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Who will win Oscar this year?

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It has been said that it is easier to predict the Powerball numbers than to pick the winners of the six main Oscar categories. That is obviously an exaggeration, but when one really gives it true consideration, it may not be too far from reality.

Trying to read and predict the approximate 6,000 voting minds of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts is an exercise in folly, akin to asking Tom Cruise not to overact or getting John Travolta to sight-read an entertainers name. As Steven Spielberg can attest, many have tried and all have tragically failed.

So, why should I not step to the plate and give my predictions for the six major categories in this coming Sundays 87th annual Academy Awards?  I mean, in theory, a roomful of monkeys each given a typewriter will eventually write the complete works of Shakespeare, right? 

Here goes:

Best Picture

Nominees:  American Sniper, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash.

The scuttlebutt this year has been bouncing between Birdman and Boyhood with Birdman getting the most recent buzz, but Im charged with picking the winners (Ill give my choices if I were the sole voter, but alas, Im not, so really who cares besides me?) so let us give attention to that issue.

American Sniper is pretty much out of any true consideration simply because there is no way Hollywood would vote for Clint Eastwood as its dog catcher, let alone give him its ultimate prize, after his 2012 empty chair stunt at the Republican National Convention. It is rather sad, too, because lost in all the hullabaloo that surrounded the Michael Moore comments was that American Sniper is a pretty damn good movie. 

It is not about whether the U.S. should have even been in Iraq, or whether snipers are cowards (that statement is beyond ludicrous). It is a remarkable film that captures well the sacrifices our soldiers make to defend our country in times of war and the difficulties they face readjusting to life once they are no longer in active duty. This young man, Chris Kyle, was a hero in every sense of the word, and his life is used as a device to thematically demonstrate what every soldier gives and gives up to serve our country.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is Wes Andersons best film thus far and, cinematically, is a remarkable achievement.  However, in my opinion it is not even close to the top 10 movies of 2014. It tried to be funny, clever, and witty, and most of the time failed miserably.

What is tragic about Selma is that it is an extraordinary film that captures exceedingly well both Martin Luther King and his personal struggles but also a biopic that encapsulates the civil rights movement in the United States in the 1960s. Americans born after 1980 have little understanding how tragically black Americans were treated as few as 50 years ago. Selma is in my mind the definitive black experience film and belongs next to Schindlers List as necessary viewing for all American high school students.  For whatever reason, Hollywood has ignored this film and it is getting little consideration.

The Theory of Everything showcased a remarkable physical and emotional performance by Eddie Redmayne, but the biopic of renowned physicist Stephen Hawking offers little more than glitter and a drippy sugar-coating of Hawkings life. I was captivated by Redmayne, but much like cotton-candy, when it was done and gone, I was left with little more than a nutrition-less stomachache.

That leaves Boyhood, The Imitation Game, Birdman and Whiplash as potential winners.

The Imitation Game is a heart-wrenching biopic of Alan Turing, who claims the title of Most Important Man of the 20th Century Whom No One Knows. He is the father of the modern-day computer, and breaker of German military encryption during World War IIsaving untold livesand Turings story is both fascinating and painfully sad. The acting is first-rate and someone would have to make a tremendous argument as to why this film is not the picture of the year.

Hollywood loves films about themselves and Birdman is a sensational achievement of the angst and tragedy that surrounds modern-day acting careers. It is one of the most uniquely and exquisitely shot films in some time, and Emmanuel Lubezki should earn the statue for cinematography if there is any justice in the world. The writing on Birdman was fresh and unique and aside from a couple of minor side-plot detours, there was not much I did not like about this movie.

If there were an award for tenacity and perseverance, it would go to Boyhood. Shot over a 13-year period, the film tracks the life of boy from 6 years old to through the age of 18, ending as he prepares to go to college. While fascinating and worthy of high admiration for the filmmakers commitment to this project, the story ends up being rather mundane and pedestrian. However, it is an uncommon and unique work of art, and Hollywood often looks past substance to honor glitter.

The best film that no one saw, and possibly the best film of the year, is Whiplash. First made as a short film, its producers cobbled together enough money to make it a full-length feature and, to date, it has made only $11 million (although far recouping its investors money). The story studies what someone is willing to do and endure to become one of the best in the worldin this case, a jazz drummer. Actors Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons are simply mind-blowing in the depth of their performances. If you have not seen this film, it is a must-rent.

WHAT WILL WIN:  Boyhood

WHAT SHOULD WIN  Whiplash

SHOULD HAVE BEEN AT THE DANCE:  A Most Violent Year

BEST ACTOR

Nominees:  Steve Carell, Michael Keaton, Bradley Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Eddie Redmayne.

This is as tough a choice as there has been in a long time, with only Steve Carell not a serious nominee here. Bradley Cooper is well on his way to establishing himself in the Cary Grant-Robert Redford-Tom Hanks leading-man, uber-A list category. Michael Keaton is finally getting recognition that he has for so long deserved, and Cumberbatch and Redmayne are in an elite category of actors working today.

No matter who wins, the other four have a valid argument that they were screwed.

WHO WILL WIN:  Benedict Cumberbatch

WHO SHOULD WIN:  Any of the them not named Steve Carell

WHO SHOULD HAVE BEEN AT THE DANCE:  David Oyelowo (Selma)

BEST ACTRESS

Nominees:  Marion Cotillard, Felicity Jones, Julianne Moore, Rosamund Pike, Reese Witherspoon.

I hate this category because seemingly this award generally is a lifetime achievement thing instead of what it should be. There is lots of buzz about Julianne Moore this year, and more times than not the buzz is a good predictor.

WHO WILL WIN:  Julianne Moore

WHO SHOULD WIN:  Felicity Jones

WHO SHOULD HAVE BEEN AT THE DANCE:  Jennifer Aniston

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Nominees:  Robert Duvall, Ethan Hawke, Edward Norton, Mark Ruffalo, J.K. Simmons

No contest.  The other guys should not even show up.

WHO WILL WIN:  J.K. Simmons

WHO SHOULD WIN:  J.K. Simmons

WHO SHOULD HAVE BEEN AT THE DANCE:  Nobody; Simmons was that good.

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

Nominees:  Patricia Arquette, Laura Dern, Keira Knightly, Emma Stone, Meryl Streep

Okay, Meryl Streep is great. We get it. But enough already. Let someone else win. 

Unfortunately, none were as good.

WHO WILL WIN:  Patrician Arquette

WHO SHOULD WIN:  Meryl Streep

WHO SHOULD HAVE BEEN AT THE DANCE:  Anyone not named Streep

BEST DIRECTOR:

Nominees: Alejando Iñárritu (Birdman), Richard Linklater (Boyhood), Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher), Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel), and Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game).

The winner of this category has almost always historically gone hand-in-hand with the winner of Best Picture, but the last few years its winner has come out of left field.

However, the only two serious contenders this year are Linklater for Boyhood and his 13-year pilgrimage to seeing this movie to completion, and the remarkable Birdman by Iñárrittu.

WHO WILL WIN:  Richard Linklater (Boyhood)

WHO SHOULD WIN:  Alejandro Iñárritu (Birdman)

SHOULD HAVE BEEN AT THE DANCE:  Damien Chazelle (Whiplash)

There you have it, movie fans. 

The year was a great one for film and I hope Hollywood will recognize the successes of new and fresh scripts like Birdman and Whiplash.  Most important, Hollywood producers need to realize that not everything has to have Marvel attached to it in order to be both enjoyable and make money.

My last prediction is that I am going to bat .500 on Sunday. When one is trying to guess what Hollywood is going to do, that is a pretty good batting average.

 

About the Author
Who was that mysterious man you saw in the theater last night? You tried to get a look at him but he quickly disappeared in a puff of smoke, his cackle trailing in the air, leaving behind his calling card: a half-eaten box of popcorn and a lukewarm soda. He is Our Movie Reviewer named Tim!