Cinema Chatter #36 - Speculation

I’ve always had an unhealthy fixation with the Academy Awards, futilely hoping for the best and constantly disappointed by its worst. While I usually follow the year-long build up to the ceremony, it was last year’s omission of Joel and Ethan Coen’s Inside Llewyn Davis that was the last straw. I simply could no longer absorb such a crushing and disappointing blow like that again. So, I gave it up. No longer was I following the awards’ calendar or regional critic citations with the same sort of fervor that I once had done. Though this increasingly bizarre awards season ultimately proved too strange to abstain for long. It’s this year where Richard Linklater and Wes Anderson are emerging as potential Oscar juggernauts. Think of how laughable that would have seemed 20 years ago. Or consider that the Belgium brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have a legitimate, albeit fringe, best actress contender in Marion Cotillard. It’s possible. But I do this every year. I ignore the negatives while highlighting the positives - after all, Birdman and The Theory of Everything are clearly major players in the field as well. Fool me once…

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Best Picture
American Sniper
Birdman
Boyhood
Foxcatcher
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Nightcrawler
Selma
The Theory of Everything
Whiplash

Possibilities: Gone Girl, Unbroken
Could Surprise: Interstellar
I'm currently predicting a ten-slate, which rumor has it might be a statistical impossibility. Regardless, the wide-spread guild support found for these films suggests the possibility that there might be ten and it’s difficult to rationalize what could possibly be omitted. Nightcrawler and Gone Girl seem to have cannibalized each other’s votes over the course of the early precursor stage, enough to the point that it might open the doors for something like American Sniper or Unbroken. Foxcatcher, too, has been saddled with the “cold” moniker that was passed onto Inside Llewyn Davis - enough to scare off prognosticators from thinking it would make the field of ten. Still, these three films -(Nightcrawler, Gone Girl, and Foxcatcher) have achieved citations throughout the industry - SAG, PGA, WGA, etc - which was not the case for the Coens’ film. Something will have to give. 

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Best Director
Clint Eastwood, American Sniper
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
James Marsh, The Theory of Everything

Possibilities: David Fincher, Gone Girl, Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher, Mortem Tydlum, The Imitation Game
Could Surprise: Damian Chazelle, Whiplash, Ava DuVernay, Selma, Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler
I would like to think that someone like David Fincher or Bennett Miller could sneak in here, or even Ava DuVernay. But I have to consider the BAFTA contingent, enough so to nominate James Marsh in its Best Director field despite the wealth of competition. While many anticipated Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner to gain traction in the race from a British bump, it’s been Marsh’s work that’s been all over the place. I don’t think the film is poised to win Best Picture or Director, but with a possible Best Actor win the film is gearing for a hearty nomination haul.

Best Actor
Michael Keaton, Birdman
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler
David Oyelowo, Selma
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Possibilities: Bradley Cooper, American Sniper, Steve Carell, Foxcatcher, Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Could Surprise: Oscar Isaac, A Most Violent Year
Truly, this is one of the hardest categories to predict, in large part due to the variety of contenders vying for such limited space. While there may seem to be a degree of certainty among some nominees - namely Michael Keaton, Eddie Redmayne, and Benedict Cumberbatch - it strikes me as increasingly possible that one of those three may miss. Call it a hunch.

Best Actress
Amy Adams, Big Eyes
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
Reese Witherspoon, Wild

Possibilities: Jennifer Aniston, Cake, Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night
Could Surprise: Scarlett Johansson, Under the Skin
Devoid of studio-driven contenders, prognosticators have indicated a dearth of quality female performances. That’s all pretty silly, though it’s a worldview that’s clearly been embraced given the repetitive cycle of nominees found throughout the precursors. Jennifer Aniston’s dubious campaigning may ultimately result in a SAG nominee alignment, though ultimately I think that Amy Adams is too beloved to really be ignored here. And compounded by a Weinstein backing, that may simply be all there needs to be to secure that final spot. Of all the categories, this is the one that’s felt too gratingly cemented from the early going to really be shaken.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Christoph Waltz, Big Eyes
Edward Norton, Birdman
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
JK Simmons, Whiplash

Possibilities: Robert Duvall, The Judge, Tom Wilkinson, Selma
Could Surprise: Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Robert Duvall is the likelier option, though I suppose it’s Christoph Waltz’ recent Oscar history and newer film that makes me believe he may spoil. Same logic applies to Tom Wilkinson in Selma, though the critical beating the picture has taken - regarding it’s politics and Wilkinson’s portrayal - suggests there may be hesitation. Carrell could very well be an option - though would a category shift siphon votes from his Foxcatcher costar Ruffalo and not for the fluid fifth spot?

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Emma Stone, Birdman
Keira Knightly, The Imitation Game
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods
Rene Russo, Nightcrawler

Possibilities: Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year, Naomi Watts, St. Vincent
Could Surprise: Tilda Swinton, Snowpiercer, Laura Dern, Wild
Like many of the other categories, potential nominees find comfort in a fluid fifth spot. But I’m beginning to wonder just how locked-in presumed nominees - like Keira Knightly or even Meryl Streep - may actually be. A legitimate case could be made for any of the four actresses on the fringe, substituting not just fifth-slot Rene Russo, but also any other actress in this category not named Patricia Arquette.

Best Original Screenplay
Alejandro González Iñárritu, et al.,, Birdman
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler
Paul Webb, Selma

Best Cinematography
Emmanuel Lubezki , Birdman
Robert D. Yeoman , The Grand Budapest Hotel
Ryszard Lenczewski and Lukasz Zal, Ida
Oscar Faura, The Imitation Game
Dick Pope, Mr. Turner

Best Original Score
Gone Girl
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Interstellar
The Theory of Everything
Under the Skin

Best Film Editing
American Sniper 
Birdman

Boyhood
Gone Girl
Whiplash

Best Production Design
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Into the Woods
Mr. Turner
Unbroken

Best Sound Editing
American Sniper
Interstellar
Guardians of the Galaxy
Into the Woods
Unbroken

Best Animated Film
Big Hero 6
How to Train Your Dragon 2
The Lego Movie
Song of the Sea

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Best Foreign Language Film
Georgia, Corn Island
Sweden, Force Majeure
Poland, Ida
Russia, Leviathan
Estonia, Tangerines

Best Adapted Screenplay
Jason Hall, American Sniper
Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl
Graham Moore, The Imitation Game
Anthony McCarten , The Theory of Everything
Damien Chazelle, Whiplash

Best Costume Design
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Into the Woods
The Theory of Everything
Selma

Best Original Song
Begin Again
Big Eyes
The Hunger Games - Mockingjay Part 1
The Lego Movie
Selma

Best Make-Up
Guardians of the Galaxy
Foxcatcher
The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Visual Effects
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Godzilla
Guardians of the Galaxy
Interstellar
Maleficent

Best Sound Mixing
American Sniper
Interstellar
Into the Woods
Unbroken
Whiplash

Best Documentary
Citizenfour
Keep on Keepin’ On
Last Days in Vietnam
Life Itself
Tales of the Grim Reaper

Nomination Tally
The Grand Budapest Hotel - 8
Birdman - 8

The Imitation Game - 7
The Theory of Everything - 7

American Sniper - 6
Boyhood - 6
Whiplash - 6
Into the Woods - 5
Selma - 5

Gone Girl - 4
Interstellar - 4

Nightcrawler - 4
Big Eyes - 3
Foxcatcher - 3
Guardians of the Galaxy -3
Unbroken - 3

Ida - 2
The Lego Movie - 2
Mr. Turner - 2

Begin Again - 1
Big Hero 6 - 1
Citizenfour - 1
Corn Island - 1
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - 1
Force Majeure - 1
Godzilla - 1
The Hunger Games - Mockingjay Part 1 - 1
Keep on Keepin’ On - 1
Last Days in Vietnam - 1
Leviathan - 1
Life Itself - 1
Maleficent - 1
Song of the Sea - 1
Still Alice - 1
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya - 1
Tales of the Grim Reaper -1
Tangerines -1
Under the Skin - 1
Wild - 1