The Academy Awards and I have had a weird relationship. When I was a kid, I loved the Oscars. I would go all out for it, and my parents were kind enough to indulge in their film-fanatic son’s Hollywood fantasy. One year I setup a fairly nice table up in my bedroom, got dressed up, and had a “fancy” dinner (I think it was chicken and macaroni and cheese) while I watched the telecast. Yeah, I was serious about it. And I got serious about picking winners. I would invite my parents, siblings, and friends to join my Oscar pools, but soon that number dwindled because I found that I could handicap the winners fairly well. No one wants to play with the kid who takes the fun bet too seriously.

When I became a teenager, I began to post on movie message boards and became more interested in the whole Oscar race. From the For Your Consideration campaigns to how nominating works, it was a fascinating process that was half marketing and half people’s love of good movies. Most of the time, the former corrupts the latter (Shakespeare In Love over anything in 1998) but sometimes the latter is too special to ignore (Roman Polanski in 2002). Now I wasn’t predicting winners, I was trying to predict nominees. That’s a way tougher task, obviously, so I got kind of obsessed. January of every year since has been spent paying attention to precursors, watching the main contenders, and consuming every bit of gossip leading up to those early Thursday mornings. Tomorrow is going to be so early.

I’m 28 now, and tomorrow morning is the most exciting part of the Oscar season. No longer do I care about who wins Best Original Screenplay – I want to see if I go five-for-five in the Best Sound Mixing category. It’s an odd hobby to have, but it makes a silly race (insert “awards for art?” rant here) a little more fun and brings the Vegas element of sports-betting into a world I love so much.

Enough with all this: what do I think will be nominated for the Academy Awards on Thursday, January 15, 2015? Well, here you go:

Best Picture



The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game


The Theory of Everything


Alternates: Gone GirlIda, and Unbroken

As always, I’ve included ten total predictions – I’m assuming there will be seven nominees this year for Best Picture but there can be a maximum of ten. 2014 was so shitty that I think it is possible to hit ten for the first time since 2010. I threw in a curveball with Ida because it has gotten a lot of notices, and I think it will be ranked highly by those who love it. Also it is the most accessible foreign-language film of 2014 and the Academy occasionally recognizes those. If I was a little saner, I would have included a movie like Into The Woods in its place, but that’s no fun.

Best Director

Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Ava DuVernay, Selma

Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman

Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

Alternate: Damien Chazelle, Whiplash

Best Director is always a lot of fun to pick because you have nothing but one precursor to rely on: the Directors Guild Awards. The Golden Globes and critics associations are always different from the DGAs and then Oscar rarely strays from that list. The interchangeable nature of that fifth slot (Tyldum, Chazelle, Fincher, etc.) is so wide open, but the DGAs provided a little better focus. With Tyldum picking up a nod there, I can confidently back him for the last slot.

Best Actor

Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game

Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler

Michael Keaton, Birdman

David Oyelowo, Selma

Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Alternate: Steve Carell, Foxcatcher

David Oyelowo has the juice to get in for Selma, right? That movie is peaking at the right time, and even though the Golden Globes was a bust for the film (Best Original Song…whoop-de-doo), I think they are going to come away with some serious nominations. Even though you always bet with the Screen Actors Guild nominees, I’m making an exception here and pushing out Steve Carell in favor of Oyelowo. But who knows? Maybe Gyllenhaal is actually the number five spot, and it is between him and Carell. I guess we’ll find out tomorrow.

Best Actress

Jennifer Aniston, Cake

Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything

Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon, Wild

Alternate: Marion Cotillard, Two Days One Night

Aniston or Cotillard? The TV star or the foreign film sweetheart? I went back and forth on this one because, well, I just don’t like the idea of Jennifer Aniston being nominated for anything related to acting, but you can’t deny those notices. I’m also not a fan of films released at the end of December in the awards markets (New York and L.A.) just so they can be considered. That’s garbage. Every year, the Academy Awards should put out a random collection of thirty cities in the United States that you have to play in before being considered for the Oscars. Sorry Jen, your film didn’t open in Toledo by December 31st, so good luck next year when you actually release your movie! What was I saying? Oh, yeah…maybe the Academy will latch onto Cotillard’s better performance and reward her for it. Or they will just give a nomination to Jennifer Aniston and no one will vote for her come mid-January. That seems most likely.

Best Supporting Actor

Robert Duvall, The Judge

Ethan Hawke, Boyhood

Edward Norton, Birdman

Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Alternate: Josh Brolin, Inherent Vice

As much as I want to see Josh Brolin sneak in for his highly entertaining (see what I did there) turn in Inherent Vice, I think this one is pretty much sewn up. Robert Duvall is the last one in here, so if there is anyone not going to make it, it’s him. I wouldn’t bet on it though because almost every awards body has backed up these five guys so far this season.

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year

Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game

Emma Stone, Birdman

Meryl Streep, Into The Woods

Alternate: Laura Dern, Wild

I almost don’t want to put an alternate in because I feel fairly confident about the lead five in this category. The only way Dern gets in for Wild is if voters finally get struck with Streep-fatigue. Does she have to be nominated every year? I’m of the camp that thinks she hasn’t done anything worthwhile since Out of Africa, so I actually am hoping for a miracle here.

Best Original Screenplay



The Grand Budapest Hotel



Alternate: Foxcatcher

Surprisingly, the shakiest here is Birdman, which is super weird. I still think it will get in because the film is going to get a boatload of high-value nominations, so that means one Writers Guild nominee has got to go. I think if there is one prestige film this year that could get pretty much shut out of the majors, it’s going to be Foxcatcher. It just feels like a missed opportunity as you watch it, and plenty of other people feel that way about it.

Best Adapted Screenplay

American Sniper

Gone Girl

The Imitation Game

The Theory of Everything


Alternate: Inherent Vice

The question is how wildly will this category differ from the Writers Guild Award nominees? They line up more times than not, but there’s a ton of decent scripting work out there this year. I personally think it is a shame that Paul Thomas Anderson’s monumental effort in adapting Thomas Pynchon’s book will most likely go unrewarded, but this is the Oscars: it’s not like they reward good movies.

Best Foreign Language Film

Force Majeure




Wild Tales

Alternate: Tangerines

This has been a great year for foreign films, and for once the finalists for the award line up with some of the glowing reviews. This is a hard category to handicap because usually there are two obvious omissions and two head-scratchers in their place. I decided since they had such a strong list of finalists, I’ll go with all the super popular films as my top five. I don’t feel great about Timbuktu or Wild Tales, but I’m just playing the odds here.

Best Documentary Feature


Last Days in Vietnam

Life Itself

The Overnighters


Alternate: The Case Against 8

2014 had a small amount of quality documentaries and the fifteen finalists are pretty much that group with a few exceptions (The Look of Silence and Rich Hill are inexplicably absent from this final group, and Silence wasn’t even in the list of 134 semifinalists). This group of fifteen films has a broader appeal than most years, so I fully expect the more popular documentaries of 2014 to find their way onto the shortlist.

Best Animated Film Feature

Big Hero 6

The Boxtrolls

How To Train Your Dragon 2

The LEGO Movie

The Tale of Princess Kaguya

Alternate: The Book of Life

Animated Feature is always a little bit of everything: big box office, big studio, small studio, weirdly-adult fare, and an international title. I think this list satisfies most of that criteria.

Best Orignal Score

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game



The Theory of Everything

Alternate: The Homesman

There was actually a lot of good music produced this year, despite the underwhelming nature of 2014. The best score I heard this year was from Antonio Sanchez and Birdman, but that has been ruled as ineligible. Other standouts were The Theory of Everything and Hans Zimmer’s work on Interstellar, both of which have a real shot at being nominated.

(EDIT: Thanks to Joey Ferrari for pointing out to that Birdman is not eligible for Best Original Score. Boo, but thanks to Joey for the heads up!)

Best Original Song

“Begin Again”, Begin Again

“Not Going To Miss You”, Glenn Campbell: I’ll Be Me

“Everything Is Awesome”, The LEGO Movie

“I’ll Get You What You Want (Cockatoo in Malibu)”, Muppets Most Wanted

“Glory”, Selma

Alternate: “Mercy Is”, Noah

Man, the only thing I want to see this year at the Oscars is Tegan & Sara with the Lonely Island winning for “Everything Is Awesome” from The LEGO Movie. I think most people feel that way, so I hope the Oscar nominating group listens to our demands. I honestly think it has the weakest chance out of this group (yeah, hard to believe) because this category rarely features standout songs from soundtracks unless it achieves some kind of critical mass that they can’t ignore. If one of these gets left off the list, look for the boring ass song from Noah to assume the number five position.

Best Cinematography


The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Mr. Turner


Alternate: Ida

There weren’t a ton of standout pieces of cinematography this year with the exception of Emmanuel Lubezki’s Steadicam work in Birdman, so this category is definitely tougher to predict than in past years. When in doubt, side with the guild: the American Society of Cinematographers went with this shortlist, and that’s good enough for me. Note that my alternate is the foreign-language Ida – Oscar has long honored significant foreign cinematographic achievements (see: Sven Nykvist winning twice in this category for Cries and Whispers and Fanny & Alexander, both collaborations with director Ingmar Bergman), so it wouldn’t shock me to see them slide that gorgeous picture in this group.

Best Film Editing



Gone Girl

The Imitation Game


Alternate: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Whereas cinematography was light this year, editors were the real kings. Lots of great work on display in 2014, and something stunning is going to get rewarded. Birdman and Whiplash should be frontrunners because those who enjoy each film constantly applaud the editing, and they couldn’t be more different. Whiplash draws so much attention to its edits and Birdman tries to make them invisible. Both are great achievements and should end up on the final ballot. With that being said, I feel fairly certain about the last three nominees, but could imagine a situation where people really love The Grand Budapest Hotel and throw all the technical nominations their way. If that happens, you could see something like The Imitation Game get knocked off.

Best Production Design


Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The Grand Budapest Hotel


Into The Woods

Alternate: The Imitation Game

I mention guild awards a lot throughout these predictions because they are easily the best precursors to figuring out what is getting nominated. During the nomination process, the Academy divides its members up into their respective branches: if you are an actor, you rank your five favorite performances in each of the acting categories and Best Picture. If you are a cinematographer, you nominate the Best Cinematography category and Best Picture, and so on. Production Design is a bit hard to determine because their guild (Art Directors Guild) have three separate awards for achievements in film: Contemporary, Fantasy, and Period. Most of the past nominations come out of the last two subcategories, but at least one modern film sneaks onto the final ballot. I’m guessing Birdman is going to be that Contemporary selection because a lot detail went into each of those sets, and not only did they have to be great standing alone, but they had to connect with every other set because of the intricate camerawork and editing. My confidence isn’t high in my two box office films, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Interstellar, and I can already see the World War Two work of The Imitation Game nudging one of those out. In that case, I hope it is Interstellar: that movie was shit.

Best Costume Design

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Into The Woods


Mr. Turner

The Theory of Everything

Alternate: Selma

Obviously Colleen Atwood’s work on Into The Woods is the frontrunner here, because everyone loves Colleen Atwood. I’m not as sure about Maleficent as I was at the beginning of the year because people didn’t really like it and Into The Woods is the critically-acceptable version of that movie. The Theory of Everything is a pure guess – I just can’t see them bestow a nomination on something as modern and traditional as Selma.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling


The Grand Budapest Hotel

Guardians of the Galaxy

Alternate: Maleficent

Fake noses and old age makeup galore! This category is so stupid because it never honors the only genre doing exceptional makeup work year in and year out: horror. There is only seven films up for nomination this year and most of them are boring, boring, boring. I’m rooting for Guardians of the Galaxy to win this category because it is the only film nominated that made an effort to transform their actors into fantastical creatures. Other than that…meh, seems like a logical selection.

Best Visual Effects

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes


Guardians of the Galaxy

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies


Alternate: Captain America: Winter Soldier

I don’t know how Dawn of the Planet of the Apes loses this award, but these four other nominees will give it a try. I think that people are a little burnt out on The Hobbit movies, so that’s the entry that is most susceptible to falling to something like Captain America.

Best Sound Mixing

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes


The Imitation Game

Into The Woods


Alternate: Birdman

Hell if I know these audio categories – they are so hard to grasp. How does anyone even nominate something for Sound Mixing? Anyway, good for those people because I’m not nearly smart enough to figure out the difference between the mixing in Fury and the mixing in Unbroken.

Best Sound Editing

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes



Guardians of the Galaxy


Alternate: Interstellar

I got kind of weird with the Mixing, so I decided to be more traditional here in Editing. Maybe more blockbusters here? Don’t feel good about that Unbroken selection though.

Best Documentary Short Subject

Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

Kehinda Wiley: An Economy of Grace

The Lion’s Mouth Opens

The Reaper

White Earth

Alternate: Joanna

So this one is pretty easy to guess because there are only eight finalists to be considered. I included the two I’ve seen (Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 and Kehinda Wiley: An Economy of Grace) because yay! I saw two Documentary Shorts before the actual ceremony! Other than that, I’m simply working off the few trailers I’ve seen and the subject matter. Lots of disease-based shorts this year, so that’s why I included The Lion’s Mouth Opens and left off Joanna because I think voters will probably go for more diversity, especially when there are just eight to choose from.

Best Animated Short Film

The Bigger Picture

The Damkeeper


The Numberblys

Symphony No. 42

Alternate: Footprints

Just a bunch of shots in the dark, working off of plots and durations. These are rarely made available to the public before nominations are announced, so I won’t get around to seeing them until just before the ceremony in February.

Best Live Action Short Film


Baghdad Messi

Boogaloo and Graham

Carry On

The Phone Call

Alternate: Summer Vacation

I like the idea of a film called Baghdad Messi getting nominated so I tried to fit it into the final five. Other than that, these are pure guesses. I’ll be better informed about these pictures after the nominations are announced, so hopefully my winning predictions will be useful.

Tune in on Friday when I go through the major categories and give you my feedback on the nominations…as well as a report on how poorly I did.