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Arts and Entertainment’s Oscar Nomination Predictions for 2015

A&E plots the most likely recipients of the 87th Academy Awards

Nominations for the 87th Academy Awards will be announced Jan. 15, and figuring out who and what the Academy will nominate can feel like piecing together clues to solve a mystery. But the curious critic can take note of some excellent indicators.

In the weeks before the Oscar nominations are announced, various Hollywood guilds and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts announce the nominees for their own awards. Unlike the Golden Globes, the voters for these other awards overlap with the Academy, so their decisions are reliable indicators of the direction the Academy will go with their respective nominations. Based on these groups’ nominations and the awards season conversation, A&E is predicting this year’s Oscar nominations.

Best Picture (In order of likelihood)

- “Boyhood”

- “Birdman”

- “The Imitation Game”

- “The Theory of Everything”

- “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

- “Selma”

- “Whiplash”

- “Nightcrawler”

- “Gone Girl”

- “Foxcatcher”

Most Vulnerable: “Foxcatcher”

Dark Horse: “American Sniper”

Since 2011, the Best Picture category has been contested between five to 10 nominees. There have been nine nominees for the last three years, but this year looks open enough to hold 10.The Producers Guild of America Awards are typically very close to the Oscar nominees, and that pattern will likely continue this year.

“Birdman,” “Boyhood,” “The Imitation Game” and “The Theory of Everything” are the closest to sure wins. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” has overcome the handicap of a March release date to become a serious contender. Two weeks ago, “Selma” might have been considered a definite victor, but its no-show at the BAFTAs and Producers Guild make its prospects look bleak. “Nightcrawler” has a lot of momentum that will pay off in the present as well as down the line. “Whiplash” is supposedly an Academy favorite and “Gone Girl’s” PGA nomination, positive reviews and box office success makes me think that it’s getting in.

As for spot 10, “Foxcatcher” seems a more likely fit than fellow PGA nominee “American Sniper,” due to the polarized response toward the latter. Other high profile films like “Interstellar” and “Unbroken” might surprise, but considering their poor performance in precursor awards, it may be the end of the line for them.

Best Director

- Wes Anderson - “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

- Ava DuVernay - “Selma”

- Alejandro González Iñárritu - “Birdman”

- Richard Linklater - “Boyhood”

- Morton Tyldum - “The Imitation Game”

Most Vulnerable: Ava DuVernay

Dark Horse: James Marsh - “The Theory of Everything”

Without the Directors Guild Nominee list, this is a hard category to forecast; however, Linklater and Iñárritu are the strongest candidates. Tyldum has a good shot as well, since his film is expected to rack up multiple of nominations.

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” has done very well with precursor awards, so it’s very possible Wes Anderson will get his first nomination in this category. If “The Theory of Everything” has a good day, James Marsh may sneak ahead in the race. If he does, he’d most likely replace DuVernay due to the awards season slump in which “Selma” appears to be stuck in debate over its historical accuracy.

Best Actor

- Benedict Cumberbatch – “The Imitation Game” as Alan Turing

- Jake Gyllenhaal – “Nightcrawler” as Louis Bloom

- Michael Keaton – “Birdman” as Riggan Thomson

- David Oyelowo – “Selma” as Martin Luther King, Jr.

- Eddie Redmayne – “The Theory of Everything” as Stephen Hawking

Most Vulnerable: Jake Gyllenhaal

Dark Horse: Ralph Fiennes – “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Cumberbatch and Redmayne play significant figures in their respective films, and Keaton plays the kind of comeback role any actor would jump at. In short, these actors play the kinds of roles that get Oscar attention — and they play the roles well.

Oyelowo is also a strong contender, too. He missed a Screen Actors Guild nomination due more to “Selma’s” late release than the quality of his performance, and playing a figure like Martin Luther King is big plus come Oscar time. Gyllenhaal has done very well in precursors, so he will likely get nominated for his excellent, albeit creepy performance in “Nightcrawler.” After getting nominated for a BAFTA, Ralph Fiennes may sneak into the mix. However, missing out on the SAGs is a bigger problem for his chances.

Best Actress

- Jennifer Aniston – “Cake” as Claire Simmons

- Felicity Jones – “The Theory of Everything” as Jane Hawking

- Julianne Moore – “Still Alice” as Dr. Alice Hawland

- Rosamund Pike – “Gone Girl” as Amy Elliott-Dunne

- Reese Witherspoon – “Wild” as Cheryl Strayed

Most Vulnerable – Jennifer Aniston

Dark Horse: Marion Cotillard – “Two Days, One Night” as Sandra Bya

Jones, Moore, Pike and Witherspoon are safe. They have been in the running for the SAGs and BAFTAs and have never seemed like they were in danger of losing their positions up front. Jennifer Aniston’s performance resulted in a nomination for a SAG Award, which is telling, and the fact that “Two Days, One Night” missed the Best Foreign Language Film Shortlist makes it seem as though Aniston has the edge over previous winner Marion Cotillard (2007, “La Vie en Rose”).

Best Supporting Actor

- Steve Carell – “Foxcatcher” as John du Pont

- Ethan Hawke – “Boyhood” as Mason Evans, Sr.

- Edward Norton – “Birdman” as Mike Shiner

- Mark Ruffalo – “Foxcatcher” as Dave Schultz

- J.K. Simmons – “Whiplash” as Terence Fletcher

Most Vulnerable: Steve Carell

Dark Horse: Robert Duvall – “The Judge” as Judge Joseph Palmer

Like the previous two acting categories, it looks like four contenders are set (Norton, Hawke, Simmons and Ruffalo) with a wildcard for the fifth spot. After the BAFTAs nominated Steve Carell in this category, he just might assume this place at the Oscars despite campaigning for Lead Actor. A similar situation happened to eventual 2008 Best Actress winner Kate Winslet, and Carell’s performance could be considered either Lead or Supporting. It appears the Academy wants to find a way to honor Carell’s dramatic turn, and this looks like just the year to do so.

Best Supporting Actress

- Patricia Arquette – “Boyhood” as Olivia Evans

- Jessica Chastain – “A Most Violent Year” as Anna Morales

- Keira Knightley – “The Imitation Game” as Joan Clarke

- Emma Stone – “Birdman” as Sam Thomson

- Meryl Streep – “Into the Woods” as The Witch

Most Vulnerable: Jessica Chastain

Dark Horse: Naomi Watts – “St. Vincent” as Daka Paramova

In a continuing pattern, four of the contenders seem set with the fifth spot up for grabs. Arquette, Knightley, Stone and Streep all have the benefit of receiving great reviews and of either being in a universally acclaimed movie or simply being Meryl Streep. For the last spot, Jessica Chastain had a good year and “A Most Violent Year” seems like her ticket in. Naomi Watts in “St. Vincent” was nominated for a SAG award and that surprise nomination could help take her all the way.

It is clear that 2015 is replete with talent on and off screen, and it will be exciting to see not only who gains a nomination, but who wins over all. Considering prior nominations and past blockbuster performances, older trends will continue while some new contenders make their way to the top.

Curious about other awards? Here’s a quick glimpse into the rest of the Oscar categories:

Best Original Screenplay

- “Birdman”

- “Boyhood”

- “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

- “Nightcrawler”

- “Selma”

Most Vulnerable: “Selma”

Could Sneak In: “Foxcatcher”

Best Adapted Screenplay

- “Gone Girl”

- “The Imitation Game”

- “The Theory of Everything”

- “Whiplash”

- “Wild”

Most Vulnerable: “Whiplash”

Could Sneak In: “American Sniper”

Best Animated Feature

- “Big Hero 6”

- “The Book of Life”

- “The Boxtrolls”

- “How to Train Your Dragon 2”

- “The LEGO Movie”

Best Original Score

- “Gone Girl”

- “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

- “The Imitation Game”

- “Interstellar”

- “The Theory of Everything”

Best Cinematography

- “Birdman”

- “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

- “The Imitation Game”

- “Interstellar”

- “Unbroken”

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

- “Foxcatcher”

- “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

- “Guardians of the Galaxy”

Best Costume Design

- “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

- “The Imitation Game”

- “Into the Woods”

- “Maleficent”

- “The Theory of Everything”

Best Visual Effects

- “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”

- “Godzilla”

- “Guardians of the Galaxy”

- “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”

- “Interstellar”

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