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There's a great deal to say, but I'm not going to say it tonight.

Prediction - 2015 Oscars


My predictions last year had a not-too-bad hit rate (I picked two thirds correctly), so I’m probably due to be hopeless out of sync this time. I’m also casting my rickety runes a month in advance, and the landscape can change a lot between now and February 22. Who knows what dirty tricks will be unleashed or sudden upsets will allow a previously unsuspected player to become the frontrunner?

Best Picture

Winner: Boyhood
I’d like to win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Only eight Best Picture contenders this year, the lowest since the category was opened up to a maximum of 10 for the 2009 selection. Several of these are de rigueur prestige pictures, of the sort anyone involved who claimed Oscar glory hadn’t even entered their minds would be telling big fat porkies (The Theory of Everything, The Imitation Game, Selma), although one of those (Selma) has profoundly failed to attract attention in other categories (a song nod). That may be because cynical Academy members think they already did their bit for the legacy of the struggle for equal rights last year; that was enough to feel good and liberal for another five years or so. Or it may be because Selma just isn’t that great.

Quality has never been an impediment to Oscar glory of course, and past form would suggest those with a particular chance are the “genius triumphs against adversity” entries; two of the above, Theory and Imitation (although the latter stops short of being a triumphant, it presents Turing as one always destined to have his genius eventually recognised). Neither of these are great films. Biopics very rarely are. Theory is superior to Imitation, but they both fail to sufficiently understand and get inside the subjects that made their protagonists such achievers. Unbroken’s absence is a relief, although probably not for Angelina Jolie. It seems the Academy weren’t persuaded by, even though it’s the stuff Oscar speeches are made of. The truth is both Theory and Imitation are more actor Oscar films that Best Picture Oscar; main award recognition is more of a side effect.

There are more offbeat offerings; Birdman may have a very movie-movie appeal to voters, but I wonder if there may be a minor backlash against it. It’s clever but is it really all that loved (so, like The Player)? That said, it has the most nominations with Grand Budapest Hotel (nine each); sometimes that means something, on others a big hope walks away empty-handed. I’d love Grand Budapest to win, and, if there’s an upset, I could see it as the upsetter, but comedy-tinged fare has had a greater than usual hit rate in recent years (The Artist, Argo) and I’m not sure it’s really in the air. Whiplash, acclaimed from all quarters, is the little picture than can be proud just to make it into the final line-up. It isn’t a serious challenger, though.

American Sniper? Well, critically it’s been contentious. As many have torn apart Eastwood’s handling of the film as have offered it praise and respect (the lack of a director nod is very noticeable). It’s also turned into the biggest hit of all the nominees, and could well be the director’s biggest success ever (as a director). But The Hurt Locker has already taken the Middle East conflict crown in 2008, and I think Sniper would have to be universally acclaimed to be in with a shot (so to speak). It is possible, though, that it succumbs to the Titanic effect; a rapturous public response provokes a sheep-like voting frenzy from Academy members. That, and a disinclination to be labelled unpatriotic. 

Which leaves Boyhood, and right now it would be foolish to bet against it. It took Best Film at the Critics’ Choice Awards (generally an accurate indication of mood) and its been feted as a prime contender since the summer. No one seems to have a bad thing to say about it, which always helps. The Grand Budapest Hotel is my choice; I suspect only Birdman and Boyhood would have a chance of shaking that view (I’ve only seen three of the nominees so far), but they’d have to be pretty extraordinary to topple my favourite film of 2014.

Best Director

Winner: Richard Linklater (Boyhood)
I’d like to win: Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

Linklater is a bit of an unobtrusive auteur; you’d be unlikely to know one of his films instantly. The exact opposite to Anderson, with his careful tableaux and precise framing. I found Grand Budapest a delight visually, but Linklater’s achievement in 12-year movie making is just the kind of thing Oscars like to fawn over. I suspect, however, that a win for Linklater will have very little impact on his career and future choices. He just doesn’t seem that kind of guy.

As for the others, well it’s baffling Morten Tyldum was nominated (less deserving of attention than Theory’s James Marsh, who rightly wasn’t recognised). The lack of a nom for Selma’s Ava DuVernay (black and female, barred from the white boys’ club) has already attracted much comment. Bennett Miller would only stand a chance if his film had been a contender for the top prize; he’s the kind of director who wouldn’t be singled out stylistically, and he isn’t a virtuoso. On the other hand, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s work on Birdman is of the sort one could imagine taking Best Director when Best Picture went to someone else. I don’t think Anderson gets it unless Budapest upsets the Best Picture race, and even then I think Linklater would get rewarded, with Iñárritu in with a distant second place chance.

Best Actor

Winner: Michael Keaton (Birdman)
I’d like to win: Michael Keaton (Birdman)

Keaton’s been a bit of a toast of the awards circuit, and this is really a two-horse race between him and Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of Stephen Hawking. Counting against Redmayne is acute awareness of the disability cliché of winning awards (as satirised in Tropic Thunder), and that Daniel Day Lewis took the podium for a wheelchair role 25 years earlier. Both Redmayne and Keaton grabbed Golden Globes (in Drama and Comedy respectively), so I’m torn over who will get it.

I don’t think this is Bradley Cooper’s year; he’s probably more likely to win in a supporting role at some point (I’m dubious that he’s the sort of guy voters really want to see win). Steve Carrell’s mighty prosthetic nose covering his already mighty genuine nose is unlikely to swing it, while Benedict Cumberbatch may be an awards staple from now on but he won’t win for Turing, not even with all the obvious tics and quirks he employed for the part (The Imitation Game has 8 noms, and I could even see it coming away empty handed, despite the legendary influence of Harvey Weinstein on the Oscars). No Timothy Spall (Turner), David Oyelowo (Selma; I wonder if his pronounced faith counted against his chances) or Ralph Fiennes (too broad and too much fun to be considered worthy) or Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler), although the latter isn’t so much surprising as that Dan Gilroy’s screenplay was noticed (as in, it’s too-caustic for the Academy).

Best Actress

Winner: Julianne Moore (Still Alice)
I’d like to win: Julianne Moore (Still Alice)

No recognition for Jennifer Anniston (Cake), Amy Adams (Big Eyes) or Jessica Chastain  (A Most Violent Year, which was roundly ignored). Julianne Moore will probably get the affliction award this year (which makes Redmayne more unlikely; dual sufferers with gongs would make Oscars look even more predictable than they’re already seen to be), and I’m all for giving her an Oscar irrespective of the film. She’s long overdue. She has a Golden Globe already, making it more bettable.

If Theory of Everything were to do a sweep, Felicity Jones’ outstanding performance might be recognised, but I suspect the view will be that she’s young and has lots of time to win later. Rosamund Pike’s Gone Girl nomination is fun to see, but I don’t think there’s any real likelihood of a result there. Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night) and Reese Witherspoon (Wild) have both won Oscars already, although the former can probably expect to bag a few more in years to come, as she is always riveting to watch.

Best Supporting Actor

Winner: J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
I’d like to win: J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)

Simmons has an R L Ermey-type powerhouse role to get his teeth into, and it pretty much overwhelms the other contenders. It’s nice that Robert Duvall is still hanging in there, but he’s got a Best Actor Oscar and, good as he always is, I’m not convinced he’s getting another here (if he’d been snubbed before, he’d be a shoe-in, however).

It’s nice to see Edward Norton, once widely regarded as the best up-and-coming thesp of his generation, back in the frame (his first Oscar nomination since the ‘90s). Ethan Hawke gets his second Best Supporting Actor nomination (the first was Training Day); I’ve never been his biggest fan, admittedly, but I think Patricia Arquette is the performer from Boyhood more likely to be garlanded. Mark Ruffalo and Edward Norton are the only potential challengers here (and the latter isn’t best loved in the industry, so the rumour goes), but it would go down as an upset if Simmons didn’t get it. I’d be equally happy for Ruffalo, Simmons or Norton to be cut off mid-acceptance speech.

Best Supporting Actress

Winner: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
I’d like to win: Emma Stone (Birdman)

Obviously Meryl Streep’s been nominated, obviously. This time doing a fun turn as a witch. Next year she’ll be nominated for playing a bag lady. At this stage she’s probably going win another couple of times in her career, but it won’t be for Into the Woods. Keira Knightley was fine in The Imitation Game, but not an awards contender. Laura Dern? Very much an outside possibility, and I’m dubious Wild will win owt at all. Emma Stone is possible as the fresh-faced youngster, and she’s a talent to behold; it’s an award that has quite frequently seen a young star recognised in the past, and Birdman is big for luvvie appreciation. But Arquette will take the prize.

Best Original Screenplay

Winner: The Grand Budapest Hotel
I’d like to win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

I guess Boyhood might win for Linklater. If the above categories are pretty much shoe-ins, this is where the possibilities open out a bit.  I suspect The Grand Budapest Hotel will take this over Birdman (which won the Critics’ Choice Best Original Screenplay, and a Golden Globe), simply because Birdman is likely to get an acting award and Budapest would be in danger of getting nothing major otherwise. I’d like to see Nightcrawler surprise everyone simply because Dan Gilroy delivered a giddy, daring script. But that would show the Academy’s ability to go for chancy material, which isn’t likely. I think Foxcatcher, as respected as it is, will probably be crowded out.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Winner: The Imitation Game
I’d like to win: Inherent Vice

This is another category where an otherwise unrecognised film could get a consolation prize.  Inherent Vice and The Theory of Everything seem like outside prospects, while Whiplash’s mis-categorisation as adapted will probably count against it. That leaves American Sniper and The Imitation Game. My feeling is Sniper will make do in the technical categories, and – undeserving as it is – The Imitation Game could find solitary success here.  It’s always possible that Sniper could ride a wave of popular support over the next few weeks and upset the apple cart, but that’s a big if.

Best Animated Feature

Winner: Big Hero 6
I’d like to win: How to Train Your Dragon 2

The biggest talk concerning Oscar snubs, aside from Selma, has centred on the bizarre exclusion of The Lego Movie from this category. How? Why? Since it happens to be the one I’ve seen, unlike the other nominees, I would have been on safe ground picking it. Now it’s out of the race, everyone else sees themselves as having a shot.

Historically, while the nominations have been quire open to leftfield animations, it’s been a crowd-pleaser that has won. Spirited Away and Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit are the only non-US winners historically. That might rule out Song of the Sea and The Tale of Princess Kaguya. How to Train Your Dragon 2 being a sequel may make it less likely (but not at the Golden Globes, and I’m doubtful of a movie called The Boxtrolls winning. That leaves Big Hero 6, the first time a Marvel movie wins a Best Picture Oscar?

Best Foreign Language Film

Winner: Leviathan
I’d like to win: Leviathan

Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida has a holocaust theme, always popular, although some controversy has attached itself to this one. Tangerines is a Georgian film set during the War in Abkhazia, Timbuktu is a Mauritian entry, taking place in the titular country during its occupation by Ansar Dine, and Wild Tales is an Argentine anthology feature, produced by Pedro Alodovar and thematically linked by themes of vengeance and violence. But Russian Leviathan, the Golden Globe winner, is in a battle with Ida at this point. It’s a Job-esque tale of corruption in a small town and the simple man at its centre. It might be interesting to see a Russian film win Best Foreign Language Film Oscar at this point. Is it likely? Well, an Iranian film took the prize in 2012.

Best Documentary – Feature
 
Winner: Virunga

I’d like to win: Virunga


Citizenfour has profile (Edward Snowden), which could favour it, despite it’s fawning maker. Finding Vivian Maier profiles the street photographer who died in 2009. Last Days in Vietnam is self-explanatory. Wim Wenders’ The Salt of the Earth is also about a photographer, Sebastião Salgado, while Virunga focuses on conservation workers in the Congolese national park. This one has seen a partial victory for the campaigners, and I suspect Oscar will want to get behind that. Most likely, it’s going to be tussle with Ed for supremacy.

Best Documentary – Short Subject

Winner: Joanna
I’d like to win: Pass

This is where guesswork is in full effect (like it wasn’t before). Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 is an HBO piece about combat veterans, Joanna a Polish short about a blogger dying of cancer, Our Curse concerns a couple’s whose son has an incurable breathing disorder. The Reaper is about a slaughterhouse worker, while White Earth finds an immigrant mother looking for work in the oil fields of America’s Northern Plains.

Best Live Action Short Film

Winner: Butter Lamp
I’d like to win: Pass

Aya is a 2012(!) is an Israeli tale of mistaken identity, Boogaloo and Graham comes from Northern Ireland and is about chickens and learning the facts of life, Butter Lamp finds a photographer capturing Tibetan nomads against diverse backdrops, Parvaneh concerns an asylum seeker in the Swiss Alps, while The Phone Call has Sally Hawkings working in a call centre and receiving a call from Jim Broadbent’s stranger. 


Best Animated Short

Winner: The Dam Keeper

I’d like to win: The Bigger Picture


Feast is a Disney hand-drawn animation, about a dog that likes junk food, Me and My Moulton is a Canadian affair about a girl with weirdo parents who wants a bike but doesn’t get one, The Bigger Picture concerns caring for an elderly relative, The Dam Keeper has a pig in the future protecting a town from pollution through maintaining a windmill, while A Singe Life finds a woman travelling through her life when she plays a peculiar 45. That’s ridiculous. Who plays 45s any more?

Best Original Score

Winner: Alexandre Desplat (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
I’d like to win: Hans Zimmer (Interstellar)

Alexandre Desplat competes against himself, but the distinctive and upbeat Grand Budapest beats the insistent Imitation Game (this might be a Weinstein campaign victory, however). Desplat, it should be noted, hasn’t yet won an Oscar despite being nominated every year bar 2008 since 2007. It should also be noted that his score for The Monuments Men was raw, rancid tripe. Theory of Everything probably falls into the latter category; very good for what it is but recognisably of a type. That leaves Interstellar, which is my favourite.

Best Original Song

Winner: Glory (Selma)
I’d like to win: Batman’s Song (Untitled Self Portrait - The Lego Movie) Oh, wait, not nominated.

Everything is Awesome might be the Happy of this year’s ceremony (the best known song but not the winner). Lost Stars from Begin Again, sung by Keira is this year’s transparent attempt at Once success, so will probably miss (I admit I like it, though). Grateful from Beyond the Lights is an appalling power ballad. Glen Campbell’s I’m Not Gonna Miss You from Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me could get a sympathy vote given his Alzheimer’s disease, but the song is generic hogwash. Selma song to win, though, so at least Selma gets something. One out of two ain’t bad.

Best Sound Editing

Winner: American Sniper
I’d like to win: Interstellar

Unbroken is unloved, The Hobbit has a solitary nomination and probably won’t make good on it. I think this is between American Sniper and Interstellar, and the latter is looking a bit cold-shouldered. Birdman’s an outsider.

Best Sound Mixing

Winner: American Sniper
I’d like to win: Interstellar

Same as above, although, for a film about percussion, Whiplash might be an obvious choice. Unbroken and Birdman are probably no cigars.


Best Production Design

Winner: The Grand Budapest Hotel
I’d like to win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

I don’t think Imitation Game and Mr Turner are flashy enough to be serious contenders, and Interstellar is too sci-fi. That puts it between Into the Woods and Grand Budapest Hotel.

Best Cinematography

Winner: Birdman
I’d like to win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

This might be where Roger Deakins finally gets his Oscar… but for Unbroken? Ida’s black and white photography has been recognised (black and white photography often is, regardless), while there’s a lot to be said for the virtuosity of Emmanual Lubezki’s work on Birdman. I’d put it between the Grand Budapest Hotel and Birdman (sorry Dick Poop for Mr Turner).

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Winner: The Grand Budapest Hotel
I’d like to win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Guardians of the Galaxy might have the blue paint thing working against it, while Foxcatcher is all in the nose. The work on Tilda Swinton in Grand Budapest is extraordinary, though (and Swinton should have been nominated as Best Supporting Actress to boot).

Best Costume Design

Winner: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Should win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

I suspect Maleficent and Into the Woods will bring up the rear to the The Grand Budapest Hotel. Inherent Vice and Mr Turner probably stand slim chances.

Best Film Editing

Winner: American Sniper
Should win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

I love the editing of Grand Budapest Hotel; it’s masterfully synced with the score. Whiplash might have a chance, but I’m less convinced of Boyhood and The Imitation Game’s chances. That leaves it to American Sniper.

Best Visual Effects

Winner: Guardians of the Galaxy
Should win: Interstellar

A difficult category this. I think Captain America and X-Men can probably be ruled out, and I have a feeling Interstellar’s more practical approach will be spurned. So it’s between Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Guardians of the Galaxy. If Rise was ignored, then Dawn might be too. Also Guardians was hugely popular, so they’ll probably want to throw it a bone.

Wins


Boyhood – 3

The Grand Budapest Hotel – 5
American Sniper – 3
Birdman – 2
The Imitation Game – 1
Still Alice - 1
Whiplash – 1
Guardians of the Galaxy – 1
Big Hero 6 – 1
Selma – 1

Leviathan - 1

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