Entertainment & Arts

Oscars 2015: Brits line up for awards race

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British talent is expected to figure strongly when the Oscar nominations are announced later.

Following his Golden Globes triumph, Eddie Redmayne is expected to get a best actor nod for Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything.

Other British acting talent in the mix could include Benedict Cumberbatch, David Oyelowo, Felicity Jones, Rosamund Pike and Keira Knightley.

The shortlists are revealed in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, at 1330 GMT.

Under the current voting system, the best picture category could have anything between five and 10 films. For each of the last three years, nine films have made the cut.

The shortlist is likely to include dark satire Birdman, coming-of-age drama Boyhood, quirky comedy The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Theory of Everything and another British biopic, The Imitation Game.

Other films jostling for position include civil rights story Selma, jazz drumming indie hit Whiplash, Iraq war thriller American Sniper and wrestling drama Foxcatcher.

Image copyright Various
Image caption British Oscar hopefuls (clockwise from top left): Keira Knightley, David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike and Eddie Redmayne

Caroline Frost, entertainment editor of The Huffington Post UK, says this year looks set to be a tight race, with some casualties among the early favourites.

"The whole vibe has changed going into awards season," she says.

"Films that people thought would have been shoo-ins - like Interstellar, Unbroken or Selma - set awards bells clanging.

"But instead more interesting, idiosyncratic films, like Boyhood, Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel, have put their noses in front."

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Image caption Boyhood (left) and Birdman (right) are likely contenders for best picture

Both Boyhood and The Grand Budapest Hotel were released in the first half of 2014 - long before the autumn/winter months, when movie bosses like to bring out their awards hopefuls.

"The fact that Boyhood and Grand Budapest came out so early in 2014 may give studio execs pause for thought about their distribution model," observes Frost.

"Maybe it's not such a guaranteed goal-scorer to save up your best films for November or December, because they get caught in the rush.

"As audiences and voters, we are so aware of being sold products these days that we feel warm towards films that we discover for ourselves, that don't have that awards ribbon wrapped round them."

Head to head

In the acting categories, Redmayne is likely to find himself up against his friend and fellow Brit Cumberbatch, who plays computer pioneer Alan Turing in WW2 drama The Imitation Game.

Perhaps his biggest challenger will be Michael Keaton, who has resurrected his career in surreal dark comedy Birdman in the role of a washed-up superhero actor who is starring in a play on Broadway.

Both Redmayne and Keaton won Golden Globes for their roles this week in separate categories. At the Oscars they will be going head to head.

Other actors who could make the shortlist include David Oyelowo (Selma), Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler), Bradley Cooper (American Sniper) and Steve Carell (Foxcatcher).

Another Golden Globe winner hoping for Oscar success is Julianne Moore, who plays a linguistics professor diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's in Still Alice. Her powerful performance has made her the bookmakers' favourite to win an Oscar for best actress.

Her rivals could include Redmayne's co-star Felicity Jones, Gone Girl's Rosamund Pike and Reese Witherspoon, who plays a woman who undertakes a gruelling hike in Wild.

Image copyright Various
Image caption Will Jennifer Aniston (left) get her first Oscar nomination? Will Meryl Streep (right) get her 19th?

There's much speculation that Jennifer Aniston could appear on the shortlist for her role as a woman struggling with prescription painkiller addiction in Cake.

"If Jennifer Aniston has ever had a chance of winning an Oscar, it's got to be this year," says Frost.

"But I think it's Julianne Moore's year, because she's never won an Oscar before and it's her time, as they say, and she's done something worthy of it."

In the supporting actress field, Golden Globe winner Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) is almost guaranteed a nod, alongside Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game) and Birdman's Emma Stone.

If Meryl Streep makes the list for her turn as a fairytale witch in musical Into the Woods, it would be her 19th acting nomination - breaking her own Oscar record.

'Unique' accomplishment

Expect to see JK Simmons, who plays a terrifying music teacher in Whiplash, in the mix for best supporting actor alongside the likes of Edward Norton (Birdman) and Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher).

After storming the Baftas with 11 nominations last week, though, will The Grand Budapest Hotel do as well with Academy voters?

"It will probably do very well," writes The Hollywood Reporter's Oscars analyst Scott Feinberg. "But I'm not sure that it will resonate nearly as much with the American-heavy Academy as it has with voters abroad.

"It has a very particular style and dry sensibility that I think Europeans appreciate more than Americans."

Feinberg thinks Richard Linklater's Boyhood is the one to beat in the race for best picture. "Quite simply, it stands out, with its unique narrative, in a year in which few other films do, and I'd be very surprised if its momentum stops anytime soon."

Frost agrees. "This film has been around for 12 years and there won't be a film like this to vote for again, possibly ever. It's a once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment."

The nominations in all 24 Oscar categories will be announced by actor Chris Pine, Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs and directors Alfonso Cuaron and JJ Abrams, on 15 January.

The two-part live news conference at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Beverly Hills will be streamed live on the BBC News website.

The Oscars ceremony takes place in Hollywood's Dolby Theatre on 22 February.

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