Sunday, February 28, 2016

A few alternative Oscars to tide you over

Some fun alternatives with which to while away the media blackout:

Best achievement against typecasting: Sean Bean, for not dying at the end of The Martian

Let's face it, it's been a tough career. From Patriot Games to The Lord of the Rings to Game of Thrones, we were starting to worry that The Martian wasn't going to be a comedy after all! But just when you think you know this actor, he surprises you. And survives until the end credits. Phew!

The Liam Neeson award for being Liam Neeson: Liam Neeson, Run all night

Yes, the one thing you can always count on from Liam Neeson, and that's Being Liam Neeson, which isn't something anyone else can just do.

Best one-liner:
Star Wars: The Force Awakens: “Chewie, we’re home”
The Big Short: “Now here’s Margot Robbie in a bubble bath to explain.”
The Martian: “I’m going to have to science the shit out of this”
Bridge of Spies: “Would it help?”
Inside Out: “Congratulations, San Francisco, you have ruined pizza!”

They're all awesome, really. Five-way tie!

Biggest "Oh please" moment: The Martian: NASA televises a rescue mission live

Seriously. Seriously. In what universe? NASA doesn't even allow its astronauts to SWEAR on live TV, let alone risk its entire future funding by allowing the world to watch how the sausage gets made! GAAAAAAAAH!

Michael Fassbender award for ubiquitousness in film:
Domhnall Gleeson in: Brooklyn, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Ex Machina, The Revenant
Alicia Vikander in: Ex Machina, Ingrid Bergman, The Man from U.N.C.L.E, Burnt, The Danish Girl

I'm giving it to Domhnall Gleeson, because they're some quality movies. Also because I still couldn't really pick Vikander out of a line-up.

Best performance by a landscape: Canada and Argentina, for their breathtaking dual performances of Montana in The Revenant

Best mode of transport
Whatever the heck those were in Mad Max: Fury Road
Horse, river and fingertips, The Revenant
TIE fighters, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Pumpkin carriage, Cinderella

Pumpkin carriage!!!!! It's appealing, it's comfortable, it's sparkly, and it doesn't have the propensity to burst into flames that so many of the others do. (Extra nerd points to me for finding out that TIE stands for "Twin-Ion Engine")

Best meal in a movie
Raw bison liver, The Revenant
Instant muffin, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Hot dogs, Spotlight
Potatoes, The Martian

Ok, that bison liver took guts. So to speak. And potatoes are universally awesome. But I've got to give it to J.J. Abrahms for that muffin. Now that's cooking.

In which I am not commenting on political aspects of the Oscars!

It's Oscar time!!!! Here is my hastily cobbled-together rundown!

Best Picture

The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant

I’ve seen six of these, which is good for eight nominees, so, thanks to the Oscars for limiting their pool this year! I will admit, I understood very little of The Big Short and cared about very little else, although I don’t think anyone else could have made it clearer (that’s … supposed to be a compliment). Anyway, it’s one of the three frontrunners as I can see. Next is The Revenant, which is epic, bleak, and superbly shot and acted. It’s maintaining its momentum like a champ, and while it’s not something that the average viewer is going to watch on a Friday night, this kind of staying power is impressive. The third is Spotlight, about which I can’t say enough. It’s measured and clever, and has an amazing cast telling. It’s time, says I, to have a great story, greatly told, win the Oscar.

In other news, I thought Brooklyn was fantastic, a quiet, lovely film with a quiet, lovely performance. I LOVED Bridge of Spies (what can I say, Spielberg and Hanks know what I like), and I’m so glad that this amazing film hasn’t been forgotten. As for The Martian, I was a little underwhelmed, but this may have something to do with my undying love for Apollo 13, and no space movie will ever measure up.

Who SHOULD win: Spotlight
Who WILL win: The Revenant

Actor in a Leading Role

Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Matt Damon, The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
(Quick note: I haven't seen Beasts of No Nation, so can't comment on Idris Elba, apart from saying that he's hot)

Trying to keep this brief, because it’s late. So let us just celebrate the fact that The Time Has Come, and that means that Leonardo DiCaprio Is Finally Going To Win an Oscar! Yes, it only took 20 years and five nominations, but it’s happening. If last year’s Wolf of Wall Street tour-de-force wasn’t enough, then this epic 156 minutes of Acting with a Capital A will have to do. No one else is touching this. I am expecting a good five-minute standing ovation. Suck it, everyone else!

Who SHOULD win: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Who WILL win: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

Actress in a Leading Role

Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Ok, time to confess. I’ve seen one of these performances. Bad form, I know, but I can’t bring myself to watch Room. I’m sure it’s lovely, but I have become soft in my old age and am not quite ready to watch a child abduction/imprisonment story. Anyhoo. I’m really into this back-to-basics thing this year, and Saoirse Ronan does a beautiful job with a very internalised role, turning this into something really special.

Let’s bring up who should be here, while we’re at it. Carey Mulligan is always incredible, and Suffragette was no exception. I would like to think that in any other year she would have been more talked about.

Meanwhile, this award belongs to Brie Larson.

Who SHOULD win: Brie Larson, Room
Who WILL win: Brie Larson, Room

Actor in a Supporting Role

Christian Bale, The Big Short
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Sylvester Stallone, Creed

I don’t know what Christian Bale is doing here. Think of Steve Carell in the same movie. Or Michael Keaton, or anyone else from Spotlight. Or hey, I hear the guys in Straight Outta Compton were good. The point is, I think Bale is getting this nomination for the sake of it. Otherwise I quite like this line up. I’m so glad Hardy got nominated, because he was outstanding in The Revenant. And the more I read about Stallone the more I like him. I would love the Oscars forever if they would just give Mark Ruffalo an award, already. But really I want to see Mark Rylance take this out, because good lord he deserves it. Seriously, have you seen Bridge of Spies yet? Because he was just incredible. Stallone is a favourite, and the Oscars love a comeback kid, but you never know. Look at Mickey Rourke.

And next year I’ll get started campaigning for Ruffalo.

Who SHOULD win: Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Who WILL win: Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Actress in a Supporting Role

Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara, Carol
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

Oh dear, only one here, too. I’m not a huge fan of Rooney Mara, who seems to have the same expression in every aspect of her life. Jennifer Jason Leigh is a real threat, and, interestingly enough, so is Kate Winslet (I’m gunning for her, because she’s still amazing). I’d say the odds are in Vikander’s court, and it will do the job of throwing some Oscar love in The Danish Girl’s direction.

Speaking of who should be here: Anne-Marie Duff in Suffragette was AMAZING.

Who SHOULD win: Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
Who WILL win: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl


Lenny Abrahamson, Room
Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
Adam McKay, The Big Short
George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road

There’s a lot of love for George Miller in Hollywood right now, and, given that Iñárritu won this award last year he might actually stand a chance. My gut, though gives this to The Revenant, because holy hell, that took guts.

Who SHOULD win: Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant
Who WILL win: Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant

Animated Feature Film

Boy and the World
Inside Out
When Marnie Was There
Shaun the Sheep: The Movie

Oh god, we’re descending into guessing games already. I’m sorry I haven’t seen any of the others, because they look great. But Inside Out was at times hilarious, heartbreaking, and I think we all learned a lesson about letting Sad take control every now and then (actual dialogue from me while watching: “Goddammit, Sad! Just sit quietly!”). Possible upset in Anomalisa, about which I have heard only good.

Who SHOULD win: Inside Out
Who WILL win: Inside Out

Best Original Screenplay

Bridge of Spies
Ex Machina
Inside Out
Straight Outta Compton

Some good nominees here, but if we step back and look at strategic voting only, I’d say there’s a strong chance that Straight Outta Compton might get this. However, Spotlight was really story-based, and deserves this.

Who SHOULD win: Spotlight
Who WILL win: Spotlight

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Big Short
The Martian

I would really like to see this go to Brooklyn. I actually read the book, and I think it took some skilled adapting to get what was very much an understated writing style to the big screen. I’m betting on The Big Short because, well, I think it’s raised some interest, and while I don’t think it’s good enough to win picture this award might serve as its compensation. I think it made a genuine effort to make a very confusing subject less confusing, but at the end of the day … I still didn’t understand it. The Martian is a dark horse here.

Who SHOULD win: Brooklyn
Who WILL win: The Big Short


Emmanuel Lubezki, The Revenant
Ed Lachman, Carol
Robert Richardson, The Hateful Eight
John Seale, Mad Max: Fury Road
Roger Deakins, Sicario

Oh Roger Deakins, as Leonardo DiCaprio leaves for the bright lights of Being Recognised, it’s just you and Thomas Newman shooting spitwads at the winners. On the upside, Randy Newman has also left. I know he’s won the last two years in a row, but you can’t look at The Revenant and not give this award to Lubezki. He’s used natural light as much as possible, not an easy task that far north (Canada), and he strove to make it feel as though you weren’t looking through a screen, or even a lens, but right there in the wilderness. This was one of the absolute standouts of this film, and I’ve never seen a more beautifully shot movie (well, since Road to Perdition).

Who SHOULD win: Emmanuel Lubezki, The Revenant
Who WILL win: Emmanuel Lubezki, The Revenant

Costume Design

Jenny Beavan, Mad Max: Fury Road
Paco Delgado, The Danish Girl
Sandy Powell, Carol
Sandy Powell, Cinderella
Jacqueline West, The Revenant

Oh, can’t we all just stop being so cynical and admit that in our wildest dress-up dreams it was Cinderella that we pictured? Yes? Good. Sandy Powell, already a multiple winner, may have jinxed herself here by doubling up, but her biggest competition is Jenny Beavan.

Who SHOULD win: Sandy Powell, Cinderella
Who WILL win: Jenny Beavan, Mad Max: Fury Road

Documentary Feature

Cartel Land
The Look of Silence
What Happened, Miss Simone?
Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

A quick rundown: the life of Amy Winehouse; the Mexican drug war; the Indonesian killings of 1965-66 (turns out also a companion piece to The Act of Killing); the life of singer and civil rights activist Nina Simone; and the Euromaiden protests in the Ukraine. I wish I had been able to see these: good documentaries inform as well as entertain, open your mind to real life stories you might otherwise have been ignorant of. It’s a pity they’re not made more freely available. They all sound interesting, and while I think the Oscars are most likely to go with Amy, The Look of Silence has won a buttload of awards, and What Happened, Miss Simone? seems a more involved and interesting subject. We’ll see.

Who SHOULD win: The Look of Silence
Who WILL win: Amy

Documentary Short Subject

Body Team 12
Chau, Beyond the Lines
Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah
A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness
Last Day of Freedom

Rundown #2: Red Cross workers in the Ebola zone; the effects of Agent Orange on a Vietnamese local with a will of iron (filmed, Boyhood-style, over eight years); the journey of filmmaker Claude Lanzmann as he made his own 9.5-hour-long documentary on the Holocaust (yikes!); honour killings in Pakistan; and one family’s struggle with the effects of mental illness and the price of ethics. All of these sound amazing, actually.

Who SHOULD win: Last Day of Freedom
Who WILL win: Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah

Film Editing

The Big Short
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The technical awards are where Mad Max: Fury Road is really going to pick up steam (is that a pun? I haven’t seen it). I think they’re all really strong contenders, and I’m glad to see Spotlight here for its non-flashy but perfect editing. I’m swinging between Mad Max and The Revenant, and the result is going to determine a lot of the rest of the ceremony.

Who SHOULD win: Spotlight
Who WILL win: The Revenant

Foreign Language Film

Embrace of the Serpent
Son of Saul
A War

Sorry, no real idea, and a very tricky category to predict. Hearsay only.

Who SHOULD win: Son of Saul
Who WILL win: Son of Saul

Makeup and Hairstyling

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant

I have to say, I completely missed the fact that The 100-Year-Old Man got made into a film this year. Winner of best title this year, though. Once more, I’m toying between Mad Max and The Revenant. If the latter starts cleaning up here, its run to Best Picture is made more and more clear.

Who SHOULD win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Who WILL win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Music – Original Score

Carter Burwell, Carol
Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight
Jóhann Jóhannsson, Sicario
Thomas Newman, Bridge of Spies
John Williams, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Nice story behind Thomas Newman’s scoring this year (and yes, as usual, this is going to be pretty Newman-centric). His father was Alfred Newman, who in four decades composed more than 200 film scores, was nominated for an Oscar 43 times, and won nine times (a record in this category). He was head of Fox’s music department for 20 years, and gave legendary composer John Williams some of his first breaks. And during that time young Thomas used to watch Williams conducting. Williams, in turn, gave Thomas Newman the job of orchestrating Darth Vader’s death scene in Return of the Jedi (spoiler?). And so this year, when Williams was not well enough to work on Bridge of Spies, he recommended Newman (13 nominations doesn’t seem so bad now, does it?). So really, a nice little family affair.

Who SHOULD win: Thomas Newman, Bridge of Spies
Who WILL win: Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight

Music – Original Song

“Earned It” by The Weeknd, Fifty Shades of Grey
“Manta Ray” by J. Ralph, Racing Extinction
“Simple Song #3” by David Lang, Youth
“Til It Happens To You” by Lady Gaga and Dianne Warren, The Hunting Ground
“Writing’s On the Wall” by Sam Smith, Spectre

Just listened to them all so as to have a vague idea of what I’m going for. I’d heard none of them before. And they’re kind of beautiful. Well, not “Earned it”. But in the context of their films “Manta Ray” is heartbreaking and “Til It Happens To You” is wrenching. Props for putting the operatic “Simple Song #3” in the race. “Writing’s On the Wall” is maybe the most likely to win, but I’ve got a soft spot (now) for “Manta Ray”.

Who SHOULD win: “Manta Ray” by J. Ralph, Racing Extinction
Who WILL win: “Til It Happens To You” by Lady Gaga and Dianne Warren, The Hunting Ground
Production Design

Bridge of Spies
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Mad Max, The Martian, and The Revenant have all picked up the guild awards (fantasy, contemporary, and period design, respectively), so it's difficult to know which way Oscar will go. I'm leaning towards The Revenant taking out most of the awards, though, so here goes.

Who SHOULD win: The Revenant
Who WILL win: The Revenant

Short Film – Animated

Bear Story
Sanjay’s Super Team
We Can’t Live Without Cosmos
World of Tomorrow

Once again I'm guessing, but since Sanjay's Super Team both is a Pixar film and has an awesome title, (plus its plot sounds cute as a button) I'll use it as the safe bet. Having said that, This category doesn't really tend to automatically favour the big studios. We Can't Live Without Cosmos and World of Tomorrow have both won a bunch of awards, the former sounds really trippy and the latter hella-complicated. Hmm.
Who SHOULD win: Sanjay's Super Team
Who WILL win: We Can't Live Without Cosmos

Short Film – Live Action

Ave Maria
Day One
Everything Will Be Okay

Yikes, most of these sound really intense. Not a cheerful category, this year. Eenie, meenie, mynee ...
Who SHOULD win: Ave Maria
Who WILL win: Stutterer

Sound Editing
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Vmmmmmmmm. Vmmmmmmmm. Pew, pew-pew! Rrrrrrrrraaaaar!
Who SHOULD win: The Revenant
Who WILL win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Sound Mixing
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Yes, this is where my time/attention span really start to run out. In short: oh, who the hell knows?

Who SHOULD win: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Who WILL win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Visual Effects
Ex Machina
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I still don't know how they did the bear scene. Seriously. Having said that it'd be kind of nice to see Star Wars win something.

Who SHOULD win: The Revenant
Who WILL win: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Sunday, February 22, 2015

In which not everything is awesome!!!

Welcome back to the Oscars! 

As far as film went the year was a difficult one, some really odd movies, most of them independent. But they still managed to push some real boundaries. In that spirit, this year's blog's posters are of the alternative kind, such that I could find on the net. 

[I should mention that in looking for the images in this blog post I came across some pretty hilarious stuff, including "if the Oscar nominated movies were honest", which featured such titles as 12 Years A White Kid, The Dark Knight Crisisand Everybody shh: Benedict Cumberbatch is Doing His Best Acting. Tee hee.]

So this year I've actually managed to see ALL of the nominees for Best Picture. I know, right? Some of them I’ve loved, some I have respected, and some I was just plain bored by. Two blew me away. Let’s start at the top.

Best Picture

American Sniper
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything

American Sniper tells the story of American hero (and I’m only being a tiny bit sarcastic here) Chris Kyle, who served four tours in Iraq as the best sniper in the army. What is undeniable is a) the man is brave and b) his journey back to who he was before his first kill is impressive. Oh, and c) the fake baby looks really fake. So you can either see it as another “Yay, America!” film, or you can see it as a study in what war does to a person, even from a distance.

Birdman was a strange, edgy cacophony of a picture, and I mean that in a good way. All the performances were top-knotch, and Michael Keaton got a real chance to show what he can do. I did not love the ending, but the rest is kind of a big deal and a fascinating achievement in film. Something really different, in a good way.

Boyhood was … long. That was my takeaway. It is also a pretty impressive achievement, filming over 12 years to portray the life of a young boy as he grows into adulthood. And there’s nothing really wrong with it. Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette were great, and some of the script was lovely, but I just … wasn’t that interested.

The Grand Budapest Hotel I found completely charming and at times hilarious. Wes Anderson has presented a slightly Other world and every setting takes you deeper into it. I have never liked a Wes Anderson film until this moment, and if this is what he’s going to keep doing, then I might just be a fan. A beautiful performance by the overlooked Ralph Fiennes.

I knew absolutely nothing about Alan Turing, and as such was looking forward to The Imitation Game. Plus, Benedict Cumberbatch. And I really enjoyed it: a really good example of a biography film serving up a sense of what it might have been like. While there are a few historical inaccuracies (and this I think has kept it from winning big this awards season), I still thought it was an excellent movie. Plus, you know, Cumberbatch.

Ok, I admit it: I really did not want to see Selma. I’ll also admit that I’m really glad I did see it. It’s kind of a beautiful film, and though the time and place it depicts is powerful, heartbreaking, and sometimes violent, it never really tried to hit the audience about the head with its message. Instead I was deeply impressed with the bravery exhibited by those who lived through it.

Unlike the other three biopics in this list, The Theory of Everything covers not just a period in the subject’s life, but a good third of it. As a result, some parts aren’t as well explored as others. But I kind of didn’t care, and it’s because of the performances. Eddie Redmayne deserves every award he gets for an incredibly physical and physically stressful role, and Felicity Jones, though in a less dramatic role, is absolutely fantastic.

Now to Whiplash, with the fabulous J.K. Simmons. Talk about intense. And all the tension on screen has a way of seeping into you as you watch this tour de force. A thought-provoking and shocking film, this was one of the films I most enjoyed watching, and had a visceral reaction to. I never, ever want to be a drummer.

As for the round up, this is a three-way race that in reality is probably only a two-way race. My feeling is that Birdman and Boyhood will battle it out for Best Picture and Best Director, probably with a split. Which way that split goes depends on who you talk to. And while I would love Grand Budapest to win, I don’t think it quite has the chops.

Who WILL win: Boyhood
Who SHOULD win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Actor in a Leading Role

Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton, Birdman
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

This race is between Keaton and Redmayne. The latter has been blitzing the awards circuit, but Keaton is home-grown, and very popular to boot. Plus they both deserve it. I’ve already talked about what Redmayne put his body through here, but it deserves repeating: every move looks like such a struggle you can almost feel it. And Keaton does something pretty fantastic in Birdman. Steve Carell is quite good in Foxcatcher, but in my mind David Oyelowo should have taken his place. And while Cumberbatch delivered a great performance, I feel he’s got more to give, and he’ll be back here someday.

Who WILL win: Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
Who SHOULD win: Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Actress in a Leading Role

Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon, Wild

Julianne Moore has been around a while, and has been an Oscar mainstay for years now. This is her award to lose. While people say that Felicity Jones doesn’t belong here, I think her performance in The Theory of Everything was kind of amazing: so much strength, so much humanity there. Cotillard is always a threat, and her performance is reportedly incredible: you can believe it, because to get nominated for such a small film is all the more impressive. Witherspoon has delivered maybe her best performance to date, but like I said, this is Julianne’s to lose.

Who WILL win: Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Who SHOULD win: Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything

Actor in a Supporting Role

Robert Duvall, The Judge
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Edward Norton, Birdman
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Words cannot express how thrilled I am for J.K. Simmons. He has been delivering pitch-perfect character performances for years now, and even when his role is a small one, or a straight one, he is always brilliant. And this performance is worth the win. He took this role from its first incarnation in a short film and opened it up to a feature-length movie, never losing the subtlety so important in creating that tension, nor the violence of those outbursts. Funnily enough, I feel much the same about Mark Ruffalo, who is quietly perfect in Foxcatcher, but one day he’ll get his Oscar, I’m sure of it. Edward Norton is probably the closest to an upset, and I thought Ethan Hawke was really impressive, but I’m really looking forward to Simmons’ time at the microphone.

Who WILL win: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Who SHOULD win: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Actress in a Supporting Role

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

Oh, Meryl. I’m pretty sure she, along with so many other people, is rolling her eyes when she gets nominations like this. Not that she’s not great, because she is, but let’s keep it in perspective, people. You’re damaging the brand. Patricia Arquette has this one all but sewn up, and I really don’t think anyone can touch her. Outside chances are probably Laura Dern and Emma Stone, but I thought Knightley was better than both.

Who WILL win: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Who SHOULD win: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood


Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

This will come down to Iñárritu and Linklater, and which one Hollywood likes more. Linklater has a lot of goodwill, and the sheer size of his magnum opus will impress both directors and actors alike. And it is a big, freaking, deal. Think of the logistics! Iñárritu, on the other hand, offers something completely different. The way he has chosen to shot it keeps the audience on edge the entire time: if the camera doesn’t rest, we don’t rest, so like the main character we’re feeling pretty wired by the opening night. As I said, I think this will come down to a split.

Who WILL win: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman
Who SHOULD win: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman

Animated Feature Film

Big Hero 6
The Boxtrolls
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Song of the Sea
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Ba-la-la-la-la! Yes, I believe Big Hero 6 deserves this just for the fist-bump, because that sh*t was pure genius. Of course, we all know who SHOULD be here, and that’s The Lego Movie, which is all kinds of awesome. And barring a write-in campaign, which worked for A Midsummer Night’s Dream back in 1936 but which were since banned, I think this year’s award is going to How to Train Your Dragon 2.

Who WILL win: How to Train Your Dragon 2
Who SHOULD win: The Lego Movie (rules be damned)


Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman
Robert D. Yeoman, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lynzewski, Ida
Dick Pope, Mr. Turner
Roger Deakins, Unbroken 

Oh, Roger Deakins. You poor bugger. Once more, in the category of Awards Roger Deakins Won’t Win, this year’s cinematography has been upstaged. I really think Birdman will grab this, because it has difficult and trippy cinematography done very well and, more unusually, for a good reason. Ida is the biggest threat, followed by Dick Pope for Mr Turner.

Who WILL win: Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman
Who SHOULD win: Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman

Costume Design

Milena Canonero, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Mark Bridges, Inherent Vice
Colleen Atwood, Into the Woods
Anna B. Sheppard, Maleficent
Jacqueline Durran, Mr. Turner

You really can’t ever discount Colleen Atwood. She has ridden that dark horse to victory more times than most, and with Into the Woods she gets to sink her teeth into fantasy. And before those metaphors curdle … The Grand Budapest Hotel has some incredible costuming, contributing what was visually a beautiful film.

Who WILL win: Milena Canonero, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Who SHOULD win: Milena Canonero, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Documentary Feature

Finding Vivian Maier
Last Days in Vietnam
The Salt of the Earth

Without knowing much about the rest of these, there's not much chance this is going to any film other than Citizenfour

Who WILL win: Citizenfour
Who SHOULD win: Citizenfour

Documentary Short Subject

Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
Our Curse
The Reaper
White Earth

There are some hella depressing topics covered in this category. I mean, wow. Suicide, terminal disease, animal slaughter and ... North Dakota. Contenders here are probably White Earth and the hot-button topic for America, Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1.

Who WILL win: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
Who SHOULD win: White Earth

Film Editing

Joel Cox and Gary Roach, American Sniper
Sandra Adair, Boyhood
Barney Pilling, The Grand Budapest Hotel
William Goldenberg, The Imitation Game
Tom Cross, Whiplash

A bit surprised not to see Birdman here, but there’s plenty to work with. The editing would have been the major task in making Boyhood’s myriad bits and pieces into a cohesive story, so that’s the front runner. On the other hand, Whiplash had some truly impressive editing that particularly added to the overall feeling of tension permeating throughout. Hmm. I’ll give it to Boyhood, because to win Best Picture you’ve got to win something else fairly major, and this is its best chance.

Who WILL win: Sandra Adair, Boyhood
Who SHOULD win: Tom Cross, Whiplash

Foreign Language Film

Wild Tales

Common sense might tell you that since Ida is nominated for cinematography, its chances here are far more than anything else in this category. Common sense is forgetting about Amelie. Or Pan’s Labyrinth. Leviathan is winning the big awards this year, but Ida is still a strong chance.

Who WILL win: Leviathan
Who SHOULD win: Ida

Makeup and Hairstyling

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

The makeup on Steve Carell was impressive, completely transforming him into someone else. You know, like Renee Zellweger did by ageing naturally/getting surgery/witchcraft. No, I’m kidding. Obviously everyone deserves to be here, but I’m going to name The Grand Budapest Hotel for its slightly off-kilter and essential character makeup as one of the (I’m convinced) many visual awards it will win. Guardians is the outside chance.

Who WILL win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Who SHOULD win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Music – Original Score

Alexandre Desplat, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Alexandre Desplat, The Imitation Game
Hans Zimmer, Interstellar
Gary Yershon, Mr Turner
Jóhann Jóhannsson, The Theory of Everything

Is it me, or is Alexandre Desplat a massive overachiever? Nice work, Alex. I do love his work, but suspect that Jóhann Jóhannsson’s beautiful score for The Theory of Everything will make good here. Oscars are a lot about balance: if something has no chance of winning the big awards, look for the smaller awards it will take home as a nod to its big nominations. It’s not as cynical as it sounds: All films nominated are deserving, and it’s nice that they are recognised in whatever standout capacity they can. I have a feeling that’s never going to make as much sense as it does in my head right now, so let’s move on.

Who WILL win: Jóhann Jóhannsson, The Theory of Everything
Who SHOULD win: Jóhann Jóhannsson, The Theory of Everything

Music – Original Song

Everything Is Awesome by Shawn Patterson, The LEGO Movie
by Common and John Legend, Selma
by Diane Warren, Beyond the Lights
I'm Not Gonna Miss You
by Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond, Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me
Lost Stars
by Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois, Begin Again

Remember what I said about balance? Here we have two possibilities: The LEGO Movie, in what could only be described as an apology for missing out on a Best Animated Feature nomination (seriously, it was one of those perfect storms of brilliance in filmmaking. Lego AND Will Arnett as Batman); or Selma, for its lack of nominations in acting, directing, cinematography etc. As far as the quality of the song goes, Everything Is Awesome is fabulous, more for amusement than for clever lyrics or structure, but undeniably, well, awesome. Glory is … ok, not a good song. I don’t like it. I enjoyed the heck out of the music in Begin Again, and sorry not to see more nominated here. But my gut says LEGO, and I shall be dancing like a crazy person when it’s performed.

Who WILL win: Everything Is Awesome by Shawn Patterson, The LEGO Movie
Who SHOULD win: Everything Is Awesome by Shawn Patterson, The LEGO Movie

Production Design

The Grand Budapest Hotel, Production design: Adam Stockhausen, Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
The Imitation Game, Production design: Maria Djurkovic, Set Decoration: Tatiana Macdonald
Interstellar, Production design: Nathan Crowley, Set Decoration: Gary Fettis
Into the Woods, Production design: Dennis Gassner, Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
Mr. Turner, Production design: Suzie Davies, Set Decoration: Charlotte Watts

Once more we are in the “arts” section of filmmaking (although yes, there is plenty of science in art, and plenty of art in science). The most indelible part of The Grand Budapest Hotel was its production design, the chocolate-box-beautiful, shadow-puppet world of M. Gustave. Mr Turner does, however, have the capacity to upset it, and I will say this: just watching the trailer makes my jaw drop. Time will tell. Meanwhile, I’m heading back to Zubrowka for another look.

Who WILL win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Who SHOULD win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Short Film – Animated

The Bigger Picture, Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees
The Dam Keeper, Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi
Feast, Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed
Me and My Moulton, Torill Kove
A Single Life, Joris Oprins

Ok, all I’ve been able to do is watch the trailers, because aside from Feast, none of these have been shown at the cinema. I like what Feast does with seamless animation, plus, you know, puppies, but it doesn’t seem to reach Disney’s usual heights. I really like the story in A Single Life, but The Dam Keeper looks freakin’ magical.

Who WILL win: The Dam Keeper, Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi
Who SHOULD win: The Dam Keeper, Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi

Short Film – Live Action

Aya, Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis
Boogaloo and Graham, Michael Lennox and Ronan Blaney
Butter lamp, Hu Wei and Julien Féret
Parvaneh, Talkhon Hamzavi and Stefan Eichenberger
The Phone Call, Mat Kirkby and James Lucas

Right, I haven’t seen any of them, and yes, I’m largely going off names at this point, but how could you not want something named Boogaloo and Graham to win? Plus it’s low-budget, and who doesn’t like a rags-to-riches story if not the Oscars? Probably a strong contender in The Phone Call and Aya, but I’m going with my heart on this one, and my heart likes funny names.

Who WILL win: Aya
Who SHOULD win: Boogaloo and Graham

Sound Editing

Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman, American Sniper
Martín Hernández and Aaron Glascock, Birdman
Brent Burge and Jason Canovas, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,
Richard King, Interstellar
Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro, Unbroken

And we’re into the part of the awards that I know so very little about. What I do know is that this category LOVES war films. Pew, pew, pew! It is for this reason that I’m naming American Sniper. Pew! Pew-pew!

Who WILL win: American Sniper
Who SHOULD win: American Sniper

Sound Mixing

John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin, American Sniper
Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and Thomas Varga, Birdman
Garry A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker and Mark Weingarten, Interstellar
Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and David Lee, Unbroken
Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley, Whiplash

While Sniper could go two for two here, I was so very impressed with Whiplash, and its sound was something else.

Who WILL win: Whiplash
Who SHOULD win: Whiplash

Visual Effects

Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill and Dan Sudick, Captain America: Winter Soldier
Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Stephanie Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould, Guardians of the Galaxy
Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher, Interstellar
Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie and Cameron Waldbauer, X-Men: Days of Future Past

I’ve heard so much about Interstellar’s effects, but these categories are always a bit unknowable in the absence of any particularly impressive leap forward (ahem*Gollum*ahem). Dawn of the Planet of the Apes really impressed the Visual Effects Society of America, so it’s a big threat. Really, there’s any number of possibilities here, I’m just picking one of them.

Who WILL win: Interstellar
Who SHOULD win: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Writing – Adapted Screenplay

Jason Hall, American Sniper
Graham Moore, The Imitation Game
Paul Thomas Anderson, Inherent Vice
Anthony McCarten, The Theory of Everything
Damien Chazelle, Whiplash

Ah, my favourite categories. The Imitation Game’s source material is, reportedly, chock-a-block full of higher-level mathematics, so quite frankly it seems like getting to the end of that book, let alone getting a story out of it was one heck of an achievement. It did win the WGA award, which gives it an edge without guaranteeing anything (the record of past winners is sketchy). Also, the factual changes made may prevent it from winning here, and I think this is where The Theory of Everything has one over its fellow biopic. Whiplash, based on a short film, is a dark horse here.

Who WILL win: Anthony McCarten, The Theory of Everything
Who SHOULD win: Graham Moore, The Imitation Game

Writing – Original Screenplay

Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo, Birdman
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman, Foxcatcher
Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler

Wes Anderson’s strength as a filmmaker is in his storytelling (which now that I think about it I’m not sure I agree with. I never liked any of his other films much, especially Fantastic Mr Fox, which was kind of disastrous, but the problems with which I have no room to go into now), and The Grand Budapest Hotel is nothing if not a great story, told well. Outside chance for Birdman.

Who WILL win: Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Who SHOULD win: Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness, The Grand Budapest Hotel

That's it for another year!