Friday, February 20, 2015

Calling the Oscars 22/02/2015

After the nominations were announced on January 15th, and the annual accusations of sexism, racism, xenophobia the field actually looks, well, pretty good. Well, a nerdy white guy (Wes Anderson) is doing surprisingly well, and everyone black will have to settle for being acknowledged with Best Original Song, but that aside, the batch of films being considered is actually very strong. Despite some snubs they’ve won a lot of love away from the incestuous pit of opulence that we think of as Hollywood. 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.

American Sniper has earned more than every other film put together and continues to divide audiences. Boyhood (aka '12 Years a White Guy') is inarguably a wonderful piece of filmmaking and a film unlike any other and Birdman has style to burn.

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'll 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 in. 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 Editor and Picture winners, but not any more. So much love has fallen Birdman’s way 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 "Birdman"
Could Win: Richard Linklater "Boyhood"
Should Be Here: Ava DuVernay, "Selma"

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 award (which historically predicts that the Oscar is his) and many prognosticators have him down as the likely winner, but I see his youth is 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, "The Imitation Game"
Michael Keaton, "Birdman"
Eddie Redmayne, "The Theory of Everything"

Will Win: Eddie Redmayne, "The Theory of Everything"
Could Win: Michael Keaton, "Birdman"
Should Be Here: Jake Gyllenhaal, "Nightcrawler"

Best Actress
Julianne Moore, on the other hand, is someone whose “time” it most definitely is. She’s a lock in for 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, "Still Alice"
Could Win: Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything”
Should Be Here: Scarlett Johansson, "Under The Skin"

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, "Whiplash"
Could Win: Edward Norton, "Birdman"
Should Be Here: Riz Ahmed, “Nightcrawler”

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 “Inglorious Basterds” in 2009, but she’s a long shot and she’ll have further chances. If they use the clip from “Boyhood” where Arquette is sending her son off to college, she’s a lock in.

Patricia Arquette, "Boyhood"
Laura Dern, "Wild"
Keira Knightley, "The Imitation Game"
Emma Stone, "Birdman"
Meryl Streep, "Into the Woods"

Will Win: Patricia Arquette, "Boyhood"
Could Win: Emma Stone, "Birdman"
Should Be Here: Jessica Chastain, "A Most Violent Year"

Best Editing
Editing down 12 years of footage seems like the sort of achievement that sticks in the mind and it’s arguable it could be rewarded here. However, the last-minute love for "American Sniper" with its tension-building cuts and fine action scenes is likely to find some love below the line, and I think here (and in the sound categories) are its best chance. “Whiplash” could easily slip in – the last ten minutes of that film are also a masterclass in building tension, but most of the love for that film come form the under-4o contingent in the Academy, and they haven't quite got the numbers.

"American Sniper"
"The Grand Budapest Hotel"
"The Imitation Game"

Will Win: "American Sniper"
Could Win: "Whiplash"
Should Be Here: "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 dislikes. A win for “Birdman” wouldn’t be a surprise and it could easily trump its main competitor and "The Grand Budapest Hotel".

"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"

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 who all will have been exposed 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: "Gone Girl"

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 a near lock-in 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, probably for 2017’s Oscars where he will likely be nominated for the Coen Brothers’ “Hail, Caesar!”

"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" or "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Should Be Here: "Under The Skin"

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.

"The Grand Budapest Hotel"
“Guardians of the Galaxy”

Will Win: "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Could Win: "Foxcatcher"
Should Be Here: "Into the Woods"

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"
"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. Those both his scores are strong, people seem to remember “The Theory of Everything”’s score more easily. Jóhannsson has already won the Golden Globe, and I’m picking him. Expect to see RMIT graduate Ben Frost here in the next few years.

"The Grand Budapest Hotel," Alexandre Desplat
"The Imitation Game," Alexandre Desplat
"Interstellar," Hans Zimmer
"Mr. Turner," Gary Yershon
"The Theory of Everything," Jóhann Jóhannsson

Will Win: "The Theory of Everything"
Could Win: "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Should Be Here: "Under The Skin"

Best Original Song
This is likely to be the ‘moment’ we can acknowledge the staggering injustices perpetrated on African Americans by old white American men, and the infinitely more trivial injustices perpetrated by old white men of the Academy. Overlooking Ava DuVernay for Best Director and David Oyolowo for Best Actor for their brilliant turns in the story of Martin Luther King and the march from Selma to Montgomery to demand voting rights 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 "The Lego Movie"; Music and Lyric by Shawn Patterson
"Glory" from "Selma"; Music and Lyric by John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn
"Grateful" from "Beyond the Lights"; Music and Lyric by Diane Warren
"I’m Not Gonna Miss You" from "Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me"; Music and Lyric by Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond
"Lost Stars" from "Begin Again"; Music and Lyric by Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois

Will Win: "Glory"
Could Win: "Everything Is Awesome"
Should Be Here: "Spooks" from Inherent Vice

Best Sound Editing
The push to acknowledge “American Sniper” will likely find love here, though “Birdman” is likely to be the (’it won more though it didn’t win the most coveted categories’) in its race against “Boyhood” and this is a category where it’s likely to pick up a nod.

“American Sniper”

Will Win: "American Sniper"
Could Win: "Birdman"
Should Be Here: "Under the Skin”

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”

Will Win: "American Sniper"
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”, go Adelaide’s Tim Crosbie!

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”
“Guardians of the Galaxy”
“X-Men: Days of Future Past”

Will Win: "Interstellar"
Could Win: "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes"
Should Be Here: "The LEGO Movie”

Best Foreign Film
Best Foreign Film, for 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 “Wild Tales” 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. Personally, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, a stunning hand-drawn tale, is a film to watch if you haven’t already.

"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 wrote 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 and is a virtual lock in for the win.

"Finding Vivian Maier"
"Last Days in Vietnam"
"The Salt of the Earth"

Will Win: "Citizenfour"
Could Win: "Virunga"
Should Be Here: "The Case Against 8"

Short Film – Animated
“Feast” benefits from having played before ‘Big Hero 6’ so is the likely winner here, though all of these are worthy, if heavy on the cute side.

“The Bigger Picture”
“The Damn Keeper”
“Me and My Moulton”
“A Single Life”

Short Film – Documentary
Having not seen all of these, the film about old white men, “Crisis Hotline”, seems like the safest bet for a group of voters whose demographics are so well known. Having said that, the short film categories are voted on by a much smaller group of people, those who watch all nominees, so we’re talking about a group of old white men with time on their hands, which makes “Crisis Hotline” seem an ever safer bet.

“Crisis Hotline” Veterans Press 1”
“Our Curse”
“The Reaper (La Parka)”
“White Earth”

Short Film – Live Action
“Boogaloo and Graham” is the safest pick here from a very diverse group, though “Aya” is the most cinematic.

“Boogaloo and Graham”
“Butter Lamp (La Lampe au Beurre de Yak)”
“The Phone Call”

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