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This week's cover: Snubs, surprises, and controversies of the 2015 Oscar race

Gold hardware on the cover means only one thing: It’s that time of year again. In our annual Oscar double issue, Entertainment Weekly plunges into all the prize-fighting and politics with 40 pages of coverage on one of the richest races in years. Inside you’ll find profiles on all the competitors in the major categories—from 19-time nominee Meryl Streep for Into the Woods to the nine first-time entrants, including Birdman’s Michael Keaton. His movie tied The Grand Budapest Hotel with a pack-leading nine nominations, but in our snapshot of how the Best Picture race looks—right now—we see them both, along with The Imitation Game and hard-charger American Sniper, trailing slightly behind the quiet frontrunner, Boyhood. But there are no sure things. One look at Oscar history shows that anything could happen between now and the telecast on Feb. 22.

Oscar missed out on its chance to make history this year by not nominating Selma director Ava DuVernay, who would have become the first black woman recognized in that category. DuVernay herself predicted the omission last month, as she reveals in our feature story on the controversy around Selma’s poor performance in the nomination tally. And we address the criticisms directed at the Academy over the lack of diversity in this year’s lineup, which is the first all-white roster since 1998.

Also in this issue:

FUN FACTS: Trivia about each nominee and stats in each category. Three acting nominations in a row is a feat achieved by only a handful of actors, notably Marlon Brando and Al Pacino—but which actor did it this year? Do you stand a better chance winning Best Supporting Actor playing a dad or a brother?
THE ORIGINAL RED CARPET BITCH: Before Joan Rivers and Kathy Griffin, the legendary Mr. Blackwell terrorized Hollywood with his annual worst-dressed list. A tribute to the man who ripped dresses.
OSCAR JOBS: We went through the 865 performances nominated for best actor and actress since 1928 and analyzed which characters’ professions were honored most. One thing we found out: It pays not to work.
THE LAST STAR: Two-time Oscar-winner Olivia de Havilland, the last surviving star of Gone With the Wind, talks intimately about her career and vows, at 98, to live at least a century.
OSCAR BALLOT: You can begin handicapping how to win your office Oscar pool right now.

For more on the Oscar race—plus our expert Grammy Award predictions—pick up this week’s issue of EW, on stands Friday.

This week's cover: The story behind 'Boyhood's' unlikely climb to Oscar frontrunner

Nothing scares Richard Linklater more than universal adulation. The maverick director has a theory that if everybody loves something—we’re thinking McDonald’s, Green Day, John Grisham—you’re better off avoiding it. “If everyone likes a movie,” he says, “there’s usually something kind of lame about it.” So when Boyhood, the $4 million cinematic experiment that had occupied 12 years of his life, debuted to rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival almost exactly a year ago, it sort of wigged him out. But as he considered the positive responses—and talked to audience members—he noticed something strange. Lots of people liked it, but rarely for the same reasons. “Everyone was having a similar experience but a very different one based on his or her own life,” he says. “ ‘Oh, I had an a- -hole stepfather.’ ‘Oh, I have an older sibling.’ ‘Oh, my parents are divorced.’ People were glomming on to such different things while moving through the movie that it made me feel better. It was so personal to everyone.”

Now this little Rorschach test of a film, which tracks the progression of one boy’s childhood from first grade through his first day of college, has grown up itself. Released far from the autumn Oscar-movie months, on July 11—and now available on DVD and download—this summer indie sleeper has grossed more than $43 million worldwide and has matured into a confident young Oscar contender.

By any measure, that never should have happened. Boyhood eschews all the rules of filmmaking and ignores almost every Hollywood convention: It doesn’t feature megawatt stars, it rips apart the traditional three-act structure, and its most dramatic moments (hints of domestic violence, shoving in a school bathroom) would be mere footnotes in any other film. That sheer rebelliousness has secured Boyhood a spot in the Best Picture race—a level of recognition galaxies beyond what anyone involved with the film could have hoped for.

But that’s not the end of the story, because this movie, a movie that no major studio executive in her right mind would have greenlit, a movie unlike any ever made, has now become this season’s quiet frontrunner.

For more on Boyhood‘s unlikely Oscar ascent, pick up this week’s issue of EW, on stands Friday. Read the whole story online here.

This week's cover: Winter TV Preview, featuring a farewell to 'Parks and Recreation'

While you wrap up the aftermath of Christmas presents—return, return, regift, return, what the hell does this even do?—we show up at your door bearing one final holiday treat that will help you ring in the new year properly: EW‘s annual Winter TV Preview Issue. READ FULL STORY

This Week's Cover: EW's Best and Worst of 2014, starring Entertainer of the Year Jimmy Fallon

It’s our favorite time of year again: list-making season!

To celebrate, this week’s Entertainment Weekly dives deep into 2014 to give you our rundown of the year’s best and worst in pop culture. Movie critic Chris Nashawaty ranks the year’s top films (we see you, Boyhood and Guardians of the Galaxy) and calls out some bad ones (two too many volumes, Nymphomaniac!); TV critics Jeff Jensen and Melissa Maerz rave about Transparent and Fargo but refuse to Wanna Marry Harry; the music team reps Lana Del Rey and St. Vincent while rejecting Robin Thicke; and the books staff relishes Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven and Smith Henderson’s Fourth of July Creek yet would rather not remember Ruth Reichl’s Delicious!.

READ FULL STORY

This week's cover: Angelina Jolie and Jack O'Connell in 'Unbroken'

All she can see, in every direction, is water. It’s Oct. 16, 2013, the first day of filming on the WWII drama Unbroken, and a barge has taken Angelina Jolie, her crew, and an enormous crane camera onto the open Pacific off the coast of Queensland, Australia. As she stands on the ship, silhouetted by bright blue sky and deep blue sea, actors Jack O’Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, and Finn Wittrock float nearby in a small yellow raft. They are skinny and weak and starving, having subsisted on just 500 calories a day for two months. Suddenly, the wind picks up, stirring salt spray and waves. The crew on the barge begins to slip and fall. Jolie can barely hear O’Connell, her young star, deliver his lines, and for a moment she can’t even see him. As the camera zooms in for a close-up, he bobs helplessly in and out of frame.

“If you saw that first shot and my reaction to it, you’d be absolutely sure that this was going to be one of the great disasters of filmmaking history,” Jolie says today with a smile, sitting on a sofa at Milk Studios in Los ­Angeles. “The only thing you could do was laugh at how insane this was all going to be. And then you just had to take a deep breath and figure out what to do next.” READ FULL STORY

This Week's Cover: The Bellas are back in 'Pitch Perfect 2'

SPOILER ALERT:  The Barden Bellas have split up.

But before you scream “A ca-scuse me?!” it’s just a temporary separation. On this muggy June day in Baton Rouge, La., the cast of Pitch Perfect 2, the sequel to Universal’s sleeper about a college a cappella group, is pulling double duty. Rebel Wilson (returning as blunt bombshell Fat Amy) and Brittany Snow (back as dim bulb Chloe) are cloistered in the production offices, recording and preparing for dance rehearsal.

Meanwhile, a few miles away, Anna Kendrick and Skylar Astin, reprising their roles as vocal power couple Beca and Jesse, are shooting Beca’s first day of work as an intern at a recording company. “Any first-day jitters?” Jesse asks. “No,” Beca responds. “I’m just going to be moody and distant—artists love that, right?” If anyone has slight jitters, it’s the woman behind the camera: actress Elizabeth Banks (the Hunger Games franchise), who produced the original and appeared in a small role as sassy judge Gail. She’s now making her feature-directing debut. “This is the stupidest idea I’ve ever had,” she jokes during a break in shooting. “My first movie is this huge studio movie that a lot of people care about that also happens to be a musical with massive dance numbers. I don’t know what I was thinking.” READ FULL STORY

This week's cover: 'Into the Woods' enchants EW's holiday movie preview

Ever since Chicago ushered the movie-musical back to the big screen with panache, the song-and-dance genre has had a bumpy road in Hollywood (here’s lookin’ at you, Rock of Ages). But the man behind the 2002 Best Picture winner hopes to turn the trend around with another tuner, this time based on one of Broadway’s most beloved Stephen Sondheim musicals. Director Rob Marshall takes the reins on Disney’s Into the Woods, and he’s gathered an A-list cast and creative team to conjure up a glossy adaptation of the 1987 fairy tale fantasy that’s decidedly different from any storybooks you might have gathering dust on the shelf.

In this week’s Entertainment Weekly—which features four exclusive covers of the fairy tale epic’s all-star cast—we dive headfirst into the design of the dark, sprawling world of Into the Woods, the musical tale about a childless Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) who attempt to lift a witch’s curse by venturing into an enchanted forest filled with classic characters like Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) and Rapunzel (MacKenzie Mauzy). But this isn’t your mother’s Cinderella VHS—nor your daughter’s DVD, for that matter. “I didn’t want this to look like a cartoon world,” says Marshall. “It’s not sunny, sunny, sunny—we wanted a sense of danger.”

With the chance to re-invent the iconic musical, it wasn’t hard for Marshall to reunite members of his Chicago design team and lure top acting talent to the project—including Johnny Depp as the big bad Wolf and Meryl Streep as the Witch. “I’ve been offered many witches over the years, starting when I was 40, and I said no to all of them,” the actress tells EW. “But this was really fun because it played with the notion of what witches mean. They represented age and ugliness and scary powers we don’t understand. So here’s my opportunity to say, here’s what you wish for when you’re getting old.”

Come for the woods (and your first look at Depp’s Tex Avery-style lupine), but stay for the rest of our annual holiday movie preview, which includes candid chats with season stand-outs Julianne Moore and Eddie Redmayne, a behind-the-scenes look at Exodus: Gods and Kings, The Imitation Game, and the final Hobbit film, and of course, the calendar that will guide you through it all. The only question is, which cover will you pick?

READ FULL STORY

This week's cover: Your exclusive all-access pass to Christopher Nolan's 'Interstellar'

With Christopher Nolan’s forthcoming film Interstellar, the director of The Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception boldly goes into outer space with his most visually spectacular and emotionally resonant movie yet. We can say that because we’ve seen it. We also watched Nolan make it, and in this week’s Entertainment Weekly, we bring you onto the top secret set and take you into editing room to chronicle how the man who made Batman fly to new heights pushed himself creatively and personally to produce his sci-fi epic.

Interstellar opens Nov. 5 and stars Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Wes Bentley, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck, and John Lithgow, to name a few. (Seriously: There are more.) The plot tracks a quartet of astronauts and scientists—and the most unusual robot to grace the screen in years (meet the fall’s breakout star: a mini-monolith of metamorphic Jenga blocks named TARS)—who journey across the universe to search for a new home for mankind: In the near future of the film, Earth is dying, ravaged by blight and environmental ruin. READ FULL STORY

This week's cover: Michael Keaton is not Birdman

It’s tempting to assume that the character Michael Keaton plays in Birdman is a thinly fictionalized version of himself. He plays Riggan Thomson, a veteran actor who became a superstar when he donned a cape and cowl to become the winged creature of the film’s title. He fought bad guys and saved the world…until he grew tired of being a cog in the Hollywood blockbuster machine and walked away from it all. Sound familiar? Keaton, of course, helped create the modern-day superhero genre 25 years ago when he starred as the original Dark Knight in Tim Burton’s Batman (and then its sequel, Batman Returns). He too hung up the rubber suit when he no longer felt creatively fulfilled. Surely, then, Keaton related to Riggan like no other character from his entire 40-year career, right?

Wrong. “The truth is that I was playing a person, just a person,” he tells EW in this week’s cover story. “And I was both as connected to Riggan and as disconnected from him as you can possibly be. And I have to tell the truth about that.” READ FULL STORY

This week's cover: 'Sons of Anarchy' takes its final ride

Sons of Anarchy fans still reeling from the Sept. 30 episode (read our recap) may want to take a beta blocker before reading this week’s cover story, which goes on the set and behind the scenes as the cast and the creator, Kurt Sutter, prepare for an epic ending.

The seventh and final season of FX’s highest-rated show finds Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam) leading his motorcycle club, SAMCRO, on a mission to avenge the death of his wife Tara (Maggie Siff). What Jax doesn’t know is that his scheming mother, Gemma (Katey Sagal), is the real killer. In a preseason poll on EW.com, 81 percent of readers assumed that Gemma has to die for her crimes—and that was before her cover-up of Tara’s murder by carving fork ignited a street war with a devastating body count. “I kind of agree with them,” Sagal admits. “That seems like a correct assumption. I mean, it’s pretty heinous where she is now. Even though she didn’t mean it.”

Fans also assume Jax will eventually learn the truth. But what will he do? “Anyone else in the world, 100 percent guaranteed he’s gonna murder them in slow and brutal fashion, but it’s his mother, you know. It’s gonna be complicated,” says Hunnam. “I don’t envy Kurt in trying to figure out the right way to approach that.” Sutter already knows how the story will unfold—not that he’s willing to spoil it. “The question is, does Jax ever get the whole truth? Is he supposed to get the whole truth? If he only gets part of the truth, what does that mean? We’ll play with all that stuff,” he says cagily. “I think once he gets information, as much of it as he gets, we’ll see it play out in a different emotional way.” READ FULL STORY

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