Pete Hammond on Oscars’ cliffhangers: Who’s out front?

“I can’t call this race yet! Give me a little slack here, Tom!” Pete Hammond (Deadline) roars as we laugh (nervously) about this suddenly weird Oscar season. Just a few days ago, the derby looked like a “yawnfest,” as Pete notes, but then the “Boyhood” bandwagon crashed into “Birdman” at the PGA Awards and Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything“) swooped down on “Birdman’s” Michael Keaton at SAG.

“I really don’t know where I stand on Best Picture right now,” Pete admits in our podcast chat. (Listen below.) “Best Picture is wide open. I was never on the ‘Boyhood’ bandwagon. I so love ‘Boyhood,’ but I thought it was a critics’ movie very much the way ‘The Social Network’ was when it went up against ‘The King’s Speech.'” However, Pete concedes that it might win nonetheless thanks to the preferential ballot. While “Boyhood” may not have enough top-ranked votes to prevail, it could snag the most number-two votes from academy members who rank “Whiplash,” “Birdman” or “American Sniper” higher.

“Sniper” is the wild-card contender that Pete and I find so fascinating. Pete notes that it could play out “like Clint Eastwood 10 years ago when he threw ‘Million Dollar Baby’ into the race at the last minute and played pretty much the same release pattern as this.

“It’s got the passion vote!” he notes and we both concede that Clint could end up winning DGA and setting off a “Sniper” ambush. And we agree that Bradley Cooper has a real shot to win Best Actor.

“In the actor’s race, I do think Eddie Redmayne is going to squeak that out, but I’m not so sure that Bradley Cooper’s not going to do it,” he says. “I’m really torn on that one.”

As for the other top races, “Obviously, Julianne Moore‘s got it in the bag. Patricia Arquette, J.K. Simmons … I don’t see anyone coming in who can beat them. The director’s race? We’ll see what happens at DGA.”

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