Shortly after the Oscar nominations were announced last month, I made my preliminary picks for who would win, smirking all the while that these early front-runners would surely cruise to their coronation. Perhaps I got too far ahead of myself. Some of those top picks have since faltered, while dark horses and surging contenders have emerged even in the most surprising categories. I’ve got a humble pie cooling on the windowsill, then, as I make this list of my final Oscar predictions: While I’m fairly certain of my picks, I must admit that there are some races that will remain unsettled all the way up until Sunday night. Keep my predictions in mind while filling out your Oscar pool, but know that this year there are likely to be some big surprises.
Best Picture Boyhood The Imitation Game Birdman The Theory of Everything The Grand Budapest Hotel Whiplash Selma American Sniper
A mere month ago, Boyhood looked to have this category all sewn up, and then Birdman stormed the stage at the PGA, SAG, and DGA awards, taking each top prize. It’s hard to deny that kind of across-the-board guild support, and so I cast my vote for Birdman, even though there are plenty of factors here that give me pause, including the surge of American Sniper, the likelihood that Boyhood will be boosted by the preferential voting in this category, and the feeling that Birdman’s recent ascendancy has instigated a minor backlash. Still, it’s kind of fun to go into Oscar night with some major races still in doubt!
Best Director Richard Linklater, Boyhood Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher
Since the Academy has lately been so partial to Picture/Director splits, there’s a chance that Boyhood helmer Richard Linklater could still pull out a win here, even if Birdman takes Best Picture. But when those splits do occur, they tend to favor the director with the more showy technical achievement, and I think that gives Alejandro González Iñárritu the edge for his audacious “single take” approach to Birdman (though Linklater’s 12-year Boyhood shoot is no small potatoes, either).
Best Actor Michael Keaton, Birdman Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game Steve Carell, Foxcatcher Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
For some pundits, the uncertainty over this year’s Oscar field extends even to the Best Actor category, where Bradley Cooper feels like a late-breaking threat and Michael Keaton could benefit if Birdman runs the table. Still, the voters I’ve talked to are all still gaga for Eddie Redmayne.
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
If any race could have used some excitement, it’s this one, which has been locked for Julianne Moore since September.
Best Supporting Actor J.K. Simmons, Whiplash Edward Norton, Birdman Ethan Hawke, Boyhood Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher Robert Duvall, The Judge
The Birdman ascendancy hasn’t seemed to spur more talk for Edward Norton, so I don’t think J.K. Simmons has anything to worry about here.
Best Supporting Actress Patricia Arquette, Boyhood Emma Stone, Birdman Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game Meryl Streep, Into the Woods Laura Dern, Wild
Duh, it’s Patricia Arquette. Sorry, not all of these can be close calls!
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
This race likely comes down to The Imitation Game and Whiplash, and while younger voters love the latter (the under-40 set includes the only people I’ve talked to who are voting for Whiplash to take Best Picture), they’re far outnumbered by the older conservatives who will seize this moment to reward The Imitation Game.
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
Though I’d love an upset victory for Nightcrawler, the tea leaves are arranged just so to indicate a Wes Anderson win for The Grand Budapest Hotel. His movie is also poised to clean up in the craft categories, but this is the best chance to honor Anderson himself, who has been nominated for Best Original Screenplay three times and never won.
Best Foreign Film Ida (Poland) Leviathan (Russia) Tangerines (Estonia) Timbuktu (Mauritania) Wild Tales (Argentina)
Don’t count out the riotous Wild Tales, but the finely composed Ida is this category’s front-runner. It helps, too, that the movie appears elsewhere on the ballot, thanks to its immaculate black-and-white cinematography.
Best Documentary Feature Citizenfour Last Days in Vietnam Virunga Finding Vivian Maier The Salt of the Earth
While the Academy often favors the crowd-pleasing pick in this category, it’s the chilly but galvanizing Edward Snowden doc Citizenfour that has all the momentum.
Best Animated Feature Big Hero 6 How to Train Your Dragon 2 The Boxtrolls Song of the Sea The Tale of Princess Kaguya
How to Train Your Dragon 2 became this category’s de facto front-runner after The Lego Movie was snubbed. (It still hurts!)
Film Editing American Sniper Boyhood The Grand Budapest Hotel The Imitation Game Whiplash
For neither rushing or dragging, the precise rhythms of Whiplash will ensure a victory here.
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)
Can the Academy really survive snubbing Selma twice? Voters will likely consider a trophy for “Glory” their make-good, although there’s strong competition in this category, including The Lego Movie’s delicious theme song and Glen Campbell’s moving tune.
Best Original Score Jóhann Jóhannsson, The Theory of Everything Alexandre Desplat, The Imitation Game Alexandre Desplat, The Grand Budapest Hotel Hans Zimmer, Interstellar Gary Yershon, Mr. Turner
I’m going with Globes winner Jóhann Jóhannsson for The Theory of Everything, but that Grand Budapest Hotel score could be a spoiler if voters keep checking the movie’s ballot boxes.
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
This looks to be a twofer for Birdman director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki, who won just last year for Gravity. Again, though, I feel like Grand Budapest’s below-the-line dominance could extend into this category, especially now that the Academy has finally cottoned to Wes Anderson’s never-before-nominated cinematographer Robert Yeoman.
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 has the most pop, zip, and verve in this category, and it’s also the only contender from a film nominated for Best Picture. It’ll win.
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
I go back and forth on this one, kids. Grand Budapest, again, is a safe consensus pick in all of these craft categories. Still, it’s hard to deny the breadth and invention of the alien races showcased inGuardians of the Galaxy. Today, I’m picking the latter, but ask me again on Sunday and I may have changed my mind.
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
When the thing you production-designed is right there in the title, how can you not vote for 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
War movies do well in the sound categories, favoring Best Picture nominee American Sniper.
Sound Mixing American Sniper Birdman Unbroken Interstellar Whiplash
For the last scene alone, I think Whiplash takes it. But again, a double win for American Sniper would not surprise me.
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
Can Andy Serkis’s groundbreaking, motion-captured Apes performance finally win the Oscar it’s warranted? I feel like the strongly reviewed sequel faded from memory a bit too quickly, ceding this race to Guardians of the Galaxy and likely winner Interstellar.
Short Film, Live Action Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis, Aya (Chasis Films) Michael Lennox, director, and Ronan Blaney, Boogaloo and Graham (Out of Orbit) Hu Wei and Julien Féret, Butter Lamp (La Lampe au Beurre de Yak) (AMA Productions) Talkhon Hamzavi and Stefan Eichenberger, Parvaneh (Zurich University of Arts) Mat Kirkby, director and James Lucas, The Phone Call (RSA Films)
It infuriates me that the Oscarcast still wastes time on three (THREE!) short-film categories in the age of YouTube, when these tiny, often-unremarkable shorts launch themselves into the Oscar race just by renting out a block of time at, say, the Nuart in Los Angeles. Nevertheless, I don’t want you to lose your Oscar pool, so pick The Phone Call.
Short Film, Animated Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees, The Bigger Picture (National Film and Television School) Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi, The Dam Keeper (Tonko House) Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed, Feast (Walt Disney Animation Studios) Torill Kove, Me and My Moulton (Mikrofilm in co-production with the National Film Board of Canada) Joris Oprins, A Single Life (Job, Joris & Marieke)
Unless the voters are suddenly gripped by anti-Disney hysteria, they’ll vote her to reward Feast, the only goddamn short they might have actually seen in a theater (since it was attached to Big Hero 6). Memo to the Academy: We no longer live in an era where most feature films are preceded by shorts! Cut these categories, I’m begging you!
Documentary Short Subject Perry Films, Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 Wajda Studio, Joanna Warsaw Film School, Our Curse Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica, The Reaper (La Parka) Weary Traveler, White Earth