Friday, February 20, 2015

It's almost over -- Oscar season, that is

Birdman and Boyhood in tight race for best picture.
Current wisdom has it that 2015 has given us one of the tightest Oscar races in years. Clear frontrunners have yet to emerge in several important categories, namely best picture, best director and best actor.
That may be true, but I have to confess that even several tightly contested races haven't gotten me psyched for Sunday's Oscars. In truth, the moment I'm most eagerly anticipating is the end of what feels like another interminable awards season.
Having said that, I suppose it's incumbent on me to make a few Oscar predictions, so here goes:

Best Picture
Birdman will win.
The competition has narrowed to a battle between Boyhood and Birdman. It's entirely possible that Boyhood will prove victorious, but Birdman seems to have received a boost of inevitably from victories at the Producers and Directors Guild awards, where it won best picture and best director honors respectively.
Besides, I know moviegoers whose judgment I respect who believe Boyhood doesn't quite live up to its reputation. A little underwhelming, they argue.
I'm going against my gut by picking Birdman, but my gut often finds itself out of alignment with Hollywood thinking.
I hope I'm wrong. I hope Boyhood takes best picture, but I'm prepared for Birdman to fly.
Best possible upset: Selma surprises everyone and wins best picture.

Best director
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
It's not unreasonable to expect a split vote for best picture and best director with Birdman winning best picture and Richard Linklater (Boyhood) winning best director.
A favorable outcome for Linklater might depend on whether the Academy decides that this well-regarded indie director -- who spent 12 years making his movie -- can't go home without some recognition.
But ...
It may be difficult to stop Inarritu since he's already won the Directors Guild award and because his movie bowed much later in the year than Boyhood, which had its premiere more than a year ago last month at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.
Of course, there's yet another possibility: Inarritu wins best director, but Boyhood snags best-picture honors.

Best Actor
Eddie Redmayne will win for The Theory of Everything.
Lots of folks think Birdman's Michael Keaton will take home Oscar gold for his portrayal of a desperate Hollywood actor trying to make a comeback on Broadway.
Keaton, who hasn't starred in a movie in a while, certainly makes for a better Hollywood story than Redmayne: Veteran actor re-emerges to wow voters or something like that.
But the Screen Actors Guild award went to Redmayne, and actors make up the Academy's biggest voting bloc. Ergo, my pick.
Besides, Redmayne was terrific as physicist Steven Hawking; he deserves credit for keeping Theory of Everything from falling into disease-of-the week sentimentality. He portrayed Hawking's ALS-related disabilities with alarming accuracy, but never lost sight of Hawking's wit, brilliance and humanity.
If there's a dark horse here, it's Bradley Cooper. How could a Cooper victory happen? If Redmayne and Keaton wind up splitting voters, Cooper has a chance.
Besides, even people who don't admire American Sniper concede that Cooper gave one hell of a performance as Navy SEAL Chris Kyle.

Best Actress
We're now crossing into safer terrain for predictions.
Julianne Moore wins the best actress Oscar for her portrayal of a college professor battling a rapidly advancing case of Alzheimer's. This is a strong category, but Moore deserves to win -- not only for her performance in Still Alice, but for a career geared toward excellence -- with a few digressions, of course. Let's not talk about her first movie of 2015: The misbegotten Seventh Son.

Best Supporting Actor
The Oscar goes to J.K. Simmons. Why go against the wave of support Simmons already has received with Golden Globe and SAG awards?
If you think Simmons was scary and intimidating as a sadistic music teacher in Whiplash, you've forgotten his portrayal of a white supremacist in 56 episodes of HBO's Oz.

Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette will win.
Arquette may not have quite as much support as Simmons, but she'll have enough to win an Oscar for her work as an often-frustrated single mother in Boyhood.

Now for some quicker hits:
Look for The Imitation Game to emerge victorious in the best adapted screenplay category. I'm betting that The Grand Budapest Hotel will win best original screenplay for Wes Anderson , although -- for my money -- the movie is more a brilliant display of visual wit than anything else.
I'm going to skip most of the so-called technical categories, except to note that Birdman will win a cinematography Oscar for Emmanuel Lubezki, who also won in that category last year for his work on Gravity. Talk about being on a roll.
As for documentaries: It doesn't look as if anything can stop Citizen Four from taking home an Oscar, although I can't help but wonder whether Academy voters have at least some mixed feelings about Edward Snowden, the film's subject.
I'm thinking the Polish film Ida will win best foreign-language film, although this category can (and has) produced upsets. If I had a vote, it would have gone to Leviathan.
I'll be watching and Tweeting Sunday evening, contributing to the great snarkfest that now accompanies every awards show.
I believe the annual gathering at which Hollywood celebrates itself is fair game for snark.
Let's face it, the lengthy telecast seldom proves entertaining, and the results don't necessarily reveal anything essential about the cultural moment in which we're living.
We watch because ... well ... because we do.
Let's face it, being movie lovers often necessitates putting ourselves in the position of rejected lovers who refuse to take a hint. No matter how many times the Oscar show bores or disappoints us, we always seem to return for more.

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