Tuesday, January 6, 2015

2015 Oscar Predictions: Final (Major Categories)

We have arrived at the end of Oscar predictions, and we still have a lot of uncertainty in the major categories. The winners are becoming clearer, but the fun of Oscar season is really who gets nominated and what movies are recognized. The Best Picture 9 (probably) is still wide open, with the Producers Guild recently giving us the best idea of how it might shake out, but we still really don’t know. Selma was a frontrunner in many categories (we thought), but it got shut out at the SAG and somehow missed the top 10 at the PGA. A movie with such pedigree and glowing reviews getting ignored is a little head-scratching. I think its threat to win Best Picture is over. This leaves the door open for the year’s best film Boyhood, as well as underdog Birdman and wild card Gone Girl to take the top prize. It is going to be interesting to see the announcement on Thursday, January 15th, and not just these categories, but the ARTS AND TECHS nominees as well. Check out my final predictions below:

The Predicted Five
1. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn – It is still the frontrunner, withstanding pushes by much more Oscar-begging films. The box office and reviews should keep it up there for the duration.
2. The Imitation Game – Graham Moore – It is a tight script and a really interesting movie. This is the film’s best chance to land a significant Oscar, but it still has some work to do. It needs to take the BAFTA to have a shot.
3. Inherent Vice – Paul Thomas Anderson – Even though the movie is totally weird and not typical awards stuff at all, PTA has a pass with the Academy, even though they snubbed his The Master script despite the screenplay leading to 3 acting noms.
4. The Theory of Everything – Anthony McCarten – The screenplay is not the main achievement in the movie, but when you have a clear top 5 ranking for the year, the nominations come flooding your way, which almost always includes your writer getting swept in.
5. Whiplash – Damien Chazelle – The Sundance winner had a razor-sharp screenplay and has constantly built steam since its big win last January. The recent switch to Adapted (its rightful spot) might hurt its chances a tad, but Chazelle still sits in a strong position.
Others in contention
6. Still Alice – Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland – This would be a bit of a surprise, but with the performances and previous strong work by the writers (2006 indie darling Quinceanera), it appears that this movie can go nowhere but up.
7. Wild – Nick Hornby – The performances are getting all of the publicity for Wild. Hornby is a past nominee for An Education, which might help his cause, but how much did the screenplay do for this film, really?
8. American Sniper – James Dean Hall – The movie has yet to really be seen yet, but its buzz is rising in all categories. Eastwood’s film could pull a last minute shocker and get mentioned all over the Academy’s lineup.
9. Unbroken – Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, William Nicholson, Richard LaGravenese – I won’t quite give up on this movie yet. The Coens’ strangest work A Serious Man even got its screenplay nod, so even though this movie underwhelmed most, it still cannot be forgotten.

The Predicted Five
1. Birdman – Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo – This is about the most competitive I have seen this category in a long time. This movie is one of the main contenders for the top prize, and the screenplay is really what sold it. Inarritu deserves an Oscar at some point, and this has to be his best shot yet. 
2. The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson, Hugo Guinness – The indie record-breaker has sustained its buzz all the way into awards season, which is really surprising. Anderson films are in the mix consistently, but not since The Royal Tenenbaums has his films felt like such a threat in so many categories.
3. Boyhood – Richard Linklater – It is a little weird having the Best Picture frontrunner down at #3 for screenplay, but the other films were just showier and more obvious screenplay achievements. I am not counting it out, but it has a bit of an uphill climb, especially when Linklater probably walks away with 2 wins anyway.
4. Mr. Turner – Mike Leigh – Leigh is always getting nominated. Even Another Year came out of nowhere at the last moment. It is getting in, but I couldn’t really tell you why looking at what is being left out.
5. Nightcrawler – Dan Gilroy – This movie has been rising furiously, and I have read about similarities to Crash with its timing and campaign. This seems like a script that would normally get in without an issue, but Original Screenplay is incredibly stacked this year.
Others in contention
6. Selma – Paul Webb – This seems like it would have been a shoo-in a couple weeks ago, but it keeps getting ignored by the important precursors. Maybe it really isn’t all that good after all.
7. Interstellar – Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan – It made a boatload of money and had some really interesting ideas, and that is usually enough for a screenplay nom. There were holes in the logic of the movie, however, which may have become apparent to voters and cause them to leave Nolan off for once.
8. Foxcatcher – E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman – The screenplay was not really a showcase, but it did have a Capote-esque vibe to it. It needs a big win or two to really get back in this particular race.
9. A Most Violent Year – J.C. Chandor – The National Board of Review winner seems to be sputtering down the stretch, but audiences really haven’t seen it yet. Chandor is 2 for 2 with his films, and this appears to be his 3rd hit, but its lack of serious buzz is a little disconcerting.
10. Locke – Steven Knight – If Locke can be remembered somehow, then a screenplay nod is not out of the question. It would be the prestige nomination, which has previously been given to Margin Call and The Messenger, two that were later proven to be amazing out-of-nowhere noms by the Academy.
11. Dear White People – Justin Simien – This would be an In the Loop-type of nomination if it were to get in. The satire is always something that plays well in this category, and the movie did make some waves in indie markets.

The Predicted Five
1. Patricia Arquette – Boyhood – She is the clear frontrunner and the heart of the movie. She has been under-the-radar her entire film career and has really only garnered awards attention for her TV show Medium. It is about time she gets her due.
2. Emma Stone – Birdman – She has been in and around awards movies for a few years, and she finally has that part that got her singled out. Well…kinda. The whole cast essentially was singled out.
3. Meryl Streep – Into the Woods – She is Meryl, and she was in a movie. This is a no-brainer nomination, but the world just might end if she wins.
4. Jessica Chastain – A Most Violent Year – She is becoming a regular at the Oscars and rightfully so. She is one of the best actresses working today, and she had 4 buzzed roles that she nailed in 2014.
5. Tilda Swinton – Snowpiercer – It would be a strange nomination, but these are the types of roles that get recognized. The Critics Choice nomination helps, and even though the movie was a bit of a flop, it has still been cited consistently throughout the season.
Others in contention
6. Keira Knightley – The Imitation Game – She always seems to be just on the outside looking in, and while this is her best work in some 7 years, she still feels like a snub candidate.
7. Naomi Watts – St. Vincent / Birdman – She got the surprise SAG nom for the former, and the latter is the major Oscar player. I wouldn’t be too shocked if either hit.
8. Carrie Coon – Gone Girl – How much do they love the movie? I always thought she was one of the standouts, sort of this movie’s Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone). If the movie has a real shot at the major awards, then she could be a beneficiary.
9. Laura Dern – Wild – Her buzz has quieted, as has the buzz for the film. It still feels like a nomination-caliber role, though.
10. Kristen Stewart – Still Alice – If they want a running partner for Julianne Moore, then why not one of the biggest names in Hollywood?
11. Rene Russo – Nightcrawler – She has never been nominated, or even close for that matter, but her role in one of the most talked about movies of 2014 has her right in the running for that first nom.
Annual Tommy Lee Jones – In the Valley of Elah Shocker Nomination: Marisa Tomei – Love Is Strange

The Predicted Five
1. J.K. Simmons – Whiplash – It is hard to see a scenario where he loses. It is a frightening, career-changing performance for the veteran character actor.
2. Ethan Hawke – Boyhood – The 3-time nominee is really the only challenge that Simmons may have. If they really love Boyhood, which they probably will, then the truest character in the film will have a shot.
3. Edward Norton – Birdman – It appears that Norton will finally stop his nomination drought with one of the most difficult roles to play from 2014.
4. Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher – He is a lock, as he should be. His character was the most believable in the movie, and he became the emotional core of the deeply emotional crime drama.
5. Robert Duvall – The Judge – He is really the only one of the 5 that might be in jeopardy, even though he has gotten cited everywhere. His movie was just so poor that the ground on which he stands seems a tad unstable.
Others in contention
6. Takamasa Ishihara – Unbroken – The Academy loves their real life ruthless villains, and the head of a WWII Japanese camp is about as cold as you can get. He kills the role, and he could find himself with a nomination if the movie breaks through.
7. Josh Brolin – Inherent Vice – He is the only one other than the top 5 with a major nomination (Critics Choice, who nominate 6), so he has to be in the mix.
8. Christoph Waltz – Big Eyes – His movie has no buzz, except for Amy Adams. Can he pull another nomination? I wouldn’t put it past him.
Annual Tommy Lee Jones – In the Valley of Elah Shocker Nomination: John Goodman – The Gambler

The Predicted Five
1. Julianne Moore – Still Alice – She appears to be unstoppable at this point. It is about time she finally wins one.
2. Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl – She appears to be the Sharon Stone (Casino) of 2014. She will go in with a shot to win, but she is up against an overdue performer who probably cannot be denied.
3. Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything – She is the equivalent to what Reese Witherspoon was in 2005, the borderline supporting co-lead who actually stole the show from the protagonist. She is probably the best of the nominees, but she can’t win…can she?
4. Reese Witherspoon – Wild – She is beloved, yet she has somehow not gotten her validation nomination yet. This is her chance.
5. Amy Adams – Big Eyes – She has been snubbed a few times, but the Oscars love her too much. Her odds to get in are not great, but there are always a couple pleasant surprises.
Others in contention
6. Jennifer Aniston – Cake – It would be heartbreaking for Aniston if she gets left off, but that is what happens to performances like these. At least we know she is serious about her movies now. Her nom will come…and it still might be this year.
7. Marion Cotillard – Two Days, One Night – The Dardennes have not been treated well by the Academy, but Cotillard is a transcendent talent. I could see her going all the way to the ceremony.
8. Shailene Woodley – The Fault in Our Stars – She is a budding talent, and her movie had a big time box office. Can she defy the odds and take the young adult novel adaptation to the Oscars?
9. Scarlett Johansson – Under the Skin – The movie is probably too out-there to get nominated for anything, but when is she going to get her due? She is doing some of the best work in the industry right now.
Annual Tommy Lee Jones – In the Valley of Elah Shocker Nomination: Hilary Swank – The Homesman

The Predicted Five
1. Michael Keaton – Birdman – There really can’t be another frontrunner at this point, but we will see once the televised awards shows start happening. Can he really go from universally snubbed to easy winner?
2. Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler – His crazy performance is becoming more of a sure-fire nomination. Can he win the thing? There are few actors who have come into their own as suddenly and clearly as Gyllenhaal in the past few years.
3. Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything – In terms of physical performances, Redmayne’s ranks with some of the best I have seen in a long time. He embodies Hawking and should coast to a nomination.
4. Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game – He is certainly on thinner ice than Redmayne, but it is hard to see a scenario where they snub one of the most present actors in the business in such a baity role.
5. Timothy Spall – Mr. Turner – He is one of the most loved actors around, yet he has never gotten the nod from any significant award circuit. He finally has a role that he can be singled out for, and while this would be a clear shock nom, well, there is always one.
Others in contention
6. Steve Carell – Foxcatcher – He gets completely lost in his character, but the buzz for the film has really gone silent. His performance is more supporting anyway, but he is still right there in that second tier.
7. David Oyelowo – Selma – I find it hard to predict him anywhere but in the running for the win, but maybe there is already backlash to the film that hasn’t even gotten its theatrical run yet in the States.
8. Bradley Cooper – American Sniper – He is going to be in and around the Oscars for a long time, and this is yet another strong effort that could wind up leading to a nom.
9. Joaquin Phoenix – Inherent Vice – Depending on how the movie is received, he could become a lock or a joke for even considering him.
10. Ralph Fiennes – The Grand Budapest Hotel – Even I, who liked the movie a decent amount, would consider this nomination to be a bit loony, but he was really funny. The 2-time nominee hasn’t been invited back since 1996.
11. Miles Teller – Whiplash – The best performance of the year is getting widely ignored by the major awards. When is he going to get recognized for what he is, the best actor of his generation?
12. Oscar Isaac – A Most Violent Year – His movie needs to be amazing for him to get in…but then again, that didn’t do much for him with Inside Llewyn Davis last year.
Annual Tommy Lee Jones – In the Valley of Elah Shocker Nomination: Chadwick Boseman – Get On Up

The Predicted Five
1. Richard Linklater – Boyhood – He is the architect of one of the most beautiful movies to come out in a long time. Any other director winning would be a bit of a tragedy.
2. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu – Birdman – He has a much more obvious directing contribution, but camera work isn’t everything. If he is the one to take down Linklater, I could maybe handle that.
3. David Fincher – Gone Girl – He is going to be the next Scorsese and maybe not win one for way too long. He is maybe the most consistent director in the world, and his movie was a real stunner.
4. Wes Anderson – The Grand Budapest Hotel – He has had a lot of screenplay contenders, but this is his first real contender in this category. Does the whole Academy love him as much as his writing peers?
5. James Marsh – The Theory of Everything – The past winner for Man on Wire had a really great directing achievement in this movie, and between Marsh and Tyldum, I need to side with the slightly more recognizable name.
Others in contention
6. Morten Tyldum – The Imitation Game – His movie still has the potential to get the British vote over The Theory of Everything. I cannot see both making it into this competitive category, but they are going to battle it out for one of the spots.
7. Ava DuVernay – Selma – The Academy loves narratives like giving out the first female black directing nomination, but the snubs for the movie are getting more concerning.
8. Bennett Miller – Foxcatcher – The Cannes winner and Oscar darling has really got to show us something with the wide release of the film coming up.
9. J.C. Chandor – A Most Violent Year – He has had 3 films that were all opposites in styles of each other, and the first 2 were minor Oscar hits. Can his most polished movie give him his deserved directing nom?
10. Damien Chazelle – Whiplash – This would be a Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)-level surprise nomination, but it would be deserved. His movie is steadily building buzz.
11. Dan Gilroy – Nightcrawler – He hasn’t gotten a whole lot of buzz, but his film has. If his film is really a threat the way everyone predicts, then he needs to get in.

The Predicted Ten (I predict 9 will get nominated)
1. Boyhood (Richard Linklater) – The film that should win might actually do just that for one of the rare times at the Oscars. It has sustained buzz, withstood runs from other easier movies to take in, and risen up to win everything that is important. It is the one to beat.
2. Gone Girl (David Fincher) – If this were to somehow take the top prize, then it would be crazy. It is this year’s Fatal Attraction, in a way, but it also could be this year’s The Departed. It would be to a much lesser extent, due to the weakness of the year overall, but it could be somewhat of a default winner.
3. Birdman (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu) – The movie is a strange case in the race, but it is clearly one of the few that has a real shot at winning. It would be a bizarre choice. I have compared it to All About Eve on occasion, but it is much too much of an oddball to be treated like that…right?
4. The Theory of Everything (James Marsh) – The movie does not seem like a real threat to win the prize, but it would be a little ridiculous if it weren’t mentioned in the top…whatever number they come up with.
5. Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy)Nightcrawler is the only real wild card in the bunch. We don’t know what to think about it necessarily, but it has a lot of things going for it. A Best Picture nomination seems certain, and I am scratching my head as I am saying that.
6. The Imitation Game (Morten Tyldum) – This one has a bit of work to do to get back into the real contender mix, but its subject matter and straight-forward storytelling approach will sell well with the older voters.
7. Whiplash (Damien Chazelle) – It is one of the Sundance winners that accomplished the miracle of staying relevant for 12 months. It is almost a shoo-in, but shhh I don’t want to jinx it.
8. A Most Violent Year (J.C. Chandor) – The last time a National Board of Review winner missed the Best Picture lineup was 2000 (Quills). I was skeptical last year with Her, but it ended up being a sort of slam dunk. At this point, predicting this film is shaky, but I have faith.
9. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson) – His movie needs the 1st place votes to get in, which I cannot really see happening, but apparently people really loved it. I guess it is kind of a lock.
10. American Sniper (Clint Eastwood) – Eastwood’s second-best movie of the year (no chance it’s as good as Jersey Boys) has everything going for it. It hasn’t been released or shunned yet, it has a bit of controversy, and it stars Bradley Cooper. It could easily slide into the race upon more people seeing it.
Others in contention
11. Selma (Ava DuVernay) – Its PGA snub hurts its chances a lot, but films can overcome that. It just is no longer a threat to win the thing.
12. Foxcatcher (Bennett Miller) – Miller’s previous films were nominated, but they were more talked-about and relevant than Foxcatcher, a tortured mini-masterpiece that was delayed and put through hell.
13. Unbroken (Angelina Jolie) – I will never fully understand how this movie wasn’t more popular, but it still can get in. It has the release date, subject, and pedigree to make a run, but it has an uphill climb.
14. Into the Woods (Rob Marshall) – How much does the Academy miss having musicals in the race every year?

Booyah! Thoughts on these predictions? What do you think will take home the top prizes? Let me know in the comments!

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