As always, I'm not having any of that cynicism. Yes, winning Best Picture is probably the best way to make your film no longer matter and be completely forgotten in a year. (Remember "The Artist"? No? Me neither. Hell, do you even remember "Argo"?) Sure, Academy voters are overwhelming White male old people who can easily be bought by Harvey Weinstein - and if you're a Republican, you know they all hate America and are communists and are Muslims and are gay. But still, there is a reason the film media, myself included, are overwhelming fascinated by the Academy Awards. Because it is a legitimate forum for great movies to be presented to a mass market that really would just rather watch a superhero film or something with Melissa McCarthy. Compare to the Music Awards. Sam Smith's "Stay With Me" is a miserable shallow excuse for Gospel, and yet it is the Song of the Year according to the Grammys. You do not find that kind of selling out with the Academy.
However, this post is not to reinforce what we already know, it is the big Oscar Prediction post! Last year I did the Oscar Prediction game and if you recall, was right about everything. Then again, last year's show was probably the most easily-predictable Oscars of my lifetime, and the only surprise was Alfonso Cuaron winning Best Director for "Gravity" over Steve McQueen for "12 Years a Slave". I was wrong that one time. Can I beat that record in 2015? No. I can't. This year is a much more difficult race, with two clear rival frontrunners battling for the Best Picture position, and several fantastic movies and performances dividing up the show.
Anyway, let us begin. These are Blue Highwind's 2015 Oscar Predictions:
BEST PICTURE: "Birdman"
The Best Picture category is probably the most fraught and competitive race that we have seen in a very long time. In 2015 the battle is going to be between "Birdman" and Richard Linklater's "Boyhood". This has been an interesting Oscar Season, since the punditry began early by being very angry that the Martin Luther King Jr. biopic, "Selma" was underrepresented in the awards. However, though they defended Selma in January, in February it seems that nobody wants it to win. Mostly "Selma" was the response to "American Sniper", Clint Eastwood's lazy Iraq War drama. Now that "American Sniper" has basically lost all chance of winning, the new bad guy is "Birdman", which has been winning award after award even though "12 Years a Boyhood" was thought to be the unbeatable frontrunner.
Though all this controversy definitely ends up giving my colleagues a lot of traffic, I would say 2015 is the best Best Picture field we have had in a long time, at least since 2010 and probably since before even that. You do have your predictable dull Oscarbait movies like "American Sniper", "The Theory of Everything"*, and "The Imitation Game". However, really interesting and unique movies dominate this field. "Boyhood" was a bold experiment, the hipster vote is going for "The Grand Budapest Hotel" - a Wes Anderson production through and through, and the leader is "Birdman", a strange comedic movie about stardom and superheroes and drum solos.
What tickles me the most is this thought: if "Birdman" wins, it will be the first time in this blog's history that my favorite movie of the year has won Best Picture.
What Else I'd Like to Win: "Boyhood". Man this is a great year to be a movie fan. I can't lose! "Boyhood" was my favorite movie of 2014 for a long time**. Really nothing else has a chance. I will be happy either way. But maybe I should throw my weight behind "The Theory of Everything". If that wins then it can continue to be utterly meaningless and then "Boyhood" and "Birdman" will not end up in the dumpster of history like "Argo".
BEST DIRECTING: Richard Linklater for "Boyhood"
Yeah, I am splitting my vote between Best Picture and Best Director, a dangerous strategy. But I think this is how things are going to play out this year. Essentially the Best Director and Best Picture races are one in the same most years. If you think one movie is the best film of the year, shouldn't the guy who made it be the best director? But 2015 is going to be a bit different, "Boyhood" and "Birdman" are so neck and neck that they will divide the show up evenly. "Boyhood" has the front, "Birdman" has the back, and in between that double-blast of love is us.
The other reason I'm going this way is because Linklater has been campaigning like a madman for months and has all the buzz of his experimental twelve year project. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu certainly pulled off something amazing with "Birdman", being an illusion of one continuous shot, and having all kinds of other fascinating techniques going into it. However Linklater is the crowned genius of note in 2015.
Who I'd Like to Win: Wes Anderson for "The Grand Budapest Hotel". Wes Anderson is way overdue at this point for an Academy Award, being such a unique voice in filmmaking right now. There will come a day when we will not have a Wes Anderson anymore, and the movie world will be that much worse without him.
BEST ACTOR: Michael Keaton for Riggan Thomson in "Birdman"
Fish in a barrel choice. Michael Keaton has every advantage here. He's a veteran actor with decades of experience, he made 2015 his grand comeback year, and he had a fantastic mindblowing role in one of the best films of the year. Keaton's character in "Birdman" was a failing actor desperately looking for recognition by starring in a bizarre post-modern production, and the real Michael Keaton has done exactly that - and come out more beloved than ever before. The Dark Knight rises this year.
The competition this year is just too young and too scattered to make much of a battle here. Eddie Redmayne and Benedict Cumberbatch both are hot actors with roles obviously pre-packaged for Oscar runs. But it isn't their time. I think even the Academy voters are a little tired of Bradley Cooper getting in every year (though he was very good in a not very good movie). Maybe if Timothy Spall was nominated for "Mr. Turner", or Jake Gyllenhaal for "Nightcrawler, there would be more competition. Really that just leaves...
Who Else I'd Like to Win: Steve Carrell as John du Pont in "Foxcatcher". "Foxcatcher" is a much better movie than "American Sniper" since it is carried by a few great performances, rather than just one. However most of that movie's run is thanks to Carrell in weird make-up. Still it was a very great performance and could use some recognition. I'm sure Carrell's next role is going to be some obnoxious loudmouth, so it is nice to see him do something different for once.
BEST ACTRESS: Rosamund Pike as Amazing Amy in "Gone Girl"
It is times like this that I wish I had more writers on this site. This is a one man operation meaning that even though I am clearly a genius with incredible insight and foresight in all things (and humble too), I still have a limited view. Best Actress this year is a rough category for me: I haven't seen any of these movies! I did not see Marion Cotillard's movie, "Two Days, One Night", nor did I see "The Theory of Everything" which got Felicity Jones her nomination, nor did I see Reese Witherspoon in "Wild", and if I saw Julianne Moore in "Still Alice", that means I have Alzheimer's too, because I completely forgot about it.
Maybe this is a sign that I am just another member of the sexist White male critic elite, who continue to perpetuate the domination of Hollywood by men while ignoring female-driven movies. Or I am extremely unlucky. I thought Jennifer Aniston could buy herself a nomination for "Cake", I was wrong. And even though Essie Davis in "The Babadook" put together one of the very best performances of all of 2014, it is a horror movie, thus not allowed in the Academy Awards.
So like a tenth grader who has not studied for a Civil War quiz, I'm just going to circle answer B., the one thing I recognize. Sorry. CriticWire says Julianne Moore is going to win, maybe you should read them instead.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: J. K. Simmons as Terrence Fletcher in "Whiplash"
"Whiplash" got nominated for Best Picture entirely because of J. K. Simmons' insane wild performance as a sadist jazz teacher in "Whiplash". It was not exactly a sophisticated role, mostly J. K. Simmons was just allowed to scream at the top of his lungs and torture his fellow actors a la R. Lee Ermey. But my god was it some great screaming.
Of the other nominees, there are two that hold at least a candle of a shot: Edward Norton in "Birdman" and Mark Ruffalo for "Foxcatcher". Norton seems to be the second-runner, but people really need to re-examine Ruffalo in "Foxcatcher". It was an actor's movie, big time, I'm surprised Channing Tatum did not make it into the nominations as well, honestly. But watch Ruffalo's scene where he has to explain exactly what it so great about John du Pont in a propaganda piece put forth by the billionaire, and has no answers at all. That is amazing.
However, Simmons does not deserve to win. The award should rightfully go to Ralph Fiennes as Gustav H. in "The Grand Budapest Hotel". However he was not nominated because somebody bought Robert Duvall's place for "The Judge", a movie I am not entirely sure actually exists. I didn't see it. Did you see it? Can you name anybody who has seen it? Right? It's a conspiracy, man.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Patricia Arquette as Olivia Evans in "Boyhood"
This category honestly sucks. Patricia Arquette is going to win thanks to lack of competition. Keira Knightley for "The Imitation Game" has no right to be here, and Meryl Streep getting in for "Into the Woods" is a scandal. Yeah, she is Maryl Streep but that does not mean every December movie she appears in needs to get a Best Actress nomination. I cannot comment on Laura Dern for "Wild" since I have not seen that movie. Dern has been a great actress for years and managed to be very good in "The Fault in Our Stars". Emma Stone really is the only competition for
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Richard Linklater for "Boyhood"
This is a very interesting three-way race. The screenplay award traditionally ends up with the Best Picture, which I believe will be "Birdman". In the awards race it has been a complex mix, with "The Grand Budapest Hotel" actually winning the most recent award at the BAFTAs. But "Boyhood" has all the charm of being something strange and experimental, while still playing to the Academy's traditional love of personal drama. "Foxcatcher" and "Nightcrawler" have nominations in this category as well, but those films were driven by performance, not writing.
This is probably the wrong choice, all things considered.
Who I'd Like to Win: Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness for "The Grand Budapest Hotel". My heart has ended up here for script. "Birdman" was a better movie, but "Budapest" was better-written.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Graham Moore for "The Imitation Game"
Frankly this script was not very good. It was not a very good movie. Very competently made, with good performances and even decent directing, but the screenplay went straight for the most common denominator. Graham Moore shot for the most obvious choices, exaggerating details of Alan Turing's life to check off hot button issues that the Academy would love. Sadly it is going to work.
Can't win them all.
The other serious options are "American Sniper", which was perhaps the most unfinished screenplay of all of 2014, the "Theory of Everything" which has a good shot but I think "Imitation Game" checks off more options. "Whiplash"'s screenplay was very tight and simple, telling a great short story, but that also means it is not interesting enough for the Academy to care about. But the one that should win is...
Who Should Win: Paul Thomas Anderson for "Inherent Vice". This is only major nomination "Inherent Vice" has received, which is hideous or tragic, depending on which adjective I am fancying at the moment. "Inherent Vice" is a Thomas Pynchon novel, meaning that is completely insane and impossible to understand. That Paul Thomas Anderson was able to make any kind of movie at all out of the material is simply stunning.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM: "The Tale of Princess Kaguya"
Oo, I'm being risky this time. Really the competition this year is between three films: "Princess Kaguya", "Song of the Sea"***, and of all things, "How to Train Your Dragon 2", a financial disappointment that nobody remembers, but somehow won the Golden Globe. "The Boxtrolls" was lovely, "Big Hero 6" was even lovelier, but they're not in the race. It is really only those three. I am probably making a dangerous decision by voting "Princess Kaguya", which is the artiest and least family-friendly of these films, but anything that can leave me in tears is impossible to vote against. The Academy will see that same way.
Still cannot believe that "The Lego Movie" got snubbed.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE MOVIE, BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE, BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT, BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM, BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM: No Contest.
I basically ignore these categories every year. I have barely seen anything in this entire segment. No foreign language films I saw last year were nominated, the only documentary I saw that was nominated was "Citizenfour", and the only short film I saw was "Feast". So I have no idea. I concede. No, it is not the professional choice, but it is the honest choice.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: Alexandre Desplat for "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
I'll take the safe choice this time. Desplat is actually up twice this year, for both "Budapest Hotel" and "The Imitation Game". "The Imitation Game" was not a very remarkable movie, but its score was damn good. "Budapest" had a remarkable score that well-fit the tone and time of the movie, fitting perfectly with Anderson's vision for his universe. "Mr. Turner"'s score put me half to sleep and what I've listened to of "The Imitation Game" is unremarkable.
Who I'd Like to Win: Hans Zimmer for "Interstellar". Yeah, "Interstellar" was far from Christopher Nolan's best, but it was an amazing visual and audio experience. Zimmer out-does himself every year and "Interstellar" might be a career-best score for him. Listening to the score again makes me refuse to believe that this could ever lose. I also cannot believe I did not like the movie that this score was built around, how could a score this good fail?
Oh yeah, because the movie depended on ridiculous Love is the Ultimate Power of the Universe twists, that's why.
Anyway, Zimmer will lose because "Interstellar" is a SciFi film, thus the Academy has no interest.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG: 'Everything is Awesome' by Shawn Patterson for "The Lego Movie"
I'm sure the Academy really wants to make up for snubbing "The Lego Movie", and who cannot love a happy Pharrell tune?
Oh wait, that was "Happy" from "Despicable Me 2". I have no idea what I'm talking about. My brain is a pile of pea soup being devoured by slugs.
'Everything is Awesome' is the song that most people sang this year, so there you go.
LOTS OF TECH AWARDS I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT:
Every year I complain about the Sound awards. Sound editing is essential to great movie making, is extremely difficult, and requires a careful craft. It is what makes major motion pictures what they are: any movie that wants to be a movie, even half-assed SyFy channel garbage, needs competent editing. But audiences have no idea what goes into sound editing, and would never notice it unless it was truly broken. Even Asylum films mostly get sound editing done properly. You will not find a movie with broken sound editing in theaters, or on TV, or even in Redbox, you need to find the worst and most unbelievably awful Z-movie schlock for that level of failure. So I concede this point entirely. No contest, I have no idea. I can't record my own voice without leaving in hiss and thumping noises.
Any film editing award should go to "Birdman" for it's flawless energy and illusion of drama. Any production design or costuming award should go to "The Grand Budapest Hotel". Cinematography belongs to to "Birdman" as well.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: "Interstellar"
This is the one award that goes to films that traditionally are seen by mass audiences, so it is always a weird list. You got "X-Men: Days of Future Past", "Guardians of the Galaxy", "Captain America 2" and "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes", movies that are nowhere near any other award. If the Academy Awards were like the Grammys, this would be our Best Picture field, folks. Don't tell me that the Oscars don't matter.
"Interstellar" is going to win because it is at least vaguely within recognizable Oscar parameters, and also because it was the most visually impressive movie of the past year. Christopher Nolan can't really do people, but he can do spaceships and robots. That was an amazing movie to look at, and deserves this award.
* Which I haven't seen and don't care to.
** Other than a movie that was technically released in 2013, "The Wind Rises".
*** Wait, I still have not reviewed that? Man I suck.