Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Oscar Predictions 2015 Part I

 The Oscars are coming up in a few days (Sunday, February 22nd, mark your calendars everyone!!!!) and the question on everybody's mind is "Who will win?" Now, I spent last month outlining my own picks for the best films of the year, and provided my thoughts as soon as the nominations were announced, but now it's time for the real stuff: the actual predictions for who will win the awards. This is actually turning out to be an exciting race--many categories that once seemed set in stone are suddenly up in the air, so I'm actually much less confident in my predictions this year than in years past. If anything, the major prediction I'm going to make is that I'm going to get several of these predictions wrong. So, please don't blame me if you lose thousands of dollars on your Oscar pool. You really shouldn't be betting so much money on something as fickle as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

As I go into these predictions, I would like to make the disclaimer I always make: my predictions reflect who I think WILL win, not who I think should win (although I'm also going to be talking about who I think should win, so...I shouldn't actually need this disclaimer). Following in the tradition of many critics who can't shut up their own opinions, for all of the major categories, I'll be listing who I think will win, who I think should win, and who I think should have been nominated.

Oh, and because I am ridiculously verbose and have, as always, written way too much, feel free to scroll to the end of my long paragraphs to read the TLDR version of my picks. And now, here is my analysis. Wish me luck.

Best Picture:
Remember earlier when I said "many categories that once seemed set in stone are suddenly up in the air?" Well, this is one of the ones I'm talking about. That's right, for the first time in years, there is no real frontrunner to win Best Picture. Sure, in the past there have been murmurings about a frontrunner being unseated. "Could Gravity beat 12 Years a Slave?" "Will Lincoln defeat Argo?" "Might The Social Network take down The King's Speech?" "Was Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close really nominated? Well that has no chance of winning." But every year, these speculations seem to come more out of a desire to make the race exciting. In actuality, the category of Best Picture has actually been pretty boring in terms of predictions for the past few years, with the winner being the same one which won every award up until that point.

Boyhood was an early frontrunner for Best Picture, but its grasp on the title is starting to loosen.

It looked like history would repeat itself this year. Right out of the gate, Boyhood turned out to be the big awards darling, and it's not hard to see why. Sure, Boyhood may have had its detractors (who surely stand around screaming "There are dozens of us. DOZENS!") but for the most part, it was a universally beloved film, which seemed to strike that magic chord of audience and critical appeal. It would be an unconventional Best Picture winner for sure, but it seemed unbeatable. It gained multiple early awards wins, including the Golden Globe, the BAFTA, and the Critics' Choice.

But then something seemed to shift. The quirky dark comedy Birdman reared its ugly (and brilliant) beak and started to enter the race. It picked up the SAG award for best ensemble, the Producer's Guild award for best picture, and the Director's Guild award for best director. That last one especially is a pretty big deal--the DGA award is usually seen as the best predictor for the Oscar each year, having matched up with the Best Director winner 10 out of 11 years, so director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's win there signifies that he has a good shot at winning best director. And the best director prize almost always matches with best picture. If, say, Inarritu wins best director but Boyhood wins Best Picture, that would mean this was the first time in history that these awards have not matched three years in a row (last year, Alfonso Cuaron won for Gravity and the year before Ang Lee won for Life of Pi). And that just seems like an incredibly unlikely streak. The Producer's Guild award is similarly a good indicator, having correctly matched with the Best Picture winner for the past seven years. These awards are not only big for Birdman, they're also coming later than Boyhood's early awards show dominance, which places the momentum squarely in Birdman's corner. Everywhere I look, people seem to be claiming that Birdman is going to be the Best Picture winner. It has, in fact, become the odds-on frontrunner.

This picture symbolizes Birdman rising to the top of the pack. Get it? Because he's flying.

I should be happy about this. After all, I named it as my favorite film of the year. But, something still feels off. Birdman is definitely my personal favorite film of the year--it is masterful filmmaking and its themes and ideas really resonated with me. But, when I think of what is the actual picture of the year, it's Boyhood hands down. This is a film that will never be replicated--one that did something so completely new and original I feel like it has to be recognized. Both are popular films and both will surely be regarded as masterpieces years from now, but Boyhood is a film that I think has more potential to show up on "Best Films Ever Made" lists. Birdman is my favorite film of the year, but Boyhood makes a stronger case for actually being the best film of the year.

And that's why I think that, despite Birdman's late rise to prominence, this will always be Boyhood's award to lose. It simply has too much broad appeal. So, I'm going against the grain and sticking with Boyhood as the winner for best film of the year. I'll either look like an idiot or a genius come Oscar night. We'll see. No matter what, it will be close, and I can't wait to see which film comes out on top. Honestly, either way I'll be happy.

As for which film should have been nominated, an obvious choice would be the underrated yet brilliant Snowpiercer as, after all, I named it as my second favorite film of the year. But, instead I'm going to go with Foxcatcher because it is simply unbelievable to me that Foxcatcher is not nominated for this award. The Academy recognized it in all the major categories--it received nominations for Best Director, Best Screenplay, and two nominations for acting. How can a movie be one of the best directed, best written, and best acted films of the year and NOT be considered one of the best pictures of the year? That's a major oversight. And the film deserves better.

Will Win: Boyhood
Should Win: Birdman or Boyhood (I CAN'T CHOOSE!)
Should Have Been Nominated: Foxcatcher

Best Director:
As I said in my Best Picture analysis, it is unlikely that Best Picture and Best Director will be awarded to two different films for three years in a row...and yet that's exactly what I think will happen. Once again, it's going to be a close race between Richard Linklater for Boyhood and Inarritu for Birdman, but I think Inarritu definitely has the edge, especially after his DGA win. And while Linklater's work on  Boyhood is impressive, Inarritu's directorial eye is definitely more readily on display in Birdman, and no less ambitious by any means. If Linklater wins, then Boyhood is pretty much guaranteed Best Picture, but I definitely give a leg up to Inarritu for this category. Linklater will have to wait for his next brilliant directing gimmick.

Behind the scenes of filming Birdman
A case could, frankly, be made for four out of the five directors in this category. Morten Tyldum's nomination here is complete bogus, to be honest. I'm sure he's a great guy, and he does a decent job with The Imitation Game, but his directing was competent and unexciting (like the film itself). But Inarritu, Linklater, and their fellow nominees Wes Anderson and Bennett Miller all truly left their mark on their respective films, and that's a joy to see. Not everyone loves Anderson, but there's no denying that he does some really innovative stuff and I think it's surprising that this is his very first directing nomination--he won't win this time, but I can't imagine this nomination will be his last. Miller, meanwhile, was not expected to make this list of nominees. In fact, in my review of Foxcatcher, I specifically cited that I wished Miller was getting more attention on the awards circuit since it seemed like he was being so ignored. Well, I got my wish, and he got a nomination here. I've read more than a few peoples' thoughts that he stole this spot from Ava DuVernay for her work on Selma, but I'd give that dishonor to Tyldum. Miller absolutely deserves this nomination. For the performances he got out of his leads alone, he would deserve his place here. The question of who should win is such a toss-up for I'm going to just default to Birdman and go with Inarritu. His work is extraordinary and it will be great to see such a brilliant director finally get his due.

Bennett Miller takes the chance to squeeze Mark Ruffalo's bicep, while Ruffalo in turn takes the opportunity to squeeze Channing Tatum's bicep.

As for who should be nominated...that's also tough. DuVernay's absence here is certainly the most puzzling. But what about David Fincher, whose work on Gone Girl was ignored along with almost everything else great about that movie. Or unknown directing wunderkind Damien Chazelle for somehow making a movie about jazz drumming one of the most exciting and critically acclaimed films of the year? They all deserve it, but I'm going to with Bong Joon-ho for his work on Snowpiercer. In my world, that movie is nominated for all of the awards, and Joon-ho's eye gave Snowpiercer the incredibly distinct world which really allowed it to stand out from the pack. I thought it was expertly paced and meticulously crafted, so in my world, he would be the one to knock Tyldum out of this race.

Will Win: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu--Birdman
Should Win: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu--Birdman
Should Have Been Nominated: Bong Joon-ho--Snowpiercer

Best Actor:

Eddie Redmayne, one of the frontrunners for Best Actor this year.

As you will soon read, the other three acting categories are pretty much decided at this point, but this category is still a very close race. Much like with Best Picture, the person who was once seen as a frontrunner is now sort of fading into second place as a new frontrunner emerges. The one fading into second place, interestingly, is Birdman star Michael Keaton. He was, and still is, the sentimental favorite. But The Theory of Everything star Eddie Redmayne has won award after award and has emerged as the most likely winner in this category. At the beginning of the awards season, many thought that Redmayne and The Imitation Game star Benedict Cumberbatch would split the vote, but Redmayne has by far emerged as giving the more decorated performance. He's the best bet, but it's still going to be close between him and Keaton. Both have a lot of things going for them that the Oscars love. The Oscars love to recognize those they haven't before, and this is Keaton's first ever nomination despite his prolific career. It's also a comeback--his work as Riggan Thomson has brought him back into the spotlight and people seem thrilled to see him there. It's a career-defining performance, which the Oscars absolutely love. And a factor which no one is talking about is that he's the only one of the nominees playing an original character. The other four characters are all real people, but Riggan Thomson is Keaton's own creation--that might help him stand out from the crowd. But Redmayne has a lot going for him too. He might be competing against others who are portraying real life figures, but his real life figure is probably the most exciting, the most challenging, and certainly the one who is most present in the public eye. And while Redmayne is young and at the start of his career, he's not some nobody, and already has a really impressive resume behind him. While the fact that Birdman is a better film as a whole than The Theory of Everything  might let Keaton pull off an upset, Redmayne is undeniably the favorite. I can't help but think back to 2008, where Sean Penn's portrayal of a historical figure in Milk beat out Mickey Rourke's triumphant comeback in The Wrestler. The same thing is going to happen here. Plus, Redmayne shows a lot of versatility considering that he is also in this year's Jupiter Ascending which proved that he can give both good AND bad performances!

Pictured: a great actor

That being said, of the two, I liked Keaton more. Redmayne is amazing, and is the only thing that made The Theory of Everything  even watchable for me, but...that's exactly the problem. The film's script is so weak that Redmayne frankly has less to work with. Keaton, however, is given a really rich script and mines a lot out of it. Plus, if he doesn't deserve to win for Birdman, he deserves to win for his work with Jimmy Fallon.

David Oyelowo, snubbed for his performance in Selma

As for who should have been nominated, it's tough to look at the current nominees and complain too much. These are all five very strong performances which I liked a lot. But...I'm going to complain anyway because there were definitely better performances. The main snub everyone is talking about here is that of David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma. In my writeup on the film I think my opinions on Oyelowo's performance come across much harsher than I meant them to. I said that I never believed Oyelowo was Martin Luther King Jr., and I stand by that statement, but that's because no one can play that role. What Oyelowo does is create his own character and interpretation and he is riveting to watch. Oyelowo deserved a nomination, and many feel his spot was taken by Bradley Cooper this year for American Sniper, whose nomination was certainly a surprise. Cooper gives a strong and thoughtful performance, the best of his career so far, but looking at these performances side by side, there's simply no comparison. As American heroes go, how can Chris Kyle compete with Martin Lutker King Jr.? Then there's Redmayne and Cumberbatch, who each play tortured British geniuses, but while both are good, my favorite depiction of a tortured British genius this year was Timothy Spall in Mr. Turner. He won Best Actor at Cannes and has been up for numerous awards, but for some reason was mostly left out of the Oscar conversation, and that's a shame. Spall doesn't get a chance for a lot of leading roles, and he absolutely rose to the challenge this time, creating a masterful performance that showed tremendous understanding of his subject.

Timothy Spall's brilliant performance as J.M.W. Turner went unrecognized by the Oscars.

Steve Carell is great in Foxcatcher, but I was actually more impressed with Channing Tatum's work in the same film--Carell gives the more extravagant performance, but Tatum's is deceptively complex, and brought a tremendous amount of fragility to his work. He's the heart of the film, and while Foxcatcher is very much an ensemble piece, Tatum is actually the one who stood out, so I'm sad he's the only one of the three leads to have been unrecognized by the academy. Keaton's work is great, and truly acted as the glue that held the ambitious world of Birdman together. But you could say the same about Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel, who created one of the most well-rounded original characters of the year. But, if I had to choose one single person who should have been in this category, it would easily be Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler. Holy crap, this is a great performance, and one which really establishes Gyllenhaal and proves what he can do. He should have been nominated, hands down. To be honest, he should be the one winning this award.

This face will haunt your nightmares with his acting talent.

Will Win: Eddie Redmayne as Stephen "The Hawk" Hawking--The Theory of Everything
Should Win: Michael Keaton as Riggan Thomson--Birdman
Should Have Been Nominated: Jake Gyllenhaal as Lou Bloom--Nightcrawler (but also Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel, David Oyelowo in Selma, Timothy Spall in Mr. Turner, and Channing Tatum in Foxcatcher)

Best Actress:
Finally an award that is not up in the air. It's going to be Julianne Moore for Still Alice. Hands down.  She has previously been nominated four times (including twice in one year) and has never won. And given the Oscar's love of giving awards to people who they consider overdue, it's Moore's time. She could have made a film where she blew her nose and she would win this award.

That being said, she does much more than blow her nose in Still Alice. In her role as a woman going through early-onset Alzheimer's, Moore brings such emotional strength to this film. Her work is poignant, distinct, well-rounded, and incredibly heartfelt while remaining grounded. We can feel Alice as she tries to keep control. In just an expression, we can see whether Alice is present or if her mind has slipped in that moment. I worry that this role, which is SUCH an Oscar-y role, might get written off as a shameless grab for an Oscar, but it's really much more than that. It's an incredible performance and, as much as I'd love to say that the glorious Rosamund Pike should win for Gone Girl, Moore more than deserves this award.

Julianne Moore, a soon-to-be Oscar winner in Still Alice.

As for who should have been nominated, it's a really good lineup. Personally, I think Felicity Jones does good work in The Theory of Everything, but it's nothing that I see as particularly Oscar-worthy. She didn't really leave much of an impression on me. In a world where horror movies got any Oscar recognition at all, Essie Davis' work in The Babadook definitely should have gotten some attention for her gut-wrenching performance as a woman who tries to protect herself and her son from a monster lurking within, but this was never going to happen. Although, that film was certainly a career-maker for Davis, so I wouldn't be surprised to see her get an Oscar nomination in a few years' time. she certainly deserves it. But, the biggest snub in this category was definitely Jennifer Aniston in Cake. She campaigned very hard for a nomination, and I can see why. While the movie itself is not incredible, Aniston really is. Aniston plays Claire--a troubled and unlikable woman who becomes obsessed with the suicide of an acquaintance of hers, all while dealing with her own depression and rapidly deteriorating life. Aniston gives Bennett a very distinct edge--she's not approachable--yet shows a very complete understanding of this character. She's prickly because that armor is all that she's got. She pushes people away because she's afraid of getting close to them. Aniston's performance is funny, abrasive, and bristling, but at its core, it's heartbreaking. In hindsight, her nomination was always going to be a longshot. My disappointment and surprise at her being left off feels like a "what were you thinking" moment. But she really deserved it. If nothing else, her work made me consider her and her talents in a completely new light.

Jennifer Aniston, who deserved a nomination for her work in Cake
Will Win: Julianne Moore as Alice Howland--Still Alice
Should Win: Julianne Moore as Alice Howland--Still Alice
Should Have Been Nominated: Jennifer Aniston as Claire Bennett--Cake

Best Supporting Actor:
J.K. Simmons will win. I don't need to say why, I don't need to explain why, but he will win. Just accept that. It's going to be J.K. Simmons. He has won every award up until now and he will continue to win. Because his performance as a tyrannical jazz teacher is brilliant, and because after seeing Whiplash, Oscar voters are afraid of him and what he might do if he doesn't win. There. Done.

Well, that's settled.
But Simmons' dominance over this awards season, while certainly deserved, does not do justice to how strong this field of nominees is. Edward Norton is Birdman's secret weapon and gives one of the funniest, and one of the most fully-rounded performances of Norton's already prestigious career. Mark Ruffalo is the emotional core of Foxcatcher and provides an unexpected sensitivity to such a fraught and tense film. And Ethan Hawke is the truly standout performance of Boyhood--managing to keep his character consistent, and consistently evolving, over the course of the twelve year shoot. I can't argue with a Simmons win, but if only because he has won everything and I want to give someone else some recognition for a change, my vote would actually go to Hawke. But again, all four of these performances are amazing and are exactly who I would have chosen to be recognized by the Academy.

And then...we have Robert Duvall in The Judge. And this is where the category falls apart because this nomination is just ridiculous. I don't know if anybody reading this saw The Judge but my guess is that you did not because nobody has seen The Judge. Robert Downey Jr. hasn't seen The Judge and he's IN The Judge. And you didn't know that Robert Downey Jr. was in The Judge because you haven't seen The Judge. And yet...if you were to watch The Judge you would think to yourself "Have I seen this movie before?" because it is the most predictable and generic film of all time. Seriously, not a single surprising or interesting thing happens this entire movie. Duvall's okay in it I guess, but he's really just phoning it in. The whole movie is phoning it in. That it is an Oscar-nominated film is, frankly, an insult. So undeserved. So, who would I put in instead? For a long time, I was going to say Riz Ahmed for his underrated work in Nightcrawler, but I'm going to go really left field and say...Chris Pine in Into the Woods. Hear me out. His work as Cinderella's Prince is incredibly goofy and ridiculous...but that's what that role is supposed to be. Into the Woods has an all-star cast, but Pine easily outshines them all, and seems to be the only person involved in the production who really understood what the source material is really about. He steals the film from some real heavy hitters, and while a nomination for him is unconventional, when I consider the supporting performances this year, he keeps coming to my mind as a deserving nominee.

Chris Pine. More like Chris Divine.

Will Win: J.K. Simmons as Terence Fletcher--Whiplash

Should Win: Ethan Hawke as Mason Evans Sr.--Boyhood
Should Have Been Nominated: Chris Pine--Into the Woods

Best Supporting Actress:
This is another category where four of the nominees don't even have to show up because they have no chance. The winner will be Patricia Arquette for her work in Boyhood. She has won, I would estimate, ten gazillion awards already for her work in this movie and they might as well engrave her name in the Oscar right now. She will win.

That being said, I was not impressed with her work. I know, that's blasphemy, since everyone else seems to love her, but...I just don't see it. I think the character is wonderful, but Arquette's performance bothered me. Every performance she gives, she speaks with this sort of drowsy quality that sounds, to me, very stilted and odd. Her performances always strike me as kind of emotionless and detached. Many people who like her work have praised her as being natural, but I don't see it. To me, she just comes across as boring. Personal preference, I know, but I feel that the character of Olivia Evans--who really is fantastic--works on the strength of the writing rather than the strength of Arquette's performance. I longed to see what another actress could have done with the role. Maybe another actress who actually varies the tone of her voice once in a while. I think that with another actress as Olivia, an already strong film would have become even stronger. Compare Arquette's performance with Hawke's. What I love about Hawke's performance is that the character evolves. The Mason Evans Sr. we see at the end of the film is not the same as the one we see at the beginning, and yet he is believable as being the same character. Hawke keeps just enough of the original Mason Sr. intact that we believe that the final product is the man he would have grown into. Olivia, on the other hand, goes through a lot--certainly more than Mason Sr.-- and definitely changes as a character, but...I don't think Arquette's performance evolves at all. I don't see any difference in how she plays Olivia from the first scene than in the last. Olivia has revelations, she has discoveries, she suffers hardships, and she experiences triumphs. Arquette doesn't manage to capture these moments in the way a stronger actress could have.

Patricia Arquette in a performance that everyone loves except for me.

That being said, the other nominees don't really stand out to me either. Laura Dern is a wonderful actress, but as written in the script for Wild, she's not really given much to do, and does her work competently, but not extraordinarily. Meryl Streep got a nomination for being Meryl Streep, and while I love her forever, her performance as The Witch in Into the Woods is far from award-worthy. She's not bad, but this should have been a movie-stealing role, and it just wasn't (the movie-stealing role went to Chris Pine, as I already mentioned). Keira Knightley and Emma Stone both give good performances, but neither really jump out at me. Knightley, like everything in The Imitation Game, is very good but not great. Stone is the best of the bunch and the one I'd most like to see win--her performance as a rebellious teen manages to come across as unpretentious and effortless. She blends into the background when she needs to, and she makes her presence known when she needs to. Unfortunately, she plays third fiddle to Keaton and Norton. But it's a solid fiddle.

Emma Stone in Birdman.

It shouldn't be a surprise, therefore that, like with the Best Actor category, I'd pretty much scrap all of the existing nominees and replace them with a new batch. It's a shame that I find these nominees so unimpressive because there really were an endless number of fantastic supporting female performances this year that nobody talked about. While Mr. Turner got rave reviews for Timothy Spall in the lead role, the film features two incredible performances from supporting actresses--Dorothy Atkinson as his beleaguered housekeeper, and Marion Bailey as Turner's late-in-life love Sophia Booth, an overly-chipper innkeeper who provides a beautiful foil for Spall's gruffness and who really elevated the film for me.

Marion Bailey and Timothy Spall in a cute scene from Mr. Turner

Everyone (including me) gushed about Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler, but where was the love for his co-star Rene Russo, who turned in a fantastic performance as a news producer forced to work with a psychopath. While Rosamund Pike is deservedly recognized for her work in Gone Girl, she's not the only great actress in that movie. Kim Dickens is great as Detective Rhonda Boney, and Carrie Coon is also a standout for her work as Margo Dunne. Everyone talks about how great Tyler Perry is in the film, and he really is great, but Coon is the one who stole the film for me. I can't understand why people weren't talking about her more.

Carrie Coon's great work in Gone Girl went tragically ignored on the awards circuit

Then there's Kristen Stewart in Still Alice, who gives a tremendous performance as Julianne Moore's daughter. Her performance is quiet, studied, and deeply authentic. Stewart has long been criticized as an actress because people stupidly assume that her work in the Twilight series is indicative of her talent as a whole. It is absolutely not. I wish she had been nominated for Still Alice because she gave one of the best performances of the year, but I also wish she had been nominated so that people would shut up and stop saying that she only acts with one expression. Seriously, watch this film--she is incredibly impressive.

Tilda Swinton's brilliant and bizarre character in Snowpiercer
But, anyone who has talked to me at all knows the one person who I think should have been nominated: Tilda Swinton in Snowpiercer. I already gushed about this performance in my analysis of the film, but seriously...she gave the best performance of the year hands down. In a just world, she would be showered with awards for her work. Watch any scene of Swinton in Snowpiercer and then watch any scene of Arquette in Boyhood back to back. Granted, the roles are about as different as two roles can be, but I think the difference in quality will be pretty clear.

Will Win: Patricia Arquette as Olivia Evans--Boyhood
Should Win: Emma Stone as Sam Thomson--Birdman
Should Have Been Nominated: Tilda Swinton as Mason, Minister of the Train--Snowpiercer (also Marion Bailey in Mr. Turner, Carrie Coon in Gone Girl, Rene Russo in Nightcrawler, and Kristen Stewart in Still Alice)

Best Original Screenplay:
This is another two-horse race and, like all of the other close races thus far, one of the major players is Birdman. The script succeeds on so many levels--it's a great concept, it's ambitious, it's funny, it's sad, it's thought-provoking, it's exciting. Then again, the same can be said about the other contender in this race: The Grand Budapest Hotel. And Grand Budapest definitely has the slight edge this time. This is Wes Anderson's third screenplay nomination (after The Royal Tenenbaums and Moonrise Kingdom) and would be his first win and so he is overdue. Plus, it's fresh off of a Writer's Guild Award win, so it is definitely the frontrunner, even though Birdman could still pull off an upset.

Tom Wilkinson as "The Writer" in The Grand Budapest Hotel

Of the screenplay categories, this is certainly the most competitive of the two, and I think all five nominees are very deserving. In terms of who should be here, an obvious choice is Selma, which is the only best picture nominee not to be nominated for its screenplay. But, the thing about the screenplay categories is that they're often a chance for an unconventional film to get nominated. This year, that film was Nightcrawler, as this is that excellent movie's sole nomination. I'd have loved to have seen some other less recognized films join it here. One that jumps out at me is the Chris Rock project Top Five, which he wrote, directed, and starred in. As such Top Five's voice is entirely unique and earned comparisons to Woody Allen for how well Rock was able to transfer his comedic voice to the screen. Top Five may not have earned Rock a writing nomination, but is he keeps making films like Top Five, he'll get one soon.

Chris Rock and friends in Top Five
 But, if I had to choose a nominee for Best Original Screenplay, I'd go for a small indie sci-fi film called The One I Love. Starring Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass, the film kind of came and went, but it featured one of the most original premises I've ever seen. The film as a whole is good, but the screenplay is really great. I don't want to talk about it too much because I don't want to give anything away. But you should watch it. It's on Netflix. It's cool.

This still shot from The One I Love tells you nothing about the movie and that's just how it should be.

Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Should Win: Birdman
Should Have Been Nominated: The One I Love

Best Adapted Screenplay:
I hate this category. I hate it hate it hate it. That films like American Sniper and The Theory of Everything  can be nominated for Best Picture is not something I'm happy about, but I can see why they were nominated. But, Best Screenplay? These films were both TERRIBLY written and should absolutely not be here. Luckily, I don't think they will win. I also don't think that Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice has a shot at winning. Beloved by some, I personally thought that Inherent Vice succeeded more as an experiment than as a film as a whole--no one has ever tried to adapt a Thomas Pynchon book before, and this film proved why. It certainly captured Pynchon's tone, and is probably the best adaptation of Pynchon that one could hope for. Unfortunately, that meant it felt kind of muddled and confused, with things that really didn't make sense or hold up (amongst numerous questions I had, why was a relatively minor character acting as the voice-over narrator, who then disappeared for long portions of the film). But, for its ambition alone, it deserves its nomination here.

Josh Brolin has already won the honorary award for flattest top.
But this award will either go to The Imitation Game or Whiplash. The Imitation Game is generally seen as the strongest bet here: it has been an awards darling, but isn't really seen as a likely winner in any of the categories, so if the Academy wants to honor it, this is kind of its only chance to do so. Plus, it won the Writer's Guild Award, so that's a fairly nice feather in its cap as it enters the Oscar race. But, my money is on Whiplash. Now, Whiplash's nomination here is a bit odd, as in every other awards ceremony (including the Writer's Guild) it has been nominated as an Original Screenplay. Due to a really stupid technicality, the Oscars decided to put it in the Adapted category. Basically, writer and director Damien Chazelle, wanted to raise money to finance the film, and since a thriller about jazz drumming is not exactly a recognizable genre, Chazelle shot a single scene of the film to show to potential producers. It happened to be a really good scene, so he entered it as a short film at Sundance where it won awards. Producers signed on to make the film and, voila, now it's nominated for Best Picture. The Academy decided that, even though these are original characters and an original story and the screenplay for the feature film was written BEFORE Chazelle filmed this one scene, this qualified Whiplash as an adapted screenplay (adapted from the short film). The whole thing is stupid and does not fairly represent Whiplash's originality, but it might actually work out in Whiplash's favor. It has by far the best screenplay out of these five. And while The Imitation Game has been racking up writing awards, it hasn't had to compete against Whiplash yet, since Whiplash has been entered as an original screenplay everywhere else. So, going into Oscar night, it's kind of unknown what exactly will happen. One of these two will win, but which one? I'm going with Whiplash. Call it a gut feeling.

Lucky you! You get this picture of J.K. Simmons twice in the same post!
As for who should have been nominated, while I really wish that I could say Guardians of the Galaxy (whose fantastic screenplay was a surprise Writer's Guild nominee) the clear choice is Gone Girl. How Gillian Flynn did not get a nomination for her screenplay is beyond me--it was one of the best written films of the year by far. Gone Girl deserved much more from the Academy than what it got, but its snub in this category is by far the biggest injustice.

Will Win: Whiplash
Should Win: Whiplash
Should Have Been Nominated: Gone Girl

Maybe if Flynn had called the bar in the film something more creative than "The Bar" she'd have been nominated...

Okay, so, I've already written a lot. You probably need a breather. These are the major awards, so...let's take a break. You can read the second part of my predictions here. I promise I won't write quite as much about each of those categories. In the meantime, share your thoughts on these awards in the comments. Who will win? Who should win? Who should have been nominated? What do you think?

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