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!

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

Welcome back, everyone!  If you didn’t see the first half of my top 10 films of 2014, be sure to click here.  Just a reminder: I don’t distinguish between best and favorite.  This list represents a mixture of the two.  Now, let’s get on with it!

5.) “Birdman”

Birdman-smaller

With films like “Amores Perros,” “21 Grams,” and “Babel,” Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu is something of a master of misery.  I never thought I would describe one of his films as breezy and entertaining, but…”Birdman” is breezy and entertaining.  He and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki — everything this guy touches is visually golden — devise a series of long takes that are expertly stitched together to give the impression of one continuous shot for the duration of the film.  Their camera weaves in and out of darkly comic fantasies, as Michael Keaton’s Riggan, a has-been movie star, attempts to revitalize his career by doing a play in New York.  Keaton is joined by Edward Norton, Emma Stone and Naomi Watts in the best ensemble of the year.  Norton is particularly strong, playing a talented yet egotistical performer.  He flexes some comedic muscles in one of my favorite acting moments of the year.  He suggests an alteration to one of Riggan’s scenes, and after the two enact the change, Norton gives a shrug as if to say, “Pretty good, huh?”  Yeah, pretty damn good.

4.) “Snowpiercer”

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Director Bong Joon-ho’s films are marked by dynamic tonal shifts.  “Snowpiercer” is about the remnants of the world’s population on a train that circles the globe.  The planet has become inhospitable after an attempt to curb global warming goes wrong.  The train is broken up into the haves (at the front) and the have-nots (at the back).  Tilda Swinton embodies the film’s more outrageous fixtures in a whacko performance as Mason, the spokesperson for the creator of the engine.   “Keep your place.  Be a shoe,” she tells Chris Evans’s Curtis as he and his fellow passengers attempt a revolution.  Balancing such comedic elements are some of the most visceral action sequences of the year.  One of the principle tenants of directing action is to use the setting, making the sequence possible only in its particular location.  Here, we get a tense battle that’s complicated by the train speeding through a tunnel.  The haves are equipped with night vision goggles while the have-nots are not.  In another great sequence, two characters, cars apart, fire at each across an open expanse as the train rounds a wide turn in the track.  Some might find Joon-ho’s work mood swing-y, but I think his mixture of tones is exhilarating.

3.) “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

The-Grand-Budapest-Hotel-smaller

Wes Anderson’s films have been described as pocket watches, and the comparison is apt. Every piece of art direction, every camera move, every performance flourish plays an integral role in the experience.  Well, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a pocket watch wrapped up in a series of Russian dolls.  Beginning with a girl at the gravesite of an author, transitioning to the author relaying a story about going to the titular hotel, jumping back to the same author talking to Zero, the hotel’s owner, and finally arriving in 1932 where we meet young Zero and the concierge, Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes).  Fiennes is an actor I usually associate with drama…heavy drama.  “Schindler’s List” anyone?  But here he shows his comedic chops.  Gustave H. is a fun contradiction, refined and crass in equal measure.  With this and “Moonrise Kingdom,” Anderson is on a hot streak.  “Grand Budapest” plastered a huge smile on my face, it’s so inventive and fully realized.  The film isn’t all fun and games; as with any of Anderson’s work, there’s a twinge of melancholy.  It can be sad to look back…and then look back…and look back some more.

2.) “The Lego Movie”

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Dear Michael Bay,

Have you seen “The Lego Movie?”  Well you should, because it’s great!  I know, I’m as surprised as you are.  It’s based on tiny plastic bricks for goodness sake!  But it proves that a good film can come from anywhere.  This one’s from Phil Lord and Chris Miller.  (Do you know them? And do you think you could get me a job on their next film?)  Let me tell you what the movie’s about.  A construction worker named Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) learns that he might be The Special, a hero prophesized to defeat the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell).  There wasn’t a funnier movie in 2014, but a lot of the comedy comes from names you might not expect, like Liam Neeson as Good Cop/Bad Cop and Morgan Freeman as Vitruvius.  (He’s kind of the Obi-Wan to Emmet’s Luke Skywalker.)  It’s great to see a children’s film — did I mention it’s based on a toy? – that’s fun and engaging and even has something to say about consumer culture and individuality.

Your pal,

Gar

P.S. “The Lego Movie” ALSO has lots of explosions! I know how much you like those.

1.) “Boyhood”

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I know, I know, it’s a boring choice for #1.  But what can I say?  Sometimes there’s a good reason a particular film is mentioned over and over again at the end of the year.  Everyone knows the story behind the production of “Boyhood” — Richard Linklater filmed the movie off and on for 12 years with the same core group of performers.  We follow six-year-old Mason (Ellar Coltrane) as he and his older sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) bounce between parents (Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette), fall into and out of love, and ultimately leave home.  Some have criticized “Boyhood” for being nothing more than a gimmick.  “No one would be talking about this movie if they cast actors of different ages!”  To that, I say the method of filming is inseparable from the film itself.  “Boyhood” is about the fleetingness of time.  Different scenes are going to resonate differently with different people.  For me, the moment that hit hardest was actually a two-part sequence.  It begins with Mason and his girlfriend, Sheena, sharing some late night food at a diner.  They talk about their hopes and fears, and it’s a wonderfully harmonious scene.  They seem right for each other.  Cut to a year later — no title cards in this film, which creates some striking transitions — and Mason and Sheena have had a bitter break up.  No screaming, no shouting.  We don’t even see the break-up on screen.  The film largely eschews those standard coming-of-age scenes that involve a lot of fireworks.  Instead, the emotional impact comes from the gradual culmination of smaller moments, like the sun imperceptibly creeping across the sky…before it sets.

Thanks for reading!  Here’s the complete list:

  1. “Boyhood”
  2. “The Lego Movie”
  3. “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
  4. “Snowpiercer”
  5. “Birdman”
  6. “Ida”
  7. “Gone Girl”
  8. “Godzilla”
  9. “Selma”
  10. “Nightcrawler”

And some honorable mentions: “The Babadook,” “Blue Ruin,” “Calvary,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Two Days, One Night”

So, do you agree or disagree with my list?  What were some of your favorite films of 2014?  Comment below.

Lists: Top 10 Most Anticipated Films of 2015 (Part 1 of 2)

I’m a few prestige titles short of an informed perspective on this past year in cinema, so I thought I’d jump ahead!  Here are the titles I’m most looking forward to in 2015…

10.) “Tomorrowland”

Disney's TOMORROWLAND..Casey (Britt Robertson) ..Ph: Film Frame..?Disney 2015

Release Date: May 22nd

What governs my interest in a project are the people involved.  A two-minute trailer can make anything look good, and a plot synopsis can’t encapsulate the creative decisions that bring a story to the screen.  With that in mind, my #10 is a mixed bag.  “Tomorrowland” is an original, big-budget science fiction film directed by Brad Bird.  From “The Iron Giant” to “The Incredibles” to “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocal,” this guy is one of the best pop filmmakers working today.  Sadly, screenwriter Damon Lindelof is not.  Influenced by frequent collaborator, JJ Abrams, Lindelof is a fan of the mystery box.  His “boxes,” while interestingly packaged, are often empty.  The disappointment of “Prometheus” and the final season of “Lost” still stings.  Given Bird’s track record and the intriguing teaser — No, I don’t ignore advertising altogether — I’m holding out for a good time at the movies!

9.) “Silence”

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Release Date:  Fall

Exhibit B in the case for directors generating excitement.  “Silence” has been a long-time passion project for Martin Scorsese.  It’s about two Jesuit priests persecuted in 17th century Japan.  Conceptually, I’m not particularly interested.  It sounds like a standard dreary prestige film, but Scorsese seals the deal.  Andrew Garfield and Liam Neeson are attached, and though I would prefer the original pairing of Daniel Day-Lewis and Benicio del Toro, Scorsese continues to adapt and produce great work.  I was a big fan of his last two movies, “Hugo, which was uncharacteristically family friendly, and “The Wolf of Wall Street” (definitely not for children).  I’m excited for him to finally bring his vision of this story to the screen.

8.) Untitled Cold War Thriller

Steven-Spielberg

Release Date:  October 16th

Here’s another great collection of talent!  This untitled Cold War thriller is directed by Steven Spielberg, stars Tom Hanks and is written by Joel and Ethan Coen.  Based on a true story, it’s about an attorney sent to negotiate the release of an American pilot captured by the Soviet Union.  I’m especially intrigued to see what comes of the collaboration between Spielberg and the Coens.  The former wears his heart on his sleeve, while the latter tend to be cold and aloof.  It’ll be interesting to see how that shakes out.  Hanks’s involvement with Spielberg is always a plus – well almost always…”The Terminal” doesn’t do anything for me.  But let’s be honest, when Spielberg is in thriller mode, hold onto your butts!

7.) “Avengers: Age of Ultron”

Ultron

Release Date: May 1st

I’m getting a little weary of super hero movies, especially Marvel’s.  Still, there’s no denying the event-ness that surrounds “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”  As a fan of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” I was excited by Joss Whedon’s involvement with the first Avengers movie, and he didn’t let me down.  As far as the sequel, if the trailer is any indication, he’s taking the “Empire Strikes Back” approach.  This will be the darker and moodier chapter, which is fine by me.  Dark Whedon is my favorite Whedon.  (Buffy’s “The Body,” anyone?)  I’m confident he’ll be able to take these characters in new directions and bring a more personal dimension to their struggle.  Let’s face it, you can only endanger the world so often before that stops being exciting.  Maybe the film’s sentient robot antagonist, Ultron, will bring the Marvel-verse what it sorely needs: a strong villain.

6.) “That’s What I’m Talking About”

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Release Date: TBD

With 2013’s “Before Midnight” and this year’s “Boyhood,” writer-director Richard Linklater is on a god damn hot streak.  (Spoiler alert:  “Boyhood” is a serious contender for my film of the year.)  “That’s What I’m Talking About” promises to be a spiritual sequel to Linklater’s “Dazed and Confused.”  Set in the 1980’s, it follows several college baseball players.  I’m a sucker for a good coming-of-age story.  Though they might be a dime a dozen, I really feel that few get them quite like Linklater.  Whether he’s working with a limited cast (“Before Sunrise”) or a large ensemble (“Dazed and Confused”), he’s so respectful of his characters. They come across as real flesh and blood human beings…full of happiness and sadness, drama and comedy.

Stay tuned next week for my top five most anticipated movies of 2015!