This season only heated up a month ago, as quiet ones tend to do. We always seem to forget just when it’s quiet is when it’s ripe for surprise. Birdman is not the film I would have picked to resonate with the Academy, despite its admiration for actors. It’s just a very strange film, not a gentle or heartwarming or particularly hopeful one. But I guess it does induce a sense of superiority for the industry, because it throws the blame for the demise of culture on those who don’t create it – the critics, the audience. The people who “don’t understand” the art, aren’t on the ‘same level’. A win for Birdman is sticking it to the less sophisticated or cultured people who are social media addicted and spectacle-hungry, who eat up superhero films and don’t enjoy the theatre, the Academy locking itself in an ivory tower with a film that ‘only they will get’, pushing away all ideas of opening the field to audience-friendly fare. With the support of nearly every guild, if it doesn’t win, it will be a very big surprise, something that hasn’t happened since most of the guilds were introduced.
Like my feelings on the films of 2014, where I wasn’t as attached to as many as I was in 2013, this race has been largely uninvolving, a small, at once predictable but also worryingly instantly moving, pool. Three of the four acting categories have been locked up since the season started. Unless the Academy decides to defy every expectation, to go against pretty much the whole season, tomorrow night is a done deal, marking time until the next season begins. Cut, print, moving on indeed. My predictions below.
Best Picture Birdman
Best Director Richard Linklater, Boyhood. Despite Boyhood‘s drop in popularity late in the race, as I’ve said all season, this is a moment similar to what the Coen Brothers experienced in 2007 – lack of recognition, very good box office, and stellar reviews add to a sentimental, “this is their moment” feeling, leading to a win.
Best Actor Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything. The only category that had some room for change. While it’s odd that Birdman is going to likely win without an acting win, it was confirmed to me when I saw Theory a week ago and listened to the audience afterwards that Redmayne has the unstoppable, “how did he do that?” wow-factor that transcends Best Picture status and age to be a transformative performance that no one can stop talking about.
Best Actress Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Best Supporting Actor J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Best Supporting Actress Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Best Original Screenplay The Grand Budapest Hotel. A massive amount of momentum at the right moment, despite its early release date, and long-overdue status, have pushed it to the front. Birdman could upset though.
Best Adapted Screenplay The Imitation Game. Since the perceived front runner, Gillian Flynn’s adaptation of her novel Gone Girl, didn’t get in, this has really been anyone’s game. Wins in the precursors and past winning trends have indicated the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game has it though. Whiplash could upset.
Best Cinematography Birdman. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki has been experiencing the same awe/endless buzz as he did last year for his winning work on Gravity. If you’ve got literally everyone that walks out of the film talking about the camera work, you’ve won. Would love to see Foreign Language contender Ida win though.
Best Costume Design The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Film Editing Boyhood
Best Make Up and Hairstyling The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Production Design The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Score The Theory of Everything. The score, along with the cinematography and performances, is the key to the magical vibe of the entire film working. It’s what charms the audience, gets them swept up in it. Long overdue Alexandre Desplat (who has two nominations this year, no less) could very well upset though for The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Best Original Song Glory, Selma. If Grateful were to win though, I’ll be partying for the rest of the week. It’s nomination alone was a fantastic surprise.
Best Sound Editing American Sniper. In the sound categories, when you’re looking for a winner, think of two things – is there an action film, with gunfire and explosions, or a musical, with live recorded music, in there? If there’s either of those, most of the time, there you go.
Best Sound Mixing Whiplash. Same rule applies here – while Whiplash isn’t a musical, it features plenty of live music.
Best Visual Effects Interstellar
Best Animated Feature How to Train Your Dragon 2
Best Documentary Feature Citizenfour. This category likes to pull some surprises, picking the more audience-friendly option though (eg. 20 Feet From Stardom over The Act of Killing last year), so look out for Finding Vivian Maier or Virunga. If the latter wins, Netflix will be an Oscar winner.
Best Foreign Language Feature Leviathan. Look out for the tradition of the Golden Globe winner rolling over to the Oscars though in the form of Ida.
Best Animated Short Feast (Disney short shown with Big Hero 6)
Best Documentary Short Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
Best Live Action Short The Phone Call