Predicting the 2015 Oscars

Birdman

Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton) in the opening shot of BIRDMAN.

It’s already that time of year. The Oscars are set for Sunday, February 22nd and the prognosticators have already put far too much effort in predicting who will come out ahead come the end of the evening. Not to be outdone, I’ve put together my own predictions, as well as commentary on each category. I make no claims to be perfect with my predictions, however, last year I did go 21/24, which is better than most “professionals” did.

As for the validity of the awards themselves, I believe that the Oscars are both fluff and useful bellwethers on the movie industry’s thoughts about itself, so to say that the Oscars don’t matter is foolish, but that also doesn’t mean the Oscars are objectively correct. It’s also fun to predict stuff like this as it lets me rant about all the movies involved, and who doesn’t love reading rants about movies that have already been talked to death?

 

Best Picture

American Sniper

Birdman

Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Selma

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

Two weeks ago I would have said Boyhood, but after Birdman won the Screen Actors Guild, the Producers Guild, and the Directors Guild, which are the most likely predictors of Oscar success, I’m starting to think its win is a done deal. It’s my least favourite film of the bunch, but it’s self-congratulatory and pompous in a way that is perfectly in line with the Academy itself. Let’s  remember that Birdman is all about praising actors, and actors make up the largest voting body for the Academy and love movies that validate their work. If Boyhood wins, I won’t be surprised, but I believe its chances are slipping. A part of me wants American Sniper to win just to piss everyone off, but Selma ought to win by any measure of “best.”

Will Win: Birdman

Should Win: Selma

 

Best Actor

Steve Carell for Foxcatcher

Bradley Cooper for American Sniper

Benedict Cumberbatch for The Imitation Game

Michael Keaton for Birdman

Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything

I would toss this entire bunch for a field including Jake Gyllenhaal, Oscar Isaac and Ralph Fiennes, if I could, but I can’t, so I guess I’ll just have to suffice with what we’ve got. I actively dislike Steve Carell’s performance in Foxcatcher, but it has given me a fun impersonation to do with my girlfriend, so there’s that. I love Michael Keaton, but I dislike Birdman. However, I think he’ll win, as the Birdman train is in full steam, and his career comeback fits the narrative the Oscars love. If I had my pick, I’d have half a mind to award Eddie Redmayne, a very good actor whose physical contortions in this film boggle my mind. Redmayne may very well win as he picked up the SAG award and the Golden Globe. But just because the performance looks the hardest doesn’t mean it’s the best. That leaves Bradley Cooper, who is subtle in a way he’s never been before and anchors his fascinating film.

Will Win: Michael Keaton for Birdman

Should Win: Bradley Cooper for American Sniper

 

Best Actress

Marion Cotillard for Two Days, One Night

Felicity Jones for The Theory of Everything

Julianne Moore for Still Alice

Rosamund Pike for Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon for Wild

Julianne Moore is a very fine actress who’s never won an Oscar and here she plays a middle-aged woman dealing with Alzheimer’s, so I think the award is hers. I very much like Felicity Jones, but she’ll have future projects that’ll give her more to do than she has in The Theory of Everything. Marion Cotillard is one of the best actresses in the world, and she’s great in the Dardennes Brothers film, but I would have given her this award for The Immigrant. Reese Witherspoon is very good in Wild, but I don’t think that film has any chance for awards. I’d pick Rosamund Pike who is flat-out terrifying as Amy Elliott Dunne. She has put in an iconic performance.

Will Win: Julianne Moore for Still Alice

Should Win: Rosamund Pike for Gone Girl

 

Best Supporting Actor

Robert Duvall for The Judge

Ethan Hawke for Boyhood

Edward Norton for Birdman

Mark Ruffalo for Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons for Whiplash

Edward Norton is my favourite part of Birdman, hands down. But his performance may seem so good simply because he’s surrounded by so much stuff I dislike. Ruffalo is likeable in Foxcatcher, but the whole movie is bland. Ethan Hawke is great in Boyhood, but he’s  essentially playing himself. J.K. Simmons has all the momentum for his explosive performance in Whiplash. He’ll win and deservedly so. He’d have my vote.

Will Win: J.K. Simmons for Whiplash

Should Win: J.K. Simmons for Whiplash

 

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette for Boyhood

Laura Dern for Wild

Keira Knightley for The Imitation Game

Emma Stone for Birdman

Meryl Streep for Into the Woods

The fact that Meryl Streep is listed here is insulting to other actresses at this point. It’s as if the Academy admits that there are so few good roles for women out there that they have to pad this field with her just to fill it out. Emma Stone is overacting throughout all her scenes in Birdman. I like her in funnier roles where she’s more natural. Keira Knightley is good in The Imitation Game, but the whole movie is unremarkable. Laura Dern is memorable in Wild, but it’s a small role. So Patricia Arquette, I guess? She’s very dependable throughout the entire film and that last scene with her is very affecting. She’ll win, although I wish Rene Russo or Carrie Coon were in this category, so I could throw my support enthusiastically behind them.

Will Win: Patricia Arquette for Boyhood

Should Win: Patricia Arquette for Boyhood

 

Best Director

Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel

Alejandro González Iñárritu for Birdman

Richard Linklater for Boyhood

Bennett Miller for Foxcatcher

Morten Tyldum for The Imitation Game

Oh how sweet it’d be to see Wes Anderson win Best Director. However, that won’t happen. I think this is between Richard Linklater and Alejandro González Iñárritu, with the latter having the edge from his DGA win.

Will Win: Alejandro González Iñárritu for Birdman

Should Win: Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel

 

Best Original Screenplay

Birdman by Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, and Armando Bo

Boyhood by Richard Linklater

Foxcatcher by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman

The Grand Budapest Hotel by Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness

Nightcrawler by Dan Gilroy

This all depends on how all-in the Academy goes for Birdman, but as it stands, I feel like this will be the big award they throw to The Grand Budapest Hotel. However, don’t be surprised if Birdman wins, especially if it starts sweeping up awards no one else predicted it having a chance of winning. I really want to see Nightcrawler win, as it’s the best of the lot. It should win for Lou Bloom’s peppy speeches alone, although there’s zero chance of that happening.

Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel by Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness

Should Win: Nightcrawler by Dan Gilroy

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

American Sniper by Jason Hall

The Imitation Game by Graham Moore

Inherent Vice by Paul Thomas Anderson

The Theory of Everything by Anthony McCarten

Whiplash by Damien Chazelle

Where the hell is Gillian Flynn’s nomination for Gone Girl? But I digress. The Academy has to give something to The Imitation Game, right? Why not this? The screenplay nominations are often ho-hum. American Sniper is a commendable screenplay, but it’s Clint Eastwood’s direction that makes the most of its relative straightforwardness. Whiplash also succeeds through direction and performances more than pure writing, even though there’s nothing in the screenplay that is at fault. It’s a well-written film, but just like a nice piece of music, it’s very dependent on the performances to bring down the house. The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything are standard biopic fare: bland and conventional. Inherent Vice is the most interesting screenplay of the lot. Paul Thomas Anderson had some ripe source material to work with, and he does a good job of translating the novel’s mandala plot without losing the paranoia that infuses Thomas Pynchon’s prose. He also makes it his own, which is hard to do with a writer who commands style as much as Pynchon. For some of the film’s excellent narration alone, it deserves to win. Also, that Anderson resists the temptation to streamline the plot shows his savvy as a writer.

Will Win: The Imitation Game by Graham Moore

Should Win: Inherent Vice by Paul Thomas Anderson

 

Best Cinematography

Birdman

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Ida

Mr. Turner

Unbroken

The unbroken take effect in Birdman will win over the voters, even though it’s an empty gimmick that does nothing to liven up the thematic preoccupations of the film, which are pretty cliché. The cinematography just covers up the fact that the film is about nothing interesting. It’s an illusory effect. The cinematography in Ida, on the other hand, adds so much to the film, instead of obscuring its weaknesses. The Academy aspect ratio and the ample headspace are essential to exploring these characters. We understand their struggles because of how this film is shot. It should win.

Will Win: Birdman

Should Win: Ida

 

Best Costume Design

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Inherent Vice

Into the Woods

Maleficent

Mr. Turner

The Grand Budapest Hotel should scoop this up for its particular fussiness, which is perfect to the several time periods the film depicts. However, I really dig the early 1970s costuming of Inherent Vice. It’s appropriately grubby, while also seeming heightened, befitting the film’s stoner vibe.

Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Should Win: Inherent Vice

 

Best Sound Mixing

American Sniper

Birdman

Interstellar

Unbroken

Whiplash

This award could go a lot of different directions. American Sniper has the raw wartime sound effects. Interstellar has the booming rocket engines. Whiplash has the ratta-tat-tat of the drums. Birdman has the confined spaces that are tricky to mic for sound. All could conceivably win. Birdman has a good chance depending on how big the Academy goes for it, but American Sniper needs to win something and no one can argue with the quality of its sound mix, which expertly blends wartime noises with quieter conversations.

Will Win: American Sniper

Should Win: American Sniper

 

Best Sound Editing

American Sniper

Birdman

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Interstellar

Unbroken

This usually matches up with Best Sound Mixing because many voters cannot distinguish the two categories. Again, Birdman could win, but American Sniper probably steals it again. I’d give it to Interstellar. I love the sound of the initial rocket launch.

Will Win: American Sniper

Should Win: Interstellar

 

Best Editing

American Sniper

Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Whiplash

I think Boyhood wins because it’s nothing short of a feat. It condenses 12 years of footage into a very easy to follow chronicle of a boy’s maturation. Think about how incomprehensible this film could have been and how natural it feels in the end. So much of this depends on editing. It will win, and ought to. Whiplash is the flashiest editing though, so don’t discount it.

Will Win: Boyhood

Should Win: Boyhood

 

Best Visual Effects

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Guardians of the Galaxy

Interstellar

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Interstellar ought to win this, for how it seamlessly bridges special effects and visual effects, and does so to achieve something other than massive scale destruction. It transports people. Even if the Academy didn’t dig the story (its lack of nominations in other categories seems to indicate they weren’t on board with it), they can acknowledge that the craft here is impeccable. Or maybe they’ll give it to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes for its monkey effects, but if those effects didn’t win the first time they showed up in 2011, why would they be awarded now? As well, the films besides Interstellar all have commendable effects, but they lack imagination.

Will Win: Interstellar

Should Win: Interstellar

 

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Foxcatcher

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Guardians of the Galaxy

The fact that Foxcatcher is placed here, with it’s awful prosthetic nose for Steve Carell, is a joke. Either of the other two could win, though I have a feeling they might throw a bone to Guardians of the Galaxy for its colourful characters. I’d prefer The Grand Budapest Hotel to win, merely because I like it more.

Will Win: Guardians of the Galaxy

Should Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

 

Best Original Song

“Lost Stars” from Begin Again

“Grateful” from Beyond the Lights

“I’m Not Going To Miss You” from Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me

“Everything Is Awesome” from The LEGO Movie

“Glory” from Selma

Sadly, here will be Selma’s sole win. I really enjoy “Everything Is Awesome” from The LEGO Movie, but it’s fluff. “Glory” is a good song, and it’s quietly powerful too. It nicely conveys the film’s themes and connects the story of MLK to the current struggles in the States. It ought to win.

Will Win: “Glory” from Selma

Should Win: “Glory” from Selma

 

Best Original Score

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Interstellar

Mr. Turner

The Theory of Everything

All respectable choices, although a bit bland, aside from Hans Zimmer’s score for Interstellar. My choices would have been Jonny Greenwood’s score for Inherent Vice, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s hypnotic Gone Girl score, Joe Hisaishi’s elegant pieces for The Tale of The Princess Kaguya or The Immigrant’s score by Chris Spelman, which is just insanely powerful. However, I have to pick from this lot, and if I had to, I’d choose Zimmer’s score, which has moments of real power. That being the case, Alexandre Desplat will likely win for his whimsical The Grand Budapest Hotel score, beating himself for The Imitation Game. The Theory of Everything could pick this up as well.

Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Should Win: Interstellar

 

Best Short Film, Animated

“The Bigger Picture”

“The Dam Keeper”

“Feast”

“Me and My Moulton”

“A Single Life”

“Feast” is a lovely short film. I haven’t seen the others so I’m going off consensus.

Will Win: “Feast.”

 

Best Short Film, Live Action

“Aya”

“Boogaloo and Graham”

“Butter Lamp”

“Parvenah”

“The Phone Call”

Consensus.

Will Win: “The Phone Call”

 

Best Documentary Short

“Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1”

“Joanna”

“Our Curse”

“The Reaper”

“White Earth”

Consensus.

Will Win: “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1”

 

Best Documentary Feature

Citizenfour

Finding Vivien Maier

Last Days in Vietnam

The Salt of the Earth

Virunga

I haven’t seen any of these films, although I would gladly watch any of them. Citizenfour is the one with the most buzz, and it’s political. The Academy often makes political statements with its documentary awards.

Will Win: Citizenfour

 

Best Foreign Feature

Ida

Leviathan

Tangerines

Timbuktu

Wild Tales

I have only seen Ida, but I love it and the fact that it got a nomination in another category means it’s an Academy favourite as well.

Will Win: Ida

 

Best Animated Feature

Big Hero 6

The Boxtrolls

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Song of the Sea

The Tale of The Princess Kaguya

This is a really good lot of pictures. People ought to stop whining about The LEGO Movie not being here. Most of these films are better than it is. I’d be happy if Big Hero 6 won, and it might, but I feel like How to Train Your Dragon 2 has the momentum, so it’ll probably win. I really want The Tale of The Princess Kaguya to win, but it should probably be happy just to be nominated.

Will Win: How to Train Your Dragon 2

Should Win: The Tale of The Princess Kaguya

 

Best Production Design

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Interstellar

Into the Woods

Mr. Turner

Wes Anderson really loves production design. I think the Academy has finally noticed. His film will win.

Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Should Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

About Aren

Aren likes big movies and he likes small movies. He'll sing the praises of the latest Hollywood sci-fi epic while simultaneously lambasting people for not getting into Hong Kong cinema. He detests egotism in film and film criticism, but is a sucker for earnest spectacle. While he tends to skew more modern in his viewing choices, he thinks film looks best in black and white, especially when directed by Akira Kurosawa. His favourite genres are science fiction and animation, but he'll watch anything so long as it's interesting. He's a prairie boy, born and raised. When he's not writing about movies, he's making them. You can watch his 2013 sci-fi short QUANTOM here: http://vimeo.com/66512643. His email is arenbergstrom@gmail.com. His favourite movies are 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968), BEN-HUR (1959), BLUE VELVET (1986), THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING (2001), MINORITY REPORT (2002), PSYCHO (1960), RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981), SEVEN SAMURAI (1954), SPIRITED AWAY (2001), and STAR WARS: EPISODE VI - RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983). His favourite directors are Hayao Miyazaki, Akira Kurosawa, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, James Cameron, David Cronenberg, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Terrence Malick, Christopher Nolan, David Fincher, and Johnnie To.