A few burning questions for this preliminary set of predictions:
Will the Best Actor category actually feature nothing but first-time nominees? So far, that seems to be the case. The only one of the top contenders that has previous nominations right now is Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel), and at the moment I'm not all that convinced that he can break into the category this year, as its an odd performance and the film came out way back in March. It's rare for an acting category to not have any previous nominees - the last time it happened was in 1999, in Best Supporting Actress (Chloe Sevigny, Samantha Morton, Catherine Keener, Toni Collette, and winner Angelina Jolie). Can it happen again this year?
Who's going to be considered lead and who will go supporting? In recent decades, the Academy has shied away from considering co-leads as such; the last time it happened in Best Actress was in 1991 (Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis, Thelma & Louise), and the last occurrence in Best Actor was in 1984 (F. Murray Abraham and Tom Hulce, Amadeus). The more common practice now is to promote one performance as the lead, then relegate the other ostensible leads to the supporting categories. For example, in 2005 Heath Ledger was nominated for Best Actor for Brokeback Mountain while Jake Gyllenhaal was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. An even more egregious example is 2010's True Grit, when the actual lead of the film - Hailee Steinfeld - was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, while Jeff Bridges landed a Best Actor nod for what's essentially an extended supporting role.
Channing Tatum in Foxcatcher. Will he be lead or supporting?
So how will things break this year for films like Foxcatcher, which has at least two lead roles (Channing Tatum and Steve Carell) and possibly a third (Mark Ruffalo)? Who will stand out in ensemble dramas like A Most Violent Year, Inherent Vice, and Into the Woods? In films about couples, which men will be considered leads while their female counterparts are relegated to supporting (I fear this is going to happen to Big Eyes, which given the subject would be unfortunate).
What films are going to end up being pushed to 2015? We still haven't heard much from Selma, Inherent Vice, and Carol, all of which have been filming and considered contenders. Also uncertain: Suite Francaise, Queen of the Desert, Suffragette, Mojave, Macbeth, Far From the Maddening Crowd, The Cobbler, Pawn Sacrifice, Dark Places, The Water Diviner. Will these films make out in time for consideration this year?
Check out the predictions here.