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The 2015 Oscars: Who's likely to win; plus, my own take on the movies of 2014

Updated on February 22, 2015

The 2015 Oscars: The Good, the Great, and the Weird

The 2015 Oscar race has been nothing if not weird. From the hugely popular The Lego Movie getting snubbed for Best Animated Feature in favor of an Irish film even I'd never heard of before (Song of the Sea), to Ralph Fiennes' hilarious and masterful performance in The Grand Budapest Hotel, Jake Gyllenhaal's feral sociopath in Nightcrawler AND David Oyelowo's supposedly awesome portrayal of Dr. Martin Luther King getting muscled out of the Best Actor Race, to Best Picture nominee Selma only scoring ONE other nod for Best Original Song, to the by all accounts wonderful documentary about the late critic Roger Freakin' Ebert--Life Itself--being shut out of the documentary race, to the continued, baffling insistence by the Academy on only allowing three nominees in the Best Makeup race, this is one strange year from the very get-go. There is also the BAFFLING snub of Birdman in the Film Editing category, and the fact that Gone Girl is David Fincher's first Oscar-nominated film not up for a technical award (with only a nod for Best Actress, it joins his other single-nominee films Se7en and Fight Club). Oh, and Meryl Streep's here again. Finally, how they couldn't make room in the Best Picture race for The Tale of the Princess Kaguya or Guardians of the Galaxy when there are only eight nominees is beyond me. At least both were nominated for Oscar, I guess? Anyway, though I was incredibly lacking in my viewing last year, I caught a few good ones all along; in the past few weeks I have finally managed to buckle down and get a lot of the year's films watched. I'm still nowhere close to done, which is why my predictions of who will win are based as much in Oscar history, the careers and reputations of each player involved, other critics' predicitions, and word of mouth as in my own opinions, while the lists of what the fields SHOULD look like will seem quite unusual due to my viewing not properly syncing up with the Academy's. As I did last year, I will list each of the films I saw in descending order, with a few notes about each one; this time, however, I will then follow that list with my Oscar predictions category-by-category. I do hope you enjoy.

The Films of 2014, As I Seen Em

The Top 10 of this list could be seen as my picks for Best Picture. I certainly do think the Top 15 each deserve some level of consideration, though probably only the four at the very top could have won Best Picture and made me happy.

1. Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance): There are very few movies each year that truly appear to rise above the rest, that make me feel that they just MIGHT make the very upper reaches of my list of great films. There were two this year, though none of the films I've seen so far managed to rise to those heights on the first go. The first of the two is this bold experiment from Mexican maestro Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. This is his best film since Amores Perros, and that is rather impressive. It is also a film with a fantastical gimmick that could have sunk the whole endeavor if a) it had failed or b) the film failed to expound upon the gimmick and become a living, breathing creature of its own; these failures did not occur, and Birdman became a defining moment in Inarritu's career, and arguably in cinema. The fantastic acting didn't hurt, either. The film fully deserves its nine nominations, though its exclusion in the Film Editing category (central to making its editing gimmick work in the first place) is utterly BAFFLING.

2. Kaguya-hime no Monogatari (The Tale of the Princess Kaguya): Much like Birdman, Isao Takahata's gorgeous swan song went out on a limb artistically; to evoke the era in which his story took place, Takahata had his film animated in an extremely old-fashioned style, which evokes classical Japanese artwork. And much like Inarritu, Takahata hit one out of the park. This is not Takahata's best film--that would Hotaru no Haka (Grave of the Fireflies). Rather, it falls somewhere between Omohide Poro Poro (Only Yesterday) and Heisei Tanuki Gassen Pompoko (Pom Poko); when you consider that I love Pom Poko, and that I rate Only Yesterday roughly five or six on the list of greatest animated films, you'll see that this is still very high praise indeed. Looking at those films, you might also see why I am campaigning so hard for Takahata's swan song--the man is brilliant, and has made some brilliant films. That his colleague and fellow co-founder of Studio Ghibli, Hayao Miyazaki, had HIS swan song swallowed up in the wake of Frozen makes it all the more imperative that Takahata's win its one nod for Best Animated Feature, and all the more criminal that this film is not up for Best Picture.

3. The Imitation Game: I quite thoroughly enjoyed this film, an historical thriller about the mathematician and code-breaker Alan Turing. The acting is top-notch, the writing is solid, the film is well-paced and well-edited, and the score by Alexandre Desplat is incredible. The film also earns points as a film based on a true story about someone terribly wronged that manages to earn points honestly rather than manipulatively. It is for these reasons that the film has a somewhat astonishing eight nominations, including an historical nod for Norwegian director Morten Tyldum, and I can find little fault with that.

4. Whiplash: One of the biggest breakout films of a generally quiet year, Whiplash is indeed an IMPRESSIVE movie. Not only is the talented J.K. Simmons FINALLY getting his due, the film itself is a fine piece of art--solidly entertaining, expertly crafted, and able to connect on a visceral level like so many films aspire to and so few actually do. This film is also a POWERFUL argument for the Best Use of Music in Film Oscar, and a solid argument for Best Bit Player/ Cameo--Female (Melissa Benoist). The film did get five nominations, including a nod for Best Picture, and it surely deserves each one. Question, though. Shouldn't much of what happens during a musical practice/ performance fall under the sound effects editing umbrella? If so, I think this may have been an egregious snub.

5. Guardians of the Galaxy: Yes, this is one of my top picks for the year. It's fun, it's action-packed, it doesn't take itself too seriously and yet has the gravitas to be taken seriously by others. In Peter Quill, Chris Pratt has fashioned a latter-day Indiana Jones/ Han Solo, an old-school action hero/ charming rogue that is one of the best characters to pop off the screen courtesy of Marvel since Robert Downey, Jr. first suited up for Iron Man. The rest of the film is no slouch either, and the rockin' soundtrack is one of the best arguments of the year for a Best Use of Music in Film Oscar; also, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel make fine arguments for the inclusion of categories for Best Vocal Acting. All in all, this still rates as one of the year's most delightful surprises, and is one of the few films to actually really rake it in at the box office; for these reasons alone (but certainly for others too), this film should be in the Best Picture race. It certainly deserves the two nominations it DID get.

6. The Theory of Everything: And we continue our series on math nerds of the Twentieth Century. I kid, but it is strange that films about Alan Turing and Stephen Hawking are duking it out in the Best Picture race. Or maybe not; things always come in pairs in Hollywood. The Theory of Everything is most assuredly a great film, though I prefer The Imitation Game. Both films have freakin' AWESOME music, though. Up for five awards--including Best Picture--it definitely deserves each one, especially those for Best Actor and Best Original Score.

7. The Grand Budapest Hotel: Possibly the film I most looked forward to in 2014, it is possible that I was let down for that reason, and rated the film accordingly; time (and a couple more viewings) will tell if my rating holds. That said, I still loved this film, and am deeply disturbed that Ralph Fiennes somehow failed to score an Oscar nomination despite NINE of them going to the movie, including Best Picture. This film is a great argument for Best Use of Music in Film, and has multiple contenders for a Best Bit Player/ Cameo nod.

8. How to Train Your Dragon 2: I am still shocked at how soft an opening this film had in theaters, and how little people talked about it during its original run, all the more so since it's arguably almost as good as its predecessor. This lack of interest makes it particularly painful for me that this film and the similarly underperforming Big Hero 6 are arguably the frontrunners in the race for Best Animated Feature; The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is so clearly the better film, and arguably would win based on politics alone, were it not for the general lack of visibility of almost all of this year's animated releases (except for the snubbed The Lego Movie, of course). Anyway, HTTYD2 IS a fine film, and currently gets a vote from me for Best Picture; it also is a POWERFUL argument for Best Use of Music in Film (and indeed a snubbee in the race for Best Original Score), and also contains many fine arguments for Best Vocal Acting, particularly Cate Blanchett for the Female category and Jay Baruchel for the Male category.

9. Big Hero 6: In all honesty, I can't fully decide if this one or How to Train Your Dragon 2 should be higher--both films were excellent, but will take another viewing or three for me to choose a favorite. Admittedly, I had a better viewing of BH6; I was really tired when watching HTTYD2 and had trouble staying focused, while I was wide awake and alert for the other one. Both films were highly entertaining, and sported freaking GORGEOUS computer animation. Also, BH6 gets mad props for being an apparently honest attempt by Walt Disney Pictures to blend their animated storytelling style with the characters and themes of their subsidiary Marvel Studios, one which they largely manage to pull off. Again, this film has a serious shot at winning Best Animated Feature, and as ever I feel that animated films in general get short shrift at the Oscars.

10. Boyhood: I'm a little bit puzzled that a tightly-focused, so-cleanly-edited-you-can-hardly-spot-the-scene-breaks film like Birdman should be a shoo-in for winning the races for Best Director and Best Cinematography, but completely snubbed in the Freaking Editing category, while a film that seems at a glance to be rather haphazardly edited together and unfocused should be not only nominated in two of the three categories but likely to get that Best Film Editing award. Granted, when one sits back and reflects on Boyhood, one might find as I did, that Richard Linklater likely WANTED the film to jump suddenly ahead a year or two at a time, without warning, and without explaining where key characters have disappeared to. The film seems to me to be both a celebration of life and a lamentation that it goes by so fast, without warning, and without assurance that the people in your life today will be there tomorrow. At least, I respect Mr. Linklater enough to make that assumption on his behalf--if so, Boyhood may actually be a great film, and I may need to rate it higher. For now, though, the film barely makes my Top 10, despite the fact that I have pegged it as this year's probable Best Picture winner. It certainly deserves its six nominations, though Patricia Arquette's likely win is for a performance that I personally found less impressive than Emma Stone's in Birdman. Finally, as with many Linklater films, this film had a pretty great soundtrack, and is a POWERFUL argument for Best Use of Music in Film.

11. Gone Girl: One of the bigger hits of a sadly quiet fall season at the cineplex was David Fincher's adaptation of Gillian Flynn's bestselling novel Gone Girl. Interestingly, it was actually Flynn who wrote the screenplay, resulting in a rare instance of an author successfully adapting their own work into a new medium. Strangely enough, though, the Academy did not see fit to award either Flynn's solid work, Fincher's own solid work, or any of the film's many technical merits, giving it only a single nod for Best Actress for Rosamund Pike's revelatory performance as a calculating, manipulative b*$#@, who is a modern-day Typhoid Mary of sorts, and yet manages to carry herself off as America's Sweetheart. This is particularly odd as every single previous Fincher film nominated for at least one Oscar (Se7en, Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) was nominated for at least one technical award, and Gone Girl stands toe to toe with any of those in that department. In fact, it is one of his better films overall--maybe about on par with Zodiac and The Social Network (though nowhere close to Se7en and Fight Club). Anyway, the film definitely deserves its one nod, but there should have been at least a couple more.

12. The Lego Movie: "Everything is awesome! Everything is cool when you're part of a team! Everything is awesome/ When you're living the dream!" I bet you thought you'd gotten that song out of your head. You're welcome. The Lego Movie is at the center of two very strange phenomena this year. The first involves my own personal experience with the film, and that of those around me. When I first learned of this movie in late 2013, I immediately declared, "I HAVE to see that movie!" And I saw it in theatres, and I loved it. Everyone else thought I was crazy, and kind of rolled their eyes--until, that is, they each finally saw it. Now, I'm one of the only people I know who DOESN'T put the film in their Top 5 for the year. The movie is, not to put too fine a point on it, awesome. It's CHEESY, and one of the most blatant examples of product placement in movie history, which two reasons are pretty much why I don't rate it higher. However, this is a HIGHLY original film, and IT IS FUN! However, that SOMEHOW did not manage to translate into an Oscar nod for Best Animated Feature, which leads to the second strange phenomenon, the fact that the film is one of the biggest snubs of the year in two categories (the other being Best Original Screenplay), and therefore a frontrunner in a third and slightly surprising category, Best Original Song (for the inescapable earworm quoted above). Anyway, this film truly is one of my favorite films of 2014, and I can't wait to get hold of a copy; it would be awesome if it wins the Oscar tomorrow, even if it is likely to lose to Selma.

13. Nightcrawler: This film creeped the hell out of me. In a good way, mind you. Jake Gyllenhaal channels the spirit of the coyote with his sociopathic nocturnal scavenger Leo Bloom, and has probably never been better. To say that his performance was probably snubbed by Oscar is a bit of an understatement, though the three nominees whose roles I have seen all did at least as well, and the one of the other two high profile snubs that I've seen was freakin' incredible (Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel). The film is not an easy watch--at all--but it is magnetically enthralling nonetheless, and well worth at least one look. The film is not going to win the one category for which it is nominated (Best Original Screenplay), but it surely deserved to at least be nominated for a couple more.

14. The Boxtrolls: What do you get when you cross the team behind Coraline and a look and feel that resembles a Wallace & Gromit film? You get one of the most delightful surprises of the year, a hilarious and enjoyable film (albeit one with a truly disgusting end to the main villain) that managed to sneak a surprise Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature. Sadly, as that spot belonged to The Lego Movie, The Boxtrolls will likely be seen more as a spoiler in the race than as a great film on its own merits. However, it is a great film on its own merits, and well worth a watch. Like all the other animated films I have listed for the year, this one boasts several arguments for Best Vocal Acting awards; it also should have been a contender in several other categories, such as Best Production Design. Sadly, because of The Lego Movie getting snubbed, I'm hard-pressed to consider this a worthy nominee in the Animated Feature category, but it certainly could have been in a weaker year. At any rate, this one goes down as one those movies where I'm kind of glad it got nominated if only because I might not have seen it otherwise, and I am glad I seen it.

15. X-Men: Days of Future Past: Whatever the naysayers hold against any and all FOX X-Men films, Days of Future Past was a pretty durned good movie. Just DON'T get hung up on the comic canon, or you will be annoyed. DEEPLY (freakin' no good giving my favorite character a power she never had so she can become a key plot device instead of the main character!). Watch it to see Hugh Jackman continue to INHABIT the role that made him a movie star, the Wolverine. Watch it to see the jaw-dropping special effects extravaganza that is Quicksilver (Evan Peters)'s high-speed/ slo-mo punk'ng of an entire roomful of security personnel in the Pentagon, set to the song "Time in a Bottle." Watch it to see Peter Dinklage's towering performance as Bolivar Trask, arguably an Oscar-worthy role. Watch it to see Halle Berry skewered (no joke--I love that part). Watch it to see Jennifer Lawrence--no joke there, just watch cause she's awesome. Watch it for Ellen Page reprising her role (the ONE thing X-Men III: The Last Stand indisputably did right for the franchise) of my all-time favorite comicbook character, Katherine "Kitty" (Shadowcat) Pryde. And see your appetite whetted for X-Men: Apocalypse, due out next year, I believe. This film fully deserves its one nod, for Best Visual Effects, and marks a strong argument for the Best Use of Music in Film Oscar (some of the roles could also be arguments for Best Bit Player/ Cameo). It's no Guardians, but this was a pretty good year overall for comicbook films (not counting a certain Spider-Man film which shall remain nameless, as well as one of my remaining films).

16. Captain America: The Winter Soldier: No, this is not the film I was just talking about. I'm actually on the fence about whether this film or the X-Men film was better; both were phenomenally entertaining films that featured an Oscar-worthy performance from a supporting player (in this case, suddenly busy screen legend Robert Redford gave a truly awards-worthy performance as Alexander Pierce). Both films also lose a few points on reflection, when you realize some of the flaws in the storytelling. That said, they are both fine films, and this one also deserves its own nod for Best Visual Effects. It also helps further lay the groundwork for the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron, one of my most anticipated films for the year 2015.

17. Calvary: Wow, this really is the first film on my list not up for Oscar? A fair number of voices have spoken up declaring Brendan Gleeson's subdued turn as Father James in Calvary to be one of the year's big snubs, but as impressive as his performance is there simply isn't room in this year's race, what with both Ralph Fiennes and Jake Gyllenhaal being definite snubs, tons of people declaring David Oyelowo to be a snub, and Benedict Cumberbatch, Eddie Redmayne and Michael Keaton all definitely fully deserving of their nods. That said, the real reason Calvary is so low on my list (other than the fact that most of the above films are awesome) is that his is practically the ONLY Oscar-level performance in the film, and one of the few that isn't cartoonishly one-note. It is a gorgeous film, with gorgeous scenery (I see films like this and want to go to Ireland yesterday), and the music is an excellent argument for Best Use of Music in Film. This is a strange and meditative film, and will not appeal to mass audiences, but it is well worth a look, and could have had an Oscar presence in a weaker year (or, you know, if my categories were added to the race).

18. Maleficent: One the summer's few breakout hits, Maleficent has since had quite a few people come back around to pick on it. It is an uneven film, with the talented Angelina Jolie giving an almost embarrassingly weak performance as the titular character, mid-range CG and good-but-not-brilliant writing, but also generally fun, interesting and pretty to look at, while featuring excellent music and winning performances by Elle Fanning and Sam Riley. It is by no means a classic, but an intriguing and heavily revisionist take on the story behind one of Walt Disney Pictures' more unique animated offerings, Sleeping Beauty. The film quite deserves consideration in the one category for which it is nominated, Best Costume Design; perhaps it could have had a Best Makeup nod if the Academy saw fit to give that category five possible entrants like ALL THE OTHERS but Best Picture (which gets up to ten)? Just sayin'. Anyway, give the movie a shot sometime--you should be entertained.

19. God's Not Dead: Ah, yes, here is where we decisively leave behind the Oscar hopefuls, and look at a couple films that deservedly flew under the radar. Granted, God's Not Dead could have had a shot at Best Original Score in a weaker year, and would be a fine choice for a Best Use of Music in Film Oscar, but from an objective standpoint the film is nowhere near Oscar-level outside of its music. It also is likely to be divisive, due to its heavily Christian raison d'etre, as well as its tendency to preach. Villains and sinners alike are painted as if by a paint roller rather than a fine-tipped brush, and subtlety is NOWHERE to be found. That said, I (a lapsed Lutheran) still found the film entertaining, and felt a few of its messages hit home. However, this film is one of only two I saw this year that actually merited Golden Raspberry Award consideration in at least one instance (Worst Supporting Actress, Kori Robertson, as well as a couple others whose names I've already forgotten). Feel free to give this one a go; if you are a practicing Christian, you will love it, and if you are not, your enjoyment will solely depend on how open-minded you are.

20. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Much like the film above, the success of the reboot of TMNT in your eyes will very much depend on what you bring to the table, and how open-minded you are. To most children of the 80s, who already hate Michael Bay for what he did to the Transformers, letting him produce another reboot of another huge piece of our childhood is nothing short of blasphemous, even if he didn't actually direct the movie. This movie is not good, by most measures. However, it is borderline Oscar-worthy for Visual Effects, and it surprisingly is pretty fun (even if the child inside died a little while I watched the movie). This one is more the Razzies' speed, though, and while it probably doesn't deserve all five of its nominations, it surely deserves the one for Worst Remake, Rip-off, or Sequel. I cannot honestly recommend this film, at least not to anyone sober, but I bet one could enjoy some drinking games with this movie.

So, there you have it; the twenty films from 2014 that I have seen so far. There are many, many more yet to be seen, and I may update this list periodically as I see them; I do intend to continue writing reviews for the films of 2014 (as I have done, more or less, for each of the above films). Feel free to point out your favorite films of the year, and to check out my more in-depth reviews of the above films.

My 10 Best

Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

The Imitation Game

Whiplash

Guardians of the Galaxy

The Theory of Everything

The Grand Budapest Hotel

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Big Hero 6

Boyhood

As you can see, there is a sharp contrast between my personal preferences and my predictions where Boyhood and Birdman are concerned. One similarity, though, is that it is almost as hard for me to call whether the deserved winner would be Birdman or the snubbed The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. Kaguya SHOULD have been in contention; I'd also wager that Guardians of the Galaxy was a genuine snub, and as you can see certain other 2014 releases make my list as it stands now. I strongly suspect that certain films could make this Top 10, including Selma, Song of the Sea, and Life Itself; time will tell. Also note that Whiplash is much higher when rated according to quality rather than its actual chances of a win.

Best Picture: Who Will Win

Boyhood

Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Selma

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Theory of Everything

The Imitation Game

Whiplash

American Sniper

This category is very hard to call this year. Easily the best film of the nominees is Birdman, but Boyhood is arguably just as bold an experiment; I strongly suspect that the Academy will go for the latter. The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game are unlikely but arguably in the running, while Selma could be the strongest spoiler, due to dissatisfaction over the film's perceived snubs. Whiplash lacks the box office to be a viable contender, and American Sniper has been sniped at relentlessly since garnering so many nods. So, Boyhood will likely win, Birdman could win, and Selma would be a surprise upset.

My 5 Best

Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Birdman: or (The Unxepected Virtue of Ignorance)

Isao Takahata, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

James Gunn, Guardians of the Galaxy

Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Quite a different setup than the actual nominees, isn't it? Though it is a really close call between Inarritu and Anderson, I love what Anderson did in The Grand Budapest Hotel. He is one of the few directors of talent whose films are almost always immediately recognizable as being by a particular filmmaker, and in a good way. However, Inarritu's film largely hinged on having a truly gifted director at the helm, and he did not fail his production. I give Isao Takahata a nod both for crafting a beautiful and moving work of art, and also out of respect for the man's entire career, while I give James Gunn a nod for taking what could have been a ho-hum (or worse, laughable) entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and instead making it into a solid classic. Finally Richard Linklater gets props for having the vision and tenacity to make Boyhood work--no mean feat. Granted, I still need to see Selma, Foxcatcher, Song of the Sea and Interstellar to feel confident that I have all I need to give my choices in this category true weight, but I'd say that's a solid top 5 regardless.

Best Director: Who Will Win

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher

This race is also not easy to call, though I'm quite confident that it will go to the talented Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. Both Birdman and Boyhood were bold experiments that would have been potentially disastrous in the hands of less sure-footed directors. In the end, it seems that Inarritu has more momentum, and has gotten stronger praise overall; also, I really think the Academy is going to spread the wealth this year, so a rare Best Picture/ Director split seems likely. The only strong choice for a spoiler is Wes Anderson; I am perennially shocked at his absence from most Oscar races, despite the fact that most people in the industry seem to hang on his every film, and all the more so that his three nominations this year are half of his total nods, and he has yet to win an Oscar. Sadly, he will almost surely be an also-ran this year, at least in two categories (this one and Best Picture). First-time nominee Morten Tyldum and two-time nominee Bennett Miller are the filler; they have no shot of winning this year.

My 5 Best

Michael Keaton, Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game

Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler

Interestingly enough, my top two picks are identical to my top two predictions for the actual winner of this category, right down to the hair's breadth difference in their rankings. I think Keaton should win, but I'm torn on whether he or Redmayne gave the better performance. My continual bellyaching about snubs in this category, however, does lead to the runners-up looking a little different, with Ralph Fiennes being a clearly deserving candidate and Jake Gyllenhaal rounding out the list. I really, really need to at least see Selma, Mr. Turner, Foxcatcher, Locke, Interstellar and American Sniper to be reasonably sure of my votes, but even as it stands that's one hell of a top five list.

Best Actor: Who Will Win

Michael Keaton, Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game

Steve Carell, Foxcatcher

Bradley Cooper, American Sniper

This is also one of the harder races to call with certainty this year, though I am reasonably confident that I've got it pegged. Michael Keaton is this year's Sandra Bullock/ Matthew McConaughey, a popular and well-liked actor who has been toiling away for years to at least occasionally solid box-office success but little awards recognition. The Academy loves to honor such people; that Keaton turned in what may be a career-best performance, and also that his secondary performance when he won the Golden Globe was incredibly well-received both bode very, very well for him, and I still consider him a sort-of safe bet. However, Eddie Redmayne's portrayal of Professor Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything was just about as brilliant; even discounting how well he handled emotions, dialogue and the like, the sheer PHYSICAL challenge of portraying a man dealing with ALS is staggering, and Redmayne rose to the challenge beautifully. The race could actually go either way, though I'll stick with Keaton as my vote. The only challenger remotely capable of pulling off an upset is Benedict Cumberbatch; his measured portrayal of Alan Turing may be HIS best work, and is well worth its nomination, though a win by him would be shocking. Though I have not yet seen Foxcatcher or American Sniper, the buzz (or lack thereof) seems to indicate that Ralph Fiennes, Jake Gyllenhaal or David Oyelowo (or any two of the three) should have had those two slots, and we might then have seen a slightly wider race.


My 4 Best

Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl

Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything

Elizabeth Banks, The Lego Movie

Angelina Jolie, Maleficent

Pretty sad, isn't it? I DO plan to add more actresses to that list, but this is a category in which I am often running to catch up going into Oscar season. Still, only four performances, and one of them almost tempting to put down as Razzie-worthy. Elizabeth Banks IS one of the stronger arguments of the year for Oscar categories for vocal acting, and Jones and Pike both deserve their Oscar nods. Frankly, I'm not sure which of the two I think is better in her role; Jones' character is more likeable by a far sight, but Pike had the sort of presence that made you take notice. I REALLY need to see Still Alice, Wild, The Immigrant, Interstellar and Two Days, One Night, even The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part One and the English dub for The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. Then this list should be far more interesting.

Best Actress: Who Will Win

Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Reese Witherspoon, Wild

Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl

Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything

Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night

Sadly, this is the one "major" category for which I'm running into the Oscars nearly blind, having seen only four films from this year that even have a lead actress, one of them animated and one in which the actress in question most assuredly did NOT bring her Oscar A-game (and she's a previous winner, too). Well, there was The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, but since I saw it in Japanese and it is the English-language release that is in contention, I'm not counting it here. However, I've read enough to know that multiple previous nominee (and previous multiple nominee) Julianne Moore is considered nearly a lock for the win for her portrayal of a woman dealing with early-onset Alzheimer's. For one, the Academy loves this sort of role; for another, Moore is a popular and well-liked actress that many feel is overdue for a win. She kind of combines into one the reasons why Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne are duking it out at the top of the Best Actor heap, making her win even more of a certainty. Early reports were that Reese Witherspoon's work in Wild was a frontrunner, but since Still Alice hit the scene she's been considered the spoiler. First-time British nominees Felicity Jones and Rosamund Pike were both excellent and could have an outside chance of either riding an unexpected wave of affection for her film (the former) or getting a sympathy vote by those who felt her film was gypped (the latter); brilliant French actress Marion Cotillard pulled the phenomenal feat of following her French-language WIN for La Vie en Rose with a nomination for another French-language role, but she hasn't a snowball's chance in hell this year. Most seem to feel this was a soft year for lead actresses overall, with Cotillard's role in a different film (The Immigrant) being one of the few possible snubbees.

My 5 Best

J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Edward Norton, Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Zach Galifianakis, Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Robert Redford, Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Riz Ahmed, Nightcrawler

Once again, this is J.K. Simmons' year, and I am cool with that. I am also cool with Edward Norton getting his first nod since the film that helped give him the reputation he lampoons here, American History X. His costar Zach Galifianakis is, I think, sorely underrated for playing friend and producer to Michael Keaton's director/ actor Riggan Thomson. Robert Redford and relative unknown Riz Ahmed also deeply impressed me, to the point that they push nominee Ethan Hawke out of my top five (Hawke is number six). I'll be watching The Judge in a few hours, and still need to see Foxcatcher, but overall I'm pretty confident in my picks for this category.

Who Will Win: Best Supporting Actor

J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Edward Norton, Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Ethan Hawke, Boyhood

Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher

Robert Duvall, The Judge

J.K. Simmons, a fine character actor sorely overlooked at least once before by Oscar (for his 2007 double threat of Juno and Spider-Man 3), is FINALLY getting his due; he has this win in a walk, and this category is one of the surest bets at this year's Oscars. Not only is he a likeable veteran actor people want to see given his due (you see a theme here?), he does a harrowingly great job of playing a thoroughly UNlikeable asshole in a film people LOVED. The only other contender in this race, frankly, is Edward Norton, who does a spot-on portrayal of his reputation as a prickly control-freak Method Actor in Birdman. This is Simmons' year, though, and while Norton could be a shocking upset the others have no shot at all of winning. The only people I'd even try to argue as snubs can be seen to the right in my personal top 5, but Simmons and Norton so thoroughly own this category I'm not nearly as concerned as I could be about those left out.

My 5 Best

Emma Stone, Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Naomi Watts, Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game

Carrie Coon, Gone Girl

Melissa Benoist, Whiplash

Notice anything odd about my list? That's right, no Patricia Arquette. She did a fine job in Boyhood--don't get me wrong--but I really don't see it being better than the above performances. In particular, the lovely Emma Stone gave a career-high performance that is fully Oscar-worthy; her co-star Naomi Watts did the same, and was the clearest and most egregious snub in this race. Keira Knightley did very well, and deserves her nomination, but I would not have her win for this. Here's where it gets a bit sticky, though. Carrie Coon was, I thought, about on par with both Arquette and Birdman's Andrea Riseborough; I went with Coon primarily because I thought she really helped anchor Gone Girl and I wanted to give a shout-out to a lesser-known actress than Arquette, and she would not be up against a ton of her co-stars like Riseborough. Benoist snuck into the middle of that group primarily because I actually thought she'd be more deserving of the nod, but her role was tiny. I HATE when Supporting nominees are bit players, hence my oft-suggested Best Bit-Player/ Cameo Oscar categories. I do still need to see a few films to be certain of my rankings here: Wild, Into the Woods, Interstellar, American Sniper and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part One come to mind. Overall, though, this is a solid Top 5, one which I'd consider quite interesting as the actual contenders.

Best Supporting Actress: Who Will Win

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Emma Stone, Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Laura Dern, Wild

Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game

Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

Much like the race for Best Actress, the race for Best Supporting Actress is almost--but not quite--a lock, with Patricia Arquette riding the same wave of "Let's give it to the one who's been plugging away for years without an Oscar!" that will help Michael Keaton, Julianne Moore and J.K. Simmons to their respective first Oscar wins. I say "almost" a lock since I think Emma Stone has just enough momentum behind her to possibly pull a shocking upset, and she and/or Edward Norton could be among the more surprising pieces of an eleventh hour push that results in Birdman practically sweeping the Oscars. It's not likely, but stranger things have happened. Laura Dern also has a sliver of a chance at a win, and Keira Knightley (rightly) will not win for her nominated performance. Meryl Streep will not win, and the buzz is that she shouldn't even be here. I mean, this is her NINETEENTH nomination! We get it Oscar, you love Meryl Streep! But, give someone else a chance, maybe? Like Naomi Watts, who gave one of her best performances yet in Birdman? Or Carrie Coon, who was one of the strongest performers in Gone Girl? I love Meryl Streep, but it gets to a point when you have to be REALLY critical of each new nomination, you know? Of course, I still need to see Into the Woods (and Wild), and since Arquette will win it's something of a moot point anyway, but it does cut into the legitimacy of the Oscars a bit to see someone get nominations almost as an automatic formality. I'd love to see Stone win, but it will be Arquette.

My 5 Best

Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo, Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, The Lego Movie

Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler

Richard Linklater, Boyhood

it's kind of funny, but even though the first two 2014 releases I saw (The Lego Movie and The Grand Budapest Hotel) had highly original screenplays, it wasn't until VERY recently that I had even five potential nominees in this category. As it is, I'm not satisified that my Top 5 is unassailable even in my eyes, but it's pretty durned good. Of the nominees, I still need to see Foxcatcher; also, Interstellar, Magic in the Moonlight, Mr. Turner, Selma, Begin Again, The Immigrant, Giovanni's Island, Two Days, One Night and Song of the Sea all must be seen before I can be satisfied.

Best Original Screenplay: Who Will Win

Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo, Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler

E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman, Foxcatcher

I've said it several times already, but I seriously think this is the year a lot of veterans will get their due. Therefore, Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness' whimsical, strange, and flat-out awesome screenplay for The Grand Budapest Hotel represents one of two categories in which that film will definitely win, if only so that Anderson can finally have an Oscar. Birdman could win if it has a major sweep, but is unlikely to do so otherwise; similarly, Boyhood has a tiny chance of winning as part of a sweep, and Nightcrawler could POSSIBLY get enough votes from people ticked off that this is its only nod, but Foxcatcher has zero chance of winning this one.

My 5 Best

James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, Guardians of the Galaxy

Graham Moore, The Imitation Game

Damien Chazelle, Whiplash

Dean DeBlois, How to Train Your Dragon 2

Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl

Man, even taking into account that I have not seen Inherent Vice or American Sniper, that's some change from the list on the left, isn't it? The Theory of Everything does ALMOST make the cut, and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is left off entirely because I've only seen the Japanese dub, and though the film COULD HAVE qualified for this year's Best Foreign Language Film race it would not be eligible in this category in this form. Anyway, Clearly, I feel that Guardians of the Galaxy was a huge snub, and How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Gone Girl could also be considered snubs. I won't rest easy, though, until I've seen a few more films, notably American Sniper, Inherent Vice, Unbroken, Still Alice, Wild, Into the Woods, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part One and Snowpiercer.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Who Will Win

Graham Moore, The Imitation Game

Anthony McCarten, The Theory of Everything

Damien Chazelle, Whiplash

Paul Thomas Anderson, Inherent Vice

Jason Hall, American Sniper

This is actually a pretty tough category to call, since none of these films have been particularly lauded for their screenplays. I think it comes down to The Imitation Game vs. The Theory of Everything, with Whiplash as a modestly likely spoiler. There is another category in which these two go head-to-head, and on the theory that the Academy will spread the wealth this year I'm going with The Imitation Game in this category. This is one of the races that I'm not terribly confident about, though. I am confident that there was a huge snub in the form of Guardians of the Galaxy and a probable snub in Gone Girl, particularly given the haters closing in on American Sniper and the utter lack of attention for Inherent Vice.

My 5 Best

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Big Hero 6

The Lego Movie

The Boxtrolls

Even though I readily concede that The Lego Movie's snub in this category was HUGE and relatively baffling, this is so very much Princess Kaguya's category that this is practically a moot point for me. I still say, though, that The Boxtrolls took Lego Movie's spot. All five of the films I've seen were excellent, though, and all arguably worthy of a nod. Naturally, since I've only seen five, take this list with a grain of salt; I must at least see Song of the Sea, Giovanni's Island and The Book of Life to be happy with my Top 5 Best Animated Features list.

Best Animated Feature: Who Will Win

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Big Hero 6

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Song of the Sea

The Boxtrolls

This is a category in which I am really going out on a limb. Honestly, my strong suspicion is that it will play out one of three ways: most people will vote for Big Hero 6, most people will vote for How to Train Your Dragon 2, or enough people will each vote for one of the two that the vote will essentially split, allowing Princess Kaguya to take the win. I'm banking on the latter. Isao Takahata is one of the finest artists in the history of cinema, and Princess Kaguya is a fitting final work for him; if he retires without winning a single competitive Oscar, it will be a criminal shame, made all the more so by his colleague and co-founder of Studio Ghibli--Hayao Miyazaki--having retired a few months prior and seen his own Oscar-nominated swan song be totally overpowered by Frozen. The fact that neither HTTYD2 or BH6 is the clear leader bodes well for Kaguya, as do the film's glowing reviews; both also make it all the more imperative that I put as much good vibe out there as I can on behalf of this film. I know I'm playing chances against the odds here, but I'm calling Kaguya to win. Here's another thought; maybe The Lego Movie got snubbed so that voters could pick Kaguya with a clean conscience? It's been known to happen. Incidentally, that was a HUGE snub, and hugely damaging to the reputation of the Oscars; a win by Kaguya will help ease some of those wounds.

My 5 Best

Cinematography:

Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Robert Yeoman, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Sharone Meir, Whiplash

Robert Elswit, Nightcrawler

Ben Davis, Guardians of the Galaxy

Production Design:

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

The Imitation Game

The Theory of Everything

Guardians of the Galaxy

One thing that truly pisses me off every year is the fact that animated films NEVER get nominated for Best Production Design. I checked the Academy bylaws--they ARE eligible, so why the hell don't they get nominated? Granted, my own list includes only one, but all five of the animated features I saw from 2014 were Oscar-level contenders, and the omission of The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is a truly criminal snub (The Lego Movie and Big Hero 6--which just misses my Top 5--could also be called snubs in this category). I am also surprised that The Theory of Everything and Birdman were not in contention here, and sorely disappointed at the snub for Guardians of the Galaxy. On the cinematography front, the camera was practically a second character in both Nightcrawler and Whiplash, and the visceral nature of both films was largely due to the camerawork; Guardians was on the opposite end of the spectrum, an epic space opera shot on an often epic scale. In both categories, I cannot comment on all the nominees, yet; I shall definitely have to see Mr. Turner, Unbroken, Ida, Interstellar, Into the Woods, The Book of Life, Song of the Sea, Giovanni's Island, American Sniper, Inherent Vice, Selma and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part One before I can be quite sure that both of these categories are ready to go.

Best Cinematography and Production Design: Who Will Win

Cinematography:

Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Robert Yeoman, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Roger Deakins, Unbroken

Dick Pope, Mr. Turner

Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski, Ida

Production Design:

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Interstellar

Mr. Turner

Into the Woods

The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of the most distinctive-LOOKING films out there, and these two categories represent two of the main reasons why. Indeed, the film is a practical lock for the Production Design award; however, it will lose the cinematography award to Birdman. There are two reasons why I am certain of this. One, the camerawork in Birdman is freakin' awesome. Emmanuel Lubezki won last year for his also-impressive work on Gravity, and the specter of a consecutive win and the possibility of a minor sweep for Hotel are the only things keeping him from being a total lock. Two, Birdman's BAFFLING lack of a Film Editing nomination can only be ascribed to everyone assuming the Editing gimmick at the center of Birdman was somehow mostly or entirely due to the camerawork and not, I don't know, film editing, making it even more likely that the Academy as a whole will vote for Birdman. Other than these two films, Unbroken has a tiny chance at a Cinematography upset, due to valued cameraman Roger Deakins being nominated for Oscar a TWELFTH FREAKIN' TIME without EVER having won. On the Production Design front, both The Imitation Game and Interstellar have potential, but they are highly doubtful for the win.


My 5 Best

Costume Design:

Guardians of the Galaxy

The Imitation Game

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Theory of Everything

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Makeup and Hairstyling: (screw Academy rules--I'm doing 5)

Guardians of the Galaxy

Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

The Imitation Game

Gone Girl

X-Men: Days of Future Past

I must concede that here is where we start to tread into waters where I am less informed and acting more on gut feeling. I do believe that both Guardians of the Galaxy and The Imitation Game could possibly be counted as snubs in the Costume Design category, while Birdman struck me as having particularly impressive Makeup. I must make a point, though, to watch Foxcatcher, Mr. Turner, Inherent Vice, Into the Woods, Wild, Interstellar and Unbroken to be sure of my nominations here.

Best Costume Design and Makeup: Who Will Win

Costume Design:

Mr. Turner

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Into the Woods

Inherent Vice

Maleficent

Makeup and Hairstyling:

Foxcatcher

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Guardians of the Galaxy

Wow, it's actually spelled out in the Academy bylaws that there can only be three nominees in the Makeup and Hairstyling category. Why is that, do you think? Did someone in that branch piss off the Board of Governors or something? At any rate, I'm having second thoughts about whether it will be Foxcatcher for the win in this category; in both of these categories The Grand Budapest Hotel is a solid contender, and it could grab both as part of a sweep of the "below-the-bar" artistic awards. That said, I do still think the Academy will see fit to distribute the wealth this year, and this seems Foxcatcher's strongest bet. Don't discount Guardians either, though; this is one of the few categories without a clear non-starter. Also, I think the Academy'll want to give Guardians something, but it's hard to say whether it'll end up being able to win in either this category or Best Visual Effects. As far as Costume Design, I went with Mr. Turner for three reasons. The first is my "spreading the wealth" theory. The second is that this is not the first Mike Leigh film nominated in this category, and his Topsy-Turvy won back in 2000. The third is that, in my experience at least, the Costume Design winner is more likely than not a film that gets no other Oscars, and is usually one nominated for few to no other Oscars, making Mr. Turner a stronger candidate than Hotel. There are also a lot of people in the Academy partial to Mike Leigh, and a lot of people upset at some of the film's perceived snubs. The other contenders are all viable as well (Maleficent has the "nominated for nothing else" thing going for it), but in the end I think it'll be Mr. Turner dressing up smartly for Oscar.

My 5 Best

Visual Effects:

Guardians of the Galaxy

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Nightcrawler

Film Editing:

Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Whiplash

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Gone Girl

Well, show of hands, who's surprised Birdman tops my list of best-edited films of the year. Actually, I hadn't realized until just now how weak my Visual Effects list is. The effects in Birdman and Nightcrawler were well-done, but Oscar-worthy? However, the three Oscar nominees that top my list all fully deserve their nominations, and once I see Interstellar, Snowpiercer, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part One I suspect I'll have a better list to choose from. The Film Editing list is strong, though. Not only is the editing in Birdman phenomenal, but so is the editing for Whiplash. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Gone Girl are all awesomely edited, and two films that just miss my Top 5 are both deserving Oscar nominees, The Imitation Game and Boyhood. I still could use a few more, though, to fill in the gaps; American Sniper and Selma are a bare minimum for this category.

Best Visual Effects and Film Editing: Who Will Win

Visual Effects:

Guardians of the Galaxy

Interstellar

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Film Editing:

Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Whiplash

American Sniper

The Imitation Game

As noted before, HOW DID THE ACADEMY OVERLOOK BIRDMAN FOR FILM EDITING?!? At any rate, Richard Linklater likely has this one in the bag for Boyhood, simply for taking hours upon hours of footage shot over twelve years and splicing together a rather seamless motion picture. The strongest potential spoiler is The Grand Budapest Hotel, especially if it gets partial sweep; Whiplash could also sneak in there, and the other two options are not totally DOA. As far as Visual Effects, it's basically a three-way race between Guardians of the Galaxy, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Interstellar. I'm going with Guardians, but both that and Interstellar could get the sympathy vote here, and I've heard that the visuals in both Interstellar are DOTPOTA are pretty phenomenal, so I'm not holding my breath for a win in this category.

My 5 Best

Original Score:

Alexandre Desplat, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Johann Johannsson, The Theory of Everything

Alexandre Desplat, The Imitation Game

Joe Hisaishi, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Justin Hurwitz, Whiplash

Original Song:

Jeff Tweedy, "Summer Noon," Boyhood

Ethan Hawke, "Ryan's Song," Boyhood

Shawn Patterson, "Everything Is Awesome," The Lego Movie

Eric Idle, "The Boxtrolls Song," The Boxtrolls

Jon Thor Birgisson and John Powell, "Where No One Goes," How to Train Your Dragon 2

Sadly, I again have a really weak category, at least if you limit it to songs from movies I've seen. I have heard all the nominees, and "Glory" and "I'm Not Gonna Miss You" would definitely make my Top 5, maybe even "Lost Stars." But I can't count them without seeing the movies they come from, now can I? That said the two songs from Boyhood are quite good, and I enjoy the one from The Boxtrolls. Perhaps once I see Selma, Begin Again, Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part One I'll be set to go on the songs. As for the scores, I've got a pretty awesome group of nominees. The two scores by Alexandre Desplat and their fellow nominee by Johann Johannsson alone make it a better-than usual assemblage of movie music; the addition of Joe Hisaishi's lovely score for Princess Kaguya and Justin Hurwitz's jazzy beat for Whiplash makes it one hell of a Top 5. Sadly, the Academy would beg to differ, since the rather stupid rules regarding Oscar consideration of music apparently make the score of Whiplash ineligible for consideration; I don't care, I'm counting it anyway. Once again, we need a Best Use of Music in Film Oscar that can celebrate a movie's ability to utilize music to better tell a story, regardless of whether the music itself is freakin' original or not. At any rate, I absolutely CANNOT be satisified with my list until I hear Bruno Coulais' score for Song of the Sea. His previous collaboration with that filmmaking team, The Secret of Kells, was one of the best scores I've EVER heard; the same year, he did an almost-as-awesome score for Coraline. If he doesn't score an Oscar nod soon, I'll suspect foul play. I'll also definitely have to hear the nominated scores for Interstellar and Mr. Turner.

Best Original Score and Original Song: Who Will Win

Original Score:

Johann Johannsson, The Theory of Everything

Alexandre Desplat, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Alexandre Desplat, The Imitation Game

Hans Zimmer, Interstellar

Gary Yershon, Mr. Turner

Original Song:

Shawn Patterson, "Everything Is Awesome," The Lego Movie

Common and John Legend, "Glory," Selma

Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois, "Lost Stars," Begin Again

Glenn Campbell and Julian Raymond, "I'm Not Gonna Miss You," Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me

Diane Warren, "Grateful," Beyond the Lights

I mentioned earlier another category in which The Theory of Everything is going more-or-less head-to-head with The Imitation Game--it is the Best Original Score category. Both films sport freakin' awesome scores. In the end, I went ahead and picked this to be the token win for Theory of Everything, with the idea that having not one but two awesome Alexandre Desplat scores (the other being for The Grand Budapest Hotel) would split the vote and allow Johann Johannsson's work to shine through. However, there is always the possibility of Hotel taking a sweep of most of the "minor" categories, including this one. Also, I love Alexandre Desplat's work, and though the two nods this year make eight nods in as many years, the man has yet to win an Oscar, so I kinda want to pull for him. Ah, well, what will be will be. There is also the tiny chance that I'll be angered by Interstellar pulling off an upset--I fail to see why people love Hans Zimmer so much, but they do. As for the song category, there was a time when a nomination for Diane Warren would practically equate a win--thank God those days are over. This category is more notable for having the apparently final recording of a musical legend (Glen Campbell) up against not one but TWO films hoping to make up for criminal snubs in other areas, The Lego Movie and Selma. I went with the infectious electrobeat earworm "Everything Is Awesome" without sitting down and listening to the soaring "Glory," and now I'm convinced I've backed the wrong horse, as it were. It still could go either way, though, so we'll see.

My 5 Best

Sound Mixing:

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Whiplash

The Lego Movie

Birdman: or (The Unxepected Virtue of Ignorance)

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Sound Effects Editing:

Whiplash

The Lego Movie

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Big Hero 6

Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

I truly fail to see why animated features are ignored in the sound categories. I also feel that Whiplash was likely snubbed in the Sound Editing category. However, I am definitely no expert on sound, so you may take these comments with a grain of salt. I think my list is good, but the official Oscar list looks pretty good too. Naturally, I need to make a point to see the rest of the nominees: Interstellar, American Sniper, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies and Unbroken.

Best Sound Mixing and Sound Effects Editing: Who Will Win

Sound Mixing:

Whiplash

American Sniper

Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Interstellar

Unbroken

Sound Effects Editing:

American Sniper

Interstellar

Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Unbroken

Okay, now we have the categories involving mainstream films that hardly anybody understands or pays attention to. I kid, somewhat, but it seriously is harder for the layman to judge these two categories than almost any other. That said, I flatter myself that despite my tin ear I can at least do a decent job with these; also, I believe that there are certain tells, if you will, as to what kind of film will appeal to Oscar. Given this, Whiplash is almost certain to get a nod for Sound Mixing, with American Sniper almost as certain to win the Sound Editing award. The Academy will probably want to give at least one award to Sniper, and both contemporary war films and Clint Eastwood films have a proven track record in the sound categories. Sniper could even take both awards, but the phenomenal use of actual musical performances in Whiplash should easily allow that film to drum away the competition, and I honestly think it was probably snubbed by not getting a Sound Editing nomination. Either Birdman or Interstellar could pick up one or both awards, but such a things seems less likely than otherwise. Expect American Sniper to win Best Sound Editing, and Whiplash to get Best Sound Mixing.

And the Rest...

And now, my hub is finally drawing to a close. I do hope you have enjoyed my take on the films of 2014, as well as the likely outcome of the Oscars for those films. Real quickly, I'd like to share my remaining predictions. Since I have not seen any of the documentaries of 2014, I did not want to follow the same format as with the other categories. My prediction is that CitizenFour is going to be the clear winner; I would be saying this for the Roger Ebert documentary Life Itself, except that--funny story--it's NOT EVEN NOMINATED. Go figure; it's only Roger Ebert, a man who lived movies. Surely Hollywood would like to honor that? No? Okay, on to the next then. I also can only count one film--by slightly stretching Academy rules--on my foreign language film list, the original version of Kaguya-hime no Monogatari (The Tale of the Princess Kaguya). Of the actual nominees, it seems a toss-up between Golden Globe-winner Leviathan and double Oscar-nominee Ida; I choose Leviathan. Finally, I'm totally spitballing here, but my picks for the short films are as follows: The Reaper (La Parka)--Documentary; Feast--Animated; and Boogaloo and Graham--Live Action. Anyway, we find out tonight if I have been right, or if I should really watch more movies before making my next Oscar post. As always, happy viewing!

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    • Cheeky Kid profile image

      Cheeky Kid 2 years ago from Milky Way

      The 2014 movies I truly enjoyed the most are; X-Men: Days of Future Past, Guardians of the Galaxy, Maleficent, How to Train a Dragon 2, and most especially...Big Hero 6. :D

    • kotobukijake profile image
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      kotobukijake 2 years ago

      Thanks for the comment, Cheeky Kid. Those were indeed all fun films, and all could have used a bit more Oscar love. I don't get the hate on Big Hero 6 just because "It's not a faithful adaptation of the source material" or "It's not Disney enough." It was, I thought, as bold an experiment in animation as Disney is likely to make, and they pulled it off really well. It's just a crime animated films can't be a bigger part of the Oscar conversation, yes? Of course, as you know by now, I am pulling for Princess Kaguya--I just think it would be beyond shameful for the Oscars to let BOTH of the brilliant filmmakers who helped found Studio Ghibli retire without awarding at least one of their swan songs.

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