There seem to be a few foregone conclusions at this year’s Oscars, but it has been a surprising race from the very beginning, so we should prepare ourselves for possible upsets, even in categories we think we know for sure.
Our users, who got 21 of 24 races right last year, favor both “Boyhood” and its helmer Linklater to win. Both prevailed at the Critics’ Choice and Golden Globes in January and at the BAFTAs two weeks ago.
However, the Best Picture pendulum has swung towards “Birdman” in recent weeks. While our editors — who only missed one race last year (Animated Short) — still favor “Boyhood” by a margin of four to three, they are backing “Birdman” helmer Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu by the same margin. He won at the DGA and only seven of its 66 champs have not repeated at the Oscars.
And our 29 experts — who scored 21/24 last year — give “Birdman” the win in both top categories, with the film having a 17-12 edge in votes over “Boyhood” while Inarritu leads Linklater 22-7.
3. Best Actor to … Michael Keaton!
The early frontrunner in the race, Keaton drifted to second place after the SAG Awards went with Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything“) instead. But then “Birdman” surged as a Best Picture candidate, winning top honors at the PGA, DGA, and SAG Awards. If the film has enough support to win Best Picture, Keaton may yet be swept up along with it. The Best Picture champ often wins an acting prize: consider Lupita Nyongo in “12 Years a Slave,” Jean Dujardin in “The Artist,” Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech,” and Javier Bardem in “No Country for Old Men.” That’s not always the case, but a career-capping performance like Keaton’s could still surprise up-and-comer Redmayne if there’s enough support for his film. Seven of our 29 Experts think he will pull off this upset.
4. Best Original Screenplay to … “Birdman”!
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is the Oscars frontrunner after winning this category at the BAFTA and WGA Awards, but “Birdman” was deemed ineligible by the WGA, so it’s harder to gauge how the academy will greet it. “Birdman” is the experts’ favorite to win Best Picture, and the favorite in the top race usually wins a writing award almost by default, especially since there are two writing categories. Consider “12 Years a Slave’s” win last year, or “Argo‘s” victory over the wordier “Lincoln” in 2012.
Yes, “The Artist” lost its screenplay race in 2011, but that was a silent film, so it was no surprise that it lost to legendary wordsmith Woody Allen‘s “Midnight in Paris.” If you’re picking “Birdman” to win the top prize, watch out for it here as well. Six of our Experts think this will happen.
5. Best Adapted Screenplay to … “Whiplash“!
Damien Chazelle‘s script hasn’t had much luck winning awards in recent months, but that’s because it has almost always competed as an original screenplay. There, it has been pitted against this year’s most dominant awards contenders: “Birdman,” “Boyhood” and “Grand Budapest.” But the academy ruled it an adaptation, which puts it in a less formidable field of competitors.
The frontrunner in this category, “The Imitation Game,” has consistently underperformed this awards season, earning multiple bids but coming up short at the Golden Globes, SAG Awards, Critics’ Choice, and BAFTAs. The Oscars will be the first and only time we’ll see “Imitation” and “Whiplash” go head-to-head for a screenwriting award, so prepare for the possibility of an upset. While 19 Experts tout “Imitation,” 10 are going with “Whiplash.” Likewise our Editors are divided 3-3, with one touting BAFTA winner “The Theory of Everything.”
6. Best Editing to … “Whiplash”!
Leading the way in this category is “Boyhood,” which assembled 12 years worth of production into a single cohesive film. It won Best Drama Editing at the ACE Eddie Awards. But then “Whiplash” took Best Editing at the BAFTAs, where “Boyhood” wasn’t even nominated. Could that signal an upset here? While 26 of our 29 Experts expect “Boyhood” to prevail, three of them are in agreement with four of our seven Editors who are predicting a win for “Whiplash.”
7. Best Makeup and Hairstyling to … “Guardians of the Galaxy“!
In recent years, this category has usually gone to the nominee with the broadest academy support. Just last year, “Dallas Buyers Club” won this prize despite a makeup budget of just $250 dollars, beating the prosthetics-heavy “Bad Grandpa.” That fact favors the frontrunner, Best Picture-contender “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” But of the three nominees, “Guardians” has by far the showiest makeup effects, and it won twice at the Makeup Artist and Hair Stylist Guild Awards. That was enough to convince four Experts, one Editor, five of the Top 24 and 30% of Users to predict it to prevail.
8. Best Score to … “The Grand Budapest Hotel”!
Frontrunner “The Theory of Everything” was the first big music winner of the awards season, taking Best Score at the Golden Globes, but it lost the Critics’ Choice Award to “Birdman,” which the academy ruled ineligible for an Oscar. Then it lost BAFTA to “Budapest,” and “Budapest” even went on to win the Grammy for Best Visual Media Score.
While 21 of our Experts favor the frontrunner, seven of them side with four of our Editors who are predicting a win for “Budapest” composer Alexandre Desplat, who is also nominated this year for “The Imitation Game.” The prolific composer has earned eight nominations in less than a decade, but he still hasn’t won. Will voters wish to finally honor him?
9. Best Visual Effects to … “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes“!
“Interstellar” has been the presumed favorite in this category since before it even screened for critics, but the film as a whole was divisive and missed out on a Best Picture nod. This award has gone to a Best Picture-nominee for the last six years, so this will be the first time in a while that that isn’t an option for voters.
And if the academy doesn’t like “Interstellar,” they have a viable alternative in “Dawn,” which beat “Interstellar” for Best Visual Effects in an Effects-Driven Film at the Visual Effects Society Awards. That stat tipped the scales for eight Experts, five of the Top 24 and 15% of Users.
10. Best Animated Feature to … “Big Hero 6“!
There aren’t many past awards to refer to when predicting this contest. PGA and BAFTA both selected “The Lego Movie,” which isn’t nominated here. And though the Golden Globes picked frontrunner “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” they don’t have any voters in common with the academy. It also won the top prize at the Annie Awards, but so did the first “Dragon” movie, which then lost the Oscar to “Toy Story 3.”
We’d be wise to keep an eye on “Big Hero 6”; after a long drought, Disney won this award last year for “Frozen.” Could that have been the start of a winning streak? Three Experts, five of the Top 24 and 15% of Users think so.
11. Best Documentary Feature to … “Virunga” or “Finding Vivian Maier“!
In recent years, the academy has favored feel-good documentaries, and the last two victors were films about artists, which could favor an upset by “Finding Vivian Maier” against politically charged frontrunner “Citizenfour.”
Then there’s “Virunga,” which has had vigorous promotional support from Netflix. It’s a film about nature and conservation, which has also been a popular subject with Oscar voters (“An Inconvenient Truth” and “The Cove” both triumphed in recent years).
12. Best Foreign Language Film to … “Leviathan” or “Wild Tales“!
It would be historic for “Ida” if it prevails: it would be the first ever Foreign Film victory for Poland. But Russia’s “Leviathan” pulled off an upset at the Golden Globes, and it has the added benefit of political relevance: voters could choose it as a protest against political and artistic repression by Vladimir Putin‘s regime.
“Wild Tales” is also a threat. It ranks second in our racetrack odds, and it wouldn’t be the first Argentinian film to surprise: “The Secret in Their Eyes” bested “A Prophet” and “The White Ribbon” in 2009.
Do you think there will be upsets in any of these categories? Use our drag-and-drop menu below to make or update your picks for Best Picture. Or click here to vote in all Oscar categories. The top scorer gets $1,000, bragging rights and a starring role on our Top 24 team that will be showcased in the run-up to next year’s Oscars.