So, Which Oscar Nominees Will Win?

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Photo: Maya Robinson and Photos by Sony Pictures and IFC

Now that we've finally got the Academy Award nominations, it's time to make our best guesses as to who will win come February 22. Sure, a lot could change between now and then, but let's be honest: A lot won't change. Momentum is a powerful thing, and many of our current front-runners have a strong wind at their backs that should push them onstage in just a few weeks. Here, then, are our super-early predictions on who will triumph in every Oscar category (except for the short films, since we haven't seen those contenders yet).

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

Boyhood has been strong all season, though we shouldn't count out The Imitation Game, which is peaking (with an immensely strong box-office take) only just now.

Best Actress
Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Reese Witherspoon, Wild
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night

There's no way that this won't go to Julianne Moore. It's one of several imminent Oscar wins this year that could double as a lifetime achievement award.

Best Actor
Michael Keaton, Birdman
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper, American Sniper

This remains the trickiest of the acting races to call. Will Michael Keaton take home the gold for his marvelous comeback role? You could easily make that case, and he's won a few trophies so far ... and yet, I've talked to so many voters who love Eddie Redmayne (and The Theory of Everything) that right now, I'd give the edge to that very Oscar-friendly part.

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

Last January at the Sundance Film Festival, I shared a car with Sony Pictures Classics co-president Michael Barker just a few days after SPC had picked up Whiplash. "I think J.K. Simmons is gonna get the Oscar for that one," I said, prompting a raised eyebrow from Barker, who just replied, "We'll see." And after the way this season has shaken out, with Simmons dominating the precursors, I'm still sticking to that early call.

Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Emma Stone, Birdman
Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods
Laura Dern, Wild

Still, when it comes to way-too-early Oscar predictions, Richard Linklater has me beat. Back in December 2013, he told Vulture that Patricia Arquette should get an Oscar for the then-yet-to-debut Boyhood. And now she will! Time to buy a lottery ticket, Rick.

Best Director
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game
Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher

This, too, will go to Richard Linklater, one of the nicest guys in Hollywood (who's worked with just about every actor in it).

Best Adapted Screenplay
Graham Moore, The Imitation Game
Anthony McCarten, The Theory of Everything
Damien Chazelle, Whiplash
Jason Hall, American Sniper
Paul Thomas Anderson, Inherent Vice

Damien Chazelle ended up in this category after the Academy decided Whiplash had been adapted from his own short film ... which Chazelle only made to secure financing for the full feature. Confusing! And while voters are rooting for the young helmer, I think they may flock to The Imitation Game in this category, which presents one of movie's best opportunities to win.

Best Original Screenplay
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo, Birdman
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler
Dan Futterman and E. Max Frye, Foxcatcher

Boyhood is a front-runner in other races, but I don't think it poses as strong a threat in Original Screenplay. Here we may find voters torn between two candidates: Birdman is a wordy whirling dervish where the screenplay is front and center, while Nightcrawler feels truly original and can only be recognized in this category. Since we usually get one idiosyncratic script win, I'm tempted to go with Nightcrawler.

Best Foreign Film
Ida
(Poland)
Leviathan
(Russia)
Tangerines
(Estonia)
Timbuktu
(Mauritania)
Wild Tales
(Argentina)

That Cinematography nod for Ida will help pull the acclaimed film over the line.

Best Documentary Feature
Citizenfour
Last Days in Vietnam
Virunga
Finding Vivian Maier
The Salt of the Earth

Will the Academy embrace the chilly, up-to-the-minute Citizenfour, or opt for more traditional fare like Last Days in Vietnam and Finding Vivian Maier? I'm waffling on this one, but I think the voters' liberal streak will eventually win out, lifting Citizenfour.

Best Animated Feature
Big Hero 6
How to Train Your Dragon 2
The Boxtrolls
Song of the Sea
The Tale of Princess Kaguya

What to do, now that presumed front-runner The Lego Movie isn't even in the race? The category now favors the well-reviewed How to Train Your Dragon 2, which won the Golden Globe, but watch this space, because the spending and campaigning is about to kick into high gear.

Film Editing
American Sniper
Boyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Whiplash

Whiplash just feels right, doesn't it?

Best Song
Gregg Alexander, Danielle Brisebois, Nick Lashley, and Nick Southwood, "Lost Stars" (Begin Again)
John Legend and Common, "Glory" (Selma)
Shawn Patterson, Joshua Bartholomew, Lisa Harriton, and The Lonely Island, "Everything Is Awesome" (The Lego Movie)
Diane Warren, "Grateful" (Beyond the Lights)
Glen Campbell, "I'm Not Gonna Miss You" (Glen Campbell ... I'll Be Me)

"Glory" was a strong contender regardless, but now that the Academy can view its votes as a make-good to the semi-snubbed Selma, it will be hard to beat.

Best Original Score
Johann Johannsson, The Theory of Everything
Alexandre Desplat, The Imitation Game
Alexandre Desplat, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Hans Zimmer, Interstellar
Gary Yershon, Mr. Turner

Both of the Desplat nominations would seem to cancel each other out, so place your bet on Globes winner Johann Johansson, whose The Theory of Everything score is foregrounded in that film.

Best Cinematography
Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman
Dick Pope, Mr. Turner
Robert D. Yeoman, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Ryszard Lenczewski and Łukasz Żal, Ida
Roger Deakins, Unbroken

Lubezki's Birdman work is the showiest, but will he win two years in a row after taking this prize for Gravity? Deakins has never won despite countless nominations, but does he deserve it now for Unbroken, a film the Academy didn't really embrace? The work in Ida and Grand Budapest is worthy, too, but I think Dick Pope's painterly compositions in Mr. Turner will come out on top. (Let's just make sure the presenter practices his name beforehand this time.)

Costume Design
Colleen Atwood, Into the Woods
Anna B. Sheppard and Jane Clive, Maleficent
Milena Canonero, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Jacqueline Durran, Mr. Turner
Mark Bridges, Inherent Vice

The Grand Budapest Hotel outfits a vast cast through a number of time periods, and while the Academy often goes for dresses, gowns, and royalty in this category, this may be the year that Wes Anderson's fussy costumes break through.

Makeup and Hairstyling
Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard, Foxcatcher
Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White, Guardians of the Galaxy

Yes, Tilda Swinton's old-age makeup in Budapest was fun, but how are you not going to give this to the extensive, color-saturated makeup slathered on nearly everybody in Guardians of the Galaxy? They should win this award for Glenn Close's wig alone!

Production Design
Adam Stockhausen and Anna Pinnock, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Suzie Davies and Charlotte Watts, Mr. Turner
Dennis Gassner and Anna Pinnock, Into the Woods
Nathan Crowley, Gary Fettis, and Paul Healy, Interstellar
Maria Djurkovic and Tatiana Macdonald, The Imitation Game

Amazingly, this is the first time that a Wes Anderson movie was nominated for Best Production Design, but now that they've fully embraced him, voters will surely reward the sets of The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Sound Editing
Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman, American Sniper
Martín Hernández and Aaron Glascock, Birdman
Brent Burge and Jason Canovas, The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies
Richard King, Interstellar
Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro, Unbroken

Interstellar and American Sniper could both triumph here. The next category, though, is where things get tricky for Christopher Nolan's space epic ...

Sound Mixing
American Sniper
Birdman
Unbroken
Interstellar
Whiplash

... since Interstellar's soupy, dialogue-drowning sound mix was one of the movie's most controversial elements. And yet, it still won an Oscar nomination! Will the attention paid to it actually work in the film's favor? Perhaps, but I think for most voters, the drum-heavy Whiplash will be more their tempo.

Visual Effects
Interstellar
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Guardians of the Galaxy
X Men: Days of Future Past
Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Andy Serkis did groundbreaking work in 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but the movie lost the Visual Effects Oscar to Martin Scorsese's Hugo. An Oscar for the Apes sequel would be a nice consolation prize, but the invented worlds of Interstellar may ultimately make it too tough a competitor.