Predicting this year’s Oscar races
What a weird awards season it’s been. Oscar voters have traditionally short memories, but the usual last-minute glut of Christmas Day Hollywood releases didn’t quite pan out this year.
“Unbroken,” “Big Eyes,” “Into the Woods” and “The Gambler” were all intended to be part of the Oscar conversation. Instead, the big three with all the buzz now — “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “Boyhood” and “Birdman” — are indie films that were released back in March, July and October, respectively. Meanwhile, the late-breaking $285 million box-office bonanza of Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” makes that polarizing movie a different kind of champion.
I’m hosting my annual Oscar Party in Kansas City at Screenland Crossroads to celebrate the big night at 6 p.m. next Sunday, Feb. 22, and Liberty Hall is having one at 7 p.m. as well. Both parties have ballot competitions to see who can pick the most winners correctly, with awesome movie-related prizes on the line.
In the spirit of transparency, here’s who and what I’m picking to take home this year’s Oscars and why:
Arguably the biggest snub of the year was in the animated branch when the Academy didn’t even nominate the wildly entertaining “The Lego Movie” — thought by many to be the frontrunner — in this category. Voters probably looked at the film as one big advertisement, but conveniently forgot that it’s also about the dangers of conformity and how generations approach creativity differently. Its nearest competitor is now cleared for an easy win.
Will win: “How To Train Your Dragon 2”
Should win but can’t: “The Lego Movie”
This is the one category besides best picture where the “big three” go head to head. Traditionally, the screenplay awards are where Oscar gets risky, rewarding cutting-edge scripts and auteurs, such as Spike Jonze who won for last year’s “Her.” This gives Wes Anderson, previously nominated for writing “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “Moonrise Kingdom,” the edge.
Ironically “Boyhood” and “Birdman” are also auteur-driven movies, but their real battle will be in the best picture and director categories. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” will also win production design, costume design, and hair and makeup, making it one of the bigger winners of the night.
Will win: Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Should win: Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
The true low-budget indie (and the most deserving) here is Damien Chazelle’s riveting “Whiplash” screenplay, so if we’re holding true to the cutting-edge idea, it’s the winner.
Unfortunately, this multilayered drama is up against the two Brit period pieces (“The Theory of Everything” and “The Imitation Game”) and the juggernaut of “American Sniper.” Since “Sniper” will likely win both sound categories, and the other two films will rack up wins in other major categories, I’m guessing the Academy will vote to spread the love around.
Will win: “The Imitation Game”
Should win: “Whiplash”
Supporting actress and supporting actor
The movie awards season is a solid three seemingly never-ending months of heavy campaigning to influence critics groups, guilds and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (which hosts the Golden Globes).
By the time voters in the Academy look at their ballots, some categories aren’t even in question anymore. That’s the case here. Two actors who have been winning everything all season long will receive Oscars for their amazing work in two of the year’s best films, and no one will be disappointed at how easy this was to call.
Will win: Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood,” and J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”
Should win: Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood,” and J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”
Marion Cotillard’s subtle and heartbreaking work in the Belgian film “Two Days, One Night” was the surprise nominee here. But she and Reese Witherspoon, whose fierce spirit carried “Wild,” are both previous Oscar winners.
Julianne Moore, nominated four times before, has never won. The Academy likes to reward careers, so Moore has an opportunity on that point alone, but she also turned in a poignant and powerful performance as a woman with Alzheimer’s in “Still Alice,” so this year, it will be impossible to deny one of Hollywood’s most consistent actresses.
Will win: Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”
Should win: Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”
For this category, I look to the awards season precedents.
For his schizophrenic lead performance in “Birdman,” Michael Keaton won two Critic’s Choice Awards, the National Board of Review, and the Golden Globe for best comedic actor. Meanwhile, Eddie Redmayne (who played ALS-afflicted theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking) won the Golden Globe for dramatic acting, the Screen Actors Guild Award, and the BAFTA. This is a tough one to call, but since the Oscars like characters that overcome disabilities, and since actors make up the biggest voting branch of the Academy, the slight edge goes to …
Will win: Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything”
Should win: Michael Keaton, “Birdman”
With Wes Anderson picking up his screenplay award, this is essentially a two-horse race.
Richard Linklater has virtually swept the awards season for pulling off the monumental task of writing and filming an aching coming-of-age movie over 12 years.
But “Birdman” director Alejandro González Iñárritu pulled a shocking upset over Linklater at the Directors Guild Awards just last week. Both films are visionary achievements, but Iñárritu’s is mostly because he pulled off filming “Birdman” in extra-long, uncut takes. That will be rewarded in the cinematography category, so I’m sticking with Linklater here, even though Iñárritu is the current favorite.
Will win: Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”
Should win: Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”
Well, the biggest award of the night is another nail-biter between “Boyhood” and “Birdman.”
The story here mirrors the directors’ story, with “Birdman” stealing a last-minute best picture Producers Guild Award from perennial frontrunner “Boyhood.” The difference that will push one to victory, however, comes down to the actors.
“Birdman” won the Screen Actors Guild Ensemble award, which is that show’s best picture equivalent. It’s also a bigger, louder movie, and Oscar rarely gives its best picture designation to slow, subtle movies that avoid Hollywood histrionics like “Boyhood.” For those reasons, I’m predicting the third best picture/best director split in a row.
Will win: “Birdman”
Should win: “Boyhood”
Best visual effects
Will win: “Interstellar”
Should win: “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”
Should and will win: “Ida”
Should and will win: “Citizenfour”
Music — original score
Will win: “The Theory of Everything”
Should win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Music — original song
Will win: “Glory,” from “Selma”
Should win: “Everything is Awesome,” from “The Lego Movie”
Will win: “Boyhood”
Should win: “Whiplash”
Best production design and costume design
Should and will win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Makeup and hairstyling
Will win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Should win: “Guardians of the Galaxy”
Will win: “American Sniper”
Should win: “Interstellar”
Will win: “American Sniper”
Should win: “Whiplash”
Should and will win: “Birdman”
— Eric Melin is the editor-in-chief of Scene-Stealers. He’s a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and vice president of the Kansas City Film Critics Circle.