My Predictions for the 2015 Academy Awards
This is it – just a few days left until the Oscars, and I’ve already seen a number of pieces calling the past year “weak”, “strong”, and “mixed”. Perhaps the lack of consensus is fitting; usually one or two Best Picture frontrunners appear by the end of the Toronto International Film Festival, but this year brought us a much broader field.
Nevertheless, in the months since, the strongest contenders have emerged: Boyhood, Birdman and The Theory of Everything all have solid leads in the major categories, though a few races (like Picture and Leading Actor) are more hotly contested than others, as they were last year. Several pundits have bemoaned the lack of a truly strong Best Actress field, though that’s not entirely true – perhaps the category is simply harder to call, compared with last year’s slam dunk for Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine.
Whatever ends up happening on Sunday night, I’ve scoured my various sources to come up with my annual list of Oscar predictions. Below, you’ll find a complete list of who I think will win each of the major awards, as well as who I want to win, and who I think is the “dark horse” in that particular category. If you’d like to play along, draw up your own list and compare it to mine, and then tell me if I’m wrong in the comments!
Who Will Win: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Aside from the remarkable artistry it has on display, Birdman has statistics on its side. The film has won the top PGA, DGA and SAG awards, which are almost always a predictor of the Oscar winner. And though my heart tells me that Boyhood should take the prize for the sheer weight of its achievement (being filmed over the course of 12 years), that kind of filmmaking commitment doesn’t always net Best Picture, and instead tips it toward the more specific, technical categories, like Directing and Editing.
Who I Want to Win: Boyhood
Dark Horse: The Theory of Everything
Who Will Win: Richard Linklater - Boyhood
Last year proved that the age-old rule of a single movie claiming both the Picture and Director awards doesn’t always stick, and I’m inclined to think that might be true in 2015, as well. When people swoon over Boyhood, it’s largely because of that 12-year figure, which says more about the person helming the film than the film itself, in a weird way. Linklater could have dropped the idea to finish the film at any time, and instead he kept plugging away at it until he thought it was ready. Linklater definitely deserves the prize (also because of his impressive body of work in years past), but I’d still love to see Wes Anderson take it, as far-fetched as that may be.
Who I Want to Win: Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
Dark Horse: Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman)
BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Who Will Win: Eddie Redmayne - The Theory of Everything
For some reason, the Best Actor category has been very heated in the past two years, and if it weren’t for the fact that Eddie Redmayne has won so many of the guild awards (the SAG, the BAFTA, etc.), I’d easily choose Keaton as my pick here. Mark Kermode of The Guardian and BBC Radio 5 suggested that Redmayne’s ridiculous outing in Jupiter Ascending might hurt his chances (à la Eddie Murphy and Norbit in 2007), but my gut tells me that the Academy’s soft spot for actors who portray famous people with disabilities will win out in the end.
Who I Want to Win: Michael Keaton (Birdman)
Dark Horse: Bradley Cooper (American Sniper)
BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Who Will Win: Julianne Moore - Still Alice
2015 should finally be the year for Julianne Moore, an actress I was shocked to learn hasn’t won an Oscar yet. Moore’s work as a brilliant academic losing herself to early-onset Alzheimer’s disease is a remarkable piece of work, especially since she avoids any notes of melodrama, and lets the symptoms of her character’s illness slowly creep into the performance. While Moore may benefit from running against two relative newcomers (Felicity Jones and Rosamund Pike) and two previous winners (Marion Cotillard and Reese Witherspoon), don’t mistake that for a “weak year” - this race is tighter than it looks.
Who I Want to Win: Julianne Moore (Still Alice)
Dark Horse: Reese Witherspoon (Wild)
BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Who Will Win: J.K. Simmons – Whiplash
It would be silly to bet against J.K. Simmons in this category – even though Edward Norton is running a close second (and is likely owed a win after three previous nods), Simmons is the actor everyone’s been talking about this year. Whiplash wouldn’t be close to what it is without him, to the point that I almost believe he could have been nominated in the Leading Role category. Hopefully, a win here will encourage more people to see him outside the J. Jonah Jameson role from the Raimi Spider-Man trilogy.
Who I Want to Win: Tie between J.K. Simmons (Whiplash) and Edward Norton (Birdman)
Dark Horse: Edward Norton (Birdman)
BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Who Will Win: Patricia Arquette – Boyhood
Pay no mind to a certain Academy voter’s preoccupation with Patricia Arquette’s face – Arquette is almost as central to Boyhood as the boy himself (played by Ellar Coltrane). While the film may revolve around Coltrane’s transformation into a young man, Arquette’s character is also changing and growing alongside him, and we want to see her better herself. Arquette’s final scene in the film, as her feelings of happiness, sadness and love crash together in one moment, is sure to be a career highlight – and I think the Academy knows it.
Who I Want to Win: Emma Stone (Birdman)
Dark Horse: Laura Dern (Wild)
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Who Will Win: Damien Chazelle – Whiplash
This category stumped me for a little while – both The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything feel closer to traditional Oscar bait, but I think the screenplay for Whiplash sticks with people longer than the period pieces on offer this year. The verbal jabs Chazelle crafted for J.K. Simmons to deliver are potential classics in the making. Whiplash also has the advantage of running against American Sniper (controversial for how Jason Hall avoids key pieces of the source text) and Inherent Vice (which only Paul Thomas Anderson fans and hardcore film buffs will go for).
Who I Want to Win: Paul Thomas Anderson (Inherent Vice)
Dark Horse: Graham Moore (The Imitation Game)
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Who Will Win: Wes Anderson - The Grand Budapest Hotel
In previous years, it might be crazy to go to bat for Anderson winning an Oscar. Even true fans have long since accepted that his work is usually too quirky for the Academy. But if ever there was a Wes Anderson film that had a chance at an Oscar, it’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. The film gave us ample amounts of the director’s visual style, while tempering some of the melancholy and dry humour that may have hurt his chances in the past. I’m forcing myself to quiet some of my Andersonian fandom, however, and name Nightcrawler as the one I want to win, for its obsession with wordplay and the dark implications posed by its story.
Who I Want to Win: Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler)
Dark Horse: Richard Linklater (Boyhood)
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Who Will Win: Ida (Poland)
Unfortunately, the Best Foreign Language award is often grouped among the categories that no one catches up on. Amidst all the clamour about Best Picture and the acting races, though, I’ve seen more mentions of Ida than its rivals (though Leviathan and Timbuktu aren’t far away, in terms of recognition). The fact that Ida is also named in the Cinematography category is also a hint at where the Academy’s intentions lie, so I’m basing my pick on that.
Who I Want to Win: Leviathan (Russia)
Dark Horse: Timbuktu (Mauritania)
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Who Will Win: CitizenFour – Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy and Dirk Wilutzky
Ever since the Edward Snowden saga unfolded in 2013, it’s only been a matter of time until his story got some kind of cinematic treatment. Of all the stories covered by the nominees in the doc feature category, Snowden and the NSA leaks are the buzziest, and that may go a long way in getting votes for CitizenFour, even from Academy members who haven’t seen all the films. That being said, the Netflix-supported Virunga made for a surprisingly compelling mix of documentary genres, and I wouldn’t be upset to see it unseat the current frontrunner.
Who I Want to Win: Virunga (Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara)
Dark Horse: Finding Vivian Maier (John Maloof and Charlie Siskel)
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Who Will Win: How to Train Your Dragon 2 - Dean DeBlois and Bonnie Arnold
Like most fans of animation, I was plenty disappointed to hear that The Lego Movie missed out on a nomination (I’m avoiding the word "snubbed", since I’ve never really agreed with that term). The silver lining to The Lego Movie losing out is that the race has tightened up a bit. Big Hero 6 was a big crowd-pleaser, but its story wasn’t quite as fresh as How to Train Your Dragon 2, which also boasted the same fantastic visuals as its predecessor. Personally, I prefer the look of the beautiful 2D animation in Ireland’s Song of the Sea, but the smart pick for an American award show will be the stronger of the two American films.
Who I Want to Win: Song of the Sea (Tomm Moore and Paul Young)
Dark Horse: Big Hero 6 (Don Hall, Chris Williams and Roy Conli)
Who Will Win: Birdman - Emmanuel Lubezki
Whether or not Birdman wins for Best Picture, the Academy would be crazy not to award it in the Cinematography category. Emmanuel Lubezki took on an immense task in trying to make the film look like one uninterrupted take, and after two screenings of the film, I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the choreography and attention to detail necessary behind the camera to pull it all off. Still, I’d like Robert Yeoman to finally get some recognition for his frequent collaborations with Wes Anderson, so I’m declaring a tie for who I want to win the cinematography prize.
Who I Want to Win: Tie between The Grand Budapest Hotel (Robert Yeoman) and Birdman (Emmanuel Lubezki)
Dark Horse: Ida (Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski)
BEST FILM EDITING
Who Will Win: Boyhood (Sandra Adair)
My first instinct in this category was to choose Whiplash, since Tom Cross’ decision to cut quickly in time with the big band music in the score is a great example of putting the editing on display, and using it to draw viewers in. But my other instinct about editing is that it should never be as flashy as that – instead, it should be the invisible hand that compresses time and makes even the longest stories palatable. In that respect, Boyhood is head and shoulders above the rest, not least because of the length of the story it’s trying to convey. Sandra Adair faced a challenge few editors ever have to, and I think the voters will agree.
Who I Want to Win: Whiplash (Tom Cross)
Dark Horse: American Sniper (Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach)
There you have it. I didn’t predict each category because I figure these are the ones most people are interested in (and frankly, the ones that can actually be predicted).
Am I right or wrong about the winners I named above? Will you be playing along to see who wins? Join the conversation about the 2015 Oscars in the comments section below!