A look at some potential first time Academy Award nominees this year

One of the most enjoyable things about the Oscars each and every single year is that a number of overdue veterans are finally cited with their first Academy Award nominations. These nods are sometimes for career best work and sometimes almost life achievement citations, but it’s very rare that the noms aren’t actually fully deserved. This year, there are no shortage of very deserving first timers who are only a matter of weeks away from hearing their name called out at long last. As such, I wanted to give you all a look at a number of them, mostly in the major categories, though not exclusively.

Here now are a dozen (well, technically more, as you’ll see in a moment) potential first time Oscar nominees for this year:

1. (Almost) The entire Best Actor field – With the exception of prior nominees Bradley Cooper, Ralph Fiennes, and Jake Gyllenhaal, every realistic contender for a Best Actor nomination (not to mention the win) would be a first time nominee. They mainly include Steve Carell, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Keaton, David Oyelowo, and Eddie Redmayne, but also Ellar Coltrane, Oscar Isaac, Jack O’Connell, Timothy Spall, Channing Tatum, and Miles Teller as well. An embarrassment of riches here, so while perhaps the entire lineup in Best Actor will be first timers, more than a few will be snubbed as well.

2. J.K. Simmons – If there’s a slam dunk win to be found among the big eight Oscar categories, it’s first timer Simmons finally getting his due from the Academy. His role in Whiplash is perhaps the best he’s ever gotten, though it’s no surprise at all that he knocks it out of the park. You can put him down for his first nomination and first win in ink. It’s happening.

3. Felicity Jones – With The Theory of Everything poised to do very well on nomination morning, it seems exceedingly likely that Jones will receive her first citation from voters. At one point she was considered a potential winner too, and while that time has probably come and gone, she’s still almost certain to be nominated. From there, we’ll just have to see what happens. Snubbed a few years ago for her breakthrough performance in Like Crazy, I’m glad that Jones is getting in now.

4. Hoyte Van Hoytema – Even if Interstellar winds up snubbed in most of the big eight categories, if not all of them (which would be a crime in my eyes, but I digress), it’ll still do pretty well in the technical fields, including getting Van Hoytema his first nod. He was denied a nomination last year for Her, which was a real shame, but this time around he won’t miss. He might even be in line to turn this citation into a win, though that remains to be seen.

5. Patricia Arquette – Another all but slam dunk this season is Arquette not just getting her first nom, but also a win for her role in Boyhood. Especially if the film is gearing up to win Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay, that only further enhances her chance to be the victor. Arquette is a surefire nominee, at worst, though betting against her win would be quite foolish.

6. Ava DuVernay – A potentially history making first timer, DuVernay would become the first African American woman ever cited in Best Director by the Academy if her work on Selma is nominated. The odds are in her favor for that nomination as well. A win might be a longer shot right now, but I’d be shocked at this point if Oscar voters snubbed her in the Director lineup.

7. Damien Chazelle – If Whiplash manages a Best Picture nomination, I’d be rather surprised if writer/director Chazelle doesn’t show up somewhere as well. Best Original Screenplay seems far more likely than Best Director, but both are on the table. Chazelle won’t win this time around (unlike his MVP Simmons), but it’ll get him in the club. His time will come though, trust me there.

8. Rosamund Pike – It seems like no one is stopping veteran Julianne Moore in Best Actress, but a dark horse threat to her is Pike. Gone Girl is becoming kind of a question mark in the major categories outside of Best Adapted Screenplay, but if it does crack the Best Picture lineup (and even more so if David Fincher gets in for Best Director), Pike’s first nomination could have a shot at becoming a win. Bet on the nod though, as opposed to the victory.

9. Jennifer Aniston – Just a few weeks ago, a nomination for Aniston was almost a joke. Now, that nom is almost locked in. She has a few competitors still to beat back for that final spot in the Best Actress lineup, but Aniston has all the buzz and momentum for her performance in Cake. Picking against her now would not be a smart move at all. Odds are, she’s in.

10. Gillian Flynn – Probably Gone Girl’s best chance at a major win, Flynn could get extra points for this being not just her screenplay debut, but also an adaptation of her own novel. Flynn and the film will have to beat back The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything (more on that below), but I think she can do it. The win here is my upset special right now, though regardless I have to believe that the nomination is in the bag.

11. Emma Stone – Still an up and comer but already overdue for a nomination to some, Stone seems poised to finally break into the Oscar lineup for her work in Birdman. In fact, depending on how the race shakes out in Best Supporting Actress, there’s a chance that Stone could wind up the primary competition of Arquette’s for a win. It’s a long shot, but stay tuned on that front.

12. Anthony McCarten – Again citing the likely strong showing for The Theory of Everything, it stands to reason that scribe McCarten will get in for the first time in his career. Best Adapted Screenplay is a true three horse race between this contender and the duo of Gone Girl and The Imitation Game, so it’s just a matter of seeing which one pulls away at the very end.

Stay tuned to see if all of these contenders become first time nominees!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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