Earlier this week, I wrote that I don’t feel very excited about this year’s Academy Awards. But I used to do Oscar predictions annually at my personal blog (self-indulgent link), haven’t done so in a couple of years and kind of miss it. So here are my picks for the 2015 Oscars. Unfortunately, I think I picked a year without much suspense to get back into this game.
Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette
This is probably the lock of the night. For one thing, the competition in this category isn’t very formidable. I think there’s also a strong sentiment that Arquette is the best thing about Boyhood, whether you like the concept or not. The comments from the anonymous Academy voter about Arquette deserving “bonus points” for not having work done during the past 12 years drive me crazy, but I don’t think she’s alone in that sentiment. Besides, it’ll be nice for Arquette to remind everyone of this honor when we’re wincing at the clunker lines she seems to be given on the upcoming CSI: Cyber.
Best Supporting Actor: J.K. Simmons
Not much suspense here either. This award belongs to Simmons for perhaps the most memorable performance in a movie this year, terrorizing Miles Teller as the music instructor from hell in Whiplash. Simmons has done great work in character parts for film and TV for years, and it’s time he got some recognition for a long overdue featured role. Ethan Hawke could pull the upset here, but he’s overshadowed by Arquette in Boyhood. Please allow me to use one sentence to point out how ludicrous it is that Robert Duvall was nominated in this category for The Judge.
Best Actor: Michael Keaton
All right — now we have an interesting category. First, I can’t overlook the snub of David Oyelowo, who deserves a nomination for his portrayal of Martin Luther King in Selma far more than Steve Carell’s work in Foxcatcher. Carell obviously gets points for acting in comedies previously, but his performance is hidden underneath a bunch of prosthetics. I could see Eddie Redmayne getting this for his role as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. However, Keaton has been the talk of Hollywood and awards season since Birdman hit theaters. His comeback (if he ever truly went away) is a compelling story, and there would be a sense of rewarding career achievement in an Oscar win.
Best Actress: Julianne Moore
To be fair, I’ve only seen two of the five performances nominated here. And I think Felicity Jones was tremendous in The Theory of Everything. But in this case, being nominated is her award. Reese Witherspoon winning for Wild would be fun, as I think it’s pretty cool that she created a great role for herself as a producer. I’ve heard that Still Alice is not a good movie, but features a typically great performance from Moore. Since she’s very good in just every role she plays and it’s kind of amazing that one of our finest actresses has yet to win an Oscar, this is long overdue. I’m more curious about Moore’s acceptance speech, which could either be inspiring or embarrassingly bad.
Best Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu
It’s always slightly annoying when a filmmaker wins Best Director, yet his movie doesn’t win Best Picture. How does that work exactly? We think he’s the top director, but his film? Eh, not so much. But these are separate categories for a reason, and I think this year presents a good example of that. Birdman was something of a revelation for Iñárritu, whose filmography consists largely of bleak endeavors like Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Babel. Who knew he had something comparatively fun and energetic in him? Birdman‘s long, winding takes set a tone for the film and its lead character, making it feel unlike anything else seen last year. But man, it would be cool if Wes Anderson got this.
Best Picture: Boyhood
Is Boyhood Richard Linklater’s best film? I would say no, and that’s why he won’t win Best Director but his movie will win Best Picture. (I haven’t seen every one of Linklater’s 17 films, but would nominate Before Sunset or A Scanner Darkly as his best work.) My guess is that Hollywood and Academy voters love Boyhood for showing what’s possible with cinema, playing with time to show us something that a book or song wouldn’t be able to. I also think that while some may be in love with Birdman now, especially for what it says about art and criticism, it’s not going to hold up in 10 or 20 years. That hasn’t mattered with past Best Picture winners (Crash, Shakespeare in Love, Forrest Gump), but it should have.
As a writer, I also have love for the screenwriting awards, though I don’t know how much the Oscar audience cares. Paul Thomas Anderson adapted a Thomas Pynchon novel with Inherent Vice. How can he not win Best Adapted Screenplay? Yet I think this will be the one Oscar that American Sniper wins. For Best Original Screenplay, I see Wes Anderson getting some love for The Grand Budapest Hotel. That is an extremely quick, witty script. Yes, he needs the actors to pull it off, but that writing attracts those actors in the first place.
One more prediction, maybe the most important of all: The Oscars telecast will end at 12:09 a.m. ET. There will be a nap the following Monday.