It's award season, when Hollywood honours its best and brightest. Over and over again.
The biggest trophy handout remains The Academy Awards, which are also the longest, and often the least surprising. The 6000-plus Oscar voters tend to vote along predictable lines. Dramas nearly always trump comedies while showier roles (involving accents, total transformations, or terminal illnesses) usually get nominations over more subtle work. And veteran actors, many who already have an Oscar on their mantel, invariably get attention ahead of newcomers.
The studios can also influence voters with a million dollar ad campaign. Many an Oscar has been won with a well-aimed media blitz. And don't forget all the other awards: Sometimes the best predictors of Oscar success are the awards handed out in the months preceding the Academy Awards, like the Golden Globes.
The nominations were handed out this Thursday morning, and there were a few surprises. Among them, the notable absence of Golden Globe winner Amy Adams, and the conspicuous absence of actors or actresses of racial minorities. Many of the names and pictures nominated were predictable, however: The Grand Budapest Hotel and Birdman both landed the greatest number of nominations, with a total of nine each, and most of the other Golden Globe favourites got a nom in their respective categories.
The bets are now heating up, and of all the worthy names the following are coming out ahead as the most likely candidates for the biggest honours in Hollywood this year.
6 Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette
Patricia Arquette is currently the bookies' favourite to win Best Supporting Actress for her memorable turn as the mother in Boyhood. It was inarguably the biggest role of her life, starring alongside Ethan Hawke over a period of twelve years. It was an unprecedented role in which she grew old on screen.
She's already the Golden Globe award winner in this category, and she recently told the New York Times that although she was happy to invest herself in the role, 'I paid more money to my babysitter and my dog walker than I made on Boyhood.' She's up against a number of impressive performances for the award, including Emma Stone in Birdman, Meryl Streep in Into the Woods and Keira Knightley in The Imitation Game.
5 Best Supporting Actor: JK Simmons
One of 2015's most prolific actors and the character actor who shone in Whiplash, JK Simmons is already the proud Golden Globe award winner for best supporting actor this year. He stood out against Miles Teller's weaker lead, as the aggressively motivating music teacher who took Teller on a tumultuous journey of self-discovery. JK Simmons' list of accolades and awards is eye-wateringly long, but the 60 year old's distinguished career has yet to see an Academy Award. He's the bookies' favourite for this year's Best Supporting Actor Oscar, up against Hollywood glitterati including Edward Norton in Birdman.
4 Best Actress: Julianne Moore
The bookies have Golden Globe winner Moore slated as the firm favorite to snag the Best Actress Oscar this year. Moore has a couple of things going for her. For one, she’s a four-time nominee who is way overdue for the big win. Secondly, her role as an Alzheimer’s sufferer in the small budgeted Still Alice is a real weepy – and nothing seems to motivate Oscar voters more than a good, ole fashion tear-jerker. Among the named contesting Moore for the role are the Next Big Thing, Felicity Jones, for her turn as Hawking's wife in The Theory of Everything and Reese Witherspoon in Wild - Moore looks to be the distinct front runner this year.
3 Best Actor: Michael Keaton (Birdman)
The comeback kid of 2014, Keaton’s role as a down-on-his-luck actor out to shake his superhero image is more than a little autobiographical. He was Batman after all. Perhaps this movie might be a little too offbeat for Oscar voter tastes, but who doesn’t love a comeback? Expect Keaton to at least get a nomination, if not win Best Actor. He currently is the fave among oddsmakers at 4-to-6 to win.
2 Best Picture: Boyhood
The odds-on pick to win Best Picture, Boyhood should win just for audacity. This one is hotly contested by some seriously impressive fare, among them The Grand Budapest Hotel, Selma, Birdman and The Imitation Game.
Director/Writer Richard Linklater filmed a young boy’s entire adolescence in creating this flick. Actor Ellar Coltrane basically grew up on camera with fake parents Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette. A gimmick movie, for sure, but an affective one that stands out among possible Oscar nominees.
1 Best Animated Feature Film: Big Hero 6
Up against a couple of less commercially viable animated films this year - like the runner-up favourite Song of the Sea from the makers of The Secret of Kells - Big Hero 6 has received accolades for the intricacy of the animated university it created. The Walt Disney super-hero comedy went up against Interstellar at the box office and came out an admirable second on its opening week, and has since made over $400 million at the box office worldwide. It's still showing in cinemas, so those who haven't taken in this favourite for Best Animated Feature Film can add it to their to-watch list.