Oscar Leaderboard: 'Birdman' and 'Boyhood' Vie for Top Spot
Here's our first weekly look at how the Oscar race is shaping up.
The opening shot of awards season came this week with the twin nomination announcements of the SAGs and the Golden Globes. As the nominations roll in alongside critics' end-of-year lists, we're getting a pretty good idea of what the Oscar race is going to look like. And it looks like Boyhood and Birdman are the year's biggest contenders.
So here's our first look at the Oscar leaderboard, which we'll be updating weekly from now until the awards show on February 22, 2015. For those keeping track, the official nominations will come January 15, so there's still a lot of time for these things to move around!
The Best Actress category is shaping up to be a two-person race with Julianne Moore coming in strong with her Alzheimer's drama Still Alice. If she's actually in second place (which is debatable), it might be because her movie has been seen by so few people, but that'll change as we move forward. Moore has a worthy adversary in Reese Witherspoon who puts everything she has into her powerhouse lead in Wild. The other contenders are vying for position, and the real question will be whether Jennifer Aniston will be able to lock down a nomination for playing against type in Cake.
Timothy Spall was the most shocking omission from the SAG and Golden Globe nominations this week. The twin snubs dealt a major blow to his chances at being nominated for an Oscar after winning the Cannes equivalent of Best Actor for his role in Mr. Turner. Meanwhile Michael Keaton is running first in this race so far with Eddie Redmayne coming in a very close second for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking. We predict this will be the real race in the category unless Selma picks up steam once more people have seen it.
Right now Birdman and Boyhood appear to be vying for awards season dominance, and this is one of three races where the Richard Linklater passion project seems to have an edge on its primary competition. Patricia Arquette is the movie's best chance for a win in any of the acting categories, and if she drops out of frontrunner status it could actually hurt the movie's chances for a Best Picture win. Naomi Watts was the big surprise in the SAG nominations this week. She was barely on the radar for her performance as a Russian prostitute in St. Vincent, but with SAG's big and powerful voting block, a nomination here bodes well for her chances at an Oscar nod.
Critics got their first look at Whiplash all the way back in January when it screened at the Sundance Film Festival, and even then writers were singing J.K. Simmons' praises for playing a sadistic music teacher. It's rare to see an Oscar favorite stay a favorite for nearly a year in the lead-up to the nominations, but that's Simmons' story so far. His main competition comes from Edward Norton from Team Birdman. It was somewhat surprising to see Robert Duvall make his way into the SAG and Globe nominations for The Judge. His inclusion likely came at the cost of either first-time actor and Japanese pop star Miyavi or Tom Wilkinson.
The time has finally come for Richard Linklater to get the awards attention he deserves. He put a Herculean effort into making Boyhood over the course of 12 years, and the end result is emblematic of everything we love about the director — nostalgia, pathos, and above all, the way he finds meaning in life's small moments. But he's up against Alejandro González Iñárritu, who performed a similarly dazzling feat in making Birdman look like one long tracking shot. Paul Thomas Anderson is rightfully beloved by Hollywood, and barely anyone has seen Inherent Vice, so even though he wasn't nominated for a Golden Globe, he's probably still in the Oscar race.
The coming awards season will very likely revolve around Boyhood and Birdman, based on the nominations we've seen so far. Twin biopics The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything are definitely threats, but may end up cannibalizing each other's votes. Selma could pick up steam in the wake of the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner due in part to its haunting reminder that racially-charged police violence is nothing new. Christopher Nolan has never had much luck with the Academy, and Interstellar probably won't be the movie that wins him the recognition he deserves. We'll have to wait and see what happens with Unbroken, but the early signs point to Angelina Jolie's WWII pic being left out. Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel stands a chance of sneaking into the nominations for Best Picture, especially if they go to 10 this year.