Just when it seemed like Boyhood was going to cruise to the Oscar stage, Hollywood spoke up for Birdman with a bevy of industry awards, showing that just like its washed-up actor protagonist, the meta satire has something to prove. That cues up a race that will come down to the wire on Sunday's ceremony (8:30 p.m. ET / 5:30 p.m. PT, ABC), where you can count on some stats being broken. In the meantime, let's make some predictions for the top prizes. Check out the nominees here, make your picks and compare them to ours below.
Birdman, Grand Budapest Hotel lead Oscar nominations
Who will win: Birdman
Four years ago, The Social Network dominated early in the season like Boyhood did, until the Producers Guild Awards selected The King's Speech, which ruled the rest of the way. Birdman upset with a PGA win, followed by an expected Screen Actors Guild Award ensemble victory and a surprising Directors Guild Award triumph for Alejandro G. Iñárritu. BAFTA kept things interesting, giving its picture and director awards to Boyhood. Birdman, which co-leads the field with nine nods with The Grand Budapest Hotel, then rallied to win 10 guild branch awards total. The cynical, unpredictable, "one-track shot" dark comedy would be an atypical Best Picture winner, but its deconstruction of the biz and the id and ego of tortured artists is clearly resonating with the industry. In the PGA Awards' 25-year history, it has predicted Oscar 18 times, including the last seven. Plus, the only film to lose the Best Picture Oscar with PGA, SAG and DGA wins is Apollo 13. A Birdman victory would also end BAFTA's six-year matching streak with the Academy and it would be the first film to win without an editing nomination since Ordinary People 34 years ago.
Watch out for: Boyhood
A little movie like Boyhood also isn't the usual Best Picture fare, but like Birdman, it's groundbreaking in its own right. If its 12-year journey to the screen doesn't draw voters, then the heartfelt universality of it will. Its BAFTA win helps since there's a sizable membership overlap with the Academy. The BAFTA Best Picture award is determined by a straight vote for one film, not via preferential ballot, where the films are ranked, like the PGA and Oscars, but that shouldn't hurt Boyhood too much either since it's not as divisive as Birdman is.
Did you know? Birdman would be the second movie after Annie Hall in 1978 to lose the comedy/musical Globe (Grand Budapest won) and then win Best Picture at the Oscars.
Who will win: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman
This is another barnburner after Iñárritu stunned at the DGAs, which is the most reliable bellwether for Oscar glory. It's only mismatched with the directing Oscar seven times in its 66-year history. Of those seven, three of their winners weren't Oscar-nominated. Iñárritu also has an edge with Birdman being a flashier directing auteur showcase than...
Watch out for: Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Linklater can win this just out of sheer admiration, respect and appreciation for carrying out his daring 12-year magnum opus. There have been 23 picture/director splits in the Oscars' 86-year history, including the last two years (one of them out of necessity since Ben Affleck was snubbed, and everyone and their mother knew Argo was winning). The last and only time there were three splits in a row was at the 10th ceremony in 1938.
Did you know? Foxcatcher helmer Bennett Miller is the first person to get a directing nomination without their film receiving a Best Picture nod since the top field was expanded beyond five.
Who will win: Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
Michael Keaton cannot be dismissed in the tightest contest of the four acting races, but it's so hard to ignore all the check marks under Redmayne's "pros" column. Playing a real-life person with a disability, especially a super famous one like Stephen Hawking, is classic Oscar catnip. His awe-inspiring physical transformation has a degree of difficulty on the level of Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot, who, lest we forget, won this award for that performance. Redmayne also snatched the SAG from Keaton to go with his drama Globe and BAFTA wins. SAG has matched the Best Actor Oscar 16 out of 20 times, including the last 10 years. And only one person has lost the Oscar across all four acting categories with the Globe-SAG-BAFTA combo: Russell Crowe (A Beautiful Mind), who torpedoed his momentum when he assaulted a BAFTA producer for editing his speech for air.
Watch out for: Michael Keaton, Birdman
Right when Birdman started nabbing major prizes, Keaton — who won the comedy Globe and Critics' Choice, and at one point was seen as the only possible big win for the film — took a blow when he lost the SAG to Redmayne. But he still has the veteran sentimental vote to go with his comeback narrative for a tour-de-force, self-referential turn. (It must be said, the last time it was immersive biopic vs. '80s star comeback here, Sean Penn in Milk edged out Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler.) As Birdman's momentum crests, Keaton can definitely catch up and pass Redmayne, especially if the simpleminded reasoning of a young'un like Redmayne having more chances enters voters' minds. Also be very wary of Bradley Cooper (American Sniper), who is untested against everyone, having missed out on a nod at every precursor, and is on his third straight acting nomination for the biggest box office hit of the Best Picture lineup.
Did you know? Cooper is one of 10 men who have received three or more consecutive acting nominations (Marlon Brando and Al Pacino both got four straight, with the former's all coming in Best Actor). Four of the previous nine did not win any of those three-peat races, but three of them eventually won an Oscar — the only exception being Richard Burton, who never won in seven nominations.
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Who will win: Julianne Moore, Still Alice
When it's your time, it's your time. Moore has been the front-runner all season to finally take home her first Oscar — on her fifth nomination and 12 years after her third and fourth nods (she's one of 11 people to have scored two acting nods in one year). Sure, there's an overdue factor and a "Wait, she doesn't have one yet?!" sentiment involved, but this won't be an embarrassing make-up win, like, say, Pacino's Scent of a Woman victory. Moore is excellent in the film, capturing Alice's decline from Alzheimer's with the subtlety and sensitivity only she can convey.
Watch out for: Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night
The French star clearly has her pocket of supporters, sneaking into the fifth slot over Jennifer Aniston. Save for a nod at the Critics Choice Awards, where there are six nominees, Cotillard, like Cooper, is untested against the field at the major awards. But she's won under similar circumstances: Seven years ago, Cotillard — now one of four performers to get two Best Actress nods for foreign-language roles — triumphed for a French-speaking role (La Vie en Rose) over a front-runner named Julie (Christie), who played a woman suffering from Alzheimer's (Away from Her).
Did you know? Moore, Cotillard and Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) are the only nominations for their respective films. The last time a Best Actress winner prevailed as her film's sole nomination was Charlize Theron 11 years ago for Monster.
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Who will win: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Simmons has been the favorite since last January, when Whiplash whipped up a frenzy at Sundance, and no one else has kept up with the tempo of his fearsome Fletcher since. He's swept nearly every single award, including the Globe, Critics' Choice, SAG and BAFTA, and voters will be swayed to check off the name of a longtime, nose-to-the-grindstone character actor getting — and making the most of — the role of a lifetime.
Watch out for: Edward Norton, Birdman
Like his full-throttled, completely hilarious cocky actor Mike Shiner, Norton nearly steals the show from his leading man. Norton, who was nominated here 18 years ago for his film debut in Primal Fear, also gets the benefit of not just co-starring in fellow Best Picture nominee The Grand Budapest Hotel, but appearing in two Best Picture nominees that co-lead the field.
Did you know? Robert Duvall (The Judge) — the oldest supporting actor and oldest male acting nominee ever at 84 — ties Walter Brennan, Claude Rains, Arthur Kennedy and Jack Nicholson with a leading four nods in this category. Brennan won three of them and Nicholson won one (along with two Best Actor trophies), while Rains, Kennedy and Duvall (for now) did not cash in. (Duvall has a Best Actor trophy for Tender Mercies.)
Who will win: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Mortal lock. Arquette has cleaned up everywhere that you know CSI: Cyber has those "Academy Award Winner Patricia Arquette" promos at the ready. Yes, she'll get superficial votes for her vanity-free, 12-year aging onscreen, but she's winning for one lump-in-the-throat, devastating line: "I just thought there would be more."
Watch out for: Emma Stone, Birdman
Stone's running a very distant second, but her hostile, chip-on-her-shoulder performance as Keaton's daughter Sam is the kind of "take notice" turn from a young star that would prevail any other year if it weren't for Arquette.
Did you know? Birdman is up for three acting awards. The last Best Picture champ not to win any of its three-plus acting nominations was Dances with Wolves 24 years ago.
Who do you think will win? The 87th Academy Awards airs Sunday at 8:30 p.m. ET /5:30 p.m. PT on ABC.