Oscar voting is underway right now. That means the clock is winding down for studios campaigning to squeeze their darlings into the race before nominations are announced on Jan. 15. The consensus at the moment favors "Boyhood," "Birdman," "Selma" and "The Imitation Game," but there's still a chance to influence the Academy's votes. Which brings us to HuffPost Entertainment's ideal Oscar ballots. Our two awards gurus, Christopher Rosen and Matthew Jacobs, have chronicled the race since the summer, and we now present our personal ballots as a final plea for your consideration. Many of our favorites echo the probable nominees, but we have enough curve balls to keep voters thinking, if they're willing to buck conventional wisdom about which shoo-ins deserve spots.
Chris: "Boyhood" "Gone Girl" "Guardians of the Galaxy" "Nightcrawler" "Selma"
Before you scoff at the inclusion of "Guardians of the Galaxy" as some kind of fan-boy posturing, recall that "Star Wars" was a Best Picture nominee at the 1978 Oscars. As for the others, use each as an example when people say this was a bad year for movies.
Matt: "Birdman" "Gone Girl" "Love is Strange" "Selma" "Wild"
This award belongs to "Selma," but nothing this year was more endearing than "Love is Strange."
Chris: Ben Affleck, "Gone Girl" Benedict Cumberbatch, "The Imitation Game" Jake Gyllenhaal, "Nightcrawler" David Oyelowo, "Selma" Miles Teller, "Whiplash"
We've all talked about how stacked this year's Best Actor race is, but that's with good reason. There are a ton of wonderful performances, including many most prognosticators have pegged for nominations! So give me Benedict Cumberbatch, David Oyelowo and Jake Gyllenhaal, three men in the thick of the race at the moment, for nods. But let's save room for Ben Affleck in "Gone Girl" and Miles Teller in "Whiplash." Each wowed in their respective films, showing sides of talent previously unrealized.
Matt: Ben Affleck, "Gone Girl" André Benjamin, "Jimi: All Is By My Side" Jake Gyllenhaal, "Nightcrawler" Bill Hader, "The Skeleton Twins" David Oyelowo, "Selma"
We could list at least a dozen men who deserve Best Actor nominations this year. Of course I mean no disrespect to biopic bosses Benedict Cumberbatch and Eddie Redmayne, but Chadwick Boseman and Timothy Spall were every bit as captivating in "Get On Up" and "Mr. Turner," respectively. It's André Benjamin's (aka André 3000) turn as Jimi Hendrix that stunned me the most, though, so I'd throw him in alongside Bill Hader as two undercard selections.
Chris: Rose Byrne, "Neighbors" Gugu Mbatha-Raw, "Beyond the Lights" Rosamund Pike, "Gone Girl" Jenny Slate, "Obvious Child" Reese Witherspoon, "Wild"
Many have complained about the dearth of Best Actress contenders, but maybe that's just because they haven't looked hard enough. There were a ton of excellent lead actress performances this year, including my five favorites above. Special kudos to Rose Byrne, who wasn't Diane Keaton in "Annie Hall," but wasn't not Diane Keaton in "Annie Hall" either.
Matt: Jennifer Aniston, "Cake" Emily Blunt, "Into the Woods" Essie Davis, "The Babadook" Reese Witherspoon, "Wild" Shailene Woodley, "The Fault in Our Stars"
I have no qualms with Julianne Moore in "Still Alice," but she deserves to win for a better movie. I'm rooting for Reese Witherspoon, but we haven't paid enough (read: any) attention to Emily Blunt's effortless work in "Into the Woods" and Essie Davis' haunting, complicated achievement in "The Babadook."
Chris: John Goodman, "The Gambler" Edward Norton, "Birdman" Randall Park, "The Interview" Tyler Perry, "Gone Girl" J.K. Simmons, "Whiplash"
John Goodman has never secured an Oscar nomination from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, but he has my vote for "The Gambler." Tyler Perry was a revelation in "Gone Girl," but the year's biggest breakout performance might be Randall Park. As Kim Jong Un in "The Interview," Park explodes in a figurative and literal sense. He's the closest we came this year to Christoph Waltz in "Inglourious Basterds."
Matt: Riz Ahmed, "Nightcrawler" Domhnall Gleeson, "Unbroken" Edward Norton, "Birdman" J.K. Simmons, "Whiplash" Tom Wilkinson, "Selma"
I can forego everything about "Unbroken" except Domhnall Gleeson's performance. The supporting ensemble in "Selma" couldn't be better, but Tom Wilkinson does a brilliant job at transcending imitation and making Lyndon B. Johnson an actual character. Riz Ahmed made the money with his stint as Jake Gyllenhaal's shifty assistant in "Nightcrawler," so now it's time for him to win the Hollywood lottery.
Chris: Patricia Arquette, "Boyhood" Jessica Chastain, "A Most Violent Year" Jennifer Connelly, "Noah" Carrie Coon, "Gone Girl" Laura Dern, "Wild"
Remember "Noah"? Not many people do, but, man, Jennifer Connelly was awesome in that movie. Let's give her a nomination, just so long as it means Carrie Coon still gets some love too.
Matt: Patricia Arquette, "Boyhood" Carrie Coon, "Gone Girl" Laura Dern, "Wild" Julianne Moore, "Maps to the Stars" Uma Thurman, "Nymphomaniac: Volume 1"
I could sub Carrie Coon or Uma Thurman for Marisa Tomei in "Love is Strange," and either way this is one of the year's strongest categories. I realize I said Julianne Moore deserves to win for a better movie than "Still Alice," which "Maps to the Stars" certainly is not, but her performance as a tyrannical actress in David Cronenberg's messy satire was one of the year's most electrifying.
Chris: Ava DuVernay, "Selma" David Fincher, "Gone Girl" Dan Gilroy, "Nightcrawler" James Gunn, "Guardians of the Galaxy" Richard Linklater, "Boyhood"
These were the year's most entertaining movies. They did not direct themselves.
Matt: Ava DuVernay, "Selma" Alejandro González Iñárritu, "Birdman" Jennifer Kent, "The Babadook" Richard Linklater, "Boyhood" Jean-Marc Vallée, "Wild"
Alejandro González Iñárritu and Richard Linklater are shoo-ins for their technical mastery, but Ava DuVernay told the year's most economical story, capturing suffering and political melees without skimping on the depths of humanity within the sprawling civil-rights tale. I'm just as taken with the originality of Jennifer Kent's "The Babadook" and the richness of Jean-Marc Vallée's adaptation of "Wild."
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