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2015 Oscar predictions heading into fall festivals

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Fall festival season is officially upon us. The Venice Film Festival opened on Tuesday night with Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu’s “Birdman” opening to raves. Telluride will unveil its secret lineup when it begins this weekend and Toronto gets going a few days later. With many of this year’s expected Oscar contenders set to make their premiere over the next couple of weeks, what does the field look like heading in? Here are my Oscar predictions prior to the fall fests.

I’ll take another look at how things stand after Toronto wraps up and a majority of these hot prospects have finally been seen.

Best Picture
Best Picture Paramount Pictures

Best Picture

Best Picture
1. Men, Women and Children
2. Unbroken
3. Boyhood
4. Foxcatcher
5. Birdman
6. Fury
7. Inherent Vice
8. Interstellar
9. The Imitation Game

In contention: Gone Girl, The Theory of Everything, Selma, Mr. Turner, The Grand Budapest Hotel

My gut is telling me that Jason Reitman’s “Men, Women and Children” will be Oscars pick for Best Picture; it’s trailer displayed a vibe similar to Best Picture winner “American Beauty” and it could be culturally relevant with its focus on how technology hinders today’s personal relationships of adults and kids. It may be in the toughest position heading in, though; if it has the goods it could gather a huge following, if it stumbles at Toronto it may drop out of contention altogether.

Otherwise, “Boyhood” and “Unbroken” are the early favorites. “Foxcatcher” looks to have a big payoff after a long delay. Will David Fincher’s “Gone Girl” overcome genre to be a true Best Picture threat? And just how high can “Birdman” soar?

Best Director
Best Director

Best Director

Best Director
1. Jason Reitman – Men, Women and Children
2. Richard Linklater – Boyhood
3. Angelina Jolie – Unbroken
4. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu – Birdman
5. Bennett Miller - Foxcatcher

In contention: Paul Thomas Anderson – Inherent Vice, Christopher Nolan – Interstellar, David Ayer – Fury, David Fincher – Gone Girl, Ava DuVernay – Selma

Though Best Picture and Director have split these last two years, until we have all the facts, I have to stick with the Academy pairing the two categories up. Reitman is a two-time nominated director and is a Hollywood favorite, so his time may be now. However, Richard Linklater is going to be the wildcard the whole year. After magnificently crafting a 12-year production, Linklater is likely the only Director that could win this category without his film winning Best Picture.

We have a few female directors in contention this year, including Angelina Jolie for “Unbroken” and Ava DuVernay for “Selma.” Will David Ayer continue his rise with “Fury” for his first Oscar nomination? Christopher Nolan also looks to finally crack the Best Director field with “Interstellar.” Should be an interesting race.

Best Actor
Best Actor Sony Pictures Classics

Best Actor

Best Actor
1. Steve Carell – Foxcatcher
2. Michael Keaton – Birdman
3. Joaquin Phoenix – Inherent Vice
4. Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game
5. Timothy Spall – Mr. Turner

In contention: Jack O’Connell – Unbroken, Eddie RedmayneThe Theory of Everything, David Oyelowo – Selma, Chadwick BosemanGet On Up, Jake GyllenhaalNightcrawler, Channing Tatum – Foxcatcher, Bill MurraySt. Vincent, Ralph Fiennes – The Grand Budapest Hotel

Surprise, surprise, Best Actor is stacked yet again. An interesting element to this year, however, is a majority of the top contenders are potential first time nominees. Included in that is Steve Carell in a career change-up with his dark portrayal in “Foxcatcher.” Michael Keaton may parlay his first nomination from a performance that is eerily similar to his own career. Brits Benedict Cumberbatch and Timothy Spall also look to be major factors in this year’s race.

Other strong first time possibilities include “Unbroken” breakout Jack O’Connell, Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything,” Chadwick Boseman in “Get on Up” and Channing Tatum in “Foxcatcher.” Previous Oscar nominees looking to rack up another are Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal, possibly channeling Robert DeNiro from “Taxi Driver,” Bill Murray and Ralph Fiennes.

Best Actress
Best Actress The Weinstein Co.

Best Actress

Best Actress
1. Amy AdamsBig Eyes
2. Reese WitherspoonWild
3. Jessica ChastainThe Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby
4. Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl
5. Julianne MooreMaps to the Stars

In contention: Meryl StreepInto the Woods, Helen MirrenThe Hundred Foot Journey, Shailene WoodleyThe Fault in Our Stars, Marion CotillardTwo Days, One Night, Maggie SmithMy Old Lady

Reese Witherspoon has probably gotten the most buzz for “Wild” after director Jean Marc Vallée help take Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto to Oscars last year for “Dallas Buyers Club,” but perennial bridesmaid Amy Adams may have her best chance for that first win in Tim Burton’s “Big Eyes.” Jessica Chastain may play spoiler for both of them with her gluttony of opportunities including “Eleanor Rigby” and “A Most Violent Year.”

The last couple of spots are toss-ups. Can Shailene Woodley sneak in for “The Fault of Our Stars?” Will Marion Cotillard finally land that second Oscar nomination this year? Meryl Streep is usually a lock for a nomination, but “Into the Woods” is a wild card this season, and though word is she will be pushed in lead, we still aren’t definite on which category she’ll be in.

Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actor Sony Pictures Classics

Best Supporting Actor

Best Supporting Actor
1. Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher
2. JK SimmonsWhiplash
3. Domhnall Gleeson – Unbroken
4. Robert DuvallThe Judge
5. Logan Lerman - Fury

In contention: Tom Wilkinson – Selma, Albert Brooks – A Most Violent Year, Edward Norton – Birdman, Ethan Hawke – Boyhood, Josh Brolin – Inherent Vice

The supporting categories have been some of the more exciting to pick over the last couple of years, and there are a number of interesting options for Supporting Actor this year as well. Can “Foxcatcher” repeat what “Dallas Buyers Club” did last year with Carell and Mark Ruffalo? Is JK Simmons on his way to an Oscar nomination for his vicious turn in Sundance hit “Whiplash?” Is Robert Duvall about to add another Oscar to his mantle piece? And are there performances that will surprise us at the fests?

Best Supporting Actress
Best Supporting Actress IFC Films

Best Supporting Actress

Best Supporting Actress
1. Patricia Arquette –Boyhood
2. Laura Dern – Wild
3. Rosemarie DeWitt – Men, Women and Children
4. Keira Knightley – The Imitation Game
5. Shohreh Aghdashloo - Rosewater

In contention: Felicity Jones – Theory of Everything, Jennifer Garner – Men, Women and Children, Oprah Winfrey – Selma, Anna Kendrick – Into the Woods, Emma Stone – Birmdan, Naomi Watts – Birdman/St. Vincent

If there is one category that has a heavy favorite, it is Supporting Actress, as Patricia Arquette’s performance in “Boyhood” has been the go to pick thus far this year. Still, the race could provide a few turns. “Men, Women and Children” have a couple of ladies looking to challenge her in Rosemarie DeWitt and Jennifer Garner, Keira Knightley looks like a strong option in “The Imitation Game,” and Oprah may make good on her near miss last year with “Selma.” My dark horse candidate though is Oscar-nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo in Jon Stewart’s directorial debut, “Rosewater.”