Nominations for the 87th Academy Awards are going to be announced in just over two weeks, so I am going to give my predictions for some of the top categories.
Best Supporting Actress this year is a huge head-scratcher, as it normally is. This is the place where we have gotten some massive surprises. It seems nearly every year, someone unexpected shows up here, usually with only one or two precursor nominations, and sometimes none at all, like in the case with Jacki Weaver in 2012. This year, we seem to have a very strong quartet of performances, with the fifth slot being between several other ladies. In fact, other than the top four, no one else falls under the “safe” category, because besides the top four, no one else is safe.
Here are the contenders:
Patricia Arquette as Olivia Evans in Boyhood
Patricia Arquette has been proclaimed the ultimate winner of this category since the film was first seen. I personally don’t find her performance the revelation many believe it to be – its a very good performance, but not at all the intense and brilliant performance everyone seems to claim it to be. However, she is an incredibly strong, and will certainly be nominated. In fact, she is the only person I am unbelievably confident in predicting. She is likely going to win this whole thing, based on the simple fact that she has won dozens of awards already, and with a long career of being a likable and talented character actress, I think she is certainly very much locked in for a nomination and the eventual win.
Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke in The Imitation Game
Keira Knightley is supremely talented, and previously was nominated for an Academy Award in 2006 for her performance in the adaptation of Pride and Predjudice. She now plays Joan Clarke, a friend and confidant of the ingenious Alan Turing in the British period drama, The Imitation Game. Knightley may only be 29, but it feels like she’s been in the movies for decades now. She has such a maturity about her, and she has finally allowed her talents to catch up with the right film, and by starring in a huge Best Picture contender, I definitely believe a nomination for her work in that film can and will happen. Knightley is very talented, but awfully underatted, and she is consistently excellent. I believe if the titan Arquette wasn’t standing in her way right now, she could possibly win. But for now, I think she is a sure bet for the nomination.
Emma Stone as Sam Thomson in Birdman
I think Emma Stone is a perfect example of a versatile young actress – she is one of our brightest young stars at the moment, and with her quirky talents, she has charmed all of us, in both indie films and blockbusters. She is now looking to get her first ever Academy Award nomination for Birdman, which I think is very possible. Birdman is a huge contender for many nominations, with Stone being one of the more likely ones. She may not give the showy performances her co-stars Michael Keaton and Edward Norton give, but she has received a lot of favorable notices, and been nominated at several awards bodies who have recognized her for her performance. I say she is a lock for the nomination, but a shocking snub could be expected, but hopefully not.
Meryl Streep as The Witch in Into the Woods
Is there any bigger mistake than underestimating Meryl Streep? The lady is undoubtedly the greatest living actress, and while she may not be nominated for every film she does, she is certainly always in the conversation. Her performance as The Witch in the divisive Into the Woods has been praised, and she sings, dances and is suitably wonderful in the role, and one of only a few parts of the film unanimously praised. She may not have the slam-dunk performance that nominees usually tend to have, but she is, after all, Meryl Streep, and that alone can guarentee her being in the top tier of contenders, and the fact that her performance has been praised pretty much gives her “lock” status. Like with Stone, however, if there is a glaring snub, it could come from her.
Laura Dern as Bobbi Grey in Wild
Laura Dern is one of those eternally beloved actresses. Underrated, likable and always consistent. She has only managed one nomination before, for Rambling Rose over twenty years ago. She could possibly return to the nominee party this year for her small but acclaimed performance as Bobbi, the mother in Reese Witherspoon’s acting vehicle, and while her role is not very extensive, she is very good in the role, and the film itself is a contender for quite a few awards. Dern could come along on the ride and reach the status of nominee, but the fact that she hasn’t received any major nominations could be bad news.
Jessica Chastain as Anna Morales in A Most Violent Year
If anyone burst through into Hollywood with both impeccable grace and incredible power, it was Jessica Chastain in her massive breakout year of 2011, where she starred in seven films and of course garnered her first Academy Award nomination for The Help. The next year, she anchored the incredible Zero Dark Thirty, and got her second nomination. Now she is looking for her third, and it may just come for her performance as the mobster’s wife in A Most Violent Year. Chastain has received acclaim for the performance, and managed to wrangle a Golden Globe and Critic’s Choice Award nomination. Her likable nature and her reputation as being a professional and dedicated actress could definitely allow her to get her third nomination. Her film, however, may remain underseen, and is likely to not get any other nominations. She is very vulnerable at the moment, but I would call her a huge possibility for the nomination.
Tilda Swinton as Mason in Snowpiercer
This one is more of a pipe dream. I am truly and deeply an enormous fan of Tilda Swinton, and her performance as the androgynous Mason in Snowpiercer has received rave reviews. Swinton has yet to return to the nominee list after her well-deserved win for Michael Clayton six years ago, despite have close to a dozen worthy performances since then. Her performance in Snowpiercer has given her a lot of buzz, and she could perhaps become a surprise nominee. She has been recognized by some critics groups and did get a Critic’s Choice nomination, so it is entirely possible that she could make it onto the ballot and get nominated.
Naomi Watts as Daka in St. Vincent
I don’t want to predict Watts, because her performance in St. Vincent was nothing special. However, I am obligated to mention her because she did pull off a surprise nomination at SAG, which is perhaps the biggest predictor for the Academy Awards. There are occasionally really strange surprises in this category (Cloris Leachman for Spanglish being a prime example), so I wouldn’t read too much into her nomination there, but Watts does have something else on her side – a great performance in a huge awards contender, Birdman. Having two acclaimed films on your side can be beneficial, and Watts can get in on goodwill alone. But I wouldn’t bet on her just yet.
Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King in Selma
I am not quite sure what to think of Carmen Ejogo’s chances – she was predicted to be a huge contender for the nomination and perhaps even win, but her role wasn’t as showy and broad as we expected. However, in Selma she is playing a genuinely good woman, and a well-known figure. Selma is looking to be the eventual Best Picture winner, and Ejogo could easily be swept up in the love for the film and given a nomination. I’m dubious, and I think Selma might underwhelm. However, Ejogo can’t be entirely dismissed altogether.
NO GUTS, NO GLORY
Almost every year we get a nominee that comes out of nowhere and gets nominated, mostly in the supporting categories. You need a lot of guts to make such a prediction, because you need to look at all the strong contenders and decide who to remove. Then you need to actually figure out who you will pick as the huge surprise. Its risky, because you are almost certainly going to be wrong. However, if you are correct, you will be showered with glory (or just have a huge superiority complex for a few days). So my No Guts, No Glory prediction for Best Supporting Actress is…
Anna Kendrick as Cinderella in Into the Woods
Anna Kendrick is so damn likable. She has already been nominated for an Academy Award, and is definitely going to get more and more as time goes on. I am predicting her to perhaps get in for Into the Woods just on gut-feeling alone. I have no idea how the voters will feel about the film, and Kendrick isn’t even the strongest contender from the film in this very category. But bear with me – this is also Rob Marshall’s most acclaimed film since 2002, when he directed the eventual Best Picture winner, Chicago. If you remember, that film got two actresses into Best Supporting Actress – the showy Catherine Zeta-Jones (who would eventually win) and the understated, but effective, Queen Latifah. That can be applied to this situation, with Meryl Streep being almost a lock for a nomination, and Kendrick is the only other female castmember being singled-out for her performance. What is different about this comparison is that Latifah managed to get several nominations – Kendrick has gotten absolutely none so far. She is a huge longshot, and I am not entirely sure she can make it all the way, especially with all the ladies above being stronger and more likely to get nominated. But you never know, Kendrick could definitely surprise, all depending on how the voters respond to Into the Woods and if they hold it in the same esteem they did for Chicago.
So there it is – I think you can bet that Patricia Arquette and Keira Knightley are quite safe, with Emma Stone and Meryl Streep being very safe, but vulnerable. That fifth slot could go to absolutely anyone, and while I personally hope it will be for Tilda Swinton, a smart decision would be to go with Jessica Chastain. But it is seriously anyone’s game, and any of these five ladies could get it.