Oscars mystery: Are we underestimating ‘Whiplash’?

Whiplash” is turning into the little engine that could this Oscars season. When we launched our prediciton center on Aug. 22, Damien Chazelle‘s sophomore feature about a music student (Miles Teller) and a manipulative maestro (J.K. Simmons) did not even place among our top 10 Best Picture contenders. By mid late September, it had broken through (as represented by the light purple line in the bottom left of the chart above) and began a slow but steady climb. This Sony Pictures Classics release is now jockeying for sixth place with “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”

UPDATED: Experts’ Oscars predictions in 24 categories

Whiplash” debuted at the Sundance film festival last January and won both the Grand Jury Prize (Dramatic) and the Audience Award. It scored a jaw-dropping 96 at Rotten Tomatoes and an impressive 87 at MetaCritic.

Among those critics showering praise upon it, Peter Debruge (Variety) said it “demolishes the cliches of the musical-prodigy genre, investing the traditionally polite stages and rehearsal studios of a topnotch conservatory with all the psychological intensity of a battlefield or sports arena.” And Todd McCarthy (The Hollywood Reporter) lauded the two players noting that Teller delivered “a performance that is more often simmering than volatile while Simmons “found a co-lead part he can really run with, which is what he excitingly does with a man who is profane, way out of bounds and, like many a good villain, utterly compelling.”

Indeed, Simmons has led the race for Best Supporting Actor since the outset. This veteran character actor has the backing of all 27 of our Experts to win the award on his first-ever nomination. That support translates into leading odds of 3/2. 

While none of our Oscarologists are predicting “Whiplash” to win Best Picture, two dozen of us have listed it among our top 10. Those votes equal odds of 16/1. By comparison, “Boyhood” is at 7/2 while both “Birdman” and “Selma” are at 6/1, “The Imitation Game” is at 8 to 1 and “The Theory of Everything” is at 10/1. 

Among those 24 Experts, “Whiplash” merits anywhere from second to tenth place as follows:

Second: Keith Simanton (IMDB).

Fifth: Scott Feinberg (Hollywood Reporter).

Sixth: Tom O’Neil (Gold Derby), Christopher Rosen (Huffington Post) and me.

Seventh: Edward Douglas (Comingsoon) and Thom Geier.

Eighth: Thelma Adams (Thelmadams.com),  Matt Atchity (Rotten Tomatoes), Tariq Khan (Fox News),  Scott Mantz (Access Hollywood), Kevin Polowy (Yahoo), Steve Pond (The Wrap), Claudia Puig (USA Today), Jenelle Riley (Variety), Nicole Sperling (Entertainment Weekly), Anne Thompson (Thompson on Hollywood),  Jeff Wells (Hollywood-Elsewhere), Glenn Whipp (L.A. Times) and Susan Wloszczyna (RogerEbert.com).

Ninth: Mary Milliken (Reuters), Sasha Stone (Awards Daily) and Peter Travers (Rolling Stone).

Tenth: Michael Musto (Out.com).

The three pundits not expecting “Whiplash” to reap a Best Picture bid are: Pete Hammond (Deadline), Michael Hogan (Vanity Fair) and Dave Karger (Fandango).

See latest Oscar rankings when the Experts’ predictions are combined

In additon to these nominations for Best Picture and Supporting Actor, “Whiplash” should reap at least four other bids. Multi-hyphenate Damien Chazelle is ranked fourth for his Original Screenplay but only  ninth for Best Director. But be mindful of two years ago when Benh Zeitlin debuted his first film, “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” at Sundance and it won the Grand Jury Prize (Dramatic) as “Whiplash” did this year. Zeitlin shared in a screenplay nomination with Lucy Alibar for their adaptation of her one-act play “Juicy and Delicious.”  But he also scored a Best Director bid for his helming of this Best Picture nominee.

“Whiplash” is ranked fourth for that all-important Editing award; the last Best Picture champ to prevail without at least contending for the cutting prize was “Ordinary People” back in 1980. And this music-themed movie is also in the fourth position for both Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. 

Do you think “Whiplash” will be nominated for Best Picture? Use our drag-and-drop menu below to make your predictions, or click here to enter your picks in all Oscar categories, as well as Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice, Independent Spirit Awards, and more.

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