Oscars 2015: What will win, what should win

 

The 87th Academy Awards, the most overblown employee recognition awards in the history of Western Civilization, air Sunday at 8:30 p.m. on ABC (preceded by 90 minutes of red carpet fashion assessments and chatter so inane that viewing it will melt a tiny but important part of your brain). To best enjoy the actual show, watch it while following the live-tweets of someone funny — I'd suggest Albert Brooks, Billy Eichner or any comedian you follow on Twitter. Or The Film Yap's a good bet if you want to keep it local. A little company makes that technical awards section fly by.

Here's my annual assessment of who is going to win what and why. Just remember, I'm trying to predict the selection process of a bunch of old white guys, many of whom aren't fully in touch with their own business anymore. Also, there are a lot of actors in the Academy and they like to vote for acting ensembles from LA or NYC. Plus, some members want the Academy to seem edgy, while others want it to be reward “important” fare. Finally, everybody is really impressed with British accents because they sound classy and smart. As you can see, Oscar award prediction is not an exact science.

BEST PICTURE

American Sniper

Birdman

Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Selma

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

Tough year for the top slot. Everybody's grateful to American Sniper for being a smash hit and ensuring that TV viewers will have seen at least one of the nominated films. So what have we got here?

Selma is out, because 12 Years a Slave won last year and giving the Best Picture trophy to films dealing with human rights and black Americans two years in a row is a little too crusader-ish for the Academy.

The Imitation Game is noble and has British accents, but the lead character is gay and the old white guys don't like dealing with that.

The Theory of Everything is also noble, but it's got no buzz.

Whiplash has buzz, but it's all in the acting categories. Plus, quite a few people were disturbed by the bullying onscreen.

Wes Anderson's wonderful The Grand Budapest Hotel is too weird for the old white guys, though the actors' contingent likes it.

American Sniper is the dark horse. It's critically acclaimed and a hit — two pluses — but it's controversial and the Academy generally likes to avoid controversy.

Everything really boils down to two films: Boyhood and Birdman. The 12-years-in-the making Boyhood has received great reviews, but some viewers complain that it doesn't have a plot and it gets boring. Birdman is just as celebrated, but some (including me) find the camerawork gimmicky and the percussive score grating.

Should Win: Whiplash is the most deserving, but it doesn't have a prayer. Of the two most likely winners, Boyhood is the best.

Will win: This is the closest race I've seen in years, and I think Birdman is going to just barely beat Boyhood. If it happens, the Academy members will feel very pleased with themselves for being so progressive. If Boyhood wins, they will feel good about rewarding art.

BEST ACTOR

Steve Carell, Foxcatcher

Bradley Cooper, American Sniper

Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game

Michael Keaton, Birdman

Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Steve Carell is fascinating in Foxcatcher, but I thought he struck a precise, odd note and held on tight. He's very good, but he won't win.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Eddie Redmayne are both impressive, but they're playing to the same crowd and will cancel each other out.

Bradley Cooper gives the best performance of his career in American Sniper. He's terrific.

Michael Keaton, meanwhile, reminds us why we've all liked Michael Keaton for so long. Damn, the man is good.

Should/Will Win: Bradley Cooper probably deserves it a little more, but he's going to be around a long time to do even more powerful work, so I'd give Michael Keaton the trophy and the perks that go with it. I suspect the Academy will think the same way I do.

BEST ACTRESS

Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night

Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything

Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon, Wild

Here's the thing. I could evaluate each performance and talk about the various mindsets at play, but the truth is that Julianne Moore is going to win this award.

Her performance as an erudite person diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease is perfect, which should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed her remarkable career. If that wasn't enough, the story is presented from the point of view of Moore's character.

Still Alice was designed to win a Best Actress Oscar and it will do just that. Sorry, everybody else.

Should/Will Win: Julianne Moore

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BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Robert Duvall, The Judge

Ethan Hawke, Boyhood

Edward Norton, Birdman

Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

There are few sure things in life. Here's one of them: J.K. Simmons, the monstrous Shillinger in Oz, the shrink on Law and Order, the father in Juno, that guy in those insurance commercials, is about to become Academy Award winner J.K. Simmons.

He's been taking home trophies from other groups for months now. Hell, he hosted SNL a few weeks ago and, whatever you think of that show, they're smart enough to snag the hottest talents in the business. So there you go.

The J.K. stands for Jonathan Kimble, by the way.

Should/Will Win: J.K. Simmons

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Laura Dern, Wild

Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game

Emma Stone, Birdman

Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

I didn’t like Into the Woods, but every time Meryl Streep came onscreen the whole movie became something bigger and more memorable. It appears I'm the only one that thought so, as she has zero buzz this year.

Kiera Knightley and Emma Stone have their admirers, but the heat in this category seems to be between Laura Dern and Patricia Arquette. Both are well-liked actors in well-respected films. Both have won this category in other employee recognition ceremonies.

Should Win: I'd go with Patricia Arquette for her textured performance as the mother in Boyhood.

Will Win: I think the Academy will go to Laura Dern for her sightly more angelic performance as the mother in Wild.

BEST DIRECTOR

Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman

Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher

Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

If Wes Anderson won for Grand Budapest, I'd be the happiest guy in my neighborhood, but as with Best Picture, this is a battle between Birdman and Boyhood.

I've enjoyed Alejandro González Iñárritu's other works, but his stylistic affectations in Birdman bugged me. I'd certainly opt for Richard Linklater's meditative direction of Boyhood.

I think that Academy members will try to spread the wealth, voting for the director whose film they didn't vote for in the Best Picture category. If Birdman wins, members won't vote for Iñárritu. Or the reverse. Understand?

Should Win: Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Will Win: Richard Linklater, Boyhood

BEST SCREENPLAY (ADAPTATION)

Jason Hall, American Sniper

Graham Moore, The Imitation Game

Paul Thomas Anderson, Inherent Vice

Anthony McCarten, The Theory of Everything

Damien Chazelle, Whiplash

The Academy (following the lead of the Indiana Film Journalists Association) shocked some by assigning Whiplash to this category. The reason? To secure financing for the feature, an 18-minute segment was filmed and entered into festival competition, where it won a prize at Sundance in 2012.

So Whiplash is an adaptation of Whiplash. Regardless, it will get its reward in the Best Supporting Actor category. The fine writing of The Imitation Game will be honored here.

Should Win: Whiplash

Will Win: The Imitation Game

BEST SCREENPLAY (ORIGINAL)

Alejandro G. Iñárritu, et al, Birdman

Richard Linklater, Boyhood

E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman, Foxcatcher

Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler

The gloriously odd and intricate screenplay for The Grand Budapest Hotel deserves the award and the Academy seems to share that belief.

Birdman is all about showbiz and Academy members love to vote for their own profession, but Budapest Hotel needs to be honored somewhere and this category is often used as a prestigious consolation prize.

Should/Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

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BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman

Robert D. Yeoman, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Ryszard Lenczewski and Łukasz Żal, Ida

Dick Pope, Mr. Turner

Roger Deakins, Unbroken

The flashy, pointless and irritating faux uninterrupted feature-length single shot will take the prize.

Should Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Will Win: Birdman


BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Alexandre Desplat, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Alexandre Desplat, The Imitation Game

Hans Zimmer, Interstellar

Gary Yershon, Mr. Turner

Johann Johannsson, The Theory of Everything

Alexandre Desplat's dual nominations will cancel each other out and The Theory of Everything will receive a “share the wealth” prize.'

Should Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Will Win: The Theory of Everything

BEST FILM EDITING

Joel Cox and Gary Roach, American Sniper

Sandra Adair, Boyhood

Barney Pilling, The Grand Budapest Hotel

William Goldenberg, The Imitation Game

Tom Cross, Whiplash

Should/Will Win: Boyhood (12 years worth of footage!)


BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Wild Tales (Argentina), dir. Damián Szifrón

Tangerines (Estonia), dir. Zaza Urushadze

Timbuktu (Mauritania), dir. Abderrahmane Sissako

Ida (Poland), dir. Paweł Pawlikowski

Leviathan (Russia), dir. Andrey Zvyagintsev

I didn't get to see most of these films. Only Ida has screened locally (I gave it four stars), though it's worth noting that Timbuktu director Abderrahmane Sissako will attend a mini-retrospective of his work (including his Oscar nominated film) in Bloomington this April.

The various industry sites I've been following show Ida solidly on top, with Leviathan a fairly close second.

Will Win: Ida

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Inherent Vice

Into the Woods

Maleficent

Mr. Turner

The fairytale worlds of Into the Woods and Maleficent will need to step aside as the skewed world of The Grand Budapest Hotel wins.

Should/Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel


BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

Foxcatcher

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Guardians of the Galaxy

The only thing in this category I can remember is Glenn Close's Dairy Queen hairdo in Guardians of the Galaxy. The experts say differently, however.

Should Win: Guardians of the Galaxy

Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel, but don't count out Foxcatcher, for Steve Carell's nose.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

Big Hero 6

The Boxtrolls

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Song of the Sea

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

The Lego Movie deserves to win, but these clowns didn't even nominate it. I'm sitting out this category in protest.

Most of the experts are torn between Big Hero 6 and Dragon 2. I'm guessing Big Hero 6 will win, because it's not a sequel.

Should Win: The Lego Movie (write-in votes)

Will Win: Big Hero 6


BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

CitizenFour

Finding Vivian Maier

Last Days in Vietnam

The Salt of the Earth

Virunga

Life Itself, the stunning documentary based on Roger Ebert's autobiography, wasn't nominated.

Of the two nominated features I saw, Last Days in Vietnam (which played Indy Film Fest) was the best.

The winner, however, will be Citizenfour, the documentary about Edward Snowden, because the Academy will consider it more important.

Should Win: Life Itself, dammit!

Will Win: Citizenfour

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BEST ORIGINAL SONG

"Lost Stars" from Begin Again

"I'm Not Gonna Miss You" from Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me

"Everything Is Awesome" from The Lego Movie

"Glory" from Selma

"Grateful" from Beyond the Lights

Should/Will Win: Selma in a landslide victory.


BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Interstellar

Into the Woods

Mr. Turner

Should/Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

BEST SOUND EDITING

American Sniper

Birdman

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Interstellar

Unbroken

Will Win: American Sniper


BEST SOUND MIXING

American Sniper

Birdman

Interstellar

Unbroken

Whiplash

Should/Will Win: American Sniper

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

Should/Will Win: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Are you kidding? Did you SEE those apes?!


BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM

The Bigger Picture (United Kingdom), dir. Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees

The Dam Keeper (United States), dir: Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi

Feast (United States), dir. Patrick Osborne

Me and My Moulton (Canada), dir. Torill Kove

A Single Life (Netherlands), dir. Joris Oprins

Should Win: The Bigger Picture

Will Win: Disney's Feast

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

Aya (France/Israel), dir. Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis

Boogaloo and Graham (United Kingdom), dir. Michael Lennox and Ronan Blaney

Butter Lamp (La Lampe au Beurre de Yak; France/China), dir. Hu Wei and Julien Féret

Parvaneh (Switzerland), dir. Talkhon Hamzavi and Stefan Eichenberger

The Phone Call (United Kingdom), dir. Mat Kirkby and James Lucas

Should/Will Win: The funny, sweet Boogaloo and Graham


BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT

Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

Joanna

Our Curse

The Reaper (La Parka)

White Earth

I wasn't provided the opportunity to see these, so I'll opt for the industry publications' favorite.

Will Win: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

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Ed Johnson-Ott has been NUVO's lead film critic for more than 20 years.

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