Statues are being polished, spotlights are being adjusted, and red carpets are being unrolled, because this evening, February 22, 2015, the Academy Awards are returning for the 87th time. This year’s categories don’t feature as many clear frontrunners as past years, which could mean this year could have some considerable upsets. So, take a look below at my predictions and let me know what picks you disagree with. Also be sure to follow along as I live-tweet this evening’s awards on my Twitter: @pghfilmcritic.
“The Imitation Game”
“The Theory of Everything”
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
“Birdman” – “Boyhood” seemed like it was the sure favorite in the category until earlier last month when “Birdman” swept the guild awards, winning big at PGA, SAG, and DGA, all of which tend to be strong indicators of the way the Oscar voters will lean. Although it isn’t unheard of for a guild favorite to lose the big race, this year’s big wins make “Birdman” the safest bet in the race of the most coveted Oscar.
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, “Birdman”
Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”
Bennett Miller, “Foxcatcher”
Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Morten Tyldum, “The Imitation Game”
Richard Linklater – This is another close category, which once again is led by “Birdman” and “Boyhood.” Once again “Birdman” is the frontrunner here, because of Iñárritu’s big win at the DGA. The Oscar’s and DGA have only made different choices seven times in the past, and it’s exceedingly rare for the Academy voters to split the Best Director and the Best Picture, but I’m hoping that the Academy recognizes Linklater for his brilliant work on the twelve-year project. Despite the success of “Birdman” at the DGA, I’m predicting that this year’s underdog, Richard Linklater, will win for his work on “Boyhood.”
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Michael Keaton, “Birdman”
Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything”
Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Imitation Game”
Steve Carell, “Foxcatcher”
Bradley Cooper, “American Sniper”
Eddie Redmayne – It’s hard to eliminate any of these contenders from the race, but I think the most likely winners are Cooper, Keaton and Redmayne. Although Cooper has been given a big push by the recent buzz surrounding “Sniper,” and Keaton’s chances will be drastically increased in voters choose to vote for “Birdman” across the board, I think that Redmayne’s incredibly realistic portrayal of Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything” will give him the win. Although Keaton won the CCMA’s and Cooper has been a strong contender three years running, Redmayne took the SAG and BAFTA awards and seems to have thoroughly charmed voters with his portrayal of the famed astrophysicist.
Best Actress in a Leading Role
Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”
Reese Witherspoon, “Wild”
Rosamund Pike, “Gone Girl”
Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything”
Marion Cotillard, “Two Days, One Night”
Julianne Moore – This is a lock. I’m still annoyed that Aniston got snubbed in this category, but with the current pool of nominees, there’s no doubt that Julianne Moore will come home with the Oscar for her performance in “Still Alice.”
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”
Edward Norton, “Birdman”
Ethan Hawke, “Boyhood”
Mark Ruffalo, “Foxcatcher”
Robert Duvall, “The Judge”
JK Simmons – Despite the excitement around “Birdman” and its talented director and star, the guilds have largely ignored Norton’s role in the film, and the same could be said for Hawke in “Boyhood.” So, despite the talented category, I think it’s pretty clear that Simmons will walk away with the Oscar this year for his spell-binding, critically acclaimed performance in “Whiplash.”
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”
Emma Stone, “Birdman”
Keira Knightley, “The Imitation Game”
Meryl Streep, “Into the Woods”
Laura Dern, “Wild”
Patricia Arquette – I’m not sure why I even bothered giving the list of nominees, Arquette will undoubtedly be this year’s winner.
Best Animated Feature Film
“Big Hero 6”
“How to Train Your Dragon 2”
“Song of the Sea”
“The Tale of Princess Kaguya”
How to Train Your Dragon 2 – After the “Lego Movie” was inexplicably snubbed this year, the category seemed to fall to either “How to Train your Dragon 2” or “Big Hero 6.” “Big Hero 6” is helped by its unique story and the versatility of the loveable “Baymax,” I think voters may still be drawn to “How to Train Your Dragon 2.” Although the Academy tends to shy away from sequels, I think that they’ll be drawn to the impressive work done to animate the multitude of different dragons, and the voters will appreciate the second “How to Train Your Dragon” film for its more complex and entertaining storyline.
Best Foreign Film
“Wild Tales” (Argentina)
Ida – Although many critics think that “Wild Tales” has a good chance of stealing the category, and I thought it was infinitely more entertaining, I think that “Ida” will win viewers over with its powerful story and its brave cinematography. Furthermore, “Ida” is shot entirely in black and white, and the filmmakers were careful with their shot selection and kept the frames content through extended scenes of dialogue, which I think will resonate with the voters.
Best Documentary Feature
Last Days in Vietnam
Finding Vivian Maier
The Salt of the Earth
Citzenfour – The powerful Edward Snowden documentary is the unquestionable frontrunner in the category and I would be shocked to see any of the other films win.
Best Writing (Original Screenplay)
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo, “Birdman”
Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”
Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Dan Gilroy, “Nightcrawler”
Dan Futterman and E. Max Frye, “Foxcatcher”
Wes Anderson – This category is a relatively close race. “Birdman” has enjoyed so much success in the recent Guild awards, so it wouldn’t be too surprising if voters decide to give Iñárritu the Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Writing. Likewise, voters could easily give Linklater the Oscar for Best Director and another for Best Writing. However, I think that this year the voters will elect to give the Best Writing Oscar to Wes Anderson for his work on the unique and extremely creative “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Anderson has been nominated three times and has yet to come home with a win, but I think that will change tonight.
Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
Graham Moore, “The Imitation Game”
Anthony McCarten, “The Theory of Everything”
Damien Chazelle, “Whiplash”
Jason Hall, “American Sniper”
Paul Thomas Anderson, “Inherent Vice”
Graham Moore – This is the only category where I really hope that I’m wrong. “Whiplash” deserves to win for its spectacular script, but due to an irritating technicality, it was forced into the “Adapted” category instead of the “Original” that it should be nominated for, and as a result, I think that Chazelle may go home empty-handed. Due to the fact that “Whiplash” wasn’t adapted from anything tangible like “The Imitation Game” was, I think that the Academy will vote the same way the WGA did and give the award to Moore.
Best Costume Design/Best Production Design
Colleen Atwood, “Into the Woods”
Anna B. Sheppard and Jane Clive, “Maleficent”
Milena Canonero, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Jacqueline Durran, “Mr. Turner”
Mark Bridges, “Inherent Vice”
Adam Stockhausen and Anna Pinnock, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Suzie Davies and Charlotte Watts, “Mr. Turner”
Dennis Gassner and Anna Pinnock, “Into the Woods”
Nathan Crowley, Gary Fettis, and Paul Healy, “Interstellar”
Maria Djurkovic and Tatiana Macdonald, “The Imitation Game”
Milena Canonero/Adam Stockhausen and Anna Pinnock – I know that when most people hear these two categories they think “bathroom break,” so I’ll keep this short. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” had the best costume and production design.
Emmanuel Lubezki, “Birdman”
Dick Pope, “Mr. Turner”
Robert D. Yeoman, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Ryszard Lenczewski and Łukasz Żal, “Ida”
Roger Deakins, “Unbroken”
Emmanuel Lubezki – Although I would love to see “Ida” completely upset the category, Oscar voters very rarely give foreign films much attention. So, I think the category boils down to “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Birdman.” Thanks to “Birdman’s” overwhelming presence and a recent ASC win, I expect Lubezki to take the award for the second year in a row.
Best Documentary Short
Perry Films, “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1”
Wajda Studio, “Joanna”
Warsaw Film School, “Our Curse”
Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica, “The Reaper (La Parka)”
Weary Traveler, “White Earth”
Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 – Although “Joanna” is probably the better film, and it is tremendously powerful and memorable, it is a foreign film and I think that the Academy is going to be more likely to pick “Crisis Hotline,” the HBO-produced documentary that is all in English.
Short Film (Animated)
“The Bigger Picture”
“The Dam Keeper”
“Me and My Moulton”
“A Single Life”
Feast – This category is usually a toss-up, and although the general consensus seems to be for “The Dam Keeper,” Disney’s Feast is a beautifully told, extremely entertaining short that I think could potentially take the category.
Short Film (Live Action)
Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis, “Aya”
Michael Lennox, director, and Ronan Blaney, “Boogaloo and Graham”
Hu Wei and Julien Féret, “Butter Lamp”
Talkhon Hamzavi and Stefan Eichenberger, “Parvaneh”
Mat Kirkby, director and James Lucas, “The Phone Call”
Boogaloo and Graham – This is another toss-up, so I’m going to hedge my bets with BAFTA winner “Boogaloo and Graham.”
Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard, “Foxcatcher”
Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White, “Guardians of the Galaxy”
Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White – This category is another tough one. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” features great design and offers the kind of traditional makeup that typically appeals to the Academy. On the other hand, “Foxcatcher” is a slightly smaller film with impressive makeup, much like last year’s winner, “Dallas Buyers Club.” However, I think that “Guardians of the Galaxy” will entertain voters as much as it did the rest of us, and it will emerge the unlikely winner of the category.
Music (Original Score)
Jóhann Jóhannsson, “The Theory of Everything”
Alexandre Desplat, “The Imitation Game”
Alexandre Desplat, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Hans Zimmer, “Interstellar”
Gary Yershon, “Mr. Turner”
The Theory of Everything – This is the year’s most impressive score, though probability says that Alexandre Desplat has a great chance for his work on “The Imitation Game” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”
“Guardians of the Galaxy”
“X-Men: Days of Future Past”
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”
Interstellar – This year’s most realistic space film has the best chance of coming away with the award, but the other space contender, “Guardians of the Galaxy” also has a great chance in the category.
Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman, “American Sniper”
Martín Hernández and Aaron Glascock, “Birdman”
Brent Burge and Jason Canovas, “The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies”
Richard King, “Interstellar”
Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro, “Unbroken”
Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman – War movies typically win the category, which makes “American Sniper” a lock for this often overlooked category.
Whiplash – Although war films traditionally have good luck in this category as well, I think that the final scene of “Whiplash” alone should be enough to get the film an Oscar in this category. As a war film that had to transition rapidly to and from civilian and military life, “American Sniper” has a great chance in the category, but I think that its exclusive focus on percussion will help “Whiplash” come out ahead.
Best Original Song
“Everything Is Awesome” from “The Lego Movie”
“Glory” from “Selma”
“Grateful” from “Beyond The Lights”
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from “Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me”
“Lost Stars” from “Begin Again”
Glory – This is another difficult category to predict, and it basically boils down to “Everything is Awesome,” “Glory,” and “I’m Not Gonna Miss You.” Although most fans would like to see “The Lego Movie” come away with something after getting snubbed from the animated category, it’s more likely one of the other two songs will win. After “Selma” got snubbed in a handful of other categories, Oscar voters will likely want to give the film something to make up for the injustice. Furthermore, John Legend and Common’s emotional win at the Golden Globes, should help their chances with the voters this year.