HOLLYWOOD—Members of the Academy will soon turn in their ballots for the film that they believe should be victorious in the Best Picture race. If there is one thing I’ve learned about the Best Picture Oscar race in recent years is expect the unexpected. In 2006, it was a duel between “Crash” and “Brokeback Mountain. In 2014, it was a duel between “Gravity” and “12 Years a Slave,” but this year its “Birdman” vs. “Boyhood.”

The interesting element of the Best Picture race coming down to two movies has always occurred. It’s like a back and forth throughout awards season, which hasn’t been more prevalent than this year. “Boyhood” picked up the Critics Choice, Golden Globe and BAFTA awards. While “Birdman” nabbed the Screen Actors Guild and Directors Guild of America accolades. Director’s Guild is a big one as it tends to mirror who the Best Picture winner will be.

Rarely has the Academy split the awards in the Best Director and Best Picture race in its history, but it has indeed happened, it’s just odd. How can you win Best Director, but not Best Picture and vice versa. That’s where the game of politics come front and center. I’ll be honest I can’t recall the last time a movie literally sweep most of the major categories in the Oscar race. This might have been norm back in the 80s and 90s, but the 2000s have become another beast. The chance to share a piece of victory has been spread out a bit more.

So what about the other contenders in the Best Picture race? Well we have “The Imitation Game” which is garnering a bit of buzz at the box-office, but it still hasn’t proved to be a movie many people are talking about. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” arrived in the multiplex nearly a year ago compared to many of the other contenders. Does it mean its doesn’t have a chance, not really considering it nabbed a total of 9 nominations, but comedy rarely wins accolades at the big dance.

“The Theory of Everything” is in a similar boat. While the movie has amazing performances from Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, it still hasn’t universally connected with audiences the way some of the other contenders have. “Whiplash” which I would consider one gutsy and amazing ride, should be more of a contender, but it isn’t. So that leaves “American Sniper” and “Selma.

Both flicks arrived at similar time frames, “Selma” while critically praised on levels impossible to compare to the others hasn’t been a box-office titan. People know about the flick, but it only scored two nominations: Best Picture and Best Original Song. No love for David Oyelowo for his rousing interpretation of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and no accolade for director Ava DuVernay who crafted a nearly perfect piece of cinema. Its chance at nabbing the gold is quite slim.

Then you have “American Sniper” which has sparked so much dialogue, buzz and took the box-office by storm. The film is almost certain to cross the $300 million mark at the domestic box-office before Oscar day. So why is this relevant? The movie is being underrated. “Birdman” and “Boyhood” might be the talk of the town, but “Sniper” is such a dark horse, it could galvanize members of the Academy to honor it with a prize no one expected and it deserves it on multiple levels.

In most cases I would argue the winner of Best Director will determine the Best Picture, but this year not so much. I have an inkling the Academy will award Richard Linklater with the Best Director prize because of the originality of his movie; shooting something over 12 years is indeed incredible. The problem with “Boyhood” is it’s a bit of a bore, it’s not an exciting movie compared to “Whiplash,” “Selma,” “American Sniper” or “Birdman;” that accounts for something nowadays since the Academy is attempting to bring more diversity.

This is where “Birdman” garners a bit of an edge. Its edgier, a bit more exciting and resurrects the career of the original Batman, Michael Keaton. But anyone who knows me knows I don’t like to play things safe. I think “Birdman” is the Best Picture victor, however, my gut tells me people will gasp at the 2015 Academy Awards when the envelope for Best Picture is opened. The same thing happened in 2006 when “Crash” defeated “Brokeback Mountain.” What will cause the gasp? A movie called “American Sniper.”