Ahead of Sunday’s 87th annual Academy Awards, here are my picks and predictions for the big winners of the night in every category, from Best Picture to Best Visual Effects to Best Documentary Short.

Best Picture

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Nominees: “American Sniper,” “Birdman,” “Boyhood,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “The Imitation Game,” “Selma,” “The Theory of Everything” and “Whiplash.”

Should win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”

Will win: “Boyhood.”

Unlike previous years, this has been a rather close race. But it isn’t between all eight nominees, it’s a three-way race among “Boyhood,” “Birdman” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” The latter has racked up quite an impressive number of nominations at all of this season’s awards, but it isn’t coming home with too many of them, with the major exception being Best Original Screenplay and a rare Best Picture (Musical/Comedy) win at the Golden Globes last month. Ultimately, I believe this will come down to “Boyhood” and “Birdman,” with Richard Linklater’s 12-year coming-of-age passion project barely edging out Alejandro G. Inarritu’s surreal showbiz saga.

Best Director

Nominees: Wes Anderson (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”), Alejandro G. Inarritu (“Birdman”), Richard Linklater (“Boyhood”), Bennett Miller (“Foxcatcher”) and Morten Tyldum (“The Imitation Game”).

Should win: Anderson.

Will win: Linklater.

This is a head-to-head face-off between two modern auteurs, Linklater and Inarritu. Linklater has been picking up most of the Best Director trophies this season, but Inarritu surprised quite a few people when he picked up the Directors Guild Award a couple of weeks ago. Because I believe “Boyhood” will win Best Picture, I’m thinking Linklater will be taking home the Best Director Oscar, too, as much as I’d like to see Anderson sneak in and be awarded.

Best Orginal Screenplay

Nominees: Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”), Armando Bo, Alexander Dinelaris Jr., Nicolas Giacobone and Alejandro G. Inarritu (“Birdman”), E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman (“Foxcatcher”), Dan Gilroy (“Nightcrawler”) and Richard Linklater (“Boyhood”).

Should and will win: Anderson and Guinness.

The Best Original Screenplay Oscar usually goes to the quirky indie film that falls just below the major Best Picture contenders. This year, that is clearly “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” which could consider this a consolation prize for not winning Best Picture. However, if “Boyhood” or “Birdman” wind up sweeping the Academy Awards, Best Original Screenplay could be part of that.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees: Paul Thomas Anderson (“Inherent Vice”), Damien Chazelle (“Whiplash”), Jason Hall (“American Sniper”), Anthony McCarten (“The Theory of Everything”) and Graham Moore (“The Imitation Game”).

Should and will win: Moore.

To be honest, the film I really feel should be winning the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar is “Gone Girl,” but it wasn’t even nominated. That said, “The Imitation Game” is one of the stronger awards bait movies this year, falling in fourth place behind the trifecta of “Birdman,” “Boyhood” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” so it should easily walk away with this Academy Award.

Best Actor

Nominees: Steve Carell (“Foxcatcher”), Bradley Cooper (“American Sniper”), Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Imitation Game”), Michael Keaton (“Birdman”) and Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything”).

Should win: Keaton.

Will win: Redmayne.

A couple of months ago, I would have considered Keaton to be a lock for his tour-de-force performance, but Redmayne is swooping in and claiming some of the Best Actor trophies for his own memorable performance as Stephen Hawking, which I think he will continue to do on Sunday.

Best Actress

Nominees: Marion Cotillard (“Two Days, One Night”), Felicity Jones (“The Theory of Everything”), Julianne Moore (“Still Alice”), Rosamund Pike (“Gone Girl”) and Reese Witherspoon (“Wild”).

Should win: Pike.

Will win: Moore.

Based on all of the other major awards this season, the Best Actress Oscar is Moore’s to lose for her performance as a woman dealing with the early onset of Alzheimer’s. If there are any surprises on Oscar night, though, I would like to see Pike get the award for her truly amazing breakthrough performance.

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees: Robert Duvall (“The Judge”), Ethan Hawke (“Boyhood”), Edward Norton (“Birdman”), Mark Ruffalo (“Foxcatcher”) and J.K. Simmons (“Whiplash”).

Should win: Norton.

Will win: Simmons.

Simmons has been picking up trophies left and right for his performance as a manipulative drum professor in “Whiplash,” and he won’t go home empty-handed on Sunday night. However, Norton was absolutely fantastic in “Birdman,” going blow for blow (literally and not) in his scenes with both Keaton and Emma Stone.

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees: Patricia Arquette (“Boyhood”), Laura Dern (“Wild”), Keira Knightley (“The Imitation Game”), Emma Stone (“Birdman”) and Meryl Streep (“Into the Woods”).

Should win: Stone.

Will win: Arquette.

Like Moore and Simmons, Arquette is locked in to receive her first Oscar. She was terrific as the mother to the protagonist in “Boyhood,” but Stone really blew me away in “Birdman.”

Best Animated Feature

Nominees: “Big Hero 6,” “The Boxtrolls,” “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” “Song of the Sea” and “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya.”

Should win: “The Boxtrolls.”

Will win: “How to Train Your Dragon 2.”

We all know “The Lego Movie” should be here, but among these nominees, it seems “How to Train Your Dragon 2” is the front-runner, especially after its win at the Golden Globes in this category. As someone who loves stop-motion animation just as much as an adult as I did as a kid, I have to pick “The Boxtrolls,” though.

Best Documentary Feature

Nominees: “Citizenfour,” “Finding Vivian Maier,” “Last Days in Vietnam,” “The Salt of the Earth” and “Virunga.”

Will win: “Citizenfour.”

This is the year of the snub, and my ultimate pick for best documentary of 2014 is “Life Itself,” which chronicles the life and legacy of film critic Roger Ebert. As far as the actual nominees go, “Citizenfour,” which features some insights on and interviews with government whistleblower Edward Snowden, seems to be the likely Oscar winner.

Best Foreign Film

Nominees: “Ida,” “Leviathan,” “Tangerines,” “Timbuktu” and “Wild Tales.”

Should and will win: “Ida.”

When a Best Foreign Film nominee is also nominated in another category at the Oscars, it’s usually a pretty good indication that it will win. “Ida,” which is a must-see with or without its Best Cinematography nomination, seems to be the likely winner of the Best Foreign Film Oscar, with “Leviathan” its closest competition following some other wins in this category.

Best Cinematography

Nominees: Roger Deakins (“Unbroken”), Ryszard Lenczewski and Lukasz Zal (“Ida”), Emmanuel Lubezki (“Birdman”), Dick Pope (“Mr. Turner”) and Robert Yeoman (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”).

Should andwill win: Lubezki.

Not only is “Birdman” interesting to watch for its performances and plot, it is just fascinating to look at, and I anticipate Lubezki taking home an Oscar for his contributions in setting the film’s tone.

Best Production Design

Nominees: Nathan Crowley and Gary Fettis (“Interstellar”), Suzie Davies and Charlotte Watts (“Mr. Turner”), Maria Djurkovic and Tatiana Macdonald (“The Imitation Game”), Dennis Gassner and Anna Pinnock (“Into the Woods”) and Adam Stockhausen and Anna Pinnock (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”).

Should and will win: Stockhausen and Pinnock.

The devil is always in the details in Wes Anderson’s films, and Stockhausen and Pinnock brought the world of “The Grand Budapest Hotel” to life. Of the three films awarded by the Art Directors Guild, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is the only Oscar nominee (the other two were “Birdman” and “Guardians of the Galaxy”), so it is the film to beat here.

Best Costume Design

Nominees: Colleen Atwood (“Into the Woods”), Mark Bridges (“Inherent Vice”), Milena Canonero (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”), Jacqueline Durran (“Mr. Turner”) and Anna B. Sheppard (“Maleficent”).

Should and will win: Canonero.

Anderson’s eye for aesthetically pleasing details continues in this category, and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is likely to pick up the Best Costume Design Oscar, too.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Nominees: Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard (“Foxcatcher”), Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”) and Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White (“Guardians of the Galaxy”).

Should and will win: Hannon and Coulier.

Aging Tilda Swinton a few decades to the point of being unrecognizable is one of the major makeup feats of 2014, and look for that to be rewarded here.

Best Visual Effects

Nominees: Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould (“Guardians of the Galaxy”), Dan Deleeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill and Dan Sudick (“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”), Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher (“Interstellar”), Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”) and Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie and Cameron Waldbauer (“X-Men: Days of Future Past”).

Should and will win: The “Interstellar” crew.

I didn’t love “Interstellar” as a whole, but the special effects in the film were outstanding, and it appears to be the favorite here.

Best Film Editing

Nominees: Sandra Adair (“Boyhood”), Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach (“American Sniper”), Tom Cross (“Whiplash”), William Goldenberg (“The Imitation Game”) and Barney Pilling (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”).

Should win: Pilling.

Will win: Adair.

It is really odd to me that “Birdman” doesn’t appear here for its percepted (but not actual) continuous shots following the ensemble in the days leading up to the opening of a play. The American Cinema Editors awarded “Boyhood” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” with its annual awards in Drama and Comedy/Musical, respectively, and I have a feeling “Boyhood” will pick up the Oscar if it goes for a sweep.

Best Sound Mixing

Nominees: Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley (“Whiplash”), John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin (“American Sniper”), Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker and Mark Weingarten (“Interstellar”), Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montano and David Lee (“Unbroken”) and Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montano and Thomas Varga (“Birdman”).

Should win: The “Birdman” team.

Will win: The “American Sniper” team.

War movies tend to dominate this category, so it would not be surprising to see “American Sniper” or “Unbroken” win here. If neither of them do, “Birdman” will be the winner in a sweep of some of the technical Oscars.

Best Sound Editing

Nominees: Brent Burge and Jason Canovas (“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”), Martin Hernandez and Aaron Glascock (“Birdman”), Richard King (“Interstellar”), Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman (“American Sniper”) and Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro (“Unbroken”).

Should win: The “Birdman” team.

Will win: The “American Sniper” team.

“American Sniper” might be a two-time Oscar winner on Sunday thanks to these technical categories, but both the “Birdman” and “Interstellar” sound editing nominees appear to be giving the war film a run for its money.

Best Score

Nominees: Alexandre Desplat (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”), Alexandre Desplat (“The Imitation Game”), Johann Johannsson (“The Theory of Everything”), Gary Yerson (“Mr. Turner”) and Hans Zimmer (“Interstellar”).

Should win: Zimmer.

Will win: Johannsson.

The biggest snubs of the Oscar nominations were the mind-boggling omissions of both “Gone Girl” and “Birdman” in this category. Along with the visual effects, one of the standout aspects of “Interstellar” was its score. But Johannsson seems to be picking up quite a few trophies in this category (including the Golden Globe), so look for him to win the Oscar.

Best Original Song

Nominees: “Everything Is Awesome” by Shawn Patterson (“The Lego Movie”), “Glory” by John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn (“Selma”), “Grateful” by Diane Warren (“Beyond the Lights”), “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” by Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond (“Glen Campbell… I’ll Be Me”) and “Lost Stars” by Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois (“Begin Again”).

Should and will win: “Glory.”

The snubs for “Selma” in the directing and acting categories were another mind-boggling moment when the nominations were announced, but it is pretty much guaranteed that the writers of “Glory” will win the Best Original Song Oscar.

Best Animated Short

Nominees: “The Bigger Picture,” “The Dam Keeper,” “Feast,” “Me and My Moulton” and “A Single Life.”

Should and will win: “Feast.”

“Feast” delighted viewers and critics alike when it played ahead of “Big Hero 6” this fall, so it should come as no surprise that it is the front-runner to win the Best Animated Short Oscar.

Best Live-Action Short

Nominees: “Aya,” “Boogaloo and Graham,” “Butter Lamp,” “Parvaneh” and “The Phone Call.”

Will win: “The Phone Call.”

“The Phone Call” is the front-runner here, thanks in part to performances by previous Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins and previous Oscar winner Jim Broadbent.

Best Documentary Short

Nominees: “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1,” “Joanna,” “Our Curse,” “The Reaper” and “White Earth.”

Should win: “White Earth.”

Will win: “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1.”

Because I live in North Dakota, I feel like I should root for “White Earth,” which is centered on the oil boom in the western part of the state. However, it looks as though “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1,” which HBO debuted in November for Veterans’ Day, is favored to win the Oscar.

Live Blog

Join staff members from the Herald and the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead as we live blog the Academy Awards on Sunday, starting with red carpet coverage at 6 p.m. and continuing until the telecast (beginning at 7 p.m. on ABC) is complete.

The interactive blog allows readers to share thoughts about the show’s events and award winners by encouraging comments and participation in live polls. Twitter posts will also be incorporated into the blog; use the hashtags #redcarpetFCC and #OscarsFCC, and your tweets may be shared as part of the commentary, too.

We will be using ScribbleLive, the same platform used for the Herald's live blog for hockey games, the weekly sports chat and our other awards season live blogs, including the Grammys and the Golden Globes.