My 2015 Oscar Picks

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Oscars Season is upon us once again, and I’m glad I managed to binge-watch all eight Best Picture nominees (and then some) before the big day – something I wasn’t able to do last year. Without further ado, here’s how I hope tomorrow  will transpire. My picks are listed in bold italic.


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BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
The Grand Budapest Hotel – Adam Stockhausen (Production Design); Anna Pinnok (Set Decoration)
The Imitation Game – Maria Djurkovic (Production Design); Tatiana Macdonald (Set Decoration)
Interstellar – Nathan Crowley (Production Design); Gary Fettis (Set Decoration)
Into the Woods – Dennis Gassner (Production Design); Anna Pinnock (Set Decoration)
Mr. Turner – Suzie Davis (Production Design); Charlotte Watts (Set Decoration)
It seems too good to be true that a Wes Anderson film is receiving this much love from the infamously uptight Academy. But surprise, surprise – Grand Budapest is up for nine awards, tying with Birdman as this year’s most nominated film. While I doubt that it’s in serious contention for any of the top awards, it still stands a hefty chance of bringing home the most statuettes via the artistic categories. In my reckoning, this dark comedy boasts the most impeccable and eye-popping production design.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
 The Grand Budapest Hotel – Milena Canonero
Inherent Vice – Mark Bridges
Into the Woods – Colleen Atwood
Maleficent – Anna B. Sheppard
Mr. Turner – Jacqueline Durran
Colleen Atwood may be the veteran and Maleficent may have been the most meme-worthy, but my vote still goes to Grand Budapest‘s outrageous, but still period-appropriate pieces.
 BEST MAKE-UP AND HAIRSTYLING
Foxcatcher – Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard
The Grand Budapest Hotel – Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier
Guardians of the Galaxy – Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White
All three nominees were outstanding in this department, so this is actually one artistic category which Grand Budapest stands a chance of not winning. I’m still choosing it, though – solely on the basis that it’s the only Best Picture nominee among the lot. Tight race, this one.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill, and Dan Sudick
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett, and Erik Winquist
Guardians of the Galaxy – Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aihadi, Jonathan Fawkner, and Paul Corbould
Interstellar – Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter, and Scott Fisher
X-Men: Days of Future Past – Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie, and Cameron Waldbauer
While it’s interesting to note that 60% of the movies in this roster are Marvel movies, the real frontrunners here are Apes and Interstellar. I think Christopher Nolan‘s intergalactic mindfuck caper has the ultimate edge.
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Emmanuel Lubezki
The Grand Budapest Hotel – Robert Yeoman
Ida – Łukasz Żal and Ryszard Lenczewski
Mr. Turner – Dick Pope
Unbroken – Roger Deakins
True, Lubezki won for Gravity last year, but why should they put that against him? His consistency in composing beautiful and striking frames under limited takes is nothing short of a landmark achievement. I’m calling it back-to-back. Special props go to Ida, though, for its lush black and white photography.
BEST FILM EDITING
American Sniper – Joel Coz and Gary D. Roach
Boyhood – Sandra Adair
The Grand Budapest Hotel – Barney Pilling
The Imitation Game – William Goldenberg
Whiplash – Tom Cross
Well, the voters obviously don’t subscribe to the “Less is More” principle since they shut Birdman out of this category. (Good editing is not just about style or having the most cuts; it’s also about seamlessness! Hmp!) But all right, splicing together 12 years worth of footage to come up with a cohesive end product is also a respectable feat. This round is Boyhood‘s to lose.
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BEST SOUND EDITING
American Sniper – Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Martin Hernandez and Aaron Glascock
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – Brent Burge and Jason Canovas
Interstellar – Richard King
Unbroken – Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro
AKA: The Award often interchanged with Best Sound Mixing usually bestowed upon war or blockbuster action movies as a consolation price. I’m still perplexed by American Sniper‘s Best Picture nomination, but at least it stands a good chance of winning here.
BEST SOUND MIXING
American Sniper – John Reitz, Gregg Rudolf, and Walt Martin
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, and Thomas Varga
Interstellar – Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker, and Mark Weingarten
Unbroken – Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, and David Lee
Whiplash – Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins, and Thomas Curley
I will try not to wallow on the pink elephant that is Interstellar‘s surprising inclusion in this category. Instead, I will focus on how sound mix was crucial in helping deliver Whiplash‘s narrative. I think the film was successful in that department, so I’m pegging it as a possible surprise.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
The Grand Budapest Hotel – Alexandre Desplat
The Imitation Game – Alexandre Desplat
Interstellar – Hans Zimmer
Mr. Turner – Gary Yershon
The Theory of Everything – Jóhann Jóhannson
I’m not totally dim towards Desplat‘s prospects here. After all, being nominated twice (or more) in one category is not always a red flag. (Case in point: Stephen Soderbergh overcame the odds back in 2001 when both Erin Brockovich and Traffic were up for Best Director. The latter won.) Also, Desplat’s work for The Grand Budapest Hotel was far more memorable than his work for The Imitation Game. But judging from its Golden Globes win last January, I think Johannson‘s evocative work for The Theory of Everything has the edge.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“Everything Is Awesome” from “The Lego Movie” – Shawn Patterson
“Glory” from “Selma” – John Legend and Common
“Grateful” from “Beyond the Lights” – Diane Warren
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me” – Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond
“Lost Stars” from “Begin Again” – Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois
It’s bittersweet having Selma as the frontrunner in this category, considering that the film was snubbed in every other award it deserved to be nominated for. But this uplifting anthem pretty much encapsulated the film’s spirit and message, so it deserves to win here. Not to be underestimated, however, are Diane Warren, an Oscar staple, and Shawn Patterson, who might receive support from voters seeking justice for The Lego Movie. And, oh hey, New Radicals dude! Nice to see you among this year’s nominees!
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BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Ida (Poland)
Leviathan (Russia)
Tangerines (Estonia)
Timbuktu (Mauritania)
Wild Tales (Argentina)
Leviathan won the Golden Globe counterpart of this accolade last January, but some say the momentum has shifted towards Ida. The Best Cinematography nomination could bode well for the exquisitely-shot Polish film, but then again, being nominated for other awards doesn’t always guarantee triumph in this category (Case in Point: Pan’s Labyrinth lost to the The Lives of Others despite winning Art Direction, Cinematography, and Makeup in 2007.) Point is, that shouldn’t be the only indicator.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Big Hero 6
The Boxtrolls
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Song of the Sea
The Tale of Princess Kaguya
We stopped caring when the Academy snubbed The Lego Movie. Disney‘s performance in awards seasons has been inconsistent in recent years, while How to Train Your Dragon 2 has the sequel factor working against it (the original lost). My guess is that they will lean towards one of the foreign nominees. With no solid favorites, this category is an open race.
 THE IMITATION GAME
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
American Sniper – Jason Hall
The Imitation Game – Graham Moore
Inherent Vice – Paul Thomas Anderson
The Theory of Everything – Anthony McCarten
Whiplash – Damien Chazelle
The screenwriting categories are – more often than not – perceived as consolation awards for films with no shot of winning Best Picture. Again, not always the case. The Imitation Game won a similar category at the Writer’s Guild Awards, so the same scenario will likely be at play here.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelarias, Jr.,                                                                                       and Armando Bo
Boyhood – Richard Linklater
Foxcatcher – E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman
The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness
Nightcrawler – Dan Gilroy
Much as I’m fervently rooting for Birdman, with its plethora of fiery dialogue, The Grand Budapest is also a tough contender. I think the Academy’s more inclined towards handing Wes Anderson his first Oscar (albeit not for directing).
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Patricia Arquette – Boyhood
Laura Dern – Wild
Keira Knightley – The Imitation Game
Emma Stone – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Meryl Streep – Into the Woods
Emma Stone was breathtaking in Birdman. Then, there’s also security blanket nominee Meryl Streep. Eitherway, Patricia Arquette leads this race by lightyears.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Robert Duvall – The Judge
Ethan Hawke – Boyhood
Edward Norton – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons – Whiplash
Ethan Hawke deserves special distinction for transitioning from dream boy to beer-bellied dad over the course of one film.  Edward Norton was dynamite. But just like Patricia Arquette, this race is J.K. Simmons’ to lose.  
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

Let’s get over the Academy’s refusal to let Jennifer Aniston have her Cake for now; the final roster is still impressive. Still Alice is miles away from being Julianne Moore‘s quintessential role. But if she wins – and I’m almost 100% sure that she will – this will feel like her lifetime achievement award. It’s about goddamn time.

BEST ACTOR
Steve Carell – Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper – American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything
This promises to be one of the tightest races this year. Some pundits are rooting for first-time nominee Eddie Redmayne for his spot-on portrayal of Stephen Hawking, but bear in mind that this is Michael Keaton‘s first nomination too! Keaton had many offbeat alter-egos throughout the course of his career (Beetlejuice, Batman). In Birdman, he plays an actor seeking to detach himself from his alter-ego. He deserves to be rewarded.
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BEST DIRECTOR
 Wes Anderson – The Grand Budapest Hotel
Alejandro González Iñárritu – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Richard Linklater – Boyhood
Bennett Miller – Foxcatcher
Morten Tyldum – The Imitation Game
Just like their respective films up for Best Picture, Iñárritu and Linklater are neck and neck in this category. Both filmmakers pushed the boundaries. The former exemplified economy and precision; the latter exemplified commitment. In this tight race, the Academy will probably reward Iñarritu by the thinnest margin
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BEST PICTURE
American Sniper
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Boyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Selma
The Theory of Everything
Whiplash

My sentimental favorite Birdman may have loosened Boyhood‘s stronghold, but I think the top plum will still be handed to this coming-of-age film. It has been the favorite since the get-go.

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