I’m going to start with an overarching statement about this year’s contest: the most important category this year is Best Editing. Why? Because the two most interesting films nominated this year are “Boyhood” and “Birdman,” and both are overwhelmingly editing-dependent films.
With “Boyhood,” you have footage compiled over the course of a dozen years, and a story which, presumably, was structured initially to hedge against the possibility that something might happen over the course of time that would necessitate massive changes. What if Patricia Arquette got hit by a bus? What if Ethan Hawke got really fat? What if one or both of the kids grew into lousy actors? What if Richard Linklater went through a messy divorce, and it changed his view of the kind of story he wanted to tell?
No chance for re-shoots here; you’ve got to take the footage compiled over this long period, and assemble it into a story that is tonally consistent and narratively compelling. However much one feels that Sandra Adair succeeded in this effort, the challenge itself is honor-worthy.
Meanwhile: with “Birdman” you have a story that depends, substantially, on constant, consistent forward motion, on the sense that we are stumbling down a flight of stairs, trying not to trip and fall and break our skulls, but unable to stop to regain our balance. Now add that the entire film is supposed to feel like a single shot.
The unqualified success on the technical side was absolutely instrumental in the success of the film as a whole. But there was no margin for error.
Both “Boyhood” and “Birdman” deserve nominations for Best Original Screenplay and for various acting slots. But in each case, the real stars of the show were in the editing room. So: my overarching prediction is that the winner of Best Picture will also win Best Editing.
Predictions listed in descending order of personal confidence. That confidence is based on very little; it’s not like I’m a Hollywood hairstylist, who might actually know something.
“The Imitation Game”
“The Theory of Everything”
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Everybody expects “Boyhood,” “Birdman” and “The Imitation Game” to be nominated, and for one of them to win, and I agree with the consensus. Behind them come four films that have obvious Oscar cachet, none of which I really see being snubbed.
After that it gets tougher. I think “Nightcrawler” has enough enthusiastic support to get through (though I didn’t love it); that “Foxcatcher” will get a nomination because of the trio of really interesting performances (even though many people didn’t exactly like the film); and that “American Sniper” was directed by Clint Eastwood (and will do great box office).
But I could be wildly off – it could turn out that this year we have only six or seven nominees. My understanding is that to get onto the list of nominees you need a certain percentage of voters to place you first or close to it on their ballots. So the more consensus there is at the top in the initial balloting, the shorter the list of nominees will be. And this feels like a year where there could be a lot of consensus at the top.
Or perhaps I’m right, and the people who like “Birdman” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” hated “Nightcrawler” and “Gone Girl” and vice versa, so that we have ten nominees. In which case my list above feels about right to me.
Richard Linklater – “Boyhood”
Alejandro González Iñárritu – “Birdman”
Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Ava DuVernay, “Selma”
Morten Tyldum, “The Imitation Game”
I haven’t seen “The Imitation Game” yet, hence my low level of confidence in that final slot. I’m also aware that “Selma” has not set the world on fire, though I still think it has a constituency solid enough to get nominated. In any event, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a perennial like David Fincher or a young upstart like Damien Chazelle take one of those two slots.
Michael Keaton – “Birdman”
Eddie Redmayne – “Theory of Everything”
Benedict Cumberbatch – “The Imitation Game”
Steve Carell – “Foxcatcher”
David Oyelowo – “Selma”
Again, I haven’t seen three of these films (I only saw “Birdman” and “Foxcatcher”), so take that list with a grain of salt. There are a lot of other plausible contenders. But I think the Academy will want to reward Carell for doing excellent work way outside his usual box, and the Academy frequently likes actors who play historical figures.
From the films I have seen that have an actual shot, I’d be very happy for Ralph Fiennes to get a nomination. I thought Jake Gyllenhaal did a fine job in “Nightcrawler” but I have some kind of grudge against that movie so I didn’t put him on the list, though he’s probably got at least as good a shot as Fiennes.
Julianne Moore – “Still Alice”
Rosamund Pike – “Gone Girl”
Reese Witherspoon – “Wild”
Amy Adams – “Big Eyes”
Jennifer Aniston – “Cake”
I haven’t seen and don’t plan to see “Cake,” but people seem very eager to show how pleased they are with Aniston’s stretch. As for the win, everyone is saying Moore has this in the bag.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
J. K. Simmons – “Whiplash”
Ethan Hawke – “Boyhood”
Ed Norton – “Birdman”
Mark Ruffalo – “Foxcatcher”
Josh Brolin – “Inherent Vice”
I’ll be truly surprised if Simmons doesn’t win this – so many people seem to want him to. Josh Brolin is my wild card pick here; there’s not an obvious contender for the fourth slot.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Patricia Arquette – “Boyhood”
Emma Stone – “Birdman”
Keira Knightley – “The Imitation Game”
Meryl Streep – “Into the Woods”
Jessica Chastain – “A Most Violent Year”
Patricia Arquette may have been my favorite thing in “Boyhood” – I hope she wins this. The others I’m all quite uncertain about. I’m basically assuming you have to nominate Meryl Streep and Jessica Chastain if you are presented with a remotely plausible reason to do so.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo – “Birdman”
Richard Linklater – “Boyhood”
Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness – “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Mike Leigh – “Mr. Turner”
JC Chandor – “A Most Violent Year”
If I’m completely honest, I have to assume that “Nightcrawler” has a better shot than “Mr. Turner” or “A Most Violent Year.” But I did not much like that script, and I have great admiration for both Leigh and Chandor. So I’m voting my heart here rather than my head.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Graham Moore – “The Imitation Game”
Anthony McCarten – “The Theory of Everything”
Gillian Flynn – “Gone Girl”
Damien Chazelle – “Whiplash”
Nick Hornby – “Wild”
I’m really hoping I got this one completely right. I think I might have.
Not sure going further down the list will be all that meaningful – I’m assuming “Citizenfour” is the most-likely winner in the Best Documentary category, that “The Lego Movie” is the most-likely winner in the Best Animated Feature category, that “Birdman” is the most-likely winner for Cinematography, and that “Force Majeure” is the leader in the Best Foreign Language Film category.
But the main category to watch this year is Best Editing.