Oscar season is upon us and it is shaping up to be quite spectacular. Venice kicked things off a few weeks ago with the debut of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Birdman, Telluride kept things going with The Imitation Game and Wild and Toronto closed out the early Fall festivals with the debuts of The Theory of Everything and Nightcrawler. Last week saw the premiere of David Fincher's Gone Girl at the New York Film Festival and this Friday, Paul Thomas Anderson will reveal Inherent Vice in New York as well. And don't forget about Boyhood, Foxcatcher, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Whiplash- all films that premiered earlier in the year.
After New York, Hollywood will turn its eyes to London, where David Ayer's Fury will premiere, before finally shifting back to California for the AFI Fest, which will debut A Most Violent Year and possibly The Gambler, Big Eyes, Unbroken and American Sniper. And then there's the gigantic elephant in the room: Christopher Nolan's space epic Interstellar. The film has been seen by select audiences and minds have been blown. All in all, a lot of exciting stuff has already happened and plenty more films will be debuting in the near future. Here are my initial predictions for the main categories at the 2014 Academy Awards.
4. Gone Girl
6. The Imitation Game
7. A Most Violent Year
9. The Theory of Everything
10. Inherent Vice
The Best Picture race is tight this year and I could not be more excited for some of the films involved. To me, Interstellar is the clear favorite at this stage in the game. I haven't heard a single negative thing about this film and what I have heard is praise of an insanely high degree. If it's as good as the hype, I see no reason why Interstellar won't take him the gold. Close behind Nolan's space epic are Boyhood and Birdman, two highly ambitious projects that could definitely get some Oscar love. Gone Girl and Unbroken are sure things for me as well, and I'm betting that the Academy finds a way to fit The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game in there too. A Most Violent Year could get in the mix (it looks great) and Foxcatcher is too good to pass up. Finally, I'm betting Inherent Vice slides in at the very end. The trailer was brilliant and I simply cannot wait to see the movie.
1. Richard Linklater, Boyhood
2. Christopher Nolan, Interstellar
3. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Birdman
4. JC Chandor, A Most Violent Year
5. David Fincher, Gone Girl
The sheer ambition of Linklater's Boyhood is what will get him the statuette. While Nolan is certainly a force to be reckoned with, Linklater's masterpiece might be too strong. There's always the possibility that Nolan makes an even greater film in the future. This is undoubtedly Linklater's crowning achievement (although I wouldn't doubt that he makes a better film in the future) and a film for the history books. He must be recognized. Inarritu could be competitive as well and Chandor and Fincher will probably get nominations for their strong works.
1. Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
2. Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
3. Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
4. Michael Keaton, Birdman
5. Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler
The Best Actor category is fiercely competitive this year, with actors jumping into the race left and right. For me though, Steve Carell is still the clear favorite for his work in Foxcatcher. The performance has been praised since the film debuted in May back at Cannes. However, it won't be a cakewalk for the actor. Eddie Redmayne and Benedict Cumberbatch burst onto the scene at Toronto and Michael Keaton will make for some strong competition as well. Finally, I've heard nothing but great things about Jake Gyllenhaal's performance as Lou Bloom in Nightcrawler. He looks spectacular and the movie looks great. Hopefully he finds some Oscar love.
1. Amy Adams, Big Eyes
2. Reese Witherspoon, Wild
3. Julianne Moore, Still Alice
4. Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
5. Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
Best Actress is a tough category as well, but I'm predicting that perennial Oscar bridesmaid Amy Adams will come out on top. She has another good role in Tim Burton's Big Eyes and it could definitely work in her favor, especially with Harvey Weinstein backing the film. Reese Witherspoon is also a strong contender for her work in Wild, which has been praised since the film debuted at Telluride. Julianne Moore broke into the Oscar race for her turn in Still Alice and many think that she could win the statue. And Rosamund Pike and Felicity Jones should make it in the final five as well for their highly praised performances.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
1. J.K Simmons, Whiplash
2. Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
3. Edward Norton, Birdman
4. Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
5. Josh Brolin, Inherent Vice
Simmons looks to be a true revelation in the Sundance favorite Whiplash, so I can't make anyone else the favorite in this category besides him. In addition to that, the Academy is going to want to reward Whiplash in one category or another and I think this might be the one they go for. Ethan Hawke and Mark Ruffalo will be in the mix as well and judging by the trailer, Josh Brolin will be one of the standouts in Inherent Vice. However, I'm betting that the biggest threat to Simmons is Edward Norton. His performance in Birdman has been highly praised and it seems like the kind of supporting part that could take over the whole movie.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
1. Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
2. Laura Dern, Wild
3. Rene Russo, Nightcrawler
4. Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
5. Emma Stone, Birdman
This is a really weak category, so I'm betting on Patricia Arquette taking the win here. She's great in Boyhood and the film is beloved by cinephiles everywhere. Close behind her, I have Laura Dern and Rene Russo, who were highly praised coming out of Toronto. Keira Knightley and Emma Stone will be in the mix also, but I don't see either one having a legit shot at the win.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
1. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, and Armando Bo, Birdman
2. Christopher Nolan and Johnathan Nolan, Interstellar
3. Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness, The Grand Budapest Hotel
4. Richard Linklater, Boyhood
5. J.C Chandor, A Most Violent Year
Best Original Screenplay will be a highly competitive race and it will likely go down to the wire. Any one of these five films could win and there are some films that I haven't listed that could win as well. Birdman is the favorite in my eyes, but the Academy could want to honor Wes Anderson or Christopher Nolan, two talented screenwriters who have been screwed over in past years. And we definitely can't count out Linklater or Chandor just yet.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
1. Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl
2. Paul Thomas Anderson and Thomas Pynchon, Inherent Vice
3. Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Richard LaGravenese and William Nicholson, Unbroken
4, Nick Hornby and Cheryl Strayed, Wild
5. Graham Moore and Andrew Hodges, The Imitation Game
This is a much less packed race and I truly believe that it's a two-film competition at this point between Inherent Vice and Gone Girl. The two ambitious, two hour-plus adaptations of popular novels look to adapt an interesting tone for the big screen and both look to be remarkably successful. I've got Gone Girl in first right now just because all of the buzz is with that film, but PTA could definitely do something great with Inherent Vice. But never count out the Coen Bros., who wrote Unbroken, one of the big fall films that we haven't seen yet.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
1. The LEGO Movie
2. Big Hero 6
3. The Boxtrolls
4. How to Train Your Dragon 2
5. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
The LEGO Movie is the single best film I've seen all year and it's beloved by critics as well. Unless Disney manages to make Big Hero 6 something truly special, I can't see anything but The LEGO Movie taking home the gold. Look for Laika's pleasantly surprising The Boxtrolls and Dreamworks' How to Train Your Dragon 2 to be in contention as well along with The Tale of the Princess Kaguya.
Next time around, I'll take a lot at more technical categories and update my predictions for the major categories!