Thursday, December 18, 2014

December 2014 Oscar Predictions: Entering the Void

Nature abhors a vacuum. This is a basic principle of physics, but it also applies to predicting Oscar nominations. With critics groups, SAG, and the Golden Globes all having presented their prizes and/or nominations, we're now deep into the thick of awards season, and the Oscar picture is starting to clarify.

And what is it we're seeing? Well, that's a good question. There seems to be a lot of open spaces in the major categories, including Best Adapted Screenplay and, surprisingly, just about every acting category except Best Actor. If this continues, we can probably expect some big surprises come January 15, if not from tight races then from the Academy's collective shrug of "well, that'll do."

There's still a good way to go, though, and big changes could still be in store. Here are some highlights from the new set of predictions, which you can see in full here.

BEST PICTURE

There's definitely been some major shakeups here. Unbroken being shut out by both the Globes and SAG have definitely broken (sorry) my faith in the film, while those groups' love of The Grand Budapest Hotel and Selma have elevated their profiles. Similarly, Wild has fallen off, namely because the film itself has been generating very little buzz outside of Reese Witherspoon's performance. Based on the accolades delivered so far, it would seem that Birdman and Boyhood are the safest locks here, with The Theory of Everything not far behind.


The biggest question marks remaining in this category are how Into the Woods, Whiplash, and A Most Violent Year will perform, as well as how many nominees there will actually be in this category. It honestly seems like we're on pace for nine nominees for the fourth consecutive year, but there could still be a shakeup here.

More after the jump.


BEST ACTRESS

Here comes that vacuum I was talking about. Four of the five spots in this category seem pretty safely locked up, leaving only one spot open. However, there doesn't seem to be any consensus as to who is even leading the race for that fifth spot. Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night) has been collecting the critics prizes, but it's out-of-nowhere Jennifer Aniston (Cake) who's scored SAG and Golden Globe nominations. Meanwhile, Amy Adams (Big Eyes) has been campaigning like hell for the nomination, and Emily Blunt (Into the Woods) still feels competitive even if the film feels like a major question mark.

Ultimately, I can't really get behind the idea of Aniston as an Oscar nominee, at least not just yet. I think the Academy will go with Cotillard or Adams first, but the fact that Aniston is on the map can't be ignored. If she wants the nomination, she'll need to capitalize on the momentum, and as of right now her film is little more than a blip on the radar. It just doesn't seem likely at the moment, but that could change in the next few weeks.

BEST ACTOR

No changes this time around. Despite the SAG and Globe nominations for his brilliant performance, I really don't think Gyllenhaal is going to be nominated for Nightcrawler. For one, there are reasonable explanations for how he ended up with those nominations (Selma didn't screen in time for SAG, Michael Keaton was nominated in Best Actor - Comedy/Musical instead of Best Actor - Drama), on top of how good he was. Moreover, though, it's just a little to "out there" for the Academy, which I don't think will want to recognize another morally-reprehensible character after nominating Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street) last year. He's likely to end up being the sixth-place finisher, though, just missing the nomination.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS


The Globes' lineup in this category seems like the most obvious lineup at the Oscars as well. There just hasn't been much competition in this category this year. This isn't to say that there aren't some great women that deserve the nomination this year; many of them, like Tilda Swinton (Snowpiercer), are just performances that don't appeal to the Academy. It's a shame, but that's how they operate.

About Naomi Watts' nomination for St. Vincent at SAG: I have no explanation for that. It's not going to carry over to the Oscars. She's not even a contender. But, at the very least, she was great in Birdman.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

I can't do it. I can't predict Robert Duvall (The Judge) getting nominated for a film that was roundly derided and largely forgotten. And yet, he's picked up both SAG and Globe nominations. He's a genuine contender. Which means I now actually have to go see The Judge.

The bigger question is: if not Duvall, then who? This is the most abysmal void of all, with no other contenders really standing up to take his place. I'm stubbornly sticking to Channing Tatum (Foxcatcher), even though his campaign flamed out faster than anyone could have expected. There aren't any other viable candidates, honestly, so who knows what will happen?

BEST DIRECTOR

There are a really good number of contenders in this category, so I feel a little uneasy about keeping James Marsh (The Theory of Everything) in the predictions. But translating the Globe category (with Wes Anderson) to the Oscars just seems to perfect, like a stroke of genius brought on by a collective stroke. I may very well still be proven wrong, especially with the Director's Guild of America still waiting to reveal their selections, but for right now I'm assuming Marsh is safe enough.

That being said, how cool would it be if Anderson actually was nominated? The Academy has resisted him for well over a decade now, even though his films are among the most "directed" out there. I'm just not convinced that they're willing to buy in, though.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

This is another surprisingly weak category this year, so I'm letting Inherent Vice slip into the lineup. That film has had a very polarizing reception, which means that should it be nominated here, it will likely be the film's only nomination. Still, there's no real sense of anything else challenging it for the fifth spot, with the exception of maybe Unbroken.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

I really didn't think that Boyhood would be considered an achievement in writing, namely because of the film's production history. A writing nomination implies a strong sense of direction from the moment of creation, and the way Linklater shot the film off-and-on over a 12 year period - making up scenes along the way - is counterintuitive to that train of thought. Still, it's been racking up writing awards all over the place, so it feels like a safe bet.

Interstellar, on the other hand, is standing on the shakiest ground. The film's awards profile has dropped dramatically recently, and a handful of other contenders - A Most Violent Year, for example, or Whiplash - seem primed to take its place. That being said, neither of those films have made much of an impression yet, and Interstellar has both an intimate emotional narrative and a broad scope, which should help propel it to the nomination. At least, as of right now.

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