Who are the favorites in Sunday’s 87th Academy Awards? From Craig D. Lindsey, here’s your guide to who should win – and who will win – the major categories. The red carpet show starts at 7 p.m., the awards at 8:30 p.m. on ABC-TV.
• Bradley Cooper, “American Sniper”
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• Michael Keaton, “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
• Steve Carell, “Foxcatcher”
• Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Imitation Game”
• Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything”
Who will win: Redmayne
Who should win: Keaton
Why: Redmayne’s re-creation of Stephen Hawking encapsulates what Oscar voters want in a winning, best-actor performance: a brilliant, groundbreaking, famous character who happens to have a disability. (See Daniel Day-Lewis in “My Left Foot,” Geoffrey Rush in “Shine,” Jamie Foxx in “Ray” and so on.) However, Keaton’s turn as an embittered actor eying a comeback, while obvious Oscar bait, is the least blatant and show-offy of the nominees. Besides, wouldn’t you love to see Keaton give another wonderful speech like the one he gave at the Golden Globes?
Overlooked: That David Oyelowo didn’t get a nomination for playing Martin Luther King in “Selma” will long be seen as an embarrassment on the part of the Academy. Other performances that should’ve gotten some love: Bill Hader as a suicidal gay man in “The Skeleton Twins” and Brendan Gleeson as the priest of an amoral, Irish parish in “Calvary.”
• Rosamund Pike, “Gone Girl”
• Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”
• Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything”
• Marion Cotillard, “Two Days, One Night”
• Reese Witherspoon, “Wild”
Who will win: Moore
Who should win: Cotillard
Why: Oscar voters also like their best-actress winners to play someone with some sort of deficiency or ailment. And Moore, who should’ve won an Oscar a long, long time ago, certainly fits the bill this year with her role as an Alzheimer’s patient, even though previous Oscar winner Cotillard gave a better performance as an emotionally fragile woman trying to hold on to her job.
Overlooked: Elisabeth Moss gave the performance of the year as a woman learning more about herself after a breakup in “Listen Up Philip,” while Gugu Mbatha-Raw gave a star-making turn as a pop diva discovering true love in “Beyond the Lights” and Scarlett Johansson went on the experimental side as a man-craving alien in “Under the Skin.”
Best supporting actor
• Edward Norton, “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
• Ethan Hawke, “Boyhood”
• Mark Ruffalo, “Foxcatcher”
• Robert Duvall, “The Judge”
• J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”
Who will win: Simmons
Who should win: Hawke
Why: Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild winner Simmons is most likely a lock for his portrayal of a gleefully sadistic music teacher in the Sundance fave. But Hawke’s turn as a dad who grows up along with his son impressed me more.
Overlooked: A few good men played interesting, emotionally confused, supporting characters this year: Tyler James Williams as a closeted gay kid bouncing from clique to clique in “Dear White People”; Josh Brolin as a frustrated cop longing to let his freak flag fly in “Inherent Vice”; Channing Tatum as the Olympic wrestler torn between mentors in “Foxcatcher.”
Best supporting actress
• Emma Stone, “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
• Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”
• Keira Knightley, “The Imitation Game”
• Meryl Streep, “Into the Woods”
• Laura Dern, “Wild”
Who will win: Arquette
Who should win: Arquette
Why: For those who’ve seen “Boyhood,” let’s be honest: The parents of the boy are far more interesting than the boy himself. And Arquette’s struggling survivor of a mother is the most fascinating mom in this category. (Dern and Streep also played flawed, maternal figures.)
Overlooked: Arquette, Dern and Streep weren’t the only ones who played strong-willed moms last year. Carmen Ejogo killed it as Coretta Scott King in “Selma.” The same goes for Minnie Driver’s eyes-on-the-prize stage mom in “Beyond the Lights.” And Tilda Swinton’s hilarious, ghastly lieutenant in “Snowpiercer” isn’t a mother – but she is a big, bad mama.
• Alejandro González Iñárritu, “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
• Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”
• Bennett Miller, “Foxcatcher”
• Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
• Morten Tyldum, “The Imitation Game”
Who will win: Iñárritu
Who should win: Anderson
Why: It’s very likely Iñárritu will get the best-director prize for merging all those long takes together to make one visually seamless film. I do think Anderson should get an award not just for “Budapest,” but for all his other great movies that the Oscars have overlooked.
Overlooked: Of course, everyone’s miffed that Ava DuVernay didn’t get a best-director nod for “Selma.” But another woman that should’ve gotten a shout-out was Jennifer Kent for her smart, scary debut, “The Babadook.” As for the guys, what about J.C. Chandor for “A Most Violent Year” or Paul Thomas Anderson for “Inherent Vice”?
• “American Sniper”
• “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
• “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
• “The Imitation Game”
• “The Theory of Everything”
Who will win: “Boyhood”
Who should win: “Selma”
Why: Sentimental favorite “Boyhood” will most likely pick up the award over the visually flashier “Birdman” and “Budapest.” Even though it’s a monster hit with audiences, “Sniper” should be honored to be nominated. The same goes for prestige biopics “Imitation” and “Theory” and indie wild card “Whiplash.” But you know “Selma” deserves to win because 1) no other nominated movie reflects our current cultural climate more and 2) it got only two nominations!
Overlooked: Most of the movies on my 2014 10-best list aren’t even nominated: “Two Days, One Night,” “A Most Violent Year,” “The Raid 2,” “Chef,” “Inherent Vice,” “Land Ho!”, etc. Oh, whatever.