A Hollywood ending come Oscar night

by Mark Burger

The 87th annual Academy Awards ceremony will be broadcast Sunday night on ABC, and will undoubtedly be one of the most-watched programs around the globe, with viewership likely somewhere in the range of one billion people.

Neil Patrick Harris, coming off his Tony Award-winning Broadway run of Hedwig & the Angry Inch, will be doling out the jokes and quips as he makes his debut as Oscar host.

Best Picture: Given the inclusion of more Academy members from abroad, expect to see such unconventional fare as Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel earning more recognition. Birdman seems to be on a roll, but don’t discount Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. Despite the controversy, American Sniper could also be a contender, especially given its amazing box-office success ($250 million and counting).

Best Director: It’s down to Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Birdman) and Linklater, though Wes Anderson (Grand Budapest) could surprise. For the 12-year investment in Boyhood, I’d like to see Linklater take home the Oscar.

Best Actor: Steve Carell (Foxcatcher) and Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game) are long shots, Michael Keaton (Birdman) and Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) are the main contenders “¦ but don’t count out American Sniper‘s Bradley Cooper. This is his third nomination in as many years. He’s the dark horse, the one to watch out for.

Best Actress: Julianne Moore is a lock for Still Alice. Five nominations and no wins? It’s her time.

Best Supporting Actor: JK Simmons seems to have it wrapped up for his driven, dynamic turn as Whiplash‘s savage music teacher “¦ unless Ethan Hawke sneaks in there for Boyhood.

Best Supporting Actress: Meryl Streep gets her 19th Oscar nomination (for Into the Woods) but she won’t win her fourth Oscar. She’s barely campaigning for it, for one thing (a classy move). Everyone says Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) is a sure thing, but Emma Stone (Birdman) could surprise “¦ and the Academy loves to surprise with this category. !