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Picking the Oscars, months ahead

Tom Long
The Detroit News

It's looking like next year's Academy Awards show will be Hollywood's version of Veteran's Day.

Wait a minute! The Oscars are more than three months away (Feb. 22 to be specific). Many of the year's biggest movies haven't even opened yet. It's way too early to be making Oscar predictions, right?

Well, not really. Especially not this year, when so many contenders seem to be perfect fits in terms of timing and the sort of things Oscar traditionally rewards.

True, there are movies coming that might disrupt things — "Selma," "American Sniper," "Into the Woods" and most notably "Unbroken." But the pundit group Gurus O Gold has made some predictions that seem pretty right on in terms of the six major races.

It is, of course, pretty sad that the Oscars have become so predictable that safe guesses can be made this far ahead. If even half these choices turn out to be right, it will show the Academy Awards are as much about who you are, how you're positioned and what sort of role you play as about performance.

As for the Veteran's Day remark, it's certainly looking like Hollywood is primed to honor its own. Of the following choices, the youngest winner would be 46 years old, with everyone else north of 50. All have been well-known players for decades, but none have ever won an Oscar, something that should work strongly in their favor.

So to it. The winners will likely be:

Best Picture — "Boyhood." Simply put, it's the most adventurous film of the year, if not the decade. That director Richard Linklater (who has two previous Oscar nominations) even thought of shooting a film that followed a family over a real period of 12 years is mind-boggling. That its mix of guerrilla shooting, improv acting and on-the-fly storytelling worked is downright miraculous. Some other very good films will be nominated, but none have the emotional or human scope of "Boyhood."

Best Actor — Michael Keaton for "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)." This will be a way to not only honor Keaton's fine performance, but also his career and a film that perhaps is a bit too much of as head trip to score Best Picture. Keaton's main competition will be Eddie Redmayne, who channels Stephen Hawking in "The Theory of Everything," but how many people know who Eddie Redmayne is? At 63, Keaton has three decades of work behind him; he's owed.

Best Actress — Julianne Moore for "Still Alice." In all honesty, I haven't even seen this film, but Moore has four previous acting nominations with no wins. Here, she's playing a woman grappling with early onset dementia and all reports are she's as reliably brilliant as ever. None of the major films coming is built around a female performance, save Reese Witherspoon's turn in the somewhat standard "Wild." Again, Moore's owed.

Best Supporting Actor — J.K. Simmons for "Whiplash." Oscar loves it when a veteran working actor — and nobody works more than Simmons — suddenly gets a red hot role that lets him shine. Simmons' portrayal of a cruel, dictatorial music teacher is precisely that sort of role and he bangs it with a hammer.

Best Supporting Actress — Patricia Arquette for "Boyhood." Honestly, there doesn't seem to be much competition. The first half of the film could have been called "Single Motherhood" and Arquette is superb throughout. At 46 she's been a working actress since she was a teen. Interestingly, she and Simmons are commonly seen on television in this great year of the crossover between mediums.

Best Director — Linklater for "Boyhood."

Now let's see what happens in three months.