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87th Annual Academy Awards Poster

87th Annual Academy Awards - Oscar Picks by Reviews by Matthew

Welcome back you guys. This year, I feel, we’ve got some real competition in almost every category. Sure bets are limited, and the ultimate in Academy drama prevails. As tired as I am of hearing about this year’s snubs, even they make their weight felt, the nominees are all fully worthy. Bio pics and eccentric films rule the roost and with such a great collection of films, how’s a man to see his way through it? I mean I only have 2 locks this year and then run into a 50-50 spilt, if I’m lucky, in most other categories. Oh, the inhumanity, the joyous inhumanity, God I love this. Let’s dive in..


Oscars at a glance How many will I get Correct ? Totals - 12 out of 19 picked
Category -m-'s Picks The Oscar goes to
Best Picture – Boyhood Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Best Director – Alejandro G. Inarritu (Birdman) Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance))
Best Actor – Michael Keaton (Birdman) Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)
Best Actress – Julianne Moore (Still Alice) Julianne Moore (Still Alice)
Best Supporting Actor – J.K. Simmons (Whiplash) J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Best Supporting Actress – Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
Best Animated Picture - Big Hero 6 Big Hero 6
Best Screenplany (Original) – The Grand Budapest Hotel Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Best Screenplay (Adapted) – The Theory of Everything The Imitation Game
Best Cinematography – Birdman Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki (Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance))
Best Art Direction – Best Production Design The Grand Budapest Hotel The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Costume Design – The Grand Budapest Hotel The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Makeup – The Grand Budapest Hotel The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Film Editing – Boyhood Whiplash
Best Original Score – The Theory of Everything Alexandre Desplat (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
Best Original Song – Glory (Selma) “Glory” by John Stephens & Lonnie Lynn (Selma)
Best Sound Mixing– Whiplash Whiplash
Best Sound Effects Editing – American Sniper American Sniper
Best Visual Effects – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Interstellar
Best Foreign Language Film - No pick  
Best Documentary (Feature) - No pick  
Best Documentary (Short Subject) – No pick  
Best Short Film (Animation) – No pick  
Best Short Film (Live Action) – No pick  

PICTURE – Eight worthy entries, four of which are bio pics. Interesting, huh? Let’s look at those real life influences first. The sure loser is American Sniper. Look, it’s nowhere near as good, or as impactful, as The Hurt Locker or Saving Private Ryan. Let it stand as the public’s favorite film of the year and the rest of us will just move on. The Imitation Game, the World War II code breaking film has a clear, simple, and powerful message to share. It has a mesmerizing Benedict Cumberbatch as well, but it’s missing a fullness to its story that’ll keep it clear of the podium on February 22. The Theory of Everything on the other hand has such depth, richness, and joy that it’s easily my choice for 2nd place this year; lesser films than this have won the Academy’s top honor.
That brings us to Selma and the inevitable examination of the snub factor. Word on the street is that the film was still in post-production in November and so Academy screeners didn’t get out until late December, significantly hampering it’s opportunities at contention. The other word deals with percentages of aging white males making up the bulk of the Academy voters and their historic voting practices. I don’t write editorials so I’m not about to make any statements other than odds are against Selma to win simply because 12 Years A Slave was a heavy heavy hitter that won the top honor last year. The Academy, regardless of category, is hard pressed to offer two awards in a row. I mean you’re movie has got to be Forrest Gump (referencing Tom Hanks’ consecutive Best Actor honors: Philadelphia followed by Forrest Gump) good to take two in a row and Selma just isn’t that good.
So what of the fiction side of things? Let’s start with Whiplash, the best of the smaller nominated film’s. It’s simply too small to win the big prize. It’s gonna walk with some Oscar recognition, no doubt, but not this category. The Grand Budapest Hotel strikes me as just odd enough to win a Screenplay award, but Best picture? Nope, Wes is the weird one, not the Academy. I thought, for a time, that Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) was a top dog in this race but it’s won so few Best Film awards this season that I can’t commit to it as a leader in this pack. The front runner, and smart bet, for ill or gain has to be Boyhood.

DIRECTOR – From the sublime Bennet Miller and Morten Tyldum to the eccentric Wes Anderson and Alejandro G. Inarritu the best descriptive word for this group has got to be ‘visionary’. And even with all they’ve produced collectively this year, they pale alongside the accomplishment of Richard Linklater. Richard spent a few weeks each year, over the course of 12 full years, filming Boyhood, and turned it into an amazingly watchable narrative that delivers as much as it omits. Some might think it a novelty, but I’ll tell you that it’ll take another 12 years for a different director to prove it so. Meanwhile, Linklater has already paid his time debt; seems only right that he should get to collect on it. However, I’m leaning very hard towards the Academy’s desire to spread the wealth around this year. That means that Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) requires a big award, and Alejandro G. Inarritu is more than deserving.

ACTOR – Firstly, let’s address Steve Carell as John du Pont in Foxcatcher.  The Academy loves a transformative performance and, with this nomination they’re admitting their respect for Carell. It’ll have to do because, this year the Academy has nominated two actors who completely transform themselves and Carell is the darker horse of the two. Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle in American Sniper, while not my favorite of his three Oscar nominated performances, there is a quality to the actor that has earned him a spot in the running, not a win mind you, but a spot. Eddie Redmayne was my favorite as Stephen Hawking in the Theory of Everything, the category’s other transformative performance, until I saw Benedict Cumberbatch crush it out of the park as Alan Turning in The Imitation Game. I can’t pick Cumberbatch over Redmayne simply because the Academy loves Redmayne’s type of performance so much; think Daniel Day Lewis in My Left Foot. The edge however has to go to Michael Keaton and his portrayal of Riggan Thomson in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). Keaton’s edge here is not only attributed to his performance but to the role itself. Struggling with disappearing as an actor, and as a man, from the hearts and minds of the public, Riggan connects with who the Academy members are. In that sense Keaton has a Lost in Translation identification working on his behalf, as well as his own Hollywood history. So how the heck do I choose? Both Cumberbatch and Redmayne will be back, Keaton might not. Congratulations Michael.

ACTRESS – I’ve been holding off on committing to this category because I wanted to be sure. While I loved, loved, loved, Felicity Jones’ performance in The Theory of Everything, I can’t see it surviving against the waste Julianne Moore has lain with Still Alice. Moore is Academy Award devastating this year, and won’t be denied.

SUPPORTING ACTOR – Lock #1: J.K. Simmons in Whiplash. I can’t see Ethan Hawke (Boyhood) or Robert Duvall (The Judge) running as fast a race as Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher) this year; who’d make a great upset winner in my opinion. It’s Edward Norton though who’s as deserving as Simmons this year. His performance as Mike Shiner in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) was simply polarizing; comedic and human in a way this category loves to honor; but this year that ain’t happening.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS – The Oscar goes to: Patricia Arquette for Boyhood simply because she’s swept every other award this year. If there’s to be an upset, I’d look to Laura Dern, but she’s kinda so far back, I wouldn’t hold your breath for it.

ANIMATED FEATURE- What should have been Lock#3: The LEGO Movie is strangely absent. Give it to Big Hero 6 then because I care about the other options even less.

SCREENPLAY ORIGINAL – Grrrr. Both Foxcatcher and Nightcrawler don’t stand a chance against the big three in this category. Of those three, I think that Boyhood is the weakest and so we should move on to the more typical Oscar writing fare. The Screenplay award has long been a place to honor eccentrics who’ve made a splash but haven’t the tenure to be honored in the major categories; think Sophia Coppola and Diablo Cody. Also honored here are writer/directors who’ve made astounding films that the Academy cannot bring themselves to honor with the major awards, think Quentin Tarantino. Both Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) and The Grand Budapest Hotel fit these molds. However Birdman’s writer/director Inarittu, a previous Best Picture and Director nominee for Babel in 2007, has made a film so fine that he must be considered a serious filmmaking contender. Wes Anderson on the other hand, has been nominated 2 previous times in this Screenplay category, never as a director, and The Grand Budapest Hotel is just eccentric enough to be endearing. The Academy will eat it up and comfortably honor Anderson.

SCREENPLAY ADAPTED – A number of arguments could be made for the films in this category but I think that picking the winner is pretty easy. I simply ask myself which film makes the Academy feel good? I don’t think anyone is paying any mind to Inherent Vice and American Sniper really isn’t as impactful as it could have been. The writing categories are really a great way for the Academy to support smaller films, so don’t be surprised if Whiplash pulls a rabbit out of its hat considering this year’s bio-pic heavy category, but don’t expect it. The Imitation Game, for all its historical drama, really boils down to a very clear and pointed message that the Academy can get behind. Yet as powerful and as moving a statement as it may be, the overall film pales alongside the joy, beauty, and strong female presence of this year’s winner, The Theory of Everything.

ART DIRECTION – This year I’ve got a 70-30 split on my pick. I can’t really get behind anything Interstellar has done so if it wins I’ll consider it a successful attack to the blindside that I willingly left undefended. As far as period pieces go, both Mr. Turner and The Imitation Game failed to move me with their environments. Now I know, I know, Into the Woods is full of typical award designs but I just can’t bring myself to vote for it comfortably. It earns the 30 in my split by its very nature and has a legitimate shot at the award, but even I haven’t heard any great responses to the film. Conversely, no one has not, not enjoyed The Grand Budapest Hotel. It’s so watchable and fun that its designs become unforgettable. I can’t see how any Academy member will forget its endearing look and how good they feel just remembering the film when voting time comes.

CINEMATOGRAPHY – I think Mr. Turner and Ida, beautiful as they may be, are the two little films that can’t. Roger Deakins provides some award worthy photography in Unbroken; a film that fails to generate the emotion that ensures Oscar gold. Meanwhile, The Grand Budapest Hotel offers the Wes Anderson standard and therefore stands the second best chance of being rewarded this year; simply for its consistency of quality. With all of that in mind, it’s Emmanuel Lubezki’s camera work in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) that sweeps this award as gracefully as it swept its own film’s environment. (Note: This is the Forrest Gump type of 2nd win I was talking about.)

FILM EDITING – Lock # 2: Can you argue with how effectively Boyhood was shot and assembled? Neither can the Academy.

COSTUME –There’s an argument to be made for all five films in this category. Unfortunately, the research just isn’t in to pick a clear winner. Inherent Vice didn’t really make a splash film-wise so I’m not expecting any love for the 70s style attire either. Maleficent holds a dim shot, but I’m sure it pales when compared to the category’s other fantasy film, Into the Woods. Using the same logic I’m going to dispel Mr. Turner as the period piece pick in favor of the The Grand Budapest Hotel. So I’ve narrowed my pick to two. Look, I can’t see Into the Woods winning here because it’s won no other major awards, that’s not a lock, mind you, but that’s my only rationale. So The Grand Budapest Hotel wins again.

MAKEUP – Picking Guardians of the Galaxy might be too easy. Not that it’s without merit: Glenn Close’s hair, a green Zoe Saldana, and my goodness look at Dave Bautista, but it could easily get lost by the Academy believing these are all visual effects. A barely recognizable Steve Carell is the real reason for Foxcatcher’s nod here and realistically it can’t compare to the eccentricities of The Grand Budapest Hotel. I may lose this one but I’ve got to go with my gut here.

ORIGINAL SCORE – I was really moved by only one score this year and it wasn’t Interstellar. I am little familiar with Gary Yershon and his work on Mr. Turner so if it wins it wins, I wouldn’t have seen it coming. Alexandre Desplat, a favorite of mine, scores his 7th and 8th Oscar nominations respectively this year for The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Imitation Game. I’m counting on him losing both due to a split vote, though that Grand Budapest score has got him some awards attention this year. For me, and the Academy I hope, the Oscar is lulled by the wonderful score Johann Johannsson has produced for The Theory of Everything; it’s as moving a score as it is a film.

ORIGINAL SONG – Grrrr…..! Vexed I am by your foul snubs Academy! Removing “Grateful” from Beyond the Lights, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me, and then “Lost Stars” from Begin Again, we can get down to business. And that business is really who does the Academy need to make up to more. It seems the two biggest snubs of the year affected both Selma and The LEGO Movie These two films just so happen to have found themselves vying for the Original Song Oscar. I think this may be the hardest pick of the night for me and I could go on and on about the merits and/or demerits of both but bottom line, Selma’s “Glory” should not be denied.

SOUND MIXING – Sound mixing is usually an interesting one. It’s not the boom that lands the award, as in the sound editing category, but the overall sense of sound in a film. This year I think that removes the war pictures from the hunt; both American Sniper and Unbroken. The most talked about issue with Interstellar was the sound mixing so why it’s even nominated is beyond me. Leaving us with Birdman which I can’t quite fathom a vote for when you’ve got a film full of music and hard biting dialogue like Whiplash. I see Whiplash as the little film that could, and does, as it walks away with its second very deserving Oscar.

SOUND EDITING – Let’s admit upfront that the Academy is done with hobbits altogether, okay? Those reported ‘sound issues’ should continue to keep the votes from Interstellar, and the Birdman nod, I’m not sure I get. Historically this award goes to the movie with the biggest boom and so let’s look to the only win for Eastwood’s American Sniper.

VISUAL EFFECTS – This year it’s all about those damn, dirty Apes! Now if I lose this to Guardians of the Galaxy I won’t be surprised but I’m thinking that voters are looking past the Marvel juggernaut because they can’t get that Ape on the tank out of their minds. Crossing my fingers, legs, and eyes for this one.


Turn Down The Lights, Turn Up The Sound.

Matthew Gilbert © 1999-2017 All Rights Reserved

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