Thursday, February 19, 2015

Oscar Winner Predictions: Picture, Director and Writing

Final set of predictions - Picture, Director and the two screenplay categories.
Best Adapted Screenplay
5. Inherent Vice – Paul Thomas Anderson
For Him: Paul Thomas Anderson has been nominated for four writing Oscars at this point – and lost the first three. Out of all the authors to adapt, trying to do that to Thomas Pynchon must have been daunting – and he did it brilliantly.
Against Him: All of that got him the nomination – but he’s up against four Best Picture nominees, and his film didn’t get in. One day, it will look ridiculous that he hasn’t won already – but in the here and now, he doesn’t have a chance.

4. The Theory of Everything – Anthony McCarten
For Him: The Academy clearly likes the movie quite a bit – and his work is understated and sensitive, finding the people beneath the surface.
Against Him: Truly, the only elements of the movie that have received universal praise has been the acting – the writing seems like an afterthought – so I think he doesn’t have much of a chance.

3. American Sniper – Jason Hall
For Him: He was friendly with the subject, knew it inside out, and crafted a movie that both pays tribute to him, and allows you to question him at the same time. The film has become a huge hit – and in many ways, Hall has become its principal spokesman, since Clint hasn’t said much.
Against Him: The fact that the film has become a huge hit with the Fox News crowd (who I think misrepresent the film, but I digress) – but that may not sit well with the mainly liberal academy, which will walk away for it.

2. Whiplash – Damien Chazelle
For Him: They obviously really like Chazelle’s film – a Best Picture nominee, and likely winner for Supporting Actor. He didn’t have a chance when everyone thought it was an original screenplay – but since moving to the adapted category (he made a short last year with this premise), he all of a sudden has a chance. He is the only writer-director in this category who has a chance.
Against Him: I think many will think giving Simmons the Supporting Actor Oscar will be enough for Whiplash. It will have a lot of support, but also some detractors. Of all the elements of the film, the screenplay is probably the least praised element of it.

1. The Imitation Game – Graham Moore
For Him: They really do like the film, which for a while people thought was the frontrunner to win the Best Picture Oscar. Now that it’s not, this is likely the only big Oscar the film could get – and most likely will.
Against Him: A lot of people do not actually love The Imitation Game – they like it, they respect it, but they don’t love it. I think Inherent Vice, Whiplash and American Sniper all have passionate fans – so that could push it out.

Who Will Win: The Imitation Game. Consensus usually trumps passion at the Oscars – so this film with broad support will beat the ones with smaller, more passionate fanbases. A genuine four way race though – anything expect Inherent Vice wouldn’t be shocking.

Who Should Win: Inherent Vice. This truly is one of the best writing jobs in years – taking a book that many thought was unadaptable, and turned into a great movie.
Least of the Nominees: The Theory of Everything. I really thought the movie was rather straight forward and uninteresting – and it stems from the screenplay playing it safe all the way through.

Who Should Have Been Here: Gone Girl. It boggles my mind that Flynn’s screenplay, from her own novel, didn’t get in to this category this year. It was already a weak category, and she wrote arguably the most talked about film of the year – and did it brilliantly. It’s clear now that the Academy just really didn’t like the movie.

Best Original Screenplay
5. Nightcrawler – Dan Gilroy
For Him: It is a great screenplay – the work of a longtime screenwriter finally doing his best work. The film had a lot of industry support, before slightly disappointing on nomination day.
Against Him: The Academy clearly didn’t like the film as much as critics groups and guilds did. It is the only nomination the film got – so the nomination is the award.

4. Foxcatcher – E. Max Fyre & Dan Futterman
For Them: The pair got a lot of praise for their work here – taking a complex, true story and widdling it down to its bare essentials, and crafting three great characters out of it as well. They clearly really like the film.
Against Them: But I don’t think they truly love the film. When Foxcatcher gets praised, it’s mainly for the performances and the direction of Miller – not the screenplay.

3. Boyhood – Richard Linklater
For Him: He wrote this film over a 12 year span, one year at a time, and crafted a universal movie about growing up and family. It is likely the Best Picture and Director Oscar winner – and they often win Screenplay as well.
Against Him: But if wins those, Linklater will already get his Oscar. The screenplay, while brilliant, was not written quite the same way they normally are – crafting the whole film at the outset. He did it one year at a time. His direction has been more praised than his screenplay. 

2. Birdman – Alejandro G. Inarritu & Nicolas Giacobone & Alexander Dinelaris & Armando Bo
For Them: The single biggest group in the Academy – the actors – loved the movie, and may well want to award the screenplay that gave so many actors great roles. If Linklater is winning Best Director, this would be a chance to give Inarritu an Oscar as well. It won the Golden Globe. It may well be the Oscar frontrunner for Best Picture.
Against Them: Does anyone really talk about the screenplay. The direction, the performances, the cinematography, etc. are what people talk about with Birdman – not really the screenplay.

1. The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson & Hugo Guiness
For Them: Wes Anderson has been a well-respected filmmaker for nearly two decades now – and the writers have liked him more than the other branches (this is his third nomination). The film is the nomination leader, and while it will almost certainly win some of the Below the Line Oscars, this really is its only chance to win a major Oscar.
Against Them: It is competing against the two Oscar frontrunners for Best Picture – either of which could easily beat Anderson – a director they have not really embraced before. He won the WGA – although Birdman was ruled ineligible there.

Who Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel. It could go any of three ways – but I think Anderson wins here, just like Jonze did last year. It will be close.

Who Should Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel. This was the most memorable, inventive, funny, quotable screenplay of the year – and so this is what I would go with.
Least of the Nominees: Birdman. I like the screenplay for Birdman – it really is a strong lineup this year – but yes, it would rank fifth for me.

Who Should Have Been Here: Winter Sleep. No, it had no chance to get nominated – but how wonderful would it have been if the Academy had found room for a three hour, twenty minute Turkish film – with a lot of talking in it. I would have loved it.

Best Director
5. Bennett Miller for Foxcatcher
For Him: Foxcatcher was one of the best directed films of the year – and the Academy quite clearly loves Miller, as he has picked up his second nomination in just three films (and the one he didn’t get nominated for, Moneyball, did get nominated for Best Picture).
Against Him: You simply do not win the Best Director Oscar unless your film is also nominated for Best Picture. Miller’s isn’t, so his campaign is done before it starts.

4. Morten Tyldum for The Imitation Game
For Him: He has directed a film that is quite clearly one of the Academy’s favorites – and with Harvey Weinstein behind it, the film has a decent shot at some awards – including Best Picture, which may just pull Tyldum along with it.
Against Him: But that’s not likely – even if The Imitation Game does win Best Picture, its unlikely Tyldum actually wins Best Director. He has almost no name recognition, and he hasn’t really won any precursors.

3. Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel
For Him: A longtime beloved auteur has finally broken through with the Academy – having scored the most nominations (tied with Birdman) of anything. No one can deny Anderson’s directorial hand here, and even if he hasn’t won before, some will still think he’s overdue.
Against Him: Anderson may well win an Oscar this year – but it’s for Original Screenplay, not director. He just doesn’t quite have the buzz or the precursor support of the top two.

2. Alejandro G. Innaritu for Birdman
For Him: His film is a dazzling, technical achievement – the long, unbroken takes, the seamless editing, the highly original score – to go along with great performances – three of them were nominated, more than any other film. Innaritu has been a favorite with the Academy since his first film, Amores Perros, a decade ago – and he’s never won before.
Against Him: While Birdman has passionate supporters, it also has some who just downright hate it – which in a close race, could kill him.

1. Richard Linklater for Boyhood
For Him: He spent 12 years making this film, a massive undertaking that Linklater made into one seamless film – more a feat of directing, than writing. He has won every precursor he possibly could. He is a well-respected vet that the Academy has finally embraced.
Against Him: Some see the film as a gimmick – as if every film isn’t on some level or another. The winner of the DGA award almost always win here – and he didn’t do it.

Who Will Win: Richard Linklater for Boyhood. Again, the smart money probably says Innaritu – but my gut still says Linklater. I actually can easily foresee the two movies splitting the top two prizes – but I cannot decide which will win what, so I’ll stick with Boyhood for this and Picture, and assume I’ll get one right.

Who Should Win: Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel. The other auteur, who has refined his style, in his greatest film made my favorite film this year – so I would go for Anderson easily –as much as I loved Linklater.
Least of the Nominees: Morten Tyldum for The Imitation Game. The film is a competently directed to be sure – but are we really giving out Oscar nominations for competence?

Who Should Have Been Here: Ava DuVernay for Selma. It’s sad for that DuVernay didn’t get nominated for two reasons – the first, and least important, is that it would have made history as the first African American woman ever nominated for this award. The second is that she deserved it, for a stunning directorial job.

Best Picture
8. Whiplash
For It: Nearly everyone who sees Whiplash enjoys it – it is viscerally entertaining – and should get fairly broad support, since it’s below the credits are as fine as the above the lines one. It’s probably the darkest of the 8 nominees, so that will attract some.
Against It: Money doesn’t matter as much as it once did in the Oscar race – but it still matters, and Whiplash doesn’t look like it’s going to crack $10 million at the box office, which would make it far and away the lowest grossing winner in a long time. No director nominated hurts it. Many will feel that the award for supporting, that it will win, is going to be enough for this small film.

7. The Theory of Everything
For It: This is really the only love story in the mix – hell, sadly, it’s the only film nominated with a lead role for a woman – and that may attract some people. It’s inoffensive enough that I don’t see that many people outright hating the film.
Against It: But how many people actually love it either? The acting has gotten far more kudos than the film itself – and there is another film about a British genius that got more overall nominations. No best director hurts it too much.

6. Selma
For It: The biggest story in the days following the nominations was how poorly Selma did – with many people outraged. That could rally the support of its many fans – to place it high on their ballots. There was talk that many didn’t see the film – which probably hurt its nomination total – if that changes, it could rally more support. Everyone seems to love the film – except the voices shouting it down.
Against It: Really, it would take a hell of lot of support for a film to win that was only nominated for one other nomination – for Best Song of all things. The lack of nominations will probably kill its chances – no matter how much people love it, they don’t want to vote for a film they feel cannot win.

5. American Sniper
For It: It has become a genuine box office phenom – grossing more than $100 million in the opening weekend alone – which is more than any other film in total. It is Clint, who is royalty, and Bradley Cooper, who has now been nominated three years in a row. They have awarded war films in the past.
Against It: The tremendous controversy around the film and its embrace by conservatives (not the biggest group in Hollywood) probably means they are staying far away from actually giving it the Best Picture Oscar. Clint may be royalty – but he didn’t get in for Best Director.

4. The Imitation Game
For It: The safest choice that has a serious chance to win. A modest box office hit, respectful reviews, Academy friendly subject matter, a massive Harvey Weinstein run campaign. It’s hard to hate The Imitation Game.
Against It: For me, it’s also hard to love it. It’s probably far too safe, perhaps even for the stodgy Academy. If it was going to win, you would think it would have won a major precursor – which it hasn’t.

3. The Grand Budapest Hotel
For It: It is tied for the most nominations of any film – which can be a sign of broad support. It is also one of the highest grossers among the nominees – another sign. It has support from many different branches. They have finally embraced Wes Anderson – and done so in a big way.
Against It: The fact that they have never embraced Anderson before could point out that they still are not ready to do so for the big prize. The one branch that didn’t embrace the film is the actors – and they are the biggest ones. Anderson is on his way to more Oscar support in the future (and he may well win in the screenplay category this year) – but for the big one, he’ll have to wait awhile.

2. Birdman
For It: Actors love films about actors – just look at The Artist a few years ago. This film is an acting showcase, but also a technical one – which is why it is tied for the most nominations. It’s a great comeback story for Keaton, and the most popular film yet by a director the Academy has embraced before – although not for the win quite yet. It won the SAG Ensemble award – a good sign, but one everyone saw coming, and the PGA Award – a better sign, that no one saw coming.
Against It: Among the top contenders, it is far and the away the most love it or hate it film – it will be ranked #1 on a lot of ballots, but I can see it being ranked # 8 on quite as few as well. With the Oscar systems we know have, consensus trumps passion. (then again, it did win the PGA, which is the only other awards group who uses the Academy’s ridiculous ranking system for the win).

1. Boyhood
For It: The film has quietly chugged along all season – debuting at Sundance, releasing in the summer, becoming the quiet frontrunner while seeing all the other contenders come and go while it’s just kept on going. The massive ambition of the film, the 12 year undertaking, etc. will have many in awe. It is clearly the critics favorite as well.
Against It: Linklater has never been an Oscar favorite before – and Boyhood is every inch a Linklater film. It didn’t make a ton money either. It isn’t the most Oscar friendly movie. Birdman came on much stronger than I expected down the stretch.

Who Will Win: Boyhood. I thought through much of the fall that something would come along to knock it out of the top spot – and nothing really did, until the late surge by Birdman. The smart money is probably with Birdman – but my gut still says Boyhood.

Who Should Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel. I have been a long-time fan of Wes Anderson – and I think this is his best to date, and the best of the year. It’s a beautiful, funny, brilliant film.
Least of the Nominees: The Theory of Everything. I still say the two lead performances are top notch – but the nothing else about the movie really is. If you want to know why Stephen Hawking was a genius, you won’t find out here. It’s so safe, so stodgy, so bland that if it hadn’t become an Oscar film, I would have forgotten about the film by now.

Who Should Have Been Here: Gone Girl. I don’t get why the Academy didn’t embrace Gone Girl. Do they not realize that this is precisely the type of adult hit that they need to make them more relevant. Was there a more talked about, or argued about film, of the fall. And everyone saw it. And it’s also a legitimately great film too boot. Don’t get this one.

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