Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Oscar Predictions 2015 Part II

Now that I've discussed the major awards in Part I, it's time to discuss what many view as the sort of second tier awards. Which really isn't fair--these are all pretty incredible achievements and are just as fascinating to consider and be aware of as the major awards. Although, admittedly, I guess I contribute to their second tier status because I have much less to say about all of these. This time, I'm just going to say who I think WILL win, rather than also always choosing who should win and who should be nominated. Or, in the case of sound mixing, who should not have been nominated.

I'm talking about Interstellar. Interstellar shouldn't have been nominated.
Best Animated Feature Film:
Everyone is still reeling from The Lego Movie not being nominated here, and its exclusion here has certainly left the category wide open. The frontrunner by a hair is currently How to Train Your Dragon 2, but this is hardly secure, and either of the two beautifully crafted indie projects Song of the Sea or The Tale of Princess Kaguya might just gather enough votes to pull an upset win. I personally am keeping my fingers crossed for one of my favorite movies of the year, Big Hero 6 to take the crown. And then there is The Boxtrolls the fifth nominee. It's probably good.

""--A.O. Scott, from his review of The Boxtrolls
Will Win: How to Train Your Dragon 2

 Best Foreign Language Film:
This race has two definite frontrunners. At one point, it looked like Ida, from Poland, was the runaway favorite, but in recent months, Russia's entry Leviathan has steadily gained popularity and is now the more likely of the two. Either has a chance, but I'm predicting Leviathan on instinct.
Will Win: Leviathan (Russia)

Best Documentary Feature Film:
The Edward Snowden documentary Citizenfour has been making waves ever since it first premiered and has not lost momentum since. At one point, it faced some competition from the Roger Ebert documentary Life Itself, but with that failing to grab a nomination in a surprise snub, Citizenfour is the far and away favorite.
Will Win: Citizenfour

Best Original Song:
Many months ago, the song "Lost Stars" from the underrated gem Begin Again was once the frontrunner in this category, and it's a really great song. But it has faded from the spotlight and another great song has taken its place as the frontrunner: "Glory" from Selma. Selma's only nomination other than Best Picture, it seems inconceivable that "Glory" will not take home this prize, and it's definitely deserved. "Glory" manages to perfectly tie in the film to present day events--it's a powerful and vibrant song which works both as a song in the context of the film, and as a song in its own right. I can't wait to see it performed during the ceremony. And, it'll be nice for Selma to go home with at least one award given how little attention the Academy paid to it.

But...while I love "Glory" very much, it's actually not my favorite song of this group. That would belong to "I'm Not Gonna Miss You" by Glen Campbell, which comes from a documentary about Campbell, which followed him on his final tour as he battles with the starting effects of Alzheimer's. The song is the last song he'll ever write, and is about his own struggle with this disease. It is heartbreaking, bittersweet, poignant. It's a song that makes you well up when you listen to it. "Glory" is a call to action, but "I'm Not Gonna Miss You" is just as effective as a sweet and emotional heavy ballad. It'll probably be "Glory," but if "I'm Not Gonna Miss You" pulls off a surprise win (which it definitely could) it will certainly be deserved.
Will Win: "Glory" from Selma
Could/Should Win: "I'm Not Gonna Miss You" from Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me

Best Original Score:
Everyone (including me) talks about how the Academy likes to honor those who are overdue. And few are as overdue as the composer Alexandre Desplat, who has been nominated for this award six times before this year. And this year, he is nominated twice, for both The Imitation Game and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Desplat is very likely to win this award, the only question is for which film. And it really is a toss up. I'd give a slight edge to The Grand Budapest Hotel, but we'll see. Of course, the true best score of the year actually belongs to Birdman. Composer Antonio Sanchez's almost entirely percussive score was deemed ineligible for a nomination due to a technicality (read: bullshit) which is a shame because rarely has a score ever so perfectly fit a film. That score is brilliant, and there's really nothing like it. It leaves an impression on you in a way none of the nominated scores do.
Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Should Have Been Nominated: Birdman 

At Wes Anderson's insistence, the entire score to Grand Budapest was performed by this up-and-coming Portland band.

Best Production Design:
What does "Production Design" mean? It means, basically, the entire look of the film. Production designer oversee the entirety of the art department, and coordinate all of the design aspects. And, of the nominees, the bright and vibrant The Grand Budapest Hotel certainly stands out. Considering how distinct a look Wes Anderson's films always have, the fact that no film of his has ever won this award is pretty shocking--he's overdue. The Grand Budapest Hotel has been his most Oscar-friendly film and, if my predictions are right, it will certainly pay off for Anderson in multiple categories on Sunday.
Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Cinematography:
Birdman is in the running for a lot of awards, but this is the only one it's actually guaranteed to win. Birdman's cinematographer Emanuel Lubezki won last year for his groundbreaking work on Gravity, and is the clear frontrunner to win again this year. Now, everyone knows I love Birdman and I hope it is showered with awards, but...even with as great as the cinematography was...I am kind of rooting for an upset here. My favorite cinematography this year actually came from Mr. Turner. And not just because I want to hear someone (hopefully John Travolta) say cinematographer Dick Pope's name again. The cinematography is beautiful. Some shots of the film look like they were taken right out of a Turner painting. Birdman will win and its cinematography is certainly worthy, I just wish that it was in a different year so that Mr. Turner could be recognized too.

One of the many spectacular shots from the gorgeous Mr. Turner
Will Win: Birdman
Should Win: Mr. Turner

Best Film Editing:
Those who take these awards show prediction things seriously will often talk about the Best Editing category. Because many claim that winning Best Picture and winning Best Editing go hand in hand. I think the connection is much more tenuous. In this article which talks about the connection it says that "of the 61 films that have won Best Picture Oscars since 1952, 32 have won the editing statuette as well." It says this as if that's a high percentage...but it's actually less than 53%. And in the last ten Oscars, only for of the Best Film Editing winners have also won Best Picture. And some editing winners, like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Bourne Ultimatum weren't even nominated for Best Picture. so, the connection is not as important to me as it is to some. And I think we're going to see a break in the categories this year too. Of the two films in contention to win Best Picture, Birdman is surprisingly not nominated. And while Boyhood is nominated, this award tends to go to films with a much faster pace which Boyhood definitely lacks. Some are calling this award for Boyhood solely on the basis of its Best Picture frontrunner status, but I just don't see it. I think this award will go to American Sniper or Whiplash. Between the two, I hope it goes to Whiplash. Not just because it's a much better film, but because the editing itself is more impressive. The last scene alone should win this film the Oscar--an impressive ten minute drum solo was edited down from, I believe, 23 hours of footage to make what still looked like a single cohesive performance. And what an exciting performance at that! But, throughout the film, the fact that we believe Miles Teller is a professional drummer is pretty extraordinary, and accomplished almost solidly through editing. Boyhood seems like the odds-on favorite to win, but I just simply don't see it winning over Whiplash in terms of editing.
Will Win: Whiplash

Best Sound Editing:
The frontrunner here is American Sniper. Military films tend to do very well here, so American Sniper definitely seems like the frontrunner. But, there's a chance that Birdman might actually win, especially if the controversy surrounding American Sniper catches up to it and Birdman can ride a goodwill wave to the win. Who really knows, this is kind of an unpredictable category, but for now, the safer bet is American Sniper.
Will Win: American Sniper

Best Sound Mixing:
So, when I posted my reaction to the nominees, I spent a lot of time talking about the sound mixing for Interstellar. And how terrible it is. And...I don't want to go into that right now but let's just say HOLY CRAP THE SOUND MIXING IN INTERSTELLAR SUCKS HOW THE HELL IS IT NOMINATED FOR AN ACADEMY AWARD I'M SO ANGRY!??!?!

So, Interstellar won't win. American Sniper has a chance of winning, but the frontrunner, and the film that SHOULD win is Whiplash. This is a film where sound is front and center. And not just any sound, LOUD sound. Loud sound which is used to actually tell the story. So, sound mixing is crucial--it has to be just present enough. If the drumming is too soft, we won't feel its effect and the stakes won't feel as high. If the drumming is too loud, it gets annoying rather than exciting. Whiplash's sound is balanced perfectly. As much as Interstellar's sound mixing is bad, Whiplash shows how sound mixing should be done.
Will Win: Whiplash

Best Visual Effects:
This is another category that's kind of up in the air. Interstellar is certainly the frontrunner, but Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Guardians of the Galaxy definitely have a shot here. X-Men: Days of Future Past could make a grab at the win based on that now famous Quicksilver scene alone. The only one I don't see winning is Captain America: The Winter Soldier (although that is a fantastic film overall). Interstellar is the frontrunner, but this category could definitely have an upset. And I'm not just saying that because I hate Interstellar and its shitty sound mixing. I am in the middle of writing a giant blog post outlining why I don't like this movie, so definitely look for that to be posted soon. But, in the meantime, I do grudgingly give it the edge here.

Although, a quick note, while I don't think it would have or should have won this category, I was really hoping that Birdman would get a nomination in this category. Granted, there aren't a lot of visual effects, but there are a few (the giant bird, the fireball, the flying, the moving objects) and all of them are done exceedingly well, and fit seamlessly into the more realism-based world of the film. I was impressed by them, and thought it should have at least gotten some recognition.

Does Interstellar have a giant cyborg bird? That's what I thought.
Will Win: Interstellar
Will Also Win the Miles Purinton for Worst Sound Mixing Ever: Interstellar
Should Have Been Nominated (for Best Visual Effects, not the worst sound mixing thing): Birdman

Costume Design:
The fancy period dress of Mr. Turner is what my gut is telling me here, but so far, the awards seem to be going for The Grand Budapest Hotel. Which would be great. They're bright, colorful, really distinct, and work so perfectly in the world of the film. As beautiful as the costumes in Mr. Turner are, I'd love to see a non-period piece film win this year. So, if everyone's predicting that The Grand Budapest Hotel will win this, I'm more than happy to go along with that.
Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Tilda Swinton shows off both the costume design AND the makeup and hairstyling for The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Makeup and Hairstyling:
This one should really be a no-brainer. Steve Carell has a prosthetic nose, and Tilda Swinton has old-age makeup, but...Guardians of the Galaxy is a movie that, by its design, features much more complete and innovative makeups which are used more prominently throughout the entire film. Consider Drax the Destroyer.

For your consideration
Looking at him, you probably think that his skin is created through some computer effect. Nope. Makeup. It's all makeup. That's impressive. And Oscar-worthy.
Will Win: Guardians of the Galaxy

Best Live Action Short Film:
As always, I highly recommend people seek out the nominated short films if they ever get a chance. It's always a really good selection, and these categories can offer some of the absolute best films the year has to offer. This year, of the Live Action shorts, most things I've read online have given the win to a Northern Irish film called Boogaloo and Graham about two brothers and their pet chickens. It's a cute film, but...I can't see it winning. It just doesn't have the same staying power as some of the other films. Last year, everyone seemed to predicting this win for a film called The Voorman Project and I went against the grain and chose a film called Helium based on instinct, and I'm going to do the same thing again this year. It won't be Boogaloo and Graham. It will, and certainly should, be a film called The Phone Call, a really touching and well-executed film starring Sally Hawkins, and co-starring Jim Broadbent in a voice-over performance. Hawkins is simply incredible--her work in this one film is better than most of the acting nominees in the regular categories. And the film itself is great too. I simply can't imagine it not winning.
Will Win: The Phone Call

Sally Hawkins gives a masterful performance in The Phone Call

Best Animated Short Film:

This category is a lot tougher. The five selections are all very strong, and all for different reasons. Frankly, I could see any one of these films winning. Disney's selection, Feast, has the brand recognition, and is a cute sentimental story, but to me is certainly the most lightweight of the offerings and doesn't really stand up in the lineup of nominees. A Dutch short called A Simple Life, is by far the shortest offering, at only two minutes long, but it's really great, and tells all the story it needs to in those two minutes. You want to watch it over and over again, and it definitely has my favorite premise of the five films. But, its length might work against it. Then there's a film called The Dam Keeper which is beautiful and engaging and tells the most complete and conventional story of the five...but is kind of off-kilter and bizarre (as most films with anthropomorphic animals tend to be) and that might work against it with the generally stuffy Academy. Although it's probably my favorite of the five. If I had to guess which way the Academy will go, I'd guess it will either be Me and My Moulton--a film by animator and director Torill Kove, who adopts a documentary feel not unlike in the movie Persepolis to talk about her time growing up in Norway. It's cute, whimsical, and very well-written. But in terms of animation alone, it pales in comparison to The Bigger Picture, whose animation is actually painted full-size on walls. It's fascinating to watch, and its discussion of grand themes like death and family are certainly relatable. If I had to choose one film, my guess is that The Bigger Picture will win, but really, any of the five have a chance.
Will Win: The Bigger Picture

Animator Daisy Jacobs paints one of the stills that make up The Bigger Picture

Best Documentary Short Subject: 
I did not see these. I was going to, but then I read about them. They all sound very good. But they also all sound very, very depressing. Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 is about the workers at a suicide call center for veterans. White Earth is a movie about how, essentially, the American dream does not exist and how people endanger themselves and their families by taking on dangerous jobs in the oil industry in an attempt to stay above the poverty line. Then there's a film called Joanna about a woman who is diagnosed with cancer and is given three months to live but promises her 5 year-old son she will stay alive as long as she can. If you think that's probably the worst one, then you haven't heard of Our Curse, which is about the parents of an infant who suffers from a rare condition where if the baby falls asleep he dies, so the parents have to be on constant watch in order to ensure their infant does not decide to take a nap and is killed. Lastly, there's a film called The Reaper (La Parka) about a man who works in an animal slaughterhouse which doesn't exactly sound happy but I thought sounded the least immediately depressing...but have since read through reviews that it is the MOST depressing of the lot.

This shot from Our Curse pretty much sums up all of my feelings right now.
I could not see these films in one sitting, I just couldn't do it. I already saw the film Unbroken and don't want to go through another depressing film-viewing experience like that again. So, what will win? I don't know. How about Joanna. That's the one about cancer. That sounds the most Oscary. I guess that's my prediction but really I just don't want to think about this category too much.
Will Win: A really sad movie.
Should Have Been Nominated: A movie about bunnies hopping through a field and eating delicious strawberries and nothing bad happens ever.

And that's every category! What are your thoughts on the nominees and/or on my predictions? Share your own predictions in the comments section, and be sure to watch the Oscars on Sunday, February 22nd!

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