A look at the second spot in each of the main Oscar categories

David Oyelowo Selma March 600x341
As much as people in the prognostication line of work (like me) tend to focus in on the number one spot in every Academy Award category, it’s just as important to figure out who or what the number two is. Even before the Oscar nominations have been handed out, you want to have an idea of the contender order, since that’s how you determine if any upsets could be in the cards. Sometimes, they’ll come out of nowhere, but most of the time the alternate winner is someone or something you can see coming. To quote a colleague of mine, very few people ever think there’s going to be an Oscar upset every year…until they happen. As such, I’m going to be taking a look at the number two spots in the big eight categories today. Hopefully, we can try and figure out where the upsets might be found.

In Best Picture, the number two position seems to be held by Selma, behind Boyhood of course. There are other somewhat viable winners like Birdman and The Imitation Game, but if you really look at the Academy, it appears likely to come down to Boyhood against Selma. Currently, the former is pretty far out front, but due to its unique nature, there’s plenty of time for the latter to make a real play for the victory. It’ll likely go down to the wire.

With Best Director, it’s actually probably Alejandro González Iñárritu for Birdman in spot number two, behind Richard Linklater for Boyhood. There certainly is room for an upset/split between Picture and Director, but I’m not going to predict one this early in the game. Ava DuVernay isn’t far behind for Selma, but the history making nomination that her inclusion would be might be enough for voters. Iñárritu right now is my fairly clear cut runner up.

Best Actor is a different story entirely. Without a clear cut favorite, everyone is essentially number one and number two. However, if for argument’s sake we presume that Michael Keaton is a slight frontrunner for Birdman, the number two slot is most likely Eddie Redmayne’s for The Theory of Everything. He’s only an eyelash in front of Benedict Cumberbatch for The Imitation Game and David Oyelowo for Selma, but he’s in front. Anyone who gets in will have a chance to win though, so stay tuned. Redmayne is just the current placeholder.

For Best Actress, it appears to me like the number two position is going to just be a distant second to Julianne Moore in Still Alice, but that spot does go to Felicity Jones for The Theory of Everything. There’s a potential play to be made by others, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Jones will at least benefit from a ton of love for her movie. She’s pretty safely in the number two hole.

In Best Supporting Actor, this is also a category that is one and done. J.K. Simmons is winning for Whiplash, but the second place finisher (far behind) almost definitely is Edward Norton for Birdman. He’s the only one I could see pulling off what would be a shocking upset, give or take Ethan Hawke if Boyhood is poised to pull off a sweep, but he’s clearly behind Simmons by a large margin. Norton likely will have to settle for being the number two in Supporting Actor.

Best Supporting Actress does have a clear frontrunner in Patricia Arquette for Boyhood, but everyone else is still jockeying for position two. I’m in the minority, but I think that, provided she actually scores the nomination, Jessica Chastain is in that runner up spot. It’s likely for A Most Violent Year, though there’s an off chance that she gets in for Interstellar instead. The latter wouldn’t have her as a number two, but the former would. So, as long as Chastain makes it in for the easier to reward role, she’s the one to watch behind Arquette.

With Best Adapted Screenplay, I’m no longer in the minority picking Gone Girl as the frontrunner, so I can safely list prior favorite The Imitation Game as the second level contender. A ways behind is The Theory of Everything, which could actually siphon votes from the other British biopic. Still, I think the showiness of the Gone Girl script has it in a great spot, so the number two place is firmly belonging to The Imitation Game right now.

Finally, for Best Original Screenplay it’s a close race between Birdman and Boyhood, though I have the latter in the lead, which makes the former this category’s number two. Some are speculating that The Grand Budapest Hotel could sweep in for the last minute upset, but it’s certainly behind those big two right now. Boyhood is my frontrunner, so Birdman takes the runner up spot for the moment.

Stay tuned to see if any of these number two contenders can pull of an upset!

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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