This first group will focus on the five categories that are usually the toughest to call as they are either short films not easily viewed by most people or they are those two lovely sound categories that many have trouble differentiating between.
|1. Best Short Film (Live Action) – Nominated films are:
This year’s short films are lighter fare than last year’s, which were all about abusive marriages and war torn villages. While Parvaneh does fit the war-torn village requisite, these films are sweeter overall. The two standouts revolve around mistaken or mysterious identity: Aya and The Phone Call. Look for The Phone Call’s A-List cast featuring Sally Hawkins and Jim Broadbent to give it the edge.
Prediction: The Phone Call
|2. Best Short Film (Animated) – Nominated films are:
The Bigger Picture
In 2013, Disney produced the slam dunk winner in Paperman. Last year Disney’s entry was more nostalgic than impressive causing it to lose to Mr. Hublot. Although story – while important – holds less weight than style here, Disney has once again produced a sure thing in Feast. The touching and relatable tale of a dog and his owner uniquely told through the canine’s method of food delivery is a heart warmer guaranteed to make you tear up.
|3. Best Documentary (Short) – Nominated films are:
Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
The title of last year’s winner, The Lady in Number Six: Music Saved My Life, has a similar sounding title as this year’s front-runner, Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1, but that’s where the similarities end. While Number 6 was inspiration defined, depicting the world’s oldest pianist doing her thing at 109, Press 1 tackles the topical and devastating troubles that face military veterans in the United States. Joanna and Our Curse both document life cut short by incurable disease. The Reaper and White Earth tackle slaughterhouse wisdom and the oil boom in the American plains, respectively. This year’s documentary shorts certainly cover a wide range of topics, but HBO’s Crisis Hotline seems like the best of the bunch.
Prediction: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
|4. Best Sound Editing – Nominated films are:
5. Best Sound Mixing – Nominated films are:
I always like to deal with these two together, since most people are unaware of their differences and due to that nasty little tie between Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall in the Sound Editing category in 2013. Sound editing is the art of recording sound effects, background music, as well as sound creation. Sound mixing is taking all of the sounds recorded and needed for a film, along with the dialogue, and putting it all together, adjusting the levels, etc. It is fitting that the nominees of these two categories are nearly identical. Traditionally, I go along with the theory that more times than not, the film that wins one will win both. Gravity won both last year for its dazzling complexity of layered sound and effects. It would seem logical to choose another technically brilliant space film, Interstellar for this year’s honors. However, Interstellar received some bad press about its sound clarity in many theaters throughout the country during its theatrical release. This may cost it here. Other than Interstellar, American Sniper is by far the most ambitious film in terms of these qualities this year.
Prediction: American Sniper for Sound Editing and Sound Mixing
This set of predictions rounds up the lower tier categories and begins the accent to the major ones. These predictions will focus on the six categories that make up the atmosphere of a film: Original Song, Original Score, Costume Design, Production Design, Makeup, and Visual Effects.
|6. Best Original Song – Nominated songs are:
“Everything is Awesome” from The Lego Movie
Last year this category was drenched in scandal as one film’s song composer was a former governor of the Academy music branch who contacted 1/3 of the voters asking them to “consider” his song. That song was revoked paving the way for a small unlikely song about Letting it Go or something to just barely squeak by! Honestly, it feels like no one has quite let “Let it Go” go, but that song was actually last year. This year, this category is the honorary consolation prize as two films that faced some pretty epic snubs now vie for what may be their only chance at snagging a trophy. So while everything was not awesome for The Lego Movie, at least something may be, otherwise Selma will feel the “Glory.”
Prediction: “Glory” from Selma
|7. Best Original Score – Nominated Films are:
Last year, the film with the most substantial use of music was Her, but Gravity had the momentum going. This year, that whole sound debacle that Interstellar went through will likely affect it in this category too, even though it too is the film with the most substantial use of music. Thus, momentum will win again for The Theory of Everything, which won the Golden Globe for score in January.
Prediction: The Theory of Everything
|8. Best Costume Design – Nominated films are:
The Grand Budapest Hotel
This category favors the period piece, but Mr. Turner is the only real “period piece” of this bunch, although arguments could be made for Inherent Vice. The key to this category is not to get too caught up in the film itself but rather focus on the creativity, authenticity, and accuracy of the costuming. This year’s costume winner will probably be for a look more creative than authentic. If that’s the case it’s Coleen Atwood or Milena Canonero. Atwood got her 10th nomination for Into the Woods, and Canonero got her ninth for The Grand Budapest Hotel; both women have won three previous Oscars. I’ll give the edge to Atwood as her costumes support the film while Canonero’s are very dependent on the film supporting the costumes.
Prediction: Into the Woods
|9. Best Production Design – Nominated films are:
The Oscar for Production Design goes to the art director who best accomplishes the appropriate mood for an audience’s experience through visuals, movement, and other varieties of art direction. Only two of the nominated films above are also nominated for Best Picture, but rarely do winners for Production Design and Best Picture intersect. Nominations, however, do, and the stand-out film for this category is The Grand Budapest Hotel. Wes Anderson’s films are brilliantly staged, and yet this is the first of his films to be nominated in this category. It doesn’t hurt that the production design team behind Grand Budapest is the same from last year’s 12 Years a Slave. It’s a lock!
Prediction: The Grand Budapest Hotel
|10. Best Makeup and Hairstyling – Nominated Films are:
Last year’s field of nominated films was impressive and yet only three films managed nominations for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. This year’s list of films is much weaker compared to last year and this category continues to circle the drain with three even weaker choices for the “makeup” category. Last year, this went to the team behind Dallas Buyer’s Club; but typically this award goes to wildly imaginative, over-the-top makeups and hair. This year, that will be the case – Go Guardians!
Prediction: Guardians of the Galaxy
|11. Best Visual Effects – Nominated Films are:
Ok, now we get down to films that the average filmgoer can evaluate. The Visual Effects Oscar goes to a film that demonstrates greatness in the world of special effects. It’s no coincidence that these five films comprise more than half of the total domestic box office for 2014. Two of my top four films of 2014 are here, so clearly visual effects truly influence my appreciation of cinematic greatness. This is where my #1 film will get its due.
Part three of The People’s Critic’s Oscar predictions begins the major film awards. These predictions will be for seven very different categories: Documentary Feature, Animated Film, Foreign Language Film, Original Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing, and everybody’s favorite – Cinematography.
|12. Best Documentary Feature – Nominated films are:
Many documentaries are made yearly since they are easy to produce and cheap to make. The key is content, pacing, accuracy, and perspective. Unfortunately my favorite, Life Itself, Steve James’s Roger Ebert documentary was snubbed! Nonetheless, the films nominated are all worthy this year. Netflix’s Virunga is right up there with my favorite nature documentaries (kudos to producer, Leonardo DiCpario). The beauty captured in Finding Vivian Maier and The Salt of the Earth is wondrous. Still, the strongest documentaries have a human story at their core, and few human stories are as intriguing as Edward Snowden’s. Snowden’s story continues to astound and with Oliver Stone’s upcoming biopic on Snowden, cinema is not through with him yet!
|13. Best Animated Feature Film – Nominated Films are:
Big Hero 6
I think Keegan-Michael Key’s rant as Seattle Seahawks Cornerback, Richard Sherman sums up the Lego Movie’s curious absence better than anything I can say. So let’s turn to the five films that were actually nominated. The Best Animated Feature Film Oscar enters its 14th year as a category in the modern Academy Awards. The score is Disney 8, Dreamworks 3…Rango and Japan 2. Disney and Dreamworks once again face off, and it appears Dreamworks will add one more notch on its belt with the surprisingly complex and enjoyable sequel, How to Train Your Dragon 2.
Prediction: How to Train Your Dragon 2
|14. Best Foreign Language Film – Nominated films are:
There have been centuries of wars between Russian and Poland, and now we can add the Battle for the 2015 Foreign Film Oscar to that list. Ida and Leviathan are the frontrunners for this award. Ida also was nominated for Cinematography, so that could help sway voters, but Leviathan’s story of human corruption seems to carry more weight.
|15. Best Original Screenplay – Nominated films are:
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Alejandro González Iñárritu
As a writer (or to put it more modestly, one who appreciates writing), the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay has a special significance. Three of these films made The People’s Critic’s List of the Top Ten Films of 2014! Last year, imaginative writer/director of Her, Spike Jonze, was on a first Oscar quest and got it. Both Iñárritu and Anderson have put out imaginative film after imaginative film and each have yet to win a screenwriting Oscar. It’s a shame that one of these films has to lose this award, but I have to give it to Anderson for his attention to developing such exceptional characters.
Prediction: Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel
|16. Best Adapted Screenplay – Nominated films:
American Sniper – Jason Hall
These films are the rare few who challenge and at time overcome that old adage that the book is better than the movie. A notable accomplishment is certainly that Paul Thomas Anderson is the first to ever successfully adapt a Thomas Pynchon novel with Inherent Vice. This is actually a fairly competitive category this year. Newcomer Chazelle has made quite a splash with Whiplash, but his reward may just be the nomination. The Imitation Game is the one to beat, sporting some effective and poetic dialogue on par with that of Tony Kushner’s excellent and Oscar winning Lincoln screenplay.
Prediction: The Imitation Game
|17. Best Film Editing – Nominated films are:
This is an impressive award to win and the Academy does not treat that lightly. The winner for Best Film Editing has often been the film that wins Best Picture, and it is no surprise that all five films nominated here are also nominated for Best Picture. The editing of a film is nearly as important as the direction since it affects the story, the pace, and the tone. Often, great editing goes unnoticed by the viewer because of how seamless the story has been woven together. The major consideration here is Sandra Adair’s shaping of the film Boyhood. Boyhood is poised to take home some big awards this year and while the screenplay may not have what it takes to win, Adair’s sculpting of the narrative turns it into the film about life that it was meant to be.
|18. Best Cinematography – Nominated Films are:
First of all, if you haven’t heard Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs’s unfortunate mispronunciation of Mr. Turner cinematographer, Dick Pope’s name during the live nominations, watch it immediately. Ok, now that you’ve had a laugh, let’s talk about cinematography. Cinematographers are the directors of photography who oversee decisions on camera and lighting concerns. To excel at this requires the talent of an artist and the technical knowledge of a director. This year’s group makes for a tough category. Deakins’s latest film, Unbroken marks his 12th nomination without a win. His work on Prisoners earned that film its only nomination and his work on Unbroken earned that film its only non-sound related nomination. This should certainly be a consideration in choosing a winner since repetitive nominations in this category are not easy to get, but well earned when they happen. Unfortunately for Deakins, the very man who beat him last year for his visually stunning work on Gravity is back and with another astounding achievement with Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). Love or hate Birdman, everyone has to appreciate Emmanuel Lubezki’s impressive camera work resulting in a film that appears to be one seamless uninterrupted take.
Prediction: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
The final installment of The People’s Critic’s Oscar prediction series lists my picks for the six major film awards: Directing, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actor, Actress, Actor, and Picture. These are the categories decided by the largest blocks of voters and, thus reveal the academy’s consensus feelings on the great films of the year. While this year’s crop of films will go down as mostly underwhelming, there are few “sure things” like last year’s Cate Blanchett, Jared Leto, or Matthew McConaughey this time around.
|19. Best Director – Nominated directors are:
Alejandro González Iñárritu – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
In the Classic Hollywood Cinema days, this award was a bit easier to come by as directors like William Wyler, John Ford, and Frank Capra were nominated often and won more than any other directors in history. Over the years, the award has become much more aloof; very few directors earn more than one Best Directing Oscar. Of this year’s nominees, only Bennett Miller has been nominated in this category previously (in 2005 for Capote). The award is closely associated with the Best Picture winner as well, however these awards are becoming more independent of one another. Last year a visionary Mexican director, Alphonso Cuarón, won the directing Oscar, while a more standard American drama, 12 Years a Slave, took Best Picture. I predict a similar situation this year.
Prediction: Alejandro González Iñárritu
|20. Best Supporting Actress – Nominees are:
Acting categories need the least amount of explanation. The supporting role awards are traditionally a bit more exciting. These Oscars have gone to some surprising upsets over the years and is more likely to go to an edgier or younger performer than the awards for Best Actor/Actress. On the ladies’ side, there is a fairly clear winner. Still a word must be said about Meryl Streep. This is her 19th Academy Award nomination, her fourth in this category. I think we can all agree she’s a talent, but let’s face it, Emily Blunt is the role to nominate from Into the Woods, an otherwise, unimpressive film. Unimpressive is basically the word when it comes to this category. Usually, this category is a blast, but Laura Dern is the only one that really blew me away. Still, Patricia Arquette is going to win it, and I still can’t really understand why.
Prediction: Patricia Arquette
|21. Best Supporting Actor – Nominees are:
Robert Duvall– The Judge
On the men’s side, we’ve got a real race. Every performance except Ruffalo has something going for it. Ruffalo is a head scratcher. Duvall is the “Meryl Streep” here getting his seventh nomination for an otherwise forgettable film. Duvall is actually quite good in The Judge, but not good enough to beat Hawke, Norton, or Simmons. It’s a three dog race, and in this case, the old dog gets the bone.
Prediction: J.K. Simmons
|22. Best Actress – Nominees are:
Last year there was a clear winner here. Cate Blanchett had it from the moment she said yes to a Woody Allen role. Julianne Moore’s turn as a linguistics professor who begins experiencing the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease is as heartbreaking and gripping as can be imagined and Moore gives arguably her best performance in a career of incredible performances. Cotillard was the surprise, supposedly knocking Jennifer Aniston out, but it’s all trivial. Moore will win her first Oscar finally.
Prediction: Julianne Moore
|23. Best Actor – Nominees are:
Steve Carell – Foxcatcher
Last year Chiwetel Ejiofor picked the wrong year to join the A-List and turn out his best performance of his career. This year, everybody is in the same situation. Nostalgia and momentum are with Keaton, but Redmayne’s physical and emotional performance as Stephen Hawking makes it a tough call. Also, Bradley Cooper is on a three year streak with nominations and while American Sniper may be a polarizing film politically, Cooper is excellent as Chris Kyle and the film, snubbed in many award ceremonies, received six Academy Award nominations and in my opinion, rightly so. It really comes down to Keaton and Redmayne. Both performances are stylistically different and uniquely challenging, but I’m pulling for a Keatonaissance!
Prediction: Michael Keaton
|24. Best Picture – Nominated Films are:
Eight films were deemed worthy of Best Picture honors this year. The jury is still out on this callback to the olden days where ten (even twelve!) films could be nominated for this award. The list varies between five and ten nominees based on how many films receive enough votes during the nomination process. This expansion was supposedly to allow for some popular films to make the list, but if you examine the box office for the eight films nominated, you won’t find any of them in the top 50. Unlike last year, this year’s collection of nominees demonstrates what a mediocre year at the movies 2014 year truly was. The Best Picture is judged on all criteria. How much does one weigh the writing, the directing, the cinematography, the set design, the acting, etc.? These are tough questions. I continue to believe it is the editing that begins to lay the groundwork towards determining the Best Picture. The Best Picture is more about conveying a message, entertainment, structure, and overall effect than anything else. Editing (along with direction) is the key to all of those characteristics that make a movie great. That, along with the cinematic distinctiveness of its premise and the quality of its acting leads me to select….
According to my predictions…
- The biggest winner will be: B movies. Birdman and Boyhood should both walk away with three big wins each.
- The biggest loser will be: Foxcatcher, which should lose out on all five of its nominations.
- The biggest upset will be: Alejandro González Iñárritu over Richard Linklater for the Best Director Oscar.
- The surest bet will be: Julianne Moore as Best Actress.
It’s an exciting time for movies, so enjoy Oscar season, and of course, make it even better with The People’s Critic’s official 2015 Oscar Menu!