Members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences had until 5:00PM/PST on Thursday, January 8th to turn their ballots in, deciding the nominations for the 87th Academy Awards. The critics have already weighed in, and the majority of the guilds have announced their favorite films of the 2014 calendar year, yet soon all will be in the hands of the accountants of PriceWaterhouseCoopers to determine who will be gifted with an Oscar nomination. What marks this year is that there’s still an awful lot of question marks in the race. Sure films like Birdman, Boyhood and The Imitation Game seem ripe for nominations aplenty, but outside of those, there’s still a mystery, and the hint that more than a few surprises may be in store when nominations are announced on January 15th.
For instance, will Ava DuVernay’s MLK bio Selma be able to come back from its near total guild shut-out and criticisms targeting its historical accuracy? Can Whiplash follow in the footsteps of Beasts of the Southern Wild, Winter’s Bone and Precious in becoming the fourth Sundance Film Festival grand jury prize winner to receive a Best Picture nomination? Can the dark and moody media horror show Nightcrawler earn multiple nominations despite its edge? Can Clint Eastwood deliver yet another last minute awards player with American Sniper? Eastwood has done well in the past with late-breaking movies like Letters From Iwo Jima and 2004’s Best Picture winner Million Dollar Baby. And what to make of Unbroken, Angelina Jolie’s WWII epic that was supposed to be Oscar catnip– have the film’s mixed reviews totally soured its Best Picture chances or can it pull a last minute Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close?
On the acting side, the four races look fairly well shaped with Michael Keaton (Birdman), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game) and Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) virtual locks for Best Actor. The remaining two slots look to be heavily fought between SAG and Golden Globe nominee Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler), Globe nominee David Oyelowo (Selma), SAG nominee Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), Bradley Cooper (American Sniper), and Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner). Lead actress on the other is comparatively less competitive– Julianne Moore (Still Alice), Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl), Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything), Reese Witherspoon (Wild) and seasonal surprise Jennifer Aniston (Cake) all received SAG and Golden Globe nominations. Just on the outside appears to be critics’ favorite Marion Cotillard, who had not one but two well-received performances of 2014– The Immigrant and Two Days, One Night.
Supporting Actor has been mostly dominated by J.K. Simmons’ powerhouse performance in Whiplash. Looking to join Simmons for nominations are Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher), Edward Norton (Birdman), Ethan Hawke (Boyhood) and Robert Duvall (The Judge.) All five men received SAG and Golden Globe nominations. Like Simmons, the Supporting Actress conversation appears mostly sewn up– Patricia Arquette has received a shelf-filling number of critics awards for her empathetic performance in Boyhood, and looks poised to earn her first Oscar nominations. Alongside Arquette, Emma Stone (Birdman), Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game) and Oscar queen Meryl Streep (Into the Woods) appear primed for nominations. The final slot looks to be a battle between Golden Globe nominee Jessica Chastain (A Most Violent Year), SAG nominee Naomi Watts (St. Vincent), Rene Russo, hoping to be a part of what may be a big Nightcrawler nomination tally and Laura Dern, hoping to ride Reese Witherspoon’s coattails for her performance in Wild.
So, if anyone is friends with an Academy member, you have one more day to advocate for your favorites.