The Oscars used to be fun. I’m not sure if it’s that as I’ve grown older I’ve realized that subjective back-patting is annoying, or that now it’s such a streamlined, excruciatingly long politicized process that follows 2-3 months of awards shows it feels like a tedious exercise in self-aggrandizement; an industry striving for a cultural relevance that is slipping slowly through its fingers while pointing to ever-diminishing past successes. Either way, I still watch it each year and I think as a film and TV person I have a duty to watch it (and live tweet it, so you can check out my snarky remarks at @yesthatJacob). So here are my picks for this years’ winners and a few prop bets, knowing there’s no way I can beat last year where I picked all but 2 categories correctly.
I hated Birdman. I generally don’t say that I hate a movie, and it felt like everyone involved tried (too) hard, but I feel justified in my hatred since I felt like it was mutual; this was a movie that hated movies and at times its audience. And that’s why I’m giving it the edge over Boyhood (which may have been too long for some voters and lacks the typical bells and whistles required by a BP winner). To me, Birdman is similar to American Beauty; a movie that desperately wants to be important and gives the appearance of intelligence more than actually saying anything. Also, Oscar voters are narcissists; they love movies about showbiz.
DIRECTOR: Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Oscar occasionally splits the director/picture awards and give Director to the helmer of edgier films (see both times Ang Lee won it), and while Birdman is the edgier-seeming film, the voters will probably award Linklater’s dedication to a concept.
ACTOR: Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
I guess this demonstrates that having more boxes checked on the Oscar bait checklist trumps the “it” actor with fewer boxes checked (Cumberbatch), the bankable star with a body transformation (Cooper), the comedic actor going dark (Carrell, but he wasn’t even the lead actor in that film which is kind of weird), and the beloved actor making a comeback playing ugly (Keaton).
ACTRESS: : Julianne Moore, Still Alice
SUPPORTING ACTOR: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
The actors are all locks, which will make for a boring telecast. Usually the supporting actor categories will have some left-field winner, but they are probably surer bets than the leads. Though if it did happen, Emma Stone could surprise because everyone loves Emma Stone and that’s basically why Jennifer Lawrence won for her performance a few years back. If it were anyone but Moore, who’s spent the last 20 years in Oscar bait roles, I’d say she could be upset for such an obscure movie, but the actress competition is rather weak this year and her biggest competition (Witherspoon) has won before.
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Often the Oscar for “quirky film we just didn’t take seriously enough.” I find this a bit odd given the weird Academy screenplay rules that this is considered original despite being the film explicitly mentioning that it was inspired by existing works.
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Graham Moore, The Imitation Game
Whiplash could win, but I think voters tend to privilege dialogue over any other element of screenwriting and Whiplash let its music do more of its talking.
ANIMATED MOVIE: “How to Train Your Dragon 2”
One of two categories the Oscars never get right. Ever. Without fail. Citizenfour may be the critical favorite of the bunch, but I’ll go with the one that’s on Netflix because even with screeners, don’t ever underestimate laziness. Plus, I’m not sure how Oscar’s older voters feel about the whole Snowden thing.
FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM: Leviathan
The other category the Academy never gets right. Ida is about he Holocaust and that alone probably makes it the frontrunner but the frontrunner never really wins this award. Also, Ida’s, black and white, existential distance could alienate some voters. The difference between this and the doc category is the typically the best docs don’t even get nominated while in this category some of the all-time classics of cinema get beaten by some terribly forgettable films. Then again, I’m pretty sure I’m getting this one wrong because the Oscar and Golden Globe winners are never the same in this category.
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman
The Oscars are often about showiest or what is perceived to be the “hardest.” And Birdman’s faux-single shot was perhaps the showiest thing in movies this year.
EDITING: Sandra Adair, Boyhood
See above. She probably had to do the most editing, or at least had a most unique editing task. Boyhood winning editing would suggest a Best Picture win as well, but that rule hasn’t been as consistent the last 15 years as it used to be and Birdman isn’t even nominated so it’s not a clear indicator of preference.
VISUAL EFFECTS: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
ORIGINAL SCORE: Jóhann Jóhannsson, The Theory of Everything
If anything he has one of the coolest nominated names…
COSTUME DESIGN: Milena Canonero, The Grand Budapest Hotel
MAKEUP/HAIRSTYLING: The Grand Budapest Hotel
ORIGINAL SONG: Glory” from “Selma”
“Everything is Awesome” is a surprisingly brilliant song, people love Andy Samberg, and Glory may be too political for some voters, but …Awesome is too silly sounding compared to Glory’s seriousness to pull off an upset.
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Adam Stockhausen, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Is this the biggest lock of the night? I’m not sure. Most deserved award? Probably.
SOUND EDITING: Alan Robert Murray, Bub Asman, American Sniper
This almost always goes to a war film.
SOUND MIXING: Birdman
ANIMATED SHORT: The Dam Keeper
DOCUMENTARY SHORT: Crisis Hotline
HBO is the 900lb Gorilla, or whatever metaphor you want to chose, in the room when it comes to this category.
LIVE-ACTION SHORT: The Phone Call
I’m just going with this because it’s what everyone else says will win, and it shares its title with a ridiculously campy Mormon classic from the 1970s.
Length: 23 minutes over. NPH means musical numbers and that means this might go longer than normal.
“Interview” related jokes: The Globes did a whole extended gag with this so I’m going low; maybe just 1.
Jokes about Selma getting snubbed: 0. If this were John Stewart yes, but I don’t see NPH going there.
Meryl Streep bits: 1. These are contractually obligated now, I think.
Jack Nicholson reaction shots: 2. I think we’re passed prime Jack reaction shot.
Best acceptance speech: Common
Most awkward acceptance speech: Julianne Moore. I’m not sure why, but I can see this being a strange one.
Glaring omissions to the “in memoriam” segment: 2