BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The Predicted Five
1. Unbroken – Joel Coen, Ethan Coen (previous drafts by William Nicholson, Richard LaGravenese) – Being rewritten is not always a bad thing (2012’s Lincoln was written, rewritten, and then rewritten and Oscar nominated). There is a lot of talent that has worked on this project (namely the Oscar darling Coen brothers, who the Academy just took a year off from recognizing), and it appears to be a fascinating story and a suddenly beloved book. It is one of the Best Picture frontrunners at this point.
2. Trash – Richard Curtis – Curtis has gotten nominated in the past (Four Weddings and a Funeral), and this movie is directed by voter favorite Stephen Daldry. Look for the major nominations to come flooding its way as usual.
3. Inherent Vice – Paul Thomas Anderson – PTA films are hit or miss with the Academy, but his screenplays are almost always singled out. This seems like potentially the most conventional movie he has made since Hard Eight, which might make it his most popular with voters.
4. Rosewater – Jon Stewart – The subject matter seems Oscar friendly and important. He is beloved by the Emmys, so perhaps that goes for Academy voters as well. He is always so sharp and calculated with his writing on The Daily Show that I can’t see this not being a flawless script.
5. Kill the Messenger – Peter Landesman – His 2013 film Parkland could not find any traction despite a monster cast and great potential. This one, directed by the talented Michael Cuesta, promises to be different.
Others in contention
6. The Search – Michel Hazanavicius – In his first studio release since his Oscar favorite The Artist, Hazanavicius takes on much more difficult subject matter. It is a remake of a past Oscar winner for Best Story, and it has a brilliant cast so far. Keep an eye on how this develops.
7. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn – The Academy is not always kind to people adapting their own work, but the movie promises to be one of the frontrunners and the rumored re-written ending could prove beneficial.
8. Child 44 – Richard Price – There seems to be a lot of promising crime dramas, but this is also a period piece that has a dynamic and exciting cast. Watch out for this one. Price is a former nominee as well (The Color of Money).
9. A Walk in the Woods – Michael Arndt – Arndt is 2 for 2 in terms of screenplays he has written independently. This one, directed by Borat’s Larry Charles, appears to be another potential hit. The limited cast does not always bode well for screenplay noms, though.
10. God’s Pocket – John Slattery, Alex Metcalf – The movie was a hit at Sundance, and Slattery is a well-liked TV star. The movie sounds tough, and with the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman leading the way, the movie could be in the spotlight whenever its release is.
11. The Last 5 Years – Richard LaGravenese – LaGravenese just wrote the wildly popular HBO movie Behind the Candelabra. This one is based on a musical, and its content sounds like it has potential. However, he has not been nominated since The Fisher King and has had a fair amount of flops, including basically every film he has tried to direct.
12. The Two Faces of January – Hossein Assimi – Assimi’s Drive shook things up during 2011’s awards season despite its atypical style. This crime thriller, which he also directed, sounds and looks absolutely awesome. I hope it lives up to it.
13. Wild – Nick Hornby – He was previously nominated for About a Boy. Road movies are very hit or miss, though. It is a true story and directed by Dallas Buyers Club’s Jean-Marc Vallee, so there is something going for it.
14. True Story – David Kajganich – The movie sounds very dark and fascinating, sort of in a The Silence of the Lambs type of way, but Kajganich has yet to really write a quality screenplay. This is more of a “keep an eye on it” mention.
15. A Walk Among the Tombstones – Scott Frank – Frank, previously nominated for Out of Sight, is directing his first movie since his underrated debut The Lookout. The material doesn’t exactly sound groundbreaking, and since it stars Liam Neeson in what is currently billed as an action movie, it has an uphill climb.
16. Jersey Boys – Rich Elice, John Logan – Has the Academy snubbed Eastwood movies enough yet? We will find out with this musical. They rarely hit in the screenplay category, but Logan is talented and on a hot streak.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
The Predicted Five
1. Birdman – Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo – Inarritu’s screenplays are not as popular as the ones Guillermo Arriaga writes, but this sounds amazingly creative and satirical. Comedies have a good track record in this category. If this is as good as it sounds, then this should be an easy choice for the Academy.
2. Love & Mercy – Oren Moverman – This movie will come down to its release. The material certainly seems Oscar-bound, and Moverman got a surprise nomination for his masterful The Messenger back in 2009. If it gets enough eyeballs on it, then this very well might be a frontrunner in all categories.
3. 99 Homes - Ramin Bahrani, Amir Naderi, Bahareh Azimi – Up until 2013’s strange At Any Price, Bahrani had hit big on all three of his significant releases with critics. They were all too small for the Academy, but this film has the cast and timeliness to make a run at the big awards. Bahrani films are normally about the direction, so if he calms down and lets the story breathe, then we could be looking at one of the major contenders.
4. Mr. Turner – Mike Leigh – Mike Leigh’s Another Year missed out on all of the precursors, but it still got the Oscar nom. They just love him. This film is a biopic about painter J.M.W. Turner. Sounds like an even bigger slam dunk to get the British vote.
5. The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson, Hugo Guinness – I know, release date blah blah blah. We thought that Moonrise Kingdom was too early and too weird to be remembered at the year’s end. It got nominated too, and this seems much more widely appealing.
Others in contention
6. Foxcatcher – E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman – The delay hurts the film’s chances no matter how good it ends up being. It did have the benefit of not having an official trailer yet, which was the pitfall of The Monuments Men, but there still isn’t a release date. Keeping my fingers crossed on this one. The people involved still imply that this should be a major contender.
7. A Million Ways to Die in the West - Seth MacFarlane, Slec Sulkin, Wellesley Wild – This movie appears to be trying to tap into that Blazing Saddles territory (nominated for 3 Oscars), which it certainly appears to be a modern day take on that spoof style. Is MacFarlane the next Mel Brooks? I wouldn’t doubt it. He already has that Hollywood “in” by being an Oscar nominee and host.
8. Magic in the Moonlight – Woody Allen – It is simply irresponsible to not include Woody Allen on the longlist until the film’s release. This one sounds like the stereotype of what Americans love about British movies. Could this be Allen’s next Best Picture contender? Doubtful. His last back-to-back screenplay nominations were in 1995-1996.
9. The Cobbler – Thomas McCarthy, Paul Sado – This movie could prove to be the next Spanglish, seeing as Adam Sandler is the lead. McCarthy has not really missed yet, though. There are no plot details as of this moment.
10. Boyhood – Richard Linklater – There is not a more creative idea in all of the 2014 films I came across than Linklater’s 13 years-in-the-making passion project. If this gets a Before Midnight-level release and perception, then this could be another screenplay contending for the Oscar.
11. The Skeleton Twins – Mark Heyman, Craig Johnson – From the director of the odd indie True Adolescents, this movie has a much more likable cast and a story about finding yourself and righting your wrongs. It could be the little indie comedy that strikes a chord with the Academy.
12. Interstellar – Christopher Nolan, Jonathon Nolan – We really do not know exactly what this movie is, but my gut feeling is that it will not be as big of a contender as Nolan’s last few films. Plus, sci-fi was just recognized in 2013’s Gravity. This will almost certainly be a box office smash, though, and could very easily prove me wrong. I hope it does.
13. Whiplash – Damien Chazelle – The Sundance winners are either huge Oscar hits or they get shut out. I am putting this about halfway down the list to avoid over-hyping it like I did Fruitvale Station just last year.
14. Imagine – Dan Fogelman – Fogelman wrote the surprise hit Crazy, Stupid, Love, but he also penned The Guilt Trip and Last Vegas. This seems like a good, solid crowd pleaser. Having Pacino, Caine, Bening, Garner, and Plummer as your stars can’t hurt either.
15. Tammy – Ben Falcone, Melissa McCarthy – This all depends on how much everyone really loves McCarthy. Kristen Wiig got her nom in this category for Bridesmaids, and this movie sounds an awful lot like The Guilt Trip, but the cast and track record of those involved promise something better and more biting.
16. Fury – David Ayer – Ayer has essentially made a career out of cop movies, but here we get to see what he can do with a World War II film. Brad Pitt and a bunch of talented younger actors are the stars. When making a WWII film, it is all about having an original take, or it will get lost in the shuffle. If I know Ayer’s work, then this will not be typical at all.
17. Welcome to Me – Eliot Laurence – It is another movie starring the beloved Kristen Wiig. Here, she plays someone with a personality disorder, which will definitely bring the laughs and punch lines necessary to garner screenplay votes.
18. Untitled – Cameron Crowe – Crowe really hasn’t hit it big with critics or audiences since Almost Famous, but his projects are always worth checking up on. Here, we have Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone starring…seems like a perfect Crowe pair.
19. The End of the Tour – Donald Margulies – Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel star in this film that appears to be very low key and talky. Those types of films, when they are not based on plays, usually do quite well with Academy voters.
20. While We’re Young – Noah Baumbach – The only time Baumbach made a really popular movie with voters was The Squid and the Whale, and that was 9 years ago. This movie appears to be him getting back to his roots in domestic comedy-dramas.
21. I Origins – Mike Cahill – If Cahill’s last film Another Earth had any campaign, then I bet it would have found an audience. This movie appears to have greater aspirations. His sci-fi dramas are game changers, and he will eventually be a major player in the industry.
22. Manglehorn – Paul Logan – There are no plot details, but supposedly the first-time writer had a screenplay good enough for Al Pacino to sign on and have David Gordon Green direct a rare movie that he or his buddies didn’t write.
23. Midnight Special – Jeff Nichols – I am going to be cautiously optimistic about this project. I love Nichols and his films, and while his last one (Mud) was forgotten by voting time, this one feels different.
24. How to Catch a Monster – Ryan Gosling – Gosling is still looking for his second nomination, and it might come in the screenplay category. It sounds a bit like The Lovely Bones or maybe some early David Lynch stuff. It seems like a strange and risky first project for Gosling to write and direct, but it has my attention.
BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
The Predicted Five
1. Viola Davis – Get on Up – In Tate Taylor’s first film since the surprise box office hit The Help, Davis has another great role, one that will be easier for the Academy to award than when she was up against Meryl Streep playing Margaret Thatcher. Here, her role is the mother of James Brown. Oscar loves motherly roles.
2. Jacki Weaver – Magic in the Moonlight – There is always a Woody Allen supporting lady in the mix, and after Silver Linings Playbook, she proved that she can handle comedy stuff. She is a two time nominee, and this will likely be her third if her role is the scene-stealing one. It is always hard to tell with his movies, though.
3. Julianne Moore – Maps to the Stars – She is in a Cronenberg movie, which will certainly test her skills. She is playing a delusional actress who is haunted in her dreams by her dead mother. Moore is great in these types of roles. She somehow hasn’t been nominated in 2002…that needs to change.
4. Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl – Her role appears to be reminiscent of Rachel Weisz’s winning role in The Constant Gardener, playing the title “gone girl”. She will have to own her portion of the story like Weisz did in order to get the nom.
5. Shohreh Aghdashloo – Rosewater – She has the crucial, defiant mother role in Jon Stewart’s true captive story. Her only nomination was her incredible performance in House of Sand and Fog, so the Academy may finally want to validate that with another.
Others in contention
6. Kathy Bates – Tammy – I am not completely confident that she is the “hard-drinking grandmother” character that is mentioned in the plotline, but if she is, she will probably coast to a nomination.
7. Emma Stone – Untitled Cameron Crowe Project – She is playing against type opposite Bradley Cooper. Audiences love her. This seems like a good time for her first nomination.
8. Brit Marling – I Origins – She is the only real crossover between Cahill movies, so her role will likely be the most polished. She is a talented young actress, and if she wants to be, she can be a regular in the awards circuits. She just needs to branch out a bit.
9. Noomi Rapace – Child 44 – She has the wife role in the crime thriller, a character that seems to be important to the story. So many of these acting predictions are simply speculation on characters, but this seems like a good bet. She is good enough to be nominated one day.
10. Jena Malone – Inherent Vice – She plays a widow character who tries to get the main character to investigate her husband’s disappearance. It is always hard to tell which characters PTA will expand on, but she is the first performer listed on IMDb, so maybe this is one of them.
11. Amanda Seyfried – While We’re Young – This could be the Mariel Hemingway in Manhattan type of nomination if she gets that far. Baumbach scripts certainly give actors room to shine.
12. Berenice Bejo – The Search – I do not know what her role entails, but she is in another movie by her husband Michel Hazanavicius. If she misses out on awards again (like in 2013’s The Past), then I will stop hyping her and mark her The Artist nom up as an aberration and not a sign that she is the next great foreign actress crossover.
13. Chloe Grace Moretz – Laggies – Her character appears to be a scene-stealing one. She is a superbly talented young actress. She just needs that one role for people to really take her seriously. If she outshines Keira Knightley in this Lynn Shelton movie, then this might just be that role.
14. Laura Dern – Wild / 99 Homes – She has some 6 movies getting released this year. In Wild, she will probably have a segment to shine (sort of like Catherine Keener in Into the Wild), and in 99 Homes, she appears to be in the mother role. Her lone nomination was in 1991’s Rambling Rose. How is that even possible?!
15. Anne Hathaway – Interstellar – Obviously, we know nothing about this movie. She is one of the only repeat Nolan cast members, so she probably has a role with a lot to chew on.
16. Holly Hunter – Manglehorn – Once again, there are no plot details, but she is always great. She just doesn’t act too much anymore. Maybe this was just the right role for her. She only has been in 7 live action movies since her last nomination in 2003.
17. Mary Elizabeth Winstead – Kill the Messenger – She plays the editor of Jeremy Renner’s character’s paper in the true story crime thriller. She needs to get nominated at some point. Maybe this is the role that takes her to the big time.
18. Elizabeth Banks – Love & Mercy – Banks has made an effort in recent years to be taken seriously and this appears to be a role where she can really leave an impact. She plays the wife role and is said to have the most important role in the development of the main character. Good enough for me.
19. Patricia Arquette – Boyhood – Aside from Medium, she really hasn’t had a significant role since True Romance. Being directed by Linklater in his passion project seems like a good spot for her to reestablish some of that acclaim.
20. Krysten Ritter – Big Eyes – She plays the free-spirited friend of Amy Adams’s main character who tries to get her to come out of her shell. Sounds like a scene-stealer…
21. Jennifer Garner – Imagine – At some point, the Academy will finally make up for snubbing her in Juno. I thought it was going to be Dallas Buys Club, but I guess not. Is this the project that breaks her through?
BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
The Predicted Five
1. Paul Giamatti – Love & Mercy – He plays the infamous and controversial therapist that appears to be somewhat of a villain in the movie. Giamatti was born to plays parts like this. Could he finally get his second Oscar nom? Definitely. Will he win? It depends on how many people see the movie.
2. Michael Fassbender – Slow West – In the plot descriptions for the movie by accomplished short film director John Maclean, Fassbender appears to have a very mysterious role. It sounds a bit like The Road, but we will see how this develops. His Oscar nom for 12 Years a Slave is only scratching the surface of how big he can become.
3. Gary Oldman – Child 44 – It sounds like Oldman has a really juicy villainous role in the Stalin-era crime thriller. He can not only nail an accent, but he can absolutely steal movies in these types of roles, no matter how small the part. Now that he is a nominee, he might start to get several more.
4. Nick Nolte – A Walk in the Woods – In movies like these, where there are very limited amounts of characters, it seems like one principle actor gets pulled in mostly on the other’s coattails. This seems like one of those cases. He and Robert Redford are either both in or both out, I suspect.
5. Michael Shannon – 99 Homes – Shannon plays another potentially unlikable character as the realtor who evicts Andrew Garfield’s protagonist. He is likely going to be the boss character, throwing his weight around and intimidating people. He should own this role.
Others in contention
6. J.K. Simmons – Whiplash – This sounds like a great departure role for Simmons. It is said to be much darker and unlikeable than we are accustomed to seeing from him. If he nails it, which he certainly can/should, then watch out for him getting his first Oscar nom.
7. Martin Sheen – Trash – Sheen is one of the great “How have they never been nominated before!?” actors out there. Playing in a Daldry film will likely give him a fantastic character, especially this role where he is playing a priest.
8. Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher – He has a potentially showy role, but the delay has hurt the film’s overall chances. If we get a fresh new trailer at some point, then the movie and this performance can regain its potential frontrunner status.
9. Robert De Niro – Hands of Stone – The movie sounds really interesting and is well cast. The Academy is always looking for ways to nominate their favorites. De Niro, playing Roberto Duran’s legendary trainer Ray Arcel, should dominate the movie.
10. Robert Duvall – The Judge – He is playing an estranged, probably alcoholic, father character to Robert Downey Jr.’s lead character. The main thing going against him is that his director, David Dobkin, has never made an even remotely serious movie before.
11. Johnny Depp – Into the Woods – I am not entirely familiar with the material, but he is playing “The Wolf” in the “Red Riding Hood” part of the story. If Depp is committed to the role, then he could become a frontrunner in the category.
12. James Gandolfini – The Drop – The movie is written by author Dennis Lehane (Mystic River) and directed by Michael Roskam (Bullhead). It is intriguing for sure, and the Oscars missed their opportunity to recognize the late great Gandolfini for Enough Said. Can he get an even further delayed posthumous nom?
13. Usher Raymond – Hands of Stone – Playing Sugar Ray Leonard is a potential scene-stealing role. If it was just going to be a throwaway or name-dropping part, then they would not cast someone this famous. Usher has the charisma to make this something special.
14. James Frecheville – I Fought the Law – This movie sounds incredibly Hollywoodland-ish, which was unfairly overlooked. Frecheville’s only legit role so far was a breakout part in Animal Kingdom. It sounds like he is the potentially the most important piece of this brilliant cast.
15. Richard Jenkins – Lullaby – The movie gives me a slight vibe of People Like Us, but this seems to have more merit. I am just assuming that Jenkins is playing the dying father role described in the summary.
16. James Franco – True Story – His part of a manipulative murderer is going to be something that Franco can really relish in. Playing opposite Jonah Hill will only add to the heights that he can take the character to.
17. Ezra Miller – Madame Bovary – The movie is directed by Sophie Barthes (Cold Souls), which will undoubtedly give this classic novel a new flair. Miller is an extremely outgoing and showy Broadway-type actor, perfect for this type of movie.
18. Bob Odenkirk – Boulevard – Better Call Saul! I have no idea what his part entails, but he is one of the best character actors out there. He is being directed by the underrated Dito Montiel opposite Robin Williams. I want this to be great.
19. Eddie Marsan – God’s Pocket – Marsan is likely going to play the best friend character who helps Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Mickey get through his dire straits. He is a talented character actor who needs to be recognized at some point. He was previously snubbed for Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky.
20. Dustin Hoffman – The Cobbler – Once again, I do not know much of anything about the movie, but Hoffman in a Thomas McCarthy movie is intriguing. He hasn’t been nominated since 1997 either…
21. Guy Pearce – The Rover – Now that we have a trailer, which was awesome but probably not Oscar stuff, I have to put Pearce all the way down here, holding out hope that he can finally get his first nom. His part looks tough, but that hasn’t helped him in the past.
BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
The Predicted Five
1. Amy Adams – Big Eyes – She is playing a real person in what appears to be a very meaty role. She is constantly getting nominated and losing, but with her first leading nomination for American Hustle, maybe her next big role is where she will strike Oscar gold.
2. Juliette Binoche – Clouds of Sils Maria – For some reason, I always think that the Academy loves her, but she has only been nominated twice. This seems like a great Being Julia-type role. The film is directed by Olivier Assayas (Carlos), so we pretty much know it is going to be great.
3. Meryl Streep – Into the Woods – Her part in the musical is the centerpiece and show-stealing part. She is Meryl Streep, so she will of course get the nomination. How urgent is her winning her inevitable 4th Oscar?
4. Reese Witherspoon – Wild – Nearly 10 years after winning, it seems like her time to get that validation nomination. Being directed by Jean-Marc Vallee will only help her cause. The film appears to be built around the isolation of her character, which can either hurt or enhance her chances.
5. Annette Bening – The Search – I am not 100% sure which part she will be playing, but if she is the lead, which was played by Montgomery Clift and nominated in the original, then look for her to score a nom here.
Others in contention
6. Natalie Portman – Jane Got a Gun – The movie has been somewhat of a passion project for Portman. She kept it alive through multiple directors and castings. Her part sounds absolutely riveting and hardcore. The movie needs to blow us away with its August release date in order to be remembered.
7. Jennifer Lawrence – Serena – She is playing what will probably amount to the emotional center of the story. She is going to be a regular on these Oscar shortlists for the foreseeable future. She is the next Streep.
8. Anna Kendrick – The Last 5 Years – She is not only a nominee, but she is becoming a movie star as well with her Pitch Perfect franchise. This will capitalize on her musicality and potentially take her all the way to the ceremony.
9. Uma Thurman – Anita – I realize that I may be speaking through my love of Uma, but this really sounds like a terrific People vs Larry Flynt-type project. It is directed by an Oscar-winning documentarian, and it has the timely subject matter of sexual orientation discrimination. It has yet to hit pre-production, but we need to keep an eye on this.
10. Rooney Mara – Carol – Todd Haynes’s last three films (including his miniseries), have garnered raves and acting nominations. Mara seems like a perfect Haynes actress and could very easily take over this race if the part is as good as it sounds.
11. Kate Winslet – A Little Chaos – Alan Rickman’s first directed film was warmly received and got a few award mentions. Winslet sounds like she has her next great role. And yes I realize I basically said the same thing about Labor Day…
12. Nicole Kidman – Grace of Monaco – A year after first mentioning it, it is still worth keeping on our lists because of its potential. The delay hurts, but it is opening Cannes, which could be promising. It just reeks of being the next Diana, though.
13. Mia Wasikowska – Tracks / Madame Bovary – Tracks sounds like the next Meek’s Cutoff. It got raves at the late 2013 festivals it played at. She is of course the title character in Madame Bovary, and if Little Children's book club is any indication, then it promises to be a very strong role for the talented young actress.
14. Cate Blanchett – Carol – Blanchett is below her probable co-lead Mara because she just won, and this sounds like the less crucial role of the two. When she makes a movie, she is in contention, though.
15. Kristen Wiig – Welcome to Me – She is playing a role that is right up her alley. How much do voters love her? She already has that writing nomination. Can she become the next great leading comedy lady?
16. Keira Knightley – Laggies – Most of what she has done after her nomination in 2005 has pretty much sucked. This movie sounds like a role she can really sink her teeth into, and with Lynn Shelton directing, it is probably going to ask a lot of her.
BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
The Predicted Five
1. Joaquin Phoenix – Inherent Vice – Is the character going to be more Popeye Doyle or Bad Lieutenant? I am assuming that it is somewhere in between, but either way, it will be fascinating to watch. Phoenix has been on a hot streak recently, and PTA pulled out the best performance of his career in The Master. This could be his best chance at the gold.
2. Michael Keaton – Birdman – He has somehow never been nominated before, but this is a role that is going to require an awful lot of self-deprecation. It appears that his role will be reminiscent of what Mickey Rourke did in The Wrestler. The movie basically mirrors his career path.
3. Robert Redford – A Walk in the Woods – The movie is another where Redford is going to be basically doing it on his own, but this time her gets to play off Nick Nolte. The only thing that potentially scares me about this is it is directed by Borat’s Larry Charles. Also, maybe the Academy just doesn’t really like Redford as an actor (only once nomination way back in 1973).
4. Jeremy Renner – Kill the Messenger – He is the hero in one of the presumed frontrunners. He already has a couple nominations to his credit, and if director Michael Cuesta brings a bit of that complicated character development from Homeland, then watch out.
5. Chadwick Boseman – Get on Up – The year after playing Jackie Robinson, Boseman lands the role of James Brown. It is going to be another inspirational tale, but this movie is probably going to be a much better movie and tougher role for the breakthrough actor.
Others in contention
6. Steve Carell – Foxcatcher – I am still holding out hope for him because he looked absolutely terrifying in that foreign trailer leak last year. I cannot wait to see what he is able to do in that schizophrenic villainous role.
7. Edgar Ramirez – Hands of Stone – He is a respected actor who was cited by all the major television awards for Carlos. He is playing Roberto Duran opposite De Niro, and the Academy loves their boxing movies.
8. Timothy Spall – Mr. Turner – He has had so many good performances that it is hard to believe that he has never gotten nominated by any of the major awards other than BAFTA. Here, he is playing in a biopic directed by Mike Leigh. Will this be the big British vote-getter of 2014?
9. Paul Dano – Love & Mercy – He is a very showy actor. Getting the lead in this film speaks wonders as to what filmmakers think of him. Playing a character with a nervous breakdown as well as a real person should garner him a fair amount of votes.
10. Gael Garcia Bernal – Rosewater – He is going to have a tough role, and he is one of the most talented actors in the world. He could be the next Javier Bardem…he just needs that first nom. Getting interrogated and tortured is going to provide room for him to blow us away.
11. Philip Seymour Hoffman – A Most Wanted Man / God’s Pocket – With his recent and tragic death, the Academy may want to display one last recognition of their love for the best character actor of our (and potentially all) time. He will be able to play with an accent in Anton Corbijn’s A Most Wanted Man, and he has a potentially devastating role in God’s Pocket. Both are surefire contenders in this category.
12. Brendan Gleeson – Calvary – He received raves and Golden Globe nods for John Michael McDonagh’s The Guard and his brother Martin’s In Bruges. Reuniting with the former and playing a complex priest character might be enough to get him the Oscar nom that he deserves.
13. Bradley Cooper – Untitled Cameron Crowe Project / Serena – He is one of the best liked actors out there. In the Cameron Crowe movie, he is probably going to be a lovable lead in the vein of Jerry Maguire. In Serena, he has a potentially big role and another chance to share Oscar noms with J-Law.
14. Miles Teller – Whiplash – He hasn’t been cited as much for his role as J.K. Simmons has, but he is becoming one of the more admired young indie actors and now a potentially huge Hollywood star. If the movie is a popular Sundance winner, then his nom could become a no-brainer when awards season arrives.
15. Brad Pitt – Fury – I am not 100% sold on the movie, and role as Wardaddy sounds like it could be wonderfully hammy, but he is as beloved as any guy in Hollywood. He is going to be in contention for every remotely serious movie he embarks on.
16. Jack O’Connell – Unbroken – There is always a newcomer. I have seen him in a few awesome movies from the UK, and he is a standout. He plays the lead character that gets taken prisoner by the Japanese in WWII. He can hit the depths of the character if given the chance, and given the fact that the Coens did the final script, we know he will have the writing to enhance his chances.
17. Christopher Walken – Jersey Boys – He plays a mobster who the Four Seasons get into bad business with. I am not sure how big his role is, but he will almost certainly contend here or in Supporting Actor.
18. Michael C. Hall – I Fought the Law – It is possible that he will simply never become a big movie star, but this sounds like an awesome role for the talented TV actor. If the movie pushes him to get outside of his comfort zone like Dexter did, then he could really put on a show.
19. James Franco – Every Thing Will Be Fine – He is being directed by the great Wim Wenders, and his role sounds really tough. He has been making way too many movies recently, but this one sounds like his best character in a while (unless you consider Alien in Spring Breakers a great role and not just Franco acting his ass off).
20. Jonah Hill – True Story – His character and his relationship with Franco’s character is going to be complicated and really interesting. They have never done a drama together, and this sounds fascinating. Could this be the next Capote?
21. Kodi Smit-McPhee – Slow West – He is one of the best under 18 actors in the business. He was excellent in The Road, which this seems to mirror. He will need to own the movie over Fassbender and show that he is truly a leading actor to have a realistic shot at a nom.
22. Jason Segel – The End of the Tour – Playing David Foster Wallace is clearly his most interesting role ever. The Academy is not quick to recognize films like this, but he has the talent to really show us something in James Ponsoldt’s drama.
23. Jesse Eisenberg – The End of the Tour – He is playing a reporter who goes over his travels and relationship with Segel’s character. He might prove to be more of a lead than Segel. It would actually be nice if they split up to give them both a chance.
24. Michael Shannon – Midnight Special – If he is indeed the main character, he will probably dominate yet another Nichols film. He is becoming his muse, which I am fine with. He is amazing in all three of his films.
25. Andrew Garfield – 99 Homes – With this and The Amazing Spider-Man, he will be in the spotlight all year long. If he nails this role the way we know he can, then this could prove to be an easy nom. He just doesn’t show off enough to really attract voters. He is a much more subtle actor.
26. Christoph Waltz – Big Eyes – Depending on the size of his role, he could steal the movie from Amy Adams. He seems like the type of quirky actor who could be absolutely brilliant in Tim Burton features.
27. Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game – He is seemingly everywhere. This movie sounds like one of his best roles, playing a mathematician in a period piece. The Academy might want to recognize him for all the work he has done recently.
28. Michael Kenneth Williams – The Sweet Blood of Jesus – I have no idea what the movie is about, but if Spike Lee still has the ability to make a good movie (which is certainly up for debate), then this could be a showcase for Omar’s talents.
29. Al Pacino – Manglehorn – David Gordon Green got Al Pacino to play in his movie? This must be something special. I can’t wait to see what the movie is. He hasn’t been nominated since he won in 1992, which is too long. How many Emmys can he possibly get nominated for between Oscar noms?!
30. Ralph Fiennes – The Grand Budapest Hotel – We will know very soon where he stands in the race. He hasn’t gotten a nom since The English Patient, believe it or not. Acting for Wes Anderson will show us a new side of the ordinarily very serious actor.
31. John Cusack – Maps to the Stars – He has 3 movies with great potential this year. Could this finally be the year that he gets that elusive Oscar nomination? Playing the lead in a Cronenberg movie is going to give us an idea of what he is truly capable of.
The Predicted Five
1. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu – Birdman – This movie’s potential fascinates me. The Academy loves movies that are about Los Angeles and Hollywood. Crash is set in and about L.A., The Artist is a love letter to classic Hollywood, and Argo portrayed Hollywood as a national hero. Depending on if this movie can have the right balance of mass appeal and “in Hollywood” satire (The Player as opposed to What Just Happened), then this could be the next great one. It is all going to ride on Inarritu, and I am hoping he can pull it off.
2. Michael Cuesta – Kill the Messenger – While he is not a really accomplished film director yet (he only has four indie films to his credit), he is a superb television helmer. His work on Homeland gives him the credibility and experience to turn this film into something incredible.
3. Stephen Daldry – Trash – He has made 4 films, and he has been nominated for 3 of them, the other one receiving a Best Picture nom. His track record is beyond impressive, and while this movie seems a bit too light, I wouldn’t doubt that he could turn it into another commercial hit.
4. Bill Pohlad – Love & Mercy – His only other directed feature was a rarely seen movie in 1990 called Old Explorers. He is more of a producer than a director, but he is a nominee. Hopefully he has learned more than previous people that fall into this category (Trouble with the Curve’s Robert Lorenz, for example).
5. David Fincher – Gone Girl – He is one of the best and most popular directors in the world. Even though the story seems much more ordinary than his previous ventures in the crime drama genre, I suspect that there is something special with this one. If the movie is a box office hit, Fincher will get in and will keep getting in until he finally (hopefully) wins one.
Others in contention
6. Daniel Espinosa – Child 44 – He has only made one movie in America, which was the modestly successful Safe House. This movie sounds like a potentially big hit. It could wind up being this year’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
7. Angelina Jolie – Unbroken – I suspect that the Academy will have a hard time nominating Jolie in this category, but the movie might just speak for itself. It has the Oscar friendly Christmas release date and a Coen screenplay. If the movie is as good as it sounds, it might become clear that this is the best movie of the year and have no choice but to give it love in every category. Her direction in the otherwise disappointing In the Land of Blood and Honey was actually quite good and commendable.
8. Ramin Bahrani – 99 Homes – His directions are always interesting and a showcase in his indie films. This movie sounds like a much more wise choice than At Any Price, yet with somewhat similar storylines. Garfield and Shannon are obviously more reliable than Efron and Quaid, as well.
9. Michel Hazanavicius – The Search – Since basically no one has seen any of his French movies, The Artist is really our only reference for him. His direction there was outstanding and this story seems like another way for him to show his talent. His film could be a frontrunner.
10. David Ayer – Fury – There has to be something to this movie for such a comfortable director to make his first movie not involving the police. He is a really interesting visual director, and the early shots of the film look outstanding. We will see if he can recreate Nazi Germany in a way that will please the Academy.
11. Bennett Miller – Foxcatcher – His first two films were nominated for Best Picture, and he got the nom in this category for Capote. The early leaked trailer looked chilling and moody. His directions have been subtle, but this is going to require something different from him.
12. Paul Thomas Anderson – Inherent Vice – The Master proved that the Academy still admires what PTA does, but they do not always feel comfortable recognizing it. The story does not seem like Academy stuff necessarily, but if he turns a seemingly typical story into something original (which I am sure he will), then the noms will come flooding his way like they did with There Will Be Blood.
13. Christopher Nolan – Interstellar – He is somehow still without a nomination in this category. This film has an uphill climb to change that. Sci-fi is definitely making a comeback, but with how popular Gravity was in 2013, this will have to be nearly perfect to really leave a mark with the awards.
14. Jon Stewart – Rosewater – How much does Hollywood love the 19-time Emmy winner? He is an unashamed and outspoken liberal. His film is about a timely subject. I wouldn’t doubt him taking this film all the way.
15. Damien Chazelle – Whiplash – The director of Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, a tiny black and white movie that was popular with critics, comes back with a Sundance winner that appears to have the pedigree of a contender. We will not know until its release how well it can do, though. It appears that this film was an expansion of a Sundance-winning short he made last year, so this seems to have a bright future.
16. Jean-Marc Vallee – Wild – Dallas Buyer’s Club was really popular with the Academy; he was probably the #6 choice for that film in this category. Perhaps the Academy will want to make up for leaving him off. This movie will be a much more obvious directing showcase than his previous one.
17. Clint Eastwood – Jersey Boys – Eastwood took a much needed break after J. Edgar flopped. He is going back to what made him one of the most interesting directors in the world: originality. He is making a biopic musical. Could that be his ticket back to the Oscar’s A-list?
The Predicted Ten (I predict 9 will get nominated)
1. Birdman (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu) – This movie appears to be some bizarre mix of Synecdoche, New York, Hollywoodland, and Death to Smoochy. With Inarritu at the helm, it is hard to think that it would not be the darkest and most fascinating satire in years. This may prove foolish upon release, but I have faith in this project. There have been different subgenres being represented in the past 16 Best Pictures (American history, historical thriller, silent, British history, war, crowd pleaser, crime thriller, crime drama, indie drama, sports, fantasy epic, musical, biopic, historical epic, dramedy, comedy)…it seems like it is finally time for another comedy to take the prize.
2. Love & Mercy (Bill Pohlad) – The movie sounds like it could be the next Ordinary People, but it is also a true story. This might be one of my random stabs that misses completely (Hyde Park on Hudson, for example), but the talent involved is hard to ignore.
3. Kill the Messenger (Michael Cuesta) – With Cuesta’s success on Homeland and a story that is similar in subject matter to Argo, this movie will be in the public eye all year. Perhaps the similar feel to the past winner will prevent it from winning, but it appears like a surefire nominee.
4. Unbroken (Angelina Jolie) – The Academy is not exactly in love with Jolie and her work, but this movie and the talent that has taken it on in the writers room implies that it will be an Oscar juggernaut. The cleverly-released early trailer shown to the Sochi Olympics audience looked remarkable. If they can see past the name of the director (much like Argo in 2012), then this could be a lock for a nom and a potential winner.
5. Trash (Stephen Daldry) – I will not doubt the power of Stephen Daldry and his track record again. After seeing Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close got a Best Picture nomination, every other film he makes will be at the top of the contenders list. Can this be the one that he wins for?
6. Gone Girl (David Fincher) – His last film had an admirable showing at the Oscars despite being a remake. This movie is one that Fincher has been developing for a while, and he has yet to really make any sort of flop. This should be an easy nomination.
7. Rosewater (Jon Stewart) – The movie seems like an important movie to kick off a potentially great directing career for one of the more influential voices in Hollywood. I might be overstating the potential of this project, but with the people involved and Stewart also being able to use his platform on The Daily Show to get the hype up, it will be hard to overlook the project.
8. Child 44 (Daniel Espinosa) – The director of the film is not polished yet, but he has shown promise. The actors are up-and-comers. This could prove to be this year’s Rush with the young talent in the acclaimed yet overlooked period piece, but this sounds too good to ignore.
9. 99 Homes (Ramin Bahrani) – I am hoping that this can rise above its preordained path of being the next Promised Land. Bahrani seems incapable of making something typical or predictable. With the talent he gathered for this film, it looks to be a big player.
10. Foxcatcher (Bennett Miller) – I am leaving this just out of the predicted Best Pictures simply because of its delay. I still have confidence that this will blow us away and be a contender in all categories, but sometimes the delay is hard to get past. Both of Miller’s films have been nominated in this category, but maybe the other Olympics movie (Unbroken) will steal Foxcatcher’s thunder, especially if this is an earlier release.
Others in contention
11. The Search (Michel Hazanavicius) – The original movie was very popular with the Academy back in 1948, so a loose update here might be welcome. I can’t really picture a scenario where this movie is not that great, especially after Hazanavicius blew everyone away with The Artist. This all depends on the type of release it receives.
12. Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson) – Only PTA’s epic There Will Be Blood was a serious threat in the Best Picture category. This one seems like another dive into the mind of one of our most interesting filmmakers, but it seems more like a David Lynch movie than anything else. We will have to wait and see with this one.
13. Fury (David Ayer) – The Academy is always quick to anoint war movies. This one stars one of Hollywood’s golden boys in Brad Pitt, and the writer-director has been criminally under-the-radar for years. If this is as furiously directed as End of Watch, yet has enough pure drama and action to satisfy the war movie enthusiasts, then this could secure a nom without too much trouble.
14. Wild (Jean-Marc Vallee) – These types of movies are difficult to judge, especially when there is another similar-sounding movie this year (Tracks). It could be the next Into the Wild or it could be totally lame and turn into the next Eat Pray Love. Vallee’s last two films have hit, so I am betting on this one doing the same.
15. Whiplash (Damien Chazelle) – Recently, Sundance winners have either hit big or missed big. This could either be the next Winter’s Bone / Beasts of the Southern Wild, or it could be the next Like Crazy / happythankyoumoreplease. Since it won the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize, I think it will hit.
16. Get on Up (Tate Taylor) – These types of biopic movies are so common that it really depends on the talent involved and unique writing to decide whether it gets seen/recognized. With Tate Taylor coming off the box office smash The Help, the Academy may accept this one regardless.
17. Interstellar (Christopher Nolan) – Inception was able to get the Best Picture nomination despite lack of unanimous support for the film. This might be a much bigger threat for the technical categories than the top ones, but if the movie gets universal acclaim and a similar box office, then this could be a clear contender.
18. Boyhood (Richard Linklater) – This is an epic passion project for the twice nominated Richard Linklater. If it sticks to the Before style that the Academy has become smitten with, then he could take this film all the way to the ceremony. It sounds a bit like a calmed down The Tree of Life or something.
19. Jersey Boys (Clint Eastwood) – It is never a stretch to predict a musical, but this year there are two of them. If the Academy now realizes that they are somehow underrating Eastwood since they quit nominating him for everything, this movie will almost certainly be raised to contender status. The June release date seems a bit confusing, however.
20. Into the Woods (Rob Marshall) – The other musical this year is a much more conventional one. The Academy loves family friendly material, and it stars Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp. The Christmas release date certainly helps this film’s cause as well.
Thoughts? Any movies I overlooked or did not come across? Your predictions? What are you looking forward to in 2014? Let me know!