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One Of These 21 Movies Will Probably Win Best Picture At The 2015 Oscars

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Welcome to For Your Consideration, HuffPost Entertainment's breakdown of all things Oscar. Between now and Feb. 22, 2015, entertainment managing editor Christopher Rosen and entertainment editor Matthew Jacobs will pore over awards season and discuss which films will make the most noise at the 87th annual Academy Awards.

The finish line is here. We are two weeks away from the Oscar nominations, which means studios need to put any last-minute campaigning into overdrive. With voting having already opened (see our dream ballots here), it stands to reason that the state of the race has more or less been determined. Still, we hope to see plenty of surprises when the nominations arive on Jan. 15, especially in the Best Picture field, where the number of nominees remains a question mark. (Since a 2011 rule change, the Academy Awards can nominate anywhere between five and 10 films for Best Picture.) There's arguably still no clear front-runner, but five movies ("Selma," "Boyhood," "The Imitation Game," "Birdman" and "The Theory of Everything") seem like guarantees, with ample contenders trying to edge their way into the remaining slots. Here are the 21 movies competing in the marathon:

  • 21 "Guardians of the Galaxy"
    Science-fiction and fantasy films don't usually rate with Oscar voters, except when they do. "Star Wars" was a Best Picture n
    Marvel
    Science-fiction and fantasy films don't usually rate with Oscar voters, except when they do. "Star Wars" was a Best Picture nominee at the 50th annual Academy Awards. In recent years, all three "Lord of the Rings" movies, "Avatar" and "District 9" earned nods too. Which is to say a nomination for "Guardians of the Galaxy," 2014's top film at the North American box office, isn't as far-fetched as one might think. It won't happen, but it would be kind of cool if it did. -- Christopher Rosen
  • 20 "Big Eyes"
    Tim Burton takes on Margaret Keane, the kitschy painter whose husband stole credit for her work in the 1960s, in a movie that
    The Weinstein Company
    Tim Burton takes on Margaret Keane, the kitschy painter whose husband stole credit for her work in the 1960s, in a movie that characterizes how much feminism has evolved in recent decades. Unlike "Wild," however, its implicit statements on gender equality aren't nuanced enough to strike a nerve within the contemporary cultural conversation. "Big Eyes" is a surface-level biopic directed by a man who doesn't often attract the Academy's attention. Burton shed most of his signature quirks to make what may be his most stripped-down project, but even Oscar royalty like Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz couldn't elevate the results. It doesn't help that "Big Eyes" flopped in its opening weekend. -- Matthew Jacobs
  • 19 "Inherent Vice"
    There's probably an argument or two to be made for "Inherent Vice" scoring a Best Picture nomination. It has a large, well-li
    Warner Bros.
    There's probably an argument or two to be made for "Inherent Vice" scoring a Best Picture nomination. It has a large, well-liked cast, meaning actors will probably gravitate toward the film. It's a technical marvel, meaning below-the-line professionals will like it too. But this is the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, a group that seems to love Paul Thomas Anderson (five total nominations) but not his movies: only "There Will Be Blood" has ever earned a Best Picture nod. -- CR
  • 18 "Love is Strange"
    Ira Sachs' endearing portrait of a gay couple (John Lithgow and Alfred Molina) finally allowed to marry after 39 years togeth
    Sony Pictures Classics
    Ira Sachs' endearing portrait of a gay couple (John Lithgow and Alfred Molina) finally allowed to marry after 39 years together is an exercise in concise storytelling. In a brisk 94 minutes, "Love is Strange" chronicles years of backstory without any flourishes or tricks. It's one of the year's festival darlings, premiering to acclaim at Sundance in January and riding that wave all the way up to the Independent Spirit Awards, where "Love is Strange" collected five nominations, including Best Film. Its widest release hit a mere 137 theaters, though, so its surest Oscar shot is probably a Best Original Screenplay nod for Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias. -- MJ
  • 17 "Mr. Turner"
    The only Mike Leigh film to garner a Best Picture nomination is 1996's "Secrets & Lies." "Mr. Turner" is arguably his best sh
    Sony Picture Classics
    The only Mike Leigh film to garner a Best Picture nomination is 1996's "Secrets & Lies." "Mr. Turner" is arguably his best shot at a repeat, thanks to a rapturous premiere at the Cannes Film Festival and the sublime reviews it has received since. Timothy Spall grunts his way through a career highlight as 19th-century landscape painter J.M.W. Turner, inhabiting the screen with such command that this quiet biopic becomes a true actor's movie. "Mr. Turner" is so lacking in convention that it feels like an anomaly for a year where every third Oscar contender is biographical. But the film's buzz hasn't quite translated to awards season, opening on just five screens and coming up short with most major precursor accolades. -- MJ
  • 16 "A Most Violent Year"
    J.C. Chandor earned a Best Original Screenplay nod for 2011's "Margin Call," and last year's "All Is Lost" put him back in th
    A24
    J.C. Chandor earned a Best Original Screenplay nod for 2011's "Margin Call," and last year's "All Is Lost" put him back in the awards chatter. Here he is for a third time with “A Most Violent Year,” a gritty slow burn about a family capitalizing on its heating-oil business during a particularly brutal period in New York. Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain have been showered with praise for their performances, and the unexpected top honor from the National Board of Review has kept the movie's awards talk alive. -- MJ
  • 15 "Into the Woods"
    Stephen Sondheim purists don't always take kindly to big-screen adaptations of the composer's shows, but "Into the Woods" has
    Disney
    Stephen Sondheim purists don't always take kindly to big-screen adaptations of the composer's shows, but "Into the Woods" has generated fairly positive responses. Disney desperately needed that after "Saving Mr. Banks" was shut out at last year's Oscars, but despite a strong Golden Globes showing and a spot on AFI's Top 10 list, the massive ensemble's SAG snub burns. Meryl Streep will probably earn her 19th nomination, and Colleen Atwood should collect her 11th for Best Costume Design. Were the movie's second half as solid as its first, "Into the Woods" might have a surer shot at the bigger hardware. -- MJ
  • 14 "Wild"
    There was a time back in September, after "Wild" had a successful run through the Telluride and Toronto film festivals, when
    Fox Searchlight
    There was a time back in September, after "Wild" had a successful run through the Telluride and Toronto film festivals, when it felt like Jean-Marc Vallée's drama could pull down a lot of Oscar nominations. Not just Best Picture, but also Director, Actress (for Reese Witherspoon), Supporting Actress (for Laura Dern) and more. Now? Even Witherspoon's nod is far from assured. This has nothing to do with the quality of "Wild" itself -- it's one of the year's best films -- but this subtle, lived-in feature may wind up swallowed up by the louder contenders. -- CR
  • 13 "Nightcrawler"
    "Nightcrawler" is far from a conventional Best Picture nominee -- it's about a striving sociopath who winds up, in essence, g
    Open Road Films
    "Nightcrawler" is far from a conventional Best Picture nominee -- it's about a striving sociopath who winds up, in essence, getting everything he wants -- but at least one major awards pundit thinks Dan Gilroy's debut feature has a real shot at getting what would be an upset nod. It would be nice -- "Nightcrawler" is great! -- but the safer assumption is recognition for star Jake Gyllenhaal in the Best Actor category. -- CR
  • 12 "Interstellar"
    The buzz on "Interstellar" has died down significantly since its ballyhooed release in November. It was a box office hit ($65
    Paramount
    The buzz on "Interstellar" has died down significantly since its ballyhooed release in November. It was a box office hit ($650 million worldwide), but not a hit: "Interstellar" made about $175 million less in global ticket sales than Christopher Nolan's last original feature, "Inception." Critics liked the film, but didn't love it: "Interstellar" currently owns a 73-percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Nolan's lowest mark as a director. But in a system where only 307 people are needed to secure a Best Picture nomination, doesn't it feel like "Interstellar" has a real shot? -- CR
  • 11 "Foxcatcher"
    At one point, everyone was amped about "Foxcatcher." Back when it was supposed to come out in 2013, and all the way up to its
    Sony Pictures Classics
    At one point, everyone was amped about "Foxcatcher." Back when it was supposed to come out in 2013, and all the way up to its release this fall, "Foxactcher" was the talk of movie town: Bennett Miller won the Cannes Film Festival's directing prize, the stars (Channing Tatum, Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo) graced the cover of New York magazine's fall-preview issue, and much was made about Carell's stunning physical transformation in the lead-up to its November opening. Miller's icy approach to the tale of two Olympic wrestling brothers who trained under deranged multimillionaire John du Pont has alienated some, but the movie has still managed to collect a Golden Globe nod for Best Picture and loom large on the Oscars' radar. Expect "Foxcatcher" to fetch a slew of nominations and likely go home empty-handed. -- MJ
  • 10 "American Sniper"
    "American Sniper" has proved polarizing for critics -- I'm not a fan -- but Clint Eastwood has been anything but divisive to
    Warner Bros.
    "American Sniper" has proved polarizing for critics -- I'm not a fan -- but Clint Eastwood has been anything but divisive to Oscar voters. He's won two Best Director trophies and his films grabbed three Best Picture nominations in a four-year span (2003, 2004, 2006). Many consider "American Sniper" his best since that fertile period, so it goes to reason that the military drama could score a surprise nomination here. If support does materialize, expect it to extend to Bradley Cooper's Best Actor candidacy too. -- CR
  • 9 "Unbroken"
    There have been a lot of biopics this year, but none hit audiences like "Unbroken." Through Wednesday, Angelina Jolie's film
    Universal
    There have been a lot of biopics this year, but none hit audiences like "Unbroken." Through Wednesday, Angelina Jolie's film has earned more than $65 million. And while "Unbroken" would be one of the worst-reviewed Best Picture nominees since "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close," critical consensus might not matter when Oscar voters are faced with that kind of groundswell. It just feels like Jolie's passion project will get a slot. -- CR
  • 8 "Gone Girl"
    "Gone Girl" is one of the year's best films, but not according to some Academy members. "Oscar voters greet 'Gone Girl' with
    20th Century Fox
    "Gone Girl" is one of the year's best films, but not according to some Academy members. "Oscar voters greet 'Gone Girl' with a shrug" read an October headline in the Los Angeles Times. Indeed, buzz around the water cooler is that Oscar voters just haven't responded to David Fincher's black comedy in the way that audiences and critics did after its release. It still feels like "Gone Girl" will get in anyway -- as with "Interstellar," instinct suggests 307 people probably loved this movie more than the others -- but it's an unfortunately iffy proposition. -- CR
  • 7 "Whiplash"
    This is the year’s little indie that could. Far from the Oscars' watchtower when it won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance
    Sony Pictures Classics
    This is the year’s little indie that could. Far from the Oscars' watchtower when it won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in January, "Whiplash" rode a steady wave of momentum that's left some wondering if it could be an underdog contender to take home Best Picture. Damien Chazelle establishes himself as one of the most promising new filmmakers with his kinetic portrait of a vicious music instructor (J.K. Simmons, nearly guaranteed to win Best Supporting Actor) and a committed pupil (Miles Teller) at a Juilliard-esque conservatory. With a paltry $3.3 million budget, "Whiplash" could very well bump behemoths like “Interstellar” and “Unbroken” to the curb. -- MJ
  • 6 "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
    As long as Wes Anderson makes movies, we'll debate which fantastical dreamscape is his best. As of now, a faction feels that
    Fox Searchlight
    As long as Wes Anderson makes movies, we'll debate which fantastical dreamscape is his best. As of now, a faction feels that honor belongs to "The Grand Budapest Hotel," the only movie released to audiences before summer that's still part of the Oscar conversation. It's certainly Anderson's most successful movie to date, and after two Best Original Screenplay nominations (for “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “Moonrise Kingdom”) and a Best Animated Feature nod for "Fantastic Mr. Fox," it seems one of Anderson's follies could finally crack the Best Picture shortlist. It already thrived at the Golden Globes, collecting four nominations, including Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy. It doesn't hurt that "Grand Budapest" just re-opened in select theaters and premiered on HBO. -- MJ
  • 5 "The Theory of Everything"
    Well-liked all year, relatively free of controversy and blessed with two of awards season's best performances, "The Theory of
    Universal
    Well-liked all year, relatively free of controversy and blessed with two of awards season's best performances, "The Theory of Everything" is basically the Platonic ideal of a Best Picture nominee. There is nothing else to say: it is a lock. -- CR
  • 4 "Birdman"
    Since "Birdman" premiered at the Venice Film Festival in August, it has been pegged as a Best Picture nominee. Great reviews,
    Fox Searchlight
    Since "Birdman" premiered at the Venice Film Festival in August, it has been pegged as a Best Picture nominee. Great reviews, key nominations from the Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globes and five months later, and "Birdman" still sits as a prime contender for the Academy Awards' top honor. Right now, it's a four movie race: "Birdman," "The Imitation Game," "Boyhood" and "Selma." It feels like "Birdman" is running fourth in that scenario, but only a fool would count it out. -- CR
  • 3 "The Imitation Game"
    The grand mudslinging tradition continues with "The Imitation Game," a biopic that's <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/brow
    The Weinstein Company
    The grand mudslinging tradition continues with "The Imitation Game," a biopic that's come under fire for historical inaccuracies. The critical fervor for Morten Tyldum's portrait of gay Nazi code-breaker Alan Turing isn't as decisive as the "Selma" praise, but "The Imitation Game" checks off enough boxes on the Best Picture rubric to remain a fierce contender in spite of charges leveled against it. The Weinstein Company knows what to do with this one, too. It can't boast splashy box-office receipts yet, but neither could "The King’s Speech" -- another movie supposedly riddled with historical red flags -- by this time in 2010. TWC planned a slow rollout for that movie, which went on to nab Best Picture, and a similar marketing plan is in place for "The Imitation Game." Bolstered by a brilliant performance from trendy star Benedict Cumberbatch, there's still plenty of time for this movie to continue ascending the Academy's radar. -- MJ
  • 2 "Boyhood"
    We can call "Boyhood" the leader in the clubhouse: It received necessary nominations from the Screen Actors Guild and Golden
    IFC FIlms
    We can call "Boyhood" the leader in the clubhouse: It received necessary nominations from the Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globes and swept through December with a surfeit of critics' groups awards. But IFC has laid back through much of the last two months, waiting for Oscar voting to commence, a strategy that has given "Boyhood" the whiff of an underdog: People still seem to underestimate its awards prospects, even as it sits as one of the key favorites. That's pretty impressive. -- CR
  • 1 "Selma"
    "Selma" is like staring into the mirror of a history textbook. The civil-rights crusade depicted in Ava DuVernay's stirring b
    Paramount
    "Selma" is like staring into the mirror of a history textbook. The civil-rights crusade depicted in Ava DuVernay's stirring biopic about Martin Luther King Jr.'s efforts to secure black citizens' voting rights have taken on specific relevance in the wake of nationwide protests following the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. That buoys its significance with the Academy, as does the fact that "Selma" is the closest we've come to cinematic perfection this year. The movie came up short with the Screen Actors Guild because Paramount hadn't distributed screeners in time, but it has thrived everywhere else, including four Golden Globe nominations and five Independent Spirit Award nods. Some have questioned its historical accuracy -- in Oscar land, that's tantamount to a smear campaign -- but it won't matter: DuVernay has already countered with her own arguments, and either way it's the year's most stirring film, spectacularly acted, economically written and shot with an assurance that's meant to be celebrated. -- MJ
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