Unexpected Virtue of Academy Award Ignorance

Birdman or (Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

The Academy is in for an interesting night. Sure the ballots have long since been cast but the story of all the votes unfold tonight. The night could go many directions and yield a few surprises but, as always, the Monday morning water cooler conversations that follow will be centered around the biggest awards, of which many are true toss-ups.

At the center of all the key awards, and potential controversy, is Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu’s Birdman. Will the Academy award the truly unique film a sweep in the major categories (picture, director, actor, original screenplay, supporting actor, supporting actress) or could the film simply walk away with a win for cinematography? It’s a big question, especially since outside of cinematography, Birdman is not an outright favorite for ANY of its other nominations. Oh the intrigue!

Birdman aside, what if the story of the night is Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, a true labor of love, sweeping its nominations? Or, in a bigger surprise, what if the box office success of the Clint Eastwood vehicle American Sniper leads to massive upsets? It would be surprising but it could happen. A bigger shocker would be if either The Theory of Everything or The Imitation Game walked away with major awards. It would delight the Cumberbatches and create an internet firestorm but therein lies the potential fun.

Sadly, what is most likely to happen is that no film is truly a “big” winner. The truth is that the golden statues could easily, and controversially, be distributed evenly with split votes being the cause. In a world where shock and awe are fun, it wouldn’t be fun at all if the Academy award spread the wealth and award a variety key films with a big award or two; unless of course it involved Selma sneaking in and stealing best picture – THAT would be interesting.

No matter what, tonight should be fun. Neil Patrick Harris will deliver clever lines, likely through song and dance, while winners go long with speeches, dresses are made fun of and commercials annoy but that is just fine. Why? Because even if the awards are boring, viewers can play Oscar bingo, quench thirst during Oscar drinking games, dress up as nominated film characters and, of course, have ballot competitions. No matter what the choice, entertainment is there to be had!

As for the following Oscar predictions, use the “What will win” section when filling out your printable ballots. Please note that a few of the categories are true toss-ups, like best picture/director/actor, so on those, just cross your fingers, drink your wine and you’ll be just fine! Or simply pick Birdman to win each category it’s nominated in and hope the Academy was smart enough to do the same.

2015 Academy Awards

Best Picture

Nominees: American Sniper, Birdman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel,The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash

Without at shadow of a doubt, Birdman is the best film of the year. A standout screenplay, coupled with a visionary director and superb acting performances across the board should carry this film to the evening’s best prize. However, in a true toss-up, Boyhood could win the prize and the shocker, sadly, is that it wouldn’t be shocking.

What will win: Birdman
What ought to win: Birdman
What was nominated but shouldn’t have been: American Sniper, The Theory of Everything
What wasn’t nominated but should have been: Nightcrawler

Best Director

Nominees: Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu (Birdman), Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher), Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game), Richard Linklater (Boyhood), Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

As with best picture, this category is again a toss-up between Birdman and Boyhood. Odds are the Academy will split the votes between the films across the two major categories but hopefully ultimately, Linklater’s labor of love will finish second, again.

Who will win: Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu (Birdman)
Who ought to win: Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu (Birdman)
Who was nominated but shouldn’t have been: Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher), Morgan Tyldum (The Imitation Game)
Who wasn’t nominated but should have been: Damien Chazelle (Whiplash), Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler)

Best Actor

Nominees: Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game), Bradley Cooper (American Sniper), Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything), Michael Keaton (Birdman), Steve Carell (Foxcatcher)

As with previous winners like Daniel Day-Lewis and Tom Hanks, Eddie Redmayne will likely be rewarded for his physically transformative performance as Stephen Hawking. However, it is Michael Keaton that delivers the true standout performance of the year, second only to Jake Gyllenhaal’s creepy turn in the under-appreciated Nightcrawler, but it is Redmayne that will ultimately capture the coveted award. Sigh.

Who will win: Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)
Who ought to win: Michael Keaton (Birdman)
Who was nominated but shouldn’t have been: Bradley Cooper (American Sniper), Steve Carell (Foxcatcher)
Who wasn’t nominated but should have been: Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler), David Oyelowo (Selma)

Best Actress

Nominees: Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything), Julianne Moore (Still Alice), Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night), Reese Witherspoon (Wild), Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)

Who will win: Julianne Moore (Still Alice)
Who ought to win: Julianne Moore (Still Alice)
Who was nominated but shouldn’t have been: Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything)
Who wasn’t nominated but should have been: Scarlett Johansson (Under the Skin)

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees: Edward Norton (Birdman), Ethan Hawke (Boyhood), J. K. Simmons (Whiplash), Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher), Robert Duvall (The Judge)

I love J.K. Simmons. I do. Simmons always brings a certain fervor and intensity to any performance, and his role in Whiplash is no exception, but was it really the best performance of the year? Simply put, no. It is the nuanced, scene-stealing performance of Edward Norton that truly deserves the prize. Too bad it won’t happen.

Who will win: J. K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Who ought to win: Edward Norton (Birdman)
Who was nominated but shouldn’t have been: Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher), Robert Duvall (The Judge)
Who wasn’t nominated but should have been: Michael Fassbender (Frank), Riz Ahmed (Nightcrawler)

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees: Emma Stone (Birdman), Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game), Laura Dern (Wild), Meryl Streep (Into the Woods), Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)

The commitment and strength that Patricia Arquette delivers in her decade long performance is well-delivered and is definitely admirable but, as with Simmons, it is again a captivating performance in Birdman, this time by Emma Stone, that deserves the prize. Once again, a Birdman actor won’t take home the golden statue.

Who will win: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
Who ought to win: Emma Stone (Birdman)
Who was nominated but shouldn’t have been: Meryl Streep (Into the Woods), Kiera Knightley (The Imitation Game)
Who wasn’t nominated but should have been: Sheila Vand (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night), Tilda Swinton (Snowpiercer)

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees: Birdman (Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr., and Armando Bo), Boyhood (Richard Linklater), Foxcatcher (E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman), The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness), Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy)

To watch The Grand Budapest Hotel is to be taken to a wholly original world made beautiful by captivating characters embarking on sparkling adventures. Could anyone else (continually) create such an original visions and ridiculously unique stories? I doubt it.

What will win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
What ought to win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
What was nominated but shouldn’t have been: Foxcatcher
What wasn’t nominated but should have been: A Most Violent Year

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees: American Sniper (Jason Hall), The Imitation Game (Graham Moore), Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson), The Theory of Everything (Anthony McCarten), Whiplash (Damien Chazelle)

What will win: The Imitation Game
What ought to win: Whiplash
What was nominated but shouldn’t have been: American Sniper
What wasn’t nominated but should have been: Gone Girl

Best Foreign Language Film

Nominees: Ida (Pawel Pawlikowski), Leviathan (Andrey Zvyagintsev), Tangerines (Zaza Urushadze), Timbuktu (Abderrahmane Sissako), Wild Tales (Damian Szifron)

Ida is a beautiful, tidy little film that has a wonderful coming-of-age message that deserves to win over its competitors but it is sad that the actual best foreign language film of the year, Force Majeure, didn’t even receive a nomination.

What will win: Ida
What ought to win: Force Majeure Leviathan
What was nominated but shouldn’t have been: Timbuktu
What wasn’t nominated but should have been: Force Majeure

Best Animated Feature

Nominees: Big Hero 6, The Boxtrolls, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Song of the Sea, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

The best animated feature of the year is, sadly, not even nominated in the category. The Lego Movie was hands down the best animated feature, both critically and commercially, but given its glaring omission, a sappy sequel will instead take the prize.

What will win: How to Train Your Dragon 2
What ought to win: The Lego Movie Big Hero 6
What was nominated but shouldn’t have been: Song of the Sea
What wasn’t nominated but should have been: The Lego Movie

Remaining Categories

Best Documentary Feature: CitizenFour
Best Documentary Short Subject: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
Best Cinematography: Birdman
Best Film Editing: Boyhood
Best Production Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Costume Design: 
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Makeup & Hairstyling: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Original Score: 
The Theory of Everything
Best Original Song: Selma
Best Visual Effects: Interstellar
Best Sound Mixing: Whiplash
Best Sound Editing: American Sniper
Best Short Film – Animated: Feast
Best Short Film – Live Action: 
The Phone Call

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