Oscars 2015: Phase 2 of the Oscar season is a completely different animal altogether. While Phase 1 casts a large net, attempting to gain as much traction and notoriety by different organizations as possible, this part becomes a laser-focused campaign on the AMPAS voter. Lots of movement since the announcement of the nominations a few weeks ago but let’s recap a bit of it.
“Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignornace)” co-led the nominations with nine save for Film Editing. The category that many awards-obsessives automatically knock Alejandro González Iñárritu‘s masterpiece off the Best Picture perch. Many will throw the stat around that no film has won Best Picture without editing since “Ordinary People” in 1980. I get it. It’s hard to ignore history when it comes to certain predictions but we are in a time within the Academy where history has continuously been tossed out the window. “Argo” missed Best Director and for about twelve hours, we all said it was a race between “Lincoln” and “Life of Pi.” Then the Critics Choice Movie Awards gave Ben the opportunity to “thank the Academy,” and the tide quickly “shifted back” to “Argo’s” favor. Last year, the race for Best Picture was clearly between a film directed, produced, starring, and written by black people and a science-fiction film directed by a Mexican auteur. Look for something anywhere in the Academy history where that has occurred. This year, a film about the acting process, taking its dig at critics, and encompassing the year’s finest ensemble has the goods to go the distance. Winning the Producers Guild of America, on a preferential ballot, SAG Ensemble, a slew of other critical citations have put the ball firmly in its court. Fox Searchlight could be headed for back-to-back Oscar wins.
There’s the critical darling “Boyhood” by Richard Linklater. The film has won the Golden Globe and the Critics Choice Movie Award for Best Picture. It plowed through the early part of the precursor season nabbing New York and Los Angeles Film Critics. Patricia Arquette is all but assured the Supporting Actress Oscar and Editor Sandra Adair was just cited by A.C.E., alongside “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “The LEGO Movie.” Truth be told, both “Boyhood” and “Birdman” benefit from a preferential balloting system. I can’t imagine they get a whole lot of #8 votes from the average AMPAS voter. The race is tight. Could we have our third straight split year with Picture going to one film, and Director going to another? There are also those who believe they the Academy at Large would like to see Linklater, Inarritu, and Wes Anderson all go home with Oscars. The only feasible way for that to happen is to see “Birdman” take Picture, “Boyhood” take Director, and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” taking Adapted Screenplay. We all know the Academy doesn’t consciously think in the way of “consolation” prizes as we saw last year when David O. Russell went home Oscar-less for “American Hustle.” If they want to give you an Oscar, they simply won’t.
One race keeping us on our toes is Best Actor where Michael Keaton ran the gauntlet for the majority of the season for “Birdman” until Eddie Redmayne packed on two major wins from the Golden Globes in Best Actor (Drama) and the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Neither of those races however, included three-time nominee Bradley Cooper for “American Sniper,” who also has the benefit of a producer credit on Clint Eastwood‘s film. Cooper, who is one consecutive nomination away from tying Marlon Brando for most consecutive Oscar nominations, has quickly emerged into a force in the industry. Making his rounds with the press where he nails it every time, already laying the ground work for his directorial debut “Honeymoon with Harry.” A future Oscar-winner is in the works, it’s just a matter of guessing what it will be for. And then there’s Benedict Cumberbatch, who hopes to capture a last-minute surge if he scores a BAFTA win against his competitors, an awards body where he might have a leg up. That’s a closer race than just the publicized “Keaton vs. Redmayne.”
All the other acting categories offer no real wiggle room for surprises but crazy things can happen during a ceremony at any time. J.K. Simmons, who just hosted “Saturday Night LIVE” successfully just this past weekend, has done just about everything right. His speeches have been pretty standard including gratitude and humor. “Whiplash” also has some fire behind it as scribe and director Damien Chazelle hopes to pass up recent USC Scripter winner Graham Moore in Adapted Screenplay. Anthony McCarten (“The Theory of Everything”) and Jason Hall (“American Sniper”) are also viable threats to win.
Focus Features has launched a very heavy campaign for Phase 2, citing the performances of both Redmayne and co-star Felicity Jones. While the film may be better positioned for an additional statue for Original Score, they are hoping to snag as many Oscars as possible. Adapted and Score look like those possibilities. Warner Bros., marketing team should get an Oscar all their own for the commercials for Clint Eastwood’s war film. Already becoming the sixth highest grossing film of 2014, “Sniper” will pass up “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” “The LEGO Movie,” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” this upcoming weekend. “Sniper” is poised to win both sound categories, and contends for Film Editing.
Next up is the Directors Guild of America this Saturday. Again, a race between the directors of “Birdman” and “Boyhood.” Neither of them winning over the other necessarily clears anything up, rather just keeps up the narrative that this is another wide open Best Picture race. Then on Sunday, BAFTA is handed out. Both of these events are going on with AMPAS ballots in hand. Final ballots are mailed out Friday, February 6 (the same day DGA ballots are due). These two things could have a huge influence on the race.
You can check out the newest set of predictions in winning order via the Oscar Predictions pages.
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