Robert Duvall in “The Judge”
Ethan Hawke in “Boyhood”
Edward Norton in “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Mark Ruffalo in “Foxcatcher”
J.K. Simmons in “Whiplash”
WILL/SHOULD WIN: J.K. Simmons
Marion Cotillard in “Two Days, One Night”
Felicity Jones in “The Theory of Everything”
Julianne Moore in “Still Alice”
Rosamund Pike in “Gone Girl”
Reese Witherspoon in “Wild”
WILL/SHOULD WIN: Julianne Moore
Patricia Arquette in “Boyhood”
Laura Dern in “Wild”
Keira Knightley in “The Imitation Game”
Emma Stone in “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Meryl Streep in “Into the Woods”
WILL WIN: Arquette
SHOULD WIN: Stone.
I've bunched three of the four acting categories together because three of the four are all but slam dunks. If Arquette, Moore and Simmons don't win their categories, the stock of oxygen tank manufacturers will rise sharply.
Steve Carell in “Foxcatcher”
Bradley Cooper in “American Sniper”
Benedict Cumberbatch in “The Imitation Game”
Michael Keaton in “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Eddie Redmayne in “The Theory of Everything”
WILL WIN: This is a very, very, very close race between Keaton and Redmaye. Redmayne won the SAG, Keaton is a respected veteran making a hell of a comeback. But I tip to Redmayne, because his is the sort of showy, transformative performance that often wins.
SHOULD WIN: Keaton.
“Big Hero 6” Don Hall, Chris Williams and Roy Conli
“The Boxtrolls” Anthony Stacchi, Graham Annable and Travis Knight
“How to Train Your Dragon 2” Dean DeBlois and Bonnie Arnold
“Song of the Sea” Tomm Moore and Paul Young
“The Tale of the Princess Kaguya” Isao Takahata and Yoshiaki Nishimura
WILL/SHOULD WIN: Like the Toy Story sequels, Dragon 2 doesn't just repeat a successful formula but expands and enriches the story. Big Hero 6 could win here too, but Dragon has a stronger emotional core.
“American Sniper” Written by Jason Hall
“The Imitation Game” Written by Graham Moore
“Inherent Vice” Written for the screen by Paul Thomas Anderson
“The Theory of Everything” Screenplay by Anthony McCarten
“Whiplash” Written by Damien Chazelle
WILL/SHOULD WIN: Whiplash - partly because goofy Academy rules cheated it and called it adapted when it was really original. And partly because it plays mind games that dance inside your head for days.
Could win: Imitation Game is the only real threat, and I don't sense enough passion behind it. As well done as it is, it's almost too traditional. Whiplash is much more daring.
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Written by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo
“Boyhood” Written by Richard Linklater
“Foxcatcher” Written by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Screenplay by Wes Anderson; Story by Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness
“Nightcrawler” Written by Dan Gilroy
WILL WIN: This is a tight three-way race, but I believe Grand Budapest comes out ahead here because this category has a history of awarding the auteur who probably won't win the Best Director Prize.
COULD WIN: Birdman or Boyhood could easily take it. This one's a tough call.
SHOULD WIN: Boyhood. If you believe it's only real trick is in how it was assembled, you aren't paying attention.
“CitizenFour” Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy and Dirk Wilutzky
“Finding Vivian Maier” John Maloof and Charlie Siskel
“Last Days in Vietnam” Rory Kennedy and Keven McAlester
“The Salt of the Earth” Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado and David Rosier
“Virunga” Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara
WILL WIN: CitzenFour's footage of Edward Snowden, just after he opened Pandora's box of secrets, is just too startling to be ignored.
Documentary Short Subject
“Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1” Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry
“Joanna” Aneta Kopacz
“Our Curse” Tomasz Sliwinski and Maciej Slesicki
“The Reaper (La Parka)” Gabriel Serra Arguello
“White Earth” J. Christian Jensen
WILL WIN: I'm handicapped on the shorts this year, having only seen the Animated block. So when in doubt, go with HBO. That's Crisis Hotline.
Foreign Language Film
“Wild Tales” Argentina
WILL WIN: The film with other nominations tends to win. Ida.
Animated Short Film
“The Bigger Picture” Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees
“The Dam Keeper” Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi
“Feast” Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed
“Me and My Moulton” Torill Kove
“A Single Life” Joris Oprins
WILL WIN: "The Bigger Picture" seems to be getting most of the attention, though it was actually my least favorite of the batch.
SHOULD WIN: The charming, poignant, "Dam Keeper," about an unlikely friendship between a pig and a fox.
Live Action Short Film
“Aya” Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis
“Boogaloo and Graham” Michael Lennox and Ronan Blaney
“Butter Lamp (La Lampe Au Beurre De Yak)” Hu Wei and Julien Féret
“Parvaneh” Talkhon Hamzavi and Stefan Eichenberger
“The Phone Call” Mat Kirkby and James Lucas
SHOULD WIN: Toss-up. The Phone Call, if only because it has recognizable faces in former winner/nominee Jim Broadbent and Sally Hawkins.
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Alejandro G. Iñárritu
“Boyhood” Richard Linklater
“Foxcatcher” Bennett Miller
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Wes Anderson
“The Imitation Game” Morten Tyldum
WILL WIN: This is a race between the auteur who pulled off a hell of a visual stunt (Inarritu) and the auteur who pulled off a one-of-a-kind filmmaking feat. The directing category tends toward the strongly visual, e.g. Gravity and Life of Pi. So it shall be with Birdman.
SHOULD WIN: Linklater
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Jeremy Dawson, Producers
“The Imitation Game” Nora Grossman, Ido Ostrowsky and Teddy Schwarzman, Producers
“Selma” Christian Colson, Oprah Winfrey, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, Producers
“The Theory of Everything” Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce and Anthony McCarten, Producers
“Whiplash” Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook and David Lancaster, Producers