Feb 20, 2015

2014 Oscar Predictions

The Oscars played a significant part in my obsession with the medium of cinema in my formative years. I think the experience is more or less similar for a lot of people in my generation, particularly those who live outside of major film markets, where awards can look like a real barometer of quality at a distance, to people of a certain age. The Oscars also played an equally important part in my becoming a blogger and in gaining some of the opportunities that I did. But I've moved on, not because I'm looking at such awards from above or because I condescend to those who care about them -- I'd be the first defend the importance and influence of the Oscars -- but because my taste and the Academy's has been so drastically different over the years that I've grown weary of caring and thinking about them. I take no joy in writing about the machinations of "awards season" if I don't find the films or the discourse surrounding them appealing, and frankly that discourse has become aggressive and toxic to the point of complete alienation. I used to feel that the shenanigans about awards were the tasty, spicy side dish to the cinema's delicious main course, but that side dish is rotten now and tastes bitter. I've stopped mulling it over.

Under the Skin, my favourite English-language film of the year, was completely shut out.

Still, one Oscar column a year is something I can handle, and because I'm a betting man, I'll make this one post about predictions. Either this is an uncharacteristically tight year in too many races, or my obliviousness to the whole charade has kept me in the dark about what pundits are feeling confident about. Either way, put your money on these predictions at your own peril! If you're interested in knowing what I would have voted for were I given a ballot, your answer is here. If you're interested in knowing how well I did on my predictions last year, I went 17/21, having not made predictions in the three short categories. Without further ado...

Best Picture
No film has won the DGA, SAG and PGA trifecta, as Birdman has, without winning best picture since Apollo 13 back in 1995. I see no reason that should change this year. Alternative scenarios: Boyhood wins because it's the less divisive of the two films; American Sniper wins because Academy rediscovers its Clint fetish and awards the year's box office behemoth; the Academy comes to its sense and sees the best film of the year for what it truly is: Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Will Win: Birdman
Could Win: Boyhood
Should Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Director
Though Birdman is in the driving seat for the main prize -- and it is unquestionably a film with a clear vision that the industry recognizes, from a director whom the industry adores -- Linklater's commitment to his project over a 12-year span should be enough to nab him this statue. Mind you, commitment shouldn't be enough to win this prize, but my guess is that the Academy won't look further into which film is actually best directed.
Will Win: Richard Linklater (Boyhood)
Could Win: Alejandro G. Innaritu (Birdman)
Should Win: Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

Best Actor
Eddie Redmayne ticks every single box, from precursor prizes to showy qualities the Academy admires. He's playing Stephen Hawking for god's sake! Michael Keaton's self-reflexive performance looked to be the main threat (even the front-runner) previously, but if there is a spoiler at this point, it will be for Bradley Cooper's turn in the late surging American Sniper.
Will Win: Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)
Could Win: Bradley Cooper (American Sniper)
Should Win: Bradley Cooper (American Sniper)

Best Actress
Can you believe "the foxiest bitch in the world" has yet to win an Oscar? I don't care if Still Alice isn't the best film in her resume -- though it's several notches better than the two male-centric British biopics they considered worthy of best picture nominations. The Academy has at least three sins to repent for: Safe, Boogie Nights and Far From Heaven. They better not fuck up this time around!
Will Win: Julianne Moore (Still Alice)
Could Win: none.
Should Win: Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night)

Best Supporting Actor 
A done deal in a category that deserves a closer fight; say, a fist fight in tight undies, or a wrestling match in singlets, with lots of yelling and cymbal throwing. But there'll be none of that.
Will Win: JK Simmons (Whiplash)
Could Win: Edward Norton (Birdman)
Should Win: Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher) or Ethan Hawke (Boyhood)

Best Supporting Actress
I haven't seen all the nominees in this category -- you'll have to chain me to the seat before I see another Rob Marshall film -- but this group of performances is just... uh, so flat. And the worst of the bunch that I've seen is heading straight for the stage too. It's very uninspired.
Will Win: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
Could Win: none.
Should Win: Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game)

Best Original Screenplay
A three-way horse race between a genuine masterpiece, a film whose script is its biggest shortcoming and a film so self-congratulatory that the original draft was allegedly cum-stained. Fingers crossed the Academy makes the right call.
Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Could Win: Boyhood
Should Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Adapted Screenplay
It is virtually impossible to imagine any outcome in this category that isn't going to be a complete embarrassment in retrospect, given that Inherent Vice hasn't a prayer in the world of winning this.
Will Win: The Imitation Game
Could Win: The Theory of Everything
Should Win: Inherent Vice

Best Cinematography
Emmanuel Lubezki, after so many years of being underrated by the establishment, is now being rewarded for work that is positively disengaging and distracting, and not integral to the concept of the film, if to its conception. But win he shall and it's hard to begrudge the man his second Oscar.
Will Win: Emmanuel Lubezki (Birdman)
Could Win: Robert Yeoman (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
Should Win: Łukasz Żal and Ryszard Lenczewski (Ida) [Disclaimer: I have, regrettably, not yet seen Mr. Turner, a film I would hand an Oscar too on the basis of its trailer alone.]

Best Production Design
A win for The Grand Budapest Hotel, which will make the Academy feel good about themselves after embarrassingly ignoring Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Royal Tenenbaums in this category.
Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Could Win: Into the Woods
Should Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Costume Design
A win for The Grand Budapest Hotel, which will make the Academy feel good about themselves after embarrassingly ignoring The Royal Tenenbaums and Moonrise Kingdom in this category.
Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Could Win: Into the Woods
Should Win: Inherent Vice

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
A fight between Steve Carrel's nose, Tilda Swinton's "repulsive" nails, and the Guardians of the Galaxy trying to muscle their way in. The nails should prevail, me thinks.
Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Could Win: Foxcatcher
Should Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Visual Effects
The only category where a win for any of the five nominees will not come as a huge surprise, and yet, any case that can be made for any of them is, on some level, unconvincing.
Will Win: Interstellar
Could Win: Guardians of the Galaxy
Should Win: Interstellar [Disclaimer: I have yet to see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.]

Best Film Editing
A three way race between three types of films they usually like in this category: the tense war film (American Sniper), the film where editing is the story (Boyhood), and the film that ticks two different boxes: energetic musical and athletic masculinity (Whiplash). The story of Boyhood's editing is misleading, as there was actually very little footage to edit (and not "12 years of crap to cut" as one voter has put it). For no logical reason whatsoever, I'm giving the edge to the film that I personally think is best edited.
Will Win: Whiplash
Could Win: Boyhood
Should Win: Whiplash

Best Original Score
It's kind of unbelievable that Desplat has yet to win an Oscar and his subtly sugary score for Anderon's suitably sugary film seems like the perfect opportunity to honor the man, so of course, the Academy will miss the opportunity and go for Johann Johannsson's very showy work in The Theory of Everything. (Lest it be misconstrued, I like Johannsson a lot as a composer on other occasions.)

Will Win: The Theory of Everything
Could Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Should Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Original Song
A very strong category, and given the quality of last year's lineup, it's a huge surprise that they've kept it up for two years in a row. That never happens with this branch. Anyway, my guess is that because here is their only chance to reward Selma and also because "Glory" is a phenomenal song, it will be our winner.
Will Win: Glory (Selma)
Could Win: Not Gonna Miss You (Glenn Campbell: I'll Be Me)
Should Win: Glory (Selma)

Best Sound Editing
There is no question that, given the chance, voters will go for the film that is a best picture nominee or is otherwise a "prestige" picture, generally because most people (voters included) don't really know what sound editing entails. That puts American Sniper in the prime seat here, because it checks that box, but it also is a war film -- a huge bonus in both sound categories.
Will Win: American Sniper 
Could Win: Birdman
Sould Win: American Sniper or Birdman

Best Sound Mixing
Here is their chance to throw a bone to a film that uses sound in very unsubtle ways in the construction of its narrative, but Whiplash is going against American Sniper here, and the inventive sound work in Birdman. It's a toss up.
Will Win: American Sniper
Could Win: Whiplash
Should Win: Whiplash

Best Film Categories

I haven't seen all the nominees in these categories but I'm rooting for the brilliant Timbuktu and Citizenfour.
Foreign Film: Ida (alternative: Leviathan)
Animated Film: How to Train Your Dragon 2 (alternative: Big Hero 6)
Documentary Film: Citizenfour (alternative: Finding Vivian Maier)

Short Categories
I have not seen any of the fifteen films nominated in these categories, so I'm basing these prediction on a room full of thin air.
Live Action: The Phone Call (alternative: Parvaneh)
Animated: The Bigger Picture (alternative: The Dam Keeper)
Documentary: Crisis Hotline (alternative: Joanna)

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