Our top Oscar picks. Who should win and who will win.

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When the Oscar nominees were announced late last month, some categories came with easy assumptions of who would pick up the statue, while others had more mystery behind them. There were multiple Oscar snubs, especially in the acting categories, and one big surprise for Best Picture.

The Best Picture nominees

Boyhood

The Imitation Game

Selma

The Theory of Everything

Birdman

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Whiplash

American Sniper

This category seems to be down to Boyhood, Budapest, and Birdman, each nominated for Best Director as well. The first two won Golden Globes for Best Drama and Comedy, respectively, with Birdman winning the Best Cast SAG award and Best Director at the Directors Guild Awards. Boyhood also won the BAFTA for Best Film, while Theory won for Best British Film.

OPI_Oscars_Emily Thiessen no background_webNo film has won Best Picture without getting a nomination for Best Film Editing since 1981, which leaves Birdman, Selma, and The Theory of Everything at a loss if the Academy stays true to this streak. Boyhood is an almost sure win due to the novel filming structure that followed the cast for 12 years to create a realistic depiction of growing up, relationships, and family life. The honesty in how it handles the heavy concepts in a lighthearted manner makes Boyhood one of the best films of 2014, and deserving of the Best Picture award. Budapest is one of Wes Anderson’s best films to date, and as a true art house picture it has a chance at picking up on most of the production awards.

It was surprising to see Sniper get so much recognition at the Oscars when it didn’t get nominated at other important award shows like the Globes and SAGs. It’s a subtle film that contemplates PTSD and veteran recovery through Cooper’s stoic portrayal of this real life soldier. The biggest disappointment was Nightcrawler getting left out for both Best Picture and Best Actor for Jake Gyllenhaal. The movie was atmospheric and tense, and Gyllenhaal gave one of his best performances to date. Although the Best Actor category is full of incredible talent this year, it would not have gone amiss to see him get another chance at the statue, perhaps over Cooper’s quiet role and third nomination in three years.

Although Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game), and Bradley Cooper (American Sniper) were nominated for Best Actor, the competition is predominantly between Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything and Michael Keaton in Birdman. Both won in the Golden Globes, but Redmayne took it at the SAGs and BAFTAs over Keaton. As the Academy enjoys performances with big transformation, Redmayne has a good chance of picking up the statue through his amazing portrayal of Stephen Hawking through the years. However, Keaton plays a washed-up actor looking to renew his career, which many of the voters will recognize in themselves.

The other acting categories seem decided already. Julianne Moore’s portrayal of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in Still Alice will get Best Actress. J.K. Simmons’ jazz band teacher in Whiplash is domineering and sure to get a win in Best Supporting Actor, unless the Academy chooses to give Robert Duvall (The Judge) the award due to his age. For Best Supporting Actress, Patricia Arquette in Boyhood is a strong, well-developed supporting role that elevates the subject matter of the entire film from coming-of-age tale to emotional drama

This year was a bit controversial due to all 20 acting nominations going to white actors, and no female Best Director nominees despite two prominent films directed by women. Selma showcased impressive performances, yet neither David Oyelowo (Martin Luther King Jr.) nor Stephan James (John Lewis) received acting nods. However, white actor Tim Roth (George Wallace) didn’t pick up a nomination for his strikingly sleazy politician either. Ava DuVernay directed Selma and Angelina Jolie made Unbroken. These were very powerful films, both receiving critical acclaim and criticism due to their handling of the historical accounts.

Nominees for Best Animated Film

How to Train Your Dragon 2 (winner of the Golden Globe)

Big Hero 6

The Boxtrolls

Song of the Sea

The Tale of Princess Kaguya

Despite The Lego Movie’s success at the BAFTAs and the box office, it is not in the running here. The movie most deserving of recognition this year was Lego and although Academy voters may have felt it was too commercial, a Disney sequel certainly shouldn’t have made the cut either. Of the nominees, Dragon has the best chance of winning, with Hero coming up second, since these were both money-makers in America. Although Princess is a long shot, the unique animation style from Studio Ghibli could steal it if the voters are looking for whimsical over commercial.

This year’s Oscars are on Feb. 22 at 5 p.m. on CTV, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris. Netflix Canada has Oscar nominees The Grand Budapest Hotel and  Virunga available to watch. Cinecenta is showing Foxcatcher and Big Hero 6 on Feb. 20 and 21, and Ida on Feb. 22 and 23.

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