Best Supporting Actor
The Academy's Picks
Woody Allen - "Fading Gigolo"
Bryan Cranston - "Godzilla"
Tony Revolori - "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Hiroyuki Sanada - "The Railway Man"
Tom Wilkinson - "Belle"
As ever, this category is sort of anyone's game, and unlike perhaps any of the others, there aren't really any performers that we can see carrying through to the end of the year. But from the relatively slim pickings, there are a few potentials. Most of the supporting players in "Grand Budapest Hotel" make too brief an impression to figure here, but newcomer Tony Revolori (technically the film's lead, but likely to be pushed to supporting to give Fiennes more of a leg-up) was an excellent find, and certainly deserves to be in any conversation here.
Beyond that, Tom Wilkinson is the obvious stand-out from the supporting men of "Belle"—a sympathetic yet conflicted representation of white guilt that many Academy voters can likely identify with. On a similar note of reconciliation, Japanese star Hiroyuki Sanada isn't in "The Railway Man" much, but stands out when he does appear, and were the Weinsteins to push it, could well figure in.
We'd also wager that Woody Allen would have a good shot for his rare acting appearance in John Turturro's "Fading Gigolo"—whatever his recent controversies, the Academy have no compunction about showing him some love (he was nominated for writing "Blue Jasmine" last year), and he steals scenes a plenty in the movie, which again was a bit of a spring surprise hit on the arthouse scene. Finally, acting nominations for blockbusters are rare, but if anyone was gonna pick one up, it'd be Bryan Cranston in "Godzilla:" he turns in a performance of fierce integrity, one so memorable that the movie actively suffers from his absence. Again, none are likely to figure in by the end of the year, though...
The Playlist's Picks: Jeff Goldblum in "Le Week-End," Don Johnson in "Cold In July," Robert Pattinson in "The Rover," Joaquin Phoenix in "The Immigrant," Nat Wolff in "Palo Alto."
Best Achievement in Directing
The Academy's Picks
Wes Anderson - “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Darren Aronofsky - “Noah”
Amma Asante - “Belle”
Gareth Edwards - “Godzilla”
James Gray - “The Immigrant”
Perhaps in no category does our idea of who would be up for the putative half-year Oscar differ so much from who’d we want to be in the running, than in the Director category. Historically Achievement in Directing is an area dominated by better-established names over lesser-known (Michel Hazanavicius and Benh Zeitlin being the only real exceptions over the past five years—even Steve McQueen had two prior, very well-received features under his belt). And of those titles we feel would be in the running, it’s probably Amma Asante for “Belle” that would take that newcomer slot if there were one going, while Gareth Edwards, whose “Godzilla” made money while retaining a degree of authorial input might hoover up whatever goodwill was left on those grounds. Though we’d be very surprised to see either run the gauntlet through January. Very.
And yet the first half of this year hasn’t seen a huge number of big-name directors release films either and the necessarily small pool, therefore would probably benefit someone like James Gray, whose “The Immigrant” has had no push from the Weinsteins and who has been traditionally overlooked by the Academy and yet has the name-recognition and the peer respect (to say nothing of a deserving film!) to make his inclusion here possible. Beyond that we’re on slightly less shaky ground with previous Best Director nominee Aronofsky delivering a large-scale biblical epic that still managed to be idiosyncratically his own (some would say to its detriment): love or loathe “Noah” it can’t be faulted for ambition or scale, nor for the craftsman aspect of the directing skill on display.
And finally, the most no-brainer pick, which is also the one that we’d choose ourselves, as well as the one we’d have the strongest hopes for maybe showing up in January’s actual announcement: Wes Anderson for “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” It’s certainly more eccentric than the standard Academy-favored picture, and occupies a register of zaniness that the august body could deem a little too lightweight and beneath its dignity (which is perhaps what happened with "Moonrise Kingdom"), but on the other hand it’s a movie that loves movies and that is unmistakably the product of a very singular and meticulous directing approach. As such, it would not only be a shoo-in a nomination for these half-time Oscars, it would win the phantom statuette, and we would applaud loudly.
The Playlist's Picks: Wes Anderson for "The Grand Budapest Hotel," Bong Joon-ho for "Snowpiercer," Jonathan Glazer for "Under The Skin," Jim Jarmusch for "Only Lovers Left Alive," Denis Villeneuve for "Enemy."
And Still To Come: As we said, we kept our speculation solely to movies already eligible for the Academy Awards, released between January 1st and June 30th. But thanks to festivals and the like, we've seen some of the films that may make a bigger splash by the time awards season really gets underway. Richard Linklater's "Boyhood" picked up the kind of reviews everyone dreams of when it hit Sundance, and has only gone to be buzzier and buzzier over time. Ordinarily, it would look like a real contender, but it's in the hands of IFC, who don't have a strong track record with picking up Oscar love. Let's see how the film goes: the critical adulation may be too strong for them to ignore, especially if the movie performs well, but it will depend on how much IFC are willing to spend.
Beyond that, the strongest contender from the festival circuit looks to be "Foxcatcher"—as we said post-Cannes, it's not quite a home run (it might be too alienating and dark for some), but it's more than a worthy, and Steve Carell is a cert for a nomination, with Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo and Bennett Miller all likely to be in the conversation too. Mike Leigh's "Mr. Turner" should be a player too, especially with the Cannes Best Actor-winning performance from Timothy Spall. "The Search" and "The Homesman" are relatively unlikely to figure in, but don't count out an acting nomination for J.K. Simmons for "Whiplash," or for the leads of "The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby." Blockbuster-wise, "Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes" has picked up stellar early reviews, but as a sequel, it'll need to be a box-office phenomenon to break into the race.
But of course, there's lots more to come: "Magic In The Moonlight," "The Hundred-Foot Journey," "Get On Up," "The Drop," "Gone Girl," "The Judge," "Kill The Messenger," "Birdman," "St. Vincent," "Interstellar," "The Theory Of Everything," "Fury," "The Imitation Game," "Wild," "Exodus," "Inherent Vice," "Untitled Cameron Crowe," "Into The Woods," "Unbroken," "Big Eyes" and "Selma" will all premiere over the next six months, along with many of the films from our fall festival wish-list that you can check out here. Any thoughts on what'll be real contenders? Let us know your thoughts below. — Jessica Kiang, Oliver Lyttelton