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Birdman




And the award goes to...
Predicting the Oscar winners, complaining about the snubs

02/19/15
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com



It was the year of the snub.

Selma’s actors and director, The LEGO Movie, the Roger Ebert documentary Life, Itself, any and all of the indie dramas and comedies that usually get a nod in the screenplay categories — this was not their year. But along with expected prestige films (of course the good but not great The Imitation Game was going to get nominations) and unexpected questionable picks (American Sniper? How to Train Your Dragon 2? Really? Is that the best you can do, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voters?), there were plenty of deserving films (looking at you, Boyhood) to get attention. 
And so, on the eve of Oscar Sunday, I present my picks for who I think should win and, with considerable consultation of the many Oscar prediction sites (in particular Indiewire and Golden Derby, along with Entertainment Weekly’s compilation of award wins so far this season) and coverage from across the Internet, who I think will win an Academy Award this year. Along with, of course, plenty of complaints about the deserving films that didn’t even get to be contenders. 
The Oscars air Sunday, Feb. 22, on ABC. Red Carpet coverage starts at 7 p.m., and the award show starts at 8:30 p.m. Tune in to see how right or wrong I am. 
 
Best Picture
The nominees: American Sniper; Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance); Boyhood; The Grand Budapest Hotel; The Imitation Game; Selma; The Theory of Everything; Whiplash.
Who should win: Boyhood. Of this list, I loved The Grand Budapest Hotel, Boyhood and Whiplash and very much liked The Imitation Game and Birdman. (On Selma: I think I’ve moved from nitpicking its imperfections to respecting the things it did well and wanting to see it again.) What nudges Boyhood ahead of the pack is its overall bittersweetness and the understated way it packs a lot of observations about life (both childhood and parenthood) into its slices of one boy’s childhood. 
Who will win: Birdman. Indiewire called this the “tightest race in years.” Birdman, with its commentary on art and commerce and focus on a late-career actor, seems like the kind of movie movie-industry people will cheer for. 
Dark horse: Boyhood. Having said that, this is such a great movie story — 12 years in the making! — I have a hard time believing voters can pass up the chance to applaud it.
Shoulda been a contender: Gone Girl. Beloved 2014 films such as Guardians of the Galaxy and The LEGO Movie never had any chance of appearing in this category, but the blockbuster Gone Girl, with its twisty-fun story and its sparkling cast, could have slipped in. 
 
Best Animated Feature
The nominees: Big Hero 6; The Boxtrolls; How to Train Your Dragon 2; Song of the Sea; The Tale of the Princess Kaguya.
Who should win: The Boxtrolls. This slightly dark but sweet storybook fairy tale was one of my favorite movies of the year and the best of this bunch (I say, having not seen the two movies in this category that nobody’s seen, Song of the Sea and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya.) Big Hero 6 and How to Train Your Dragon 2? Really? Did nobody connected with the Academy see The LEGO Movie?
Who will win: How To Train Your Dragon 2. As much as I don’t understand this nomination, I understand the support for this movie even less. Yet Golden Derby has it as a blowout for this completely lackluster, magic- and heart-free sequel. 
Dark horse: Song of the Sea or The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. Also known as “those two movies you’d never heard of.” As opposed to Dragon and Big Hero 6, which I like to think of as “those two movies that don’t deserve a nomination as much as The LEGO Movie.”
Shoulda been a contender: A thousand times The LEGO Movie. Since I would knock both Big Hero 6 and Dragon out of the list, that makes room for both The LEGO Movie and The Book of Life
 
Best Director
The nominees: Alejandro G. Iñárritu for Birdman; Richard Linklater for Boyhood; Bennett Miller for Foxcatcher; Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel; Morten Tyldum for The Imitation Game.
Who should win: Wes Anderson. The Grand Budapest Hotel is an example of all his most Wes Anderson-y tendencies used for maximum goodness and joy but with a wonderfully light and nuanced touch.
Who will win: Alejandro G. Iñárritu. As Birdman rises, so does he. Iñárritu won at the Directors Guild of America, which, according to Entertainment Weekly, has picked 90 percent of the winners in this category since 2004 and 80 percent since 1994.
Dark horse: Richard Linklater. I have a hard time believing that other filmmakers will be able to resist giving a director an award for such a movie-geek-friendly project. I’m sure plenty of them thought “I wish I could do that” about the slow-burn creation of Boyhood.
Shoulda been a contender: Ava DuVernay for Selma. Her case for being here is at least as good as Tyldum’s for The Imitation Game and far stronger than Miller’s for Foxcatcher
 
Best Actress
The nominees: Marion Cotillard for Two Days, One Night; Felicity Jones for The Theory of Everything; Julianne Moore for Still Alice; Rosamund Pike for Gone Girl; Reese Witherspoon for Wild.
Who should win:  Reese Witherspoon. I say this having not yet seen Still Alice and Two Days, One Night. (Though both are scheduled to screen starting Friday at Red River Theatres in Concord.) Of the other three, Witherspoon easily takes it.
Who will win: Julianne Moore. Prediction sites seem unanimous on this.
Dark horse: Rosamund Pike. Though not really much of a dark horse considering the lock Moore has on the part, Pike offers a compelling performance of a totally unlikeable, totally fascinating character. 
Shoulda been a contender: Jenny Slate for Obvious Child or Gugu Mbatha-Raw for Belle. I’m sure the Academy forgot all about these smaller films from the early summer/late spring, but both are worth a watch.
 
Best Actor
The nominees: Steve Carell for Foxcatcher; Bradley Cooper for American Sniper; Benedict Cumberbatch for The Imitation Game; Michael Keaton for Birdman; Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything.
Who should win: Michael Keaton. It’s probably the most interesting performance of the lot with the most layers to it. 
Who will win: Eddie Redmayne. Internet predictions put the Redmayne/Keaton race almost as tight as the Boyhood/Birdman race, with Redmayne getting the edge. If there’s some kind of spread-the-wealth mentality,  Keaton might take it. Both actors won Golden Globes for these performances (in comedy/musical for Keaton and drama for Redmayne). 
Dark horse: Benedict Cumberbatch. OK, I don’t know that he actually has any kind of a shot, even if Keaton turned into a literal bird and Eddie Redmayne ran screaming into the wilderness after remembering that he was in Jupiter Ascending. And I don’t know that Cumberbatch’s performance was so exemplary. But it’s totally captivating. And fun to watch. And he’s dreamy.
Shoulda been a contender: David Oyelowo for Selma. It’s not easy playing an American saint, but he did probably the best anyone could have done in turning Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. into a human person.
 
Best Supporting Actress 
The nominees: Patricia Arquette for Boyhood; Laura Dern for Wild; Keira Knightley for The Imitation Game; Emma Stone for Birdman; Meryl Streep for Into the Woods
Who should win: Patricia Arquette. Sure, part of what makes her performance so great is that she ages, as real-life women do, on screen. But she also nails the frustrations and difficulties of parenthood.
Who will win: Patricia Arquette. Every prediction I saw puts her far ahead of the pack.
Dark horse: Emma Stone. Birdman being the darling that it is, Stone would seem to be the one to benefit if somehow all the Arquette votes spontaneously combusted.
Shoulda been a contender: Emily Blunt in either Edge of Tomorrow or Into the Woods. She was a part of what made the former such fun and the best thing about the latter. 
 
Best Supporting Actor
The nominees: Robert Duvall for The Judge; Ethan Hawke for Boyhood; Edward Norton for Birdman; Mark Ruffalo for Foxcatcher; J.K. Simmons for Whiplash.
Who should win: J.K. Simmons. He’s excellent as the sadistic, perfectionist band leader who, ultimately, prizes raw talent over even his own pride. 
Who will win: J.K. Simmons. Another pick on which the Internet seems to be in universal agreement. He’s been so great in so many small roles for so long this is his chance to shine. 
Dark horse: Robert Duvall. In his long career, Duvall has won one Academy Award (1984 for Tender Mercies). At 84, he is definitely old enough to receive the “it’s his due” vote, even for a nothing of a role like this one. 
Shoulda been a contender: Tyler Perry for Gone Girl. No, really. In a movie full of smart and sparkling supporting actor performances, his truly shines — and was a delightful surprise after years of seeing him in middling fare. 
 
Best Original Screenplay
The nominees: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris Jr. & Armando Bo for Birdman; Richard Linklater for Boyhood; E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman for Foxcatcher; Wes Anderson (from a story by Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness) for The Grand Budapest Hotel; Dan Gilroy for Nightcrawler.
Who should win: Boyhood. There’s a lot of little moments that take Boyhood beyond the improv-y slice of life it appears to be. Two of my favorite: Mason’s discussion with his father about there not really being magic in the world and Patricia Arquette’s final scene as a heartbroken mom sending her child off to college and realizing that high-intensity parenthood is, for her, done. 
Who will win: The Grand Budapest Hotel. Prediction sites agree and, as screenplay is often a place where a movie that isn’t going to win Best Picture gets its due, this seems like a solid pick.
Dark horse: Birdman. Serious like Boyhood, whimsical like The Grand Budapest Hotel. 
Shoulda been a contender: This is where smaller films like Begin Again or St. Vincent could have received some recognition. But since this isn’t the year of smaller films, how about The LEGO Movie? Because in addition to being a really smart use of the animated style, the movie tells a great, fun story with surprising depths.
 
Best Adapted Screenplay
The nominees: Jason Hall for American Sniper; Graham Moore for The Imitation Game; Paul Thomas Anderson for Inherent Vice; Anthony McCarten for The Theory of Everything; Damien Chazelle for Whiplash.
Who should win: Whiplash. I remember thinking, toward the end of Whiplash, “this might be a perfect movie.” It has a top-flight script that gives us two flawed, unlikable characters and kind of has us rooting for both. 
Who will win: Whiplash. Golden Derby actually had The Imitation Game on top but moving down in the race with Whiplash on the way up; other prediction sites went for Whiplash. Because it isn’t seriously in the running for Best Picture, this seems like the place where the movie would get its honors. 
Dark horse: The Imitation Game. Having said that, don’t count this movie out. Not only is it legitimately enjoyable (and filled with solid performances), it tackles two award-friendly subjects: historical wrongs and World War II. 
Shoulda been a contender: Edge of Tomorrow and The Babadook. Sci-fi and horror seldom get any respect, but here are two movies that demonstrate why the genres shouldn’t be ignored.
 
Best Foreign Language Film
The nominees: Ida; Leviathan; Tangerines; Timbuktu; Wild Tales.
Who should win: Ida. OK, technically this movie about a young novice in 1960s Poland is the only one of these five films I’ve seen, but it was good! (And available on OnDemand.)
Who will win: Ida. Because it’s one of only two of the foreign films that have been relatively easy for Americans to find (and thus buzz about).  
Dark horse: Leviathan. This being the other one. It was scheduled to open at the Kendall Square theater in Cambridge on Feb. 13.
 
Best Original Song
The nominees: “Everything Is Awesome” from The LEGO Movie; “Glory” from Selma; “Grateful” from Beyond the Lights; “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from Glen Campbell...I’ll Be Me; “Lost Stars” from Begin Again.
Who should win: “Everything Is Awesome!!!” (The exclamation points being how it’s listed on the album track list.) Because something from The LEGO Movie should win. Also, the song, which is sung by Tegan and Sara, is pretty awesome. 
Who will win: “Glory.” This song by John Legend and Common from Selma seems to be topping Internet prediction charts — possibly for the same reason I want “Everything Is Awesome” to win, i.e. Selma deserves to take home something. 
Dark horse: “Everything Is Awesome!!!” Should “Glory” not take it, I can’t imagine one of the other three breaking away from the pack to overcome this one. 
Shoulda been a contender: Pretty much everything in Begin Again. Personally, I liked both the song “Like a Fool” and the way it was used in the movie. 
 
As seen in the February 19, 2015 issue of the Hippo.





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