An Oscar Preview or (The Benefits of Being a White Celebrity in Hollywood)

Today’s the day! It’s Oscar Sunday, one of the best Sundays of the year, and I can’t wait to sit down and watch 4 hours of stuffy celebrities pontificate about how last year’s films were inspiring, beautiful and suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuper white.

Okay, I’m done milking the whole “the Oscars are so white” joke, mostly because I’m sick of hearing about it. Heck, I was sick of hearing about it the day they announced the nominees. Yes, it’s an egregious injustice, but the masses of tweets and blog posts are going to do little/nothing to actually fix the problem. To discuss this issue further, feel free to contact me personally.

Because this blog is about me hoping beyond hope that the movies I loved will win the awards I want them to win. The “will win/should win” format is appealing to me, because it allows me to express my opinions while also maintaining a staunch loose grip on the reality of the situation.

Take last year for example: Cate Blanchett won a well-deserved golden person statue for an impeccable performance in Woody Allen’s drab, but totally Woody Allen-y, Blue Jasmine. I wrote that she would win, but offered a great explanation on why Amy Adams should have won for her heavy, cast-carrying performance in American Hustle. So if you love hearing my opinions, but also some brief analysis, this piece is for you. If not, I don’t know what to tell you. Read so that you can disagree with me? But I digress. Here are my predictions for my most anticipated category showdowns in this year’s Academy Awards, as well as some changes I would have made in certain categories. For reference sake, check out the list of my top 25 movies of the last year. Maybe some of my whining will make sense then.

(Note: I didn’t get to see every movie I wanted to see this year, which means some of my opinions aren’t completely informed. I’ll mark all films I’ve yet to see with an asterisk.)

Writing – Adapted Screenplay

Will win: The Imitation Game

Should win: Whiplash

This is a bit of a strange category. American Sniper had questions about how the protagonist was portrayed. The Theory of Everything wasn’t actually written as well as you would think given its many, many nominations. Whiplash was adapted from a short film made by the same director so he could get funding to make the feature. And Inherent Vice…well, it was really weird. Too weird to win. So The Imitation Game will probably take home this award. And that’s not a bad choice. But Whiplash was the best written of the group.

 

Writing – Original Screenplay:

Will win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Should win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

This was the only category I got wrong on my predictions list last year, a mistake I made by picking against the script with the backing of the writers. This time, I’m not making the same mistake. Wes Anderson has been scooping up writing awards for The Grand Budapest Hotel, and that shouldn’t change Sunday. It’s cool with me considering he’s the most snubbed guy in Hollywood. Long live twee!

 

Animated Feature Film:

Will win: How To Train Your Dragon 2

Should win: The Lego Movie

I’m cheating, because The Lego Movie wasn’t nominated. I’m still bitter about it. But in terms of what will win, Big Hero 6 and How To Train Your Dragon 2* are a bit of a toss-up. I had Big Hero 6 penciled in earlier this week, but I’m flipping to How To Train Your Dragon 2. The first one was legitimately great and didn’t win. This one got the Golden Globe and doesn’t have to face The Lego Movie, so it’s not facing a real front-runner. (*angrily flips chair*)

 

Cinematography:

Will win: Birdman

Should win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

To be fair, I haven’t seen Mr. Turner*, and I heard Dick Poop did a great job. But this is a two-horse race that’s actually a one-horse race. The Grand Budapest Hotel is gorgeous, detailed and lively; everything that should be required to take home this award. But Birdman is way too appreciated to lose out on some smaller award like this (hah!), especially considering the daring visual tricks it pulled. Make it two wins in a row for Emmanuel Lubezki.

 

Actress – in a Supporting Role:

Will win: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)

Should win: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)

Trading places: Sienna Miller (American Sniper) for Meryl Streep (Into the Woods)

The acting categories (save one) are desperately starved for any sort of drama this year. This is even more of a sure thing than Jared Leto was last year. Patricia Arquette was gold in Boyhood, and that last scene alone is deserving of a special award. If I’m locking in any pick on the night, this is the one.

 

Actor – in a Supporting Role:

Will win: J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)

Should win: J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)

Trading places: Bill Hader (The Skeleton Twins) for Robert Duvall (The Judge)

Did I say something about lack of drama? This is another sure-fire lock. Simmons has been rightfully winning about everything he’s nominated for when it comes to Whiplash. I can’t see that changing Sunday. I’m still a little emotionally scarred from his performance.

 

Actress – in a Leading Role:

Will win: Julianne Moore (Still Alice*)

Should win: Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)

Trading places: None. I’m happy with these nominees.

Finally, some internal conflict! Well, not really. As you can see, I didn’t get a chance to watch Still Alice, and I’m sure Moore absolutely nailed it. But that’s such a predictable choice. And I’m not sure performances get as gritty and unsettling as Pike’s in Gone Girl. She wasn’t just good. She was stupid good. And scary. Sorry, Julianne. You’re great, but you don’t have the ability to give me the heebie-jeebies.

Last-minute update: I’m writing this on Saturday night. And maybe this is recency bias. But I’d be pleasantly surprised if Reese Witherspoon somehow stole this award (hahahaha NOPE) for her excellent performance in Wild. I saw it tonight, and wow was she great. She’ll be back, at least.

 

Actor – in a Leading Role:

Will win: Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)

Should win: Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game) or Bradley Cooper (American Sniper)

Trading places: Eddie Redmayne for David Oyelowo (Selma) or Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler)

Strap in, folks, because I’ve got some opinions to let loose.

Can the Academy please stop praising actors for “physical” performances? Yeah, it’s impressive when an actor shows as much consistency and heart as Redmayne did. But let’s be honest – Felicity Jones did just as much heavy lifting in a movie that wasn’t even that impressive. There wasn’t a whole lot of depth behind those characters. It was a mix of good writing and better acting. But powerful, resonant acting comes with subtlety and emotional connection that goes beyond the writing. Cumberbatch absolutely changed The Imitation Game; without him, that’s a mediocre film at best. Down to each tick and stutter, Cumberbatch’s Turing was unforgettable and emotionally draining. I’m disappointed people aren’t giving him much of a chance.

I’m also going to hitch my wagon to a guy with some semblance of momentum – Bradley Cooper. American Sniper wrecked the box office and gave itself a little buzz in the process. Again, this is mostly due to Cooper (side note: no nomination for Sienna Miller? Shame.) His portrayal of the tortured Chris Kyle was hard to watch, but it pushed the film past heaps of controversy and into the biggest awards race of the year. It was a weighty performance, much more so than Redmayne.

Heck, I’ll even say Michael Keaton deserves this award. And Steve Carrell! What a transformation. Really, I’d take anyone above Redmayne. Keaton has some late buzz, but I still think Redmayne will walk away the winner. C’est la vie.

 

Directing:

Will win: Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman)

Should win: Richard Linklater (Boyhood)

Trading places: Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) for Ava DuVernay (Selma)

I’m putting Directing and Best Picture last because they’re easily the two categories with the most intrigue. And it all comes down to two of the year’s best movies: Boyhood and Birdman.

Usually this is a pretty stacked category, but…eh? The Academy didn’t do itself any favors by leaving out Selma‘s brilliant (and popular) Ava DuVernay or a bigger name like Christopher Nolan. But Anderson, Iñárritu and Linklater make a pretty dynamic competition. Linklater has been the favorite to win this from the beginning, but Iñárritu did take home the big award at the Director’s Guild Awards. And that’s usually the biggest indicator of who will win the Directing award. It’s not a bad choice by any means, but Linklater is perhaps more deserving.

There’s an outside shot voters could split down the middle making room for Anderson to sneak in and steal. But probably not.Either way, there’s a good chance we see a second Director/Best Picture split in a row.

 

Best Picture:

Will win: Boyhood

Should win: Boyhood

Trading places: The Theory of Everything for Interstellar, Foxcatcher, Nightcrawler or Gone Girl

I can’t lie, I’m a bit nervous for the night’s grand prize. Boyhood has been the front-runner for a while. But Birdman has recently won the Producer’s Guild, the Screen Actor’s Guild and Director’s Guild top prizes, and that changes things. In a lovely 538 piece about predicting the Oscars, Birdman is actually given a little more of a shot to win. This is worrisome, because Boyhood is invigorating cinema that deserves every accolade available.

I’ve been rewriting this little blurb all week, because I really can’t decide what I think is going to happen. I’ve flipped about 4 or 5 times. Birdman winning all of those awards is pretty telling, but it’s also different than rewarding the movie as a whole. Boyhood took home the BAFTA award and Birdman lost the Golden Globe to Grand Budapest. Boyhood has also been the favorite for a long time. And take a look at last year: Gravity won the DGA, American Hustle won the SAG and 12 Years a Slave took home the PGA. So these awards aren’t always indicative of who will win.

But Birdman has all the momentum in the world. Technically, it’s a wonder to behold, and the writing is quick and clever. The cast is phenomenal, and no one has a better Oscar story than Michael Keaton. All the signs are pointing to Birdman riding this last surge to victory.

And yet…

I’m probably going with my heart. But I’ve been doing a lot of reading this week, and while most people are picking Birdman here, I’ve read a few pieces that make a very compelling case as to why Boyhood will still walk away the night’s big winner. It’s a more emotional piece than Birdman and, let’s face it, it’s a better movie as well.

I’m not wholly confident with this pick. But I’m feeling Boyhood steals Best Picture in the biggest upset since Braveheart.

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