COLUMN: Predicting the major 87th Academy Award nominations


With the 87th Academy Award nominations being announced tomorrow morning, I'm cutting it close with my predictions of who and what names will hear their named called.  I've been following the full awards season over on my Awards Tracker page, where I've been following the trends and reading the tea leaves.  Using that data and a batch of hunches, that's what I'm basing my nomination picks on.  Tracking all that has served me well.

Last year, I did the top eight categories (skipping Best Animated Feature, Best Documentary Feature, and Best Foreign Language Film) and correctly guess 36 of the 41 eventual nominees, with two perfect 5-for-5 fields.  Let's see if I can improve upon that and raise my game with three more categories.  One of these year's I'll try naming all the categories, right down the technical and artistic ones.  Until then, here are my savvy predictions for tomorrow's nominations in the eleven major categories.


My predicted nominees:  "Boyhood," "Selma," "Birdman," "The Grand Budapest Hotel," "The Theory of Everything," "The Imitation Game," "American Sniper," "Gone Girl," "Foxcatcher," "Whiplash"

My take:  It's too hard to nail this field to the exact number since the Academy has the rule that this field can be anywhere from five to ten nominees.  I picked a full ten just to be safe and get a bonus guess or two.  I feel that, if there was a year that warranted a full ten, it would be this one.

Possible surprises or snubs:  In my eyes, there are two possible left-field surprises that could crash this party: "Nightcrawler" and "A Most Violent Year."  If we were going by popularity crashing the party to really mess with things, Hollywood hits like "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "The LEGO Movie" would be in consideration, but their chances are slim compared to the other two.  What is threatened to get bumped?  I think, from a voting standpoint, that "Foxcatcher" and "Whiplash" are the weakest two likely nominees who could get bumped.


My predicted nominees:  Richard Linklater- "Boyhood," Ava DuVernay- "Selma," Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu- "Birdman," Wes Anderson- "The Grand Budapest Hotel," Clint Eastwood- "American Sniper"

My take:  My picks here match the recent Directors Guild of America nominees with one trade-out.  I put in DuVernay and bumped Morton Tyldum for "The Imitation Game."  It's a close call, but I think Eastwood has enough supporters to hang around and the selection of DuVernay would make history at the first black female director ever to be nominated.  I think history, in that regard, crashes the party.

Possible surprises or snubs:  The directors on the outside looking in are Bennett Miller ("Foxcatcher"), Morton Tyldum ("The Imitation Game"), Dan Gilroy ("Nightcrawler"), J.C. Chandor ("A Most Violent Year"), and Damien Chazelle ("Whiplash").  That right there is a full field of five worth ones all their own.


My predicted nominees:  Michael Keaton- "Birdman," David Oyelowo- "Selma," Eddie Redmayne- "The Theory of Everything," Benedict Cumberbatch- "The Imitation Game," Jake Gyllenhaal- "Nightcrawler"

My take:  The name most casual peope won't be expecting is Jake Gyllenhaal for "Nightcrawler."  I think he's a shoe-in.  My Awards Tracker shows him with the second most Best Actor wins of minor awards to Keaton.  He has double what Eddie Redmayne has won, the next closest person.

Possible surprises or snubs:  Every year, the Best Actor field is tremendously deep.  I'd love to see Ralph Fiennes from "The Grand Budapest Hotel" make this field.  He and Steve Carell for "Foxcatcher" have the biggest chances to crack into the final five.  Deeper sleepers would be Timothy Spall for "Mr. Turner," Bradley Cooper for "American Sniper," or Oscar Isaac for "A Most Violent Year."  However, the deepest, dreamiest sleeper of all would be Andy Serkis for "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes."


My predicted nominees:  Julianne Moore- "Still Alice," Rosamund Pike- "Gone Girl," Reese Witherspoon- "Wild," Felicity Jones- "The Theory of Everything," Marion Cotillard- "Two Days, One Night"

My take:  To me, these are the easiest five nominees to pick of all the acting categories.  These are the five that are head and shoulders above everyone else.  All of the surprises have much longer odds.

The surprise and snubs:  People might clamor for the annual Meryl Streep nomination for "Into the Woods," but that role and that film isn't worth it.  Amy Adams hasn't got enough traction for "Big Eyes."  If there is one possible surprise contender, it would be Jennifer Aniston for "Cake," riding her popularity and Q-rating.


My predicted nominees:  J.K. Simmons- "Whiplash," Edward Norton- "Birdman," Mark Ruffalo- "Foxcatcher," Ethan Hawke- "Boyhood," Channing Tatum- "Foxcatcher" 

My take:  From what I can see, there are four locks for this field (Simmons, Norton, Ruffalo, and Hawke).  It's that fifth slot that is the wild card.  I'm going with popularity over age and naming Tatum to the field on a whim.  I think he's better than his co-star Ruffalo and deserves the nomination.

Possible surprises and snubs:  Like I said, that fifth slot is a wild card.  Look out for Robert Duvall from "The Judge" or two-time winner Christoph Waltz for "Big Eyes" to be possible nominees.  Two way-out-there possibilities could be two supporting players from "Gone Girl," Tyler Perry and the Oscar host himself, Neil Patrick Harris.  Wouldn't that be something?


My predicted nominees:  Patricia Arquette- "Boyhood," Jessica Chastain- "A Most Violent Year," Emma Stone- "Birdman," Keira Knightley- "The Imitation Game," Carmen Ejogo- "Selma"

My take:  I feel like this is an easy category to call considering the roles and the films represented.  All five have won different minor or regional Best Supporting Actress awards during this awards season, with Arquette as the near-lock frontrunner.  

Possible surprises and snubs:  Parallel to the Best Supporting Actor field, there's room for a possible surprise here, even with my tag of "easy."   Watch out for Tilda Swinton for the over-loved "Snowpiercer" or Rene Russo for "Nightcrawler" as two possible nomination thieves.


My predicted nominees:  "The Grand Budapest Hotel," "Birdman," "Boyhood," "Nightcrawler," "Foxcatcher"

My take:  My picks here match the Writers Guild of America nominees except for two switches.  First, "Whiplash" is getting a different designation (see story in the next category).  Secondly, "Birdman" makes this field where the WGA didn't include it.  "Foxcatcher" is the weak link that benefits from the "Whiplash" error.

Possible surprises and snubs:  Every now and then, this category creates some surprises on the fringe.  I think all but "Foxcatcher" are locks.  It's whether or not "Whiplash" gets shifted and written into this category.  A possible deep sleeper would be something wild like "The LEGO Movie."  You never know!  The "Whiplash" drama complicates all of this.


My predicted nominees:  "Gone Girl," "American Sniper," "Whiplash," "Wild," "The Imitation Game"

My take:  So, what's all the fuss about?  I'm taking the chance of "Whiplash," my #1 movie of 2014, making this adapted screenplay field amid a classification and designation controversy whether the film is considered to be based on an original screenplay or an adapted one.  It's an original one, but it's on the list for adapted.  So, I think it crashes this field.

Possible surprises and snubs:  I'm calling the omission right now of P.T. Anderson's adaptation of "Inherent Vice."  The National Board of Review gave it their award for Best Adapted Screenplay, which goes into its total of the second most wins in this category to Gillian Flynn's "Gone Girl," but I think voters are going to side with safe over wacky.  Mark it down as one of my hunches.  "Wild" and "The Imitation Game" steal spots here.


My predicted nominees:  "The LEGO Movie," "The Tale of The Princess Kaguya," "How to Train Your Dragon 2," "Big Hero 6," "The Boxtrolls"

My take:  I think my predictions are perfectly balanced and spot-on here.  "The LEGO Movie" is the frontrunner.  "How to Train Your Dragon 2" just stole the Golden Globe to be worthy.  "The Boxtrolls" offers a Claymation alternative and "The Tale of The Princess Kaguya" throws the foreign animation market a bone on a night where Hayao Miyazaki wins an honorary Oscar.  Lastly, "Big Hero 6" rides the unbreakable Disney clout.  Perfect!

Possible surprises and snubs:  The one movie that could sneak in and knock out the little seen "Princess Kaguya" is "The Book of Life."  The Producers Guild of America gave "The Book of Life" the nomination over that one and it could happen again here for the Oscars.  


My predicted nominees:  "Life Itself," "Citizenfour," "The Overnighters," "Finding Vivian Meier," "Jodorowsky's Dune"

My take:  Of all the major film categories, this is only one that narrows and nominates from a "short list" of finalists and not everything out there under the sun.  We know the final 15 and just have to choose five.  My prediction odds conveniently go up instead of through names at a dart board.  "Citizenfour" and "Life Itself" are the only two race horses to watch out of the potential final five.

Possible surprises and snubs:  In my opinion and observation, the first four names there are locks.  "Dune" is the tedious one on the edge.  The other ten finalists are “Art and Craft,” “The Case Against 8,” “Citizen Koch,” “The Internet’s Own Boy,” “Keep On Keepin’ On,” “The Kill Team,” “Last Days in Vietnam,” "The Salt of the Earth,” “Tales of the Grim Sleeper,” and “Virunga.”  Now you can get your dartboard out.