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
The initial pass of Best Director candidates lacks massive names like Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese or the Coen brothers. But it is possible that this category could break major ground if two female directors (in Angelina Jolie and Ava DuVernay) are able to land nominations for their pictures Unbroken and Selma. This week’s wild card is Clint Eastwood, who hasn’t been nominated in the Best Director category since 2006’s Letters from Iwo Jima, but a return to the battlefield for American Sniper could get him into this year’s race.

oscar winner prediction
BEST DIRECTOR

The Frontrunner

Richard Linklater, Boyhood
The Contenders

Damien Chazelle, Whiplash
Ava DuVernay, Selma
Clint Eastwood, American Sniper
David Fincher, Gone Girl
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Birdman
Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher
Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game
The Dark Horses

Paul Thomas Anderson, Inherent Vice
Wes Anderson, The Grad Budapest Hotel
J.C. Chandor, A Most Violent Year
Angelina Jolie, Unbroken
James Marsh, The Theory of Everything
Rob Marshall, Into the Woods
Christopher Nolan, Interstellar
The Longshots

Darren Aronofsky, Noah
Joon-ho Bong, Snowpiercer
Tim Burton, Big Eyes
Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler
Mike Leigh, Mr. Turner
Ridley Scott, Exodus: Gods and Kings
Jean-Marc Vallee, Wild
Easily the toughest category in this year’s Oscar race. There will be at least five worthy Best Actor candidates who’ll be on the outside looking in on the morning of the Oscar announcements. When picking Frontrunners, I have four who I believe are mortal locks. That means there’s one possible slot open for nearly 20 possible contenders. Who’ll survive the lengthy Opening Stage of the awards campaign?

oscar winner prediction
BEST ACTOR

The Frontrunners

Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
Michael Keaton, Birdman
The Contenders

Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler
David Oyelowo, Selma
The Dark Horses

Ben Affleck, Gone Girl
Chadwick Boseman, Get On Up
Ellar Coltrane, Boyhood
Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Oscar Isaac, A Most Violent Year
Jack O’Connell, Unbroken
Joaquin Phoenix, Inherent Vice
Channing Tatum, Foxcatcher
Mark Wahlberg, The Gambler
The Longshots

Christian Bale, Exodus: Gods and Kings
Tom Hardy, Locke
Alfred Molina, Love is Strange
Bill Murray, St. Vincent
Timothy Spall, Mr. Turner
Miles Teller, Whiplash
Christoph Waltz, Big Eyes
If the Best Actor is stacked, the Best Actress race is rail thin. A few candidates are emerging late, particularly Julianne Moore in the buzzworthy Still Alice. But I’m hoping Rob Marshall’s Into The Woods delivers a few noteworthy female performances, because right now, it’s looking like Reese Witherspoon’s show.

oscar winner prediction
BEST ACTRESS

The Frontrunners

None
The Contenders

Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon, Wild
The Dark Horses

Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
Hilary Swank, The Homesman
Shailene Woodley, The Fault in Our Stars
The Longshots

Amy Adams, Big Eyes
Jennifer Aniston, Cake
Juliette Binoche, Clouds of Sils Maria
Emily Blunt, Into the Woods
Marion Cotillard, One Day, Two Nights
Anne Hathaway, Interstellar
Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Belle
If I had to place my money on one Best Supporting Actor candidate, it would have to be… too soon to tell. As much as I love JK Simmons in the breathtaking Whiplash, that movie hasn’t been setting the indie box office on fire. A few early critics’ groups could boost the profile of these candidates, but for now, it’s a level playing field.

oscar winner prediction
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

The Frontrunners

JK Simmons, Whiplash
Edward Norton, Birdman
The Contenders

Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Tyler Perry, Gone Girl
The Dark Horses

Josh Brolin, Inherenet Vice
Albert Brooks, A Most Violent Year
John Goodman, The Gambler
Tom Wilkinson, Selma
The Longshots

James Corden, Into the Woods
Johnny Depp, Into the Woods
Joel Edgerton, Exodus: Gods and Kings
Tommy Lee Jones, The Homesman
Logan Lerman, Fury
Chris Pine, Into the Woods
Much like the Best Picture race, I have one lock (in my mind) for the Supporting Actress race, and it’s tied to Boyhood. Patricia Arquette is the emotional anchor of Richard Linklater’s sprawling, 12-year journey, and her sentimental work should be enough to earn the actress her first Oscar nomination. Who will join her?

oscar winner prediction
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

The Frontrunner

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
The Contenders

Laura Dern, Wild
Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
Emma Stone, Birdman
Naomi Watts, Birdman
The Dark Horses

Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year
Melissa McCarthy, St. Vincent
Vanessa Redgrave, Foxcatcher
Rene Russo, Nightcrawler Katherine Waterston, Inherent Vice
The Longshots

Carrie Coon, Gone Girl
Anna Kendrick, Into the Woods
Jessica Lange, The Gambler
Sienna Mille, American Sniper
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods
Tilda Swinton, Snowpiercer
 

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