This year’s awards season has been uncharacteristically unpredictable.  Usually with just a little over a week to go before the big night, the biggest categories are already locked down, but this year has seen many last minute surprise victories.  This year’s show should yield at least a few unexpected winners, something that Oscar enthusiasts are always asking for.  But if you want to impress your friends, here are my best predictions for the major categories (in addition to my personal picks for the winners):

Best Picture

The nominees:

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  • American Sniper
  • Birdman
  • Boyhood
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • The Imitation Game
  • Selma
  • The Theory of Everything
  • Whiplash

This category seemed all sewn up until just a few weeks ago.  Boyhood, Richard Linklater’s exquisite chronicle of a boy and his family filmed in real time across twelve years, looked to be unbeatable.  It collected Best Picture honors from the vast majority of critics groups, but then the Screen Actors, Producers, and Directors Guilds all honored Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Birdman.  These guilds are an important bellwether as they are filled with people who will actually be voting for the Oscars.  The last film to win honors from these three guilds and not win Best Picture was Apollo 13 in 1996.  However, Birdman may still be a hard sell for the traditionalist Academy: it’s a comedy-drama with elements of fantasy, full of cynical musings on life, art, and Hollywood itself.  If it were to win, it would certainly be one of the most unconventional winners since the Oscars began.  In addition, it would be the first Best Picture winner without a nomination in the surprisingly important category of Best Film Editing since Ordinary People which was released all the way back in 1980.  For these reasons, I’m still predicting Boyhood to take the top honors, but don’t count Birdman out.

  • Will Win: Boyhood
  • Second Place: Birdman
  • My Pick: Boyhood
  • Should Have Been Nominated: Gone Girl

Best Director

The nominees:

  • Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
  • Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman)
  • Richard Linklater (Boyhood)
  • Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher)
  • Mortem Tyldum (The Imitation Game)

In terms of predictions and awards-race trajectory, this category is exactly the same as Best Picture.  Richard Linklater seemed to be a guaranteed winner for his twelve-year vision in Boyhood, but Alejandro G. Iñárritu has seemingly overtaken him recently for Birdman.  Still, predicting a split between Best Picture and Director is risky, as they almost always go to the same films.  For that reason, I feel compelled to predict Linklater.

  • Will Win: Richard Linklater (Boyhood)
  • Second Place: Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman)
  • My Pick: Richard Linklater (Boyhood)
  • Should Have Been Nominated: David Fincher (Gone Girl)

Best Actress

The nominees:

-Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night)

-Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything)

-Julianne Moore (Still Alice)

-Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)

-Reese Witherspoon (Wild)

 

The acting categories, on the other hand, have been absurdly predictable for the entire awards season.  Three out of four of the categories have been dominated by the same winner across all of the precursor awards, and Best Actress is one of those categories.  Julianne Moore will no doubt hear her named called on the big night for playing a brilliant professor suddenly struck with early-onset Alzheimer’s in Still Alice.  Her work in the film is inarguably wonderful, but this award will also serve as a consolation prize for her previous four nominations, none of which yielded a win.

 

Will Win: Julianne Moore (Still Alice)

Second Place: Reese Witherspoon (Wild)

My Pick: Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)

Should Have Been Nominated: Emily Blunt (Into the Woods)

 

 Best Actor

The nominees:

Steve Carell (Foxcatcher)

Bradley Cooper (American Sniper)

Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game)

Michael Keaton (Birdman)

Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)

This is the only acting category that is not a definite call.  Eddie Redmayne and Michael Keaton have both been winning their fair share of accolades all season long, with Redmayne winning slightly more important awards, especially recently.  Redmayne’s portrayal of Stephen Hawking is also the typical kind that wins the Oscar; playing a real-life figure with a disability is the kind of double-whammy performance that Oscar voters can hardly resist.  On the other hand, Keaton is a Hollywood veteran pulling a come-back, which is also very appealing to the Academy.  This category is a practically a toss-up between the two, but I’m giving the slight edge to Redmayne.

  • Will Win: Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)
  • Second Place: Michael Keaton (Birdman)
  • My Pick: Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game)
  • Should Have Been Nominated: Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

Best Supporting Actress

The nominees:

  • Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
  • Laura Dern (Wild)
  • Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game)
  • Emma Stone (Birdman)
  • Meryl Streep (Into the Woods)

This is the second easy-to-call acting category.  Patricia Arquette has been the predicted winner ever since Boyhood premiered, and she’s shown no signs of slowing down all season long.  Her portrayal of the main character’s hard-working mother gives Boyhood its heart and transforms the film from a simple character study to a moving monument to the adults who shape all of our childhoods.  The other nominees don’t even need to attend.

  • Will Win: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
  • Second Place: Emma Stone (Birdman)
  • My Pick: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
  • Should Have Been Nominated: Jessica Chastain (A Most Violent Year)

Best Supporting Actor

The nominees:

  • Robert Duvall (The Judge)
  • Ethan Hawke (Boyhood)
  • Edward Norton (Birdman)
  • Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher)
  • J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)

Much like Best Supporting Actress, this category has been dominated by one contender for the past few months.  J.K. Simmons is perfection as the indomitable music teacher in Whiplash, giving one of the absolute best performances of the year.  This will be a well-deserved win for the veteran actor. 

  • Will Win: J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
  • Second Place: Edward Norton (Birdman)
  • My Pick: J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
  • Should Have Been Nominated: Chris Pine (Into the Woods)

And giving a quick glance to a few of the other categories…

Best Original Screenplay

  • Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Second Place: Birdman

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Will Win: The Imitation Game
  • Second Place: Whiplash

Best Animated Feature

  • Will Win: How to Train Your Dragon 2
  • Second Place: Big Hero 6

Best Cinematography

  • Will Win: Birdman
  • Second Place: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Editing

  • Will Win: Boyhood
  • Second Place: Whiplash

Make sure to tune in to the Oscars on Sunday, February 22.  It’s sure to be one of the most unpredictable and exciting ceremonies in years!

Cody Dericks is a longtime resident of Sparta, having graduated from Sparta High School in 2009.  He then went on to graduate with honors from Hofstra University, where he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater with a minor in English.  He most recently starred as George Bailey in Drama Geek Studio’s production of “It’s a Wonderful Life”, which played at the Sparta Avenue Stage.

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