Oscar Picks 2015
Predicting the Oscars was extraordinarily hard this year — harder than I can remember in a long time. Usually by this point, with the Academy Awards ceremony just a few days away, the frontrunners have established themselves pretty clearly. And while this is true (for the most part) in the acting categories, the whole best picture/best director scenario could shake out any number of ways. There could be four different outcomes on Sunday night and they’d all make total sense. But these are the ones I’m going with for now in the top six categories. Ask me again in an hour and they’ll probably be different.
Nominees: “American Sniper,” “Birdman,” “Boyhood,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “The Imitation Game,” “Selma,” “The Theory of Everything,” “Whiplash.”
Will win: Birdman
Should win: Birdman
Wild card: Boyhood
I knew “Birdman” was the best movie of the year before it was even over. (Here’s a link to my four-star review from October, which details the myriad ways in which it’s groundbreaking/breathtaking/exhilarating.) But I also think it will appeal to the Academy because it’s about actors acting, the struggle to make art and the urge to remain relevant. As much of an achievement as “Boyhood” is (and here’s a link to that four-star review), shot as it was in pieces over a span of 12 years, I’ve always thought that a lot of the older and stodgier Academy members might find its approach just too unorthodox to support. Having said that, Richard Linklater’s movie deservedly has received a ton of love throughout awards season, so it wouldn’t shock me to hear the name “Boyhood” at the end of the night.
Nominees: Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”; Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, “Birdman”; Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”; Bennett Miller, “Foxcatcher”; Morten Tyldum, “The Imitation Game.”
Will win: Inarritu
Should win: Inarritu
Wild card: Linklater
Inarritu’s technique in creating the sensation that we’re watching the film play out in one long take is just dazzling. It took a ton of work to make all the pieces fit into place just right, but it’s a blast to watch. I say “Birdman” wins and Inarritu wins. But there’s also the school of thought that there will be a picture/director split. In that case, Linklater would be an extremely deserving winner here, too. That it even occurred to him to structure “Boyhood” the way he did is excitingly innovative, but then his big gamble paid off in its own quietly moving way. This is a tough one.
Nominees: Steve Carell, “Foxcatcher”; Bradley Cooper, “American Sniper”; Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Imitation Game”; Michael Keaton, “Birdman”; Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything.”
Will win: Keaton
Should win: Keaton
Wild card: Redmayne
Keaton and Redmayne have divvied up all the major awards heading into Oscar night. I could very easily imagine this going either way. But both my head and my heart say Keaton will win for his thrilling portrayal of an aging actor trying to regain his former glory (and suppress his nagging demons) with the staging of a risky Broadway play. His winning would have a lifetime-achievement vibe about it. The 33-year-old Redmayne is convincing and moving in a physically transformative role as Stephen Hawking, but I suspect Keaton has longevity on his side.
Nominees: Marion Cotillard, “Two Days, One Night”; Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything”; Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”; Rosamund Pike, “Gone Girl”; Reese Witherspoon, “Wild.”
Will win: Moore
Should win: Pike
Wild card: Witherspoon
Moore has been nominated for an Academy Award four times before and has never won. The prevailing wisdom is that she is due — that this is finally her time. And that makes sense. She’s one of the finest and most versatile actresses of our generation, and her performance in “Still Alice” as a linguistics professor who slowly suffers the ravages of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease is one of her most delicate and precise. The movie itself is pretty pedestrian and mawkish, however; Moore definitely elevates it above its movie-of-the-week aesthetic. There’s no way in hell that this will happen, but I’d love to see Pike win for her multifaceted portrayal of a brilliantly scheming wife in “Gone Girl.” Witherspoon also was great with some riskier-than-usual material in “Wild,” but she already has an Oscar. This is Moore’s year.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Nominees: Robert Duvall, “The Judge”; Ethan Hawke, “Boyhood”; Edward Norton, “Birdman”; Mark Ruffalo, “Foxcatcher”; J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash.”
Will win: Simmons
Should win: Simmons
Wild card: None.
Simmons is the juggernaut, and he has been throughout awards season. That includes his win at the Los Angeles Film Critics Association awards dinner, where I had the great privilege of introducing him and handing him his prize. He is absolutely terrifying as a sadistic jazz teacher who pushes Miles Teller’s talented young drummer to the brink of greatness/madness. And it’s just nice to see him recognized for such a lengthy and substantial body of work. Between all the television he’s done and all the supporting film roles he’s played over the years, this is the most powerful work of the versatile Simmons’ career.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Nominees: Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”; Laura Dern, “Wild”; Keira Knightley, “The Imitation Game”; Emma Stone, “Birdman”; Meryl Streep, “Into the Woods.”
Will win: Arquette
Should win: Arquette
Wild card: None
Like Simmons, Arquette has been racking up the accolades and prizes throughout awards season. But you could very easily argue — as we did with the Los Angeles Film Critics Association awards — that Arquette is playing a leading role. She is the mother of the boy at the center of “Boyhood” — a woman who provides support by definition, but whose presence and decisions dictate so much of what happens to him as he grows up. Plus, she’s just so lovely — funny, flawed and filled with a pragmatic spirit that drives her to survive. And as in the case of Simmons, this would be a lovely way to recognize a long, solid career.