Oscar Predictions Part 3: Picture, Director, Actor, Animated Film, and More

     February 21, 2015

oscar-predictions-2015-best-picture

Alright, moment of truth. The big categories on Oscar night have a couple of certainties, a contentious race, and a pair of toss-ups. How will everything shake out? This has been one of the more challenging years in recent memory and I certainly wavered on a couple of these, but here goes nothing.

Best Animated Feature Film

Big Hero 6

The Boxtrolls

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Song of the Sea

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya 

how-to-train-your-dragon-2-jay-baruchelHad The LEGO Movie been here this would’ve been a more solidified race, but nevertheless it seems like How to Train Your Dragon 2 is our frontrunner. The sequel is well-liked and, frankly, the rest of this category is fairly weak. It’s possible The Tale of Princess Kaguya could pull off a bit of an upset, and while Disney broke its losing streak with Frozen winning last year, it’s tough to see the Academy embracing the superhero-centric Big Hero 6 the same way.

Will Win: How to Train Your Dragon 2

Dark Horse: The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Should Win: How to Train Your Dragon 2

Should Have Been Nominated: The LEGO Movie

Best Foreign Language Film

Ida (Poland)

Leviathan (Russia)

Tangerines (Estonia)

Timbuktu (Mauritania)

Wild Tales (Argentina)

ida-movie-imageThe top contender here is the devastating drama Ida, which seems pretty primed to take home the trophy, but this is a fairly open race. Sweden’s crowdpleasing Force Majeure would’ve given it a run for its money, but that film missed the cut. Wild Tales is earning some very strong notices so it’s a possible spoiler, and there’s significant support for Leviathan and Timbuktu, but my money’s on Ida given that it’s not only a tremendous piece of filmmaking, but because the Academy tends to award films in this category that acknowledge some difficult piece of the country’s history, and the Holocaust is some heavy stuff for Poland.

Will Win: Ida

Dark Horse: Wild Tales

Should Win: Ida

Should Have Been Nominated: Force Majeure

Best Documentary – Feature

Cirizenfour

Finding Vivian Maier

Last Days in Vietnam

The Salt of the Earth

Virunga

edward-snowden-citizenfourThis one is pretty much settled, and also may be a case of a film’s subject matter overshadowing the quality of the filmmaking. Nevertheless, it’s tough to argue that Citizenfour isn’t important, as it provides an intimate, minute-by-minute account of the NSA leak from the perspective of Edward Snowden. Whatever your thoughts on the man himself and the morality of his actions, it’s impossible to deny that this is a vital piece of 21st century history, and Laura Poitras’ account is candid and all-encompassing.

Will Win: Citizenfour

Dark Horse: Virunga

Should Win: Citizenfour

Should Have Been Nominated: The Internet’s Own Boy

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette – Boyhood

Laura Dern – Wild

Keira Knightley – The Imitation Game

Emma Stone – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Meryl Streep – Into the Woods

patricia-arquette-boyhoodBoth of this year’s supporting categories have been pretty solidified for a while now, with Patricia Arquette picking up award after award for her groundbreaking work in Boyhood. It’s not easy to craft a character arc over the course of 12 years, and I think voters will want to honor the commitment of Arquette and the strength of her performance. In many ways she’s the heart of the movie, and I think her portrayal of a single mother navigating life speaks to a lot of people.

If you’re looking for a spoiler, Streep has a long history with the Academy and is indeed great in Into the Woods, but that movie didn’t really strike a chord with the voters. Instead, I think Emma Stone’s the one to watch. People love Birdman and people love Emma Stone, so if anyone’s gonna pull off the upset, it’s her.

Will Win: Patricia Arquette

Dark Horse: Emma Stone

Should Win: Patricia Arquette

Should Have Been Nominated: Carrie Coon – Gone Girl

Best Supporting Actor

Robert Duvall – The Judge

Ethan Hawke – Boyhood

Edward Norton – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons – Whiplash

whiplash-jk-simmonsI still remember coming out of the very first screening of Whiplash back in January 2014, wondering whether it was too early to call Simmons a contender for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar. It may have been, but it looks like the longtime character actor will receive his due praise on Sunday night in the form of a little gold man.

Norton has been ramping up his own campaign pretty hard throughout the final voting period, and given the propensity for surprises in the Supporting categories I’m not willing to totally rule a Norton win out, but Simmons has won virtually all the Best Supporting Actor trophies possible. Not only does he deserve it, but this is a way for the many voters who love Whiplash to recognize the film in a category in which it has a good shot at winning.

Will Win: J.K. Simmons

Dark Horse: Edward Norton

Should Win: J.K. Simmons

Should Have Been Nominated: Riz Ahmed – Nightcrawler

Best Actress

Marion Cotillard – Two Days, One Night

Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything

Julianne Moore – Still Alice

Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon – Wild

still-alice-julianne-mooreIt’s odd that Julianne Moore is the far, far, far ahead frontrunner in this category and Still Alice has barely registered as a movie that exists on most people’s radars. No matter, Moore has been due to win an Oscar for years now, and Academy voters were sent screeners of the film so they could witness her skill at playing a woman with early on-set Alzheimer’s first hand. Moore is unbelievably talented and this is her year. There’s very little chance of anyone else winning here.

Will Win: Julianne Moore

Dark Horse: Reese Witherspoon

Should Win: Rosamund Pike

Should Have Been Nominated: Jenny Slate – Obvious Child

Best Actor

Steve Carell – Foxcatcher

Bradley Cooper – American Sniper

Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game

Michael Keaton – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything

bradley-cooper-american-sniperThis has been an interesting race to watch play out, but the frontrunner has solidified in recent weeks. For a time it seemed like Michael Keaton was destined to pick up a well-deserved Oscar not only for Birdman, but in recognition of his work as a whole. That’s still very much a possibility, but Redmayne has been collecting a number of awards in his wake, moving to the front of the pack. If you pay attention to the Oscars at all you’re aware they like recognizing actors who play real people, so I think the “old guard” gives Redmayne the votes he needs to win.

But, I also think we can’t rule out the possibility of a surprise on Oscar night. American Sniper burst onto the scene in December, and while critical response has been a bit divisive and controversy has built in recent weeks, the strength of Bradley Cooper’s performance is undeniable and the film has been in the media non-stop. Cooper’s been heavy on the campaign path over the last few weeks, both as the star and producer of American Sniper, and I think that, coupled with the Academy’s apparent obsession with the actor (this is his third nomination in a row), it could maybe result in a possible upset come Oscar night.

But I’m sticking to the evidence: the bounty of trophies that Redmayne has picked up. Moreover, will the Academy be able to resist such a striking physical transformation? History says “no”, so I’m picking Redmayne for the win. Just don’t be shocked if Cooper’s name is read instead.

Will Win: Eddie Redmayne

Dark Horse: Bradley Cooper

Should Win: Michael Keaton

Should Have Been Nominated: David Oyelowo – Selma

Best Director

Wes Anderson – The Grand Budapest Hotel

Alejandro González Iñárritu – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Richard Linklater – Boyhood

Bennett Miller – Foxcatcher

Morten Tyldum – The Imitation Game

richard-linklater-ellar-coltrane-boyhoodAnd you thought last year’s Best Director race was tough. Look, Tyldum is just happy to be here, and without a Best Picture nomination Miller is pretty much out of the running as well. Anderson could play the slight spoiler if the Academy just goes nuts for Grand Budapest, but I see this as a two-way race between Linklater and Iñárritu.

A split between Best Picture and Best Director used to be an uncommon occurrence, but it happened the past two years in a row and I’m predicting it to happen again this year. The question is “If a split occurs, which way will it go?” Do you award Iñárritu the Best Director prize for his innovative one-shot conceit and “make fun of everyone” bravado, or do you recognize Linklater for having the moxie to spend 12 years on a film and have it come out as a masterpiece?

This is a very, very close race and yes, Iñárritu has the DGA prize (which more often than not results in an Oscar), but I’m thinking the Academy Award goes to Linklater. Not only did he succeed in making a truly groundbreaking piece of work, but it actually turned out to be an incredible film. I have a feeling that even those not voting for Boyhood for Best Picture won’t be able to deny the fact that what Linklater accomplished was incredible. Moreover, while Birdman is indeed unique in both aspiration and execution, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki could reasonably be considered a sort of co-director for making the continuous shot technique a reality.

Again, this race is super close so it could really go either way, but I’m going with my gut and saying Linklater takes the Best Director prize.

Will Win: Richard Linklater

Dark Horse: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Should Win: Richard Linklater

Should Have Been Nominated: Ava DuVernay – Selma

Best Picture

American Sniper

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Selma

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

birdman-edward-norton-michael-keatonI have agonized over this category for weeks, and it’s the last one I’m filling out for these predictions because I’m still not 100%. It’s basically a two-way race between Boyhood and Birdman, with The Grand Budapest Hotel or American Sniper playing the possible spoilers. Given the Academy’s preferential balloting system (it’s complicated, but here’s my attempt to explain how it works), the decision over who wins will likely come down to the film that gets the most #2 votes. Both Boyhood and Birdman have their detractors, and both films have passionate fans.

Perhaps Birdman has more widespread support in the Academy, but Boyhood is a groundbreaking achievement in cinema—it’s literally something that’s never been done before. I’m thinking there will be a split between Best Picture and Best Director, and it really could go either way, but the statistics overwhelmingly favor Birdman to win Best Picture. Only one movie in recent memory has won the PGA, DGA, and SAG and lost the Best Picture Oscar (Apollo 13 in a year when the Oscars took place in March, giving Braveheart extra time to gain momentum), so mathematically speaking, Birdman is probably the winner. But everything about Boyhood has been atypical.  A film this small shouldn’t have made it this far, a movie shot in this way shouldn’t have worked—it’s the little movie that could, so can it go all the way?

boyhood-ethan-hawke-ellar-coltrane-patricia-arquetteI’m going to lean on the statistics here and go with Birdman for the win, but it’s very possible Boyhood could take home the trophy—or, if the Academy is feeling extra playful, a Grand Budapest or American Sniper win could result in one of the biggest upsets of all time.

If you’re filling out a ballot at home and are also predicting a split, you’d be smart to cover your bases and pick one movie for both Best Picture and Best Director. As you can see, I am not smart.

Will Win: Birdman

Dark Horse: Boyhood

Should Win: Selma

Should Have Been Nominated: Gone Girl

Click here for Part 1 of my Oscar predictions

Click here for Part 2 of my Oscar predictions

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