Thursday, 18 December 2014

OSCAR WATCH: Can Birdman go all the way in the run-up to Hollywood's biggest night?

DOUBLE TROUBLE: Birdman's Keaton (left) and Norton are courting Oscar buzz for their slyly comic performances.

The critics have spoken. The announcement this past weekend of the 2015 contenders for the 2015 Critic's Choice Movie Awards confirmed what we've been led to suspect: the black comedy Birdman, a look at survival in the cutthroat world of showbiz, has a very strong chance of walking away with the grand prix, Best Picture of the Year, at the upcoming Oscars.

After topping countless Movies-of-the-Year countdowns and racking up heaps of awards nods, the Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu-directed film snagged a whopping 13 nominations to best all comers for recognition by the Broadcast Film Critics, one of the most influential groups in the pre-Oscar galaxy. Awards will be handed out Jan. 15.

Birdman's noms of course, include bids for Best Actor, supporting actress and actors, director and Best Picture. It's followed closely by the coming-of-age tale Boyhood from Richard Linklater, which netted 11, as did the Benedict Cumberbatch vehicle The Imitation Game. (You can see the complete list of nominees at criticschoice.org). 

Then there's the bigger picture to consider. Now that the Screen Actors' Guild, the Hollywood Foreign Press and the Independent Spirit have all unveiled their crop of nominees, attention now turns to the all-important Academy Awards nominations and the filmmakers, performances and pictures that are poised for consideration. For anyone keeping up with this year's race to Hollywood's biggest night (Feb. 22), there are no clear favourites in the key categories but the strongest candidates are steadily rising to the top. Here's how we size up the competition as it stands: 

BEST ACTOR: Michael Keaton (Birdman) vs. Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) vs. Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game). These male leads have all been garnering front-runner plaudits, but Keaton seems to have the edge at this point. 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Edward Norton (Birdman) vs. Steve Carell (Foxcatcher). Playing against type, career comic Carell wowed critics with his fiercely dark turn in the sports drama, a role that pits his squarely against Norton for Oscar gold. 

BEST ACTRESS: It's Julianne Moore's awards to lose, some say, but the versatile leading lady (star of Still Alice) faces a stiff run for her money from the likes of Felicity Jones in Theory, Reese Witherspoon in Wild and Rosamund Pike, whose incredible transformation in Gone Girl had no peer. 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Rising Hollywood power player Emma Stone (Birdman) and perennial contender Meryl Streep, who plays The Witch in Rob Marshall's Into The Wild (opening in wide release on Christmas Day) have emerged as the surefire picks to bet on. But we're secretly rooting for darkhorse Laura Dern, who plays Reese's mom in Wild, to pull off a come-from-behind coup. 

> For fresh updates on the road to Oscar night (Feb. 22), watch this space.




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