Oscars 2015: Who Should Win and Who Will Win

The Oscars are upon us. Below are my picks of who I believe should win the major awards and my prediction on who I believe will actually win the major awards. Some of the categories that I find most interesting are accompanied by a few words that serve as my argument for that particular pick.

The 87th Annual Academy Awards airs live Sunday, February 22nd, 2015, at 8:30pm ET on ABC, with the live Red Carpet arrivals starting at 7pm ET/4pm PT.

Best Picture:

– American Sniper
– Birdman
– Boyhood
– The Grand Budapest Hotel
– The Imitation Game
– Selma
– Theory of Everything
– Whiplash

Should Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson’s beautifully constructed film harkens back to the old days of Hollywood when fantastical narratives were a norm. Academy voters may have a weak spot for this particular film because it has an immense propensity for nostalgia (maybe its 9 nominations, which is the most this year, is its ultimate prize). Anderson’s film is sheer fun (when’s the last time a comedy won for Best Picture? Annie Hall?), wildly inventive and immediately distinguishes itself from the other nominees with its kaleidoscopic aesthetics and multiple flashback-within-flashback narrative. Here is a film that was released last February and still has surrounding it massive amounts of accolades. Crash (2005) and Silence of the Lambs (1991) are two films that The Grand Budapest would love to emulate because both Crash and Lambs won the Best Picture Oscar. But two films in almost 25 years may not be a solid indicator for Budapest.

Will Win: Birdman
It has been a tremendous rollercoaster year when looking at the Best Picture race. When Boyhood arrived last year in Sundance to glowing reviews (which continued throughout its release, scoring an astounding 100 on Metacritic), pundits unconsciously penciled it in for Best Picture nominee. When awards season started and critic’s top-ten lists began coming out, Boyhood was the unanimous favorite. The last month or so has witnessed the descent of that film, causing people to question whether or not it peaked too soon and unable to maintain its prestige amongst voters. Undoubtedly voter fatigue can set in and this is what Birdman needed. Not only is that film a glorious achievement rife with several topics ripe for discussion, but it manages to move past its “gimmick” premise and stand on its own, something Boyhood is unable to do. Birdman received critical acclaim for its ability to tell an entire story in one single take. Boyhood’s “gimmick” is that it was filmed in real time over 12 years, charting each of its characters’ progressions, growths, and downfalls. As a standalone film it suffers from a mundane narrative and cardboard characters, which is the complete opposite of what can be said regarding Birdman. If the Oscar for Best Picture goes to Boyhood, it will be for the grand achievement of filming and capturing life and time. Birdman, with its meteoric rise the last few weeks, seems like the winner in this category.

Best Director:

– Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel
– Alejandro G. Inarritu for Birdman
– Richard Linklater for Boyhood
– Bennett Miller for Foxcatcher
– Morten Tydlem for The Imitation Game

Should Win/Will Win: Richard Linklater
There hasn’t been a more ambitious project in recent cinema that comes close to Linklater’s passion project Boyhood. Some may be able to make a case for Inarritu’s work in Birdman or Anderson’s work in Budapest. Inarritu has the best shot to surprise at the Oscars. His ability to construct a fantasy-like narrative within reality is a truly remarkable feat. Also, the fact the he has dismissed his penchant for making despairing movies usually filmed in a different language is more evidence that Inarritu isn’t a director stuck in a particular genre. Obsessed with the logic of time and relationships, Linklater explored such themes in his Before trilogy. As big an achievement as that was, Boyhood towers over it, creating a gargantuan landmark that will be hard to eclipse for aspiring directors in the near and distant future. The ambition that Linklater demonstrates is unmatched as he stuck to his idea of filming life and the same actors for 12 years. To think of the things that could possible upend this project, it’s amazing how it all fell into place. Filming about 40 or so days per year, Linklater has captured the aspect of time, and that has rarely been done in cinema before. For that triumph alone, the Oscar belongs to him.

Best Actor:

– Steve Carell in Foxcatcher
– Bradley Cooper in American Sniper
– Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game
– Michael Keaton in Birdman
– Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything

Should Win: Michael Keaton
Here is another example of early hype giving way to voter fatigue. Michael Keaton has won the bulk of the awards for Best Actor this year. His portrait of an artist suffering the pangs of existential and creative crisis truly cuts deep, making those who watch Birdman sympathize with his character. Keaton showcases acting chops that far surpass any of his previous work. In Birdman he is able to depict, with such acuteness, a man’s inability to face reality. The fact that Keaton, unlike his competition, has absolutely nothing to refer to when depicting his character makes his performance all the more miraculous. Carell, Cooper, Cumberbatch, and Redmayne all portray real-life individuals. You can look at that fact as being either positive or negative. But what Keaton has to do is bring a non-existent character to life, and he succeeds tremendously, fashioning an individual who leaves an indelible mark on us all.

Will Win: Eddie Redmayne
Oscar voters are attracted to actors portraying real-life individuals. In the 2000s, nine of the best actor winners did just that. The last two years saw Matthew McConaughey and Daniel Day-Lewis take home the top prize. Those two respectively deserved their award, but to say that about Redmayne would be to dismiss Keaton and Cooper, both of whom could easily have won if they weren’t running against each other. The Theory of Everything isn’t a special movie. It seems like it exists simply to have Redmayne portray Stephen Hawking. Academy voters will undoubtedly find joy in this movie, but more so in the performance, which is a safe one meant to emotionally impact the audience.

Best Actress:

– Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night
– Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything
– Julianne Moore in Still Alice
– Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl
– Reese Witherspoon in Wild

Should Win/Will Win: Julianne Moore
This is a runaway category. The only threat to Julianne Moore’s layered performance is Marion Cotillard in a foreign language film that very few people saw. Moore has cleaned up every award possible leading up to the Oscars. Cotillard has won this award previously in 2007, as did Witherspoon in 2005. Voters may want to acknowledge someone new. Felicity Jones is completely overshadowed by Redmayne’s performance and Pike’s representation of a woman consumed by extreme fits of hysteria may be too bleak for Academy members to acknowledge. Moore’s performance in Still Alice may be overly melodramatic, but we can blame that on the film’s made-for-TV narrative. Playing a mother who is coping with early onset Alzheimer’s, Moore commands every scene she is in, shedding light on a woman’s realization that she will no longer be able to remember. It would be a huge surprise to see her neglected here.

Best Supporting Actor:

– Robert Duvall in The Judge
– Ethan Hawke in Boyhood
– Edward Norton in Birdman
– Mark Ruffalo in Foxcatcher
– J.K. Simmons in Whiplash

Should Win/Will Win: J.K. Simmons

Best Supporting Actress:

– Patricia Arquette in Boyhood
– Laura Dern in Wild
– Keira Knightly in The Imitation Game
– Emma Stone in Birdman
– Meryl Streep in Into the Woods

Should Win/Will Win: Patricia Arquette

Best Original Screenplay:

– Birdman
– Boyhood
– Foxcatcher
– The Grand Budapest Hotel
– Nightcrawler

Will Win/Should Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Both Budapest and Birdman are monumental achievements in originality and creativity. It is a shame that only one can be awarded the Oscar. In any other year Birdman easily wins. It just so happens that Budapest is in its way, and it is such an indomitable presence and a huge obstacle for Birdman to overcome. Wes Anderson will finally win that Oscar that has eluded him for so long. His genius has never been more evident as it is here. Watching his latest film is like encountering a magical book brought to vivid life. It is his most fully realized and structured film. Boyhood can’t compete due to its lack of an interesting narrative. Foxcatcher plays it too safe. And for Nightcrawler to have actually received a nomination is a prize in itself.

Best Adapted Screenplay

– American Sniper
– The Imitation Game
– Inherent Vice
– The Theory of Everything
– Whiplash

Will Win: The Imitation Game
Should Win: Inherent Vice

Best Cinematography:

– Birdman
– The Grand Budapest Hotel
– Ida
– Mr. Turner
– Unbroken

Will Win: Birdman
Should Win: Ida

Best Editing:

– American Sniper
– Boyhood
– The Grand Budapest Hotel
– The Imitation Game
– Whiplash

Will Win/Should Win: Boyhood

Best Score:

– The Grand Budapest Hotel
– The Imitation Game
– Interstellar
– Mr. Turner
– The Theory of Everything

Will Win: The Theory of Everything
Should Win: Interstellar

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