It’s that magical time of year again—the Academy Awards! And here I am, back with the very best, grade-A picks, guaranteed to win your Oscar pool.*
I’ve managed to see 7 of the 8 Best Picture nominees, missing only Selma, which disappeared from theaters before I got to it. This means pretty much zip when it comes to predictions, actually, but I just thought I’d mention it. Last year, I’d seen maybe half of the nominated films before the show, and still managed to eke out a win. (OK, it was actually a five-way tie for first here at Chez Rotundo, but I was one of the five, so it counts. Last year was weird.)
Anyway, I found this year’s slate to be full of some fine films, and a couple of real gems. Let’s get on with the picks:
The smart money is on Birdman. Boyhood was considered the favorite at first, but that film’s early award wins didn’t translate into any serious love from the Screen Actors Guild, the Directors Guild, or the Producers Guild, all of which went with Birdman. That’s a substantial chunk of Academy Award voters right there. It’s true that the BAFTA went to Boyhood, which also has some overlap with AMPAS members. But I don’t think it’s enough to overtake the front-runner. I’m going with Birdman.
The DGA is one of the most reliable predictors of this award, and this year, it went to Alejandro G. Iñárritu for Birdman. Gotta figure he’ll get the Oscar, too.
Julianne Moore in a walk, for Still Alice. Moore has been nominated five times but has never won. Two of her competitors, Marion Cotillard and Reese Witherspoon, already have Oscars. And Moore won the SAG. This one should be a no-brainer.
Lots of reasons to think that Michael Keaton will take this one home: he’s never been nominated before, he’s now in his 60’s, and his performance in Birdman is indeed a strong one. But those factors were in play at the SAG awards, too, and Eddie Redmayne won there, for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. This is exactly the kind of “physical transformation” role that Oscar loves (see Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot for just one of many examples), and Redmayne was fantastic. And just for good measure, he also won the BAFTA. So I’m picking the young whippersnapper. Sorry, Michael.
Best Supporting Actress
Here’s a category that has been rife with upsets in the past, but I’m going once again with SAG, and picking Patricia Arquette, for her performance as a single mom with rotten taste in men in Boyhood.
Best Supporting Actor
J.K. Simmons, perhaps best known to the public as the guy in the Farmers commercials, will crush his competition for his role as the tyrannical and abusive music teacher in Whiplash. It’s an unforgettable performance. SAG agreed.
Best Original Screenplay
This isn’t Wes Anderson’s first Oscar rodeo. He lost two years ago to Quentin Tarantino, and in 2001 to Julian Fellowes. But he’s back, and Tarantino and Fellowes are nowhere to be found. Also, due to some weird Oscar rules, the script for Whiplash is in the Adapted Screenplay category, even though the WGA considered it an original. Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel script took home the WGA award, and I’m guessing it will garner a golden statuette, too.
Best Adapted Screenplay
It’s uncanny. Seems like just about every year, one of the screenplay awards goes to the movie I would have picked for Best Picture if I had a vote. This year, my favorite film out of all the nominees was The Imitation Game—by a wide margin, actually. (Whiplash came in second place, in case you care.) And look! Right on schedule, Graham Moore just won the WGA. He’s my pick for the Oscar.
Best Animated Feature
How The LEGO Movie got left out of this category is a head-scratcher. Had it been nominated, I think it would have cruised to an easy win. But we’re still left with a pretty impressive slate. A couple of heavy hitters going up against each other here, with Big Hero 6 and How To Train Your Dragon 2 duking it out. Both were fine films. It’s possible they will split the vote, allowing one of the lesser known nominees to surprise. But I have to wonder how many Academy voters have actually seen Song of the Sea or The Tale of Princess Kaguya. I’m picking Big Hero 6 to win by a nose, by virtue of some other guild award wins. I wouldn’t be surprised to be wrong here, though. And if the vote does indeed get split, watch out for The Boxtrolls.
Best Foreign Language Film
This has been historically one of Oscar’s most unpredictable categories—largely, I think, because the rules used to limit the ability to vote in this category to those who could prove they actually had seen the nominees. But the rules changed last year, and it’s still too soon to know whether this will make this one easier or harder to pick. I haven’t seen any of these films, but remember my credo: never let total ignorance get in your way. Poland’s Ida took the BAFTA, and that’s as good an indicator as any other. I’ll pick Ida.
Roger Deakins is nominated yet again. And once more, I think he will lose. Emmanuel Lubezki’s work on Birdman looks to garner him his second Oscar in a row. Flashy works best here, and how much flashier can you get than shooting an entire feature film as if it were one continuous camera take? I found it a bit self-indulgent, really. They talk about cinematographers “making their reel,” and I think that’s what Lubezki did here. Nonetheless, he’s going to win. Someday, Roger. Someday.
Best Production Design
As with Cinematography, flashy usually wins. This year, that would immediately eliminate The Imitation Game and Mr. Turner. This leaves us with Into the Woods, Interstellar, and The Grand Budapest Hotel. The Art Directors Guild recognized The Grand Budapest Hotel, which is (for Academy voters) blessedly free from the taint of fantasy or science fiction. That works for me. Grand Budapest for the win.
Best Film Editing
The American Cinema Editors recognized Sandra Adair for assembling twelve years’ worth of footage into Boyhood. The BAFTA went to Whiplash, and one can’t count out the likely Best Picture winner, Birdman. The editing Oscar often goes to the top film of the year. But I think Boyhood emerges triumphant here.
Best Costume Design
Using the same logic I did for Production Design, I’ll go with The Grand Budapest Hotel. It also took the Costume Designers Guild top award for period piece, and period pieces do well in this category.
Best Makeup & Hairstyling
I could see any of the nominees winning here, but the trend lately has been toward dramatic pieces (Les Misérables, The Iron Lady, Dallas Buyers Club), which would eliminate Guardians of the Galaxy and The Grand Budapest Hotel. So I’ll go with Foxcatcher.
Best Original Score
Here’s a tough category to pick. Alexandre Desplat has eight nominations and no wins, but he’s competing against himself this year. Hans Zimmer’s Interstellar score is some of his best work, but support for that movie seems weak at best. All of which could bode well for Johann Johannsson and The Theory of Everything. I’m making up my mind as I type this: The Theory of Everything.
Best Original Song
Some stiff competition in this category. “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” is a heartbreaker, “Everything Is Awesome” is a lot of fun and perhaps best known, and “Glory” is the only one from a Best Picture nominee. Yikes. Don’t know which way to go here, but given the kerfuffle over the lily white acting nominee slate (which kerfuffle is quite valid, in my view), I’m going to pick “Glory,” from Selma.
Best Documentary Feature
CITIZENFOUR took the DGA and the BAFTA, so that’s my pick.
Best Documentary Short
Here’s a tiebreaker category for your Oscar pool, as it’s virtually guaranteed that no one has seen any of the nominees. Uplifting films often do well here, which could tilt the balance in favor of Joanna. But HBO, with its long tradition of strong documentaries, has an entry in the field, Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1. Toss-up. I’m going with Joanna.
Best Sound Mixing
Louder is better. Best Picture nominees also win. That would leave us with American Sniper, Birdman, and Whiplash. (Incidentally, how did the mix for Interstellar, which raised so much controversy for obscuring key dialogue, ever get nominated? Clearly, the Academy’s sound people know something I don’t. But I digress.) My wife found the jazz drum soundtrack for Birdman annoying and headache-inducing. In her honor, I’ll eliminate it from consideration. I guess I’ll go with Whiplash, simply because I liked it better. (I wouldn’t be surprised to see Birdman win, though. Sorry, honey.)
Best Sound Editing
The Cinema Audio Society went with Birdman. The Motion Picture Sound Editors recognized American Sniper. Conventional wisdom says American Sniper will win. I’ll bow to peer pressure and agree. I’m not proud.
Best Visual Effects
I’m really tempted to go with Interstellar. But the most groundbreaking work was the motion capture in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. I remember quipping that I wished the filmmakers had made the humans as real as the primates. But you know, Rise of the Planet of the Apes was nominated in this category, too—and lost. I guess I’ll stick with my first instinct, and go with Interstellar. Black hole for the win!
Best Short Film (Live Action)
Lighter fare tends do well in this category, so I’m going with BAFTA winner Boogaloo and Graham.
Best Short Film (Animated)
Disney’s Feast is the presumed front-runner. But so was Disney’s Get a Horse! last year, which lost. Ah, hell, who knows? I’ll stick with Feast.
And now you know everything you need to know. Guaranteed.*
* Actually not guaranteed at all.