Final Predictions – Oscars 2015

We’re only a week out from the big day. All the precursors are in, so it’s time to go on the record. These are my picks for who’s going to win at the Oscars next Sunday night (Feb. 22), along with some bet-hedging and griping about what should’ve been nominated in the first place. Agree? Disagree? Let’s find out.

Best Animated Short: “Feast”

Best Live Action Short: “The Phone Call”

Best Documentary Short: “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1”

Predicting the short categories isn’t quite the blind stab that it used to be, thanks to improved distribution that has gotten the nominees out into theaters and various streaming services ahead of the ceremony. But, since most of the Academy members are now watching these at home on screeners rather than at official in-theater screenings, in some ways it’s become even more difficult to gauge how they’re leaning. So it’s still a bit of a crapshoot, but I’m betting on the following: 1) without a standout opponent, the lavish production value and style of Disney’s “Feast” will rule the day in the animated field; 2) familiar face Sally Hawkins (a Supporting Actress nominee just last year) will lean voters towards “The Phone Call” in live action; and 3) the heart-breaking but ultimately optimistic subject matter of “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1” (exactly what it sounds like) makes voting for it in documentary feel both good and important, which is exactly the spot where the Academy loves to be.

Best Documentary Feature

Laura Poitras’ first-hand account of Edward Snowden’s leak of classified NSA documents and his flight to Russia has been stream-rolling through the documentary prizes this season, and there’s pretty much no reason to think it won’t win here. “Finding Vivian Maier” was an unexpected art-house hit, but “Citizenfour” has immediate political resonance, and the Academy tends to favor right here-right now docs.

Will win: “Citizenfour”

Could win: “Finding Vivian Maier”

Should’ve been here: (abstain – I’ve been really behind on the documentaries this year)

Best Original Song

One of the first seriously difficult calls of the night. The favorite among the audiences at home will obviously be “Everything Is AWESOME,” Tegan + Sara’s outrageously infective tune from “The LEGO Movie,” but there are some big subplots going on underneath two of the other nominees. There was of course much talk of the general lack of “Selma” in the Oscar nominations, but this is one of the only places where DuVernay’s movie slipped through, and voters upset by the film’s absence elsewhere may very well automatically tick it off here (the fact that it’s a great, fierce song, is actually an appropriate cap to the film, and had a much-discussed performance as the Grammys last week helps too). But then there’s “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” by Glen Campbell, country superstar and occasional actor who is now suffering from Alzheimer’s. The nominated song is effectively the last one that Campbell will ever write, and that narrative will likely play gangbusters with the Academy’s older generation. This category won’t tell us who will win Best Picture, but pay close attention anyway – it may tell us a lot about how Academy demographics are (or are not) shifting.

Will win:“Glory,” from “Selma”

Could win: “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” from “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me”

Should’ve Been Here: “I Love You All,” from “Frank”

Best Sound Mixing

See here for a good run-down of the difference between Sound Mixing and Sound Editing – but the upshot is that musicals tend to fare well in Mixing, where all the disparate dialogue, score and effects tracks are combined into one comprehensible soundtrack (the inclusion of “Interstellar” here is a mystery in that regard). That’s good news for “Whiplash” and “Birdman,” both of which rely heavily on their jazz-infused scores. “Birdman” is the technical marvel of the year, but I’m thinking that the outlier status of “Whiplash” here means something special.

Will win: “Whiplash”

Could win: “Birdman”

Should’ve been here: “Under the Skin,” “God Help the Girl”

Best Sound Editing

With “Whiplash” out of the way here, the general voters will gravitate more towards their favorite film.

Will win: “Birdman”

Could win: “American Sniper”

Should’ve been here: “Under the Skin,” “The Babadook”

Best Visual Effects

Another tough call. More ground-breaking motion-capture work from Andy Serkis and the “Planet of the Apes” team? Universally beloved “Guardians of the Galaxy?” Ballyhooed, practical space effects from “Interstellar?” There’s a lot of options here and you could make a good case for any. Going with my gut here.

Will win: “Interstellar”

Could win: “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”

Should’ve been here: “Under the Skin”

Best Film Editing

All five nominees are in the Best Picture hunt, so there are no particular clues there. “American Sniper” has the traditional scenes of war suspense/thrills that can do well here, while Sandra Adair had the unenviable task of paring down footage shot over 12 years to put together “Boyhood.” But since it’s a film that’s all about rhythm, the editing in “Whiplash” is the most obvious – and obviously great, even for non-editors.

Will win: “Whiplash”

Could win: “Boyhood”

Should’ve been here: “Under the Skin”

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

And now we enter Wes Anderson territory. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” was perhaps the most unexpected awards season success of the year, running away with tons of love from both the critics and the guilds. Anderson’s aesthetic is always about meticulous design, and this seems to be the year we’re rewarding him for his whole back catalog of great craft. Expect a GBH runaway in the middle of the show.

Will win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Could win: “Foxcatcher”

Should’ve been here: “The Babadook”

Best Costume Design

See above.

Will win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Could win: “Mr. Turner”

Should’ve been here: “A Most Violent Year”

Best Production Design

See above, again; though the practical, non-green-screened spaceship sets of “Interstellar” has its advocates.

Will win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Could win: “Interstellar”

Should’ve been here: “Snowpiercer”

Best Cinematography

After a decade of futility, the man they call Chivo is now an unstoppable Oscar machine. More or less no question now that he’ll triumph over Roger Deakins (again) – the big one is, can he be back next year for Iñárritu’s “The Revenant” and make it three in a row?

Will win: Emmanuel Lubezki, “Birdman”

Could win: Robert Yeoman, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Should’ve been here: Daniel Landin, “Under the Skin,” Bradford Young, “Selma”

Best Animated Feature

A category that seemed locked up a year ago was suddenly, but briefly thrown into chaos by the inexplicable exclusion of “The LEGO Movie.” But when the dust settled after that kerfuffle it seems fairly obvious what the second-most-beloved animated film of the year was.

Will win: “How to Train Your Dragon 2”

Could win: “Big Hero 6”

Should’ve been here: “The LEGO Movie,” of course

Best Foreign Language Film

Wow. I’ve seen three of the nominees and already this category is so much better than the Best Picture lineup, you guys. “Leviathan,” “Ida” and “Timbuktu” are all off-the-charts good: gorgeously crafted, devastating social-political dramas that leave you feeling worn down but enlightened about some piece of human nature. But when it comes to this category, that’s exactly what will probably work against them: they’re all so good, in similar ways, so how do you choose between them? That’s why I’m leaning towards “Wild Tales,” Damian Szifron’s reportedly insanely entertaining anthology film, to triumph. It just stands out the most, the same way Argentina’s “The Secret In Their Eyes” pulled ahead of “The White Ribbon” and “A Prophet” a few years back.

Will win: “Wild Tales” (Argentina)

Could win: “Leviathan” (Russia)

Should’ve been here: “Force Majeure” (Sweden)

Best Original Score:

Tricky. Alexandre Desplat’s greatest competition might be himself; will fans of “The Imitation Game” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” split between the two or rally behind one to make sure Desplat is rewarded? (“Grand Budapest” could and should be that option if so) But, don’t count out Jóhann Jóhannson; there are some serious fans of that film in the Academy, and Jóhannson’s score is undoubtedly one of the best and brightest things about it.

Will win: Alexandre Desplat, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Could win: Jóhann Jóhannson, “The Theory of Everything”

Should’ve been here: Mica Levi, “Under the Skin”

Best Original Screenplay:

Ugh, the category that is my perpetual downfall in this competition. Too often I lean towards a Best Picture frontrunner, trying to take in the overall picture rather than just going for the option with the strongest personality behind it (e.g. Quentin Tarantino for “Django Unchained,” Woody Allen for “Midnight in Paris”). So I’m going to try to self-correct this year and say instead of the flashy, but by-committee “Birdman” screenplay, they continue to dole out a career reward to Wes Anderson, who has certainly been one of the most unique voices in film this past decade or two.

Will win: Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Could win: Alejandro Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo, “Birdman”

Should’ve been here: John Michael McDonagh, “Calvary,” J.C. Chandor, “A Most Violent Year”

Best Adapted Screenplay

Man. Who the f— knows. Again, the go-with-the-best-picture-leader theory would lean us towards the prestige drama of “The Imitation Game” or “The Theory of Everything,” but both of those films are so strongly oriented toward their performances rather than the screenplay. “Inherent Vice” is flashier, but way too out there for general Academy taste. That’s why I think I have to go again with crowd-pleaser “Whiplash,” the script that’s the most in-your-face with how sharp it is. I’m just now realizing that this little Sundance drama may very well end up with four Oscars on five nominations. That’s an impressive haul.

Will win: Damien Chazelle, “Whiplash”

Could win: Graham Moore, “The Imitation Game”

Should’ve been here: Gillian Flynn, “Gone Girl”

Best Supporting Actress

Three of the four acting categories are signed, sealed and delivered. Let’s power through.

Will win: Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”

Could win: Emma Stone, “Birdman” (but not really)

Should’ve been here: Tilda Swinton, “Snowpiercer”

Best Supporting Actor

Will win: J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”

Could win: Edward Norton, “Birdman” (but not really)

Should’ve been here: Ben Mendehlson, “Starred Up”

Best Actress

Will win: Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”

Could win: Rosamund Pike, “Gone Girl” (but not really)

Should’ve been here: Scarlett Johannson, “Under the Skin”

Best Actor

Man oh man. This is the one that’s going to do me in this year. I can feel it. Eddie Redmayne’s hit the traditional markers of success (Golden Globe, SAG award, BAFTA), but Michael Keaton’s still hanging around there with the Golden Globe (comedy) and the “comeback” narrative. And then there’s Bradley Cooper hanging around with high praise in an unexpected box office smash, just waiting to slip up the middle and be the shock winner a la Adrien Brody. I don’t know. Literally nothing I choose feels right. I’ll be gritting my teeth all night waiting for this category.

Will win: Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything”

Could win: Michael Keaton, “Birdman”

Should’ve been here: there were so many options, they should’ve just expanded the category to ten this year – Jake Gyllenhaal, “Nightcrawler,” David Oyelowo, “Selma,” Timothy Spall, “Mr. Turner,” Brendan Gleeson, “Calvary,” Joaquin Phoenix, “Inherent Vice”

Best Director

The directors guild went for Iñárritu, but I can’t help but think that from the outside looking in, more Academy members will be impressed by Linklater’s obvious achievement. Does that mean we’re headed for the second Director/Picture split year in a row…?

Will win: Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”

Could win: Alejandro Iñárritu, “Birdman”

Should’ve been here: Jonathan Glazer, “Under the Skin,” Pawel Pawlikowski, “Ida,” Andrei Zvyagintsev, “Leviathan”

Best Picture

Seemingly down big to “Boyhood,” “Birdman” swung back in the season with huge wins from the Screen Actors Guild, the Producers Guild and the Directors Guild. Only “Apollo 13” has hit that trifecta and failed to take Best Picture as well. Clearly people in the industry love it (should it triumph, we need to have a discussion about Hollywood’s recent self-obsession; believe it or not, only two films that are really explicitly about filmmaking have won Best Picture, and they’ve both come within the past five years: “The Artist” and “Argo”). The “Birdman” vs. “Boyhood” showdown smacks of last year’s “Gravity” vs. “12 Years a Slave:” two very, very different films, both great in their own way. I think another Picture/Director split leaves everyone feeling rewarded.

(Do I feel good about picking “Birdman” for Best Picture and not Michael Keaton for Best Actor? You bet I don’t. That doesn’t make any sense. But throw logic out the door this year. It’s been a bumpy ride, and I expect that to continue.)

Will win: “Birdman”

Could win: “Boyhood”

Should’ve been here: “Under the Skin,” “Ida,” “Leviathan,” “Calvary,” “Timbuktu”

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