The 87th Academy Awards, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, are set for Sunday, February 22nd and it’s time to analyze just who or what is going to be walking off that stage with an Oscar. I’ve been tabulating all of the minor and lead-up award winners in all of the Oscar categories since last November on my 2015 Awards Tracker. Those numbers have been my “data analysis” to predicting just what films are going to win. It’s time to begin making my formal and official Oscar predictions. In this sixth post, we start to get the acting areas of “The Big 8” Oscar categories. Here, we look at the female acting awards of Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. Let’s do this and pick some winners! I’ve said it all season. Stick with me and I will win you your Oscar pool.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
The nominees: Robert Duvall- “The Judge,” Ethan Hawke- “Boyhood,” Edward Norton- “Birdman,” Mark Ruffalo- “Foxcatcher,” J.K. Simmons- “Whiplash”
Happy to be there: Everyone not named J.K. Simmons is happy to be there. Just look at that Awards Tracker data. No one else stands a chance and better enjoy the rented tux and free drinks. They’re not taking anything home.
Who was snubbed: As far as snubs go, this was a weak year for prolific supporting acting performances from men. There are little flyer candidates here and there like Tyler Perry in “Gone Girl” but no one stands out as must-have for this final award. The weakest nominee is probably Robert Duvall in “The Judge,” but, come on. It’s Robert Duvall. He’s earned a pass.
Who should win and will win: I did this disclaimer/turn-of-events in my write-up for Best Actress and I will repeat something similar here. Let me just say, I loved what Edward Norton did and stood for in “Birdman.” I thought he rivaled Michael Keaton in the power department to make that movie pulse and pump. In any other year, Norton has deserved an Oscar to complete his resume and this would be a great place to do it. But then the bald guy from the Farmers Insurance TV commercials came out of nowhere and blew everyone away. J.K Simmons killed it in “Whiplash.” There’s no better way to say it. His merciless band director was one of the most engaging and intense characters we’ve seen in years. This award is perfect way to honor his veteran talent and the best little film of the year. Of all of the awards, this one is the strongest lock of the night.
The nominees: Steve Carell- “Foxcatcher,” Bradley Cooper- “American Sniper,” Benedict Cumberbatch- “The Imitation Game,” Michael Keaton- “Birdman,” Eddie Redmayne- “The Theory of Everything”
Who was snubbed: I swear, every year, Best Actor is always the most competitive race for nominations. You could easily submit another list of five snubbed nominees that included Jake Gyllenhaal from “Nightcrawler,” Miles Teller from “Whiplash,” David Oyelowo from “Selma,” Timothy Spall from “Mr. Turner,” and Ralph Fiennes from “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and would still have as deep and as talented of a final five as Keaton, Redmayne, Cumberbatch, Cooper, and Carell. You could easily argue that Gyllenhaal, Teller, Oyelowo, and Fiennes could flat out win the whole Oscar if they were present in this race. That’s not even including the likes of Oscar Isaac from “A Most Violent Year,” Brendan Gleeson from “Calvary,” and even Andy Serkis from “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” Picking just five is and was incredibly difficult.
Happy to be there: On one level, looking at that steep competition, all five should be extremely thankful to make this field. The locks who didn’t have to sweat were Keaton, Redmayne, and Cumberbatch. They were making it regardless. The bigger surprises were Steve Carell and Bradley Cooper. This is Cooper’s third Oscar nomination in three straight years. He’s on a roll and “American Sniper” is a bonafide hit. That profile put him in this race. It’s Carell that’s the weakest nominee. Don’t get me wrong, he was very good to shed his comedy image and take the creepy murderous role he did in “Foxcatcher.” Even though J.K. Simmons has been a juggernaut, I would have put Steve Carell in the Best Supporting Actor race. “Foxcatcher” follows Channing Tatum more anyway as the lead. Carell would have stood a better chance there and was better than co-star Mark Ruffalo.
Who should win: We go from the strongest lock of the night to the biggest question mark and closest race of the whole evening. Even though the data doesn’t show it, this a very slim race between Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne. If it was up to me, neither one of them would win between these five nominees. Keaton was very good in “Birdman,” but, like many people have said, he sort of played himself. Redmayne is young and looked the part in “The Theory of Everything, but, personally, I didn’t care for the movie or find his work that special. Remember, this is the “should win” section where I vote with my heart and not my head. If I’m picking from these five, give me Benedict Cumberbatch for the win from “The Imitation Game.” I think his performance was just as tortured as Redmayne’s and even more commanding than Keaton’s. He was my kind of brilliant. He would be my vote.
Who will win: However, Cumberbatch isn’t going to come close to winning. As previously mentioned, this is between Keaton and Redmayne. Both men earned Golden Globes, but were divided into separate categories. The award data that has been tipping the balance in Eddie’s direction is his SAG Award win from the Screen Actors Guild directly against Keaton. In the 20 years of the SAG Awards, the winner there has not matched the eventual Oscar winner for Best Actor only three times, last occurring in 2003 when Johnny Depp won for “Pirates of the Caribbean” over future Oscar winner Sean Penn for “Mystic River.” I think this is the year that apple cart gets upset one more time. The data has been overwhelming everywhere else but the SAG awards in Keaton’s favor. I’ve been picked Michael Keaton for “Birdman” all season and I’m going the bold and gutsy route and sticking to it. The respected veteran matching the pool of older white voters gets the win from the young guy who will get more chances down the road.