Sunday, February 22, 2015

Mike's Musings: 2015 Oscar Predictions

Sorry, folks.  I've been a little busy, thus I haven't been able to do my Oscar predictions until now...three hours before the event.  Usually I bemoan the fact that I don't get paid for being a film critic, but this is one instance where I'm glad I'm doing this for the love of the game.

When I first did this, I said something about each nominee.  I'm not going to do that this year.  It takes too long and causes the article to drag.  I will say who I think will win and why, but that doesn't mean that I'm going to write a lot about Steve Carrel's nomination for Best Actor.

So here they are:

Best Picture

"American Sniper"
"The Imitation Game"
"The Grand Budapest Hotel"
"The Theory of Everything"

There are 8 nominees this year, but like most years, it's come down to two films: Richard Linklater's "Boyhood" and Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu's "Birdman."  I haven't seen the latter film, but it's been doing well on the awards circuit.  However, I don't think that it's earned quite enough mainstream acceptance to take home the gold statute.  It seems to be a little too on the artsy side, and that's the vibe I've been getting from what I hear of the film; it's gotten tons of nominations from lesser known awards, but save for the Golden Globe for Best Musical Comedy, hasn't taken any home, and that's probably due to the lack of competition.

"Boyhood," on the other hand, is this year's "little film that could."  It's that surprise hit that came out of nowhere and became a major player.  Both daring in its construction and story (or lack thereof), Richard Linklater's film has taken top honors at almost all of the awards shows, and those are good predictors.  The fact that the movie is absolutely incredible doesn't hurt its chances either.

"American Sniper" is being touted as a dark horse candidate, but it's not going to win.  Not because it isn't a good film, because it is (then again, quality plays second fiddle to marketing for the Oscars), but because the release date was botched.  For whatever reason, the powers that be chose to release the film at the tail end of the release window.  Maybe they didn't know what they had on their hands.  Regardless, it may have cost them the statue.

Who should win: "Boyhood"
Who will win: "Boyhood"

Best Actor
Steve Carrell, "Foxcatcher"
Benedict Cumberbatch, "The Imitation Game"
Bradley Cooper, "American Sniper"
Michael Keaton, "Birdman"
Eddie Redmayne, "The Theory of Everything"

A few months back, it looked like the newest Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch, was the front-runner for this year's Best Actor Oscar.  How times change.  Now the competition is between Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne.  Keaton has the upper hand.  He was super famous in the late 80's and early 90's, but fell out of the spotlight.  Again, I haven't seen "Birdman" yet, but Hollywood loves a comeback.

I really hope Eddie Redmayne doesn't win.  Not because I don't like the actor (I do), but because the movie was so awful.  I don't think he will win, however.  He has emerged as the rival too late in the game, and unlike Keaton, he's just starting his career.  I don't know if he has the charisma to be a major movie star, but he could end up in the top five again later in his career, and I think that that's how the Academy feels too,

My choice is neither.  In fact, my choice for the Best Actor Oscar wasn't even nominated.  Who was it?  Dan Stevens for "The Guest."  Few other performances have chilled me so absolutely, and so few actors have been so perfectly cast.  Unfortunately, almost no one saw the film, which killed his chances of getting any Oscar love.

Who should win: Dan Stevens, "The Guest" via surprising write-in candidate.  Failing that, Benedict Cumberbatch for "The Imitation Game."
Who will win: Michael Keaton, "Birdman"

Best Actress
Marion Cotillard, "Two Days, One Night"
Felicity Jones, "The Theory of Everything"
Rosamund Pike, "Gone Girl"
Julianne Moore, "Still Alice"
Reese Witherspoon, "Wild"

Julianne Moore is like Joan Allen: a highly-respected actress whom everyone knows and loves, but still can't manage to win the Oscar.  This is her fifth nomination, and she appears to be unstoppable.  Compared to her, her closest competitor, Rosamund Pike for "Gone Girl," comes across as a poser.  Julianne Moore's Oscar is in the bag.  And even though I haven't seen it, she's got my vote because it's long past time she's won one.

Who should win: Julianne Moore, "Still Alice"
Who will win: Julianne Moore, "Still Alice"

Best Supporting Actor
Robert Duvall, "The Judge"
Ethan Hawke, "Boyhood"
Edward Norton, "Birdman"
Mark Ruffalo, "Foxcatcher"
J.K. Simmons, "Whiplash"

Like Julianne Moore, J.K. Simmons has been winning just about everything for his portrayal as the sadistic drum teacher in the indie hit "Whiplash."  I haven't seen it, but I thought that he should have gotten a nomination for his performance in the overrated "Juno."  I have no problems with him winning because Simmons is as reliable as they come.

Just don't give it to Robert Duvall.  Please?  It's not going to happen, but he shouldn't have even been nominated.  It's Oscar favoritism at its most shameless, and frankly his performance wasn't anything special.

Who should win: J.K. Simmons, "Whiplash"
Who will win: J.K. Simmons, "Whiplash"

Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette, "Boyhood"
Laura Dern, "Wild"
Keria Knightly, "The Imitation Game"
Emma Stone, "Birdman"
Meryl Streep, "Into the Woods"

For whatever reason, I keep forgetting who was nominated in this category.  Not because there weren't some strong performances, however.  Unlike in the other categories, there are three performances that could justifiably win.  Patricia Arquette has been winning a lot of awards for "Boyhood," but I don't think that she gave the best performance in this category (or in the film, for that matter).

More deserving are Keira Knightly and Laura Dern.  Keira Knightly is one of the best actresses working right now, deserving to be listed among the likes of last year's lead actress winner Cate Blanchett or fellow nominee Meryl Streep (who shouldn't have been nominated...I love Streep, but the movie and the role were bland).  She was wonderful as the one person who understood Alan Turing.

Laura Dern is a character actress best known for playing Dr. Ellie Sattler in the dino hit "Jurassic Park," although she also starred in David Lynch's controversial (but overrated) "Blue Velvet."  As Bobbi, Cheryl Strayed's late mother, Dern radiated warmth and love.  She led a hard life, but Bobbi wouldn't change a minute of it because it's what got her to where she was.  And I believed it.  Apologies to Reese Witherspoon, who was marvelous in her own right, Dern is who made the movie special.

Who should win: Laura Dern, "Wild"
Who will win: Patricia Arquette, "Boyhood"

Best Director
Richard Linklater, "Boyhood"
Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu, "Birdman"
Bennett Miller, "Foxcatcher"
Wes Anderson, "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Morten Tyldum, "The Imitation Game"

Everyone thought that indie film mainstay would finally nab a Best Director Oscar.  Linklater has been working against the Hollywood grain for the majority of his career (his only mainstream feature was the delightful Jack Black comedy, "School of Rock."  So when he turned out an instant classic with the brilliant and daring "Boyhood," he became a powerhouse.

Then came the DGA.

Usually (I think James Berardinelli put it at around 80%), if a director wins the Director's Guild Award, he wins the Oscar.  And that went to Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu for "Birdman."  Innaritu has been getting a lot of love for making it seem like the entire film was shot in one continuous take, but he's up against the guy who shot a film over 13 years.  Both were daring approaches to filmmaking, and they're neck and neck.  Still, I put statistics over my gut feeling, considering how predictable the Oscars are.

Just don't give it to Wes Anderson.  For obvious reasons.

Who will win: Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu, "Birdman"
Who should win: Richard Linklater, "Boyhood"

Best Original Screenplay
"The Grand Budapest Hotel"

Once again, the competitors are "Boyhood" and "Birdman."  They're the heavy hitters of the night, and they're neck and neck here.  My gut feeling is that "Boyhood" is going to win the top honors, so that means that the Oscar is going to go to Linklater.

The dark horse candidate is critical darling and indie film god Wes Anderson.  Once a total outsider, Anderson has been getting a lot of love over the years.  Still, I don't think he'll win: his style is too quirky and he's got nothing on "Boyhood" and "Birdman"

Who will win: "Boyhood"
Who should win: "Boyhood"

Best Adapted Screenplay
"American Sniper"
"Inherent Vice"
"The Imitation Game"
"The Theory of Everything"

After Best Actor and Best Director, this is the next biggest nod for "American Sniper."  The reception that Clint Eastwood's film got surprised just about everyone, and the Academy is going to remember that.  Screenwriting gets little love from anyone, so this one is hard to call, but that's my vote.

Who will win: "American Sniper"
Who should win: "American Sniper"

Best Animated Film
"The Boxtrolls"
"Big Hero 6"
"How to Train Your Dragon 2"
"Song of the Sea"
"The Tale of Princess Kaguya"

The Academy surprised everyone when they left "The Lego Movie," another of the year's sleeper hits, off the list for Best Animated Film.  My guess is that it was replaced by "Song of the Sea" and "The Tale of Princess Kaguya," so they could be shout-outs to everyone who thinks that the Academy has no respect for film as an art.  Still, the main contenders are "Big Hero 6" and "How to Train Your Dragon 2."  The former made a bit more money, but not much.  In this case, I think quality will win out.

Who will win: "Big Hero 6"
Who should win: "Big Hero 6"

Best Cinematography
Emmanuel Lubezki, "Birdman"
Robert D. Yeoman, "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski, "Ida"
Dick Pope, "Mr. Turner"
Roger Deakins, "Unbroken"

Three arthouse movies, one nominee who won last year, and the legendary Roger Deakins.  The arthouse guys have to be satisfied with their nominations, and Lubezki won last year for "Gravity."  Roger Deakins is considered a living legend (not to mention a favorite of the Coen Brothers, who are beloved by the Academy).  Sadly, he has 12 nominations, but no wins.  Angelina Jolie's "Unbroken" was positioned as an Oscar contender, but didn't wow the Academy or audiences.  Still, it's long past time that Deakins win a statue.

Who will win: Roger Deakins
Who should win: Roger Deakins

Best Original Score

Alexandre Desplat, "The Imitation Game"
Alexandre Desplat, "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Hans Zimmer, "Interstellar"
Johann Johannsson, "The Theory of Everything"
Gary Yershon, "Mr. Turner"

The lack of love for Christopher Nolan's "Interstellar" was surprising.  Easily one of the most ambitious and successful films of the year, it should have gotten nominations for Best Picture, Director and Actor.  Nolan is best remembered for his Batman trilogy, and it's a reputation that he's been trying to shake.  Still, "Interstellar" was critically and commercially acclaimed, so Zimmer may win a second statue (his work was exceptional, by the way).  But Alexandre Desplat has been nominated 8 times without winning, and is highly respected.

Who will win: Alexandre Desplat, "The Imitation Game"
Who should win: Alexandre Desplat, "The Imitation Game"

Well, those are the ones I'm doing.  The rest, visual effects, editing, etc., are impossible to predict, and I haven't seen any of the foreign films (the only movie anyone has mentioned in that category is "Ida," so that's obviously going to win).

Let's see how well I do in an hour.

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