Oscar Predictions Part 2: Visual Effects, Cinematography, Editing, Shorts, and More

     February 20, 2015


I shared my predictions for the screenplay and sound-centric categories yesterday, and today it’s time to dig into the visual categories and the ones that tend to screw up everyone’s ballots—the shorts. There’s a lot to sort through, so let’s get started.

Best Film Editing

American Sniper


The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game


boyhood-ethan-hawkeTraditionally, the Best Editing Oscar goes to the film that normally wins Best Picture. But in recent years, the Academy has enjoyed toying with expectations by awarding either the films that are perceived as the “second place” Best Picture nominees (like Gravity and The Social Network), or films with impressive editing period (like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Bourne Ultimatum). This is a curious year in that our Best Picture frontrunner isn’t nominated for Best Editing (seeing as how the idea behind Birdman is to make it look like there’s no editing) so we have some decisions to make.

The Imitation Game is more in the traditional vein of what a “Best Picture nominee” should be, but a stuffy period drama hasn’t won this category in over a decade. The Grand Budapest Hotel is certainly great, but it’s poised to win a number of awards over the course of the night and a Best Editing win doesn’t really feel “necessary”, so I think voters will look elsewhere. Some found the war sequences in American Sniper to be tense so it’ll certainly pick up some votes, but I see this more as a two-way race between Boyhood and Whiplash.

The former is an undeniable achievement in editing, as pieces of footage were assembled over the course of 12 years in a way that felt organic and “whole”, rather than chapter-like or cloying. And the intensity and overall effect of Whiplash is due in large part to some incredibly impressive cutting. This one is a really close call, but I think Boyhood edges out the win given its groundbreaking nature.

Will Win: Boyhood

Dark Horse: Whiplash

Should Win: Boyhood

Should Have Been Nominated: Selma

Best Cinematography

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Emmanuel Lubezki

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Robert D. Yeoman

Ida – Łukasz Żal and Ryszard Lenczewski

Mr. Turner – Dick Pope

Unbroken – Roger Deakins

birdman-emmanuel-lubezki-alejandro-gonzalez-innarituThe winner of this category is pretty much a done deal, cementing back-to-back Oscars for Gravity cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. We all know that Birdman wasn’t shot entirely in one take, but the magic trick is so seamless, so impressive, that we almost believe that it was. Lubezki is one of the all-time greats and could almost be considered a co-director on Birdman, so I think he’ll be justifiably awarded for pulling this thing off.

Will Win: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Dark Horse: The winner is Birdman

Should Win: Birdman

Should Have Been Nominated: Inherent Vice

Best Costume Design

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Inherent Vice

Into the Woods


Mr. Turner

inherent-vice-joaquin-phoenix-katherine-waterstonThe costumes in Inherent Vice are no doubt gorgeous, and Into the Woods is wonderfully extravagant, but this one is The Grand Budapest Hotel’s to lose. As is the case with every Wes Anderson film, Grand Budapest was designed to a T, but the Russian nesting doll structure and multiple time periods give the filmmaker the opportunity to bring his unique sensibilities to a number of different places and times, and the results are phenomenal. And judging by nominations and guild recognition, Grand Budapest is the most popular nominee here by far, so it has that going for it as well.

Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Dark Horse: Into the Woods

Should Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Should Have Been Nominated: The Homesman

Best Production Design

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game


Into the Woods

Mr. Turner 

into-the-woods-corden-blunt-huttlestoneIt’s kind of crazy to think that a Wes Anderson film has never been nominated for Best Production Design before, but here we are. It’s fitting, then, that the first nomination will also likely result in a win for the impeccably crafted The Grand Budapest Hotel, which is as much a feast for the eyes as it is the ears. Into the Woods feels like a traditional winner here, but in practice the sets in the movie were mostly trees, trees, and more trees. Interstellar marks a continuing trend of this branch to recognize sci-fi in the nominations, but the Academy at large has failed to actually give a trophy to one of those nominees yet. With both a BAFTA and Art Directors Guild win in its pocket this one is pretty sewn up for Grand Budapest, but if there’s any possibility at all of a spoiler it’ll be from the striking yet bleak Mr. Turner.

Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Dark Horse: Mr. Turner

Should Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Should Have Been Nominated: Snowpiercer

Best Makeup and Hairstyling


The Grand Budapest Hotel

Guardians of the Galaxy

the-grand-budapest-hotel-tilda-swintonWe only have three nominees here so that should narrow things down a bit. Superhero/franchise movies don’t typically win this category, and the heavy use of CG in Guardians of the Galaxy may keep voters guessing as to what was makeup and what was aided by VFX, so we can reasonably count the Marvel film out.

That leaves us with Foxcatcher and The Grand Budapest Hotel. I’m predicting a big night for the latter, but I do think Foxcatcher has a real shot here. The Academy has tended towards more serious dramas like Dallas Buyers Club and The Iron Lady lately, but Grand Budapest has the BAFTA in hand and Best Picture nominees overwhelmingly win this category, so I’m thinking the incredible transformation of Tilda Swinton may eek this one out over the intense work on Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo. It’ll be close, though.

Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Dark Horse: Foxcatcher

Should Win: Foxcatcher

Should Have Been Nominated: Snowpiercer

Best Visual Effects

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Guardians of the Galaxy


X-Men: Days of Future Past

dawn-of-the-planet-of-the-apes-shotgunThere’s a trick to predicting the Best Visual Effects category, but that trick is not applicable this year. When there’s a Best Picture nominee in the bunch, it overwhelmingly tends to be the winner. There’s no Best Picture nominee this year so one would think that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes would be taking this thing home pretty easily, but I’m predicting an upset (to some) and going with Interstellar.

The work in Apes is undeniably groundbreaking, but I feel like the Academy’s tendency to award the “serious” nominee will hold strong and result in an Interstellar win. It’s not like the effects work in Christopher Nolan’s film isn’t stunning, and if anything is holding the film back it’s Nolan’s emphasis on practical effects in tandem with the VFX. But the space-set sequences are jaw-droppingly great and the Academy is a creature of habit, so I have a hunch Interstellar will be taking home the trophy.

Will Win: Interstellar

Dark Horse: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Should Win: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Should Have Been Nominated: Under the Skin

Best Animated Short Film

The Bigger Picture

The Dam Keeper


Me and My Moulton

A Single Life 

feast-imageWhile one might think the “biggest” film here is the likely winner, one would be mistaken. Since the Academy started making all of the nominated films in the short categories available to voters via screeners, we’ve seen quite a few non-studio films take home the animated trophy. Disney’s Get a Horse! lost last year, and Pixar hasn’t won this category since 2001. That being said, Disney’s Feast is adorable, and when the product is undeniably great (like Disney’s Paperman), the Academy votes accordingly.

There’s some significant competition this year, though, especially in the form of The Bigger Picture, a tremendous, striking, and moving piece of work, and The Dam Keeper, which is a sneak-attack tear jerker. The race is basically between the cute, sweet nominee (Feast) and the emotionally gut-punching ones (The Bigger Picture, The Dam Keeper). There’s considerable support for The Dam Keeper and it could very well win (as could The Bigger Picture), but Feast is undeniably the film that most of the voters will have seen. And, unlike last year’s Get a Horse!, it’s actually good. But the deciding factor in my reasoning is this: that dog is adorable, and adorable dogs are irresistible. I’m going with Feast for the win.

Will Win: Feast

Dark Horse: The Dam Keeper

Should Win: The Bigger Picture

Best Live-Action Short Film


Boogaloo and Graham

Butter Lamp


The Phone Call

the-phone-call-sally-hawkinsWhile star-power doesn’t necessarily translate to a win in this category, emotion seems to. The Phone Call has both, not to mention a contained, performance-centric focus as Sally Hawkins plays a woman operating a suicide hotline conversing with Jim Broadbent during his last moments. Hawkins is tremendous, and while the film ends on a saccharine note, The Phone Call has emerged the frontrunner. But the feel-good Boogaloo and Graham has its champions too, so again it comes down to the emotional film vs. the cheerful one. Given Helium’s win in this category last year, I’m going with the former.

Will Win: The Phone Call

Dark Horse: Boogaloo and Graham

Best Documentary – Short Subject

Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1


Our Curse

The Reaper (La Parka)

White Earth

Will Win: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

Dark Horse: Joanna

At a combined runtime of over three hours, there likely won’t be too many voters that have taken the time to watch all of these nominees, but there’s a common thread among them: they are bleak. The HBO doc Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 seems to be the most hopeful of the bunch, as it revolves around those who operate a hotline that attempts to aid veterans considering suicide. I think that sliver of light gives it an edge, but Joanna, about a young mother with terminal cancer, could also be the winner. In a toss-up, I’m going with Crisis Hotline.

Come back tomorrow when I tackle the final categories, at least one of which has me changing my mind roughly every 7 minutes. And click here if you missed Part 1 of my predictions.

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