Best Live Action Short
I'd be happy to see "Boogaloo and Graham" win. It was a delight to watch but it is ultimately a bit slight. My pick for winning is "Parvaneh", a well made, politically correct parable about cross cultural connections.
Best Animated Short
Of the five nominees, "Feast" has to be the most widely seen and it is also the one that is most completely put together. Basically it tells a complete story without dialogue but with a huge amount of heart and humor.
Best Supporting Actress
In the category that they found another slot to fit Meryl Streep, I think anyone would be surprised if someone other than Partricia Arquette were to end up with the Award. She is the glue that holds "Boyhood" together. She has been winning in all the other contests at the end of the year, so she is a pretty sure thing.
Best Supporting Actor
If a name other than J.K. Simmons is called tonight, all bets are off. He is as close to a sure thing as there is and he deserves the award. Whiplash was my favorite film of the last year and it needs to get some props from the Academy. It is unlikely to win the big Award tonight so this will be the one place where it can make a splash.
This is the one field where I have not seen all the performances. All indications seem to be that the barely released Alzheimers drama, "Still Alice" will;bring Julianne Moore her long overdue award. I thought Rosemund Pike was outstanding in "Gone Girl" but I will go with the conventional wisdom.
Since people like the idea of a horserace, this is the category where I can see a close competition. Eddie Redmayne as Steven Hawking did a good job with the physicality of his role but the part is so conventionally drawn that the character is just not as interesting as he should be. Michael Keaton has the opposite issue, his character is so interesting that the performance may be hidden by the fireworks. I'm going with Keaton, I think the movie is catnip to film proessionals, it is about an actor struggling with his place in the world and it is shot in a style that celebrates creativity.
Alejandro González Iñárritu for "Birdman". Other than Keaton, his is the hand that is most visible on the film. Richard Linklater managed a similar influence with "Boyhood", if that film ends up as the Best Picture winner, he could be pulled into the winner's envelope. Conventional wisom is to go with the DGA winner and that would be Alejandro González Iñárritu. The Academy Awards gets more and more conventionally unsurprising as it's membership expands.
This is the place where there is the most uncertainty about the award. A late surge by "American Sniper" may have been undermined by controversy of a political sort. "Birdman" was a critical favorite and might still win, but it is the most off center film nominated, and the broader Academy is likely to be satisfied with splitting the awards and giving this unusual film it's glory in other categories. My guess is that this is a "Driving Miss Daisy" and then "Crash"-ing year. The major award going to a film that is not a landslide but a default winner because it is ultimately emotionally satisfying. While I'd love to see "Whiplash" give every prognosticator a heart attack, I think the winner will be "Boyhood".
5 for 8, I can live with that but I've done better before.