Best Visual Effects – “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”
Best Original Song – “Glory” from “Selma”
Best Original Score – “The Theory of Everything”
Best Cinematography – “Birdman”
Best Writing – Original Screenplay
NOMINEES: “Birdman,” “Boyhood,” “Foxcatcher,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “Nightcrawler”
WILL WIN: “Boyhood” – Richard Linklater wrote this script, with contributions from his cast, over the twelve years it took to make the film. It was a monumental effort.
SHOULD WIN: “Birdman” – It took a team of four to write this fast-paced story of an aging actor trying to stage a comeback. It’s brilliant, it’s culturally relevant, and it’s a meta-riddled adaptation of Michael Keaton’s own life.
DARK HORSE: “Nightcrawler” – From director Dan Gilroy, the screenplay for this creepy urban thriller blends suspense and intelligence to create an action movie that’s actually, well, smart.
Best Writing – Adapted Screenplay
NOMINEES: “American Sniper,” “The Imitation Game,” “Inherent Vice,” “The Theory of Everything,” “Whiplash”
WILL WIN: “The Imitation Game” – Graham Moore’s adaptation of the Andrew Hodges book “Alan Turing: The Enigma” is a brilliant retelling of an unbelievable true story. It’s the perfect story for Hollywood, and Moore did not disappoint.
SHOULD WIN: “The Imitation Game”
DARK HORSE: “Wild” – True, it’s not nominated. But it should have been. In my mind, the Nick Hornby adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s memoir turned what could have been a boring nature walk into a moving family drama and a journey of self-discovery that I couldn’t peel my eyes away from.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
NOMINEES: Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”; Laura Dern, “Wild“; Keira Knightley, “The Imitation Game“; Emma Stone, “Birdman”; Meryl Streep, “Into the Woods”
WILL WIN: Patricia Arquette – After sweeping this category in almost every other award show, this one seems like a lock.
SHOULD WIN: Keira Knightley – Nominee Benedict Cumberbatch needed terrific support to make “The Imitation Game” a balanced film, and Knightley gave it to him. She’s a gem.
DARK HORSE: Laura Dern – It’s a long-shot, but don’t count her out. She’s incredible.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
NOMINEES: Robert Duvall, “The Judge”; Ethan Hawke, “Boyhood“; Edward Norton, “Birdman”; Mark Ruffalo, “Foxcatcher”; J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”
WILL WIN: J.K. Simmons – Best Supporting Actor is very often the easiest to predict. Jared Leto, Christoph Waltz, Christopher Plummer, Christian Bale, HEATH LEDGER. In “Whiplash,” J.K. Simmons plays a jazz instructor who pushes his students to the edge in order to unlock their potential. He’s incredible, and this Oscar is his.
SHOULD WIN: Simmons
DARK HORSE: Edward Norton – The “Birdman” star gave the performance of his life. Any other year, this is all his.
NOMINEES: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, “Birdman”; Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”; Bennett Miller, “Foxcatcher”; Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”; Morten Tyldum, “The Imitation Game”
WILL WIN: Richard Linklater – Linklater filmed “Boyhood” over the course of twelve years. You knew that. Linklater isn’t afraid to be inventive with his filming, and he deserves recognition for this monumental effort. To me, this is the only recognition “Boyhood” deserves. But we’ll see what Oscar thinks.
SHOULD WIN: Linklater
DARK HORSE: Alejandro G. Iñárritu – “Birdman” is incredibly inventive filming, and Iñárritu is equally known for being revolutionary. Just research his next project, “The Revenant.” He’s a long-shot in second place, but I wouldn’t be mad to see him come away with some gold.
NOMINEES: Marion Cotillard, “Two Days, One Night”; Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything”; Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”; Rosamund Pike, “Gone Girl“; Reese Witherspoon, “Wild”
WILL WIN: Julianne Moore – “Still Alice” is one of the few Oscar nominees I still haven’t seen, but Moore has been sweeping the awards circuit so far.
SHOULD WIN: Reese Witherspoon – She gives her all to play Cheryl Strayed in the artsy adaptation of Strayed’s hiking memoir, “Wild.” It’s a brilliant effort.
DARK HORSE: Rosamund Pike – Pike transcends herself to become Amy Dunne, psycho wife and gone girl. She’s phenomenal, and I couldn’t think of anyone who would have been a better fit for the role that originated in Gillian Flynn’s novel.
NOMINEES: Steve Carrell, “Foxcatcher”; Bradley Cooper, “American Sniper”; Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Imitation Game”; Michael Keaton, “Birdman”; Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything”
WILL WIN: Eddie Redmayne – This is the one race where the “Will Win” is just as difficult to predict as the “Should Win.” Redmayne has been winning recently, including the Golden Globe and, more recently, the Screen Actors Guild Award. But Michael Keaton is favored to win the big one. I’m going on a limb and saying that Oscar will continue Redmayne’s winning streak and give it to the actor who truly deserves it. Redmayne is nearly perfect playing Stephen Hawking. He plays a man whose muscles were deteriorating, but Redmayne single-handedly holds up “The Theory of Everything.”
SHOULD WIN: Redmayne
DARK HORSE: Michael Keaton – Again, Keaton really isn’t a Dark Horse. His performance is almost Redmayne’s equal. He’s incredible.
NOMINEES: “American Sniper,” “Birdman,” “Boyhood,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “The Imitation Game,” “Selma,” “The Theory of Everything,” “Whiplash”
WILL WIN: “Boyhood” – Linklater’s twelve-year effort is still the favorite, and I don’t see it losing. Oscar loves this stuff. It’s unfortunate, really.
SHOULD WIN: “Birdman” – Oscar nominees Keaton, Norton, and Stone, along with Zach Galifianakis and Naomi Watts, deservedly accepted the S.A.G. Award for Best Acting Ensemble. The music, the cinematography, the unique script, and the meta relevance with Michael Keaton made “Birdman” the best movie of 2014. It deserves to be recognized as such.
DARK HORSE: “American Sniper” – War epics, especially if they’re true, are Oscar bait. Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper have 11 Oscar nominations and 3 wins between them. As war movies go, “American Sniper” is a great one. If Oscar has ‘Murica on its mind, “American Sniper” might be seeing some gold.