This year has been good for the High50 generation, with Oscar nods for Julianne Moore, Richard Linklater and Steve Carrell. Tony Griffiths offers some predictions on how the awards will play out
The starter’s pistol was fired on the awards season’s big race in Los Angeles yesterday. The Oscar nominations are out and the speculation game is heating up, with Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel leading the charge with nine nods each.
However, take the 2015 line-up en masse and three things are clear: it’s been a fine year for first-time nominees, a good year for Brits, and, potentially, a great year for 50-somethings.
While no one will be counting their chickens just yet, you could forgive Richard Linklater, 54, of all nominees for nursing a pang of excitement as the 22 February ceremony draws near.
The Texan filmmaker received adapted screenplay nominations for Before Sunset in 2004 and Before Midnight in 2013 and this year secures his first picture and director nominations for coming-of-age drama Boyhood.
The film – made over the course of 12 years with the same actor in the lead role – was the big winner at last week’s Golden Globes. Few will bet against it following suit at next month’s Oscars, least of all the bookies, who have Linklater and his film as strong favourites in the Director and Picture categories.
Also in the running are Alejandro G Inuarratu, 51, and Wes Anderson, 46, whose Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel are solid or outside bets for several of the bigger prizes.
Mexican Inuarratu is probably Linklater’s main challenger for Best Director, while Birdman and Grand Budapest are tied for Best Picture back-up.
Oscar’s notorious aversion to comedies won’t help their chances, but with both films skewing dark – and brilliant – Boyhood’s triumph is not quite a forgone conclusion.
Rounding out the directorial category are first-time nominees Morten Tyldum (47) and Bennett Miller (48) for The Imitation Game and wrestling drama Foxcatcher, respectively.
Look out for the result of the Director’s Guild of America award on 7 February: only seven winners in 66 years have failed to go on to win the Oscar.
The Imitation Game (homage to Alan Turing and his team of WW2 code breakers) also receives a Best Picture nod, along with Martin Luther King drama Selma, Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything, the drum-tastic Whiplash, and Clint Eastwood’s somewhat self-explanatory American Sniper.
Within the acting categories, only Best Actor is without a frontrunner. A long-overdue first nomination for Michael Keaton, 63, Birdman’s majestically unhinged lead, has been on the cards for weeks.
Expect his showdown with 33-year-old Eddie Redmayne (whose remarkable portrayal of Stephen Hawking earned the Londoner a Golden Globe last week) to go down to the wire. At a push, Redmayne’s range may trump Keaton’s screwball introspection.
Also up for Best Actor, Foxcatcher’s Steve Carrell, 52, will probably have to make do with a nomination (despite the Oscar-baiting prosthetic nose); as will American Sniper’s Bradley Cooper, 40, receiving a third straight nod; and first-time nominee Benedict Cumberbatch, 38, whose turn as Alan Turning provides the best chance of an upset.
The Best Actress category, meanwhile, is looking more clear-cut. Julianne Moore, 54 last month, is widely expected to secure her first academy statuette following a leading actress nomination for Still Alice. After two nods for actress (2000 and 2003) and two for supporting actress (1998 and 2003) she’s probably due.
Wild’s Reese Witherspoon, 38, is Moore’s main competition, with Britons (and Oscar newcomers) Rosamund Pike, 35, for Gone Girl, and Felicity Jones, 31, for The Theory of Everything, also in the running.
Marion Cotillard, 39, is the outside bet here, receiving deserved recognition for the wonderful Two Days, One Night.
First-time nominee JK Simmons, 60 earlier this month, appears a shoe-in for the Supporting Actor gong for his role as a demanding (to say the least) drumming instructor in Whiplash.
The gruff American is expected to see off competition from Foxcatcher’s Mark Ruffalo, 47, Birdman’s Edward Norton, 45, Boyhood’s Ethan Hawke, 44, and Robert Duvall, 84, for The Judge.
Within the Supporting Actress category, Meryl Streep, for Into the Woods, may have broken her own record with a 19th acting nomination, but it’s Patricia Arquette, 46, the lead’s mother in Boyhood, who’s favourite for Oscar glory.
Emma Stone’s feisty turn in Birdman provides worthy competition, while The Imitation Game’s Keira Knightly, 29, and Wild’s Laura Dern, 48 come Oscar night, are also recognised, Dern 23 years after her last nomination.