Me and the Oscars have had a long and turbulent history. You see, I’ve always believed that the Oscars should be an institution that awards quality above all else. But year on year, the Oscars stubbornly insist on being the Oscars. And being the Oscars they give the statuettes to whichever studio fills their gift hampers with the biggest blueberry muffins.
So I’m going to sit here and tell you which nominee is going to win each of the major categories. Do not expect me to colour inside the lines with my own personal preferences. Turns out that a twenty-eight year old film critic and a bunch of baby boomer movie producers don’t have much in common.
Best Motion Picture of the Year
Nominees: American Sniper, Birdman, Boyhood, The Imitation Game, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Selma, The Theory of Everything and Whiplash.
Who’s going to win: Selma
It was pride that led to the snubbing of Selma it this year’s Oscars. A snubbing that came from an academy so proud of supporting the Civil Rights movement that they would resent any film suggesting their efforts were not as pivotal as the involvement of those being persecuted. Allegedly. Anyway, the whole affair has lost the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences some serious liberal cred, so expect them to double down on supporting Selma just for them to get it back. See also, the award for Best Original Song.
Who should win: Calvary
No, it didn’t get nominated but we don’t give a crap about that rubbish here. Calvary was the best thing I saw in 2015. The second feature film by John Michael McDonagh was an epic battle of morality that took place in a small Irish coastal village. Calvary is a smart film that puts its protagonist through a test of faith that would comfortably fit into any religious text, while constantly challenging its own values. A film gives this much credence to its opposing side is a brave film indeed.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Nominees: Steve Carell in Foxcatcher as John Eleuthère du Pont, Bradley Cooper in American Sniper as Chris Kyle, Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game as Alan Turing, Michael Keaton in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) as Riggan Thomson and Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything as Stephen Hawking.
Who’s going to win: Eddie Redmayne
If there’s anything the Academy love in their acting, it is transformation, imitation and a British accent. Eddie Redmayne’s performance as Stephen Hawken in The Theory of Everything has all three.
Who should win: Eddie Redmayne
Sometimes the Academy gets it right and this year’s Best Actor should be a no brainer. It was by far the most impressive performance of the last twelve months. The way he contorted himself in all aspects of his being, his voice, his physicality – the way he crafted his own body into that of Hawking’s – is the biggest acting achievement of the year.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Nominees: Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night as Sandra Bya, Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything as Jane Wilde Hawking, Julianne Moore in Still Alice as Dr. Alice Howland, Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl as Amy Elliott-Dunne and Reese Witherspoon in Wild as Cheryl Strayed.
Who’s going to win: Julianne Moore for Still Alice
Still Alice is a moving, heart breaking portrayal of an academic woman slowly and visibly losing her mind to early onset Alzheimer’s. Even if you have only watched a documentary on that terrible illness you’ll know what a horrible effect it has on a person’s mind and body. Julianne Moore brings an accuracy that pays tribute to those suffering without belittling them.
Who should win: Julianne Moore for Maps to the Stars
Sometimes they get the right actors, but for the wrong film. Still Alice is a film made from a far more worthy and urgent subject matter, but her character in Maps to the Stars is a piece of pure invention. And invention is something that Hollywood doesn’t recognise enough. The madness her character exhibits literally has no reference in real life, but no matter how implausible she is as a monster, that makes her no less convincing.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Nominees: Robert Duvall in The Judge as Judge Joseph Palmer, Ethan Hawke in Boyhood as Mason Evans, Sr., Edward Norton in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) as Mike Shiner, Mark Ruffalo in Foxcatcher as Dave Schultz and J. K. Simmons in Whiplash as Terence Fletcher.
Who’s going to win: J. K. Simmons
Bad guys don’t get many leading roles in Hollywood and it’s also one of the hardest jobs to get right. So it falls to the Supporting category to give the villains their due. And in Whiplash, J. K. Simmons is as frightening as they come.
Who should win: J. K. Simmons
The male acting categories are pretty locked up this year. This isn’t a cert by any means – I think that Edward Norton is fantastic in Birdman although he’s basically playing an exaggerated version of what I imagine Ed Norton to be like in real life. But Simmons is a powerhouse in Whiplash and his recognition is a long time coming.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Nominees: Patricia Arquette in Boyhood as Olivia Evans, Laura Dern in Wild as Barbara “Bobbi” Grey, Keira Knightley in The Imitation Game as Joan Clarke, Emma Stone in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) as Sam Thomson and Meryl Streep in Into the Woods as The Witch
Who’s going to win: Emma Stone
The Academy has been giving its gongs to the new generation of hot young females for the last few years. Jennifer Lawrence and Anne Hathaway have both received one each and the Academy love Stone just as much. Kinda nice pick up line isn’t it? Hey baby, I voted for you to get the Oscar. Now why don’t we see just how tough my new hip is?
Who should win: Patricia Arquette
Patricia Arquette doesn’t have the name power to make this a sure fire thing for her. Actresses at her age whose stars don’t quite burn so brightly anymore are those for who terms like “It’s an honour just to be nominated,” were made for. But her portrayal of a desperate woman trying to raise her (let’s face it) ungrateful and listless son, was the best thing about Boyhood.
Best Achievement in Directing
Nominees: Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel, Alejandro González Iñárritu for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Richard Linklater for Boyhood, Bennett Miller for Foxcatcher and Morten Tyldum for The Imitation Game.
Who’s going to win: Richard Linklater for Boyhood
Boyhood is one hell of an achievement. Such a risky and ambitious way to take on this kind of story. And even though Ellar Coltrane isn’t the greatest actor in the world, Linklater creates a film around him that makes a fairly wooden performance seen authentic.
Who should win: Richard Ayoade for The Double
When The Double came out it felt like I was the only one who liked it. Everyone said the composition was too precious and it that it was a mere derivative of Brazil. Well Richard Ayoade wasn’t the only one to mimic Terry Gilliam last year; Terry Gilliam also tried mimicking Terry Gilliam as well. And Ayoade did it better. Seeing his intricately pieced sets and plot come together was like seeing a master artisan watchmaker at work. Seeing all the pieces fall into place was one of the most beguiling experiences of the last year as well as one of the most memorable.
Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
Nominees: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Boyhood, Foxcatcher, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Nightcrawler.
Who’s going to win: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
There are some who think that Birdman sports the kind of pretentious uni grade half-baked philosophy that is good for nothing other than earning a slap in a blue collar boozer. And that is about as philosophical as the Acadamy likes to get. If it went deeper than the narcissistic musings of its faux neurotics, or wider than satirising the mainstream Hollywood film machine, then most if it would probably have went above the voter’s heads.
Who should win: Calvary
Usually, if you see where my Best Screenplay is going you can be pretty sure where my Best film is going too. The script is the foundation upon which all movies are made, so it better be a damned good one to make it a film of the year. Calvary’s script was an insanely elegant group study of rural Irish life and Ireland’s ongoing disillusionment with its own religious institutions. The superbly characterised cast were both broadly entertaining yet cavernously deep and McDonagh’s dialogue found both shame and sympathy in all its darkest corners.
Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
Nominees: American Sniper, The Imitation Game, Inherent Vice, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash.
Who’s going to win: Whiplash
This is a poor category with only two real choices. I mean, where is Gone Girl, or Selma? Whiplash is the clear front runner for me just because Vice isn’t nominated for anything else and they rarely give awards like this to lone nominees.
Who should win: Under the Skin
In Under the Skin Jonathan Glazer manages to both adapt a novel by Michel Faber and include the general public who are simply reacting to the staging of the scenes. It’s an extraordinary feat to take the events of a pre made story and to manipulate real people into helping you tell it. Also, the surreal scenes that tell the story through nothing but dreamlike images and sinister looks are some of the most wordlessly well written and unshakable I’ve ever seen.