WeMissE’s Annual Oscar Predictions

Can it really be Oscar weekend already?  It sure did creep up quickly this year.   I’m always excited for Oscar Sunday to arrive, and this year is no exception.  I have watched almost every movie in every category (with just a couple exceptions that I will point out) so I’m ready to dive right in to my predictions.

Best Picture:  La La Land

This is certainly not a lock.   Although Manchester by the Sea has seemingly lost traction in the last couple weeks, it could still win.  And Moonlight has been quietly gaining momentum.  Technically, I suppose we should throw Hidden Figures in the mix because it won the SAG for Best Ensemble, which can be a predictor in this category, as it was for Spotlight last year.  But to me that’s a long shot. Honestly, I would be happy with any of the either three winning, but I’m going to bet on the favorite.

Best Actor:  Denzel Washington, Fences

The two front-runners in this category are a study in contrast.  Casey Affleck’s performance in Manchester by the Sea is the slow burn of a man carrying an almost unbearable cross, while Denzel’s performance blazes like fireworks.  I’ve been a huge Affleck fan for years (I think he is a much better actor then brother Ben) and I would love to see him win here.  But he has been losing traction.  And unfortunately, the Academy often overlooks this kind of subdued performance.   Also, Denzel is simply astonishing.  He is the living embodiment of August Wilson’s character, and I think he’s going to take home his third statue, which puts him in some rarefied air.

Best Actress:  Emma Stone, La La Land

Honestly, I think Isabelle Huppert is probably the most deserving in this category, but I think it highly unlikely she will win, despite her Golden Globe victory.  Actors in foreign language films almost never win at the Oscars . Natalie Portman has been charging to the front if you believe the publicity, but I was not entirely taken with her performance.  Granted, it is a daunting task to take on such an iconic figure, at such an iconic time in her life.  I don’t know that anyone could have done it better.  She could walk away with it, but I’ll stick with Emma as my prediction.

Best Supporting Actor:   Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Many of the prognosticators say this one is entirely up in the air, but it was one of the easiest picks for me.   Ali portrayed his character with honesty and immediacy.  He breathed life into every single scene he was in, and although he leaves the film far too soon, his impact is never forgotten.  He also won the SAG, which is a strong predictor.

Best Supporting Actress:  Viola Davis, Fences

This is the closest to a slam dunk in any of the acting categories this year.   I would be shocked if Viola didn’t win.  Michelle Williams is the closest competition, and she did have one incredibly powerful and moving scene in Manchester by the Sea (now that I think about it I would go so far as to say it’s an unforgettable scene) but Viola’s performance is one for the ages.

Best Director:  Damien Chazelle, La La Land

Another sure thing.  Damien is the clear front runner, and his win at the Director’s Guild Awards  makes an Oscar win all the more likely.

Animated Feature:  Zootopia

Zootopia has swept all the major awards shows already, making it the clear favorite.  Honestly, I really enjoyed four of the movies in this category (I did not see My Life as a Zucchini, and not for lack of trying).  The Red Turtle may be my personal favorite, but it doesn’t stand a chance.

Cinematography:   La La Land

So, all five of the movies in this category look fantastic.  And I could see Arrival or Moonlight  possibly pulling off the upset.  But really, La La Land has a fantastic look.  The lighting is phenomenal.   The hilltop dance sequence alone  pushes it ahead of the pack.

Costume Design:  La La Land

If you look at past winners in this category, you will see that period films are favored.  However, the contemporary film is the front runner.  I think Fantastic Beasts could possibly pull off an upset.  Jackie is interesting; the clothes look great,  but it’s more a case of re-creation than design.  La La Land already won the Costume Designer’s Guild award, so I’ll stick with the favorite.

Documentary Feature:    13th

OK.  So this is the first category I really struggled with.  All five nominations were  good.  They were all powerful and informative.  O.J.: Made in America could very easily win here.  My only problem with that is that this was designed as a TV miniseries.  It only earned the nomination here because it was screened in a couple of theaters to make the cut.  Nobody went to the movies and watched all 7 hours of this.  I could make a solid case for all five films, and if you haven’t watched a lot of documentary films, I would encourage you to give one a try.   The reason I am going with 13th is because it is timely, and because the director Ava DuVernay was (unjustly, I believe) shut out of the Best Director category for Selma two years ago.

Documentary Short Subject:  Joe’s Violin

Three of these shorts deal with the migrant crisis in Europe, and if people are influenced by politics in their voting  then expect White Helmets, which is about the Syrian Civil Defense  to win.   It is a good short film (you can stream it on Netflix now), but the most moving, inspiring story to me is the one about a Holocaust survivor donating his WWII violin to a resource-strapped girl’s school in NYC.  If I’ve learned one thing in this category, it’s vote with your heart.

Film Editing:   Arrival

The Editor’s Guild split their awards into categories for drama and comedy/musical, just like the Golden Globes.  So Arrival won for drama and La La Land won for comedy or musical.  La La Land is actually favored by many pundits, but I’m going to predict a win for Arrival, which is likely to get shut out in the other categories for which it is nominated.

Foreign Language Film:  A Man Called Ove

This is really a three film race.  Toni Erdmann was the early front runner.  The Salesman has come on strong of late, in large part because of Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s decision to boycott the ceremony.   The Salesman is a good film, and Farhadi a good director who has already won in this category just five years ago for A Separation.   Once again, if people allow politics to sway their vote,  The Salesman could easily win.  As I said, it is a really good film, but I have all my fingers and toes crossed for Sweden’s A Man Called Ove.  Not only is it the best foreign film, but one of the best films of the year, period.  (If you aren’t allergic to subtitles, you can stream it on Amazon for only 99 cents.  Take a chance, it’s worth it.)

Makeup and Hairstyling:   A Man Called Ove

Star Trek Beyond is far and away the front runner here.  And it certainly could win.  There are three reasons I’m going against it.  One:  the first Star Trek  reboot just won in this category 8 years ago.  Two:  A Man Called Ove is the only film in this category to be nominated in another category,  which generally bodes well here.   Three:  Ove contains the kind of brilliant makeup work that is hiding in plain sight.

Music (Original Score):  La La Land

I quite enjoyed Moonlight‘s score, but really, is there anyway the musical is going to lose in a music category?  This is as close to a lock as you are going to find on your ballot.

Music (Original Song): “City of Stars”, La La Land

The only question here is which of the two songs from La La Land will win.  Could they cancel each other out, allowing Lin Manuel Miranda to sneak in and seal the victory with his “How Far I’ll Go”, from Moana?  Possibly.  I’ll stick with the Stars.

Production Design:  La La Land

This is another category where you can make a strong case for all five films.    I’m going to stick with the leader of the pack, although it wouldn’t hurt my feelings if any of the other films won.

Short Film (Animated):  Piper

This is one of the categories I really look forward to every year.  There is generally  a broad range of talent and creativity.  This year, I was underwhelmed by most of the entries.  I did enjoy Pearl, and actually would be happy if it won.  But I think you can count on Pixar to chalk up another win in this category.  Piper is the short that played before Finding Dory.

Short Film (Live Action):  Ennemis Interieurs

I enjoyed four of the movies in this category.  My only hope is that Denmark’s entry, Silent Nights, does not win.  It is an emotionally pandering look at the current refugee crisis in Europe.  Ennemis Interieurs is just the opposite.  In this age when so many conversations are politicized and partisan, it was nice to see a scene with two characters with opposing views, each of whom has a valid perspective.   It makes a strong point at the end as well.  The other entries were all good.  Overall I really enjoyed this category, and would be happy with any of the other films winning.  I would encourage you to seek out the short films if you haven’t watched them before.

Sound Editing:  Hacksaw Ridge

War films tend to do well in this category, and this is likely to be Hacksaw’s only real shot at an Oscar.

Sound Mixing:  Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land is the favorite in this category, but I’m going to go out on a limb and take Hacksaw.  You can’t pick the favorite all the time if you want to win an Oscar pool.  Too, I’m really hoping that Kevin O’Connell (21 nominations, 0 wins) can break his unlucky streak and win for Hacksaw Ridge.

Visual Effects:  The Jungle Book

There are a lot of great effects in this category.  But Jungle Book is far and away the favorite, because those animals just look so darn real!

Writing (Adapted Screenplay):   Moonlight

This is a very strong category, but look for Moonlight to pick up perhaps its only Oscar of the night in this category.

Writing (Original Screenplay):  Manchester by the Sea

I think this may be one of the rare categories where La La Land is edged out.  First off, Manchester is a fantastic screenplay.  Second, it is unlikely to win in any other category.  Third, it is an opportunity to still recognize director Kenneth Lonergan with an Oscar, since he also wrote the film.  And Lonergan is well liked.

That’s all folks!  Except for my one gripe about the major snub to Sing Street, which should have got an original song nomination.  Also Hugo Weaving for Best Supporting Actor in Hacksaw Ridge, and Hugh Grant in Florence Foster Jenkins, and…all right, I’ll stop!

Well there you have my 24 predictions.  What do you think?

 

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2016 Oscars as predicted by WeMissE

2016 OSCAR PICKS in every category

The time has come once again for the most coveted award in Hollywood.  If you are entering an Oscar pool, or just want to impress your friends, I’m here to make some helpful suggestions.   Every year I watch all nominated films, including the documentaries and short subjects.  I also look at historical trends in various categories.  Basically I’m just another guy who is crazy about movies.   So grab your Oscar ballot and let’s get started.

Best Picture

You really have three choices here, but The Revenant is the clear favorite.  It has momentum, and has racked up some awards.  Spotlight won the Screen Actor’s Guild award for best ensemble, and rightly so, but I don’t think that will propel it into the winner’s circle tonight.  Some also say The Big Short could be a long shot.  I doubt it.  Personally I would love to see Mad Max take the honors, but that won’t happen.  And shame on Universal Pictures for not pushing harder to get Steve Jobs nominated.  It deserved it.  And really Academy, why not nominate Straight Outta Compton?  You had two free slots in this category.

Will win:  The Revenant

Other possible winners:  Spotlight, The Big Short

Best Actor

This is by far the lock of the night in the major categories.   Leonardo DiCaprio will definitely walk away with the win, he will probably get a standing ovation (or at least a partial one) and then we can close the door on Leofest and resume our normal lives.

Will win:  Leonardo DiCaprio

Long shot:  Michael Fassbender (but seriously people,  Leo’s got this)

Best Actress

While not quite as solid a lock as Leo has in the men’s category, Brie Larson is the clear favorite here.  My personal favorite was Saoirse Ronan, but her performance has a subtlety that the Academy often overlooks, and Brie did an outstanding job with a challenging role.  Cate Blanchett had some early traction, but she has faded in recent weeks.

Will win:  Brie Larson

Long shot:  Saoirse Ronan

Best Supporting Actor

The Academy has a long history of using this category as a “Lifetime Achievement Award” of sorts, honoring the careers of older actors who have yet to win (e.g. Christopher Plummer, Alan Arkin, James Coburn, Martin Landau, Jack Palance, Don Ameche), so in my mind Sly Stallone is the clear favorite.  Tom Hardy was great, and seems to be left out of the conversation entirely.  If Hardy wins this award, which will be the first of the night, then look for The Revenant  to have a huge night.  Mark Rylance was the best thing about Bridge of Spies, and he did win the BAFTA, but I still put my money on Stallone.

Will win:  Sylvester Stallone (watch for a standing ovation if this happens)

Possible contenders:  Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance

Best Supporting Actress

I so want Kate Winslet to win this award, but I don’t think it will happen.  Alicia Vikander has all the momentum right now, and the academy loves a foreign ingenue.  (Remember Marion Cotillard?)   Rooney Mara had some early traction, but Carol has really faded recently, which is kind of a shame.  It may go winless tonight.

Will win:  Alicia Vikander

Could win:  Kate Winslet

Animated Feature Film

Another no-brainer, Pixar’s excellent Inside Out is the clear favorite here. The academy likes Charlie Kaufman, and Studio Ghibli, but look for Pixar to win.

Will win:  Inside Out

Long shot:  Really, stick with Inside Out

Cinematography

Poor Roger Deakins, 0 for 12 in this category, and it will be 13 after tonight, because Emmanuel Lubezki will become the first person in Oscar history to win three consecutive awards in this category.  I would give the award to John Seale for Mad Max, and there is a slight chance, but really, The Revenant was breathtaking on the big screen.

Will win: Lubezki for The Revenant

Could win:  Seale for Mad Max:  Fury Road

Costume Design

The academy has a long history of picking the period film in this category.  They love nothing more than long, flowing gowns, which makes Cinderella the front-runner.  And yet, my gut tells me that Carol or The Danish Girl could pull out the win here.  I am going to go against the general consensus of Cinderalla in this category, and trust my gut. (You have to take a couple chance in your Oscar pool;  if you pick nothing but front-runners, you won’t win).

Will win:  Sandy Powell for Carol

Could win:  Cinderella or The Danish Girl

Directing

The last director to win back-to-back Oscars in this category was Joseph L. Mankiewicz in 1949/50.  So it is not an easily-done feat.  And yet, Inarritu won the Director’s Guild Award, and 16 of the last 20 DGA winners have gone on to win the Oscar. I think he is the man to beat, but I would love nothing more than to see George Miller take this one.

Will win:  Alejandro G. Inarritu

Long shot:  Adam McKay, George Miller

Documentary Feature

I was pleasantly surprised a couple of years ago when 20 Feet From Stardom won this category against some heavier subject matter, and I think the same thing could happen tonight.  Amy, the story of singer Amy Winehouse, and her early demise, was very entertaining, and well crafted.  If the academy chooses to go with more serious fare, then look for Cartel Land, a timely movie about the brutal drug wars happening just south of our border.  And why in the hell did Going Clear not get a nomination?  Could it be because that film is critical of Scientology, and several powerful and influential academy members are Scientologists?  Nah, I’m sure its a coincidence.  The academy also snubbed He Named Me Malala and Kurt Cobain:  Montage of Heck.  The trend of getting more wrong than right in this category continues.  The way to encourage more people to see documentary films, which are an important and vital genre, is to reward the well-made documentaries that people have heard of, not to deliberately choose more obscure subject matter.  They should have listened to Roger Ebert when he chastised them for snubbing Hoop Dreams.  Maybe one day they’ll get it right.

Will win:  Amy

Could win:  Cartel Land

Documentary Short Subject

Body Team 12 is the clear front runner, and it is timely, dealing with the Ebola crisis.  I have to vote with my heart in this category, because A Girl in the River:  The Price of Forgiveness moved me as few movies have.  I will never be the same after seeing this movie about a girl who survived a so-called honor killing in Pakistan.  Over 1000 women are murdered every year in Pakistan under the guise of justice,   and it has to stop.

Will win:  A Girl in the River:  The Price of Forgiveness

Could win:  Body Team 12

Film Editing

This is a tough category this year; I think 4 of these movies have at least a chance of winning, but the front-runner has to be The Big Short, which has lots of quick cuts and montage-style editing, all contributing to the overall clarity of the story.  But I also loved the purely visceral quality of Mad Max.

Will win:  The Big Short

Could win:  Mad Max, Star Wars, The Revenant,

Foreign Language Film

I have not seen any of the nominated films in this category yet.  I love foreign films, and I will watch them all at some point, but this is the hardest category to legally see every movie before awards night, unless you live in LA.   So I watched the trailers and I really have to go with the general consensus, which is Son of Saul.  Any film which deals with the Holocaust is pretty much a lock, although some critics have picked Mustang.

Will win:  Son of Saul

Could win:  Mustang

Makeup and Hairstyling

I think Mad Max will finally get some love in this category, although The Revenant could surprise here.

Will win:  Mad Max:  Fury Road

Could win:  The Revenant

Original Score

Tough choice this year;  I liked the subtle, edgy undertones of Sicario‘s score, but Ennio Morricone appears to be the favorite here.  By creating a road show version of The Hateful Eight with a prologue, Quentin Tarantino gave Morricone several minutes of nothing but music.  Clever, Q!  I don’t think it is remotely close to Morricone’s best;  I can think of a dozen more memorable scores of his just off the top of my head, but the dude is 87 years old.

Will win:  Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight

Could win:  Sicario, Star Wars

Original Song

A lot of people seem to think that the Bond song has a chance.  I hope not because I personally think its garbage.  “Simple Song #3” from Youth is lovely, but really only works in the context of the film.  (See the film, by the way, it’s great!)  But the clear front runner here has to be “Til It Happens to You”.  First of all, it is timely, written for a documentary about campus rape.  Secondly, it was penned by Diane Warren and Lady Gaga, and I can see the academy getting behind them.  Warren has seven previous nominations and no wins.  I think she will finally get in the win column tonight.

Will win: “Til It Happens To You”

Could win:  “Simple Song #3”, “Writing’s On the Wall”

Production Design

All of the nominated films are deserving, but it will be a crime if Mad Max doesn’t win this one.  The look of that film is purely original.  Come on academy, show some love!

Will win:  Mad Max:  Fury Road

Could win:  The Martian, The Revenant

Animated Short Film

This is a tough category this year.  There are three shorts with a real possibility of winning.  Pixar’s entry, Sanjay’s Super Team, has a lot of traction.  While Pixar usually cleans up in the animated feature category, they haven’t won in the short category in over a decade, despite being a perennial nominee.  World of Tomorrow has won a bucketful of awards, and was very engaging.  I laughed out loud while watching it, and actually watched it twice in a row. Probably the true front-runner.  But I absolutely loved Bear Story, from Chile.  This story of a bear who is stolen from his family and put in a circus act is an allegory of the Pinochet regime, which may be lost on many viewers.   This is truly my hardest choice on the entire ballot.  It’s a coin toss;  I’ll go with my heart.

Will win:  Bear Story

Could just as easily win:  World of Tomorrow, Sanjay’s Super Team

Live Action Short Film

Oscar pools are won and lost in the shorts categories;  usually there are clear front-runners, but this year that is not the case.  Ave Maria is getting a lot of publicity, but I hope and pray the academy members are smart enough not to vote for a film that has contrived humor and is emotionally pandering.  It has all the subtlety of a joke that begins “A Jew and an Arab walk in a bar.”   Day One was perhaps the most difficult film I’ve ever watched;  I very nearly turned it off.  I’m glad I stuck with it, but even though it is based on true events it also feels contrived.  Everything Will Be Okay has a great slow build, but then fizzles that the end;  I somehow felt it was unresolved.  Which leaves Stutterer, a sweet film that I really loved, but might not be “Serious with a capital S” enough for the academy.   And Shok, Kosovo’s first ever Oscar nominated film, about two boys and a bicycle.

Will win:  Shok

Could win:  Ave Maria (If this wins, be assured I will be swearing profusely), Stutterer

Sound Editing

So remember, sound editing is the creation of sound elements, mixing is putting those elements together.  I honestly think any of the these five movies could win this award.   The Revenant is a favorite.  I am going to predict a big night for Mad Max in the technical categories.

Will win:  Mad Max:  Fury Road

Could win:  Any of the other nominated films

Sound Mixing

I’m going to stick with Mad Max.

Will win:  Mad Max:  Fury Road

Could win:  Star Wars, The Martian, The Revenant

Visual Effects

This was the second-hardest category for me.  You can make a strong case for all five nominated films.  Part of me would like to see Ex Machina take this one.  I think Star Wars, or The Martian could easily walk away with this one, but I’m going to stay out on that limb with George Miller.

Will win:  Mad Max:  Fury Road

Could win:  Any other nominated film

Adapted Screenplay

Maybe I’m prejudiced because Nick Hornby is my favorite contemporary writer, but I do love his screenplay for Brooklyn, which is subtle, sweet, funny, charming, and resonates on a deep level.  But I think The Big Short will take this one.

Will win:  The Big Short

Could win:  Room, Brooklyn

Original Screenplay

Spotlight has all the traction right now, and since it’s probably going to get shut out in the other categories, this will probably be the only recognition it receives.  Some critics think Inside Out has a legitimate shot at the win;  while I wouldn’t mind that, I just don’t think it’s going to happen.

Will win:  Spotlight

Could win:  Inside Out

 

Have fun watching the Academy Awards and good luck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SPECIAL GUEST WEMISSE’S 2015 Oscar Predictions

oscars-2015

Well, it’s that time of year again, and I’m having a hard time mustering my usual level of excitement.  I can’t recall a more lackluster bunch of Best Picture nominees, and I’ve watched every Oscar ceremony (with a near-manic intensity) since 1983.  I saw bits and pieces before then, but that year in particular my eleven-year-old self was really pulling for ET to win best picture, and “Eye of the Tiger” from Rocky 3 to win best original song.  Imagine my dismay when both lost.   (“Who is this stupid Gandhi guy?” I muttered to myself as I stormed off to sleep.)

Best Picture – Expanding the roster of Best Picture nominees means that we have eight unexceptional films to choose from, instead of five.  And where is Gone Girl and Nightcrawler?  They were both snubbed in this category, and several others as well.  My personal favorite of the nominees is Selma.  It is a powerful film, with great performances, and couldn’t be more relevant.  Too bad that Paramount dropped the ball in promoting this film, and getting screeners out.  It is a two-film race at this point, and I really think it’s a coin toss between Birdman and Boyhood.  Both are great for technical reasons, but failed to fully engage me on a basic story level.

Will win:  Birdman

Should win:  Selma

Best Director:  I’m going to say that the Academy splits the vote, giving this award to Richard Linklater for Boyhood, while Birdman wins best picture.  If the exact opposite happens I would not be surprised.  Nor would I care.   None of the other nominees stand a chance, and I’m not sure why a couple of them are there at all.

Will win:  Richard Linklater

Should win:  Richard Linklater

Best Actor:  This award seemed to be Michael Keaton’s for the taking, for quite a stretch, but Eddie Redmayne came on strong down the stretch, winning the Actor’s Guild Award, which is a pretty strong predictor for the best actor Oscar winner.  It really could go either way, but I think Redmayne will pull it out.  Keaton is a great actor, and he is overdue for recognition of a great body of work.  But Redmayne is exceptional as Stephen Hawking, and it is not the physical limitations of the character that make him excel.  It was the early scenes, before the disease fully grips his character, that sold me.  Redmayne has such a winning smile as the young Hawking, it is impossible not to like him.

Will win:  Eddie Redmayne

Should win:  Eddie Redmayne

Best Actress:  This award is no contest this year.  Julienne Moore will definitely be taking home the Oscar for her performance.  As is the case with Michael Keaton, Moore is overdue for some appreciation.  She has been nominated four times previously;  the fifth time will be the charm for her.  Rosamund Pike’s performance was fantastic, and unique, but she doesn’t stand a chance. (I was not able to see the Marion Cotillard movie before the awards, unfortunately, and not for lack of trying.)

Will win:  Julianne Moore

Should win:  Julianne Moore

Best Supporting Actor:  In what is by far the biggest lock in the major categories, J.K. Simmons will win this award for sure.  His blistering performance takes the audience to uncomfortable places, and I appreciate the effort he put into the role, even though the character is a narcissistic asshole, and probably a sociopath as well.  At the other end of the acting spectrum is the always great Mark Ruffalo, who with quiet understatement creates a character that we can all love and admire, making his sudden loss all the more palpable.  There is a part of me that thinks he deserves this award, but of course the academy will choose bombast over subtlety.  Oh well, Simmons was great too, and Ruffalo will have an Oscar in his trophy case before his career is over.

Will win:  J.K. Simmons

Should win:  J.K. Simmons

Best Supporting Actress:  You know its a weak year when Patricia Arquette is a lock in an acting category and Meryl Streep is getting nominated for sleepwalking through the part of a witch.  I shouldn’t take cheap shots at Arquette;  her character was believable, and she had a couple of very memorable scenes that really locked this one up for her.  I personally loved Laura Dern in Wild;  her character made a strong impact in what seemed like a few brief minutes of screen time.

Will win:  Patricia Arquette

Should win:  Patricia Arquette

Best Cinematography:  Is Emmanuel Lubezki going to win back-to-back awards in this category, after taking home the Oscar for Gravity last year?  Yep.  Deakins has won before, and done better work.  Ida looks great, but won’t win.  I think there is a slight possibility that Robert Yeoman (The Grand Budapest Hotel) could pull off the upset here, but its a long shot.

Will win:  Emmanuel Lubezki

Should win:  Emmanuel Lubezki

Best Foreign Language Film:  This is usually one of the hardest categories to handicap, and it is particularly hard this year.  First off, where the hell is Sweden’s Force Majeure?  It was one of the best movies of the year, in any language, with universal themes, and deserved a spot here.  See it.  This is a three-picture race.  Leviathan won the Golden Globe, and is one of the best films to come from Russia in years.  Poland’s  Ida features a story that has elements of Jewish extermination in World War II, usually a guaranteed award-winning subject.  Argentina’s Wild Tales is making a late push.  I really love Argentine cinema;  Argentina has produced a dozen really great films in the last couple decades.  And Ricardo Darrin is quite possibly my favorite actor on Earth.  But this film feels slight, compared to the other two frontrunners, and to the near-perfect The Secret in their Eyes, Argentina’s winner in this category in 2009.  And the winner is…let me toss that coin again.

Will win:  Ida

Should win:  Leviathan

Best Adapted Screenplay:  Damien Chazell is the front-runner in this category for Whiplash, even though this screenplay is not adapted in the usual sense.  I won’t go into the arcane rules behind Academy nominations;  look it up if it interests you.   Anthony McCarten’s screenplay for The Theory of Everything is also quite good, but Chazell will probably win.

Will win:  Damien Chazelle

Should win:  Damien Chazelle

Best Original Screenplay:   Birdman or Boyhood could win in this category;  Nightcrawler should but won’t.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Wes Anderson will get some love in this category for Grand Budapest Hotel.  

Will win:  Wes Anderson and Hugo Guiness

Should win:  Dan Gilroy

Best Makeup and Hairstyling:  The makeup in Foxcatcher is subtle but impressive;  Steve Carell looks like another person.  Guardians has some exceptional characters.  I’m going to take the middle ground and give this one to The Grand Budapest Hotel.  

Will win:  Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier

Should win:  Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier

Best Original Score:  Alexandre Desplat is competing against himself in this category, with nominations for The Imitation Game and The Grand Budapest Hotel.  He also has 8 nominations and no wins.  But four of the last six winners in this category have been first-time nominees, and I think that trend will continue.  Iceland’s Johann Johannsson created a fantastic score for The Theory of Everything, and it is not a standard by-the-numbers orchestral score.

Will win:  The Theory of Everything

Should win:  The Theory of Everything

Best Original Song:  The Academy has been consistently getting it right in this category in recent years, and I think that trend will continue.  It has to be “Glory”, a song that is contemporary, heartfelt, and relevant.  “Everything is Awesome”  is fun but slight.

Will win:  Glory

Should win:  Glory

Best Animated Feature:  OK, so we all know The Lego Movie got snubbed.  How to Train Your Dragon 2 already took home the Golden Globe, and is the favorite.  Can Disney’s Big Hero 6 pull off the upset?  Probably not, but it should.

Will win:  How to Train Your Dragon 2

Should win:  Big Hero 6

Best Documentary – Short:  Oh my God, keep your kleenex handy if you are going to watch the documentary shorts this year.  They range from sad to sadder.  Joanna,  which is about a terminally ill woman who wishes to leave a video record for her young son, will probably stay with me the longest.  But  Crisis Hotline:  Veterans Press 1 will probably win.  And it’s hard to argue with that.  People in this country need to know about the number of Iraq and Afghan war vets who are committing suicide, who are having trouble leading anything close to a normal life.

Will win:  Crisis Hotling:  Veterans Press 1

Should win:  Joanna

Best Film Editing:  This is consistently one of the hardest categories to handicap, and this year is no different.  Boyhood is considered the frontrunner; why I don’t know.  And how was Birdman not nominated in this category, when its seemless editing was its most original and striking feature?    Since Birdman was snubbed, I think Whiplash and The Grand Budapest Hotel both had better editing than Boyhood.  I’m going to go out on that limb again and call this one for Whiplash.  But I really have no clue.

Will win:  Whiplash

Should win:  Whiplash

Best Production Design:  I have a feeling that Budapest Hotel could do very well in the technical categories, and I really don’t see any film coming close to it in this category.

Will win:  The Grand Budapest Hotel

Should win:  The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Animated Short:  Disney’s Feast is by-far the favorite in this category, and will most likely get the win.

Will win:  Feast

Should win:  Feast

Best Live Action Short:   This is a two-film race between Butter Lamp and The Phone Call.  Butter Lamp is visually striking, while The Phone Call is poignant and manages to move from despair to hope in a mere 20 minutes.  It also features Sally Hawkins and Jim Broadbent.  Another coin toss, really.

Will win:  The Phone Call

Should win:  The Phone Call

Best Sound Editing:  Tough to handicap.  I’m going to give this one to American Sniper, although I think Interstellar could easily win as well.

Will win:  American Sniper

Should win:  American Sniper

Best Sound Mixing:   I will be surprised if Whiplash does not win in this category, but once again I think Interstellar could sneak up and win.

Will win:  Whiplash

Should win:  Whiplash

Best Visual Effects:  Guardians of the Galaxy has fantastic effects, but I’m going go give this one to Interstellar.  I really don’t have a feel for this one.

Will win:  Interstellar

Should win:  Interstellar

Best Documentary – Feature:  Citizenfour is far and away the favorite here, and I get that.  And yes it probably will win;  it is engaging, and certainly very relevant.  I’m going to take a walk out on that proverbial limb again, though, and predict that Finding Vivien Maier will pull off the upset in this category.  It does everything that a good documentary film should do:  it introduces a topic about which most viewers know nothing, it explains that topic in an entertaining and engaging manner, and it leaves the viewer with a desire to learn more.  Right up the Academy’s alley in my opinion, and may be enough to override the love for Eric Snowden.

Will win:  Finding Vivien Maier

Should win:  Finding Vivien Maier

Best Costume Design:  The Academy loves period films in this category, but I see this as a two-film race, between Into the Woods and The Grand Budapest Hotel.  And ultimately, I think that Budapest will pull it off.

Will win:  The Grand Budapest Hotel

Should win:  The Grand Budapest Hotel

So to sum up:  there is no clear overriding favorite this year, no film that is going to run away with a bucketful of Oscars.  Grand Budapest Hotel could win the most awards, by doing well in the technical categories.   I love movies, I love the Oscars, but this year I’m just not feeling it.  Pass the nachos.

Special Guest WeMissE’s 2014 Oscar picks

Note from CoolPapaE:  My dear friend Steve, aka WeMissE is the only person I know that is a bigger Cinephile than I am.  He spends considerable time each year watching the nominated films with his son, along with keeping his own study of one of the greats in Alfred Hitch-blog.  This year I am fortunate enough to have his perspective to share on the event.

Anyone who knows us personally knows the connection between CoolPapaE and WeMissE is the E.  But I will write more on that later.  For now, enjoy WeMissE’s contemplation on the 2014 Oscars:

 

OSCARS-20141

Well, it’s Oscar Sunday.  Time for a bunch of wealthy celebrities to gather together for a night of self-congratulatory revelry.  OK, I’m not really that cynical.  I love movies, and I love the Oscars.  Do you want to win your Oscar pool?  Then read on…

Best Picture:  I keep reading and hearing how this is “the tightest Oscar race in years!”  Is it really, or is that just the media’s way of generating suspense/interest/ratings?   “American Hustle” is a very entertaining, well-made film that is forgotten the minute it ends.   “Gravity” is a mind-blowing, technically innovative story about the power of the human spirit to overcome adversity.  But the emphasis is on the technical more than the human.  “12 Years a Slave” is a harrowing account of a dark period in one man’s life, during a dark period in our nation’s history.  Is it difficult to watch?  At times, it is brutal.  But it is also by turns  lyrical, reflective, and ultimately redemptive.  It is a film that needed to be made, and is an easy pick to beat the other two frontrunners.

Should win:  “Philomena”  is sweet, touching, funny, unforgettable.  It doesn’t stand a chance.

Will win:  May be a coin toss between “Gravity” and “12 Years”, but my money is on “12 years”.

Best Actor:  Let’s be honest.  Bruce Dern, Leonardo DiCaprio and Christian Bale have all done better work.  This is a two-man race.  While I loved Chewitel Ejiofor, who really carries “12 Years”, (he is on screen in virtually every scene), it is hard to vote against Matthew McConaughey, who has finally fulfilled the the acting ability he hinted at way back in “Contact.”   McConaughey becomes Ron Woodroof completely.

Should win:  McConaughey

Will win:  McConaughey

Best Actress:  This is one of the absolute locks of the night.  Cate Blanchett has already been anointed as the best actress by every previous awards show, and every media outlet.  She does give a great performance, but it feels like a performance, and her character is not likable in the least.  The only emotion she elicits is pity.   Judy Dench, who has made a career of playing very strong women, gave us a soft, simple, sweet and immensely likable woman in Philomena Lee.  One can’t help but root for her character, and if there were any justice Dench would win the night.  She won’t.

Should win:  Judy Dench

Will win:  Cate Blanchett

Supporting Actor:  Once again, Jared Leto has already been decreed the winner by all, and he does give a fantastic performance here.  It is worth mentioning the incredible job that Michael Fassbender did in “12 Years A Slave”.  Fassbender never ceases to amaze, and you can be sure he will have an Oscar on his mantle by the time his career is over, but it won’t be tonight.

Should win:  Jared Leto

Will win:  Jared Leto

Supporting Actress:  This is a two woman race, between Jennifer Lawrence and Lupita Nyong’o.   Lawrence does give the best performance in “American Hustle”;  in a film where everybody is pretending to be someone they are not, she is the only one who exposes her true self, and her performance is the better for it.  What she has going against her is her best actress win last year.  Back-to-back wins are very rare.  Lupita Nyong’o is unforgettable.  And she gets brutally whipped onscreen.  Need I say more?

Should win:  Lupita Nyong’o

Will win”  Lupita Nyong’o

Animated Feature:  Miyazaki’s “The Wind Rises” is very powerful and has amazing animation, but is has been seen by a very small group of people.  “Frozen” is a movie that all can get behind.

Should win:  Frozen

Will win:  Frozen

Cinematography:  First off, I am shocked that “12 years a Slave” was not nominated in this category.  The lighting in that film was incredible.  A major snub in my opinion.  Of the nominated films, this one belongs to “Gravity”.    Emmanuel Lubezki, who has 6 well-deserved Oscar nominations, will finally get his win tonight.

Should win:  Gravity

Will win:  Gravity

Costume Design:  This is one of the hardest categories to predict.   Period films tend to be favored, but don’t always win.  “American Hustle” and “12 Years a Slave” had great costumes, but I’m going to go with the lavish over the top costumes of “The Great Gatsby”.

Should win:  Gatsby

Will win:  Gatsby

Directing:  A coin toss in this category.  Steve McQueen for “12 Years”  or Alfonso Cuaron for “Gravity”?  I think this is another split year, where the academy gives the picture to “12 years a Slave”, and gives the directorial nod to Cuaron.  This truly is a tight race.

Should win:  McQueen

Will win:  Cuaron

Documentary Feature:  The number one rule in the documentary category is:  never vote against a Holocaust film.  There is no Holocaust film this year, but “The Act of Killing”  about the Khmer Rouge killings in Cambodia, is as close as you can get.  “The Square”, about the Arab Spring uprising in Egypt, is the only one that might pull off the upset here.  “Dirty Wars”, about the American governments covert operations, drone strikes, and the murders of innocent civilians, is the film that every American citizen should see.  Of course, it won’t win.

Should win:  Dirty Wars

Will win:  The Act of Killing

Documentary Short:  Remember what I said about Holocaust films?

Should win:  Prison Terminal

Will win:  The Lady in Number 6:  Music Saved My Life

Film Editing:  A very, very tough category to call this year.  I think you could make a stong case for 4 of these 5 films.  My personal choice would be “American Hustle”, but I think “Gravity” will carry the night in the technical categories.

Should win:  American Hustle

Will win:  Gravity

Foreign Language Film:  A caveat:  this is one of two categories where I have not seen all nominated films.  All of the buzz is going to the Italian nominee “The Great Beauty”, with Palestine’s “Omar” trailing.   There is no way the academy will vote for a Palestinian film to win, so I say they will be celebrating in Italy tonight.

Should win:  The Great Beauty

Will win:  The Great Beauty

Makeup and Hairstyling:  Although I think it would be really funny if a Jackass movie won an Oscar, this one belongs to “Dallas Buyers Club”.  Take that one to the bank.

Should win:  Dallas Buyer’s Club

Will win:  Dallas Buyer’s Club

Music, Original Score:  Most of the buzz here seems to be for “Gravity”.  Funnily enough, I saw that movie twice in the theater and remember nothing of the score.  “Her” had a sweet, modern, very fitting score.  The music voting bloc of the academy has been more forward leaning in recent years, giving an award to Trent Reznor for “The Social Network” score, so I’d like to think that “Her” has a chance.

Should win:  Her

Will win:  Gravity

Music, original song:   Is there any doubt?  Let it go, baby.

Should win:  Let It go

Will win:  Let It go

Production Design:   When this category is tougher to handicap, go with the most over-the-top entry, which is “Gatsby”, but don’t be surprised if “Her” pulls out the win.

Should win:  Gatsby

Will win:  Gatsby

Animated Short Film:  If you’ve seen “Frozen” then you’ve seen Disney’s entry in this category “Get A Horse”, which has most of the buzz.  I really enjoyed the UK’s entry “Room on the Broom”, narrated by Simon Pegg, but it’s great story doesn’t make up for it’s unexceptional CGI animation.  Look for “Mr. Hublot” to possibly pull of the upset here.

Should win:  Mr. Hublot

Will win:  Mr. Hublot

Live Action Short Film:  I really enjoyed all five of the entries in this category.  If you haven’t ever watched the short films, this is a good year to give it a try.  (They can all be viewed in one block on itunes and directv for a small price).  My favorite is “Helium”, a sad, sweet film about a young boy with a terminal illness.   But the frontrunner here is Spain’s “Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)”.

Should win:  Helium

Will win:  Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)

Sound Editing and Sound Mixing:  I would be shocked if “Gravity” doesn’t carry both of these categories.  Incredibly innovate sound, and a movie where the absence of noise is as important as noise.

Should win both:  Gravity

Will win both:  Gravity

Visual Effects:  While “The Hobbit’s” Smaug was a very impressive creation, this one again belongs to “Gravity”.

Should win:  Gravity

Will win:  Gravity

Writing, adapted screenplay:  My choice in this category is “Philomena”, which is a great expansion and adaptation of the book.  “12 Years a Slave” is the favorite here.

Should win:  Philomena

Will win:  12 Years a Slave

Writing, original screenplay:  Will “American Hustle” get a nod here?  Personally I think Spike Jonze will be recognized for his work on “Her” which is truly original.

Should win:  Her

Will win:  Her

In summation:  Gravity wins the night in total awards, dominating all technical categories.

And I think there is a possibility that “American Hustle”  will go winless.