Predictions for the 2015 Oscars: “Boyhood” for Best Picture
We are just six days away from the 87th Academy Awards on Feb. 22, 2015. They will be hosted by none other than Neil Patrick Harris, who has hosted numerous Tony and Emmy Award ceremonies. Here are my predictions of the major award winners for this year. Note: these are not my opinions of the ones that are most deserving. I’m just playing the Oscar game, which is as peculiar and unpredictable as the films themselves.
Best Picture: Boyhood (2014)
It’s between “Boyhood” and “Birdman” (2014) here, as it has been this whole awards season. Both are idiosyncratic and experimental, so it’s just a question of which one is crazier and innovates the art of cinema more. I’d say “Boyhood.” While not a particularly captivating film in itself, as an experiment it’s nearly unmatched in the history of film. To capture the actual growth of people over 12 years is laudable. But I’ll personally still contend that “Whiplash” (2014) is the best film of the year.
Directing: Alejandro González Iñárritu
The past two years, the best picture and best director awards have split. In 2013, “Argo” (2012) took best picture while Ang Lee won best director for “Life of Pi” (2012). Last year, “12 Years a Slave” (2013) won best picture, while Alfonso Cuarón won Best Director for “Gravity” (2013). Now I’m not one to believe in trends, but with such a toss up like this between Iñárritu for “Birdman” and Richard Linklater for “Boyhood,” I’ll take whatever superstition I can get.
Actor in a Leading Role: Eddie Redmayne
To nail the degenerative effects of ALS, Redmayne visited a motor neuron clinic for six months leading up to filming to understand every step of the disease to properly portray Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything” (2014). Hawking himself enjoyed the film and Redmayne’s impersonation. Michael Keaton of “Birdman” could steal the Oscar, especially given the mimetic nature of the role.
Actress in a Leading Role: Julianne Moore
While I haven’t seen “Still Alice” (2014), I’ve been told that her portrayal of a woman succumbing to the withering forces of Alzheimer’s is empowering and masterful and spot-on. Since she’s won the BAFTA, Screen Actor’s Guild and Golden Globe, this is her award to lose. Rosamund Pike’s performance in “Gone Girl” (2014), however, is still the best of the year in my opinion, right up there with J. K. Simmons’s in “Whiplash” (2014). As the unassumingly vampiric “Amazing Amy,” Pike was unmatched this year.
Actor in a Supporting Role: J. K. Simmons
His ferocious, unrelenting portrayal of jazz instructor Terence Fletcher in “Whiplash” blows away the competition. Like something out of “Alien” (1979), you almost expect the Chestburster to come out and eat one of his students during one of his rampages. He even looks a bit like the Xenomorph. Bald, bulky and vascular, Fletcher will prove to be Simmons’ magnum opus.
Actress in a Supporting Role: Patricia Arquette
To be honest, this is one of the weakest fields in recent years. None of these performances stood out to me as particularly memorable. In “Boyhood,” I wanted to see less of Patricia Arquette, as her consistent presence almost made the film into “Motherhood.” But having raked in the BAFTA and Golden Globe in this category, she’s a shoe-in for the Oscar.
Original Screenplay: “Birdman”
A film plunging deeply into the dark psychology of fading stardom and the torment of dimming limelight, “Birdman” is “Sunset Boulevard” (1950) mixed with a superhero movie. Funny and hallucinatory with moments of telekinesis — and the winner of the Golden Globe — “Birdman” has this one wrapped up.
Foreign Language Film: “Leviathan” (2014)
This category should be called “Best Picture.” It’s a crime to condense the best of world cinema into one list. To choose from “Ida” (2013), “Wild Tales” (2014), “Leviathan,” “Timbuktu” (2014) and “Tangerines” (2013) is proof of the futility of rankings in film. “Ida” was the best film I saw this year, but “Wild Tales” is made up of the six best short films of the year. Then there’s “Leviathan,” which has raked in all the major foreign awards up to now. So I’ll play the game and pick “Leviathan,” but know that this is complete bull.
Animated Feature Film: “How to Train Your Dragon 2” (2014)
This category deserves an asterisk and serves as a testament to why we shouldn’t view the Oscars as the barometer of cinematic excellence. This year’s winner will be the second best animated feature film, as “The Lego Movie” (2014) blows them all away. Why did it get snubbed? Classical forms and modes of storytelling or handmade, avant-garde animations typically get nominated. “Lego” chose neither and suffered the consequences. But groundbreaking films like “Citizen Kane” (1941) were overlooked in their day only to be canonized later. “Lego” could share their fate. So I’ll pick “How to Train Your Dragon 2.” Whatever.
Documentary Feature: “Citizenfour” (2014)
The film chronicles the relationship between filmmaker Laura Poitras and Edward Snowden, who in 2013 leaked classified information about the National Security Agency’s monitoring to the general public. Already the winner of the International Documentary Association and BAFTA awards for best documentary, this is a sure bet for the Oscar. “Finding Vivian Maier” (2013) still gets my vote as best documentary, however.
Live Action Short Film: “Boogaloo and Graham” (2014)
The story of two young brothers growing up in rural Ireland raising their pet chickens in a war-torn neighborhood. Adorable, hilarious and refreshing, it’s sure to conquer the more somber tones of its competitors. The live action shorts are known for creating wild scenarios that are not sustainable for a feature film, but perfect for a half hour, thrusting the unlikeliest of people together and watching the sparks fly.
Animated Short Film: “The Bigger Picture” (2014)
Always one of the most competitive, whimsical and creative categories, the animated short films once again fail to disappoint. I’m putting my money on “The Bigger Picture,” which focuses on two brothers caring for their ailing mother. “Feast” (2014), Disney’s entry, could also steal the Oscar, as it follows in the footsteps of their “Paperman” (2012), which won the Oscar for the category in 2013.
Brutal choice. Between “Birdman,” which Emmanuel Lubeski shot to look like one continuous image, “Ida,” whose spare, stark black and white photography belongs in a museum and “Mr. Turner” (2014), which Dick Pope transformed into filmic painting, how is one to decide. Again, fairly arbitrary and meaningless in the end; all are uniquely great, and the comparison is just apples and oranges. Foreign films rarely win this one, so I’ll play it safe and pick “Birdman,” although “Ida” was easily my favorite.
Visual Effects: “Interstellar” (2014)
The technological advances of this century have turned this category into a bloodbath. The winner was usually just the film with the most money to burn on the visual bells and whistles. Now mega-studios can pump out explosive, hyper-realist superhero and action thrillers on their computers, making it closer and closer each year. But “Interstellar” still sets itself apart, with space sequences rivaling those from Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968). High praise.
Costume Design: “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2014)
Like Tim Burton, producer and director Wes Anderson consistently creates eccentrically auteurist films in the realm of magical realism or fantasy. To achieve this idiom, their costumes, music, production design, makeup and hairstyling must be wildly creative, lurid and, of course, become Oscar-worthy. A master at colorscapes and lurid, saturated images, Wes Anderson and costume designer Milena Canonero have this category locked up.
Makeup and Hairstyling: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
With its bizarre coterie of characters, including a wizened Tilda Swinton decaying from old age, Harvey Keitel as a tattoo mottled prisoner and Adrien Brody looking like Death with a mustache, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” will trump “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014) with its sheer diversity and range.
Original Score: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Playful and delightfully plucky, Alexandre Desplat’s — who’s nominated twice in this category, also for “The Imitation Game” (2014) — score, I think, will edge out Hans Zimmer’s in “Interstellar.” Again, the Academy likes the classics, and Zimmer’s pulsating, visceral music is not likely to win favor of these old staunches.