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Alright now that we’ve gotten the ‘lesser’ categories out of the way  in part 1 we can move on to the stuff that most of you actually care about.  Lets get started!

Animated Feature Film

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

I don’t even care.  The fact that The Lego Movie isn’t on this list is stupid.  It’s beyond stupid.  I will never not be mad about this.  Not only is The Lego Movie far and away the best animated movie of 2014, it’s also one of the best movies of the year period.  I’m still kicking myself for not including it in my top 10.  Look, Big Hero 6 was really good.  The Boxtrolls was pretty good too.  I love the guys at LAIKA and all the work they do (Coraline, Paranorman).  But come on.  Everything is not awesome.

Winner:  The Lego Movie (Ok, probably How to Train Your Dragon 2…fucking Academy)

Adapted Screenplay

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

My first reaction to really studying this list was that I had no idea Whiplash was adapted.  Turns out it’s adapted from a short film also titled Whiplash and also written and directed by Chazelle.  Apparently it still counts if you’re adapting your own work.  That aside, this was a tough call for me.  I’ve heard so much good things about Whiplash, but since I’ve never seen it it’s difficult to judge.  I did see The Imitation Game, which seems to be the favorite.  While I have some problems with the film, the script was pretty solid.  Inherent Vice is a confusing, complicated movie and while I liked it, I’m not sure it’s got the support it needs to pull out the win here.  American Sniper is a terrible adaptation of the book, should not have even been nominated.  The Theory of Everything was really good, but I think there are other categories it’s gonna pick up wins in, which makes it less likely to pull off the win here.  I’m gonna go with the safe route here.

Winner:  Graham Moore, The Imitation Game

Original Screenplay

Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris Jr., & Armando Bo, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman, Foxcatcher
Wes Anderson (screenplay), Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness (story), The Grand Budapest Hotel
Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler

To me this contest is between Grand Budapest and Boyhood.  Birdman is a great film, but it’s popularity is not based off the strength of it’s script. Foxcatcher was really good, but I don’t think it has the support necessary to pick up any of it’s nominated awards. Nightcrawler was brilliant and one of my favorite films of the year, but that was primarily on the excellent performance by Jake Gyllenhaal.  Both Boyhood and Grand Budapest have absolutely killer scripts and both are some of the best films of last year.  I’d be happy with either film winning, but since I’m forced to pick I’m going to go with Wes Anderson and The Grand Budapest Hotel.  The script expertly navigates a gambit of emotional beats as it weaves through this wonderful and tragic story.  It has humor, it has heart.  It’s absolutely wonderfully written.

Winner:  Wes Anderson (screenplay), Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness (story), The Grand Budapest Hotel

Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Laura Dern, Wild
Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
Emma Stone, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

Finally an easy one!  Patricia Arquette is going to win and she should.  In fact, I’ve heard multiple arguments that she should be considered a lead actress, not supporting, as her role is absolutely paramount to this film working.  I agree.  What’s more, I think she would win in the lead actress role as well.  I loved Laura Dern in Wild (see my review here),  Meryl is nominated because she’s always nominated, and Emma Stone and Keira Knightley were both really good as well, but this is Patricia Arquette’s year.  Well deserved.

Winner: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Supporting Actor

Robert Duvall, The Judge
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Edward Norton, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Another easy one!  J.K. Simmons is going to win, although I do think Mark Ruffalo deserves an Oscar for his performance in Foxcatcher.  As much as everyone was talking about Steve Carell, Ruffalo’s performance was the best in the film.  Ed Norton also was incredible in Birdman, really enjoying the opportunity to play a stuck up, asshole stage actor.  I can’t go into J.K. Simmons’ performance, as I haven’t seen the film, but from everything I’ve seen or read, this isn’t even a contest.

Winner:  J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Lead Actress

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

Has the leading actress category ever felt this removed from the rest of the awards than this year?  Of the 5 nominees, only one film was nominated for Best Picture (The Theory of Everything), compared to Lead Actor which is 4 for 5.  It’s an interesting examination on the state of women in Hollywood to be sure, but that’s a discussion for another time.  If I were picking who I wanted to win, this would be a tough category.  All five of these actresses were really, really good.  I think Felicity Jones gave the most outstanding performance in The Theory of Everything and should win.  The strength and determination she gives her character is a joy to watch and I loved every minute of it.  Alas, I am not in charge of the Academy Awards.  Julianne Moore will win for Still Alice.

Winner: Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Lead Actor

Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything 

Oh boy.  This category was so stuffed with talent that it resulted three of the best performances of the year being left out:  Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler, David Oyelowo in Selma and Ray Fiennes in Grand Budapest.  Any one of these actors would be worthy of the award this year.  Picking a winner is going to be tough.  So lets take this slowly and eliminate these guys one by one.

Earlier in the year Steve Carell seemed like a shoe-in.  It was a dramatic performance that required the actor to go through a physical transformation, perfect Oscar bait!  But at the end of the day Carell’s performance in Foxcatcher was uneven and distracting.  The film didn’t gather enough support and didn’t even make a best picture nomination.  I think we can safely say Steve is in a solid fifth.

Next up, Benedict Cumberbatch.  The Imitation Game had some of the most aggressive Oscar marketing of all the films, but the buzz around the movie seems to be focusing on honoring Alan Turing rather than declaring Cumberbatch’s performance a masterpiece.  I think this distracted the case for Cumberbatch.  He’s very, very good in the role.  But when Academy members sat down to vote and thought of The Imitation Game, I don’t think they’re thinking about Benedict’s performance.  I’m putting him forth.

Bradley Cooper.  The Academy loves this guy.  This is his third acting nomination in three years (he’s also got another one for producing Sniper).  I’ve talked about American Sniper on length.  His performance in the film was not only amazing, but the absolute best thing about the mediocre film.   I think he’s making a hard push for a shot at the award, but the controversy surrounding the film won’t get him over the hump.  I see Cooper finishing a close third.

So we’re down to Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne.  Honestly, this thing is to close to call.  Both actors gave terrific performances in great movies.  How Redmayne was able to transform himself over the course of the movie was remarkable.  People seem to think Keaton was really just playing himself in Birdman, but I disagree.  His performance is layered, complicated, and brilliant.  If it were my decision I would give it to Keaton, but it wouldn’t just be for this performance; rather a career of great performances.  I have a sneaking suspicion that the Academy is gonna end up going with Redmayne.  They can’t resist awarding those roles that also require the actors to undergo an intense physical transformation.  In the end though, I gotta go with my gut and my gut says go with the BatBirdman.

Winner:  Michael Keaton, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) by the most narrow margin ever

Directing

Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

I’m calling it here.  This is going to be a year where the Best Directing and Best Picture winners are split between different movies.  It doesn’t happen very often, but sometimes when two films are in a very tight race for best picture (as we are seeing this year) the Academy uses the Best Directing Oscar as kind of a consolation prize.  You didn’t win the big one, but you did make a really great film, so here’s this.  That being said….I think Linklater wins for Best Directing.  The gimmick of this movie pays off so well.  I’ve never seen anything capture what it’s like to grow up quite like Boyhood.  It’s sweet, heartfelt, and touching.  The brilliance of Boyhood is that Linklater sustained this central vision for a film through 12 long years and finished with a movie that just works so well.

Winner: Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Best Picture

American Sniper
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Boyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Selma
The Theory of Everything
Whiplash

Which brings us to the thing we’ve all been waiting for, Best Picture.  Like I said above, I think Picture and Directing are going to be split this year.  The race, as I see it was always between Birdman and Boyhood. Because I see Boyhood picking up the Directing win, Birdman is going to win Best Picture.   

Best Picture has always been a funny category.  Three years ago the silent film throwback The Artist won the award.  Do any of you remember The Artist?  Didn’t think so.  There are certain movies that the members of the Academy latch onto for various reasons and the Best Picture win has always served as a kind of barometer for the Academy’s feelings at any given time.  The Artist won because the Academy wanted to honor the roots of cinema.  Birdman will win because it’s a movie that tackles the industry’s scorning of the big, comic book blockbusters that are exploding right now.  Birdman will win because it’s a film about actors; about creating art vs creating an industry.  Is Birdman the best film of last year?  I don’t think so.  It’s pretty good sure, but there are 4 films on the above list alone that I would pick over it.  In 3-5 years time I predict we’ll be back here saying “Remember that one time when Birdman won best picture?  That was weird”

Winner: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

So there you have it.  I think I’ve made some pretty good predictions here, but we will see tomorrow.  Who do you think will win the big prizes?

The Academy Awards are tomorrow night at 7:30 CST.  I will be live tweeting the entire show at my twitter @scottdaly85 because apparently that’s what people with blogs are supposed to do these days.  Follow me for sarcastic, not very funny quips and news on the latest Daly Planet articles!

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