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Calling The Oscars

Saturday, 21 February, 2015

After nominations for the Academy Awards were announced on January 15th – and the annual accusations of sexism, racism, xenophobia – the field actually looks, well, pretty good. Despite some snubs, the batch of films considered have won a lot of love away from the incestuous pit of opulence that we think of as Hollywood.

American Sniper has earned almost as much as every other film put together and continues to divide audiences, Boyhood (aka ’12 Years a White Guy’) is inarguably a film unlike any other and Birdman has style to burn. The dynamics certainly suggest that this is the toughest field to pick, with professional Oscar pundits (yes, some people make a living just following the Oscars every year) splitting their predictions in more categories than usual.

One thing you can guarantee will attract complaints, however, is Neil Patrick Harris. Despite being dashing and talented, he could give out money and cars and there’d still be tweets about how much better Amy Poheler and Tina Fey were hosting the Golden Globes.

Best Picture

Only going with eight contenders from a possible ten, this is essentially a tight two-horse race between Boyhood and Birdman. Both have done well in the awards rounds (as has The Theory of Everything). Most critics favour Boyhood, but it’s far from a lock. There hasn’t been this much uncertainty around a Best Picture race in years.

American Sniper, Clint Eastwood

Boyhood, Richard Linklater

Birdman, Alejandro González Iñárritu

The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson

The Imitation Game, Morten Tyldum

Selma, Ava DuVernay

The Theory of Everything, James Marsh

Whiplash, Damien Chazelle

Will Win:Boyhood

Could Win:Birdman

Should Be Here:Nightcrawler and Gone Girl

Best Director

Until recent years, Director fell with Best Editing and Picture winners, but not any more. So much love has fallen Birdman’s way that the Academy is likely to reward it somewhere, and Iñárritu has a lot of love in the (big) actor’s guild. Linklater’s achievement is remarkable though, and a very tough call. I’m arguing that Birdman’s marvels are technically obvious and it’s the sort of thing that’s hard to deny, despite whether these tricks and marvels actually serve the story or not. In a close race I see the Director/Picture split to reward each of the favourites, and as amazing as Linklater’s achievement is, it doesn’t stun in the way Birdman does.

Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman

Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher

Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Morten Tydlum, The Imitation Game

Will Win: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Could Win: Richard Linklater

Should Be Here: Ava DuVernay

Best Actor

While it’s not Keaton’s ‘time’ in the way it was Jeff Bridges’ a few years ago, the preceding festivals have honoured him as if it’s his wake. An award seem a fitting end to this season. He’s in a very close race with Eddie Redmayne who has been getting huge raves, won the Screen Actors Guild and BAFTA awards (which historically predicts that the Oscar is his) and many prognosticators have him down as the likely winner, but I see his youth as a disadvantage here. It’s a tough one to choose, and it’s grown tougher over the last few weeks as people point to his farcically bizarre turn in the expensive and ambitious sci-fi flop Jupiter Ascending as counting against him. He’s played the award circuit beautifully (he even had time to get married) so it certainly seems like a fairytale time for him. Sometimes two favourites can split votes, which some are predicting is happening here, and Bradley Cooper is also emerging as a serious contender, so this is a real nailbiter.

Steve Carell, Foxcatcher

Bradley Cooper, American Sniper

Benedict Cumberbatch, TheImitation Game

Michael Keaton, Birdman

Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Will Win: Michael Keaton

Could Win: Eddie Redmayne

Should Be Here: Jake Gyllenhaal

Best Actress

Julianne Moore, on the other hand, is someone whose ‘time’ it most definitely is. She’s guaranteed Best Actress for a challenging role that no one has a bad thing to say about. Felicity Jones put in an extraordinary performance that has been feted everywhere too, but Oscar loves acknowledging a career as much as a role.

Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night

Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything

Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon, Wild

Will Win: Julianne Moore

Could Win: Felicity Jones

Should Be Here: Scarlett Johansson

Best Supporting Actor

It would be very surprising for anyone other than JK Simmons to take this one. He’s won everything going since last year’s Sundance Festival in the lead up to Oscar night and this one is his.

Robert Duvall, The Judge

Ethan Hawke, Boyhood

Edward Norton, Birdman

Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Will Win: J.K. Simmons

Could Win: Edward Norton

Should Be Here: Riz Ahmed

Best Supporting Actress 

One of the night’s surest bets, Arquette has been a frontrunner in this category for at least six months. Her nearest competition, a fiery and bug-eyed Emma Stone, could surprise as Christoph Waltz did for Inglourious Basterds in 2009, but she’s a long shot and she’ll have further chances.

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Laura Dern, Wild

Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game

Emma Stone, Birdman

Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

Will Win: Patricia Arquette

Could Win: Emma Stone

Should Be Here: Jessica Chastain

Best Editing

Editing down 12 years of footage seems like the sort of achievement that sticks in the mind and it’s likely to be rewarded here. Boyhood is, of course, quite unusual in that regard, but the brilliant work done on Whiplash could easily slip in – the last ten minutes of that film are a masterclass in building tension.

Joel Cox and Gary D Roach, American Sniper

Sandra Adair, Boyhood

Barney Pilling, The Grand Budapest Hotel

William Goldenberg, The Imitation Game

Tom Cross, Whiplash

Will Win: Sandra Adair

Could Win: Joel Cox and Gary D Roach

Should Be Here: Mathilde Bonnefoy, Citizenfour

Best Original Screenplay

Another very close race, The Grand Budapest Hotel is seen as the favourite, and a major category win for Wes Anderson would be well deserved for a film that no one seems to dislike. That said, a win for Birdman wouldn’t be a surprise.

Birdman, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. and Armando Bo

Boyhood, Richard Linklater

Foxcatcher, E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman

The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson; Story by Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness

Nightcrawler, Dan Gilroy

Will Win:The Grand Budapest Hotel

Could Win:Birdman

Should Be Here:Selma, Paul Webb

Best Adapted Screenplay

The best chance for a win for The Imitation Game lies here, and it would be harsh for the film to go home with nothing. Inherent Vice is just too oddball to get enough votes, and though Whiplash is beloved, it will likely be seen as ‘too indie’ by enough of the Academy. It will be interesting to see if the members of the Academy have been receptive to Harvey Weinstein’s ‘a vote for The Imitation Game is a vote for Alan Turing’ campaign.

American Sniper, Jason Hall

The Imitation Game, Graham Moore

Inherent Vice, Paul Thomas Anderson

The Theory of Everything, Anthony McCarten

Whiplash, Damien Chazelle

Will Win:The Imitation Game

Could Win:Whiplash

Should Be Here:GoneGirl, Gillian Flynn

Best Cinematography

A stunning tour de force of artistry and orchestration, Lubezki was once the eternal nominee until last year’s win with Gravity and he’s likely to take home this year’s too. Few in the industry would begrudge him this despite the field. Deakins is well overdue for his, but he’ll likely have to wait.

Birdman, Emmanuel Lubezki

The Grand Budapest Hotel, Robert Yeoman

Ida, Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski

Mr. Turner, Dick Pope

Unbroken, Roger Deakins

Will Win:Birdman

Could Win:Unbroken

Should Be Here:Under The Skin, Daniel Landin

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

In a gesture that will seem to say ‘look, we don’t just reward famous people who look like someone else’, The Grand Budapest Hotel will likely beat Foxcatcher here. By a nose.

Foxcatcher

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Guardians of the Galaxy

Will Win:TheGrandBudapestHotel

Could Win:Foxcatcher

Should Be Here:IntotheWoods

Best Costume Design

The Academy, and, in fact most of us, love a strong Costume contender that you can sum up in a eye-catching frame, and The Grand Budapest Hotel is full of eye-catching frames. It will likely win big and win here.

The Grand Budapest Hotel, Milena Canonero

Inherent Vice, Mark Bridges

Into the Woods, Colleen Atwood

Maleficent, Anna B. Sheppard and Jane Clive

Mr. Turner, Jacqueline Durran

Will Win:The Grand Budapest Hotel

Could Win:Into the Woods

Should Be Here:A Most Violent Year

Best Production Design

It’s hard to miss the work that went into The Grand Budapest Hotel and you can expect it to be deservedly rewarded here.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Interstellar

Into the Woods

Mr. Turner

Will Win:The Grand Budapest Hotel

Could Win:Mr. Turner

Should Be Here: Selma

Best Original Score

Good Lord, Alexandre Desplat – give someone else a turn. His seventh and eighth nominations come this year, and it could be the year he finally wins. Both of his scores here are strong. Jóhannsson has already won the Golden Globe, and I’m picking him.

TheGrandBudapestHotel, Alexandre Desplat

TheImitationGame, Alexandre Desplat

Interstellar, Hans Zimmer

Mr.Turner, Gary Yershon

TheTheoryofEverything, Jóhann Jóhannsson

Will Win:TheTheoryofEverything

Could Win:TheGrandBudapestHotel

Should Be Here:UnderTheSkin

Best Original Song

This is likely to be the ‘moment’ we can acknowledge the staggering injustices inflicted upon African Americans by old white American men, and the infinitely more trivial injustices perpetrated by old white men of the Academy. With said old white men overlooking Ava DuVernay for Best Director and David Oyolowo for Best Actor for their brilliant turns in Selma, we will have to make do with a nod to a song by John Legend an Common. The song is fine, and it does contain an overt reference to Ferguson riots early on which will jar beautifully when they perform it, but I’m sure a bunch of people will be disappointed ‘Everything is Awesome’ won’t take it.

‘Everything Is Awesome’ from TheLEGOMovie; Music and Lyric by Shawn Patterson

‘Glory’ from Selma; Music and Lyric by John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn

‘Grateful’ from BeyondtheLights; Music and Lyric by Diane Warren

‘I’m Not Gonna Miss You’ from GlenCampbell…I’llBeMe; Music and Lyric by Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond

‘Lost Stars’ from BeginAgain; Music and Lyric by Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois

Will Win: ‘Glory’

Could Win: ‘Everything Is Awesome’

Should Be Here: ‘Spooks’ from InherentVice

Best Sound Editing

The push to acknowledge American Sniper will likely find love here, though Birdman is likely to be the film that wins more awards, albeit in less prestigious categories, in its race against Boyhood and this is one of those less prestigious categories in which it’s likely to pick up a nod.

American Sniper

Birdman

Interstellar

Unbroken

Whiplash

Will Win:AmericanSniper

Could Win:Birdman

Should Be Here:UndertheSkin

Best Sound Mixing

Never an easy category to predict, the divisive American Sniper could pick this up, as there is a long history of war movies being rewarded here, though Birdman made a strong case for winning this with its overt layering of sound.

American Sniper

Birdman

Interstellar

Unbroken

Whiplash

Will Win:AmericanSniper

Could Win:Birdman

Should Be Here:Fury

Best Visual Effects

At last, a list of films that actually got shown in cinemas. Tough to predict the Academy hivemind here. Interstellar for all its vaulting ambition may be rewarded here, though they do love throwing a bone to blockbusters here and Apes or Guardians could easily nab it. One of the few Australians in this years field turns up as part of the team nominated for X-Men: Days of Future Past – Adelaide’s Tim Crosbie.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Guardians of the Galaxy

Interstellar

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Will Win:Interstellar

Could Win:DawnofthePlanetoftheApes

Should Be Here:TheLEGOMovie

Best Foreign Film

Best Foreign Film, despite its idiosyncratic selection procedure, accusations of bias and snubs so egregious that the award has become almost irrelevant to the prospects of the winner, has turned out a batch of very watchable films this year. Ida, with its surprise nomination in Cinematography, is the favourite, though a strong campaign for Argentina’s WildTales could see this sneak in for the upset.

Ida (Poland)

Leviathan (Russia)

Tangerines (Georgia)

Timbuktu (Mali)

Wild Tales (Argentina)

Will Win:Ida

Could Win:Wild Tales

Should Be Here:Force Majeure

Best Animated Film

Cries of ‘OMG, where is The LEGO Movie?’ are still finding their way into throats of people across America as office parties assemble to fill out their Oscars pools, and it is one of the most notable surprises in the field. Big Hero 6 has been adored by almost everyone who’s seen it (with a lot of adults admitting to tearing up), but How To Train Your Dragon 2, a step up on the massively successful and beloved original, is the favourite.

Big Hero 6

The Boxtrolls

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Song of the Sea

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Will Win: How to Train Your Dragon 2

Could Win:The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Should Be Here:The LEGO Movie

Best Documentary Feature

As I have written elsewhere, Citizenfour is one of the more exciting documentary films to have been released in the last few years. It’s beautifully assembled and compellingly told, and doesn’t come with an agenda to push. It’s also the most hyped, the most awarded and most seen of the batch.

Citizenfour

Finding Vivian Maier

Last Days in Vietnam

Virunga

The Salt of the Earth

Will Win:Citizenfour

Could Win:Virunga

Should Be Here: The Case Against 8