Which are the most competitive Oscar categories this year?

80th Annual Academy Awards - "Parade of the Oscars"
We’re less than three weeks away from the Awards Awards, ladies and gentlemen. Doesn’t time just fly? It seems like only yesterday we were still speculating on so many of the contenders. Now, it’s the home stretch for awards campaigns. Interestingly, a few of the categories are as competitive as I’ve ever seen them. Usually, give or take the technical fields, there’s only one or two really down to the wire races, but this year, if we include the techs, I can easily come up with ten categories that are far from wrapped up. As such, I’ve got a tailor made list to run down now, don’t I?

Here now are the ten most competitive Oscar categories during the final two and a half weeks of campaigning:

10. Best Adapted Screenplay – The smart money seems to be with Graham Moore taking this one for The Imitation Game, but it feels to many like a somewhat lackluster win, so there’s heavy speculation that this category is far from wrapped up. Could Jason Hall get American Sniper its big surprise win here? Is this the other place where Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash could be honored? Stay tuned to find out if either can upset Moore.

9. Best Costume Design – Seen as a slightly lackluster group this year, most seem to be deferring to popular nominee/winner Colleen Atwood here, though that might not be the case. She could easily win for Into the Woods, but that contender will get a run for its money from The Grand Budapest Hotel. If the latter is in for multiple Oscar wins…watch out.

8. Best Makeup & Hairstyling – The tech categories often have some degree of uncertainty surrounding them, and this year is no exception. Depending on who you ask, each of the three nominees in Foxcatcher, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Guardians of the Galaxy can be seen as the frontrunner. The two more nominated contenders seem to have a leg up, but it could really go in any direction.

7. Best Animated Feature – When the nominees were announced and The Lego Movie was left off the final list, it set off a wide open race for this Oscar statue. It likely is between Big Hero 6 and How to Train Your Dragon 2 for the prize, but some see The Boxtrolls as a spoiler as well. It’s going to go down to the wire, that’s for sure.

6. Best Production Design – Another category that will potentially benefit from love for Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. If Anderson’s movie is in for a strong showing, it’ll run away with this one. If not though, watch out for The Imitation Game, Interstellar or perhaps even Mr. Turner as well.

5. Best Director – It’s pretty hard to figure this one out without knowing who winds up with the lead in Best Picture going into the big night, but we can all agree that it’s down to either Alejandro González Iñárritu for Birdman or Richard Linklater for Boyhood. Could we be in for a split where Iñárritu or Linklater win here and lose in Picture? It’s possible. Flip a coin folks, that’s how close this one is.

4. Best Sound Editing – A likely three horse race between American Sniper, Birdman, and Interstellar, all of whom are also battling it out in Best Sound Mixing as well, a lot will ride on if Birdman is going to have a particularly good night or not.

3. Best Actor – No race has tightened more in the last week or so than this one. Once seemed to be almost a lock for Michael Keaton, the Birdman actor has conceivably fallen behind The Theory of Everything’s Eddie Redmayne here. There’s also the looming dark horse of Bradley Cooper, provided that American Sniper isn’t crippled by its recent controversies. Redmayne is probably the one to beat here, but it’s all but a tie.

2. Best Original Screenplay – This is another tight race between Iñárritu (along with his co-writers) and Linklater, though Birdman and Boyhood have Anderson and The Grand Budapest Hotel to contend with as well. Conspiracy theorists look to Anderson winning here and Picture/Director having a split so everyone goes home happy, but I’m not sure I buy that. This seems like it gently favors Birdman, but I wouldn’t count Boyhood out at all. It’s super tight.

1. Best Picture – Ah, the big one. Really, we have Birdman and Boyhood in a virtual tie for Best Picture. The Grand Budapest Hotel has dropped back in the race, Selma is no longer a factor, and American Sniper has only the slightest of chances, so aside from The Imitation Game, no one else is even close. Boyhood has been in the lead for months, but Birdman might be inches ahead at the moment. This is probably the closest Picture race that I can remember. It’s really a sight to behold…

Stay tuned to see just how close it gets!

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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