With the Academy Awards coming up Sunday, all eyes are on host Neil Patrick Harris. The comedian faces high expectations, but his stellar record as a four-time host of the Tony Awards is a strong indicator he’ll be just as entertaining in his first Academy Awards hosting gig. Harris, however, is not up for an award — and ultimately, in between the host’s comedic bits, the Academy Awards is ultimately a show about awards. The nominees in the acting, directing and overall best picture categories are facing tough competitors. Here are movie reviewer Alex Pelham’s predictions:
Best Supporting Actor
J.K. Simmons, best known for his comedic roles in the “Spider-Man” trilogy and “Juno,” will win his first Oscar for his brutal performance in “Whiplash.” Having beat out Ethan Hawke and Mark Ruffalo at the Golden Globes and BAFTAs, Simmons’ night will end in absolute victory.
Best Supporting Actress
For her work in “Boyhood,” Patricia Arquette will earn the Best Supporting Actress award. Her stunning performance as a struggling single mother has already won her a Golden Globe, a BAFTA award and a SAG award. It would be foolish to assume her name won’t be on that statuette.
The battle for the Best Actor award boils down to a duel between Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne. This sets up an interesting struggle between veteran Keaton and newcomer Redmayne — the former is a Hollywood legend who has never before been nominated while the latter is a rising star who is rapidly gaining attention for his dramatic roles. Despite Redmayne’s charm as Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything,” Keaton’s role as a psychologically disturbed actor in “Birdman” is too good to pass up.
Julianne Moore is the safe bet for this category as her performance as a professor suffering from Alzheimer’s in “Still Alice” haunted critics. She’s swept the other major award ceremonies, so it seems incredibly likely that she’ll take the Oscar. Although Moore is a shoe-in, it would entertaining to see Rosamund Pike steal the award for her thrilling performance in David Fincher’s “Gone Girl.” Considering “Gone Girl” got completely shut out of all the Oscar categories except for Best Actress, it’s possible that Moore will not leave the ceremony with the prize.
Richard Linklater will be rewarded Best Director for his outstanding efforts in “Boyhood.” The director, who spent 12 years working on the film, has poured his soul into his celebration of childhood in Texas. “Birdman” director Alejandro González Iñárritu follows closely behind Linklater, but Linklater’s ability to manipulate nostalgia is more charming than Iñárritu’s cold directing. UT students are sure to be disappointed alumnus Wes Anderson won’t take the Oscar for his visually stunning “Grand Budapest Hotel,” but he’ll surely be back in years to come to claim a
Finally, the fight for the top prize will be between dark comedy “Birdman” and coming-of-age drama “Boyhood.” “Boyhood” will triumph, as its ability to tap into the sentimental nostalgia of moviegoers may give the film an edge over the quirky “Birdman.” Of course, given the Academy’s love for European period pieces, there remains a small possibility that “The Theory of Everything” can pull a stunning, “Shakespeare in Love”-style upset.
Though major shake-ups are unlikely, seeing some of the year’s best films and actors reap well-deserved benefits will still be entertaining. If nothing else, Harris will certainly do what he can to keep the evening compelling. No matter how likely it is the top contenders will walk away as winners, it’s important to remember that on Oscar night, anything