Oscars 2015: How do this year's contenders stack up to last year's winners?
With the 2015 Academy Awards almost upon us, we take a look back at last year's winners and assess the chances of this year's hopefuls. So how do 2015's contenders compare to the winners from a year ago?
Throughout the previous year, Matthew McConaughey had been enjoying a bit of a renaissance in his career, appearing in Steven Soderbergh's Magic Mike, Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street and, of course, Nic Pizzolatto's excellent crime drama series True Detective, but it was his performance as Ron Woodroof in Jean-Marc Vallée's Dallas Buyers Club that saw him beat off strong competition from Christian Bale, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bruce Dern and Chiwetel Ejiofor to take home the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
This year the competition is no less stiff. Having already scooped the British equivalent at the BAFTAs earlier this month, Eddie Redmayne is currently the odds-on favourite with the bookies to take home the Best Actor gong for his superb performance as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, and if we've learned anything from the Oscars over the years, it's that the Academy loves a biopic. However, it's far from being a nailed-on result and he's not the only actor in a biopic on the shortlist of nominees, with Benedict Cumberbatch also in the running for his role as Bletchley Park's code-breaking hero Alan Turing in The Imitation Game.
Completing the list of what looks to be a very tough group of contenders are Steve Carrell for his role in Foxcatcher, Bradley Cooper for his performance in American Sniper and last but by no means least, Michael Keaton rounds off this year's nominees for his excellent performance in Birdman. Much like Matthew McConaughey, Keaton has been enjoying a bit of a resurgence lately with appearances in the rebooted Robocop and Need for Speed. Could he repeat McConaughey's feat from last year and grab a surprise win? With odds as short as 3-1 on offer, the bookies certainly seem to think it's a possibility.
When Cate Blanchett bagged herself last year's Best Actress award for her role in Blue Jasmine, it represented the seventh time an actor has picked up an Oscar in one of Woody Allen's films, and the first since Penelope Cruz's win in 2008 for her role in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. It was the second Oscar win for Blanchett, having taken home the Best Supporting Actress award in 2004 for her role alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in Martin Scorsese's Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator, but her first win for a leading role and a well-deserved one at that, having triumphed over a list of nominees that included acting royalty Judi Dench (Philomena) and Meryl Streep (August: Osage County), as well as impressive performances from Amy Adams (American Hustle) and Sandra Bullock (Gravity).
2015 could well be the year that Julianne Moore finally wins an Academy Award and nobody would begrudge her that. Heading up the list of this year's nominees for her role in Still Alice, this is the fifth time the actress has been nominated, her four previous nominations coming in 1997 for Boogie Nights and 1999 for The End of the Affair, before being nominated for two more in 2002 for The Hours and Far From Heaven. As far as actresses go, only Glen Close has received more nominations without a win.
As much as Moore deserves that elusive Oscar win, it won't be a walk in the park. She's up against Reese Witherspoon, who is (a fairly distant) second place with the bookmakers for her role in Wild, as well as Rosamund Pike for her performance in Gone Girl. Rounding off this year's nominees are Eddie Redmayne's The Theory of Everything co-star Felicity Jones and Marion Cotillard, who is nominated for her role in the Dardenne brothers' poignant drama Two Days, One Night. At 80-1, Cotillard is an outside shot, for sure, but her acclaimed performance also makes her a tempting prospect if you're down for a cheeky flutter.
Last year's list of nominees for Best Picture was among the strongest we've seen in recent times and in any other year you could easily imagine any one of American Hustle, The Wolf Of Wall Street, Nebraska, Gravity or Dallas Buyers Club walking away with the Oscar, but in a highly competitive field that also included Her, Philomena and Captain Philips it was, eventually, Steve McQueen's 12 Years A Slave that triumphed, also picking up a Best Adapted Screenplay gong for John Ridley and a Best Supporting Actress award for Lupita Nyong'o.
This year it's Alejandro G. Iñárritu's Birdman that's just edging it as the bookies' favourite, followed very closely by Richard Linklater's Boyhood, whose odds have no doubt received a boost following the film's win at the BAFTAs this month. Again though, it's a very tough field this year too, with The Imitation Game chasing the leaders in the betting stakes. Wes Anderson could also be in with a chance for The Grand Budapest Hotel, a film for which Ralph Fiennes would be entitled to feel a little sore in missing out on a nomination for Best Actor. At 60-1, Anderson's film is a worthwhile outside bet.
Elsewhere on this year's list of nominees is young director Damien Chazelle's superb film Whiplash. At just 30 years old, Chazelle could become the youngest director in history to win an Oscar if he takes home the prize. As well as Morten Tyldman's The Theory of Everything and Clint Eastwood's American Sniper, Ava DuVernay's Martin Luther King story Selma rounds off this year's list of contenders.
in 2014 it was Alfonso Cuarón who emerged victorious for his work on Gravity, edging out competition from Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street), Alexander Payne (Nebraska), David O. Russell (American Hustle) and Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave).
This year it's Alejandro G. Iñárritu that is again shading it with the bookmakers, closely followed once more by Richard Linklater. As for the rest of this year's contenders, there's not much in it as far as the betting odds are concerned. Wes Anderson is a 100-1 shot with some bookmakers for The Grand Budapest Hotel, a bet well worth making considering some other bookies rate his odds as short as 33-1.
Meanwhile, Foxcatcher director Bennett Miller is rated at 125-1, with Morten Tyldman offering the longest odds at 150-1 for his work on Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game. The bookmakers may see this year's Best Director award as a two-horse race, but with five superb films to choose from the Academy could yet surprise us all and net some lucky punters a very decent pot of winnings.
You can keep up to date with 87th Academy Awards this Sunday (February 22nd) by following @hmvtweets on Twitter, where we'll be live tweeting all the action as it happens.