2015 Oscar Predictions – Ben’s Picks

Best Director
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

Will win: Alejandro G. Iñárritu- Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Should win: Alejandro G. Iñárritu- Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Birdman Movie Still 1

Analysis: This is a bit of flipping a coin.  Alejandro G. Iñárritu won the DGA but then Richard Linklater went and won the BAFTA so a Linklater win is not out of the realm of possibility here.  The DGA win and the other guild wins that Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) has picked up from SAG and PGA makes it seem like there is slightly more support for Iñárritu but nothing is certain.

Personal bias: There are three good choices here that I would have no complaint with while the two others really shouldn’t have been nominated. Miller’s direction is a big reason that Foxcatcher didn’t work for me as a film being overall long, repeating the same points, but then skipping over details that could have made the story interesting. Tyldum has a problem editing his film between the different time periods that really ruins the flow of his own story. Linklater’s accomplishment of being able to create this story over so many years has been praised to the highest levels and will brook no argument from me. Anderson has one of the most out there movies of the year and the fact that everything works is still a marvel. Yet Iñárritu is my favorite by a hair with not just him making many of the shots in one take, but balancing all the different ideas about making art, creating such a complex cast of characters with no actor pulling the film down. The film is so much more than its gimmick and that it works at all is impressive, but that it works so well beyond that is amazing and you cannot do that without a clear vision in the director’s chair.

Best Picture
The Imitation Game
American Sniper
Theory of Everything
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Will winBirdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Should winBirdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Birdman Movie Header Image

Analysis: Another coin toss. For the early part of the year Boyhood dominated everything, over ninety percent of the critic awards as well as the Golden Globes and the Critic’s Choice awards. Then the guild arrived and Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) surprised and won the PGA, which has been one of the best predictors of Best Picture having matched up with the Oscars the past seven years and also has the same preferential ballot that the Academy uses. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) continued its wins with the SAG, which does not always match with the Academy but shows the actors support it (the largest Academy branch). Then it went and won the DGA, which has matched up with best picture for thirteen years until last year’s win for Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity, which was an odd year in itself with Picture and Director being split the entire year. So Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) would appear to have this locked up but then Boyhood goes and wins big at the BAFTA’s in both Picture and Director.

So where do we go here? The other major statistic coming into play is the fact that Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) lacks an editing nomination and there hasn’t been a Best Picture winner without that nomination since Ordinary People. But despite all that, rules have been broken for a while now with more director/picture splits and even having no director nomination at all not stopping a Best Picture win.  When it comes to actual votes being cast by people in the Academy Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) has won the most so it is my winner, but it is close.

Personal BiasTheory of Everything has no depth to its characters and little in way of overall storytelling to make anything interesting. American Sniper is too much repeating the same moments of war, arguing with the wife, then back to war that even with nicely shot battle scenes there is little to hold onto. Whiplash has some powerful scenes of music playing and the intense pressure placed on these players but also has repeating moments of playing drums to being yelled at and doesn’t do well with any family or friends scenes and an ending that feels out of place. Imitation Game does a serviceable job getting across the work of Alan Turing but falls into biography clichés and some bad editing. Selma does a great job getting into the personal work of Martin Luther King Jr., including his strategizing and his womanizing and still shows he was a great leader though the energy of the film goes down somewhat near the end. Boyhood, Linklater’s masterpiece of crafting a story over twelve years, is emotionally satisfying in letting us into the normal transition of simply growing up. The Grand Budapest Hotel is a quirky wild ride that I was extremely happy to take and is in my opinion Wes Anderson’s best film. So if Boyhood or The Grand Budapest Hotel wins it will be a good night but if I am honest with myself I want Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) to win. It has an energy that I couldn’t get out of my head and it is the film that I keep thinking back on the most when I think about last year. For that I believe it should and will win Best Picture.

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Benjamin is a film connoisseur and Oscar watcher who lives in Minneapolis and, when not reviewing movies, works at the Hennepin County Library.

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