Awards Season is Bullshit (Predictions for Oscar Sunday)

Awards Season is bullshit. Ask Dictionary.com.

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Nonsense, lies, exaggeration. Perfect words to describe the rubbish and slander that get tossed around the film journalism world for a three month stretch every year. It truly is bullshit. This is coming from a cinephile who watches everything and follows the latest happenings throughout the season. I care about movies. So I care about what I feel are the great ones getting their due, whether it’s through box office receipts or golden statues. But I don’t let my opinion of a movie change because it does or doesn’t dominate the awards circuit. This seems like common sense, yet time and time again, we see a movies reputation changed strictly because of the over-analyzation and narrative-forcing that comes with awards season. That is what’s bullshit.

Take Boyhood, for example. Boyhood started the year as “the little indie that could” and this years “small movie no one is talking about that you have to see”. Critics absolutely ate it up. Its Sundance buzz lead to an impressive $44.4 million at the box office. It was tabbed as the Best Picture favorite early in the year. A million articles were written about it. It dominated some early awards and critics lists. People started talking about it because of this.

Boyhood_filmAnd now, Boyhood is seen as “the cliché Best Picture choice” and a “gimmicky-movie they won’t stop talking about”. People, even those who haven’t seen it, are simply tired of hearing about Boyhood. Whether you think Boyhood is amazing or just a melodramatic gimmick -my opinion rests somewhere in the middle- it’s not the films fault that this has become the narrative. I’m pretty damn sure Boyhood is still the same film it was when it came out in July, so why am I reading that it’s something else just because a bunch of unions/guilds have given out some awards? Goddamn unions, you ruin everything.

This is one of the many reasons that distributors who believe they have Oscar-caliber material hold off on releasing it until the fourth-quarter. The fact that The Grand Budapest Hotel was released all the way back in March yet remains in the thick of multiple Oscar races, and the favorite in many, is a testament to the universal love for that movie.

Boyhood is still very much in the thick of a close Best Picture race. It might be the favorite. I don’t know. I’ll get to that in a minute. No more bitching. Here are my final guesses for this Sunday. I’ve seen every movie that figures to factor into the races with the exception of Whiplash (Yes, I’ve actually seen Still Alice).

Not doing Animated, Foreign, Documentary, or Shorts because I haven’t seen enough.

Best Visual Effects

Nominees: InterstellarGuardians of the GalaxyCaptain America: The Winter SoldierDawn of the Planet of the ApesX-Men: Days of Future Past

  • Will Win: Interstellar
  • My personal choice: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
  • Should’ve Been Nominated: Godzilla

Interstellar got a surprising amount of nominations in the technical categories considering the complaints about it, and the Academy loves space, so it’s got to be the favorite here. But perhaps the overall success of Guardians of the Galaxy could push it through here, though this category isn’t very kind to superhero movies.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is also certainly in the hunt and would be my pick due to its groundbreaking motion capture that should’ve been awarded the first time around. Godzilla would’ve been a fun and unique choice.

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Best Sound Mixing

Nominees: American SniperBirdmanUnbrokenWhiplashInterstellar

  • Will Win: American Sniper
  • My personal choice: Birdman
  • Should’ve Been Nominated: Guardians of the Galaxy

Whiplash made a bigger impact overall than most of us expected, and it could get awarded here in a category that is very tough to guess. The mixing in Birdman is one of the many finely-tuned elements that went into making the film work. But I’m going with American Sniper. War movies do well in sound and it has so many nominations that it’s going to have to win somewhere.

Surprising that Interstellar got the nom here because a lot of people, myself included, had serious complaints about the mixing. Much like Birdman, the sound team for Guardians of the Galaxy was in charge of mixing together so many different sounds. I think they deserved a mention.

Best Sound Editing

Nominees: American SniperBirdmanUnbrokenInterstellarThe Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies

  • Will Win: American Sniper
  • My personal choice: American Sniper
  • Should’ve Been Nominated: Godzilla

MV5BMTkxNzI3ODI4Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjkwMjY4MjE@._V1_SX640_SY720_Similar to mixing, it’s really anyone’s guess here, but it’s probably between American Sniper and Birdman. I have a multitude of complaints about the former, but the sound as a whole is not one of them. It’s a deserving winner.

I feel Godzilla was an achievement in sound above all else, would’ve liked to see it pop up somewhere.

Best Original Song

Nominees: “Grateful” (Beyond the Lights)…”Glory” (Selma)…”Everything is Awesome” (The LEGO Movie)…”Lost Stars” (Begin Again)…”I’m Not Gonna Miss You” (Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me)

  • Will Win: “Glory” (Selma)
  • My personal choice: “Glory” (Selma)
  • Should’ve Been Nominated: “Split the Difference” (Boyhood)

“Glory” will surely, and should, win this one on sunday. There’s an outside chance that bitterness from The LEGO Movie missing out in animated feature could spill over, but that’s probably asking too much. Selma fans can at least be happy with this one category.

Best Original Score

Nominees: Hans Zimmer (Interstellar)…Alexandre Desplat (The Imitation Game)…Alexandre Desplat (The Grand Budapest Hotel)…Gary Yershon (Mr. Turner)…Jóhann Jóhannsson (The Theory of Everything)

  • Will Win: Jóhann Jóhannsson (The Theory of Everything)
  • My personal choice: Alexandre Desplat (The Imitation Game)
  • Should’ve Been Nominated: Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross (Gone Girl)

The Theory of Everything won the Globe and appears to be the slight favorite but both of Desplat’s scores, specifically The Grand Budapest Hotel, remain in the hunt. I prefer his work on The Imitation Game as he actually adds more tension to the film than the script does.

Best Production Design

Nominees: InterstellarThe Imitation GameThe Grand Budapest HotelMr. TurnerInto the Woods

  • Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • My personal choice: The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Should’ve Been Nominated: Inherent Vice

The Grand Budapest Hotel will dominate some of these technical categories and this one is probably the safest bet of them all. The hotel, which was more or less created, really does add to the story. I’m glad the Academy recognized Interstellar because there was a lot less CGI than you would think in that movie.

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Best Costume Design

Nominees: Inherent ViceThe Grand Budapest HotelMr. TurnerInto the WoodsMaleficent

  • Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • My personal choice: The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Should’ve Been Nominated: Get On Up

Another pretty safe bet for The Grand Budapest Hotel, which should be in for a huge night overall. Maleficent and Into the Woods seem like the conventional choices but neither of those films did very well with critics which could seriously hurt them in these sorts of categories.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Nominees: FoxcatcherGuardians of the GalaxyThe Grand Budapest Hotel

  • Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • My personal choice: Foxcatcher
  • Should’ve Been Nominated: Snowpiercer

This is an interesting race. I’d bet on The Grand Budapest Hotel due to the overall love for the film but the prosthetic work in Foxcatcher was phenomenal and is being praised. Guardians isn’t out of the hunt either. It did well with precursors and those sorts of movies have won here before.

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Best Cinematography

Nominees: Emmanuel Lubezki (Birdman)…Roger Deakins (Unbroken)…Robert Yeoman (The Grand Budapest Hotel)…Dick Pope (Mr. Turner)…Ryszard Lenczewski (Ida)

  • Will Win: Emmanuel Lubezki (Birdman)
  • My personal choice: Emmanuel Lubezki (Birdman)
  • Should’ve Been Nominated: Bradford Young (Selma or A Most Violent Year)

Emmanuel Lubezki will come into the night as the heavy favorite for his work on Birdman. He won last year for Gravity, and that helps the narrative if anything. Deakins is the biggest name and the overall love for Grand Budapest keeps this somewhat interesting, but it appears to be Lubezki’s to lose. Props to the Academy for a very cool choice with Ida, though I think Bradford Young turned in great work this year on a couple of different films and deserved some recognition.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees: Jason Hall (American Sniper)…Graham Moore (The Imitation Game)…Paul Thomas Anderson (Inherent Vice)…Anthony McCarten (The Theory of Everything)…Damien Chazelle (Whiplash)

  • Will Win: Graham Moore (The Imitation Game)
  • My personal choice: Paul Thomas Anderson (Inherent Vice)
  • Should’ve Been Nominated: James Gunn & Nicole Perlman (Guardians of the Galaxy)

Moore has been the slight favorite here for a while due to The Imitation Game sitting on the blacklist then receiving acclaim, but Whiplash popping up in this category makes it even more interesting as they may want to reward Chazelle here for the film as a whole. American Sniper and The Theory of Everything cannot be counted out either, while Paul Thomas Anderson deserves props for attempting (and pretty much succeeding) to adapt Pynchon. Should be a close race.

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees: Wes Anderson/Hugo Guinness (The Grand Budapest Hotel)…Alejandro G. Iñárritu & Co. (Birdman)…Richard Linklater (Boyhood)…E Max Frye & Dan Futterman (Foxcatcher)…Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler)

  • Will Win: Wes Anderson/Hugo Guinness (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
  • My personal choice: Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler)
  • Should’ve Been Nominated: J.C. Chandor (A Most Violent Year)

2005-4878AndersonWes_IMG_x900This will be an interesting battle between Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel, both films co-written by their directors. I believe the Academy is going to award Wes Anderson here, while Iñárritu will still be in the thick of the director and picture races. Both scripts are very unique and impacted the style with which the films were shot. They could also go with Linklater here for his sheer ambition but I think they’ll look elsewhere for his notice. I highly recommend reading the Nightcrawler script.

Best Film Editing

Nominees: American SniperWhiplashBoyhoodThe Imitation GameThe Grand Budapest Hotel

  • Will Win: Whiplash
  • My personal choice: The Imitation Game 
  • Should’ve Been Nominated: Birdman

Again, Whiplash is the lone film in the best picture race I haven’t seen but people cannot stop talking about its editing. The remaining four are in also in the best picture hunt and in play here. I’d like to see The Imitation Game to get a win here if it falters elsewhere. It was a flawed movie, but it was cut together so sharply.

Also, it’s laughable that Birdman wasn’t nominated here. Just laughable.

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)…Emma Stone (Birdman)…Laura Dern (Wild)…The Imitation Game (Keira Knightley)…Meryl Streep (Into the Woods)

  • Will Win: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
  • My personal choice: Emma Stone (Birdman)
  • Should’ve Been Nominated: Jessica Chastain (A Most Violent Year)

I don’t even think Arquette was anything special in Boyhood, but she’s going to win this award. Laura Dern barely has any screentime in the forgettable Wild, Knightley is charming but doesn’t really do anything in The Imitation Game, and Streep got nominated just because, well, you know. If someone pulls the upset it will be the young Emma Stone, who gives a breakout turn in Birdman.

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Best Supporting Actor

Nominees: Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher)…JK Simmons (Whiplash)…Edward Norton (Birdman)…Robert Duvall (The Judge)…Ethan Hawke (Boyhood)

  • Will Win: JK Simmons (Whiplash)
  • My personal choice: Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher)
  • Should’ve Been Nominated: Josh Brolin (Inherent Vice)

Simmons has had this locked up all year. But let’s not forget the great work of Norton, Ruffalo, and Hawke (all of whom give arguably the best performance in their films). Duvall got a nod of respect with this nomination for the god-awful The Judge. He’s a legend, but his spot should’ve gone to Josh Brolin or Riz Ahmed (Nightcrawler).

Best Actress

Nominees: Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)…Julianne Moore (Still Alice)…Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything)…Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night)…Reese Witherspoon (Wild)

  • Will Win: Julianne Moore (Still Alice)
  • My personal choice: Julianne Moore (Still Alice)
  • Should’ve Been Nominated: Scarlett Johansson (Under the Skin)

Julianne-MooreJulianne Moore is going to win what is essentially a lifetime achievement award. She’s been so far ahead all year that other companies have stopped campaigning their leading ladies. Since we know Moore is going to win, I’d like to take a paragraph to take about her movie, Still Alice.

Still Alice was frustrating to me because of what it could’ve been if it took the necessary risks. It was a well-made film by all means. The performances were great. Moore gives a career victory lap here, but Alec Baldwin does a fine job as her husband and Kristen Stewart continues to turn in impressive non-Twilight work as well. The film is shot with an impending sense of dread manipulated by what’s in focus. It’s a nice touch. But whenever it feels like Still Alice is about to get real powerful and explain the family-wide ramifications of early onset Alzheimer’s disease, it moves on to the next conventional moment in the script. It was perfectly fine as both a character piece and awareness campaign, but it never really lives up to its premise or does anything unique. If not for the performances, this is a Lifetime movie.

But, you know, Julianne Moore.

Also, if you’re into sci-fi you have to see Under the Skin. A unique movie with outstanding effects and a really goddamn good performance from ScarJo.

Best Actor

Nominees: Bradley Cooper (American Sniper)…Michael Keaton (Birdman)…Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)…Steve Carell (Foxcatcher)…Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game)

  • Will Win: Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)
  • My personal choice: Michael Keaton (Birdman)
  • Should’ve Been Nominated: Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler), Oscar Isaac (A Most Violent Year)

This has turned into Keaton vs Redmayne, two guys who both give great but very different turns in heavily-nominated films. Logic and history says Redmayne is the slight favorite due to his SAG and BAFTA win. He’s also playing Stephen Hawking, whereas Keaton is playing a character some are calling pompous and elitist (though I think those people are completely misunderstanding Birdman, for what it’s worth). It’s coin-toss. My heart is with Keaton but my head is with Redmayne. Bradley Cooper is a dark horse for American Sniper.

A really really tough year in this category. Gyllenhaal, Isaac, and David Oyelowo (Selma) all could’ve easily been nominated. Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Tom Hardy (Locke), Matthew McConaughey (Interstellar), Channing Tatum (Foxcatcher), Bill Murray (St. Vincent), Chris Evans (Snowpiercer), Chadwick Boseman (Get On Up), Joaquin Phoenix (Inherent Vice), and Ben Affleck (Gone Girl) all turned in great work that would’ve had a better chance most years.

Best Director:

Nominees: Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game)…Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman)…Richard Linklater (Boyhood)…Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher)…Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

  • Will Win: Richard Linklater (Boyhood)
  • My personal choice: Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman)
  • Should’ve Been Nominated: Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler)

If these final two categories really do come down to Boyhood vs Birdman (which I don’t think they necessarily will), I’m thinking there’s going to a split. Boyhood may have lost some momentum but Linklater’s vision has to be acknowledged by the Academy somewhere, right? Why not here? Iñárritu could easily win, and Wes Anderson has a chance as well. I just feel it’s the right thing to do to award Boyhood either here, in picture, or in screenplay. Given that I don’t have it winning in those latter two categories, this becomes a logical choice.

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It shows how much respect there is for Bennett Miller amongst his peers that he was nominated here despite his film, on the whole, missing out. He’s a great director, and Foxcatcher was a great film.Everyone is looking forward to whatever he does next.

Morten Tyldum, for The Imitation Game, is probably the guy who should’ve been bumped from his group. No matter what your thoughts on the film are, it certainly feels like a conventional project that never gives its director a chance to show off his style. Tyldum may very well be a great filmmaker, but he didn’t show it with The Imitation Game. It would’ve been nice to see that spot go to somebody like Dan Gilroy, who created a thrilling and original gem with Nightcrawler.

Best Picture

Nominees: American SniperThe Theory of EverythingBoyhood...BirdmanThe Imitation GameSelmaWhiplashThe Grand Budapest Hotel

  • Will Win: Birdman
  • My personal choice: Birdman
  • Should’ve Been Nominated: Nightcrawler, Foxcatcher, A Most Violent Year

The general consensus is that this category has come down to Boyhood vs Birdman. Those are the two that have stood out throughout the season, and certainly the two favorites, but I don’t think it’s that simple. In every other category, the Academy members each vote for a winner and whoever gets the most votes wins, it’s that simple. But in Best Picture, it works a little differently. I’ll explain…

  • Every member of the Academy ranks all nominees from first to worst. If a film has 50% of first place votes, it wins. But that hardly ever happens and SURELY won’t happen in a close race this year.
  • If no film has 50%, the film with the LOWEST number of first places votes is eliminated, and it’s votes are re-valued. (Let’s say that Whiplash gets the fewest first place votes, it’s eliminated and the SECOND place movie on all those ballots counts as a first now).
  • This keeps going until one movie gets 50% of the first places votes. In a year like this one, we could very well see FOUR movies “eliminated” before a winner is determined. Crazy.

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I think American Sniper is very much in the race due to its late momentum and gigantic box office haul. It’s the popular choice.

We’ve seen the Weinstein’s pull off bigger upsets than having The Imitation Game win.

The Grand Budapest Hotel could very well be in for the most total wins. It has plenty of support from different branches. It’s in the hunt.

As for Selma, I don’t think the Academy is “racist”, I think there’s a lot more love for the film than the nominations indicate. Selma had the bad luck of having most of its potential nominations landing in very competitive categories this year (Actor, Director, Cinematography, Costume Design, Sound Editing). Worse films than Selma have won best picture.

But, let’s assume it’s Boyhood vs Birdman. Remember, it’s important to think about what nominees will be at the bottom as well, seeing as those are the first that will be eliminated and have their votes altered. Here’s how I rank the films on number of initial 1st place votes I expect them to receive.

  1. Boyhood
  2. Birdman
  3. American Sniper
  4. The Grand Budapest Hotel
  5. Selma
  6. The Imitation Game
  7. The Theory of Everything
  8. Whiplash

After the top two, I feel that the next four are all pretty close (let’s assume The Theory of Everything and Whiplash are the clear bottom two), so I’d consider at them as a whole. The bottom two here are unlikely to have enough 1st place votes to have much of an impact, so I’ll move on to that group of four. Just judging by the films and their target audience, the people who voted for The Grand Budapest Hotel probably went with Birdman next, right? Seem obvious.

Academy_Award_trophyBut what about American Sniper, The Imitation Game, and Selma? You can’t just assume that their supporters are all blue-collar conservatives, british folk, and african-americans…respectively. And even if you were to assume that, would it mean anything? No, it wouldn’t. This is why we’re looking at the most unpredictable best picture race in years. The vegas odds are outrageous. If I was a gambling man, I’d seriously consider jumping on The Grand Budapest Hotel or American Sniper for the reward potential.

Ultimately, I’m going with Birdman because I feel that different branches of the Academy are going to show enough support for it to get to 50% first, specifically technical branches. It may have missed out on the editing nomination (which is a motherfucking unforgivable travesty by the way) but it has, without a doubt, more showy film artistry put into it than Boyhood. As an achievement in sound, in acting, in photography, in visual effects, etc….Birdman triumphs over Boyhood. That’s not a knock on Boyhood, it’s just not that type of film. This race WILL come down to the average industry insider who isn’t necessarily crazy about either film. There are more elements in Birdman for that average insider to get excited about.

Now, seeing as Birdman is my personal favorite film of the year, maybe I’m biased. But given some of the late-season awards it has won, and the Boyhood fatigue, it truly feels like Birdman is in position to win. With that being said, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, or American Sniper take home the top prize. And I wouldn’t write off The Imitation Game or Selma either.

Peace.

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