The Oscars: The only certainty is uncertainty
By Bob Bloom
For the past several years, predicting Academy Award winners has been easier, especially if you follow trends.
Seeing whom various groups — the Screen Actors Guild, the Director’s Guild of America and the producers’ and writers’ guilds — have honored makes selecting potential winners less of a chore.
But the unexpected can make a mockery of certainty. Take 1998, the year “Saving Private Ryan” was the heavy favorite to win best picture. Instead, “Shakespeare in Love” took the honor.
In 2005, “Brokeback Mountain” was the highly touted movie, but “Crash” turned out to be the winner.
In 2002, Daniel Day-Lewis was the odds-on favorite for best actor, but when the name of the winner was called, it was Adrien Brody for “The Pianist.”
Thus, while you can guess with some certainty the winners, you never know when Academy members will throw you a curveball.
Plus, with the makeup of the Academy being mostly older, white males, many of whom have not been to a theater since the introduction of Cinemascope, you never know what will happen.
So, if you go into Sunday night’s 87th annual Academy Awards believing you have selected all the winners, prepared to be disappointed and/or shocked.I will give my choices for the Oscars. And, as I have done in years past, I will offer whom I believe will win and whom I believe deserves the gold statue and should win.
Best picture: Will win: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). I thought director Alejandro G. Inarritu’s backstage comedy-drama was self-indulgent.
The director’s cinematic tricks were a distraction, despite the strong script and very sharp performances.
However, movie people embrace films about actors. And it didn’t hurt that the producers’ guild honored the film and the directors’ guild cited Inárritu.
Of the eight films nominated, my choice would be “Boyhood.” The film felt very true and real as if I was watching the life of a family unfold before my eyes.
This, too, was a movie filled with memorable performances. Perhaps, the Oscar voters will see the film’s merits.
Also, the buzz about “American Sniper” continues to grow. This is the movie that could upset the Oscar cart.
Best actor: Will win: Eddie Redmayne has dominated the awards season, being honored by many groups for his performance as Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything.”
He also is my choice among the nominees. The reason for that is because my selection for this category was not nominated. I still believe that Ralph Fiennes gave the most delightful and entertaining performance of the year in “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”
That he was not nominated is an indication of the strong lead performances of 2014.
Best actress: Will win/should win: Julianne Moore for “Still Alice” will win and deservedly so. Her turn as a college professor battling Early On-Set Alzheimer’s is compelling courageous and heartbreaking.
Moore’s performance has touched a cord with Oscar voters and audiences who have seen the movie.
Plus, Moore is popular among her peers, having been nominated previously, but never having won.
Supporting actor: Will win/should win: J.K. Simmons has paid his dues. He has excelled in drama and comedy on cable (the evil neo-Nazi in HBO’s “Oz), on television (“The Closer”) and in film (“Juno” and the first “Spider-Man” trilogy).
His performance as the bullying music teacher in “Whiplash” is ferocious. When he is on the screen, you cannot take your eyes off him. He dominates the movie and that is why he is a shoo-in for this category.
His is one of the most unforgettable acting jobs of the year.
Supporting actress: Will win/should win: Patricia Arquette in “Boyhood” created a fully blown portrait of a single mother trying to balance career and family as well as her own needs.
She is not the perfect mom, she makes mistakes. But watching her grow and mature over the film’s 12-year span was one of the highlights of Richard Linklater’s drama.
Animated feature: Will win: “How to Train Your Dragon 2” did not rest on its laurels. It created a darker movie that also advanced the characters and situations from the original.
And with the exclusion of the delightful “The LEGO Movie” from this category, “Dragon 2” stands the best chance of earning gold.
Should win: I was impressed with “The Tale of Princess Kaguya” from Japan’s Isao Takahata. However, few people saw the film so its chances are rather slim.
Directing: Will win: Historically, the director honored by the Directors Guild, usually takes home the Academy Award. Thus, Alejandro G. Inárritu will collect the statue for “Birdman.”
Should win: This is a toss-up for me. I was very impressed with Richard Linklater’s commitment and drive on “Boyhood,” yet I also was smitten with Wes Anderson’s work on “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” I would not be saddened if either upsets Inárritu.
Foreign language film: Will win/should win: “Leviathan” is a Russian entry that examines the high cost of greed and corruption.
It has received very good notices, but the political climate may cause a backlash that loses it the Oscar.
Writing (original screenplay): Will win/should win: Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness for “The Grand Budapest Hotel.
This was a wonderfully inventive comedy that mixed murder, mirth and romance, with a whiff of nostalgia and a bow to Old World sensibilities.
It is a movie you can watch over and over again, savoring the dialogue and characters.
Writing (adapted screenplay): Will win/should win: Damien Chazelle for “Whiplash.” Chazelle took his short film, which he shot as a demo to raise money to make his feature, and created a disturbing drama about commitment, ambition and the cruelty of obsession.
Documentary (feature): Will win: “CitizenFour” is a look at Edward Snowden, who leaked classified NSA documents that brought to light many U.S. government secrets.
It is a compelling movie.
My choice for this category, “Life Itself,” a look at the life, career and legacy of film critic Roger Ebert failed to get a nomination, which indicates how out of synch the voters in this category seem to be.
Cinematography: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Costume design: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Film editing: “American Sniper”
Makeup and hairstyling: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Production design: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Sound editing: “American Sniper”
Sound mixing: “American Sniper”
Visual effects: “Interstellar”
Music: Original score: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Music: Original song: “Glory” from “Selma”
Documentary (short subject): “Crisis Hotel: Veterans Press 1”
Short film (animated): “The Dam Keeper”
Short film (live action): “The Phone Call”
Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at Reel Bob (reelbob.com) and The Film Yap (filmyap.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.
I will be tweeting during the Oscars. You can follow along @ReelBobBoom.
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