The 2015 Academy Awards

My wife and I tried to see all the Best Picture nominees before this year’s Oscars. Considering I had only seen The Grand Budapest Hotel before 2015 started, it’s an accomplishment that we got through as many as we did. Still, I haven’t seen Birdman or Whiplash. So, at the most basic level, I’m a failure.

The big story this year with the Oscars is the lack of white nominees. Wait, no, that can’t be right. Oh, scratch that- um, I’m hearing we’re not supposed to talk about race. Okay. Okay, let’s, uh…hm. What to talk about instead. Huh.

Welp.

*denotes a movie I haven’t seen

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Best Picture

Nominees: American Sniper
Birdman
*
Boyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Selma
The Theory of Everything
Whiplash
*

Will Win: Boyhood. The pundits would have you believe this is a two movie race between Boyhood and Birdman. Don’t let me convince you otherwise or anything, but I can see two other possible scenarios. American Sniper has been such a huge hit, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a swell of support for it success result in wins in all the categories in which it’s nominated. Unlikely, but it wouldn’t be surprising. The other potential scenario is that Selma‘s lack of nominations drummed up supporters in the Academy so that even the members that didn’t love it end up voting for it anyway as a statement, sort of like what happened to Argo a couple of years ago when Ben Affleck didn’t receive a Directing nomination. HotelImitation GameTheory, and Whiplash are virtual locks to lose. But Birdman seems to be well-loved in the industry, which makes sense given the movie’s storyline about a former star who’s trying to make real art, not to mention its stylistic embellishments. But Boyhood is going to win. It’s heartwarming on top of being a unique feat of filmmaking. It’s the kind of accomplishment that the Academy won’t be able to resist rewarding.

Should Have Been Nominated: Dawn of the Planet of the ApesDawn had literally no chance of being nominated. But at the end of 2014, before I saw Selma or Boyhood, it was my favorite movie of the year. Dawn had the kind of storytelling usually found only in high drama. The characters, the allegories, the production design- they were all so rich. The Oscars would have been so lucky to have included a movie so good.

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Best Directing

Nominees: Birdman, Alejandro G. Iñárritu*
Boyhood, Richard Linklater
Foxcatcher, Bennett Miller
The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson
The Imitation Game, Morten Tyldum

Will Win: Richard Linklater. Again, this is a two-man race between Linklater and Iñárritu, though you can make a case for the whimsical artistry of Wes Anderson. Since I haven’t seen Birdman, I can’t make a case against Iñárritu, per se. But what Linklater did has never been done and will probably never be done again. Not only did he commit to telling a story over twelve years, but he made the transitions seamless as if we were truly seeing a life pass before our lives.

Should Have Been Nominated: Ava DuVernay, Selma. If Selma had been made by a white man, he would have been nominated. No question, no conversation to be had about it. This is fact, and it’s so frustrating, and even more unsurprising.

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Best Actor

Nominees: Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton, Birdman*
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Will Win: Michael Keaton, Birdman. Redmayne is good enough to convince you that the Academy could give it to him, since he has to maintain that spark of humanity while contorting his body to match Stephen Hawking’s disability.  And Cooper has dark horse potential following Sniper‘s success. But the industry isn’t going to miss its chance to honor Keaton both for his career and for, by all accounts, a great performance.

Should Have Been Nominated: David Oyelowo, Selma. The Selma snubs run deep and wide. Oyelowo doesn’t look like Martin Luther King, Jr., but you forget that during Selma. It’s important in biopics to make the audience forget they’re watching a reenactment. Oyelowo reaches a point in Selma that none of the nominated actors come close to reaching- transcendant embodiment. I know those are lofty words I’ve chosen, and I don’t care.

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Best Actress

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: Julianne Moore, Still Alice. I haven’t seen this one yet, but no one is expecting anything different. It was nice of the rest of the actresses to play, but Julianne would like her prize now. You all can go home.

Should Have Been Nominated: Scarlett Johansson, Under the Skin. Johansson has yet to be nominated, even though she has a more interesting career than half of this list (though, to be fair, we could easily credit that to the lack of good roles for women rather than their own choices). In Under the Skin, Johansson plays what we’re supposed to think is an alien, I guess, seducing men to come back to her house so she can…consume them? I don’t know, but she’s fascinating in the role as she goes from an unfeeling puppet, pretending to relate to human beings, to a being that feels like a person does, surprising herself. Few actresses could pull off either of those settings, let alone both.

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Best Supporting Actor

Nominees: Robert Duvall, The Judge*
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Edward Norton, Birdman*
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash*

Will Win: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash. His ferocity in this role has carried him to almost every other possible award, it’d be a shame not to fill the whole mantle.

Should Have Been Nominated: Zac Efron, Neighbors. By the time Efron is respected enough to be nominated by the Academy, he’ll be dead and the Oscars will be broadcasting straight into our brains. But for my money, there wasn’t a better comedic performance in a movie this year.

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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: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood. We can’t write about Arquette’s performance in Boyhood without saying something about how brave she was to let them film her body aging and changing, so don’t mind me while I make a fart noise in your general direction. No one, of course, is making the same claims about Ethan Hawke. It’s no use protesting, though- in Hollywood, no one can hear you scream.

Should Have Been Nominated: Carmen Ejogo, Selma. ANOTHER SELMA SNUB IT’S A CONSPIRACY CALL THE FEDS. I swear, if Coretta King had just been white, damnit, Ejogo would have been nominated.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees: American Sniper
The Imitation Game
Inherent Vice*
The Theory of Everything
Whiplash*

Will Win: Whiplash. A lot of experts have The Imitation Game winning here, but I refuse to allow for the possibility that Imitation will win any awards. Whiplash is unique enough to stand out from the rest of the pack, so it gets the (slightly unconfident) nod here over anything else.

Should Have Been Nominated: Gone Girl. I don’t understand how they overlooked Gillian Flynn’s adaptation of her own book from a pop culture phenomenon in one medium to a pop culture phenomenon in another medium. I would have gone with Guardians of the Galaxy, but I wasn’t sure it qualified. Besides, Gone Girl is such a better choice than Imitation and Theory, it’s worth spending the plug on a movie I don’t like quite as much as Guardians.

birdman

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees: Birdman*
Boyhood
Foxcatcher
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Nightcrawler*

Will Win: Birdman. Since they’re all going to vote for Boyhood in Best Picture and Directing, they’ll throw Birdman a bone here. Again, I haven’t seen Birdman, but I would have gone with The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Should Have Been Nominated: Love Is StrangeLove received enough attention for its acting that I don’t think it was out of the realm of possibility that it could have received a nomination for something. The movie proves ultimately very insightful about how relationships change with time and within different contexts. It deserved something.

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Best Cinematography

Nominees: Birdman*
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Ida
Mr. Turner
*
Unbroken*

Will Win: Birdman. You can tell just from the trailer that Birdman is visually stunning. But man, what I wouldn’t give to see Ida win this.

Should Have Been Nominated: Interstellar. Frozen out of all the main categories, this seemed like the one place Interstellar could sneak in. It is one of the more beautiful movies of the year, and a nomination for Cinematography would have been an award for the movie’s sumptuous visuals en toto.

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Best Animated Feature

Nominees: Big Hero 6*
The Boxtrolls*
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Song of the Sea*
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya*

Will Win: How to Train Your Dragon 2. This one kind of comes down to whichever was the most popular in general; Dragon is for sure the most widely seen. But Guardians of the Galaxy uses a lot of effects, so it’s basically animated, let’s nominated that one.

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Best Documentary Feature

Nominees: CitizenFour*
Finding Vivian Maier*
Last Days in Vietnam*
The Salt of the Earth*
Virunga

Will Win: CitizenFourVirunga, the first Netflix film to be nominated for an Oscar, has come on strong since its nomination, but Laura Poitras’s document of Edward Snowden’s “file sharing” is historic.

Should Have Been Nominated: Did they make documentaries last year? I didn’t see any. But Guardians of the Galaxy uses some cinema veritas techniques, I hear, let’s nominate that one.

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Best Foreign Language Film

Nominees: Ida, Poland
Leviathan, Russia*
Tangerines, Estonia*
Timbuktu, Mauritania*
Wild Tales, Argentina*

Will Win: Ida. This category is up in the air, but Ida has been out longer and has gotten more attention. Plus, it’s a masterpiece.

Should Have Been Nominated: Ida was the only foreign-language movie I saw from last year. But Guardians of the Galaxy had some different languages in it I think, let’s nominated that one.

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