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Oscars 2014: The B+ Movie Blog Ballot

I used to call this Picks, Votes, Analysis, Rankings. But that’s not a fun title.

This article has everything you need for Oscar night. I run down every single category, tell you what’s nominated, how I felt about each of the nominees, tell you what wasn’t nominated that might have been, what I’d vote for, then break down the category and let you know what’s most likely going to win, what its biggest competition is, and what, if anything, has a chance to sneak in and surprise everyone. It has links to all the category breakdowns I’ve written over the past three weeks, and I even say, at the very end, “Here’s what I’m taking, and here’s what you should take, because it’s the smartest and safest decision.” I also color code everything, so you can find stuff incredibly easy.

If you want to sound remotely like an expert at your Oscar party and know very little about the overall goings on apart from having seen some of the movies, read this article. You’ll be fine.

I can’t guarantee you’ll win your Oscar pool, since as always, I expect to do pretty terribly. Last year, sure, I managed to guess 22 of the 24 categories, but let’s assume that’s an anomaly. At this point, I don’t gauge my strengths as my ability to guess all of the categories correctly (though that is a nice bonus, if I can manage to get close), but rather in my ability to diagnose each category and pinpoint which ones are going to win and have it become a simple either/or scenario in almost every category.

At this point, I think I’m down to maybe one category every year, if that, where I’ll say, “If this doesn’t win, then this is winning,” and something else manages to win. Very rarely does that happen two or three times in a year for me. And usually, when it does happen, it’s a tech category or one of the dreaded shorts categories. The last time I remember categories throwing us for loops were Production Design in 2012, when Lincoln won out of nowhere over Les Mis and Anna Karenina, and Editing in 2011, when everyone was wondering if Hugo or The Artist was gonna take it, and out of nowhere The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo won. And both of those were considered the relative shockers of the night those years. I feel like, overall, I’ve gotten a pretty good handle on this stuff. Which is cool. Since for me, the fun is in the diagnostics.

This is also the first year where I’ve seen absolutely everything that’s nominated. Go down this list, look at all the names of the movies on it. I’ve seen them. That’s never happened before.

Let’s see what we’ve got this year.

Best Picture

American Sniper

Birdman

Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Selma

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

My Rankings:

  1. Birdman
  2. Whiplash
  3. The Grand Budapest Hotel
  4. Boyhood
  5. The Imitation Game
  6. The Theory of Everything
  7. Selma
  8. American Sniper

(My rankings are based on a preferential ballot system, the one that they use in actual voting. Which I’ll explain in a moment. They are my personal opinions (save the bottom two), but also how I’d put them if I had an actual ballot.)

My Thoughts:

Mostly my thoughts on this are going to involve how the category turned out, but also be my feelings on the category. My feelings are pretty self-explanatory: Birdman and Whiplash were my #1 and #2 movies of the year. Grand Budapest was my #4. Boyhood was my #10. Imitation Game and Theory of Everything I rated as solid 4 star movies, Imitation Game barely missed the top 20 (and will almost assuredly make it upon reconsideration later this year) and Selma and American Sniper I had as solid 3.5s. The rankings basically completed themselves. The only thing is, I don’t want American Sniper to win Best Picture, even though I thought it was a better movie than Selma. So I put Selma ranked above. Though personally, I liked American Sniper more as a film. I don’t usually like playing the political game, and something ranked that low won’t matter anyway, but since these rankings don’t really matter anyway, that’s how I’m doing it.

As for how the category turned out — all of these except Selma were nominated by the PGA. The PGA also had Nightcrawler, Foxcatcher and Gone Girl. Pretty much, that was your entire list of films that could have made it on. I think, when it came down to actually figuring what would be nominated, the eight that made it were very much the ones everyone expected to be on. We’ve had 9 nominees since 2011, so we were accustomed to that number. I think a lot of people expected Nightcrawler to be on, given the love it got from all of the precursors and guilds. Foxcatcher was a bit of a surprise snub, just because it got a Best Director nomination. And Gone Girl was a film that just got completely shut out everywhere. That’s a snub that seemed bigger day-of. But when you look at what they did, and didn’t, nominate, the Foxcatcher and Nightcrawler omissions stand out more. Mostly Foxcatcher. That’s the one where, in the future, people are gonna look at it and go, “It got Best Director, but not Best Picture? And they were one spot less than they usually are? How come?” The answer, of course, is the preferential ballot and the fact that people just don’t seem to vote for unlikable characters/dark stories.

But anyway, I think we have a pretty strong list. I feel Selma is the most poorly made film in the bunch, and have still yet to see what people see in that movie. And personally I think that Foxcatcher, Nightcrawler and Gone Girl would have been better choices. Bu that’s just me. American Sniper is also generally weak, but it’s got the most box office power and should hold up decently. There’s nothing here that will make them look foolish years down the line. Overall, I can’t really quibble with any of the nominees. And I really don’t think I could quibble with almost any of the nominees since they started this new system. Typically what gets nominated feels like it’s okay. Which is nice.

Voting-wise, I have to take Birdman. If the film you ranked #1 for the year is nominated for Best Picture, there’s no reason not to take it. So that’s what I’m doing, and won’t overthink it. My top four contains no personal politics whatsoever. I’m actually voting my preferences. Which is a nice thing to be able to do.

My Vote: Birdman

If I had a ballot: I’d take Birdman. And I’d rank Whiplash second, Grand Budapest third and Boyhood fourth. The rest wouldn’t matter, because one of those four is gonna win Best Picture.

Should have been nominated: A Most Violent Year, Inherent Vice, Interstellar

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Most Likely to Win: At this point, you have to figure it’s Birdman. It has such an overwhelming amount of precursors that it would actually be surprising to see it not win. This isn’t even personal preference talking. This is straight up empirical evidence. Because my gut tells me it won’t win. But if you really had to pick what was most likely to win, you’d be insane to not say it was this. Regardless of how you pick. It’s not a sure thing, but with a PGA win, you’ve got the biggest precursor you need. Why? Because they’ve been the best precursor of Best Picture, getting more than 2/3 of them right over the last 15 years and only 7 wrong in 25 years. Which is 28%. So there’s a 72% chance they’re going to be right. Plus — most nominated film of the year, has won awards across every guild. And, to me, what’s most telling — the Producers Guild is, to my knowledge, the only precursor award with a similar voting style to Best Picture. I have yet to find out specifically how BAFTA voting works, but BAFTA still doesn’t have more than five nominees. So it can’t be exactly the same voting. And, you think about how Academy members will vote — there will be more Boyhood backlash than Birdman backlash. Even if people do have Boyhood #1, where will they put Birdman? Not below #4, I imagine. And say people don’t have either film at #1. Say they’re voting for The Imitation Game. Which of the two films is more likely to be higher on the ballot? Overall, given how the guilds have responded to Birdman, and the actors being the majority of the Academy — you have to think it’s Birdman. Which helps it in the long run. Because it’s not necessarily the #1s that will do it, it’s which film is ranked higher on more ballots. Not to mention — with the DGA voting for it, the actors loving it, and with a PGA win, at this point, to see it lose Best Picture would actually be a surprise. Statistically. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen. But if you’re looking for what’s most likely to win this one, this is it.

Biggest Competition: Boyhood. The race was always between those two. Even though Boyhood doesn’t have all the statistics on its side, it has enough. BFCA, BAFTA, Golden Globe. The film is beloved by a lot of people, and a lot of people consider the effort to be more than worth the vote. No one will be surprised if this wins. I’ve already stated all the arguments for it not to be the most likely to win, and since I’m not picking yet, all I really need to do is say what the biggest competition is to the frontrunner, and it’s clear this is it.

Spoiler Alert: The Grand Budapest HotelFor a while, this spot was The Imitation Game. But more and more, that movie looks like it peaked way too early, and a lot of the momentum was being carried by the nature of the film and who is backing it. But now that it’s Oscar night, that movie fell completely flat, and is looking like it’s gonna be like… oh, what’s the closest analogy? Oh, I got it. Up in the Air. Remember Up in the Air? We all loved that movie, thought it would make a killing at the Oscars, got nominated for a bunch of stuff, and then bam, precursors happen, and it gets almost entirely shut out. And then we go, “Okay, but Screenplay is in the bag.” And then it loses Screenplay. And that’s exactly where Imitation Game is right now. Screenplay is the only category where it has a foothold. And it’s not even a given that it can win that one. But anyway, this is about why Grand Budapest is a spoiler and not why Imitation Game isn’t.

American Sniper is a dark horse candidate here. It came on late, stormed into a bunch of key nominations, and then made $300 million at the box office after nominations were announced. You can’t rule it out, and people are trying to tell you this can shock everyone on Oscar night. That’s not true. It might end up having been the dark horse candidate of the bunch, but I don’t think it’ll actually upset. We’d all be shocked, and we’d all be outraged and wonder how this happened. (And frankly, I’m confident in saying it absolutely won’t.) But it’s important to mention. However, the people who are voting this #1 are also the same people who will be voting Imitation Game high as well. Who’s to say which will end up higher? And will they cancel each other out?

Grand Budapest has to be the film with the best chance to defeat the other two, and the reasons have been clear as day all along. First — it’s tied with Birdman for most overall nominations. Birdman has the acting nominations, and Grand Budapest has the technical ones. Second, it has gotten support in every single guild all the way through. It won the most BAFTAs, which means the Brits support it. It didn’t necessarily win the big awards (though the Globe Best Picture win over Birdman is telling. Not that they vote, but it does show love for the film), but it was right there. This movie is gonna get a lot of #2, #3 and #4 votes. And those votes add up. Theoretically, this movie could have the sixth most number one votes and still win Best Picture based solely on more people having it ranked higher than the other two if their first choice gets knocked off. If someone’s ballot is Selma and Grand Budapest, then that’s a vote for Grand Budapest, in the end. (Sure, it could get knocked off and the vote could end up for Birdman or Boyhood, but you get the point.) If anything has shown enough support to pull an upset, it’s this film. I wouldn’t necessarily overthink it and say it’s going to happen, but this is the one to do it, if it’s any one.

However, given the other two also being right there, I think that all three of these will cannibalize each other, paving the way for the one-two showdown we all envisioned all along.

Likelihood to win: 1) Birdman 2) Boyhood 3) The Grand Budapest Hotel  4) The Imitation Game 5) American Sniper 6) Whiplash 7) The Theory of Everything 8) Selma

If I Were a Betting Man: Look, I’m in a predicament here. Because no matter what I say and what I feel, Birdman was my #1 movie of the year. And with all of the evidence going for it (which, admittedly, is not rock solid evidence), it’s actually a really safe choice. I just… my gut is telling me it doesn’t win. That said… I can’t not take it. I’d feel so horrible going off of it and seeing it win. So I have to take it, despite my personal feelings that it just won’t. Which is bizarre. Since this has more of a foothold than Gravity did, in a weird way. Even though it really didn’t do well at BAFTA, lost the Globe for Comedy/Musical, and isn’t nominated for Editing. (Man, it’s a weird year.) The PGA win is big, the DGA win is big, and it won SAG Ensemble. And I know there are people who are gonna deliberately vote Boyhood low. This one, I think, gets a lot of 2s and 3s, which is what makes it a smart choice. But honestly, it’s my #1, and statistically has all the makings of a winner. I can’t not vote for it, despite what my gut is telling me.

You Should Take: I really feel like I should tell you to take Boyhood. Because despite my feeling that Birdman is going to win due to all the technical factors, and my having to take it because how could I not vote for the film that’s my own personal #1 for the year that’s also looking like a safe bet to win, my gut tells me that Boyhood still pulls it out. That’s what my gut told me with 12 Years a Slave last year. Even though that theoretically had more of a likelihood to win. I don’t know. It just feels like Boyhood is going to win. Ultimately, take what you want. The empirical evidence points toward Birdman, the gut feeling points toward Boyhood. Go with whichever you feel more comfortable going with. Honestly, if I’m telling you to pick what will more than likely help you to win your ballot, take Birdman. It just beat Boyhood at the Spirit Awards. Who the fuck saw that coming? At this point, you have the Globes going against Birdman, and BAFTA. And only one of those counts. I still feel like Boyhood wins, and I will be happy for it if it does, but I have to take Birdman for my own personal reasons, and you should take Birdman since it’s statistically the most likely film to win. But if you want to take Boyhood, that’s not an awful choice either. I’m not picking for you, I’m just making you as informed as humanly possible in order to make up your own damn mind.

On My Ballot: Birdman

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Note: I’m also gonna do a thing this year, because I just heard about this the other day (no joke. I discovered this was a thing on Wednesday), and I loved the idea so much, and thought it was so much more of an accurate measurement of how close I can be with guessing the Oscars than a simple win/loss tally, that I’ve decided to try it out this year and also make that part of my record-keeping.

There’s a method of picking the Oscars that goes as such: You rank every category in the order you think they’re going to win. 1-8 Best Picture, and 1-5 everything else (except Makeup & Hairstyling. But you get the point). And how it works is, if your #1 wins, then you get 1 point. If the film you had #2 wins, you get 2 points. And so on and so forth. And the ultimate goal is to have as few points as humanly possible.

A perfect score would be 24. And the worst you can do is 120. Ideally, you want to hit low 30s. Say you get 6 wrong, and guess 18 right. If your number 2 won those six categories, that’s a 30. That’s pretty damn good. Personally, I’d like to get mid to high 20s, but a 30 would be a really solid score.

I’m gonna try that one on for size this year, on top of my usual straight up picks. We’re gonna use my rankings of likelihood to win and use those to tally that score.

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Best Director

Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Alejandro G. Inarritu, Birdman

Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher

Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

My Rankings:

  1. Alejandro G. Inarritu, Birdman
  2. Richard Linklater, Boyhood
  3. Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
  4. Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher
  5. Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

My Thoughts:

The category had one major surprise, which was the inclusion of Bennett Miller. Most people thought Clint Eastwood was a lock for that spot. (And frankly, I’m glad he wasn’t. Because I thought Sniper’s direction was fine, but really was kind of lifeless and lazy. Everyone’s talking about the fake baby, but there are a few things that show that he didn’t really give a shit about some details of the movie and was mostly focused about getting it finished on time.) The other four were expected. Linklater and Inarritu were always getting on. Anderson, I’m so happy for. For so many reasons, it’s great to see him there. Because the film came out in March. To have that kind of staying power for people, and for them to actually like it that much is truly impressive. And he’s someone who would only get writing nominations (if that), and never really get much Academy respect. So to see this movie in particular, where it’s so refined and so perfected, stylistically, in terms of what Wes Anderson does, bust out for eight nominations, is just wonderful. Miller was worthy of the nomination so I’m not gonna think too much into who he got in over. And Tyldum got in because of his film. That’s just what it is. These things happen every year. I think it’s a pretty strong list overall. James Marsh also would have fit in fine. Upon further examination, I actually think he did a better job than Tyldum, even though I liked Tyldum’s film better overall.

My impressions of the category are that Inarritu wins this on style points alone. It was a bold thing that he did, and the movie turned out wonderfully. However, I will say — based on what Linklater was able to accomplish, and what he created with Boyhood… he’s worth winning too. Either one of those two would be perfect choices. They’re not comparable in the slightest, so I won’t even try to do that. But to me, they’re both worth the vote. And still, Inarritu has gotta be my personal choice.

My Vote: Alejandro G. Inarritu, Birdman

If I had a ballot: Alejandro G. Inarritu, Birdman

Should have been nominated: Christopher Nolan, Interstellar, Damien Chazelle, Whiplash

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Most Likely to Win: Alejandro G. Inarritu, Birdman. The DGA and the Oscars have not matched 8 times. Ever. And one of those 8 was a scenario where, in the first year the DGA Award was given out, the film that won ended up winning the Best Director Oscar the following year at the Oscars. Since 1950, the DGA winner and the Best Director winner have differed seven times. Just seven. 1968, 1972, 1985, 1995, 2000, 2002 and 2012. Three of those times, the winner wasn’t nominated. Which means that only four times ever did someone win the DGA award and then lose the Oscar. Anthony Harvey lost to Carol Reed (whose film won Best Picture too). Francis Ford Coppola lost to Bob Fosse (whose film won the most Oscars but lost Best Picture to Coppola). Ang Lee lost to Steven Soderbergh (who was nominated twice in the category. Neither director’s film won Best Picture). And Rob Marshall lost to Roman Polanski (Marshall’s film won Best Picture). Really, what this tells me is — Inarritu is a pretty damn big favorite to win this category, and it’s hard to bet against him, given the overwhelming closeness of the two categories. Think about that. There have been 67 DGA Awards given out. 59 times, the DGA winner matched the Oscars. Which is 88% of the time. One of those remaining times was because a film won the DGA the year before it won the Oscar. And three of the remaining times was because the winner wasn’t nominated at the Oscars. So there’s something like a 95% chance, historically, that Inarittu is going to win this award. And, you look at what he accomplishes with his film, and how showy his direction is — it’s really hard to not consider him the favorite.

Biggest Competition: Richard Linklater, Boyhood. If anyone beats Inarritu, it’s Linklater. Plain and simple. There’s a lot of love out there for him and his film. People recognize the accomplishment. He will get votes. Will it be enough to beat Inarritu, who’s film is a directing showcase? Seems unlikely, especially with the history behind Inarritu. Is it possible? Absolutely. Will I recommend you picking it? Probably not. But if anyone can do it, Linklater’s your guy. A split is possible. Just depends on which way you think it’s gonna go.

Spoiler Alert: Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel. He’s the third choice because his film is the third choice Best Picture. You can’t say it’s Tyldum, because even the people who would vote for that movie for Best Picture would say that his direction is not particularly strong. And Bennett Miller is liked by directors, but his movie wasn’t liked overall by the Academy (hence the lack of a Best Picture nomination, and the fact that almost all of the film’s nominations came from the actors, directors and writers. And probably only the writers because Whiplash got moved to the other category). So he can’t be considered a spoiler. Voters are savvy enough to know who won’t win, so they won’t vote for them unless they really want to not cast a vote for everyone else (or really just want to vote for their favorite). Anderson is a liked director, with a track record of excellence, who has a movie that’s tied for the most overall nominations, that is generally really well-liked, that is gonna walk home with at least three Oscars (it’s gonna happen), and some people might just vote for him. I can’t see a win happening, since at this point, the top two are so strong here that it’s almost certainly one or the other, but since we have to pick a third, how can it not be Wes?

Likelihood to win: 1) Inarritu 2) Linklater 3) Anderson 4) Tyldum 5) Miller

If I Were a Betting Man: Alejandro G. Inarritu, Birdman. Sorry guys. I don’t spit in the face of history. The odds are overwhelmingly in his favor, and even if Linklater won the DGA, I’d still consider him a solid choice, because his film is all about directing. He shot a movie to look like a single sequence. With that and the DGA win, it’s really hard to think he won’t win this. I will happily be wrong if Linklater wins, because Linklater is also very deserving, but I’m not voting for it. This is both the safe and smart choice, and is a choice that makes sense. If you’re gonna take Boyhood anywhere on the upset, make it Best Picture. Not here. Take the history.

You Should Take: Alejandro G. Inarritu, Birdman

On My Ballot: Alejandro G. Inarritu, Birdman

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Best Actor

Steve Carell, Foxcatcher

Bradley Cooper, American Sniper

Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game

Michael Keaton, Birdman

Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

My Rankings:

  1. Michael Keaton, Birdman
  2. Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
  3. Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
  4. Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
  5. Steve Carell, Foxcatcher

My Thoughts:

The Best Actor category has been an embarrassment of riches for the past few years. It always feels like there are seven or eight potential nominees each time, resulting in a category that feels good no matter what they do.

Pretty much the entire way through the race, Michael Keaton, Eddie Redmayne and Benedict Cumberbatch showed up. So they were no surprises when they were announced. Steve Carell got a SAG nomination, so he was pretty much expected. Some people thought he might be left off if David Oyelowo got on (how distant does that name sound now?), but he was always a pretty solid bet. And then Bradley Cooper was the emerging dark horse as we got closer and closer, which resulted in a moderately surprising (though not really, when you look at SAG actor nominations vs. Academy nominations, and the nature of the performances) snub for Jake Gyllenhaal, who, until nominations were announced, hit every major precursor. The way Tom Hanks did last year. I can’t say this surprises me in hindsight, but on the morning of, I think we all had that moment of, “Oh, wow, that sucks.” Especially since Gyllenhaal has been quietly turning in some great performances the past couple of years, and was terrific in Nightcrawler.

I like all of these performances. Carell I think is kind of a strong supporting/weak lead. Since it’s mostly Tatum’s movie. Though I get why he’s on here. Cooper, I thought, gave a really strong performance. But the film itself was weak around it. A better product would have given him more of a chance to win here, and made me like him more as a nominee. Though he was solid. Eight years ago, he would have been heavily competing for a win. Cumberbatch was great, but he was never really taken seriously as a winner here from the jump. Maybe because of the similarities between Turing and Sherlock (I haven’t seen his Sherlock, so I can’t say if it is or isn’t). Keaton, I’m so happy to see here, because he’s been one of my favorite actors for a while, and it’s nice when these kinds of actors get recognized. Redmayne has lead this category from day one, given the nature of his performance. It’s your standard Oscar-winning performance, and the only thing really that held him back was the fact that he’s a relative newcomer. And the veteran aspect for Michael Keaton and the love for Birdman. But it hasn’t seemed to bother any of the voting bodies, and that’s all that really matters.

Personally, I’d take Michael Keaton, just because this is likely his only shot at a statue, and because the Redmayne win feels too easy and predictable. I’ll need some time apart from this category to really get a handle on which performance I’d really vote for. But right now, even though I don’t think he had a whole lot to do, acting-wise, Keaton gives technically (imagine how much work went into figuring out the blocking and choreography of it all) one of the best performances I’ve seen in a while, and I think that’s worth a vote. We’ll see how I feel in a couple of years when I revisit everything.

I’ll also say, having written that previous paragraph before watching all the Best Picture nominees again for yesterday’s Favorite Moments articles, that Keaton is for sure my vote, and I think, at this point, he shifts to my favorite performance of the year category. He is without a doubt my vote. And I actually think that Redmayne, while impressive, actually falls into conversation for possibly dropping to third, with Cumberbatch maybe jumping up to second. Ultimately I don’t think he ever will, and I think my rankings will ultimately stay the same (with maybe 4 and 5 being the only potential switches) over time. Either way, the vote is Keaton.

My Vote: Michael Keaton, Birdman

If I had a ballot: Michael Keaton, Birdman

Should have been nominated: Miles Teller, Whiplash, Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler, Oscar Isaac, A Most Violent Year

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Most Likely to Win: Eddie Redmyne, The Theory of Everything. He has a SAG win, a BAFTA win, and a Globes win. The only thing he didn’t hit was BFCA. He plays Stephen Hawking, and the film and the role are slam dunk Oscar choices. It’s hard to see anyone beating him at this point, and you have to consider him the favorite to take it home.

Biggest Competition: Michael Keaton, Birdman. He’s the only one with a chance. He has the Globes win alongside Redmayne, and a BFCA win, which is mostly meaningless. Since only once in the past eleven years of the BFCA (their categories are only comparable to the Oscars from 2003 forward), has the BFCA given their Best Actor award to someone who didn’t win the Oscar. And that was in 2011, where they gave it to George Clooney. And he had the same split results as Keaton does. Dujardin had SAG and BAFTA over him the way Redmayne has them over Keaton. You can’t consider him most likely to win, but if anyone’s gonna win besides Redmayne, he’s the one to do it.

Spoiler Alert: Bradley Cooper, American Sniper. Benedict Cumberbatch has been an afterthought from the beginning, and Steve Carell is the clear example of a nominee who is strong up until nominations happen. Then he’s just done and you know he’s not winning. (Think The Theory of Everything for Best Picture.) That leaves Bradley Cooper. The surprise nominee on Oscar morning. The lack of precursors has actually helped him here. Because he hasn’t been in all the same categories as everyone else. Which makes him fresh. You have people who feel fatigued by the same people winning, and now they have another choice to vote for. And I feel like a lot of those people are gonna be the ones precisely to vote for Cooper. So if anyone’s the dark horse, it’s him. It’s a really tall order, but the momentum has been building. This is your dark horse, right here.

Likelihood to win: 1) Redmayne 2) Keaton 3) Cooper 4) Cumberbatch 5) Carell

If I Were a Betting Man: I’m taking Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything. The only way you take Michael Keaton at this point is if you think Birdman is headed for a veritable sweep of the Oscars. (Or if you think the more concentrated Academy vote will skew older and toward the veteran.) And even then, that doesn’t preclude it from losing this category. Some people are trying to compare this to the Mickey Rourke/Sean Penn race in 2008. Since you have the “Oscar” biopic performance vs. the actor making a comeback. But you have to realize… Mickey Rourke had a BAFTA win there. So the precursors were even. Not to mention, Penn ultimately won that race, because his performance was more Oscar-friendly. (And because Mickey Rourke doesn’t have the resume and likability that Keaton does.) Keaton doesn’t have that BAFTA win. So this is more of a George Clooney/Jean Dujardin scenario. And I think the smart money is on Redmayne. But Keaton — maybe it’s a pipe dream… but he’s gonna get votes. You might not be wrong if you put an emotional vote out there. I remember 2008, I deliberately voted for Mickey Rourke despite knowing Sean Penn would win. I still won my pool, though, so it wasn’t that bad. (Plus, decisions like that are why I now tell you what you should take on top of what I’m taking.) Though, also, 2007, my emotional vote was Marion Cotillard. And that one did work out. So it’s not always a wrong move. Redmayne is smart money, but Keaton, I’d say is 55/45 underdog right now, and could steal it in the end.

You Should Take: Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything. He’s the smart choice. Keaton is a risky choice, but not an insane choice. I’m personally not taking that risk. I’d rather do it in other categories where I’m not totally sold. SAG and BAFTA is a pretty tall order to overcome. I’m still thinking a Keaton upset is possible, and if that happens, Birdman wins everything. I’m still gonna take SAG and BAFTA and be happily wrong if that’s the case.

On My Ballot: Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

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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

My Rankings:

  1. Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
  2. Julianne Moore, Still Alice
  3. Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
  4. Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night
  5. Reese Witherspoon, Wild

My Thoughts:

This category was one of the least surprising all the way through. Four of the five were locked from the start. Moore, Pike, Witherspoon and Jones were always gonna get nominated. And then the fifth spot was pretty much either Cotillard or Jennifer Aniston. And Aniston campaigned hard for that spot. And she hit all the precursors, but ultimately lost the spot to Marion Cotillard. Which I can’t say I’m unhappy about.

The year wasn’t particularly loaded with great female lead performances, owing to the complete lack of good female roles out there. So the category felt pretty boring to me, though I get all of the performances on the list.

I wasn’t particularly blown away by any of them. Reese Witherspoon, I thought, was just okay, in a movie that was just okay. Felicity Jones, I thought, was great, and deserves the nomination. She had a pretty difficult and thankless role, and I’m glad there weren’t an abundance of flashier parts that would have prevented her from being here. But you can’t vote for the performance, is the one disappointing thing about it. Cotillard gave two really solid performances this year, and between them, did earn a nomination. (Especially over Aniston. Because that movie… my god.)

Moore finally hit that sweet spot of being overdue and having that perfect Oscar role in the perfect year, and is gonna ride that all the way to the win. She was great in the part, and will be a deserving winner. Though I will say, to me, no performance was more memorable, or more perfectly delivered than Rosamund Pike this year. I mean… she really made me believe in that character. Which is two for two on Fincher female leads. Since I said the same thing about Rooney Mara in 2011. And, even though I know Julianne Moore is gonna walk away with this category, I’d still take Rosamund Pike.

My Vote: Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl

If I had a ballot: Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl

Should have been nominated: Ultimately, I’m okay with this. There’s no one I’d vehemently pound the table for here.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Julianne Moore, Still Alice. She clean swept all the precursors, she’s seen as overdue, she’s beloved among the actors. It’s her time. She’s got this in the bag.

Biggest Competition: Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl. I feel like she’s got the only part that will earn enough votes to possibly compete. It’s counter-intuitive, since the movie was expected to get at least two or three more nominations than it did, but in a year like this, with such a runaway winner, you have to look to a performance like this as second choice. Felicity Jones has the thankless role that is lucky to be nominated but would never win unless it was a major contender that was gonna sweep. Reese already won, and the part has no heat. And Cotillard, no one saw that movie and she’s lucky to have gotten on over the Aniston campaign. You’re left with a memorable part in a movie that a lot of people saw that people are praising even if they didn’t like the movie. She won’t win, but if anyone has a chance at this, it’s her.

Spoiler Alert: Reese Witherspoon, Wild. It’s gotta be. We know Moore is winning, so it won’t come down to this. But here’s how the math works: Cotillard is in the movie that nobody saw. Not enough people are voting for her on principle, and maybe 5% at best vote for her on performance. Clearly #5. Jones is great and in a movie that’s nominated for Best Picture and is winning an acting award. However, she’s new, which works against her, and, as I said, has a thankless role. People won’t vote for that. Then you have Reese — people like her, she’s in a role that’s got the perception of being Oscar-worthy, some people do really like it, and she has enough power within the Academy to wrangle enough votes to make herself a contender. You might even say she’s the #2 choice behind Moore. But at this point, the #2 choice in the category isn’t getting more than 20% of the vote. So it doesn’t matter. I’m saying Pike has that Whiplash support and is the one that will steal votes, whereas Witherspoon is gonna get that blanket so-so support that won’t make waves, but will make her a solid third choice. That’s how I’m doing my rankings. Even though they’re irrelevant past #1.

Likelihood to win: 1) Moore 2) Pike 3) Witherspoon 4) Jones 5) Cotillard

If I Were a Betting Man: Julianne Moore, Still Alice. It’s a done deal. Don’t overthink this.

You Should Take: Julianne Moore, Still Alice

On My Ballot: Julianne Moore, Still Alice

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Supporting Actor

Robert Duvall, The Judge

Ethan Hawke, Boyhood

Edward Norton, Birdman

Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

My Rankings:

  1. J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
  2. Edward Norton, Birdman
  3. Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
  4. Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
  5. Robert Duvall, The Judge

My Thoughts:

This was the single least surprising category of 2014. There were only six choices, and the five that ended up being nominated were the same five that appeared on every list all the way through. This was the most boring version of this category there could have been. Though, on the other hand, the category is actually pretty solid despite that.

Personally, I’d have put Josh Brolin on here instead of Robert Duvall, but this category skews older and toward veterans, so I understand why he got here. Though it’s abundantly clear that they only did it because he’s Robert Duvall and not because of anything else. Because that movie was not particularly good, and it’s clear that no one really liked the movie all that much. Which makes nominations like this feel weak, since you know they only did it for the person and not the performance.

But either way, we’re left with a solid category. Duvall is Duvall, and we love him. Ethan Hawke is good, and the role fits with the others. Mark Ruffalo was terrific, and in another year, might have won this category. Edward Norton would have won this category if it weren’t for J.K. Simmons. And J.K. Simmons… I’ve said it before — the single best acting performance I saw this year. This is the only performance where, if it doesn’t win, I will be upset. Every other category can turn out whichever way it wants to. But if he doesn’t win this, I’m flipping tables.

Any other year, Edward Norton is my vote. But this year, it’s all J.K. Simmons. The man deserves it.

My Vote: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

If I had a ballot: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Should have been nominated: Josh Brolin, Inherent Vice

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash. He’s swept all the precursors, gives a powerhouse performance that’s perfect for the category, and is just thought of as the kind of performance that wins. I think we’d be pretty shocked if he lost at this point. Julianne Moore losing would be the biggest shock, but him losing would be right up there.

Biggest Competition: Edward Norton, Birdman. The rankings don’t matter here, because no one is beating Simmons. But if anyone is gonna do it, it’s Norton. He has the flashiest performance. He has a performance that would have won in any other year, and his film has way more support than your third choice. He’s the biggest competition, but at this point, this race is almost as distanced as Best Actress. So it’s irrelevant

Spoiler Alert: Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher. He’s Mark Ruffalo. Duvall is a filler nominee, as isn’t happening. And Hawke has no traction. No one’s sweep voting Boyhood. So let’s take Ruffalo as third choice. Because he’s Mark Ruffalo. People love him. But at this point, if it’s not Simmons or Norton, we’re all shocked at the result. Don’t overthink this.

Likelihood to win: 1) Simmons 2) Norton 3) Ruffalo 4) Hawke 5) Duvall

If I Were a Betting Man: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash. You can’t bet against him at this point. SAG, BAFTA, BFCA, the Globe. Never bet against a clean sweep. And look at the performance. There’s nothing against him winning.

You Should Take: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

On My Ballot: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Laura Dern, Wild

Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game

Emma Stone, Birdman

Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

My Rankings:

  1. Emma Stone, Birdman
  2. Meryl Streep, Into the Woods
  3. Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
  4. Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
  5. Laura Dern, Wild

My Thoughts:

Laura Dern’s name being called was perhaps the biggest surprise on Oscar nominations morning. We thought for sure that Jessica Chastain had the spot for A Most Violent Year. But it seems no one saw that movie at all, or just didn’t like it. I can’t tell which it is. Seems like it’s the latter, for sure. I don’t think the studio had enough money to mount a campaign for her. Which is a shame. It’s weird, seeing what movies that I loved get totally ignored during Oscar season (see also: Prisoners, Killing Them Softly, The Impossible).

But seeing as how the supporting female category was even weaker than the lead female category this year (at least in their minds, apparently), once Chastain was out, there was next to no one to take her place. Rene Russo could have snuck on, but it seems that they didn’t care for that movie enough. Which left Laura Dern, a performance that is barely in the movie (seriously now), but an actress that is well respected in a movie with an actress with enough power to get someone else nominated. And here she is.

Patricia Arquette was always gonna be here, given the role, much like Ethan Hawke. And Keira Knightley was always assured a spot here, given the role, the film, and who is campaigning for it. It could have been anyone in that role and they’d be here. And Meryl is Meryl and sings the shit out of those songs. And since they seemingly had no one else, here she is. Emma Stone came along for the ride with her film, and was also worthy of being here. So that worked out. Plus she fits the model of what they like in this category.

The category turned out pretty weak. I thought there were some great performances that went unnominated and unnoticed. I don’t have anyone I’d want to vote for. Any vote I’m gonna have is based solely on what’s here. It reminds me of the 1943 Supporting Actress category. (As I’m sure it does everyone else as well.)

I’m not voting for Dern, since I really don’t think she should be here (no problem that she is, I just feel like there were at least three other performances that would have been better off on this list). Arquette, I’m on the record as saying, the performance is fine, but I’m not in love with it. Can’t vote for it. Knightley, I love her, but I can’t vote for her without arbitration, because the role could have been played by anyone and gotten here. And I don’t think they got as much out of the part as they could have. That leaves two performances: Meryl and Emma Stone. Meryl is great. I didn’t care about the performance most of the way, but I have to say, I was really impressed when she started belting out “Last Midnight.” But I can’t vote for that. That should be a #4 performance most years. So that leaves Emma Stone. She’s good, I loved the movie, and even though I didn’t love the performance, I have nothing else. Either I vote Keira Knightley for the actress, or Emma Stone for the part. So I’ll take Emma Stone, and at least try to uphold the purpose of the category.

Though I will say, nominate any of these three performances — Chastain in A Most Violent Year, Carrie Coon in Gone Girl, or Katherine Waterston in Inherent Vice — and they’re my vote, without question.

My Vote: Emma Stone, Birdman

If I had a ballot: Emma Stone, Birdman

Should have been nominated: Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year, Carrie Coon, Gone Girl, Katherine Waterston, Inherent Vice

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood. The moment Jessica Chastain wasn’t nominated, this category was over. She has had no competition at all. Won the Globe, BFCA, SAG and BAFTA, and at this point, is taking home the Oscar. No one has had time to mount any kind of campaign against her. It’s hard to see anyone being able to overtake her.

Biggest Competition: Emma Stone, Birdman. She is exactly what this category is for. The up and coming ingenue. This category is full of them. If anyone has a chance at upsetting, it’s her. The film is the most loved outside of Boyhood, and I think that, performance wise, she’s gonna get more love than Keira. Dern has no shot, and Meryl is up against, “Meryl? Again?” as well as the movie not being that great. That leaves Emma and Keira as the runners-up, and I think she’s the one more likely to get enough votes to do it, if it’s anyone.

Spoiler Alert: Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game. The role. And the film has 8 nominations. And Harvey Weinstein is campaigning for her. Oh, and the other two have no shot. She might be second choice, even. If it’s not Arquette, it’s Stone or Knightley. Keira is more established, so maybe she’s the choice. But performance-wise, and film-wise, Stone has more support, I’d think. Either way, it’s not looking like there’s gonna be an upset.

Likelihood to win: 1) Arquette 2) Stone 3) Knightley 4) Streep 5) Dern

If I Were a Betting Man: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood. It’s rare to have three locked acting categories. We’re about to have two of those years in a row. SAG, BAFTA, BFCA, the Globe. Hard to argue. And without a clear competitor who can take her down, she should win this handily.

You Should Take: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

On My Ballot: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Original Screenplay

Birdman

Boyhood

Foxcatcher

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Nightcrawler

My Rankings:

  1. Birdman
  2. The Grand Budapest Hotel
  3. Nightcrawler
  4. Boyhood
  5. Foxcatcher

My Thoughts:

Seeing as how Whiplash was considered an Adapted Screenplay by the Academy, this category went exactly as expected. In fact, I think it’s one of the only categories I guessed completely right when I guessed nominations. They’re all deserving nominees and I can’t say anything against them.

I love seeing Wes Anderson get nominated. This is his third nomination, after The Royal Tenenbaums and Moonrise Kingdom. I’d say that this is his tightest, most complete script. Don’t know if I’d vote for him, even though I loved the movie.

Foxcatcher I wouldn’t have here if Whiplash were considered Original (which it is. But we’re beyond that quibble). But it’s a solid script and is a deserving nominee. Though to me, that movie is all about acting and direction, so I wouldn’t vote for it.

Boyhood is a tough choice, since it’s the creation of 12 short films, essentially. So, yes, they kind of wrote them out, but on the other hand, it’s not exactly a script so much as it is a film they created based on how this kid was growing up. It’s either the most deserving nominee in the category or the least deserving. It depends on your point of view. I fall somewhere in between. As a script, I think it absolutely should be here, but I don’t know if I’d vote for it.

Nightcrawler, I thought, was incredible, and just missed making my top ten for the year. It was terrific, and the writing and performances were great. And honestly, if my #1 movie of the year weren’t on this list, it might have been my vote.

I honestly can’t vote for anything else except Birdman. It’s amazing. It’s the best script of the year. It deserves to win this category. And it’s my vote all the way.

My Vote: Birdman

If I had a ballot: Birdman

Should have been nominated: A Most Violent Year

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel. Originally, this was my spoiler. But at this point, it’s probably gonna win. It’s tied for most number of nominations, it has a couple of tech categories in the bag, and now has both a WGA Award and a BAFTA Award. Since 2000, BAFTA and the WGA have matched five times. And all five of those times, the film went on to win the Oscar. Which is a useful statistic, except for the fact that Birdman was ineligible for the WGA. So it’s not a clean statistic. The other statistic of note is the fact that, since 2000, outside of the years when the Oscar winner for Original Screenplay was ineligible for the WGA (2012, 2010, possibly 2002), the WGA winner has matched the Oscar winner all but once. That one time was 2000, when You Can Count on Me beat Almost Famous for the WGA, but WGA won the Oscar (with a BAFTA win along the way). So, those awards, along with the general sense of overall love for Grand Budapest leads me to say that it is the most likely winner here. Though I don’t think it’s necessarily the eventual winner, since it hasn’t beaten Birdman clean at the WGA. Not to mention, the actors love Birdman, and they’re the biggest voting body. So what happens there? And the producers voted for Birdman for Best Picture. We’re only dealing with the writers here. So it’s not a done deal, but we can definitely call this a favorite going in.

Biggest Competition: Birdman. It’s either this or Grand Budapest that’s gonna win. It’s almost neck and neck. This wasn’t eligible for the WGA, so we can’t say just how the writers feel, exactly, about one over the other. This won the Globe screenplay category, but lost the Best Picture category to Budapest. And Budapest won the BAFTA over this. They’re tied for number of nominations, overall, so that’s not a factor. The questions here seem to be — Birdman seems likely to win Best Director. Will they want to give Inarritu both? My gut says no. Then again, if it’s gonna win Picture and Director, will they just sweep it? Since, when they like something, they like something. The question is whether or not they’ll give Anderson this as a consolation prize for not winning Best Director or Best Picture, or if they’ll just go with Birdman because they love it. There are a lot of chess pieces to consider here, and it’s gonna come down to the wire.

Spoiler Alert: Boyhood. Because, as I said before, the other two don’t have enough going for them to consider them spoilers. Nightcrawler ended up with just the one nomination, and Foxcatcher only got on because Whiplash was considered an adapted screenplay. That screenplay’s not exactly considered a masterpiece. That’s one of those “nominee” films, that people like, but it’ll end up going home with nothing (much like Bennett Miller’s last film.) This movie is special, but does the writing even factor into that? It’s hard to consider. He wrote a bunch of short films over 12 years. Some people might think it’s a gimmick and nothing more. The people who won’t vote for it definitely won’t vote for it here. The people who are fine with it but don’t consider it their #1 — I don’t see them saying, “Oh, yeah, but the writing, I gotta vote for that.” And the people who are voting for this for Best Picture — do they say, “Oh yeah, it’s gotta win writing too?” I don’t think so. I think you look at this category and you go, “It’s either Inarritu or Anderson.” So the spoiler doesn’t matter, but for rankings purposes, this is it.

Likelihood to win: 1) The Grand Budapest Hotel 2) Birdman 3) Boyhood 4) Nightcrawler 5) Foxcatcher

If I Were a Betting Man: This is another one of those scenarios where I’m voting with my emotions and will tell you to not follow my lead. I’m taking Birdman. I don’t necessarily think it’s the smart choice, but if it wins Best Picture, it’s statistically more likely to win here. I’m hanging my hat on the WGA ineligibility. Maybe it’s not the smart choice, but I don’t care. That’s why I’m telling you not to listen to me.

You Should Take: The Grand Budapest Hotel. I think it’s the sound choice. Even without Birdman being WGA eligible, this has the BAFTA win, is tied for the most nominations, oh, and let’s not forget that it beat Birdman for the Golden Globe. This feels more in line with how they’ve voted the last few years in this category. Like Spike Jonze last year. A singular writer’s vision. My gut tells me this is the choice, and the precursors seem to back it up.

On My Ballot: Birdman

– – – – – –

– – – – –

Best Adapted Screenplay

American Sniper

The Imitation Game

Inherent Vice

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

My Rankings:

  1. Whiplash
  2. Inherent Vice
  3. The Imitation Game
  4. The Theory of Everything
  5. American Sniper

My Thoughts:

This was another category that was mostly predictable all the way through. American Sniper, Imitation Game and Theory of Everything were gonna be here all the way. And there was always a good chance Whiplash was gonna be nominated no matter which category it counted for. The only minor surprise here was Inherent Vice getting on. But, if we knew that they just would completely not go for Gone Girl and avoid it entirely, then it was a relatively easy inclusion.

Overall, it’s a good list. I don’t love American Sniper, but it was gonna be here, and got all the major requisite nominations, so it doesn’t look terrible. Theory of Everything is completely deserving, but I wouldn’t vote for it. Inherent Vice, I loved, but I don’t know if I’d vote for it outside of wanting to get Paul Thomas Anderson an Oscar. Imitation Game was great and is a good script and will make a good winner, but I felt like it didn’t quite lived up to its premise. It’s not necessarily the script’s fault, but if we’re talking who I’m gonna vote for, it hurts it.

Whiplash, was fucking incredible, and that’s gonna be my vote all the way through. I loved that movie, and I think the script is great. It’s a tight film, and is wonderfully written. I don’t need it to win the Oscar, but I’d vote for it. I’m just glad it’s nominated.

My Vote: Whiplash

If I had a ballot: Whiplash

Should have been nominated: Gone Girl

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: The Imitation Game. It is. A WGA win and a USC Scripter Award are huge. I don’t ever put stock into the Scripter, but if you look back — 2009, they were wrong. 2006, they were wrong, but the winner wasn’t nominated by them. 2005, they were wrong. And 2003. 2000. 1999. 1998. You get the point. But they’re generally pretty strong. As strong as the WGA is, so it’s worth mentioning as rationalization. And I think it’s generally agreed that this was a really tight, really great script. And at this point, it’s to be considered the favorite still, even though the film is unlikely to come near winning anything else.

Biggest Competition: Whiplash. Maybe I’m deluding myself, but I feel like this is the only one that has a chance at upsetting. Inherent Vice isn’t getting any votes. That got too mixed a reaction and too few love from the Academy to make any kind of a play for it. American Sniper might be a possibility, but I think the love for that skews too old and the controversy does actually hurt it. Even if this was more of a contender than it is, I still don’t think it had a chance at screenplay. I don’t think people, when they think about why they like that movie, I feel like the first two pieces getting praised are Bradley Cooper and Clint Eastwood. I don’t think the script is a part of that. So I wouldn’t call it the direct competition, especially without a WGA win. And Theory of Everything… ehh, it’s more about the performances. Nobody’s clamoring about the script. Though it’s very solid. Whiplash, though — beloved film. It has very vocal critics. And if people aren’t gonna vote for the obvious choice, this is the one that’s gonna get the most support. If anything sneaks up and wins, it’s this. Because if you look at all the precursors, this is the one that hasn’t been in the Adapted category, and this is the one that’s the wild card. All the others already lost to this in the precursors. Why would you consider them threats all of a sudden? If it’s anything, it’s Whiplash.

Spoiler Alert: The Theory of Everything. Because it’s gonna win probably two other Oscars, and that gives it more visibility among the other nominees. It’s not Inherent Vice, and maybe it’s Sniper, but at this point, both of those haven’t fared particularly well in the precursors. This won the BAFTA for Screenplay. So it has support. If anything is winning this that isn’t Imitation Game or Whiplash, it’s this. The Stephen Hawking movie about a famous book he wrote that’s likely going to win Best Actor. The script is solid, and it’s your dark horse.

Likelihood to win: 1) The Imitation Game 2) Whiplash 3) The Theory of Everything 4) American Sniper 5) Inherent Vice

If I Were a Betting Man: It’s either Imitation Game or Whiplash. Nothing would please me more than to see Whiplash walk away with the Oscar come tonight. This could become that film that wins every award its up for outside of Best Picture. Gravity almost did that. Traffic did do that. Remember Traffic? Won Supporting Actor (hmm), Editing (hmm), Screenplay (mmhmm) and Director. This isn’t nominated for Director, but is nominated for Sound Mixing. Sound familiar? It could happen. That said, I’m taking The Imitation Game. Though Whiplash is a solid choice, if you’re thinking all the British voters go with Theory of Everything and that takes votes away from this and allows Whiplash to sneak in there. (This is why I’m the best. Because I give you the picks, tell you what will win otherwise, and give you the rationale for convincing yourself and others why that pick is the choice. That’s half the battle. If you can make a pick and sound convincing in giving it, and afterwards when you don’t win, then you didn’t lose. Your rationale was sound. It just didn’t work out. You’re automatically doing better than the people who are like, “Fuck that, this is gonna win because they love this old British shit.” Or because that’s the one nominee they saw and are voting for it because it should win. I’m here to help, people.)

You Should Take: The Imitation Game. Whiplash is still a choice. But I’m saying to stick with the WGA and the Scripter, because it’s the safer choice. I tell you to play it safe so you can be more likely to win your pool. You go out on a limb when you feel you should. Whiplash is definitely a solid choice here, but Screenplay isn’t something it’s gonna be looked at as needing to win. Editing, Supporting Actor, maybe Sound Mixing. Those are the categories where you take it. You have to look at this from a voter’s perspective. They don’t all sweep vote. People do generally reward films where they feel like they should be rewarded. Remember The Artist? Lost Editing. Lost Cinematography. Lost all of those categories. Won the categories that made sense. I don’t know if this category makes complete sense for Whiplash, and because of that (and the precursors), Imitation Game is a sound choice. Though it could easily get shut out. That’s possible to. So smart money is Imitation Game, Whiplash is a solid spoiler bet.

On My Ballot:

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Editing

American Sniper

Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Whiplash

My Rankings:

  1. Whiplash
  2. The Grand Budapest Hotel
  3. Boyhood
  4. American Sniper
  5. The Imitation Game

My Thoughts:

The Birdman snub is interesting. And if Birdman loses, this is the category everyone is gonna point to as the one that was the sign. Because a film hasn’t won Best Picture without a Best Editing nomination since 1980. That was the only real minor surprise in the category. But not huge, because the film is designed to not look like it was edited. And sure, some editing went into making it look that way, but not exactly a whole lot. The film very clearly has a lot of long takes in it. So this isn’t the worst thing that it’s not in the category.

Otherwise, the category makes total sense. Your Best Picture frontrunners are always here. That means Boyhood and that means Imitation Game. And American Sniper. Which is doubly a frontrunner and a war movie. That was always getting here. And Whiplash is an editing showcase, so we’re all very glad that got on instead of something else. I guess, if not Birdman, then Theory of Everything was the one. Since apparently Gone Girl couldn’t get shit. Either way, overall a decent category.

Whiplash is my only vote here. No questions asked, end of story. Need any more reasoning? Watch the movie. That’s why.

My Vote: Whiplash

If I had a ballot: Whiplash

Should have been nominated: Birdman, Interstellar

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Boyhood. I’m not totally sold on this as a winner. And at this point, it needs this. If it’s winning Best Picture, it needs this. The second this loses Best Editing, it’s done. It’s gonna go home with one Oscar and that’s it. In a year like this, without a clear editing choice, the stage is set for this to win. Typically, as Editing goes, so goes Picture. But this year is different. So we’re open. If Boyhood wins this, it’s still in the Picture race. If it doesn’t, it’s over. And it has the Eddie, which makes it statistically the most likely to win. Oh, and you know, they shot the film over twelve years and edited that together. That also helps it become the favorite in a category like this. But, going back to the Eddie… the Eddies have been given out since 1962. If we go back 25 years, the winner of the Eddie has matched the Oscar winner 19 times. That’s 76%. Go back 20 years, it’s 90%. Go back 15, it’s down to 80%. 10 years, 80%. The only trend you have that says this won’t win is that over the last five years, the Eddie winner has lost the Oscar twice. The Descendants won in 2011 (which is still a bizarre choice by them. No one thought that would win the Oscar at all) and Captain Phillips won last year, and lost the Oscar to Gravity (which swept all the techs). So really, unless you are dead certain about what’s going to beat it, this is the choice.

Biggest Competition: Whiplash. If it’s not Boyhood, it’s Whiplash. That much seems certain. It won the BAFTA for Editing (a strange choice, considering it won Picture and Director there), but then again, they don’t always match up.

Spoiler Alert: American Sniper. It’s a war movie. That’s why. Budapest doesn’t have the strength to pull this off (though if it does, watch out), and Imitation Game is only here because that’s how Editing works. Sniper is clearly your alternate if the first two lose. And if it wins, people are gonna be like, “Oh man, watch out in Best Picture.” And they’re gonna be idiots, because the only reason this would be voted for and the only reason this would win is because it’s a war film. This winning has no bearing on its Best Picture chances. Though if it does win, then it should also take at least one of the Sound categories. So if you vote for it here and not in the Sound categories, then I don’t know what the hell you’re doing with a ballot.

Likelihood to win: 1) Boyhood 2) Whiplash 3) American Sniper 4) The Grand Budapest Hotel 5) The Imitation Game

If I Were a Betting Man: Whiplash. Because I just have to take it. There are always two or three personal choices for me every year. Fortunately, most years, some of those personal choices are the more likely choices and end up winning, but this is one of those where, no matter what the outcome is, I have to take it. Because I truly believe, for better or worse, that the Academy really doesn’t want to vote for Boyhood. And I think this will be the sign that it isn’t winning. Smart money isn’t on this happening, but I think it will. So that’s what I’m taking. It’s an entirely personal choice.

You Should Take: Boyhood. It’s the sound choice. The Eddies are a good precursor, and even if people downgrade this on their Picture list, there will be a solid amount of them who go, “Well, they did have to edit it down from all that footage, so there is that.” Plus, if they don’t give it Picture and Director, this will be their consolation prize. It makes total sense as a winner. Whiplash doesn’t necessarily need this, and this is the one that makes the most sense. I say you take that.

On My Ballot: Whiplash

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Cinematography

Birdman

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Ida

Mr. Turner

Unbroken

My Rankings:

  1. Birdman
  2. Ida
  3. The Grand Budapest Hotel
  4. Mr. Turner
  5. Unbroken

My Thoughts:

I don’t think we’re particularly surprised by any of these nominees. It’s not a very strong category. At least, when you glance at it. But then… what else could have been here?

Imitation Game isn’t that strong. Whiplash… ehh. Theory of Everything. Not the worst choice, but not the best either. American Sniper, no. Boyhood, no. Selma, no. And then, of the non-Best Picture nominees… Foxcatcher? Interstellar, I’d have voted for. But that didn’t catch on. Gone Girl is only here if they’re back on Fincher, but they aren’t. Inherent Vice was a choice. But these are all films that didn’t catch on.

So you’re left with Roger Deakins, Mr. Turner, which got a lot of techs, Budapest, which is beloved and is shot on film by Wes Anderson’s guy who hasn’t been recognized before, and Ida, a black and white foreign nominee. And they love those. It’s solid work all around.

Birdman is the only vote here. What Lubezki accomplishes here is simply sublime, and after so many years of great efforts, he’s about to win twice. And this one is completely deserved.

My Vote: Birdman

If I had a ballot: Birdman

Should have been nominated: Godzilla, Interstellar

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Birdman. Does anyone think anything else can win this category? ASC, BAFTA, BFCA, and a movie that looks like it was shot in a continuous take. What more you do need to consider this the most likely winner of the category? Normally I say that people don’t know who they’re voting for, but here, I think they do know it’s Lubezki. I don’t know if they remember that he won last year, and I’m certain they don’t care. I think that this film stands out as having the best cinematography in the group, and I can’t see any reason for picking against it here, unless you think a major backlash is going to happen, and/or you think that Grand Budapest is just gonna sweep all the technical categories. Either way, that’s your business. You still need to admit this is the most likely winner, based on everything until this point.

Biggest Competition: The Grand Budapest Hotel. If it’s not Birdman, who else is there? This is the only one. This should get a slew of tech awards, and that might include this one. If it’s not Birdman, it has to be this. So if you’re gonna bet against Birdman, bet on the film that’s fixing to get the most wins in these types of categories. Otherwise, without ASC, and no major precursor wins, don’t treat it as anything other than a second choice, unless you’re really looking to guess a major shocker.

Spoiler Alert: Unbroken. When you actually look at the category analytically, every nominee outside of Birdman falls to the wayside. I can’t see anything else even competing with it. Mr. Turner would really surprise me, that enough people voted for it over more high profile nominees. Only two foreign language films have won this category in the past 30 years, and they were Pan’s Labyrinth and Crouching Tiger. Ida is neither of those films. Before that, you have two Bergman films, which routinely got other major nominations. So I can’t say Ida is a legitimate threat. And even Unbroken doesn’t feel like a threat. But it is Deakins, so you have to think that maybe he might get a few votes because of that. But even when Deakins has major contenders (No Country, Assassination of Jesse James, True Grit, Skyfall), he can’t crack a win. It would be sadly ironic if he won for the one movie of his that ended up being thought of as a major disappointment. Sure, that wouldn’t be his fault, but it would be comedic. So I’ll give him a spoiler’s chance, but I don’t think we need to take it particularly seriously.

Likelihood to win: 1) Birdman 2) The Grand Budapest Hotel 3) Unbroken 4) Ida 5) Mr. Turner

If I Were a Betting Man: Birdman. I’m taking this, and I’m not thinking twice about it. You can bet against it for Picture, Director, Screenplay. Not here. This is the one it should win no matter what. Even if people decide they don’t want it to win. I’m not betting against this. I’ll lose.

You Should Take: Birdman. Don’t play with fire. I’d say, right now, it’s 85/15 that this wins. (And I’m being really lenient there.) Stick with this and take chances in categories with better odds.

On My Ballot: Birdman

– – – – –

– – – – – 

Best Original Score

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Mr. Turner

The Imitation Game

Interstellar

The Theory of Everything

My Rankings:

  1. The Imitation Game
  2. Interstellar
  3. The Grand Budapest Hotel
  4. The Theory of Everything
  5. Mr. Turner

My Thoughts:

It’s a solid category. Almost all of these made my list of favorite scores of the year. Birdman was ineligible, as was Whiplash. I loved Godzilla, but that was never going to make it. Otherwise, Imitation Game, Interstellar and Grand Budapest were my #3, #4 and #5 scores, and Theory of Everything was somewhere later on the list. And that was always going to make it on.

The Mr. Turner inclusion was a slight surprise, but not a major one. Nothing feels heavily snubbed this year, which is nice. Usually there’s a huge snub. The ineligibles are a recurring thing. There’s usually a snub on top of that. There’s none of that this year, which is nice.

Imitation Game is by far my favorite score. It’s so fucking good. I can’t vote for anything else. Not to mention the fact that Desplat is my favorite working composer and hasn’t won yet. The man needs one.

My Vote: The Imitation Game

If I had a ballot: The Imitation Game

Should have been nominated: Of the ones that were eligible? Godzilla

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: The Theory of Everything. I’m not sure why I consider this the favorite still, but then again, I’m not sure why we don’t. There’s no real precursor award for this, so we’re just guessing. I understand why you’d make pretty much anything the favorite here. Just so we’re clear about this — Mr. Turner, not happening. Interstellar, along for the ride. There’s no guarantee that movie wins the awards it should be considered a shoo-in for. So you can’t put those here. It’s down to the three Best Picture nominees. Those are your three. Now, the question is how people vote. Because two of the three were done by Alexandre Desplat. Do people know that? Do they care? And also, did they even listen to the scores they were sent? Or are they going by what they remember from the films? And will they just sweep vote a film they like the best? It seems that’s what everyone is figuring they’re doing. Everyone I’ve talked to assumes they will. Now, the reason I consider this the favorite is simply because… it just feels like the winner. It’s a memorable score from the film, and I think they’re just gonna vote for it. It won the Globe, but it’s not like the Globe means anything outside of a spotlight. Looking back over the last fifteen years of the Globe… well, first off, they had a really solid run of picking the same winners. 2006-2012. And then last year, their winner wasn’t even nominated. Though, the other thing I’ve found with them, most of the time, is that, when they don’t match up to the Oscars, whatever does win ends up also being nominated for the Globe. Don’t know how that happens, but it does. And Grand Budapest wasn’t nominated for the Globe. Meaningless, I’m sure, but it’s worth noting. But anyway, I still think this is the favorite. I’ll talk more about it later.

Biggest Competition: The Grand Budapest Hotel. People have actually become pretty certain that this is going to win. I guess because they figure people will vote for it across all the tech categories. Maybe they will. It won the BAFTA for Best Music, and I guess people think that’s a significant feat? Because it won a bunch of awards there, so they just voted for it all around. Are we for certain the Academy is going to do that? I haven’t seen evidence they want to give it that many awards. Let’s go back 25 years in the BAFTA category. Since 1989, the BAFTA winner has gone unnominated at the Oscars 11 times. The winners have been the same 9 times. Of the remaining 5 years, in 4 of them, the Oscar winner was nominated for the BAFTA and lost to something else. The one outlier year is 2010, where The Social Network wasn’t nominated for the BAFTA for score. So that’s 4 years where the BAFTA winner for music was nominated for an Oscar but lost. Which is just about the same as the amount of times it’s won. And you look at those four times: Elizabeth beats Shakespeare in Love. But Shakespeare in Love sweeps all the top awards at the Oscars. Cold Mountain beats Return of the King. Return of the King sweep votes. Memoirs of a Geisha beats Brokeback. Not really sure how to quality that one. And Skyfall beats Life of Pi. That’s a British choice, and I think we all knew Life of Pi was gonna beat it at the Oscars. Not really sure how that helps us. Or does much of anything. I guess I gave as much reasoning for as against. The point there was, there is no precursor here, and nobody knows until the award is given. So it’s a toss up between the two and both are likely to win. I have no facts to back this category up with. Desplat was nominated for a Wes Anderson film for Fantastic Mr. Fox but didn’t win. So there’s that.

Spoiler Alert: The Imitation Game. It’s the only other choice. But even though this is the best score in the category, it’s an afterthought here. It’s hard to take it for the win, even though I’d love it. I say stick with the top two and take your chances from there.

Likelihood to win: 1) The Theory of Everything 2) The Grand Budapest Hotel 3) The Imitation Game 4) Interstellar 5) Mr. Turner

If I Were a Betting Man: I’m taking The Theory of Everything. I just feel like it’s gonna win. Budapest makes sense as a sweep vote along the techs, but I’m just thinking they go with this. I just think that even though people do really like Grand Budapest, there’s gonna be that sense of, “We’ve heard that Wes Anderson score a bunch of times,” and I think people are actually gonna think about the music when they vote for this, and not just sweep vote. I think Imitation Game should theoretically have a shot here. But if we’re really thinking about how this category is gonna go, I don’t see how this doesn’t win. The Grand Budapest score is exactly the same as his Fantastic Mr. Fox and Moonrise Kingdom scores. Are they really just gonna blindly vote for that just because of the film? I don’t see it. I’m taking Theory of Everything. Let it win.

You Should Take: The Grand Budapest Hotel. You should. I think that’s the choice everyone is taking, and it’s probably the likely winner, based on a predicted sweep voting in the tech categories. Stick with the majority. I personally am sticking with what I think is going to win, but at this point, everyone’s predicting this to walk away with five Oscars out of nine, so why wouldn’t you figure that to be the case? We know what four it’s gonna lose, but the other five are totally up for grabs (and it’s got three of them in the bag, seemingly). So this is probably the smart choice. I’m gonna stick with my gut on this, on my personal ballot.

On My Ballot: The Theory of Everything

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Original Song

“Lost Stars,” from Begin Again

“Grateful,” from Beyond the Lights

“I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” from Glen Campbell… I’ll Be Me

“Everything Is Awesome, from The Lego Movie

“Glory,” from Selma

My Rankings:

  1. “Glory,” from Selma
  2. “Lost Stars,” from Begin Again
  3. “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” from Glen Campbell… I’ll Be Me
  4. “Everything Is Awesome,” from The Lego Movie
  5. “Grateful,” from Beyond the Lights

My Thoughts:

The guy from New Radicals is nominated for an Oscar. Just in case you guys weren’t aware of that.

“Everything Is Awesome” really shouldn’t be nominated, but I’ve resigned myself to the fact that it’s here. “Grateful” was written by Diane Warren, which is why they nominated that. A lot of politics go on in the Music branch (much like the shorts and documentary branches). The Glen Campbell song is a nice tribute, so that should have been expected. “Lost Stars” got the Harvey push, so that of course was gonna be here. And “Glory” is the best song that was eligible, it would have been a travesty if it didn’t make it.

Can’t call anything a snub here, because this category is still not on solid ground after years of being fucked up from poor voting.

Personally, the only song I vote for is “Glory” and I move right on to more important decisions.

My Vote: “Glory,” from Selma

If I had a ballot: “Glory,” from Selma

Should have been nominated: Don’t feel strongly enough about the songs to say one over others.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: “Glory,” from Selma. At this point, it’s really tough to vote against it. It’s been very visible the last two months. Common and Legend gave a great speech (never forget) at the Globes, and gave a big performance at the Grammys. It’s hard not to consider this the likely winner at this point.

Biggest Competition: “Everything Is Awesome,” from The Lego Movie. Because I feel like some people are gonna vote for it because of a perceived snub in the Animated Feature category. It’s gonna be irregardless of merit. People will just vote for it. Presumably they won’t be enough for it to overcome “Glory,” but at this point, if anything other than “Glory” wins this category, this is the one.

Spoiler Alert: “Lost Stars,” from Begin Again. Harvey will get this enough votes to remain respectable. It won’t win, but it’s clearly the other choice. Diane Warren has never won an Oscar for her songs, so why would you start now, for a song and a film that no one heard or saw? And Glen Campbell is a good story, but again, no one really saw the film or heard the song, so that’s not happening. Begin Again has Harvey and at least has some people who will vote for it on merit. This is the only other choice. But this category is almost political at this point, when there aren’t nominees everyone has heard. Hard to see this jumping up and actually winning. Keep it as a spoiler and don’t waste time on it.

Likelihood to win: 1) “Glory” 2) “Everything Is Awesome” 3) “Lost Stars” 4) “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” 5) “Grateful”

If I Were a Betting Man: Take “Glory,” from Selma. You wanna vote for “Everything Is Awesome,” be my guest. This is your likely winner and should end up winning. Of course, even in a year with an essentially guaranteed winner (“Let It Go”) this category is still a nailbiter because there are no precursors for it. But I think we all can feel pretty safe about this one. To have this lose would really look bad on them. Although, this won the Globe for Original Song. And that award has been given out 51 times before this year, and only 28 of those times did the Globe winner match the Oscar winner. And, the fucked up part there? In the last fifteen years, the Golden Globe winner for Best Original Song has only matched the Oscars 5 times. Tarzan, Bob Dylan, Return of the King, Crazy Heart and Skyfall. Those are the only five. Otherwise, it hasn’t matched at all. So there’s your rationalization if you really want to go off of this. Also keep in mind, the Globes have, over the past fifteen years, given awards to Sting, u2 (twice), Mick Jagger, Bernie Taupin, Prince, Eddie Vedder, Springsteen, Diane Warren, and Madonna. So it’s not like they’re totally clean in all of this. I think you should stick with “Glory.”

You Should Take: “Glory,” from Selma

On My Ballot: “Glory,” from Selma

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Production Design

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Interstellar

Into the Woods

Mr. Turner

My Rankings:

  1. The Grand Budapest Hotel
  2. Interstellar
  3. Mr. Turner
  4. Into the Woods
  5. The Imitation Game

My Thoughts:

Mr. Turner jumped up for four tech awards. Not a total surprise, but collectively, that was one of the bigger surprises on nominations morning. Otherwise, we all expected Budapest, Interstellar, Imitation Game and into the woods here. Birdman was a bit of a snub, and that was surprising. Otherwise, not much to say about this category.

Personally, I think most of them did good jobs. Imitation Game was so-so (voting-wise). Into the Woods, no. Mr. Turner was good, but I wouldn’t vote for it. And Interstellar is really good, but doesn’t feel like the choice unless I have something else.

Grand Budapest is clearly the choice. Wes Anderson movies are all about the production design, and it’s hard to think that anyone would be (personally) choosing anything else in this category.

My Vote: The Grand Budapest Hotel

If I had a ballot: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Should have been nominated: Birdman, Snowpiercer

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel. It won the BAFTA and the ADG Award, and should steamroll over everything else in this category. This is the most likely to win, and since I don’t need to justify that any further, we’re gonna move along and not waste the space.

Biggest Competition: The Imitation Game. I had Into the Woods here for a while, but honestly… do you really think they’re gonna vote for that as a whole? Okay, sure, they voted for Alice in Wonderland in 2010, but that’s a Tim Burton thing. At this point, Budapest is so much of a lock, it doesn’t really matter how you rank the rest. This is here as second choice in case they pull a Lincoln and go, “We should give it something.” I think that something is Adapted Screenplay, but this could be that something too. So that’s why this is second choice. Because this was the most liked film of the rest.

Spoiler Alert: Into the Woods. Since Rob Marshall movies have a history in this category. And at this point, what the hell else are they gonna vote for? Mr. Turner is going home empty-handed, and I think we all know that. And space movies never win for production design. That leaves this. You wanna put this as the second choice, be my guest. I had it there until the last minute. Either way, I don’t think either of these are winning, so just keep rearranging those deck chairs.

Likelihood to win: 1) The Grand Budapest Hotel 2) The Imitation Game 3) Into the Woods 4) Interstellar 5) Mr. Turner

If I Were a Betting Man: The Grand Budapest Hotel. BAFTA, ADG, and having its production design be one of the most memorable things about it. It’s like Gatsby last year. Do you really want to vote against it? This looks like one of the biggest locks of the night.

You Should Take: The Grand Budapest Hotel

On My Ballot: The Grand Budapest Hotel

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Costume Design

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Inherent Vice

Into the Woods

Maleficent

Mr. Turner

My Rankings:

  1. The Grand Budapest Hotel
  2. Into the Woods
  3. Inherent Vice
  4. Maleficent
  5. Mr. Turner

My Thoughts:

I knew Maleficent was getting on here. That’s the king of shit they pull every year. Into the Woods was also guaranteed. Mr. Turner fills that British period piece spot they love so much. Inherent Vice was somewhat of a pleasant surprise. But it seems they’ve been on a 70s kick lately.

And Grand Budapest, of course. There’s your winner. Does anyone not remember the purple of Ralph Fiennes’ uniform? Of course that’s the vote.

My Vote: The Grand Budapest Hotel

If I had a ballot: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Should have been nominated: Belle

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel. It won the BAFTA, won CDG, and is generally considered the winner by everyone. The BAFTA Costume Design winner has matched the Oscars since 2008. CDG is about 50/50 on their award. I think we’re pretty safe calling this the most likely to win.

Biggest Competition: Into the Woods. It won the other CDG category, the costumes were done by Colleen Atwood, and at this point, just by looking at the category, if it’s anything but Grand Budapest, it’s clearly this. This is one of the easier categories this year. Don’t overthink it.

Spoiler Alert: Mr. Turner. It’s the only other effort nominated by both the Academy and BAFTA. Won’t win, of course. But Inherent Vice stands no chance, and Maleficent will not get more support than Into the Woods. So that leaves this as the spoiler. Which should tell you how towering a favorite Grand Budapest is in this category and how there really are only two choices in this one.

Likelihood to win: 1) The Grand Budapest Hotel 2) Into the Woods 3) Mr. Turner 4) Inherent Vice 5) Maleficent

If I Were a Betting Man: The Grand Budapest Hotel. Don’t overthink it. CDG, the BAFTA, clearly gonna win three Oscars. Don’t bet against it. Just be wrong with everyone else if it doesn’t win. Into the Woods has like a 10% chance of beating it. Don’t take those odds. This is another one of the biggest locks of the night.

You Should Take: The Grand Budapest Hotel

On My Ballot: The Grand Budapest Hotel

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Makeup & Hairstyling

Foxcatcher

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Guardians of the Galaxy

My Rankings:

  1. The Grand Budapest Hotel
  2. Guardians of the Galaxy
  3. Foxcatcher

My Thoughts:

Category looks good. Theory of Everything lost out to Foxcatcher for the third spot, but who cares, really? Sight test, this category looks classy. For reference, last year’s category was Dallas Buyers Club, Bad Grandpa and The Lone Ranger.

Grand Budapest is my vote. The makeup job on Tilda alone gives it this. Though props to Guardians. They did a good job too.

My Vote: The Grand Budapest Hotel

If I had a ballot: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Should have been nominated: Hard to say, with a shortlist and all. This category looks fine, so I’ve got nothing to add.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel. They brought back the Makeup and Hairstylists Guild and gave their award to this. And BAFTA gave it to this too. So there’s that. You look at how this category goes… when there’s a Best Picture movie in the bunch, it usually wins. Going back to the beginning of the category, the amount of times a Best Picture nominee (or film with a lot of admiration and major nominations) has lost this category (to a film that was not also nominated for Best Picture, etc): 1982, Quest for Fire beats Gandhi. Second year of the category, hard to really take seriously. 1985. Mask beats The Color Purple. Obviously. Usually when this happens, the reasons are clear. 1993. Mrs. Doubtfire beats Philadelphia and Schindler’s List. Again, reasons are clear. 1994, Ed Wood beats Forrest Gump. 1997, Men in Black beats Titanic. Otherwise, last fifteen years… every time a “classy” film has been in this category, much like Visual Effects, it takes it down. So I have a hard time thinking Guardians beats the most nominated film of the year. (Well, tied for most… you know what I mean.)

Biggest Competition: Guardians of the Galaxy. If it’s not Grand Budapest, it’s this. I think we’re all pretty clear on that.

Spoiler Alert: Foxcatcher. Well, it’s the only movie left. Clearly it’s the spoiler if it’s not the other two. This feels like the Hitchcock of the group. Good makeup job, but not liked enough to vote for. I think people are clear it’s just the nose. And again, this isn’t a film people are gonna look to vote for. The other two are. So keep it as a spoiler. I think we’d be pretty surprised if this won.

Likelihood to win: 1) The Grand Budapest Hotel 2) Guardians of the Galaxy 3) Foxcatcher

If I Were a Betting Man: The Grand Budapest Hotel. Why would you bet against it? Oh, because people liked Guardians and they’re gonna look the reward it. The majority of the Academy? Over a film that has 9 nominations, will win a bunch, and isn’t winning Best Picture, so they’re looking to get it awards exactly like this one? Good luck with that. I’m gonna stick with Grand Budapest, and say that the people who want to vote for Guardians are not enough for the people who are so easily gonna check this off in this category. These three seem like easy locks for Budapest.

You Should Take: The Grand Budapest Hotel

On My Ballot: The Grand Budapest Hotel

– – – – –

– – – – – 

Best Visual Effects

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Guardians of the Galaxy

Interstellar

X-Men: Days of Future Past

My Rankings:

  1. Interstellar
  2. X-Men: Days of Future Past
  3. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
  4. Guardians of the Galaxy
  5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

My Thoughts:

The big snubs here were Transformers and The Hobbit. More so The Hobbit. And with the inclusion of Captain America, that tells me the age of elves is over. And the age of Marvel is just begun. (See what I did there? I’m pretty hilarious, in case you weren’t aware.) Otherwise, the other four made total sense. Good category.

Interstellar is my vote every day and Sunday. That should be pretty clear.

My Vote: Interstellar

If I had a ballot: Interstellar

Should have been nominated: Godzilla

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: We’re talking most likely to win now, and now what the presumed frontrunner was based on precursors and all of that. And the film that’s most likely to win this category is Interstellar. There’s a lot of rationale behind this. We had this argument back in 2011, when people were convinced that Rise of the Planet of the Apes was going to beat Hugo. There, though, I could point to the fact that a Best Picture nominee hasn’t lost this category in the modern age unless it was to another Best Picture nominee. Here, I can’t do that. Even so, similar logic applies. First off — which film in this category has the most overall nominations? That would be Interstellar. Which film is generally considered the classiest of the bunch? That would be Interstellar. The rest are summer popcorn flicks. I know everyone’s gonna point to the VES wins for Apes, but remember… Hugo didn’t do as well at those awards either. It won for Supporting Effects, and I think maybe once more for the train crash. You’re getting beside the point. What will an older Academy member look to vote for in this category? Do you think they saw Captain America? X-Men? Maybe they saw Guardians, sure. Apes, maybe they saw it. Interstellar, they saw. And that’s the one they’re gonna vote for. Oh, and let’s also point out… Interstellar won the BAFTA for Visual Effects over almost this exact same category (The Hobbit was nominated over Captain America there. Which arguably makes it an even stronger win, since you have the “last time” thing working there). And over the past 15 years (since before that it gets dicey), the BAFTA winner for Visual Effects has gone on to win the Oscar — ready? — 12 times. You know what the three times were where it didn’t win? 2000. Gladiator lost the BAFTA to The Perfect Storm. That wasn’t happening at the Oscars, because Gladiator was a Best Picture nominee. Easy choice. 2004, The Day After Tomorrow wins the BAFTA over Spider-Man 2. But Day After tomorrow wasn’t nominated for the Oscar. So it doesn’t count. And then 2011, where Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (the last Harry Potter film in Britan’s biggest and quintessential franchise) beats Hugo. And I think we all know that Hugo wasn’t losing the Oscar, and certainly not to that. Which means that you can pretty much take a BAFTA Visual Effects winner to the bank. And if you still don’t believe me — the BAFTAs gave their Visual Effects award to The Golden Compass in 2007. But sure, figure something else is the most likely winner.

Biggest Competition: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. If it’s not Interstellar, it’s probably this. Guardians made more money and is the bigger film, but the effects weren’t necessarily as good. A lot of people think the effects there were actually pretty bad (and they kind of were. That sequence where he’s being chased out to space with the orb, when he takes off his helmet to save her — that wasn’t good). Here, at least, it’s the mo-cap, and apes with guns riding horses. There’s some badass stuff here. So this is clearly the biggest competitor. I just don’t think it wins. Your rationale for it winning is thusly: The winner of the major VES award, Effects in an Effects-Driven Movie, has gone on to win the Oscar nine times since 2002. (12 years, FYI. 12 Years a Visual Effects Winner.) And also, most of the time, the film that wins this category wins more than one award at VES (which Interstellar didn’t do). Though, full disclosure, one of the three times those numbers differed was 2011 when Hugo beat Rise of the Planet of the Apes. (And another was The Golden Compass, which was foreshadowed by BAFTA.) Don’t think it’s your most likely to win. Not feeling it.

Spoiler Alert: Guardians of the Galaxy. It made $300 million. They might look to get it something. Though Marvel has yet to win here. (Unless we count Spider-Man 2. But is that really Marvel?) Hard to see this coming out of nowhere to win over two other contenders with bigger cases. Maybe it does. But I’m not buying into the “they’re gonna look to get it something” argument. I’m keeping it as a spoiler and nothing more.

Likelihood to win: 1) Interstellar 2) Dawn of the Planet of the Apes 3) Guardians of the Galaxy 4) X-Men: Days of Future Past 5) Captain America: The Winter Soldier

If I Were a Betting Man: I’m taking Interstellar. Everything else is just internet chatter. Don’t believe the hype. 12 out of 15 years for the BAFTA. THEY GOT THE GOLDEN COMPASS RIGHT. And Interstellar is clearly the classier film that more people saw, it got the most nominations — and I’m sure if you go back over the Visual Effects category, the film with the most nominations almost always wins. I’m just glancing, and I’m looking at 1992, Death Becomes Her, as the last film to win this category with only one nomination. I know What Dreams May Come was nominated for Art Direction, and I know The Golden Compass got the same. Spider-Man 2 I know got Sound nominations, and Dead Man’s Chest… look at that… Art Direction. Isn’t that a nice little thing to find out. And Interstellar… also nominated for Production Design (which is what Art Direction is now called). Honestly, at this point, even though a lot of people are picking it, you’d actually be insane to not take Interstellar. Apes winning would actually be considered a relative shock tonight. Call me out if I’m wrong, I don’t care, but I’m saying you take Interstellar and don’t look back. There’s no reason to take a film nominated once over a film nominated five times, with a director who has won this category before, just because people think it should win.

You Should Take: Interstellar. I warned you. I don’t care if I’m wrong. That’s happened a lot and will happen plenty more. But don’t say I didn’t warn you if I’m right.

On My Ballot: Interstellar

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Sound Editing

American Sniper

Birdman

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Interstellar

Unbroken

My Rankings:

  1. Interstellar
  2. Birdman
  3. Unbroken
  4. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
  5. American Sniper

My Thoughts:

Weird that The Hobbit actually made it on here. But I guess someone had to nominate it. And that’s how this franchise goes out. With a whimper and not with a bang.

Interstellar, Sniper and Unbroken make sense. Birdman makes sense too. Nothing wholly surprising here.

Interstellar is my vote. I don’t see how it isn’t. Birdman would be my vote for Sound Mixing, if anything. But Sound Editing, nah, son. Interstellar.

My Vote: Interstellar

If I had a ballot: Interstellar

Should have been nominated: Fury, Godzilla

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: American Sniper. It won the MPSE category, which makes it a solid favorite on its own. The other thing going for it is that it’s basically a two horse race. Kind of a three-horse race, but if you really think hard, you’re only left with two. Unbroken stands no chance, and The Hobbit stands even less of a chance. Interstellar, if you remember, had some sound issues when it came out, so I don’t know if that helps it here. Though, it will get some votes. So it’s in the conversation, I just don’t know if you vote for it. So that leaves it between Sniper and Birdman. I don’t see Sniper winning both Sound categories, as some people probably do. That kind of sweep is reserved for Best Picture films and movies like The Matrix and Inception, ones with clear sound designs that would sweep these categories. So I wouldn’t suggest voting for it in both. But here, I’d say you’re looking at it as a solid favorite. This won the FX + Foley category at MPSE, beating essentially the rest of this category. You look back at the MPSE vs. Oscar history — the FX+Foley winner has won the Oscar category 12 out of the last 20 times. Though, in the last 10 years, it’s only 5 times. So it’s a 50/50 here for American Sniper. History says that either this wins or Birdman sweeps both of the sound awards. I’ll call this the favorite because it’s a war film, but it’s 50/50.

Biggest Competition: Birdman. Like I said, it’s either a Sniper win or a Birdman sweep of the sound categories. I’d have a hard time seeing this win one but not both. Either way, if it’s not Sniper, it’s this. Unbroken and The Hobbit are out, and Interstellar is winning both or nothing. And it’s gonna have an even harder time winning for Mixing. The point for this spot is that Birdman is the biggest competition to American Sniper. And I think we all understand that. (It also won Music at MPSE, so it has support from them too.)

Spoiler Alert: Interstellar. No race feels as tight this year as the Sound Editing race does. Which is a joke to most people, since… it’s Sound Editing. But this is the one category where I see three legitimate winners happening. Because I know people who will put Interstellar on there twice. I know people who will put Sniper on there twice. I know people who will put Birdman on there twice. It’s still highly unlikely that this can pull out both or even one Sound win, but if anything is winning that’s not the top two, this is it.

Likelihood to win: 1) American Sniper 2) Birdman 3) Interstellar 4) Unbroken 5) The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

If I Were a Betting Man: Birdman. I’m saying that more people support this than American Sniper. I think American Sniper is still the smarter choice, and will tell you to take that. I’m taking my chances in Sound because I did it with Hugo and it worked out. There’s nothing that says you should take one over the other except your own rationalization of the category. Interstellar is still theoretically a good bet. I don’t know. I say, I’m taking Birdman here because I don’t think Sniper wins. That’s my only reasoning.

You Should Take: American Sniper. It’s the smarter choice. I don’t see Birdman has being that beloved that it wins both Sound categories. This is a war film, war films do well here, it made $300 million, and older members of the Academy will vote for it. It’s a 50/50 of the choices, and this has much more reasons to take it than not.

On My Ballot: Birdman

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Sound Mixing

American Sniper

Birdman

Interstellar

Unbroken

Whiplash

My Rankings:

  1. Interstellar
  2. Birdman
  3. Whiplash
  4. Unbroken
  5. American Sniper

My Thoughts:

Basically the same as Sound Editing, but with Whiplash instead of The Hobbit. Makes sense.

Whiplash had great sound mixing, and so did Birdman but ultimately, I’ve gotta take Interstellar here.

My Vote: Interstellar

If I had a ballot: Interstellar

Should have been nominated: Ehh, I’m cool with this.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Birdman. Best Picture favorite, sweep voting is possible. Remember when Hugo won both these categories? Sure, that had music and a train crash and all of that. But this has the one big special effects sequence. So there’s that. Hard to say which way they’re gonna go here. But I’m considering this a favorite on the fact that it won CAS, which is the main precursor guild. They only have one category, and Whiplash wasn’t nominated by them this year, so either that’s a vote for or against it in the category, depending on which way you want to argue. CAS has matched the Oscars 13 out of 21 years, and of the remaining eight, there’s not really a pattern to any of the decisions. Sometimes they go musical, sometimes they don’t. Other times, the film that won CAS clearly wasn’t winning the Oscar because of sweep voting. It’s a tough one, this category, but you’re down to an essential 50/50 choice.

Biggest Competition: Whiplash. Here’s the case for Whiplash. Last 15 years. The BAFTA for Best Sound (which is essentially a Mixing award). Since 2007, they’ve been right. So that’s 7 years running. And then three more on top of that. So 10 out of 15 years. And you look at the other five: Almost Famous beats Gladiator for the BAFTA. Not nominated at the Oscars, and clearly not beating it. Moulin Rouge beats Black Hawk Down for the BAFTA. Not nominated and clearly not beating it. Master and Commander beats Return of the King. That was a sweep year, we knew how that was gonna turn out. Walk the Line beats King Kong for the BAFTA. Makes sense, but King Kong won both Sound categories that year. And 2006, Casino Royale won the BAFTA, wasn’t nominated for the Oscars. Dreamgirls won. Easy winner. The point is, the BAFTA winner for Best Sound has been really good in the Sound Mixing category. And Whiplash won that this year. So you’ve got a hell of a case. It’s either Whiplash or Birdman. And you’re weighing the notion of a Birdman sweep versus Whiplash and American Sniper. That’s how you do the Sound categories this year.

Spoiler Alert: American Sniper. Hard to see this being Interstellar. Which means you can’t consider that one for Sound Editing, because that’s a movie that’s not winning just one. Who the hell is gonna guess Interstellar to win just one Sound award? And if Sniper wins this, then it’s winning Editing. Since that movie is more about Editing than it’s about Mixing. I don’t see it as needing to win both, so I’m not taking it in both. I feel like it’s a spoiler at best in this category, and if it wins this, it’s winning the other. If it wins the other, it’s not necessarily winning this. Third choice for me in this one.

Likelihood to win: 1) Birdman 2) Whiplash 3) American Sniper 4) Interstellar 5) Unbroken

If I Were a Betting Man: I should take Whiplash, since it seems like that’s the smarter bet, but if I’m taking Birdman once, I have to take Birdman twice. So I’m taking Birdman, and telling you to take Interstellar. It would be weird to see Birdman win only one of these categories. So I’ve gotta take it twice. You don’t.

You Should Take: Whiplash. That BAFTA stat is pretty huge. Plus Oscar loves a musical, and there’s a really good chance this wins Supporting Actor, Editing and Sound Mixing. And possibly even Screenplay. The only concern is that it’s a small film. But things are looking good for this, since you can’t say that Birdman beat it for CAS, because it wasn’t nominated. I don’t know if that’s a bad thing or a good thing, but now we’re dealing with an open vote. Of course, Sniper could win both, Interstellar could win both, Birdman could win both. You never know. I say Whiplash is the bet because it’s a musical and because it won BAFTA. These two categories are the diciest of the lot this year. These are the ones that are most open.

On My Ballot: Birdman

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Animated Feature

Big Hero 6

The Boxtrolls

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Song of the Sea

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

My Rankings:

  1. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
  2. Big Hero 6
  3. Song of the Sea
  4. The Boxtrolls
  5. How the Train Your Dragon 2

My Thoughts:

I am not only okay with The Lego Movie not being nominated, but I’m actually happy about it.

Other than that, no surprises in the category. I love that Kaguya and Song of the Sea got on, because they should be honoring traditional animation in this category.

My favorite animated film this year was The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, and that’s my vote. Otherwise, couldn’t care less about the rest of the category. Didn’t like How to Train Your Dragon. The Boxtrolls was fine, but if it wasn’t stop-motion, I wouldn’t have liked it at all. Song of the Sea looked great, but was weird. And Big Hero 6 is my default second choice, but I didn’t much care for that either. It was just okay. (The last half is kind of a mess.)

My Vote: The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

If I had a ballot: The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Should have been nominated: Not gonna say it. I think, based on what was eligible, they did fine with this category.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: How to Train Your Dragon 2. Has to be. Now that the presumed winner isn’t nominated (kind of like 2011 with Tintin), you go back to what seems to be the most acclaimed. And this is the most acclaimed. People thought the first one should have won (it wasn’t beating Toy Story 3). This time, it can win. It won the Globe (over The Lego Movie, and this was just before Oscar nominations were announced), and has generally been liked throughout. Hard to see it losing, to be honest. Though it might. It’s a 50/50 choice, and I say this is most likely to win.

Biggest Competition: Big Hero 6. It has support from individual guilds. It won sound awards, and this and that. But that could just be because it’s a superhero movie. The Incredibles won sound awards too. At this point, you’re dealing with one or the other, so it just comes down to what you’re gonna take.

Spoiler Alert: The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. Just because I needed something to put here. And at this point, there’s no way anything besides those top two films is winning this category. It’s just not happening. The majority of the Academy has no idea what this movie is. But traditionalists in this category will look to this as the film to vote for, which is why I’m putting it here. Technically, if we’re going by which film is most likely to get the third most votes, it’s probably Boxtrolls, since at least people have heard of that. But if I put that here, everyone knows it has no chance. That’s a movie that people respect but don’t love. There’s always the stop-motion movie on there that will never win. And Song of the Sea — you think people don’t know this movie, they really don’t know that movie. So that stands no shot over the top two. This one, at least, has the Ghibli factor, and people like me screaming about how it was the best animated movie of the year. So on that, it maybe has a chance, but honestly, don’t even bother looking this far in this category. Your winner is one of those first two films. To vote for anything else is just to waste a vote.

Likelihood to win: 1) How to Train Your Dragon 2 2) Big Hero 6 3) The Tale of the Princess Kaguya 4) The Boxtrolls 5) Song of the Sea

If I Were a Betting Man: How to Train Your Dragon 2. I’m sticking with it. I feel like more people will not vote for Big Hero 6 than will not vote for this. That movie has problems. This movie has broad appeal. They won’t just vote for Big Hero 6 because it’s Disney. And it’s a superhero movie… I’m saying this wins. It seems like an easy choice, and I don’t think we should bet against it.

You Should Take:  How to Train Your Dragon 2

On My Ballot:  How to Train Your Dragon 2

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Foreign Language Film

Ida

Leviathan

Tangerines

Timbuktu

Wild Tales

My Rankings:

  1. Ida
  2. Wild Tales
  3. Leviathan
  4. Tangerines
  5. Timbuktu

My Thoughts:

This year, I actually watched a bunch of foreign films. I watched Winter Sleep, the film that won Cannes, but it wasn’t shortlisted. Which sucks, because it was three and a half hours long. And I also watched Force Majeure, which I loved, which ended up not being nominated, somewhat surprisingly. And I think that movie would have probably won if it had. Because it was terrific. That was really the only surprise on Oscar morning, that not being nominated.

Otherwise, no one knows anything about these movies, so it’s not like there’s much to talk about.

I loved Ida, and that’s my favorite film in the category, and is the film I’d vote for. Leviathan was really good, and the director made a movie I love, called The Return, which makes me okay if he wins. Wild Tales is a great movie, and probably the most purely entertaining of the bunch. Timbuktu and Tangerines — ehh.

But anyway, I liked Ida the best, and that’s my vote.

My Vote: Ida

If I had a ballot: Ida

Should have been nominated: Force Majeure

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Ida. It has a second nomination. Second nominations typically make foreign language films more likely to win. Then again, The White Ribbon had a second nomination in 2009 before losing to Departures. (I remember those Oscars. The Japanese film won, and Colin, knowing nothing about the category except Japan, applauded.) The same nomination, too. Cinematography. Screenplay, then you’ve got a lock. (A Separation and Amour got Screenplay nominations. And Amour got Picture, Director and Actress.) Cinematography, you just have a pretty good chance. I can’t tell your for sure that Ida is going to win. But I feel like, between the two movies, this and Leviathan, this one is the one that packs the biggest emotional punch. It’s the strongest film, visually, and is the simplest, narratively. I feel like that works in its favor. Leviathan is only a favorite based on a Golden Globe win. Because the Globes are one of the only Foreign Language Film precursors out there, and the last four winners of the Globe category won this category at the Oscars. (Then again, before those four years, you have to go back to 2004 for the last time they matched.) But this film won a BAFTA, which is arguably more helpful than a Globes win. But, now that there’s open voting, you have to assume that you’re gonna get the same percentage of people who saw all the nominees, plus some people who managed to watch most or all of them, plus people voting blindly based on perception. Which plays only into two films’ benefits: this and Leviathan. They both have either high profile precursors or other nominations. Personally, I’m saying this is most likely to win based on having seen the two and feeling this to be the more palatable film for the widest audience.

Biggest Competition: Leviathan. The Globe win is big. And it also won a screenplay award at Cannes. Not that anyone remembers that. It’ll get its fair share of votes. People will remember the Globes win, and, if they want to vote in every category, they might go, “Oh, this won that?” and just check this off. I think it’s almost a coin flip now between this and Ida. Between the two, I say this is less likely to win, only because it’s a more difficult film to get through. There are difficult themes there, and people do bad things. It’s easy to tune out if you’re not really paying attention. Though, in a category like this, it comes down to if people are voting blindly or knowledgeably. I have to assume people are voting knowledgeably here, in which case, I think Ida is probably the more likely of the two. But again, coin flip. You could make a strong case for either at this point.

Spoiler Alert: Wild Tales. I had to pick something else. This movie is really entertaining, and if people saw all the nominees, this might get the second most votes. This is definitely a spoiler and could upset. Mass appeal, I say the choices are Ida and Wild Tales. Having seen all five.

Likelihood to win: 1) Ida 2) Leviathan 3) Wild Tales 4) Tangerines 5) Timbuktu

If I Were a Betting Man: It’s either Leviathan or Ida. Don’t waste a vote on anything else. Consider Wild Tales, but I say let it win. Leviathan has a Globes win, and the last four Globes winners went on to win the Oscar (In a Better World, A Separation, Amour and The Great Beauty). Ida has a Cinematography nomination and a BAFTA win. Leviathan is a dense film with heavy themes that has a lot to say. It’s also long, and can be difficult to watch if you’re not really invested in it. Ida is a simply story, shot evocatively, about a woman coming of age. After seeing both of these movies, I think Ida is the better film. And I think Ida is the kind of film that will translate better to more people. So, because of that, I say Ida is the film I’m taking. I think it could be either one. But I’d rather lose taking Ida than lose taking Leviathan.

You Should Take: If you want to play it safe and play the odds of recent history, then you should take Leviathan. Four years running is pretty good, in a category without major precursors that no one really cares about or even bothers to see the nominees. But, I tink Ida is a presumed favorite anyway, and I think that the BAFTA win, and the Cinematography nomination, are more than enough rationalization to vote for that. I can’t rightly tell you which one will win, but I say, if you know nothing about the category and are just trying to win a pool by reading what people say, I’m gonna say to take Ida, because I feel like ultimately it’s going to win. But you can go either way here. Take one or the other, you have a 50/50 shot at it.

On My Ballot: Ida

– – – – – 

– – – – – 

Best Documentary Feature

CitizenFour

Finding Vivian Maier

Last Days in Vietnam

The Salt of the Earth

Virunga

My Rankings:

  1. CitizenFour
  2. Finding Vivian Maier
  3. Last Days in Vietnam
  4. Virunga
  5. The Salt of the Earth

My Thoughts:

Before the nominations were announced, I’d already seen four of the nominees. And I saw the fifth last weekend. Overall, it’s a pretty weak crop of nominees. Which is because the film that should have been nominated, Life Itself, wasn’t. I’m not sure what kind of statement was being made there, but everyone agrees that were it to be nominated, it would have won. Much like The Lego Movie in Animated Feature.

The Documentary branch is, at the present, the single most broken of all the branches. It used to be the Music branch, but they fixed that Original Song category and that has been better. Now, the Documentary branch is the one that’s completely broken. But no one cares about the documentaries, so it doesn’t look like it’ll be fixed any time soon.

Since I don’t watch documentaries I can’t say what should be here instead, outside of the obvious. But I can analyze the category, having seen all of the nominees. And I’ll do it somewhat in depth for those who know nothing about these movies.

We’ll start with The Salt of the Earth, a film that I’m shocked was nominated. It’s about a dude who has been traveling all around the world and taking photographs, mainly to show off how beautiful the earth is. The only reason I can think of as to why this is nominated is because Wim Wenders co-directed it. I feel like it was a political choice, since that’s the kind of shit that happens in a branch like this. You see that a lot in the documentary and the shorts categories. Otherwise, there’s no reason for this to be here, and this is the one documentary that the least amount of people will have heard of.

Last Days in Vietnam is about exactly what the title says. All the chaos that happens after the war is officially over and the US is starting to get out of there. It’s about the South Vietnamese people who are trying to escape as the North Vietnamese close in on Saigon. And the US soldiers and politicians all have to decide whether or not to help them. It’s okay. I wasn’t blown away by it as a documentary, but that’s coming from someone who typically doesn’t give a shit about most documentaries.

Virunga is about people who own a gorilla sanctuary in the Congo, who try to keep the gorillas safe in the middle of a Civil War. I didn’t particularly care for it. Since here’s a movie that’s tangentially about the conflict going on in Africa that decides not to deal with that at all and instead focus on people who are like, “Fuck that, we’re staying to protect the gorillas.” I just didn’t care. And it’s not like this was one of those issues that made me go, “Oh man, this is something I didn’t know but needed to know about.”

Finding Vivian Maier is about a nanny who secretly took a hundred thousand photographs during her life and never showed them to anybody. And now that they’ve been discovered, people are hailing her as a genius. And we follow as they try to piece together her story, by going back to all the people who she worked for (including Phil Donahue) to try to get a sense of who she was and how no one knew she was doing all of this. It was actually really interesting. Not a perfect documentary, but one I actually did enjoy for the most part. I thought the director inserted himself a bit too much in there, and it’s not the best made film in the world, but the story is interesting. Here’s a woman that goes from family to family as a nanny, making up this whole backstory about herself and never really telling the truth, keeping this huge secret from everyone and taking all these photographs, but deliberately not telling anyone about it. And then you find out, midway through — she knew she was taking good photographs. So the rest is trying to figure out why she didn’t show them to anybody. I liked this one.

And CitizenFour is about Edward Snowden. The interesting thing about it is that he set it up. When all the leaks and stuff were going down, he contacted journalists and documentarians who he felt he could trust because they took flack and were pressured by the government for certain things they put out. And he got them to meet him as he’s hiding out in Hong Kong, right as all the news is starting to break and right as the government figures out he was the source of the leak. And he sits down for these interviews with them and discusses why he did what he did and the amount of illegal activities the government is involved in to keep track of its citizens. It’s a huge issue, and it’s a really interesting documentary, because you’re watching something as it happens, and getting the other side of the news story. They keep cutting back as each piece of news breaks, and they show you what’s going on with him as it’s happening. And there’s this great moment where you don’t know if they’ve found him, or he’s just being paranoid — I really liked this one.

If it came down to it, I’d vote for CitizenFour, because I feel like it’s something that should win just so people see it and know about it and be aware of what’s happening. Which is essentially how this category works. Either we’re dealing with the most entertaining documentary or the most important. And this one’s the most important. I like Vivian Maier as a second choice, but this one was my favorite and this is the one that feels like it would be the best winner. So CitizenFour is my vote.

My Vote: CitizenFour

If I had a ballot: CitizenFour

Should have been nominated: Life Itself

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: CitizenFour seems like the likely winner here. It has a DGA win and a BAFTA win. It’s about Snowden, and they love this kind of stuff. Either they’re going major issue, or they’re going entertainment value. And this year, there is no real entertainment value documentary. This has everything they want in the category, and I suspect there’s nothing that will gather enough word of mouth and support to overtake it at this point.

Biggest Competition: Finding Vivian Maier. Because this is the closest thing to an entertainment value documentary we have. Now that there’s no Ebert. They like documentaries about discovering artists (see: Searching for Sugar Man). But this one just doesn’t seem to have that total package that will put it over the top the way 20 Feet from Stardom had. That was a crowd pleaser. This is more moderately interesting than anything. I can’t see this beating CitizenFour. But if I had to pick a potential winner that isn’t that movie, I guess it would be this. This does have some support and will get some votes from the people who don’t want to vote for CitizenFour. Don’t be shocked if you see this win. Of course, if it wins, it will give further credence to the idea that no one gives a shit about this category, and everyone will ignore it and not see the movie. This isn’t a movie that wins and gets people to see it. This is one that wins and people go, “Okay,” and move on.

Spoiler Alert: Virunga. It’s about people trying to save apes, and also kind of about the African conflicts. It’s got all the stuff that works in this category. I just don’t know if they care about the issue enough to vote for it. It’s not exactly Snowden, you know? I wouldn’t be shocked if this won, because it fits the category, but I don’t see it as anything other than a dark horse spoiler. But it’s possible. I wouldn’t be shocked to see any of these three won. But I feel like the order I’m listing them in is the order they’re most likely to win.

Likelihood to win: 1) CitizenFour 2) Finding Vivian Maier 3) Virunga 4) Last Days in Vietnam 5) The Salt of the Earth

If I Were a Betting Man: I’m taking CitizenFour all the way. It seems like one of the surest things at the ceremony. (‘Seems like’ is always a dicey proposition at the Oscars.) To pick something else is to be playing a major hunch. Major precursors, timely issue, well-made documentary begging to be turned into a movie. They eat that shit up. And the documentary branch is pretty self-righteous. They’ll love it. I wouldn’t recommend betting on anything else in this category. Vivian Maier is your most likely alternate, and if you’re really feeling it, then go with Virunga. But that would be the most surprising of the three. Not surprising enough for anyone to care that it happened, but surprising within the category, just because CitizenFour is the big favorite and Vivian Maier is the obvious alternate, being more entertaining than “issue.” Still taking CitizenFour, though.

You Should Take: CitizenFour

On My Ballot: CitizenFour

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Documentary Short

Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

Joanna

Our Curse

The Reaper

White Earth

My Rankings:

  1. Joanna
  2. Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
  3. Our Curse
  4. White Earth
  5. The Reaper

My Thoughts:

Nothing to say about what was or wasn’t nominated. But, having seen all five, here’s what I can tell you:

The Reaper is about a dude that works at a slaughterhouse. He works there to support his family, sees death every day. But he lives with it, because that’s what he has to do. It’s the most ‘art film’ of the bunch, and that’ll work against it. Don’t think it has a shot.

White Earth is about people who immigrate to Middle America to work in the oil fields. It’s told from the perspective of their children. The kids think that oil is their livelihood and think it will help them, even though there’s the whole issue of fracking, etc. It didn’t feel particularly focused, and ends with children just playing outside. Didn’t love it, don’t think it has a shot.

Our Curse is about two parents who find out their child has a rare disorder that causes him to stop breathing in his sleep. There’s no cure, and it means that they have to be completely vigilant at all times to prevent him from dying. Mostly we see them sitting there, on the couch, feeling terrible about their lot in life, right after they get the diagnosis. Then we see them caring for the kid, and it ends with them going, “You know, I can’t see us living any other way than we are.” It’s not emotional enough for them to vote for, even though it’s really sad and disturbing, having to see the kid get a tube stuck in his throat at less than six months old. Don’t think this wins.

Crisis Hotline is about people at a crisis center who get calls from veterans who are going through emotional or financial stress. And we see them on the phone, dealing with particular issues. So and so called and they have a knife at their girlfriend’s throat. So they talk to them both and get him to calm down. And one guy is about to kill himself. That kind of thing. It’s an important issue, but the film isn’t the most evocative. It’s long, and can be kind of boring. It’s not like The Phone Call in Live-Action Short. But this is clearly one of the potential winners.

Joanna is about a woman who is dying of cancer. She’s a young mother. So she decides to teach her son everything he needs to know before she goes. So a lot of the film is her talking to him like an adult. She curses around him, she has blunt conversations with him, and she tries to prepare him for the world in her remaining time. And it’s pretty beautifully shot, and I think this is most likely your winner. Though you can never tell in these categories. This would be my vote for sure, though.

My Vote: Joanna

If I had a ballot: Joanna

Should have been nominated: N/A

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Joanna. I just think that they like the emotional punch of the woman dying of cancer trying to spend time with her son before she dies. I think the film is shot beautifully, and doesn’t overstay its welcome. I’m calling this the favorite. Having seen all five, it’s a two horse race. But I’ll say this has the slight edge at the moment.

Biggest Competition: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1. If it’s not Joanna, it’s this. It could still be this. Trust me, it’s one or the other, and flip a coin and take whatever you think is most likely. They go one of two ways here — important issue, or emotional gut punch. Last year was old holocaust lady. They like transcendent stories of art overcoming trauma. This one fits their usual edict of important issue. So maybe this is most likely to win.

Spoiler Alert: White Earth. If anything else wins, it’s this. But don’t vote for it. It’s one or the other. This isn’t a wise choice. It’s a spoiler because the other two won’t win, but stick with the first two.

Likelihood to win: 1) Joanna 2) Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 3) White Earth 4) Our Curse 5) The Reaper

If I Were a Betting Man: Joanna. Because I don’t know. It’s a coin flip. It’s either this or Crisis Hotline. If you want the hard evidence, then probably Crisis Hotline is the smarter choice. But I’m sticking with emotion and taking Joanna. It’s one or the other, take your pick. I say Joanna. Nobody knows anything in this category. So stick with one of the two, and you’ll be fine. Okay, I’ll leave you with some more info before I move on. Here are the last few winners of the category: Holocaust lady plays music at age 90-something. Homeless girl wants to become an artist. Iranian plastic surgeon fixes women’s faces after they get acid thrown at them. A bunch of children from different countries all go to the same school in Israel. Woman with deformity makes music. Child get surgery to fix cleft palate. Dying police office fights so her wife can get her benefits after she dies. Chinese kids with AIDS. Based on all of that, I say your bet is either Joanna or Crisis Hotline. Take your pick. I’ll stick with the one that evokes more emotion.

You Should Take: Joanna

On My Ballot: Joanna

– – – – – –

– – – – –

Best Live-Action Short

Aya

Boogaloo and Graham

Butter Lamp

Parvaneh

The Phone Call

My Rankings:

  1. Parvaneh
  2. Boogaloo and Graham
  3. The Phone Call
  4. Aya
  5. Butter Lamp

My Thoughts:

Why wasn’t Too Many Cooks nominated? That should have won this category.

After watching all five of these, I can honestly say… I understand why I don’t usually watch these. Not as much as Documentary Short, because at least these tell a story… but man.

Where do I begin? Butter Lamp… not at all what I thought it was gonna be. Literally just people being put in front of fake backgrounds and having their picture taken. Nothing more. They just repeat the thing over and over. And the point is that it’s all based on artifice. You’re better off just letting this win. Because I don’t know what the hell I watched there.

The Phone Call, I saw first, because they put it online. And it’s great. It’s still great. I’d be down for this to win. I don’t know if it will, but I’d be down for that. Here’s the film for you to watch to see what I’m talking about. It’s so well-acted and would be a very deserving winner.

Parvaneh was actually nice. It’s effective without being over the top. Basically… an Afghan immigrant is in Switzerland. She tries to wire money back to her parents, only she is unable to, because she doesn’t have a local ID and isn’t 18. She meets a high schooler who says she’ll wire the money for her for 10%. And then the girl has to go home to get her ID, and then she takes Parvaneh with her, only when they go back to the place, it’s closed. So they stick together for the night so they can wire the money first thing. This includes going to a party. Where Parvaneh gets drunk and robbed by a boy. She and the girl get the money back and become friends. So they send the money out (of course the girl gives the 10% back), and part.

Boogaloo and Graham was just fun. Irish kids, chickens, likable. It was my favorite for the longest time, but I think Parvaneh ended up beating it. Here’s what it’s about, for those who haven’t seen these films: Ireland, 1978. Soldiers patrolling the streets, etc. A father of a lower-middle class family brings home little chickens for his two young boys. They grow to love them as pets. But then money gets tight, and they worry about what they’re gonna do. So they decide they need to get rid of the chickens in order to save money. But the kids will have none of that. So they try to run away with the chickens in the night. And almost end up getting shot by soldiers. And then, the next day, as the father goes to kill the chickens so they can eat them, he stops suddenly, and pulls out an egg. And the boys are ecstatic, because now that the chicken can lay eggs, they’re worth keeping. And then we find out that the father didn’t have the heart to kill the chicken and put the egg there himself. And we find out the reason they’re worried about money is because they have another kid on the way. And we also find out via voiceover that he ended up, every morning, putting an egg underneath the chicken to keep the ruse going. It’s a real cute little movie.

Aya was nice, and is the kind of thing I go for. I don’t know if I liked it enough to vote for it, but I did like it. It’s about a woman waiting at the airport for someone, and through standard meet cute circumstances ends up holding a sign for a guy being picked up after a flight. And she goes along with it. And they drive, and she starts to tell him, but doesn’t, and then they talk the rest of the way. And eventually she tells him, but he’s cool with it, and they have a nice moment together, and eventually she drives home, and we find out she was there to pick up her husband and child. It’s a nice film, and maybe could be better if it were longer, because I’m unclear as to the motivations for her doing what she did. But it’s nice, and is right up my alley in terms of subject matter. So that’s a plus.

At first, I thought The Phone Call was gonna be the vote. Then I saw Boogaloo and Graham, and that became the favorite. But then, Parvaneh… that one really surprised me. And I think that one’s gonna be the one I vote for. I didn’t think that was gonna happen.

My Vote: Parvaneh. Slight edge over Boogaloo and Graham. But ultimately I would take it. It’s really a nice film.

If I had a ballot: Parvaneh

Should have been nominated: N/A

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: You have to consider Boogaloo and Graham to be the favorite here. It’s exactly what they like in the category. Little Irish kids, chickens, 50s doo wop music… it’s got everything that’s offbeat and likable. And there’s nothing particularly high concept in the category, so I don’t know if anything can take this down. This looks like your likely winner.

Biggest Competition: The Phone Call. Apropos of nothing. Live-Action Short is the hardest to gauge. My feelings are, either go with the most likable, or go with the star power. Otherwise, who the hell knows? So sure, this is second choice. I’m throwing Butter Lamp out, because of a lack of narrative, and I assume Parvaneh and Aya will basically become one in voters’ minds. So this seems like the competition.

Spoiler Alert: Parvaneh. It’s got that structure that feels more likely to win over the other two. If Butter Lamp wins, then nobody knows anything about this category. And Aya feels like a nice film that’s very unlikely to actually win. Ultimately, we don’t know what’s gonna happen here. This was my favorite, but looking at the category and what I know about it… it’s a crap shoot. Boogaloo and Graham seems like it’s gonna rise to the top on likability alone.

Likelihood to win: 1) Boogaloo and Graham 2) The Phone Call 3) Parvaneh 4) Aya 5) Butter Lamp

If I Were a Betting Man: Boogaloo and Graham is exactly the kind of thing they love in this category. I know very little about this category, but I do know this is the kind of shit that they like. They like fun stories with children. Or they like a flat out good story. But this year, there’s nothing with a particularly great story. Which leaves this one as the one that’s just likable. I’m sticking with this all the way and letting something else beat it. Because honestly, if it’s not this, how the hell are you gonna pick a winner? I want to see Parvaneh win, and it could. I’m just worried that it and Aya will conflate in people’s minds. People will go, “Which was that one about the girl wiring money?” And won’t remember. Or maybe they won’t. Maybe Aya wins. And Butter Lamp…I just can’t see that happening. So I’m gonna stick with the likable one.

This is the one category that is least predictable, so stick with the one that at least fits the model. I think any of my top three would be good winners. This is the likable one, The Phone Call is the best acted one, though the ending is depressing, and I can’t remember the last time a depressing short won this category. They like things that are funny, poignant, or just flat out good. Think Curfew. Starts with a dude killing himself, but ends with him feeling renewed after watching his niece for the night. So I don’t know if this one fits what they usually do. And then Parvaneh is nice, but like I said, do people know the difference between it and Aya? I’ll take the Irish boys and the chickens. The name makes it stand out. People will remember this and vote for it because it was cute.

You Should Take: Boogaloo and Graham. Stick with it. Take the likable movie about Irish kids and chickens. How can that be a bad decision? What do any of us know about this category? If not this, then take The Phone Call. After that, Aya and Parvaneh — you can take them, but I honestly couldn’t tell you why they’d be the choices. It’s all down to personal preference and how many people vote. I feel like Boogaloo and Graham is the safest bet, followed by The Phone Call.

On My Ballot: Boogaloo and Graham

– – – – –

– – – – –

Best Animated Short

The Bigger Picture

The Dam Keeper

Feast

Me and My Moulton

A Single Life

My Rankings:

  1. Feast
  2. A Single Life
  3. The Dam Keeper
  4. The Bigger Picture
  5. Me and My Moulton

My Thoughts:

It’s hard for me to really get into what should have been he and what shouldn’t have. Since, you know… shorts category, plus you can only go by what you see, and there’s a shortlist… it’s a whole minefield. But I was able to see Duet, and that movie was beautiful. And I’m surprised it didn’t make it, since it’s better than all of the nominees. So that’s the only one I can pound the table for, since that’s the one I saw. Otherwise, I can’t speak to what on the short list should be here over the nominees.

As for the nominees themselves…

We’ll start with A Single Life, since it’s the shortest of the nominees. It’s brilliant, in its three minutes. But also way too short to take seriously. Remember Fresh Guacamole from a few years ago? Like that. Essentially, a chick is in college and is eating pizza. There’s a knock at the door and there’s a record there. Called A Single Life. She puts it on. The record skips and she realizes it makes time jump. She rolls it back and forth, and the pizza gets bigger and smaller, etc. So then she skips it forward a bunch. She’s now older and pregnant. She skips it back a little, she’s not pregnant. She skips it forward more. The baby is born. She skips it all the way back, and she’s a child again. She goes to reach up to put it back, but skips it all the way forward, and now she’s older and in a wheelchair. Every time she goes to wheel over to put it back, it skips back to where she was. Eventually she falls over and it skips forward, and she’s much older and in a walker. She desperately tries to get to the record before it stops, then falls over, and the record skips and now she’s just a can of ashes on the floor. The end. That’s the film.

It’s really well done, but it’s very short and hard to take seriously as a contender. But that’s all for the next part. Though since I didn’t get to analyze them that much in the article, I might as well do that here too. I think the length of this one hurts it. It gets in and gets out strongly, but it’s not long enough for them to vote for it. Looking at what wins here, they want a sense of awe and wonderment, along with something really emotional. Like The flying books one, or Paperman, or last year, with Mr. Hublot. They like very specific things, and this is not that. So, I like it a lot, but I don’t know if they will.

Then we’ll talk about Me and My Moulton, one of the ones I was able to see before nominations were out. And after I saw it, my reaction was, “It looked nice, with all the colors, but they won’t nominate that.” And then they did. I guess because she was nominated (and won, I think) here before. So it’s them voting for people they like. More political, than anything. It’s about her and her sisters growing up and wanting a bike, and how they thought their parents were weird. It’s… ehh. I mean, it’s fine, and it looks nice, but no one would vote for this as a winner. It’s my #5, and the people who see all five nominees are not gonna vote for this.

Okay, that covers my 4 and 5 for below, and the rest of the analysis will happen down there. Now I’ll just talk about how I felt about the rest of the nominees.

The Bigger Picture is one I went into thinking it was gonna be the surprise of the group. Because I saw how they animated it. Painting all the characters on walls and using sets to create a 3D type atmosphere. On that level, it’s brilliant. On a narrative level, this was just okay. Mostly I was kept interested by the visuals rather than the story. I was hoping this would be something I could get behind for a vote. But no, just something that looked really great that was just okay.

The Dam Keeper — I thought for sure this would be that one that happens every year. The one that everyone says is gonna win, that’s so by the numbers and not interesting that you don’t want it to win. But actually, it was good. It was animated beautifully. The story was… ehh. It was fine. Mostly this was kept afloat by the way they drew the whole thing. This also, if it didn’t star animals, would have been a Miyazaki movie. A pig has to crank a fan on a windmill because it keeps all the pollution and darkness at bay. And he’s a kid who goes to school, and one day meets a fox who hangs out with him. But then the fox is hanging out with the cool kids, who are making fun of the big, and the fox is laughing along with them. So the pig lets the darkness come in. And then in the end, he fixes it, and the pig and the fox play together in the windmill. Like I said… mostly it’s all about the visuals here. In a stronger year, this would be the typical #4 nominee that would fit exactly what I thought it was gonna be. This year, it’s a solid #3 for me. So there’s that.

And then, Feast. This is obviously the one most people have seen, being attached to Big Hero 6. And it’s the one that most people will be pulling for, since it’s Disney and it’s about a dog and it’s adorable as all get out. And I have to say… it is quite enjoyable. Next to Duet, it’s the best animated short I’ve seen this year. Not that it’s a large list of them. But of the ones on this list, I liked this one best. I don’t think it needs to win, the way Paperman did, but it’s still a really adorable little film. (I still even like Get a Horse! last year more than this one.) So, given the category, this is my vote.

My Vote: Feast

If I had a ballot: Feast

Should have been nominated: Duet

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: The Dam Keeper. Because every year, we just assume that the Disney or Pixar entry is going to win, because that’s the one the most people have seen. But, I gotta tell you… most people don’t vote in this category. Even last year, when they opened up the voting to anyone who wanted to, and having seen all five nominees was just recommended and not mandatory… the same thing happened. Only a certain number of people voted, and they voted the way you’d normally expect the category to go. Over the past 20 years, Pixar has won this category twice. And not since 2001. And Disney, outside of Paperman, hasn’t won this category since 1969. Hear that? 1969. Yet, every year, when they’re nominated, people assume they’re going to win. And they don’t. So Feast is not the most likely winner. It’s The Dam Keeper. This is almost exactly what they go for in this category. It’s gorgeously animated, it has that kind of wordless story to it… I don’t know. You just watch it, and it feels like what they usually go for. The only thing missing is the sense of joy that you see in shorts like Paperman and The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. That element that just makes you happy. So that might hurt it and keep this a tighter race than one would think. But I still think this is most likely to win, based on the history of this category.

Biggest Competition: Feast. If it’s not The Dam Keeper, it’s this. Clearly. Everyone’s seen this, so it has the public on its side. And it’ll catch votes because of that. Enough to win? I don’t know. I will say it’s really cute and people love dogs. So that makes it more likely to win than maybe something like Get a Horse! last year, which was Mickey Mouse and just did some inventive things with the 3D and black and white and color. Ultimately, I think voters want to feel something, and you do kind of feel something with this short. This is the closest to Paperman they’ve gotten in terms of a short that makes you feel something. Which means it could very likely win, and you couldn’t go wrong picking it. Most people are gonna pick this no matter what I say because it’s Feast, how could it lose?

Spoiler Alert: The Bigger Picture. Based on pure animation, this is my choice. It’s well-made. Me and My Moulton doesn’t have that wow factor to it, and A Single Life is ultimately short and ends on a downer. I don’t think they like that. So that leaves this as the potential spoiler. Not sure I see it happening, but that means little. I’d say possibly watch out for A Single Life here, just in case people do watch them all and go, “Oh man, that was great,” and don’t care about the length. Plus, it’s Animated Short. Weird things happen. I don’t think you should necessarily consider it a spoiler, but it could be one. Either way, you’re mostly focusing on the top two choices. Because either one of those is winning, or we all get it wrong and then, “Hey, it’s the shorts category.” Trust me. If Me and My Moulton wins, the person who has it is not gonna have that many more picks than you. Stick with the top two choices. A spoiler is a spoiler for a reason.

Likelihood to win: 1) The Dam Keeper 2) Feast 3) The Bigger Picture 4) A Single Life 5) Me and My Moulton

If I Were a Betting Man: It’s either Feast or The Dam Keeper. One of those two should most certainly win. And… I’m taking Feast. Because I’m an idiot.

You Should Take: The Dam Keeper. Look, one of us needs to take it. I thought last year, when they opened up the voting, that for sure would mean Disney would win, but look what happened — the film I’d have picked in a regular year won still. Because only a handful of people voted and they voted the way the voting usually goes. I think this is the smarter choice, so I’ll take the hit on my ballot, and give you guys the smarter of the two. Your rationale? Disney has only one once since 1969. And it was Paperman. Maybe The Bigger Picture wins. But technically you’re taking a chance by going with Feast, historically speaking. I say The Dam Keeper is probably the safe choice, Feast is the populist choice that feels like a red herring (1969!), and The Bigger Picture is a real wild card that you can actually take. It comes down to what you feel the most comfortable doing. My guess is most people will feel too nervous to take anything other than Feast (as I was), and we’ll all go down in the end.

On My Ballot: Feast

– – – – – – – – – –

Now, I’m adding in a new section here to really nail down the ones where you really need to listen to me, and the ones where you can go out on a limb should you so choose. I can talk my head off, but putting it in a concise spot might actually work better for some people.

Locks:

  • Best Actress, Julianne Moore
  • Best Supporting Actor, J.K. Simmons
  • Best Supporting Actress, Patricia Arquette
  • Best Cinematography, Birdman
  • Best Production Design, The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Best Costume Design, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Not Locks, But I Wouldn’t Bet Against Them:

  • Best Director, Alejandro G. Inarritu
  • Best Makeup & Hairstyling, The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Best Documentary, CitizenFour

The Hunch Isn’t Crazy, But Is Improbable:

  • Best Actor, Eddie Redmayne
  • Best Picture, Boyhood over Birdman
  • Best Original Song, Anything (specifically “Everything Is Awesome”) over “Glory”
  • Best Visual Effects, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (or Guardians of the Galaxy) over Interstellar
  • Best Animated Feature, Big Hero 6 over How to Train Your Dragon 2

Safe to Play the Hunch:

  • Best Sound Editing, Birdman over American Sniper
  • Best Original Screenplay, Birdman over Grand Budapest (or vice versa)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay, Whiplash over The Imitation Game
  • Best Editing, Whiplash over Boyhood
  • Best Original Score, The Grand Budapest Hotel over The Theory of Everything
  • Best Animated Short, The Dam Keeper or The Bigger Picture over Feast
  • Best Sound Mixing, Whiplash or American Sniper over Birdman
  • Best Documentary Short, Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 over Joanna
  • Best Foreign Language Film, Leviathan or Wild Tales over Ida

Go Nuts:

  • Best Live-Action Short, Boogaloo and Graham, Aya, Parvaneh or even The Phone Call.

– – – – – – – – – –

That should do it.

I always post a “quick picks” version just before showtime, mostly for reference throughout the show.

I always say that I reserve the right to change my opinions all the way up to showtime, but I don’t remember any time where I’ve actually changed something.

Either way, let’s hope it’s a good show. I’ve already got the Chinese food ready to order. (Because it’s not an Oscar night without a shitload of Chinese food.)

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One response

  1. I hate to be a nitpicker, but there was something that you did last year that I really loved – looking at the nominees in the top 6 categories and determining how well they would hold up as winners over time. Are you still going to do that, or have you abandoned that?

    February 22, 2015 at 12:15 pm

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