As the year draws to a close and we’re thinking about Christmas, Hollywood’s award season is chugging into gear. We’ve seen the nominees for both the SAG awards and the Golden Globes – two very important markers on the path to Oscar glory.

Voting for Academy members opens at the end of the month, so nominees are sure to pay some attention to what’s being nominated for other awards in time for the Oscar nominations announcement on January 15th.

Momentum changes as the awards season progresses and some films that will be competing haven’t been properly released in the US yet, let alone over here, but let’s stick our neck on the line and make early predictions on who might be walking away with the top awards, who they might be up against – and a wildcard that we’d love to see nominated but probably won’t.

Best Picture

BoyhoodWho We Think Will Win: Boyhood

Who’ll be nominated: Birdman, The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything, Foxcatcher, Selma

Outside bets: The Grand Budapest Hotel, Gone Girl, Nightcrawler

Our Wildcard: Dawn of the Plant of the Apes

Birdman and Boyhood will both certainly be nominated and either could walk away with the prize – it really is too close to call at the moment, but if we had to go for one, it’s Richard Linklater’s masterpiece Boyhood.  The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything may split some voters as they are similar types of film, but both should get a nomination, as there can be up to nine nominees. Foxcatcher and Selma aren’t out yet in the UK but have strong buzz both for Best Picture and in the acting categories.  Either could make a late surge for Oscar glory.

The Grand Budapest Hotel has been nominated for various awards at both the Globes and SAG awards, and we’d love it to compete for the biggest prize. Gone Girl had a lot of buzz when it came out in October, but this has dissipated since. It, alongside Nightcrawler, stands a better chance at getting a nod in the acting categories.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was a massive blockbuster that had depth, great characters, great action and emotion.  It really couldn’t have done much more. Blockbusters like this, as well as Guardians of the Galaxy and The LEGO Movie, deserve to compete for the biggest prizes (though they have box office numbers that most nominees could barely dream of).

 Best Actor

Michael Keaton in BirdmanWho We Think Will Win: Michael Keaton (Birdman)

Nominated: Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything), David Oyelowo (Selma), Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler)

Outside Bets: Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game), Timothy Spall (Mr Turner), Ellar Coltrane (Boyhood), Ben Affleck (Gone Girl)

Our Wildcard: Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

The smart money would say that this is currently a fight between Carell and Keaton, both first time nominees. Both would make for a good narrative – Carell is hugely popular for his comedy roles but has consistently been great in dramatic roles too when given the chance -voters love somebody changing their appearance for a role too. Keaton’s narrative would be something of a comeback. Sure he’s played some iconic roles, but the rest of his career maybe hasn’t been quite so impressive.

Gyllenhaal is incredible in Nightcrawler and thoroughly deserves to be nominated, but could miss out on the shortlist to Cumberbatch.

Fiennes has been nominated in this category (well, the ‘Comedy and Musical’ equivalent) at the Globes, and we’d love him to be up for the main prize at the Oscars. He was excellent and showed great comic timing in the role of Gustav H – a role originally meant for Johnny Depp.

Best Actress

Julianne Moore in in Still AliceWho We Think Will Win: Julianne Moore (Still Alice)

Nominated: Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl), Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything), Reese Witherspoon (Wild)

Who might join them: Hilary Swank (The Homesman), Jennifer Aniston (Cake)

Our Wildcard: Essie Davis (The Babadook)

Julianne Moore is the favourite here at the moment, but don’t rule out Rosamund Pike’s brilliant turn in Gone Girl. Jones and Witherspoon have both been nominated for this elsewhere, so this is likely to be repeated here.

It’s rare for actors in horror movies to get recognition for their work, but Essie Davis really stands out in The Babadook one of the best (and best-reviewed) films of the year.

Best Supporting Actor

Whiplash-5547.cr2Who We Think Will Win: J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)

Nominated: Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher), Edward Norton (Birdman), Ethan Hawke (Boyhood), Josh Brolin (Inherent Vice)

Outside Bets: Robert Duvall (The Judge), Miyavi (Unbroken)

Our Wildcard: Andy Serkis (Dawn of the Plant of the Apes)

A couple of Hulks will almost certainly be battling it out in the Supporting Actor category, though perennial supporting actor J.K. Simmons would be a hugely popular winner.  Whiplash hasn’t been recognised much in nominations so far, and if this is reflected voters may vote for Simmons as a gesture of recognition for the film itself.

Miyavi is astonishing in Unbroken, so if the film picks up momentum his case could become stronger, essentially being this year’s Barkhad Abdi.

Andy Serkis deserves more recognition for his incredible career, and his performance as Caesar is the best of his career, and one of the year’s best.  Though arguably the lead character in the film, he’d stand more chance of a nomination if put forward in this category.

Best Supporting Actress

Ellar Coltrane in BoyhoodWho We Think Will Win: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)

Nominated: Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game), Meryl Streep (Into the Woods), Emma Stone (Birdman), Jessica Chastain (A Most Violent Year)

Who might join them: Julianne Moore (Maps to the Stars), Rene Russo (Nightcrawler), Laura Dern (Wild), Naomi Watts (Wild)

Our Wildcard: Mackenzie Foy (Interstellar)

Arquette is probably the favourite here, as the standout performer in Boyhood, but this is a race that isn’t over.  Chastain has been nominated twice before and is yet to win an Oscar, whilst Emma Stone could stake a strong claim if Birdman proves popular with voters overall.  And Meryl Streep can never be discounted.

Interstellar was divisive with critics, but will surely take home some technical awards.  We’d love the emotional heart of the movie, Mackenzie Foy as Murph, to be included here.

Best Director

birdman KatonWho We Think Will Win: Richard Linklater (Boyhood)

Nominated: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Birdman), David Fincher (Gone Girl), Ava Duvernay (Selma), Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

Who might join them: Morteen Tyldum (The Imitation Game), James Marsh (The Theory of Everything)

Wildcard: James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy)

As with the Best Picture category, this looks to be a two horse race between the men behind Birdman and Boyhood. With a smaller field than Best Picture, elimination from this category is often (though not in the case of Argo) seen as a sure sign a film won’t be winning the main prize. We think the very different technical challenge of directing Boyhood will see Linklater win this one.

Fincher and Anderson are both long overdue Oscar success and it would be truly fantastic for either to walk away with this prize.

Best Animated Feature

LEGO Movie PosterWho We Think Will Win: The LEGO Movie

Nominated: The Boxtrolls, Big Hero 6, How to Train Your Dragon 2

What might join them: The Book of Life

Despite no Pixar release, there has been a strong field of animated movies this year.  The LEGO Movie is (and rightly so) the strong favourite here, and hopefully it’ll be nominated for Best Original Song too.  The Boxtrolls was another charming film from Laika, and Disney can never be discounted – Big Hero 6 is a brilliant film (and the short film that precedes it, Feast should be a front runner in the Best Animated Short category).

Unbroken is out in the UK on December 26th, Birdman and The Theory of Everything  are out on January 1st 2015, Foxcatcher and Into the Woods are out on January 9th, Whiplash and Wild are out on January 16th, Big Hero 6 is out on January 30th, Selma is out on February 6th, Cake is out on February 20th, Still Alice is out on March 6th

 The Oscars take place on 22 February 2015.