedule has kept her from campaigning on the West Coast, but not likely. And the wonderful Keira Knightley is the sole woman in a very Oscar-friendly film. Sadly, that means Jessica Chastain – so fierce and wonderful in “A Most Violent Year” – is the most vulnerable.

Best Supporting Actor
Ethan Hawke, “Boyhood”
Edward Norton, “Birdman”
Mark Ruffalo, “Foxcatcher”
J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”
Tom Wilkinson, “Selma”

The first four actors listed here are sure things; it’s that fifth slot that’s up for grabs. At the SAG Awards and Golden Globes, Robert Duvall was nominated for “The Judge.” He could still show up here, but I’m betting on Tom Wilkinson to register for his work as Lyndon B. Johnson in “Selma.” Of course, the recent “controversy” around the depiction of Johnson in the film could hurt him and the movie. Or the Academy could choose to put Steve Carell in supporting for “Foxcatcher.” Or there could be a wild card like Josh Brolin in “Inherent Vice.” Or it might just end up being Duvall after all.

Best Actress
Jennifer Aniston, “Cake”
Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything”
Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”
Rosamund Pike, “Gone Girl”
Reese Witherspoon, “Wild”

This is the category that’s due for a big surprise – will Jennifer Aniston make it in? Or will it be Amy Adams for “Big Eyes?” (Though she collected critical accolades for two movies, Marion Cotillard looks to be sidelined this year.) While Aniston has cinched all the major precursor nominations – SAG, Golden Globe and Critics Choice – there are still a lot of people who don’t see her as a true contender. While reception to “Big Eyes” has been muted, that’s not Adams’ fault, and she’s adored by the Academy. Or, maybe they’ll both get in and knock out a perceived sure thing like Felicity Jones or Rosamund Pike. While there’s a good chance Adams will get in, you can’t ignore Aniston’s momentum and those precursor noms.

Best Actor
Steve Carell, “Foxcatcher”
Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Imitation Game”
Jake Gyllenhaal, “Nightcrawler”
Michael Keaton, “Birdman”
Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything”

Golden Globe winners Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne can relax, but nobody else is safe in the most competitive best actor race I’ve ever seen – which is saying a lot, considering how crowded last year was. Jake Gyllenhaal has landed all the precursor nominations, and “Nightcrawler” has been showing popularity with most of the guilds so far. Same with Benedict Cumberbatch. That leaves Steve Carell, who will have to fight off David Oyelowo of “Selma” and Bradley Cooper of “American Sniper,” both delivering heralded performances. But I’m giving Carell the edge since his gripping, transformative work has been the subject of buzz since Cannes.

Best Picture
“American Sniper”
“Birdman”
“Boyhood”
“Gone Girl”
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
“The Imitation Game”
“Nightcrawler”
“Selma”
“The Theory of Everything”
“Whiplash”

I don’t expect the Academy to nominate 10 films, so I’m hedging my bets here with movies on the bubble like “Gone Girl” and “Nightcrawler.” I also wouldn’t rule out “Foxcatcher” or “Unbroken.” That said, this is a pretty solid representation of the year 2014 in movies.

 

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