87th Annual Academy Award Predictions: “Boyhood” vs. “Birdman”

Oscars predixMerry Christmas movie lovers!

Tonight is the night. After months of campaigns and swarms of critic circle lists, various Guild awards, and a constant change in momentum behind so many of this year’s previous frontrunners, we are finally in the 11th hour of the 2014 awards season. Voting has long ceased, the ballots are finally counted and recounted, envelopes are sealed and history will yet again be made tonight in the beautiful Kodak Theater on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. This has been on hell of an awards season and there are still a number of key categories that will remain a surprise until the envelopes are finally opened. Last year, we saw a race to the finish between “12 Years a Slave” and “Gravity” and the end result was a suitable Best Picture/Best Director split. We also saw four deserving, though long set in stone, wins in each of the acting categories and everything else below the line fell into place accordingly and expectantly. This year we have a similar situation, Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” goes head-to-head with the guild sweeping “Birdman,” a 12-years-in-the-making meditation on youth in the early 2000’s and a satirical ensemble comedy about the pains of celebritism and ego. But, amazingly enough, that is not the only battle going down this evening. The Best Actor category is still a question mark, and the screenplay categories are still being juggled, as are some other interesting categories. It should be an exciting night for film lovers and, as hosted by the lovable Neil Patrick Harris, a highly energetic and potentially quite musical evening of cinematic celebrations as well.

But before things get moving this evening, we must lay out our predictions. For the first time I will be posting my ballot alone here at Reel Reactions. I’ve bolded my predicted winner and have also discussed potential upsets and hopes for the less sure categories. Take a look, leave a comment, and enjoy the 87th Annual Academy Awards.

Best Picture

I’m at a weird crossroads here. The race this year is surprisingly tight, between “Birdman” and “Boyhood,” and even though I like one of them way more than the other, it’s the one I like less that I think should, and ultimately could, win. “Birdman” is a real marvel, there is no doubting it, and if it were to win the top prize, it would make a lot of sense. It’s taken every guild honor that it was nominated for (though it was considered ineligible by the WGA) and statistically that pretty much lines up with taking the Best Picture Oscar. “Boyhood,” meanwhile, is a film that I definitely admire and respect to no end, but I don’t think it adds up to what others have seen in it. And yet, “Boyhood” winning Best Picture feels far more fulfilling. The conquering of ambition alone is worth the win and I do think it’s very, very likely that things swing back in “Boyhood’s” direction at the last second. However, until that happens, I’m going to have to go with history on this one. “Birdman” will be named Best Picture of 2014.

Best Director

More times than not, Best Picture and Best Director go hand in hand. Interestingly enough though, the previous two years have seen a Best Picture/Best Director split with “Gravity’s” Alfonso Cuaron conceding a Best Picture victory to “12 Years a Slave” last year and Ang Lee winning an Oscar for directing “Life of Pi” while Ben Affleck’s “Argo” took the 2012 Best Picture (it should be noted, though, that Affleck was famously snubbed in the Best Director category that year). This year, it could go either way: Either Alejandro G. Innaritu couples with a “Birdman” victory, or Innaritu wins while “Boyhood” goes on to become Best Picture. Richard Linklater winning this category isn’t out of the question either, but if that is to happen, it’s doubtful that the split will jostle “Birdman” to Best Picture in the end. Linklater will only win if the Academy has “Boyhood” waiting in the wings to win it all. As a result, regardless of what ends up happening, the odds favor Alejandro.

Best Actor

Birdman

Theory

Michael Keaton was long the favorite to win for his fearless performance in “Birdman,” but a recent upswing in momentum for Eddie Redmayne has made Keaton’s road to the Oscar a little more jagged and uncertain. If history is to pave the way for the future, Redmayne’s SAG win for Best Actor should have sealed the young Brit’s fate as the forthcoming Oscar winner for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything” (I believe only three actors in the entire history of the SAG awards who won the Best Actor prize did not win the Oscar). However, I feel obligated to hope that the Academy will come around in a way that the Critics Choice awards and the HFPA have and will present Keaton with a much deserved Academy Award.

Best Actress

In a total contrast from its gender opposite category, Best Actress is one of the few unrelenting locks of the evening. This is a mightily talented category with Felicity Jones, Marion Cotillard, Rosamund Pike, and especially Reese Witherspoon all in very deserving positions to win. But Julianne Moore has proved to be more than just a formidable presence in this category all season racking up countless awards for her incredible turn in “Still Alice.” It’s a long-time-coming win for a role that, though unquestionably good, doesn’t really compare to her previously nominated work in “Boogie Nights” and “Far From Heaven,” but using this opportunity to finally honor Moore for a career of greatness feels wholly justified.

Best Supporting Actor & Actress

Like the unstoppable Julianne Moore, J.K. Simmons and Patricia Arquette are cemented into place as the soon-to-be Oscar winners in the Best Supporting Actor and Actress categories, respectively. Labeling the competition against both of these performers as just strong would be undervaluing the amazing work done by the other eight competing actors, but “Whiplash,” is nothing without the ferocious work of Simmons and the maternal care, commitment, maturation and eventual heartbreak rendered into Arquette’s decade-lapsing performance in “Boyhood” is more than enough to quantify these wins. This is a monumental moment for two of the most revered character actors in the business and I, myself, couldn’t be more thrilled for them.

Whiplash-5547.cr2Best Original Screenplay

I’ll be holding tight until the opening of the envelope with this one, but I’m pretty confident that Wes Anderson, a six time Academy award nominee, twice in this particular category before now, will finally win an Oscar for his “The Grand Budapest Hotel” screenplay. If the Academy is ready to parade “Birdman” with a plethora of prizes, it wouldn’t be out of the question for that film’s quartet of writers to come out victorious either. But if the Academy is in the business of spreading the wealth around (topping off with a “Boyhood” Best Picture win and a Best Director prize for Innaritu), then the overdue Anderson will finally get his due (rightfully so, for that matter) in this category tonight.

Best Adapted Screenplay

With Gillian Flynn unceremoniously booted out of the competition, and Damien Chazelle bizarrely integrated into this category (Chazelle’s “Whiplash” screenplay competed in the Original Screenplay category all season until the Academy deemed it ‘adapted’ because Chazelle first directed a “Whiplash” short film that was, in actuality, just a single scene from an already finished original screenplay…), nothing is truly set in stone in terms of this category’s winner. “The Theory of Everything’s” Anthony McCarten, winner of the BAFTA in this category, and “The Imitation Game’s” Graham Moore, WGA winner in this category, seem like the safest bets here. I am not, however, ruling out Damien Chazelle as a potential party crasher, but with “The Imitation Game’s” chances in other categories looking less likely than it was at the onset of the season, this is where I believe it will get it’s moment. Also, let’s simply congratulate the Academy on just tossing Paul Thomas Anderson a nomination for his exceptional “Inherent Vice” screenplay. No way in hell will it win, but damn is it awesome to know he’ll be in the audience tonight anyway.

Dragon 2Best Animated Feature Film

By discarding hope that enough Academy voters wrote in “The LEGO Movie” as their preferred winner thus, by the grace of some God, allowing the shockingly un-nominated film to actually win the Oscar, this category is also seemingly up in the air. “How to Train Your Dragon 2” seems to be in a good position to win, especially after emerging directly out of “LEGO’s” shadow, but I wouldn’t be shocked if an upset took place in this category tonight. “Big Hero 6” and “The Boxtrolls” as well as the critically adored “The Tale of Princess Kaguya” could all step in to usurp “Dragon’s” newfound spotlight. I’m going with “Dragon” for now, but don’t consider it an altogether sure thing.

Best Cinematography

Emmanuel Lubezski has continually made the case that he is one of the, if not the, most interesting and impressive cinematographer working today. His work on “Birdman” is tremendous, and his adherence to the film’s one-shot gimmick is not only wowing, but wonderfully whimsical and unpredictable. The film’s fluidity is one thing, but his clear ability to compose attractive shots throughout the never-static camerawork is something else entirely. Lubezski will become only the fifth Director of Photography in Academy history to win back-to-back Oscars in this category following his equally justified win for last year’s “Gravity.”

Best Costume Design

Three period pieces, a Disney juggernaut, and a big musical adaptation duke it out in this category, pretty much of all of them worthy of the recognition and defensible were any of them to win. However, in a thoroughly bypassed, below the line category, I think Academy favorite Colleen Atwood will be awarded for his majestic costuming of Rob Marshall’s “Into the Woods.”

Best Film Editing

Much like J.K. Simmons, Tom Cross’ editing is instrumental – literally – to “Whiplash’s” success. Aggressive and alive, Cross’ brilliant work is as much a savage ball of energy as Simmons’ Terrence Fletcher and is easily the best editing work in any film this past year. In a category that I actually care a lot about, Tom Cross was my ideal winner from the moment I first glimpsed “Whiplash” and I’m hoping that this is another category that the Academy realizes how fitting “Whiplash” is to win it.

Best Foreign Language Film

I’m impressed with myself for actually having seen three of the five nominated foreign language films this year – “Ida,” “Leviathan,” and “Wild Tales” – but it makes my task that much harder in deciding which of those are the most deserving. “Wild Tales” has been rumored to be this category’s party crasher, which would be as surprising as it would be awesome because it’s a strange and terribly dark piece of black comedy, but I still think it’s going to come down between Russia’s “Leviathan” and Poland’s “Ida.” I have to go with the latter, however, because it sounds like it’s one of the foreign films that most of the Academy had actually seen before the nominations were even announced, judging by it’s inclusion in the Best Cinematography category, and I think that will carry over into a win.

Best Makeup & Hairstyling

A green-skinned Zoe Saldana vs. an 80-year-old looking Tilda Swinton vs. Steve Carell’s prosthetic nose. That’s this category in a nutshell. “Guardians” would be a cool choice for a winner, but “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is looking to pull in a lot of wins in the below the line categories, so I’m putting money on Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier’s terrific work in Wes Anderson’s opus for the win.

Best Original Score

Alexandre Desplat has two excellent scores competing in this category and I wouldn’t be surprised if that ends up being his vote-splitting downfall and making way for Jóhann Jóhannsson to move into winning position for his melodic score to “The Theory of Everything.” It’s far from my favorite score of the year; I actually prefer the also-nominated “Interstellar” score and Desplat’s work on “The Grand Budapest Hotel” would be my dream winner, but Jóhannsson has done a lot of amazing work in the past (namely his score to “Prisoners”) so it’s a win I can ultimately accept.

Best Original Song

The Oscars should have a number of great musical performances tonight, which I know is not everybody’s cup of tea, but each of tonight’s nominated songs are really impressive pieces of work and it’s nice to know that some of the lesser known songs – “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” and “Grateful” – will finally get heard. But the rightful winner is going to have to be the much heard and much loved closing credits track from Ava DuVernay’s “Selma,” titled “Glory,” by John Legend and Common. The song is quite impactful, a perfect cap to an equally as powerful film, and with that film’s unfair snubbing in basically every other category, the Academy will do right to toss the film a much deserved Oscar in this category.

Best Production Design

If you’ve seen “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” then you’ve seen Adam Stockhausen & Anna Pinnock’s vibrant, pop-up book-like set and production design and you also have realized that not too much else this past year comes even close to comparison. Another below the line win for Wes Anderson’s storybook fable.

Best Sound Editing & Mixing

It’s a running joke that many people don’t understand the difference between these two categories, even some people nominated for these awards aren’t aware of any particular difference, but I’m going to give these categories a whirl and predict “Interstellar” for a win in the former and “Whiplash” for a win the latter. I’m just going to leave it at that.

DAwnBest Visual Effects

It seems foolish to say that any other movie in this category that isn’t “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” has a understandable chance at winning, but the previous film, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” also lost in this category just a few years ago, so who is to say really? Yet, I do think Matt Reeves’ sequel will be awarded this time around.

Best Documentary Feature

Though I never got to see it, “CITZENFOUR” has been the undisputed winner here throughout the entire circuit. Even better yet, after it (most likely) wins the Oscar tonight, it will have it’s debut on HBO tomorrow night. That’s how you cap awards season, ladies and gentlemen.

The Oscars will air live tonight at 8pm.

Article and Predictions by Mike Murphy

NPH

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