Friday, February 20, 2015

2015 Oscar Predictions and Picks

Here they are!  My predictions for the 2015 Academy Awards have arrived.  First things first though, having caught up on many films from 2014 in preparation for the awards, here is a revised list of the Top 15 Films of 2014:
 1.     Birdman
 2.     Guardians of the Galaxy
 3.     The Grand Budapest Hotel
 4.     Gone Girl
 5.     The Lego Movie
 6.     Whiplash
 7.     Snowpiercer
 8.     Nightcrawler
 9.     Selma
 10.   Foxcatcher
 11.   Frank
 12.   Noah
 13.   The Normal Heart
 14.   Blue Ruin
 15.   The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

And so, without further ado, here are my picks for the 2015 Academy Awards.  The actual winners will be announced on Sunday, February 22.  (An asterisk (*) denotes a film I haven’t seen yet.  Furthermore, I won’t be weighing in on the Short Subject categories, as the availability of said shorts is extremely limited and beyond my reach.)

Best Picture
OTHER NOMINEES: American Sniper
                                       The Grand Budapest Hotel
                                       The Imitation Game
                                       The Theory of Everything

Boyhood is almost assuredly going to win Best Picture, considering its place at the top of many other awards ceremonies and critics’ top film lists.  And while it is a damn fine film (the honorary #16 on my above-iterated list), I don’t think it’s so great beyond its technical achievement.  Birdman on the other hand is a masterwork of writing, acting, and cinematography that could possibly upset Boyhood, though I doubt it.  Side note: American Sniper, The Imitation Game, and The Theory of Everything don’t deserve to be here.

Best Director
LIKELY WIN: Boyhood – Richard Linklater
SHOULD WIN: Birdman - Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
OTHER NOMINEES: The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson
                                       Foxcatcher – Bennett Miller
                                       The Imitation Game – Morten Tyldum

With the exception of Morten Tyldum, all these directors deserve a place on this list, and though Birdman’s Inarritu deserves the award, I predict Linklater will sweep this one up along with Best Picture.  I can potentially see the Academy splitting the baby and giving the award to Inarritu, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Best Original Screenplay
LIKELY WIN/SHOULD WIN: The Grand Budapest Hotel – 
                         Wes Anderson and Hugo Guiness 
OTHER NOMINEES: Foxcatcher – E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman
                                       Nightcrawler – Dan Gilroy
                                       Birdman - Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, 
                                                        Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. and Armando Bo
                                      Boyhood – Richard Linklater

Birdman may have some smartly written dialogue, but that film was made more so by the performances than the screenplay.  The Grand Budapest Hotel, however, is slyly and craftily written, with lines meant to be delivered quickly and cuttingly.  The buzz is that Wes Anderson and Hugo Guiness are likely to win this one, and I whole-heartedly support that.

Best Adapted Screenplay
LIKELY WIN/SHOULD WIN: Whiplash – Damien Chazelle
OTHER NOMINEES: American Sniper – Jason Hall
                                       The Imitation Game – Graham Moore
                                        Inherent Vice – Paul Thomas Anderson
                                       The Theory of Everything – Anthony McCarten

Whiplash’s position on this list is odd, considering that it is an “adaptation” of a short film that Damien Chazelle also wrote, but whatever.  In my opinion, the only other real contender I see here is Inherent Vice, but it is a definite second place.  The Imitation Game has been getting some love from analysts, but that safe and hackneyed script doesn’t deserve the recognition.

Best Lead Actor
LIKELY WIN/SHOULD WIN: Birdman – Michael Keaton
OTHER NOMINEES: Foxcatcher – Steve Carell
                                       American Sniper – Bradley Cooper
                                       The Imitation Game – Benedict Cumberbatch
                                       The Theory of Everything – Eddie Redmayne

What a pitiful category this year.  The only two who really deserve to be here are Keaton and Carell, seeing as Cooper is mostly dull and stoic throughout Sniper, Redmayne portrays a disability rather than a character, and Cumberbatch was okay, but his performance is hardly award-worthy.  And while I really want Foxcatcher to receive some love at the awards this year, Keaton takes the cake for his nuanced portrayal of an aging actor past his prime.  If Redmayne ends up beating Keaton as many analysts are predicting, this will be a sad year at the Oscars for the representation of disability.

Best Lead Actress
LIKELY WIN: Still Alice – Julianne Moore
SHOULD WIN: Gone Girl – Rosamund Pike
OTHER NOMINEES: Two Days, One Night - Marion Cotillard*
                                       The Theory of Everything – Felicity Jones
                                       Wild – Reese Witherspoon

Julianne Moore seems to be the favorite, and while I do believe she deserves her nomination, I don’t think hers is the most nuanced or subtle of the nominees.  Witherspoon may have acquitted herself admirably in Wild, but Rosamund Pike deserves the Academy’s love for her complicated portrayal of a troubled housewife in Gone Girl, a film that really merited more Oscar love overall.

Best Supporting Actress
LIKELY WIN: Boyhood – Patricia Arquette
SHOULD WIN: Birdman – Emma Stone
OTHER NOMINEES: Wild – Laura Dern
                                        The Imitation Game – Kiera Knightley
                                        Into The Woods – Meryl Streep

This has to be the weakest category of the year.  I get the feeling Arquette is going to win based solely on Boyhood’s prestige and the necessity that it win something other than Best Picture.  Streep and Knightley feel like filler on the list, and while I’m happy to see Dern get some recognition, she doesn’t deserve the win either.  Of the five, Stone is the one who deserves this the most, if only because she had such great material to work with.

Best Supporting Actor
LIKELY WIN/SHOULD WIN: Whiplash – J.K. Simmons
OTHER NOMINEES: Birdman – Edward Norton
                                       The Judge – Robert Duvall
                                       Boyhood – Ethan Hawke
                                       Foxcatcher – Mark Ruffalo

Duvall and Hawke feel a bit superfluous on this list, and as much as I love Ruffalo, I don’t think he’s got the award this year.  I had a hard time deciding whether I liked Simmons or Norton better, but based purely on the intensity necessary to pull his role off, I have to recognize that Simmons deserves his inevitable award.

Best Animated Feature
LIKELY WIN: How To Train Your Dragon 2
SHOULD WIN: The Tale of Princess Kaguya
                                        Big Hero 6
                                       Song of the Sea*

With the shocking exclusion of The Lego Movie, this race became a lot closer.  Realistically, the race comes down to Big Hero 6 and How To Train Your Dragon 2, and I think the latter has the more realistic shot this year.  However, of the films I was able to see in this category, Princess Kaguya is the one that blew me away.

Best Documentary Feature         Best Foreign Language Feature
Citizenfour                                     Ida
Finding Vivian Maier                    Leviathan
Last Days in Vietnam                   Tangerines
The Salt of The Earth                   Timbuktu
Virunga                                        Wild Tales

Many of the films in these two categories have been unavailable either through streaming or in cinemas in my area, so I decided I wasn’t even going to try.  I hear that Citizenfour and Ida are likely to win in their respective categories, and having seen Ida, I’m okay with that.

Best Original Score
LIKELY WIN: The Theory of Everything – Johann Johannsson
SHOULD WIN: The Grand Budapest Hotel – Alexandre Desplat
OTHER NOMINEES: Interstellar – Hans Zimmer
                                       Mr. Turner – Gary Yershon*
                                      The Imitation Game – Alexandre Desplat
There’s been a lot of praise for Zimmer’s score in Interstellar, but quite frankly, I don’t get it.  It felt like he was trying to capture the magic and whimsy of a John Williams score and failing just as bad as Christopher Nolan’s faux-Spielberg direction.  Now, the only other score I really remember from the nominees was Desplat’s work on The Grand Budapest Hotel, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  However, the buzz seems to indicate The Theory of Everything is likely to take the award, though I honestly couldn’t tell you why.

Best Original Song
OTHER NOMINEES: The Lego Movie – “Everything Is Awesome”
                                       Beyond the Lights – “Grateful”
                                       Glen Campbell… I’ll Be Me – “I’m Not Gonna Miss You”
                                       Begin Again – “Lost Stars”

I initially really wanted “Everything Is Awesome” to be The Lego Movie’s avenue to Oscar recognition, but having seen Selma and realizing just how snubbed it was in the other categories, it really deserves to get at least this award.  And, on top of that, “Glory” is a really good song.

Best Cinematography
LIKELY WIN/SHOULD WIN: Birdman – Emmanuel Lubezki
OTHER NOMINEES: The Grand Budapest Hotel – Robert Yeoman
                                        Ida - Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski
                                       Mr. Turner - Dick Pope*
                                       Unbroken - Roger Deakins

All of these (excepting that which I haven't seen) have gorgeous cinematography, and while The Grand Budapest Hotel is a tempting choice, I have to go with Birdman, which is both gorgeous and meticulously complex.  That isn’t to say Yeoman’s work isn’t, but Lubezki’s is moreso.

Best Film Editing
LIKELY WIN: Boyhood – Sandra Adair
SHOULD WIN: Whiplash – Tom Cross
OTHER NOMINEES: American Sniper – Joel Cox and Gary Roach
                                       The Grand Budapest Hotel – Barney Pilling
                                       The Imitation Game – William Goldenberg

Though Adair’s clever editing gave a grand illusion of the passage of time, Cross’s intense frenetic pacing made me sit at the edge of my seat in a film about fucking drumming.  Enough said.

Best Costume Design
LIKELY WIN/SHOULD WIN: The Grand Budapest Hotel
                                       Inherent Vice
                                      Mr. Turner*

The combination of pseudo-European World War and dollhouse sensibilities of Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel are more than deserving of the Academy’s love, and fortunately that’s who many experts think will take the gold.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
LIKELY WIN: The Grand Budapest Hotel
SHOULD WIN: Guardians of the Galaxy
ALSO HERE: Foxcatcher 
Is this even a realistic contest? The alien transformations of Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan and virtually the entire rest of the cast are nothing short of masterful and inspired.  However, Guardians isn’t exactly an Academy-friendly film, so expect The Grand Budapest Hotel to win this one.

Best Sound Editing
LIKELY WIN: American Sniper
OTHER NOMINEES: Interstellar
                                       The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies
So, to be completely honest, this is the category I understand the least about.  However, I don’t want American Sniper to win anything, and there are only two films on this list I think is worthy of any awards, and I only want Interstellar to win one.  Not exactly a professional critique, but there you go.

Best Sound Mixing
LIKELY WIN: American Sniper
SHOULD WIN: Whiplash

Again, I really don’t want American Sniper to win this one, even if the sound mixing was noticeably good in its bland sea of otherwise monotonous tripe.  Whiplash, particularly due to its editing, made me actually tense as drumbeats played the rhythms of achievement and the potential for failure.  The sound mixing is part of what made that film’s climax so damn engaging, and it deserves to be recognized.

Best Production Design
LIKELY WIN/SHOULD WIN: The Grand Budapest Hotel
OTHER NOMINEES: The Imitation Game
                                        Into The Woods
                                       Mr. Turner*

To praise the hand-crafted sets of Wes Anderson is a no-brainer.

Best Visual Effects
OTHER NOMINEES: Captain America: The Winter Soldier
                                       Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
                                       Guardians of the Galaxy
                                       X-Men: Days of Future Past

Say what you will about Interstellar’s faults, you cannot deny that it is a gorgeous film, lovingly rendering real-life spatial phenomena as breathtaking spectacle.

So, how do my predictions line up with yours?  Think I’m wrong about who will or who should win?  Leave your predictions in the comments below.

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