Winner Predictions for the 87th Academy Awards

If you’re a film fan, you probably know that the 87th Academy Awards are this weekend (Sunday, February 22).  I’ve got a love-hate relationship with Oscar, but it’s always fun to take a stab at predicting the winners.  Below, you’ll find my picks for all the feature film categories.  I’ve gone in depth with some of the more prominent awards.

Best Picture Nominees:

“American Sniper”

“Birdman”

“Boyhood”

“The Grand Budapest Hotel”

“The Imitation Game”

“Selma”

“The Theory of Everything”

“Whiplash”

This is really a two-horse race between “Birdman” and “Boyhood,” though over the last few weeks, “Birdman” has pulled ahead.  The film is about a has-been movie star trying to revitalize his career on stage in New York.  Its idiosyncrasies and darkly comic tone, while uncharacteristic for a Best Picture winner, won’t be enough to overcome the sentiment that the Academy members have for, well, movies about themselves.  (See other recent winners about show business:  “Argo,” “The Artist,” and “Chicago.”)  Sorry “Boyhood,” but when’s the last time a movie about normal people in normal circumstances won top prize?

What will win: “Birdman”

What might win: “Boyhood”

What should win: “Boyhood”

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Best Director Nominees:

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, “Birdman”

Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”

Bennett Miller, “Foxcatcher”

Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Morten Tyldum, “The Imitation Game”

As goes Best Picture, so usually goes Best Director.  And I think that’ll be the case here.  It’s generally safe to predict the film that’s “most” directed (or most acted, scored, etc.).  “Birdman” was conceived as a series of longtakes seamlessly edited together to give the impression of one continuous shot, and I think the Academy will vote in favor of that over Richard Linklater’s less invisible technique in “Boyhood.”

Who will win: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, “Birdman”

Who might win: Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”

Who should win: Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”

Best Actress Nominees:

Rosamund Pike, “Gone Girl”

Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”

Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything”

Marion Cotillard, “Two Days, One Night”

Reese Witherspoon, “Wild”

Julianne Moore can already taste this one.  She’s a respected actress, and she’s been nominated four times already.  In “Still Alice,” she plays a professor with early-onset Alzheimer’s.  The role’s rife with heavy, dramatic Oscar bait-iness to seal the deal.

Who will win: Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”

Who might win: Seriously, take Moore to the bank

Who should win: Marion Cotillard, “Two Days, One Night”…though I haven’t seen “Still Alice” or “Wild”

Best Actor Nominees:

Bradley Cooper, “American Sniper”

Michael Keaton, “Birdman”

Steve Carell, “Foxcatcher”

Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Imitation Game”

Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything”

Again, it’s usually fruitful to predict the “most” acted.  In this case, that’s Eddie Redmayne.  That he’s playing a real-life figure with a disability is the cherry on top of the Oscar sundae.  These types of roles are catnip for voters.  I’m a little reluctant to go against Michael Keaton, an industry vet, but Redmayne has gotten too much support from critical precursors like the Screen Actors Guild and BAFTA.

Who will win: Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything”

Who might win: Michael Keaton, “Birdman”

Who should win: Michael Keaton, “Birdman”…though I haven’t seen “American Sniper”

Best Adapted Screenplay Nominees:

“American Sniper”

“The Imitation Game”

“Inherent Vice”

“The Theory of Everything”

“Whiplash”

This is a pretty weak field, but I’m going with “The Imitation Game.”  It’s got eight nominations, and while it could go home empty handed, that’s not likely.  The film is set during World War II, and it’s about real-life Alan Turing who cracked the Nazi code and was later prosecuted for his homosexuality.  I think the social and historical significance of the story will appeal to the Academy.

What will win: “The Imitation Game”

What might win: “Whiplash,” though any of the nominees, aside from “Inherent Vice,” could spoil

What should win: “Whiplash”  (Again, I haven’t seen “American Sniper”)

THE IMITATION GAME

Best Original Screenplay Nominees:

“Birdman”

“Boyhood”

“Foxcatcher”

“The Grand Budapest Hotel”

“Nightcrawler”

This race is much stronger than Adapted Screenplay.  I think the Academy will go with “The Grand Budapest Hotel” for its dense plot, list of characters and memorable dialog.  Besides, Wes Anderson’s been nominated in this category a handful of times, and he’s carved out a loveable niche for himself in the industry.  Voters will want to honor that.

What will win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

What might win: “Birdman”

What should win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Best Supporting Actress:

Emma Stone, “Birdman”

Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”

Keira Knightley, “The Imitation Game”

Meryl Streep, “Into the Woods”

Laura Dern, “Wild”

This one pretty safely belongs to Patricia Arquette.  “Boyhood” ain’t going home empty-handed, and hers is a great performance.  She closes strong as well, her final scene a stirring monolog about expectation and how quickly time flies.

Who will win: Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”

Who might win: No really, take Arquette to the bank as well.

Who should win: Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”

Best Supporting Actor Nominees:

Edward Norton, “Birdman”

Ethan Hawke, “Boyhood”

Mark Ruffalo, “Foxcatcher”

Robert Duvall, “The Judge”

J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”

J.K. Simmons is a beloved character actor, he played a juicy role, he’s won every precursor under the sun, and he’s in a Best Picture nominee. Let’s just say the Academy will be playing to his tempo.

Who will win: J. K. Simmons, “Whiplash”

Who might win: If it’s anyone else, they risk having a cymbal thrown at their head.

Who should win: Edward Norton, “Birdman”

Best Foreign Language Film:

“Ida”

“Leviathan”

“Tangerines”

“Timbuktu”

“Wild Tales”

What will win: “Ida”

What might win: “Wild Tales”

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Best Animated Feature:

“Big Hero 6”

“The Boxtrolls”

“How to Train Your Dragon 2”

“Song of the Sea”

“The Tale of the Princess Kaguya”

What will win: “How to Train Your Dragon 2”

What might win: “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya”

Best Documentary Feature:

“Citizenfour”

“Finding Vivian Maier”

“Last Days in Vietnam”

“The Salt of the Earth”

“Virunga”

What will win: “Citizenfour”

What might win: “Finding Vivian Maier”

Best Cinematography Nominees:

“Birdman”

“The Grand Budapest Hotel”

“Ida”

“Mr. Turner”

“Unbroken”

What will win: “Birdman”

What might win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Best Editing Nominees:

“American Sniper”

“Boyhood”

“The Grand Budapest Hotel”

“The Imitation Game”

“Whiplash”

What will win: “Boyhood”

What might win: “Whiplash”

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Best Production Design Nominees:

“The Grand Budapest Hotel”

“The Imitation Game”

“Interstellar”

“Into the Woods”

“Mr. Turner”

What will win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

What might win: “Into the Woods”

Best Costume Design Nominees:

“The Grand Budapest Hotel”

“Inherent Vice”

“Into the Woods”

“Maleficent”

“Mr. Turner”

What will win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

What might win: “Into the Woods”

Best Original Score Nominees:

“The Grand Budapest Hotel”

“The Imitation Game”

“Interstellar”

“Mr. Turner”

“The Theory of Everything”

What will win: “The Theory of Everything”

What might win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Best Original Song Nominees:

“Lost Stars” from “Begin Again”

“Grateful” from “Beyond the Lights”

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

“Everything is Awesome” from “The Lego Movie”

“Glory” from “Selma”

What will win: “Glory” from “Selma”

What might win: “Everything is Awesome” from “The Lego Movie”

selma

Best Sound Mixing Nominees:

“American Sniper”

“Birdman”

“Interstellar”

“Unbroken”

“Whiplash”

What will win: “Whiplash”

What might win: “American Sniper”

Best Sound Editing Nominees:

“American Sniper”

“Birdman”

“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”

“Interstellar”

“Unbroken”

What will win: “American Sniper”

What might win: “Birdman”

Best Makeup and Hairstyling Nominees:

“Foxcatcher”

“The Grand Budapest Hotel”

“Guardians of the Galaxy”

What will win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

What might win: “Guardians of the Galaxy”

Best Visual Effects Nominees:

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”

“Guardians of the Galaxy”

“Interstellar”

“X-Men: Days of Future Past”

cosmic vista

What will win: “Interstellar”

What might win: “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”

What do you think is going to win at this year’s Academy Awards?  Comment below!

Lists: Top 10 Films of 2014 (Part 1 of 2)

Okay, I’ve held off long enough (read: finally caught up with some films I needed to see).  Before I get to my top 10 of 2014, a few thoughts…I saw more than 40 movies, and it was a pretty solid year overall.  Not extraordinary, though the big summer releases resonated in a way that they haven’t for a while.  For the purposes of year-end lists, I generally don’t distinguish between best and favorite.  This top 10 really represents a mixture of the two.  Okay, here’s my #6-10…

10.) “Nightcrawler”

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One of the keys to unlocking “Nightcrawler” is James Newton Howard’s music.  The film is about an amateur videographer, Louis Bloom, prowling city streets to find footage — home invasions, auto accidents — that he can sell to the local news.  While it has the trappings of a character study and a thriller, Dan Gilroy’s film is a rag-to-riches story.  Rather than offer a traditional moody score, Howard’s music has a hopeful quality.  It pines for our character’s success, as though it’s the music he might hear inside his head.  That his actions are morally murky at best and downright psychotic at worst is, well, beside the point.  Jake Gyllenhaal plays the wannabe newsman, and it’s easily the best performance of his career.  He talks with reporters and supervisors as though human interaction was something he learned from a book or website.  With each encounter, I grew more and more anxious, waiting for Louis’s psychosis to finally boil over.  Surely someone is going to get this guy help…or have him arrested.  Right!?  In an insidious bit of commentary on our media, help never comes.  “If it bleeds, it leads.”

9.) “Selma”

selma

I’m always a little resistant to award season biopics.  They’re often more “history lesson” than “film.”  Not the case with Ava DuVernay’s “Selma,” which is about the voting right marches of 1965.  I love the opening, when Martin Luther King Jr. (played wonderfully by David Oyelowo) is rehearsing a speech.  “It’s not right,” he sighs.  We assume he’s talking about the language, but it’s nothing so lofty.  He just doesn’t like his tie.  There’s flesh and blood in this monument.  A horrific and racially motivated act follows.  The film plays like a thriller, keeping the pressure on and never letting us forget what’s at stake.  And it moves like gangbusters, swiftly covering a lot of characters and events.  I loved the backdoor dealings.  As much as this movie’s about a man, it’s also about politicking and enacting change.  Some have criticized “Selma” for its depiction of President Lyndon B. Johnson, who wasn’t a roadblock to the civil rights movement as dramatized in the film.  While I can appreciate those complaints, it frankly doesn’t bother me.  This isn’t a documentary, it’s not bound to factual constraints.  Rather, it’s a stirring account of fighting systematic oppression.

8.) “Godzilla”

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A couple of questionable plot turns and a wooden performance from Aaron Taylor-Johnson aren’t enough to kill this gargantuan summer blockbuster.  Not by a long shot.  Director Gareth Edwards delivers spectacle of the highest order.  Sure, a number of mega-budget productions attempt the same thing, but few remember that there’s nothing less spectacular than non-stop spectacle.  Edwards is judicious in dolling out his setpieces, offering a wink and a nudge (see: a wry cutaway from a brawl in Hawaii) while making us wait for the hugely satisfying final showdown.  Another word for spectacle, at least as far as “Godzilla” is concerned, is scale.  Duh, it’s a movie about the grandaddy of giant monsters!  Everything about this film is intended to give us that sense of awe — from the structure to the evocative sound design to the camerawork that keeps us on the ground level.  Despite our best (and not-so-best) efforts, all we can do is stare up and appreciate the titans overhead.  “History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of man.”

For more of my thoughts on “Godzilla,” click here.

7.) “Gone Girl”

rosamund pike-brighter

Gloomy serial killer movies like “Seven” and “Zodiac” make it easy to forget what a lacerating sense of humor director David Fincher has.  But “Gone Girl” puts it on full bloody display.  The film, written by Gillian Flynn and based on her novel, is about a man, Nick (Ben Affleck) under investigation when his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike) goes missing.  Much of the humor is derived from the media circus that surrounds her disappearance.  During a painfully funny press conference, Nick makes a brief statement that doesn’t sound particularly heartfelt.  He’ll later point out that that doesn’t make him a murderer, though it might as well in the court of public opinion.  A great ballet of looks between Nick and his sister (Carrie Coon) ensues as Amy’s parents make long, prepared statements.  Top to bottom, the performances here are excellent.  So many of the casting decisions seemed odd on paper — Tyler Perry as a New York lawyer, Neil Patrick Harris as, well, a creeper — but they pay off big time!  And of course there’s Rosamund Pike, bringing so many shades to Amy.

For more of my thoughts on “Gone Girl,” click here.

6.) “Ida”

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In Paweł Pawlikowski’s “Ida,” a young nun (Agata Trzebuchowska) visits her worldly aunt (Agata Kulesza) before taking her vows.  The aunt reveals that the nun’s parents were Jewish, and both were killed during World War II.  After finding their resting place, the aunt urges her niece to experience more of life before committing to the church.  In one of my favorite images of the year, the nun, slightly intoxicated, twirls within a curtain.  Sunlight streams through the window and illuminates the fabric producing a warm cocoon.  It’s such a wonderfully evocative depiction of a young woman coming of age.  This film is filled with striking compositions.  Łukasz Żal and Ryszard Lenczewski’s black and white cinematography emphasizes institutions, often placing characters in the lower part of the frame so that these structures — the church, for example — tower over them.  Trzebuchowska and Kulesza are terrific, the latter saying anything that pops into her head and the former speaking hardly at all.

Stay tuned next week for my #1-5 picks!  What were some of your favorites of 2014?  Comment below.