The Oscars: 8 nominees, 1 winner in race for Best Picture

Photo Courtesy of Big Star Movies.

 

It’s that time of year again when the movie industry gives itself a pat on the back for being awesome and the general public watches to see what celebrities are like “in real life” while wondering why they haven’t seen or heard of the nominated films.

 

The biggest prize is, of course, “Best Picture” ­­— which is a wildly coveted, but barely remembered prize.

 

So, which of the eight nominees is the most likely to win?

Whiplash

 

The least-seen movie of the bunch, “Whiplash” follows the story of a young drummer trying to ascend through a cutthroat career track with a driven music instructor, played by J. K. Simmons.

 

Simmons is predicted to win Best Supporting Actor. Additionally, the film has picked up nominations for Adapted Screenplay, Editing and Sound Mixing. It’s not projected to win any of these and is a definite long-shot for Best Picture.

Selma

 

 

A civil rights drama following Martin Luther King in his preparations for an Alabama march from Selma to Montgomery, this is one of the three Best Picture nominees I’ve actually seen, and I can attest that it deserves to be here; it is one of the most powerful films I’ve seen in years.

 

However, it doesn’t have much chance at winning Best Picture. After the Oscar nominations were announced, “Selma” was the film making headlines — not for what it got but for what it didn’t.

 

Many journalists noted the Academy’s lack of recognition for the film’s director Ava DuVernay and lead actor David Oyelowo. There are various theories for the perceived oversight, but whatever the reasons, it’s only other nomination was for Best Original Song, “Glory” by Common & John Legend. The song is projected to take the Oscar.

 

Without nods for Director, Editing or Screenplay though, there is virtually no way “Selma” takes home best picture.
 

 American Sniper

 

The story of the most prolific killer in the history of the U.S. Army, Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” is probably the most controversial film on the list. It is something of an outsider at this point, but has a slim chance at causing an upset.

 

The movie has made more money at the box office than all of the other Best Picture nominees combined, but that doesn’t really mean much, especially without a Best Director nomination.

 

“Argo” overcame this for the win in 2012, but that movie had more universal appeal and less controversial politics attached to it. No one started a #KillAllMuslims tag after “Argo” came out.

 

While “Argo” could be seen as propaganda as well, it did not glorify a man who killed 160 people, including women and children and lied multiple times in his memoir.

 

I would be surprised (and saddened) if this took Best Picture. It is also nominated for Best Actor (Bradley Cooper), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing and Best Film Editing.

The Theory of Everything

 

The Academy loves true stories of inspirational people, and Stephen Hawking — scientist credited with forming the Big Bang theory — appears to fit the bill. While the movie’s reviews were mixed, there is a good chance this could pick up a few awards.

 

Eddie Redmayne is being projected as the front-runner for Best Actor by most publications. Even if Redmayne does not win Best Actor, there’s a good chance this takes Adapted Screenplay and Original Score.

 

However, “Theory of Everything” would need to have Best Director and Best Editing nominations to be a true Oscar contender. Redmayne’s co-star Felicity Jones is also nominated for Best Actress.

 

 

Birdman

 

“Birdman” was the second weirdest movie I saw last year, and I mean that in a good way. The story of a man, his ego, critics, the industry, a changing world, theater and superhero movies. Yes, that’s all in there.

 

The film is an experience, filmed to resemble one continuous shot. So why isn’t it my top pick to win Best Picture? Precisely that. Birdman is a little too on-the-nose and a bit too artistically driven for the Academy voters. If you don’t believe me, look at last year when they nominated “Captain Phillips,” but ignored “Inside Llewyn Davis.”

 

That said, “Birdman” is not another “Inside Llewyn Davis,” and it has a fair shot of taking Best Picture, since it looks like we have a major split-vote on our hands (even though it is missing the key Best Editing nomination).

 

Michael Keaton also has a good shot at taking Best Actor. I think the Oscars will favor Keaton for a few reasons, not the least of which being he deserves it.

 

I think what will make him win though, is his comeback story. Keaton has been largely irrelevant since the early ‘90s and now he’s back and better than ever. Oscar voters like that.

 

The movie is also nominated for Best Director (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu), Best Supporting Actor (Edward Norton), Best Supporting Actress (Emma Stone), Best Original Screenplay, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing and Best Cinematography.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

 

My personal choice for Best Picture of the year, this movie has been around since last March and somehow has managed not to be forgotten.

 

Director Wes Anderson is very overdue for Oscar love. While “Grand Budapest” is not my favorite of his films, I am glad to see his talent finally getting recognition. With nine nominations, it is impossible to write this off.

 

The movie is a work of art from its lavish design to its brilliant script to its captivating cinematography. It exists on its own terms in a world with its own rules, while wearing the clothes of a period piece.

 

It has the key nominations viewed as “requirements” to win Best Picture, (Director, Original Screenplay, Film Editing) and then some (Original Score, Cinematography, Production Design, Costume Design, Makeup & Hairstyling).

 

The biggest argument against it is that it is quite artsy. The Oscar voters are notoriously old and there’s a good chance they won’t get it. It also lacks any acting nominations for its brilliant cast.

 

It’s definitely a dark horse, but if there’s a significant split among voters, it could pull this out.
 

Boyhood

 

Richard Linklater spent 12 years making a three-hour movie about growing up. The film was shot every summer for 12 years with the same actors (roughly 15 minutes per summer).

 

That is why it is going to win Best Picture, because of what amounts to a gimmick. That, and it is apparently very good. Seeing the natural aging process take its toll not only on the young boy, but also on his parents played by Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke (both of whom are nominated in their respective Supporting categories) is a recipe for Oscar gold.

 

The audacious three-hour run-time makes the project seem all the more ambitious. Even if this doesn’t win Best Picture, it is a shoe-in for Best Director. It is also nominated for Best Original Screenplay and Best Film Editing.

The Imitation Game

 

“The Imitation Game” is the story of Alan Turing, an eccentric code-breaker in World War II played by “Sherlock” star (and funny name owner) Benedict Cumberbatch.
 
Turing was convicted of indecency for being a homosexual and underwent chemical castration, which brings me to why this is the second most likely to win in my opinion.

 

The Academy voters love World War II. Add in two prominent British actors (Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress, respectively) and a gay rights angle and you’d be silly not to see this as a contender.

 

Then consider that its unknown director earned a nomination over Clint Eastwood and Ava DuVernay. In any other year this would be the clear frontrunner. But it isn’t. The film is also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Production Design and Best Film Editing.
 
Other notably nominated movies

• “Foxcatcher” for Best Director, first film to be nominated for BD without a Best Picture nom since 2007. Also nominated for Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor (Steve Carell), Best Supporting Actor (Mark Ruffalo)and Best Makeup & Hairstyling.

• “Mr. Turner,” nominated in four categories — Best Original Score, Best Production Design, Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design.

• “Wild,” nominated for Best Actress (Reese Witherspoon) and Best Supporting Actress (Laura Dern).

My Predictions

Best Picture
Winner: “Boyhood”
Second: “Imitation Game;” “Birdman”
Dark Horse: “Grand Budapest Hotel”

Best Director
Winner: Richard Linklater  
(“Boyhood”)
Should Be: Wes Anderson (“Grand
Budapest Hotel”)
Best Actor
Winner: Michael Keaton (“Birdman”)
Second: Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory
 of Everything”)
Dark Horse: Benedict Cumberbatch
 (“The Imitation Game”)

Best Actress
Julianne Moore (“Still  Alice”)

Best Supporting Actor
J.K. Simmons (“Whiplash”)

Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette (“Boyhood”)

Best Original Screenplay
Winner: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Second: “Birdman”
Dark Horse: “Boyhood”
Overlooked: “Obvious Child”

Best Adapted Screenplay
Winner: “The Imitation Game”
Second: “American Sniper”
Overlooked: “Gone Girl”

Best Animated Film
Winner: “How to Train Your Dragon 2”

Best Original Score
Winner: “The Theory of Everything”
Should Be: “Grand Budapest Hotel”
I Will Riot if: “Interstellar”

My Top 10 For the Year
1. “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
2. “Selma”
3. “Birdman”
4. “Obvious Child”
5. “How to Train Your Dragon 2”
6. “The Congress”
7. “Guardians of the Galaxy”
8. “Into the Woods”
9. “Captain America 2”
10. “Big Hero 6”

My Bottom 5 for the Year
5. “God’s Not Dead”
4. “Noah”
3. “Winter’s Tale”
2. “Left Behind”
1. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”

5 2014 Films I Still Want to See
“Boyhood”
“Whiplash”
“Dear White People”
“Under the Skin”
“Big Eyes”

5 Underrated Movies
Divergent
Belle
Oculus
Chef
The Congress

The Oscars airs at 8pm on Sunday, Feb. 22nd.

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