Oscar Predictions: Final Round - Let's All Go to Zubrowka!

Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel. Photo: Fox Searchlight
Let's all go to Zubrowka, shall we? I think that the members of the Society of the Crossed Keys, better known as Oscar voters, have been busy getting in touch and popping screeners with a dab of Eau de Panache and gobbling up courtesans au chocolat care of Mendl's and publicists working hard to keep the best movies in the mix. A lot of us thought that The Grand Budapest Hotel came out too early to be much more than a peripheral player in this year's Oscar race, but it's coming on strong with recognition at virtually every guild except the sound guys and it scored a Golden Globe on top of a landslide of BAFTA nominations and other critical kudos. Is The Grand Budapest Hotel the only film with a legitimate chance of besting Boyhood?

I think the strong show of support for The Grand Budapest Hotel shows that despite all the courting, screeners, and noise, people simply vote for the films they love. Throughout the year, at parties and gatherings with film friends and with peers who have little interest in film, The Grand Budapest Hotel consistently brings a sparkle and a quick ‘YES!’ of agreement whenever I mention it. These people aren't Oscar voters, mind you, but, like one takes a sample for a survey or poll, the pockets of love for The Grand Budapest Hotel demonstrate that it’s a special little indie connecting with people who don’t generally go for smaller, artier, quirkier fare. It also helps that it came out early and performed well through strong word of mouth, sustaining its hype for almost a year by the time the Academy Awards are handed out in February. Most importantly, though, there simply isn’t anything like The Grand Budapest Hotel—nothing lighter, nothing funnier—to eat into the votes. Spillage, on the other hand, seems to be a problem for many of the films coming into the race at the last minute or on the heels of the festival circuit.

Selma and American Sniper both happened late in the game, and they’ve been two of the most surprising films in the post-Christmas rush. Selma surprises with its absence and American Sniper surprises with its presence. I think Ava DuVernay jumped the gun and pushed Selma into the fray before it was entirely ready: Selma and Sniper premiered back-to-back at the AFI with the former screening as an incomplete preview and the latter as a finished premiere. Both films had favourable receptions, but the buzz for Selma was so deafening that everyone wanted to see it, but then nobody could because it wasn’t ready in time for advance screeners (although they did theatrical screenings for voters) and it missed a lot of the critics’ awards and industry recognition. Reports say that the Selma camp focused on the Academy itself, so I think it will be more present at the Oscars, but not as strongly as it should be. Everyone's approaching Selma as an 'Oscar movie' (or point of controversy) while Sniper's largely being enjoyed (or reviled) as a film in its own right. (I haven't seen Sniper yet. It doesn't screen here until tonight.)

Sniper on the other hand, is a giant question mark since Clint Eastwood’s films have been surprisingly cool with the Oscars lately. No love for Gran Torino, J. Edgar, or Hereafter, says that Mr. Eastwood might have earned enough Oscars; moreover, both Invictus and Changeling received fewer nominations than they could have and should have—the former of which is significant if one remembers that Invictus lost out on a Best Picture nomination to fellow sports pic The Blind Side! Clint scored a DGA nomination for Sniper, so that almost inevitable foretells a Best Picture nomination, but I honestly can’t see him scoring a Best Director nomination once again when his film has been little more than an underlying presence in the race and probably shares a pocket of fans with Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken. Like Selma, though, I think Eastwood’s film will find its way into the Best Picture race, but I think it’ll only garner some technical nominations on the side. A Best Actor nomination for Bradley Cooper seems totally random given the strong competition and a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination seems even less likely now that Whiplash is competing in the adapted field.

If Selma and American Sniper are coming on strong, though, what films are they bumping out? Any vote gained for them is a vote lost for another film. Does Selma overlap with fans of riskier, auteur driven cinema like Gone Girl or are the fans of Boyhood firm in their preference for Linklater? (DuVernay's certainly garnering well-deserved notice as a distinct voice behind the camera.) Sniper doesn't seem to conflict with  anything besides Unbroken, unless it could be a mainstream option for fans of films like Whiplash, Nightcrawler, and Foxcatcher, which have been doing well getting crossover appeal from arthouse fans and mainstream moviegoers alike.

It’s a tough year to predict and I’ve never felt less confident in my picks, but whatever. Unpredictability is a lot more fun than an echo chamber.

Final Oscar Predictions:

*New or moved

Best Picture:

American Sniper*

Almost put: Foxcatcher*
I'm rooting for: Wild, A Most Violent Year 

Best Director

Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Ava DuVernay, Selma
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Morten TyldumThe Imitation Game* 

Almost put: David Fincher, Gone Girl*
I'm rooting for: Jean-Marc Vallée, Wild

Best Actor

Benedict Cumberbatch,  The Imitation Game
Ralph Fiennes The Grand Budapest Hotel*
Michael Keaton, Birdman
David Oyelowo, Selma
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Almost put: Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler*
I'm rooting for: Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler

Best Actress

Jennifer Aniston, Cake*
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon, Wild

Almost put: Amy Adams, Big Eyes*
I'm rooting for: Anne Dorval, Mommy, Reese Witherspoon, and Julianne Moore 

Best Supporting Actor:

Josh Brolin, Inherent Vice*
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Edward Norton, Birdman
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Almost Put:  Robert Duvall, The Judge
I'm rooting for: Edward Norton and Josh Brolin

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Laura Dern, Wild
Keira Knightley,  The Imitation Game
Emma Stone, Birdman 
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

Almost put:  Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year*
I'm rooting for: Laura Dern (and Meryl, Jessica Chastain, and Patricia Arquette)

Best Original Screenplay

Birdman – Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo
Boyhood – Richard Linklater
Foxcatcher – E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman
The Grand Budapest Hotel– Wes Anderson
Mr. Turner – Mike Leigh

Almost put: Nightcrawler - Dan Gilroy
I'm rooting for: J.C. Chandor, A Most Violent Year

Best Adapted Screenplay

Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn
The Imitation Game – Graham Moore
The Theory of Everything – Anthony McCarten
WhiplashDamien Chazelle*  
Wild – Nick Hornby

Almost put: Inherent Vice – Paul Thomas Anderson
I'm rooting for: Wild, Gone Girl, Still Alice

Best Film Editing:

American Sniper

Almost put: Gone Girl*
I'm rooting for: Wild, Birdman and Gone Girl (On what planet do Wild and Gone Girl miss out?)

Best Cinematography:

Almost put: Gone Girl*
I'm rooting for: Wild, The Immigrant

Best Costumes:

Mr. Turner

Almost put: Selma

Best Production Design:

Mr. Turner          

Almost put:  Inherent Vice*

Best Score:

Gone Girl– Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross
The Grand Budapest Hotel– Alexandre Desplat
The Imitation Game  – Alexandre Desplat
Interstellar – Hans Zimmer and the church organ
The Theory of Everything - Johann Johannsson

Almost put: Noah
I'm rooting for: Gone Girl and The Imitation Game (BECAUSE I CAN'T ROOT FOR BIRDMAN!)

Sound Mixing:

American Sniper*

Almost put: Whiplash*

Sound Editing:

American Sniper*
Transformers 4

What about: Fury*

Visual Effects:

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Guardians of the Galaxy
The Hobbit 3*

Almost put:  Maleficent*

Best Make-up

Guardians of the Galaxy*

Almost put: Foxcatcher (will they really nominate one nose?)

Best Song:

Lost Stars,” Begin Again
"The Last Goodbye," The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies*
"Mercy Is," Noah
"Glory", Selma*
Almost put: "Big Eyes," Big Eyes

I'm rooting for: "Lost Stars" and, actually, "The Only Thing" from Third Person, which doesn't have a chance in hell, but I really like it. (Side note: It was so funny seeing hordes of people Shazaam the song during the end credits at TIFF... what ever happened to reading the credits?)

Best Documentary Feature:

The Overnighters
Tales of the Grim Sleeper

Almost put: Virunga*
I'm rooting for: Finding Vivian Maier

Best Foreign Language Film:

Force Majeure – Sweden
Ida - Poland
Leviathan - Russia*
Timbuktu - Mauritania*
Wild Tales - Argentina

Almost put: Tangerines - Estonia*
I'm rooting for: Force Majeure

Best Animated Film:

Big Hero 6

What about: The Book of Life
I'm rooting for: Rocks in My Pockets

Best Animated Short:

The Bigger Picture*
Me and My Moulton*
Also shortlisted:  Duet*, The Numberlys*, A Single Life*, Symphony No. 42 (seen it, no review)*.

Best Live Action Short:

Short Documentary Short:


*I would be picking random titles for these two, although I think The Phone Call is in for Live Short.

What are your final Oscar Predix?