Someone’s going to be left out in the cold. Several very talented and deserving people, in fact. There’s no avoiding it. There are simply too many talented actors vying for five Best Actor slots this year, so on the morning of the Oscar nominations, there could be as many as 10 worthy performers looking at the five nominees and wondering why they aren’t in that exclusive group. I discuss the crowded Best Actor race in the current Awards Blend podcast.

Shortly after the Thanksgiving holiday, a number of professional groups started unveiling their year-end picks, giving slight momentum to hopeful projects. The National Board of Review honored J.C. Chandor’s moody American-dream drama A Most Violent Year with its top prize, while the New York Film Critics Circle chose Richard Linklater’s Boyhood as the year’s best film. Violent has been enjoying a nice push as it approaches theaters in the coming weeks. Boyhood, however, has been an Oscar favorite for weeks (almost months) now, and should continue to steamroll through several of the awards bellwethers as the season continues.

As of Friday, December 5, 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
A Most Violent Year
Selma
The Theory of Everything
Unbroken
Whiplash
Wild
The Dark Horses

Exodus: Gods and Kings
The Gambler
Inherent Vice
Interstellar
Into the Woods
Nightcrawler
Still Alice
The Longshots

Big Eyes
Fury
Mr. Turner
It’s 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. The more I think about it, the more I think Clint Eastwood, who hasn’t been nominated in the Best Director category since 2006’s Letters from Iwo Jima, returns to the category by returning to the battlefield for American Sniper. His NBR win helps, plus the Academy loves him. We’ll see how Sniper plays in the coming weeks.

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 Grand 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
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, as we discussed in this week’s podcast (on Page One). 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

Ben Affleck, Gone Girl
Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler
Oscar Isaac, A Most Violent Year
David Oyelowo, Selma
Channing Tatum, Foxcatcher
The Dark Horses

Chadwick Boseman, Get On Up
Ellar Coltrane, Boyhood
Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Bill Murray, St. Vincent
Jack O’Connell, Unbroken
Joaquin Phoenix, Inherent Vice
Timothy Spall, Mr. Turner
Mark Wahlberg, The Gambler
The Longshots

Christian Bale, Exodus: Gods and Kings
Tom Hardy, Locke
Alfred Molina, Love is Strange
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 a two-horse race between Moore and Reese Witherspoon.

oscar winner prediction
BEST ACTRESS

The Frontrunners

Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Reese Witherspoon, Wild
The Contenders

Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
The Dark Horses

Marion Cotillard, One Day, Two Nights
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
Anne Hathaway, Interstellar
Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Belle
As predicted, J.K. Simmons is taking the trophies in the early, regional awards races. Hopefully his wins – as well as positive word-of-mouth – can continue to boost Whiplash at the indie box office on fire. Right now, I’m waiting for someone to step up and challenge Simmons for the lead in this category. It hasn’t happened yet.

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
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 Frontrunners

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
The Contenders

Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year
Laura Dern, Wild
Emma Stone, Birdman
Naomi Watts, Birdman
The Dark Horses

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
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods
Tilda Swinton, Snowpiercer

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