Almost every year, Clint Eastwood attempts to have an Oscar contender ready to drop into the race. Sometimes, those campaigns pan out, as when Million Dollar Baby (2004) and Letters from Iwo Jima (2006) drummed up Academy support. Recently, however, Eastwood films like Hereafter, J. Edgar and Jersey Boys have failed to generate awards heat. Will American Sniper connect with voters, or fizzle out before the race even begins? We discuss the film’s prospects in this week’s Awards Blend podcast.

Not a lot has changed this week, as few movies that haven’t already been seen chose to show their cards. Most of us are still waiting on Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken, which held its world premiere in Australia (but is under strict embargo for every print outlet). Movies like Selma and American Sniper did start screening for wider critical audiences, however, and I’ve shifted the charts accordingly based on what I was able to see.

Personally speaking, I also rewatched Damien Chazelle’s brilliant Whiplash this week, and it’s every bit as compelling, disturbing, riveting and harrowing as it was the first time I screened it in Toronto. It will need the support of regional and national Critics Groups like the NY and L.A.-based journo cliques to stay in contention. But I’m really hoping it continues to generate raves, because I believe it belongs in many more categories than just Best Supporting Actor, which JK Simmons seems to have secured.

As of Friday, November 21, here’s where I think our major contenders stand:

oscar winner prediction
BEST PICTURE

The Frontrunner

Boyhood
The Contenders

American Sniper
Birdman
Foxcatcher
Gone Girl
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Selma
The Theory of Everything
Whiplash
Wild
The Dark Horses

A Most Violent Year
Exodus: Gods and Kings
The Gambler
Inherent Vice
Interstellar
Into the Woods
Nightcrawler
Still Alice
Unbroken
The Longshots

Big Eyes
Chef
Fury
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Mr. Turner
Noah
Rosewater
Snowpiercer
Under the Skin

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