Presenting our final guesses in every category, from Best Actor to Best Visual Effects
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Final Oscar ballots are due Tuesday, Feb. 17 at 5 p.m. PT.—but given the way pre-Academy Awards prizes have shaken out, as well as a variety of other factors, EW’s Nicole Sperling has her predictions nailed down:

Best Picture

American Sniper



The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game


The Theory of Everything


Boyhood…Birdman. Birdman…Boyhood. Which one comes out on top? For weeks Boyhood was the front-runner, sweeping critics’ groups and bagging a Golden Globe. No one was shocked when the showbusiness saga Birdman won at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. But then it cleaned up with both the Producers and the Directors Guilds, and suddenly Boyhood was no longer the shoo-in. If we judged purely by statistics, we’d have to pick Birdman. A Boyhood win would be the biggest upset since 1995, when Braveheart unseated Apollo 13 after winning only one guild prize (for writing). And the thing is…we think it could happen. Between the British Academy of Film naming Boyhood Best Picture and our own polling of Academy members, we believe Richard Linklater’s indie epic will be the quiet rebel that steals the show.

Best Director

Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman

Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher

Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

The 2015 Oscar race has been as confounding as Birdman’s final scene—especially when it comes to the directing category. Our bet is that Oscar voters are going to honor both their favorite films by splitting Best Picture and Best Director. This has happened 24 times in the Academy Awards’ 86-year history, though it’s occurred more often in the past decade, most recently in 2014, when Alfonso Cuarón won for Gravity and 12 Years a Slave claimed Best Picture. This year, Boyhood‘s Richard Linklater took home the Golden Globe and a series of critics’ awards, but the Directors Guild prize, which is the most reliable indicator of Oscar glory, went to Alejandro G. Iñárritu. It will be a photo finish, but we believe that the Academy will reward technical bravura over unobtrusive innovation, and Iñárritu will edge out Linklater.

Best Actress

Marion Cotillard, Two Days One Night

Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything

Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon, Wild

From the very first screenings of Still Alice in September, this race has been Julianne Moore’s to lose. Her performance as a linguistics professor battling early-onset Alzheimer’s is subtle, devastating, beautiful—everything we’ve come to expect from her. She won the Golden Globe and SAG awards, making her a statistical near lock for Oscar victory. And having lost the Academy’s top prize four times before, she is also benefiting from a feeling among voters that she is long overdue. Nothing stands in her way. Not previous Best Actress winner Marion Cotillard, who was a late-breaking entrant for her turn as a laid-off factory employee fighting to save her job in the Belgian film Two Days, One Night. Not Rosamund Pike, so deliciously wicked and complex as a rich girl–turned–spurned wife–turned–conniving revenge-seeker in Gone Girl. Not Felicity Jones, forceful yet tender as Stephen Hawking’s first wife in The Theory of Everything. And not Reese Witherspoon—another previous champ in this category—who so convincingly captured the pain of a woman lost in her own grief in Wild. Get ready to watch Moore claim what’s hers.

Best Actor

Steve Carell, Foxcatcher

Bradley Cooper, American Sniper

Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game

Michael Keaton, Birdman

Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

This is the one acting race with some real drama, as the seasoned veteran goes up against the bright-eyed upstart. For months Michael Keaton was the clear front-runner, thanks to his career-rejuvenating performance as a washed-up actor in Birdman. But then Eddie Redmayne came along as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything and turned this into a two-man contest. Ironically, right as Birdman‘s standing has risen in the Best Picture race in recent weeks, Keaton’s status appears to have slipped, especially after Redmayne beat him at the Screen Actors Guild Awards last month. Because SAG has predicted every single Best Actor winner in the past 10 years and the actors’ branch makes up the Academy’s largest voting bloc, it seems logical to conclude that the young Brit has clinched the lead. But that’s not the conclusion we’re drawing. Our money’s on Keaton. His go-for-broke performance, coupled with his long history in Hollywood, should give him the edge. Plus, after watching him choke up while thanking his son during his Golden Globe acceptance

speech, voters are going to find it hard to deny him another chance to move them.

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Laura Dern, Wild

Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game

Emma Stone, Birdman

Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

This year, not even Meryl Streep can cut into the industry’s love for Patricia Arquette and her 12-year role as the mom in Boyhood. Since the movie premiered at Sundance last year, admiration for Arquette has only become more fervent, as she racks up accolade after accolade for her vanity-free deep dive into the life of a woman who puts herself through school and tries to build a better life for her family. She’s won critics’ awards, the Golden Globe, and, most crucially, the SAG prize. Over the past decade, the Screen Actors Guild has had a 80 percent success rate in predicting the Oscar winner in this category. So, Patricia, get cracking on that acceptance speech. And please, no reading it off a crumpled piece of notebook paper this time.

Best Supporting Actor

Robert Duvall, The Judge

Ethan Hawke, Boyhood

Edward Norton, Birdman

Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

J.K. Simmons is this year’s best supporting actor. No one comes close to posing a threat to him and his formidable work as Whiplash‘s maniacal, sadistic conductor. He has won prizes from almost every critics’ group in the country, as well as trophies from SAG and the Golden Globes. No doubt the 60-year-old’s performance resonates on its own merits, but it also represents everything that the Academy loves to reward: the journeyman character actor who has paid his dues in projects ranging from NBC’s Law & Order to Spider-Man to those ubiquitous Farmers Insurance commercials. With Whiplash, Simmons took the role by the horns and never let go, leaving an indelible mark on audiences—and Oscar voters.

Best Original Screenplay

Birdman, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo

Boyhood, Richard Linklater

Foxcatcher, E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman

The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness

Nightcrawler, Dan Gilroy

Boyhood and Birdman will be battling it out in this category too, but with Grand Budapest‘s BAFTA win and some strong momentum, we’ll give it to Wes Anderson for his quirky, highly original screenplay.

Best Adapted Screenplay

American Sniper, Jason Hall

The Imitation Game, Graham Moore

Inherent Vice, Paul Thomas Anderson

The Theory of Everything, Anthony McCarten

Whiplash, Damien Chazelle

Imitation Game landed eight Oscar nominations, but may only go home with one win—and it will likely be in this category. Graham Moore has been celebrated for his screenplay since it first landed on the top of the Black List in 2007. The script also won USC’s Scripter Award, also a good bellwether for the Oscars.

Best Film Editing

Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach, American Sniper

Sandra Adair, Boyhood

Barney Pilling, The Grand Budapest Hotel

William Goldenberg, The Imitation Game

Tom Cross, Whiplash

Boyhood‘s Sandra Adair, Richard Linklater’s long-term editor, should walk away with this prize. She landed the ACE Eddie Award against some stiff competition, and while she will face off against Whiplash and American Sniper in the category, she doesn’t have to contend with Birdman since that film was left out of this race.

Best Cinematography

Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman

Robert Yeoman, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski, Ida

Dick Pope, Mr. Turner

Roger Deakins, Unbroken

Emmanuel Lubezki is likely to claim his second consecutive victory (he won last year for Gravity) for his audacious style.

Best Production Design

The Grand Budapest Hotel, Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock

The Imitation Game, Production Design: Maria Djurkovic; Set Decoration: Tatiana Macdonald

Interstellar, Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Gary Fettis

Into the Woods, Production Design: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock

Mr. Turner, Production Design: Suzie Davies; Set Decoration: Charlotte Watts

Adam Stockhausen (Production Design) and Anna Pinnock (Set Decoration) have already had their work on Grand Budapest rewarded by the Art Directors Guild. It’s likely the Academy will follow suit, rewarding the two for their efforts in transforming a huge European dept. store into Anderson’s singular hotel.

Best Costume Design

Milena Canonero, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Mark Bridges, Inherent Vice

Colleen Atwood, Into the Woods

Anna B. Sheppard and Jane Clive, Maleficent

Jacqueline Durran, Mr. Turner

This is Academy fave Milena Canonero’s ninth nom (and possible fourth win). Plus, Budapest is the only nominee in this category that’s also a Best Picture contender. That gives it an edge.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard, Foxcatcher

Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White, Guardians of the Galaxy

This is a tight three-way race in this category with some amazing achievements in each nominee, but in the end we think the work done on the serious drama will beat out the more fanciful stylings in the other two films.

Best Visual Effects

Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill and Dan Sudick

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist

Guardians of the Galaxy, Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould

Interstellar, Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher

X-Men: Days of Future Past, Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie and Cameron Waldbauer

The blending of real-world settings with CG animation, and the high level of detail on the primates, puts Apes in the lead.

Best Sound Editing

American Sniper, Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman

Birdman, Martín Hernández and Aaron Glascock

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Brent Burge and Jason Canovas

Interstellar, Richard King

Unbroken, Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro

It’s a close race between American Sniper and Interstellar, but we think the winner goes to the best picture contender.

Best Sound Mixing

American Sniper, John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin

Birdman, Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and Thomas Varga

Interstellar, Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker and Mark Weingarten

Unbroken, Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and David Lee

Whiplash, Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley

Again, American Sniper is in the poll position to win here—but we think the edge will go to spoiler Whiplash.

Best Original Score

The Grand Budapest Hotel, Alexandre Desplat

The Imitation Game, Alexandre Desplat

Interstellar, Hans Zimmer

Mr. Turner, Gary Yershon

The Theory of Everything, Johann Johannsson

Alexandre Desplat is the dominant name here, with two nominations for Grand Budapest and Imitation Game—but we think Theory of Everything composer Johann Johannson could edge him out for the win.

Best Original Song

“Everything Is Awesome” from The Lego Movie; Music and Lyric by Shawn Patterson

“Glory” from Selma; Music and Lyric by John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn

“Grateful” from Beyond the Lights; Music and Lyric by Diane Warren

“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me; Music and Lyric by Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond

“Lost Stars” from Begin Again; Music and Lyric by Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois

Competition will be stiff in this category, considering that a vote for either “Glory” or “Everything is Awesome” is something of a protest vote. But we’re giving it to the soulful “Glory.”

Best Foreign Language film

Ida, Poland

Leviathan, Russia

Tangerines, Estonia

Timbuktu, Mauritania

Wild Tales, Argentina

Ida lost at the Golden Globes but won at BAFTA—and should take the win here, especially since it landed a cinematography nomination too.

Best Animated Feature

Big Hero 6

The Boxtrolls

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Song of the Sea

The Tale of Princess Kaguya

Without The LEGO Movie in the race, there’s no obvious choice. How to Train Your Dragon 2 has the sequel factor working against it. Disney’s sweet meditation on loss and grief will win.

Best Documentary Feature


Finding Vivien Maier

Last Days of Vietnam

The Salt of the Earth


Laura Poitras has already taken home the DGA Award for her acclaimed Edward Snowden documentary Citizenfour, which was also named the year’s Best Documentary Feature by the International Documentary Association and BAFTA; expect the Academy to follow suit.

Best Animated Short

The Bigger Picture

The Dam Keeper


Me and My Moulton

A Single Life

Disney’s short Feast is the populist choice, but Academy members also like The Bigger Picture. We’re sticking with Feast now—but may wind up disappointed: Disney’s Get a Horse! lost last year.

Best Live Action Short


Boogaloo and Graham

Butter Lamp


The Phone Call

The only lighthearted film in this category, the tender 14-minute tale of domesticity—set in the middle of Northern Ireland’s religious war—will most likely take home the prize.

Best Documentary Short

Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1


Our Curse

The Reaper

White Earth

Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 for the win. HBO’s doc is important, topical and highlights some unlikely heroes.

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