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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Oscar Predictions 2014: Round Four (Final Oscar Predictions)

Best Picture:
1. Birdman (Previous Ranking: 2)
        From where we now stand, this one looks like a fight to the death between Birdman and Boyhood. The latter film remains a popular prediction, largely due to an emotional heft that people assume Oscar will take into account, but also because of its towering stack of critics awards. But, as the guild season has taught us, critics and Academy members are two very different animals, and Birdman now lays claim to wins at SAG, PGA, and DGA. That's an impressive haul, and while Boyhood remains in play, I'm reading the writing on the wall, and picking Birdman to win it all.
2. Boyhood (Previous Ranking: 1)
        A sentimental favorite, a critic's darling, and a brand new take on filmmaking at large that sports a tidy 99% on Rotten Tomatoes. The film surely has its champions, and looked like the one to beat about a month ago. Boyhood is still in this thing.
3. American Sniper (Previous Ranking: 6)
        From here on out, we're purely entertaining 'if something reeeally crazy happened' theoreticals. We'll start with Sniper for one simple reason: it's made $319,607,000 at the U.S. box office... and the other seven nominees have made $301,122,918 combined. If this truly is an industry award, then commercial success has to fit into the equation somewhere, and with a nominee in Best Actor, and a DGA nod for Eastwood, Oscar obviously fancies this flick as well.
4. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Previous Ranking: 3)
        It's tied with Birdman for most nominations, and none of them is in an acting category. That shows a lot of below-the-line support, and if you make your living by preparing costumes or designing sets, there's little doubt that Budapest would tickle your fancy. Those purely invested in craft over all else might be pushing for it.
5. Selma (Previous Ranking: 7)
        Not only is this the type of movie the Academy often goes gaga over, but snubs really do effect the way people vote. No way Argo wins Best Picture without people feeling so damn sorry for Ben Affleck when he was left on he outside looking in on nomination morning, and there's a chance that Selma follows that same blue print. Plus, it's really, really good.
6. Whiplash (Previous Ranking: 10)
        The legend of Whiplash continues to grow. Long the presumptive favorite in the Best Supporting Actor race, the film appears to have a real shot at Adapted Screenplay, Editing, and Sound Mixing. If it has four trophies in its hand by the time they open that last envelope, would it be that earth-shattering if it took the big one?
7. The Imitation Game (Previous Ranking: 4)
        The Imitation Game was a lock for a Best Picture nomination the moment it appeared at Telluride, but it always felt a bit too familiar to actually win. Then Theory of Everything entered the race, causing voters to choose between two period pieces about British geniuses who overcome tall odds to change the world. Both movies will steal votes from the other, which is why they both belong down here.
8. The Theory of Everything (Previous Ranking: 5)
        See above.

Best Director:
1. Alejandro González Iñárritu---Birdman (Previous Ranking: 2)
        Once again, we've got Birdman and Boyhood going down to the wire. The DGA, considered the most reliable prognosticator of all the guilds, tapped Iñárritu here, and I'm not about to doubt them. Linklater has the more interesting narrative, but if the directors branch themselves opted for Birdman over a 12-year commitment made by one of their own, that's got to mean something.
2. Richard Linklater---Boyhood (Previous Ranking: 1)
        My jaw dropped when I saw Iñárritu's win at the PGA; wasn't this award supposed to belong to Linklater in a walk? It's far murkier now, but he's still a respected industry vet who made a movie whose unique nature is easy to admire. This is one of the closest races of the ceremony.
3. Wes Anderson---The Grand Budapest Hotel (Previous Ranking: 3)
        Anderson gets the obligatory 'Dark Horse' slot for a race in which only two ponies will run. It's nice to see Oscar finally warm up to his work, but if you think they're handing Wes and golden man for his very first nomination in the category, you're kinda crazy.
4. Bennett Miller---Foxcatcher (Previous Ranking: 9)
        On one hand, the Academy liked Miller's work enough to give him a nomination despite leaving his film out of the big race, which is an obvious sign of affection. On the other hand, why the hell would they give Best Director to someone whose movie isn't even in the top eight?
5. Morten Tyldum---The Imitation Game (Previous Ranking: 4)
        Welcome to the club, Tyldum, and congratulations on having all of your hard work rewarded... the door's over there.

Best Actor:
1. Eddie Redmayne---The Theory of Everything (Previous Ranking: 2)
        Trust me, this prediction hurts me more than you. I'm pretty openly against all things Everything, but you can't help but see the signs. The BAFTA win was nice in all, but that SAG victory was the shot heard 'round the world. The SAG winner in this category has won ten straight times, and Oscar loves nothing more than physical transformation. Keaton and Cooper are still very much alive, but Redmayne is out in front.
2. Michael Keaton---Birdman (Previous Ranking: 1)
        This was Keaton's to lose before the Redmayne train started chugging, and he's not out of it yet. This is the first ever nomination for the highly regarded industry vet, and if Keaton were to win, he'd become the second oldest thespian to ever snag this award. There's a feeling that this might be their one and only chance to hand Keaton a statue, and if they end up really loving Birdman, he could be the one giving the acceptance speech.
3. Bradley Cooper---American Sniper (Previous Ranking: 8)
        This is Cooper's third acting nomination in as many years, a hot streak that hasn't occurred since Russell Crowe did it from 2000-2002. It's a rare accomplishment that makes the Academy's affections obvious. He's definitely winning at some point, and given the confusion at the top of this race, it might be tonight. Do not sleep on the American Sniper.
4. Benedict Cumberbatch---The Imitation Game (Previous Ranking: 3)
        Like the film itself, Cumberbatch's performance in The Imitation Game was a lock for a nomination the moment people saw the film... and that nomination will be his reward.
5. Steve Carell---Foxcatcher (Previous Ranking: 6)
        Not unlike the Wes Anderson complex, Carell is an actor whom Oscar took a little while to warm up to, and they'll almost assuredly need more proof of his prowess before making him a winner.

Best Actress:
1. Julianne Moore---Still Alice (Previous Ranking: 1)
        Here it is, the single biggest lock of the evening. It's not just that Moore is great in the film, and a five-time nominee who's widely regarded as 'due,' but none of the other ladies ever bothered to challenge her. Seriously, look down that list; who else could take this home?
2. Felicity Jones---The Theory of Everything (Previous Ranking: 3)
        She's the only entrant who stars in a Best Picture nominee, and the narrative of pairing her Oscar with Redmayne's is a juicy one. But are voters cooling on Theory?
3. Resse Witherspoon---Wild (Previous Ranking: 5)
        If she didn't already have a golden man on her mantle, she's totally give Moore a run for her money. As is, Oscar is happy to have her back, and will patiently wait for another strong performance if she's ever going to win another.
4. Rosamund Pike---Gone Girl (Previous Ranking: 2)
        It's juicy? And in a movie that made a bunch of money? I don't know, I'm just grasping at straws by now.
5. Marion Cotillard---Two Days, One Night (Previous Ranking: 9)
        This was a pleasant surprise on Oscar morning; how many Academy members do you think have even seen it?

Best Supporting Actor:
1. J.K. Simmons---Whiplash (Previous Ranking: 2)
        He may not be a monument made of stone the way Moore is, but he's not for from it, either. Simmons has been the presumptive favorite here for over a year (!?!), as his film premiered at Sundance during last year's award season. After winning every single precursor known to man, this seems like pretty simple math.
2. Ethan Hawke---Boyhood (Previous Ranking: 3)
        The reason I don't feel quite as certain about Simmons as I am Moore: the former's competition comes from the films likely duking it out for Best Picture. Hawke's 12-year commitment has me ranking him just a hair above Norton... that, and I think people just like him more.
3. Edward Norton---Birdman (Previous Ranking: 1)
        A big, splashy, captivating performance in a movie with as good a chance as any to win the top prize? The fact that this is #3 on my list speaks to the level of competition here.
4. Mark Ruffalo---Foxcatcher (Previous Ranking: 4)
        Nice to see Ruffalo on the nominees list again, and it seems like a safe bet that he'll win someday, but his role isn't as big or buzzy as his competitors', and given that everyone listed above him is in a Best Picture nominee, it's safe to say that they like his film less than those of his combatants.
5. Robert Duvall---The Judge (Previous Ranking: 6)
        Congrats on becoming the oldest actor every nominated for an Academy award... for a movie that no one saw, and even fewer liked. I still can't believe this nod happened in the first place; this guy's going no where near that podium.

Best Supporting Actress:
1. Patricia Arquette---Boyhood (Previous Ranking: 1)
        And here we have another no-brainer. Even if Oscar decides to go Birdman over Boyhood in the end, this is Arquette's to lose. She's the beating heart of the film, and had previously never been nominated in over two decades in the industry. This is her time.
2. Emma Stone---Birdman (Previous Ranking: 2)
        She's great in one of the ceremony's big juggernauts, but she's still so young, and handing it to her over Arquette would almost look cruel. Patricia shot her movie over the course of 12 years; Stone got her's in during a slight break in the filming of The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
3. Laura Dern---Wild (Previous Ranking: 10)
        Similar to Arquette, Dern is a constant traveler across the silver screen who's never won an Oscar despite years and years of eligibility. She even plays a supportive mother, one of Oscar's favorite rolls. Too bad she's in Wild instead of Boyhood, in which Arquette ALSO plays a supportive mother.
4. Kiera Knightly---The Imitation Game (Previous Ranking: 4)
        The only way this happens is if The Imitation Game goes on an entirely unforeseen tear, and takes her with it. And trust me, those odds are loooooong.
5. Meryl Streep---Into the Woods (Previous Ranking: 3)
        Yes, I know, Oscar loves Meryl, but as much as he hands her nominations almost as a birth right, her wins are few, and far between. She can get in just like anybody else, but when it comes to emerging victoriously, it seems like the Academy wants her to top herself, which Woods certainly doesn't accomplish.

Best Original Screenplay:
1. Wes Anderson---The Grand Budapest Hotel (Previous Ranking: 3)
        This one is awfully close, but if Oscar feels like spreading the love tonight, this looks like the simplest way to hand Anderson an Oscar. The WGA win helps, as does Oscar's tendency to use the screenplay categories as a mea culpa to movies they like that aren't winning anything more prestigious.
2. Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, and Armando Bo---Birdman (Previous Ranking: 1)
        God, it's tough to not predict the Birdman script, which even involves a 'superheros be damned, let's make real movies!' sentiment that Oscar is sure to love. That said, I'm guessing they credit the success of Birdman primarily to its actors and director, and can accept this award going elsewhere.
3. Richard Linklater---Boyhood (Previous Ranking: 2)
        I do think Linklater could win this award, but I also believe that the Boyhood script is in distant third. The film feels so natural, so lived in, that I'm guessing they cite it as largely improv, and decide to move on.
4. Dan Futterman and E. Max Frye---Foxcatcher (Previous Ranking: 6)
        Of the category's two cellar dwellers, Foxcatcher was at least shown some love in other categories. I'll give it the edge.
5. Dan Gilroy---Nightcrawler (Previous Ranking: 5)
        Great for Gilroy to have his wondrously pulpy screenplay nominated... but I think that's the end of the road.

Best Adapted Screenplay:
1. Damien Chazelle---Whiplash (Previous Ranking: 5)
        Again, I'm going with the movie I believe Oscar wishes to reward as much as possible without just handing it Best Picture. It's in a dead heat with The Imitation Game, and I can't help but think this comes down to a simple matter of which film they like more as a whole. I'm riding with Whiplash.
2. Graham Moore and Andrew Hodges---The Imitation Game (Previous Ranking: 1)
        On a scale of 1 to 10, I would be -6 surprised if this won. I don't really like the odds of everything listed below, but the difference between this and Whiplash is a coin flip.
3. Anthony McCarten---The Theory of Everything (Previous Ranking: 2)
        And again I let my bias effect my predictions where they concern Everything. The film even beat Imitation for the BAFTA, which should give me pause, but I still struggle to see it winning, especially in a field that sports four Best Picture nominees.
4. Jason Hall, Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen, and James Defelice---American Sniper (Previous Ranking: 3)
        I'm tempted to even put this above Everything, but the controversy over the film's questionable depiction of Chris Kyle, as well as a reliance on action as a mode of story-telling, have caused me to pump the breaks.
5. Paul Thomas Anderson---Inherent Vice (Previous Ranking: 10)
        This is Oscar saying, "We love you, Paul Thomas Anderson, and will nominate you for anything you do... but what the hell is this Inherent Vice business?" More so than almost anyone who's name will be called tonight, Anderson's nomination is his reward.

Best Foreign Language Film:
1. Ida
2. Leviathan
3. Wild Tales
4. Timbuktu
5. Tangerines

        Calloused, jaded opinion time: regardless of quality, the fact that Ida is only 80 minutes long and available via Netflix makes it by far the easiest to check out if your an Oscar voter who's low on time. Both Leviathan and Wild Tales have a real shot, but seeing Ida pop up in cinematography leads me to believe it's the most widely seen and appreciated of the bunch.

Best Documentary:
1. Citizenfour
2. Finding Vivian Maier
3. Last Days in Vietnam
4. The Salt of the Earth
5. Virunga

        Citizenfour has led the pack for months now, but all of a sudden, this feels like a three-horse race. Maier is much beloved in certain circles, and the availability of Last Days on HBO will help its odds. I'll stick with the safe bet.

Best Animated Feature:
1. How to Train Your Dragon 2
2. Big Hero 6
3. The Boxtrolls
4. The Tale of The Princess Kaguya
5. Song of the Sea

        Can we just all agree to go back in time, and give this Oscar to The LEGO Movie? How did that even happen, anyway? In the wake that curious omission, this category looks wide open. The two foreign films listed below could even sneak in and take it, but in a year that's this big of a crap shoot, I'm going to go in order of most-to-least seen. There are exactly two real success stories here, so I'll move them right to the top, and give Dragon the slightest of edges.

Best Cinematography:
1. Emmanuel Lubezki---Birdman
2. Robert D. Yeoman---The Grand Budapest Hotel
3. Roger Deakins---Unbroken
4. Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski---Ida
5. Dick Pope---Mr. Turner

        This is Lubezki's to lose, plain and simple. They won't give Deakins his first Oscar for something like Unbroken, and while Budapest remains an option, Birdman has been penciled in here for months. I don't see that changing.

Best Editing:
1. Tom Cross---Whiplash
2. Sandra Adair---Boyhood
3. Joel Cox and Gary Roach---American Sniper
4. Barney Pilling---The Grand Budapest Hotel
5. William Goldenberg---The Imitation Game

        This might be the toughest call of the night. I've got Whiplash by virtue of how show-off-y its editing choices are, but ignoring the accomplishment that is weaving a decade-plus of footage into a single narrative is not to be discounted. After that, we've got three well-respected Best Picture nominees, and one is a war movie, which should give it a leg up. I'm sticking with these rankings, but anything could win here.

Best Production Design:
1. Adam Stockhausen and Anna Pinnock---The Grand Budapest Hotel
2. Nathan Crowley and Gary Fettis---Interstellar
3. Maria Djurkovic and Tatiana Macdonald---The Imitation Game
4. Dennis Gassner and Anna Pinnock---Into the Woods
5. Suzie Davies and Charlotte Watts---Mr. Turner

        This one also feels pretty open, but any success that you attribute to The Grand Budapest Hotel must take into account its loud, excellent production. The scale of Interstellar should keep it within striking distance, and all three of the also-rans bare kinships to previous winners. Still, this isn't on the level of Editing's "close your eyes and point" unpredictability: I'd be at least a little surprised to not hear the names Stockhausen and Pinnock when they open that envelope.

Best Score:
1. Alexandre Desplat---The Grand Budapest Hotel
2. Jóhann Jóhannsson---The Theory of Everything
3. Alexandre Desplat---The Imitation Game
4. Hans Zimmer---Interstellar
5. Gary Yershon---Mr. Turner

        I keep saying it, because it keeps being true; this one's is up for grabs. Jóhannsson's Theory score has been the safe bet since the film's bow in early November, but it's not exactly an irrefutable choice. I like Desplat here, by virtue of his being the most over-due composer in the industry, with his duel nominations telling us EXACTLY how Oscar feels about the guy. Zimmer and Yershon are just along for the ride.

Best Original Song:
1. Common and John Legend(Glory)---Selma
2. Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond(I’m Not Gonna Miss You)---Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me
3. Shawn Patterson(Everything is Awesome)---The LEGO Movie
4. Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois(Lost Stars)---Begin Again
5. Diane Warren(Grateful)---Beyond the Lights

        Beyond the Lights and Begin Again will forever more be able to call themselves Oscar nominees; now let's move on to songs that actually have a chance. The fact that the Selma snub ticked so many people off makes Glory the obvious choice, but ever since its surprise nomination, people are really starting to get behind I'm Not Gunna Miss You. Everything is Awesome could also benefit from the notion of belated justice that Selma's banking on, though it's tough to hand an Oscar to a flick about kids toys over one about Martin Luther King Jr.

Best Costume Design:
1. Milena Canonero---The Grand Budapest Hotel
2. Colleen Atwood---Into the Woods
3. Anna B. Sheppard---Maleficent
4. Mark Bridges---Inherent Vice
5. Jacqueline Durran---Mr. Turner

        I have one rule when predicting Best Costume Design; always go with whatever's from the Elizabethan Era. Seeing as no movies here fit that bill, I'll go with the only flick that also sports a Best Picture nomination, though everything here has a puncher's chance.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling:
1. Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White---Guardians of the Galaxy
2. Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard---Foxcatcher
3. Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier---The Grand Budapest Hotel

        If Guardians loses here, I'm throwing my remote at the wall. I get it that it's not really Oscar's cup of tea, and that the Academy does everything in their power to avoid awarding Marvel movies, but how on god's green earth could you pick Foxcatcher or Budapest over the kaleidoscopic space romp? The other two nominees only employ extensive makeup on one character a piece; please don't give Budapest another Oscar just because Tilda Swinton sat in a chair for a few hours...

Best Visual Effects:
1. Paul J. Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott R. Fisher---Interstellar
2. Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist---Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
3. Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould---Guardians of the Galaxy
4. Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie and Cameron Waldbauer---X-Men: Days of Future Past
5. Dan Deleeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill and Daniel Sudick---Captain America: The Winter Soldier

        This one feels like Interstellar's to lose, seeing as it's one of only two films listed above than boasts multiple nominations. It also doesn't hurt to have Production Design in your pocket, seeing as, in the last several years, there's been a real correlation between those two categories. If anything can sneak in, it'll be Apes.

Best Sound Editing:
1. Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman---American Sniper
2. Richard King---Interstellar
3. Aaron Glascock and Martín Hernández---Birdman
4. Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro---Unbroken
5. Brent Burge and Jason Canovas---The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

        Can't I just put a 1. next to the first three names on this list? Birdman is Birdman, and should never be counted out of any category in which it's competing. Interstellar is loud as hell, and Oscar has a track record of rewarding blown-out speakers. In the end though, I'm going with the war movie... because it's a war movie, and this is a category where those tend to dominate.

Best Sound Mixing:
1. Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley---Whiplash
2. John T. Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin---American Sniper
3. Gary Rizzo, Gregg Landaker and Mark Weingarten---Interstellar
4. Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Thomas Varga---Birdman
5. Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and David Lee---Unbroken

        As much as war flicks dominate Sound Editing, musicals do the very same in this category. I still can't believe Into the Woods didn't make it in, but the sounds in Whiplash are almost a character unto themselves. Still, everything here's on the table, except probably Unbroken.

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