Friday, January 16, 2015

Oscars 2014: Nomination Prediction Results (with bonus analysis!)

As I frantically scrolled through the list of Oscar nominations this morning, I realized something odd: For the most part, I didn't really care who was nominated. Sure, I preferred some candidates to others, and as a matter of quasi-professional pride, I wanted to perform well in my predictions. (For the record, I went 55-for-69, good for a solid but unremarkable 80%.) But as I started scanning the collective of this year's Academy Award representatives, I realized that only one scenario would break my heart: if Whiplash failed to receive a Best Picture nomination. Beyond that, my casual rooting interest seemed disproportionate to the level of obsession I place on analyzing the Oscars in the first place.

Still, one omission from yesterday's announcement infuriated me, and it came in one of the few categories I didn't even bother to predict. I've had an uneasy relationship with the Best Animated Feature category for some time, though I've gradually, grudgingly acknowledged its utility (highlighting the merits of a number of movies that would other be ignored as "kiddie fare"), even as I remain wary of its larger implications (marginalizing those same movies by roping them off into their own special category, a form of cinematic discrimination). But my general antipathy toward the category couldn't prevent my eyes from bulging in disbelief as I read the five contenders that will comprise this year's field. Not among them: The LEGO Movie.

So yeah, those were my two biggest takeaways from this year's slate of Oscar nominations. The good news: Whiplash did indeed earn that Best Picture nomination. The bad news: The voters somehow decided that they liked five different animated films more than The LEGO Movie. I'm not sure I want to live in a universe where that's possible.

But so it goes. On to a quick analysis of this year's nominations (incorrect predictions are in red):


BEST PICTURE
American Sniper
Birdman
Boyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Selma
The Theory of Everything
Whiplash
Nightcrawler

Analysis: I vowed to get this category perfect for the second consecutive year, and in a way, I did. That is, I correctly predicted each of the eight Best Picture nominees that were recognized. But my conscience refuses to permit me to claim perfection, as for the first time since the Academy expanded to its floating 5-to-10 system, it selected fewer than nine films, meaning my pick of Nightcrawler was inaccurate. Perfection will have to wait another year. Damn my conscience.

Current favorite: Boyhood. It's hardly a lock at this point, as Birdman, The Imitation Game, and The Grand Budapest Hotel could all play spoiler. (All earned more nominations overall, one should note.) But right now, Richard Linklater's 12-years-in-the-making opus is the one to beat.

Snubbed: Gone Girl. It was a massive hit, it captured the zeitgeist for months, and it's a sizzling example of sleek, electric filmmaking. In failing to honor it, the Academy missed a golden opportunity to debunk the notion that it's out-of-touch with moviegoing audiences.


BEST DIRECTOR
Wes Anderson—The Grand Budapest Hotel
Alejandro González Iñárritu—Birdman
Richard Linklater—Boyhood
Morten Tyldum—The Imitation Game
Clint Eastwood—American Sniper Bennett Miller—Foxcatcher

Analysis: In characterizing Miller as a longshot, I noted that Foxcatcher needed to get a Best Picture nomination in order for him to have a chance. There's a reason I said that: Since the Academy expanded to beyond five nominees in 2008, no director has received a nomination without a corresponding Best Picture nod. Go figure. Still, Miller's authorial fingerprints are all over Foxcatcher, so it's a reasonable selection, if not one I personally support.

Current favorite: Linklater. Iñárritu is the best shot at a challenger, given that Birdman is so much flashier than Boyhood from a visual perspective, but the Texan should take this one.

Snubbed: Christopher Nolan—Interstellar. The movie isn't perfect, but Nolan's staggering ambition and complete command were simply stunning.


BEST ACTOR
Benedict Cumberbatch—The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton—Birdman
Eddie Redmayne—The Theory of Everything
Ralph Fiennes—The Grand Budapest Hotel Steve Carell—Foxcatcher
Jake Gyllenhaal—Nightcrawler Bradley Cooper—American Sniper

Analysis: I only missed multiple nominees in two categories. Here's one, and while I knew Fiennes was a shaky bet, I'm shocked that Gyllenhaal couldn't crack the field. Clearly, Nightcrawler's buzz wasn't as strong as I perceived. I'm also siding with the BAFTAs and declaring Carell a supporting actor in Foxcatcher, but voters took the bait.

Current favorite: This one's a toss-up right now between Keaton and Redmayne, while Cumberbatch isn't far behind. If Birdman makes a major push across the board, then Keaton should take this one; otherwise, I suspect the visible physicality of Redmayne's performance will carry the day.

Snubbed: Tom Hardy—Locke. This is a loaded field every year—Hollywood is just overflowing with acting talent right now—but it's a pity the Academy couldn't make room for Hardy's mesmerizing solo work.


BEST ACTRESS
Felicity Jones—The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore—Still Alice
Rosamund Pike—Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon—Wild
Amy Adams—Big Eyes Marion Cotillard—Two Days, One Night

Analysis: See, I knew Jennifer Aniston wasn't getting in! Of course, my replacement pick of Adams didn't pan out, as Cotillard snuck in instead. In related news, does anyone have a spare screener of Two Days, One Night lying around?

Current favorite: Moore. If Gone Girl had made a better showing overall, I'd be keeping my eye on Pike, but it got trounced, so she's likely faded from the scene (though not from the audience's memory).

Snubbed: Shailene Woodley—The Fault in Our Stars. No, I will not be quiet. You can't ignore her forever, Oscar voters.


BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Ethan Hawke—Boyhood
Edward Norton—Birdman
Mark Ruffalo—Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons—Whiplash
Josh Brolin—Inherent Vice Robert Duvall—The Judge

Analysis: An anticipated failure. (Though if I'd seen Inherent Vice then, as I have now, I likely wouldn't have pegged Brolin as my upset pick.) I guess this means I need to see The Judge now. Suffice it to say I'm rather less enthused about tracking that one down than I am Two Days, One Night.

Current favorite: Simmons. And if you aren't hoping that he waits for the orchestra to play him off the stage, then glares at them and barks, "Not quite my tempo," then I don't know what you're doing here.

Snubbed: Christoph Waltz—Big Eyes. I imagine voters are tired of him after he won this category twice in a four-year span, but the guy just keeps finding new, more terrifying ways to be scary.


BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Patricia Arquette—Boyhood
Keira Knightley—The Imitation Game
Emma Stone—Birdman
Meryl Streep—Into the Woods
Rene Russo—Nightcrawler Laura Dern—Wild

Analysis: Dern's shocking nomination was my first "I did NOT see that coming!" moment.

Current favorite: Arquette. The only way she loses is if Birdman sweeps, allowing Stone to score the upset.

Snubbed: Tilda Swinton—Snowpiercer. Know your place. Be a shoe. Nominate Tilda Swinton.





BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Birdman—Alejandro González Iñárritu et al.
Boyhood—Richard Linklater
The Grand Budapest Hotel—Wes Anderson, Hugo Guinness
Nightcrawler—Dan Gilroy
Selma—Paul Webb Foxcatcher—E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman

Analysis: Foxcatcher had the WGA nod, so this wasn't entirely unexpected. Between this, Miller, and Carell all scoring nominations, you have to believe that the movie just barely missed cracking the Best Picture lineup.

Current favorite: Probably Boyhood, though its loose, meandering story might encourage voters to stray for something meatier (like Birdman) or quirkier (like The Grand Budapest Hotel).

Snubbed: Dear White People—Justin Simien. This ambitious, provocative script deserved a bigger audience than it got.


BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
American Sniper—Jason Hall
The Imitation Game—Graham Moore
The Theory of Everything—Anthony McCarter
Whiplash—Damien Chazelle
Gone Girl—Gillian Flynn Inherent Vice—Paul Thomas Anderson

Analysis: As I stated repeatedly when making my picks, not seeing a movie often puts me at a severe disadvantage when predicting the Oscars. Well, I've since seen Inherent Vice, and I'll be honest: After watching it, I still never would have thought it had a chance for a screenplay nomination. Actor and cinematography, yes. Screenplay? No chance. (Apparently, there was a chance.)

Current favorite: Probably The Imitation Game, since it has the strongest Best Picture chances of this crowd. But the field is basically wide-open.

Snubbed: Gone Girl—Gillian Flynn. I am speechless. I am without speech.


BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Birdman—Emmanuel Lubezki
The Grand Budapest Hotel—Robert D. Yeoman
Unbroken—Roger Deakins
The Imitation Game—Óscar Faura Ida—Lukasz Zal, Ryszard Lynzewski
Interstellar—Hoyte Van Hoytema Mr. Turner—Dick Pope

Analysis: The other category where I missed multiple selections. I've yet to see Mr. Turner, but I'm very pleased that Ida's luminescent black-and-white photography earned recognition.

Current favorite: Birdman. Move along.

Snubbed: The Immigrant—Darius Khondji. Its release was too small to garner notice from the Academy, but voters missed a marvel of precise framing and supple lighting.


BEST FILM EDITING
American Sniper—Joel Cox, Gary Roach
Boyhood—Sandra Adair
The Grand Budapest Hotel—Barney Pilling
The Imitation Game—William Goldenberg
The Theory of Everything—Jinx Godfrey Whiplash—Tom Cross

Analysis: I'm happy to be in the wrong here, as Cross' exacting editing helped capture Whiplash's obsession with rhythm.

Current favorite: None. They're all Best Picture nominees, and there isn't a runaway technical marvel in the field like last year with Gravity. This category is going to ruin a lot of Oscar pools.

Snubbed: Edge of Tomorrow—James Herbert, Laura Jennings. I realize that Edge of Tomorrow was never going to gain the respect it deserves, but the lack of appreciation for its incredibly meticulous editing is just criminal.


BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
The Grand Budapest Hotel—Alexandre Desplat
The Imitation Game—Alexandre Desplat
Interstellar—Hans Zimmer
The Theory of Everything—Jóhann Jóhannsson
Gone Girl—Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross Mr. Turner—Gary Yershon

Analysis: Ouch. Reznor and Ross have already bagged a pair of Oscars, but this is probably the strongest score they've ever produced. Pity.

Current favorite: None. You can eliminate Mr. Turner, but otherwise, everyone has a shot here. Zimmer will hope that Desplat splits votes after scoring two different Best Picture nominees.

Snubbed: Gone Girl—Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross. I'm trying not to repeat the same selection in too many different categories here, but Gone Girl's score practically feels corporeal—it's that critical to the movie's success.


BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Interstellar
Into the Woods
Mr. Turner

Analysis: My one perfect category. Well, you know, unless you count Best Picture.

Current favorite: The Grand Budapest Hotel, aka The World's Most Punctilious Dollhouse.

Snubbed: The Double. The movie is downright weird, but it sure does look terrific.


BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Guardians of the Galaxy
Interstellar
X-Men: Days of Future Past
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Analysis: Voters really didn't take kindly to the final Hobbit movie. If nothing else, it's cool that we can now refer to the excellent Captain America sequel as "The Oscar-nominated Winter Soldier".

Current favorite: It should be Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in a walkover, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Guardians of the Galaxy could make a push here. Also, I am Groot.

Snubbed: None. I'm actually quite happy with this field, which is not a phrase I'll be repeating all that often over the next month.


Speaking of which, stick with us over the coming month for category-by-category analysis.

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