OSCARS 2014: My Picks & Predicts

Oh, the Oscars.

There isn't any other awards show like it. It's always grandiose, self-congratualtory, meaningless and fluffy. These people, trouncing about in their fine suits and expensive gowns, claim they don't care at all about the outcome! They're just happy to be nominated. Likewise, we claim to not care about them as celebrities–and then we obsess over their private lives, buy their candid photos, and copy their tastes. (Many men who claim to be unaffected by celebrities should be glad Facebook wasn't around in the 90s–your early photos would prove you had the same "Caesar" haircut that George Clooney did on ER. And I can't help but confess that Justin Timberlake's early fashion choices affected my adolescence.)

So, even though this show is determined largely through behind-the-scenes campaigning, and even though the Oscar voters are often compromised in their motives, the Academy Awards seek to recognize the best art in filmmaking over the course of the past year. Filmmaking is the dominant medium for culture, philosophy, and spirituality in our times–whether you like it or not. And even if you disagree with their choices, or think it's all a sham, it's fun to take guesses at who is going to win. 

Here are my predictions. 

(I'm only predicting the categories I care about. I haven't followed close enough to know all the politics and I haven't seen all the films. But I'm still going to guess, and if you bet on my predictions and you win millions, I only demand a 10% cut. A cinema-tithe. By the way, the arrow choice is who I WANT to win the award– the emboldened one is who I think WILL win.)


Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
X-Men: Days of Future Past 
Guardians of the Galaxy

This category could be called the "So Sorry You're Broke, but Thanks for the Movie!" consolation prize. Hollywood is notorious for underpaying their VFX companies. One previous Oscar winner went bankrupt almost immediately after the ceremony was done. 

That said, Interstellar deserves this award because of the innovative way its effects were blended into its practical effects. In a grand ode to Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey", Interstellar puts the VFX of the film behind the story, and never feels like it's showing off. 


>The Tale of Princess Kaguya
How to Train Your Dragon 2
The Boxtrolls
Big Hero 6
Song of the Sea

The animated feature category, at least in this past decade, could be called "Which Movie Did Pixar Make This Year, Again?" But I believe this is Isao Takahata's year. He's been making beautiful Japanese animated films for decades without substantial North American acclaim. He's never made a bad film, at least according to critics. Although I would've voted for the LEGO movie had it been nominated (this was the greatest snub of the year), I think "The Tale of Princess Kaguya" is going to win. 


Ryszard Lenczewski “Ida”
Dick Pope for “Mr. Turner”
>Robert Yeoman for “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Lukasz Zal for “Ida”
Emmanuel Lubezki for “Birdman”

I think "Birdman" is another strong contender in this category but Lubezki won this category last year for "Gravity". "Ida" seems ideally suited to win here, too–but two nominations may split the vote. 


Tom Cross for “Whiplash”
William Goldenberg for “The Imitation Game”
Gary D. Roach for “American Sniper”
Sandra Adair for “Boyhood”
>Barney Pilling for “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Joel Cox for “American Sniper”

Much of the comedy in Wes Anderson's "The Grand Budapest Hotel" comes from the power of how the film is edited. Anderson's films have such a visionary focus that it's easy to forget how every auteur has an ensemble behind them. Unless you're Steven Soderbergh.

But either Gary Roach or Joel Cox will win because American Sniper cannot go home empty handed. It has "American" in the title, and though it does not deserve its' other nominations, it will likely win here.


American Sniper
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything
Inherent Vice

Again, while "American Sniper" might not deserve to be such a contender this year, its' high number of nominations in many major categories make it sure to take home at least a few awards. "Whiplash", on the other hand, is the beloved indie contender which deserves some kind of recognition. I'm hoping it doesn't go home empty-handed.


The Grand Budapest Hotel

This is one of my favourite categories. Original screenplays are the frontier of filmmaking where stories take shape. I think all the nominations this year are outstanding, but in the face of many strong contenders, the Oscars rarely rock the boat. "Birdman" will win it.


“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” by Glen Campbell, Julian Raymond
“Grateful” by Diane Warren
“Glory” by John Legend, Common
>“Everything Is Awesome” by Shawn Patterson
“Lost Stars” by Danielle Brisebois, Gregg Alexander

"Everything Is Awesome" should win this category, hands-down. But it won't because "Selma" won't win best picture though it certainly deserves some kind of award–and "Glory" is perfectly designed to receive such an honour. The frivolous and the comical are rarely honoured by the Academy. They only honour things that are black–or very very dark grey.


Morten Tyldum, “The Imitation Game”
Bennett Miller, “Foxcatcher”
Alejandro González Iñárritu, “Birdman”
>Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”
Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Linklater will win because "Boyhood" is a work of sheer genius which took over a decade to execute. He didn't just direct a movie–he directed the real lives and commitments of actors who signed on to this grand vision. It's hard for me to see Wes Anderson miss out on his strongest directorial work yet–but he'll win eventually. The Academy usually awards Oscars to the right people for the wrong films, anyway.


Mark Ruffalo, “Foxcatcher”
Edward Norton, “Birdman”
>J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”
Robert Duvall, “The Judge”
Ethan Hawke, “Boyhood”

It's Simmons's time to move into the mainstream. He's chronically under-appreciated as a character actor, but "Whiplash" proves he can maintain lead roles. And he's talented enough to not be sunk by the award's curse. Only Norton's performance in "Birdman" even comes close.


>Emma Stone, “Birdman”
Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”
Meryl Streep, “Into the Woods”
Laura Dern, “Wild”
Keira Knightley, “The Imitation Game”

Emma Stone is this year's Jennifer Lawrence: Hollywood is picking its future royalty. Patricia Arquette is a viable contender, but her "comeback" story is overshadowed by another more likely Oscar winner...


>Michael Keaton, “Birdman”
Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything”
Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Imitation Game”
Bradley Cooper, “American Sniper”
Steve Carell, “Foxcatcher”

This is Keaton's big comeback. Tim Burton was once criticized for casting Keaton as Batman, but only now do we see the versatility that led to Keaton's initial casting. The only loss in this category is Steve Carell, who gave a phenomenal performance as John du Pont in "Foxcatcher". But that performance really deserved a "Supporting Actor" nomination instead.


Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything”
Marion Cotillard, “Two Days, One Night”
Reese Witherspoon, “Wild”
>Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”
Rosamund Pike, “Gone Girl”

We live in a world where Reese Witherspoon already has an Oscar and Julianne Moore doesn't. Moore has been in practically everything, and is a perpetual runner-up. But there is no denying that she is the strongest performer in this category and is long overdue for the award. Between Julianne Moore and Cate Blanchett, someone has to take the "Oscar Darling" throne from Meryl Streep eventually.


American Sniper
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything

"Birdman" has pulled ahead and will likely win it. It's a clever film, and it's narrower than the Academy is used to. Usually the Oscar goes to the film which intersects critical acclaim with populist acceptance–think "Gladiator" over "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", for instance. But even though "Birdman" has likely won the political process, "Boyhood" deserves the honour. It's quite literally a once-in-a-lifetime kind of film. 


Are there any other major February contests I'm missing? 

(Just kidding. Seahawks will win. There isn't enough in that to write an article. Though we might eventually have to talk about how we continually endorse a league that seems content with domestic violence...)