Oscars 2015: Will Win/Should Win (Joseph Braverman)

It’s Oscar Week! Each staff member will be revealing their final picks for the upcoming Academy Awards on February 22. Missed one? Click on Will Win/Should Win 2015. Make sure to make your picks in our Oscar Pool hosted by Fun Office Pools.

We’ve reached the very end of the 2015 awards race…and unfortunately that means it’s crunch time with regards to final predictions. I rattled my brain trying to envision the correct winners in my head, but all I could see was a cloud of mystery. Whatever happens will happen, so it’s best not to take this Oscar game too personally. In fact, I have to applaud the Academy at large for supporting small independent features in this year’s race. The big studio efforts are in fact the minority, a switcheroo I never imagined would occur in my lifetime. Not everything is perfect (or awesome – The Lego Movie snub still stings like a *insert random curse word*), but the point is that progress is finally being made in slow yet forward increments. I want to thank my fellow writers for continuing to inspire me each and every day, as well as my amazing editor Clayton Davis for continually giving me the opportunity to express my film opinions to the world. I cannot wait to do this all over again in the fall! Random mushy moment aside, let’s focus on this last stretch. Below you’ll find my final –AND I MEAN FINAL!!!! – 2015 Oscar predictions before this Sunday’s telecast. Have at it, readers!

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Best Picture

Will and Should Win: Boyhood – Original, spellbinding, innovative, sincerely acted, and without a disingenuous bone in its cinematic body, Boyhood is the film that made the biggest impression in 2014 by simply being its authentic self. How many films, especially Oscar bait ones, posture with entitlement just to get noticed by the powers that be? Too many for my taste, but here comes a little passion project that lands without making waves, simply existing to mirror a microcosm of life we’ve all experienced at one time or another. Thank you, Richard Linklater, Patricia Arquette, Sandra Adair, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater, and especially Ellar Coltrane for reminding us that life doesn’t need to be grandiose to be great. Whenever an awards group has come together from all different spectrums of film, Boyhood has always managed to eke out a victory. Given its consensus advantage and iconic twelve-year journey to the screen, this is one Best Picture champion that needs to be rewarded here and now since we’re like to never see something like it come our way again. Taking into account Birdman’s polarizing effect on those who’ve seen it, I firmly believe Boyhood will be the little film that could and finally did on March 22nd, 2015.

Should Have Been Nominated: 2014 ushered in some amazing work from overseas, but none hit our shores with as much force as Xavier Dolan’s familial masterpiece Mommy. Every scene was a hurricane of explosive emotion, and yet the performances from Anne Dorval, Antoine Pilon and Suzanne Clement never once felt contrived or heavy-handed. That’s because its auteur director created a safe and trusting set environment for his thespians to express themselves without any kind of inhibition. He encouraged feeling for the sake of feeling, never diluting the truth of a scene just because he was worried about the comfort level of his audience. Layered with a soundtrack that colludes with the stunning narrative at hand, it’s almost impossible to become detached during this roller coaster of a film. Sometimes movies like Mommy that hit so hard and so sudden make people reflexively cower, as if they’re afraid of experiencing a consistent flow of heavy emotion (news flash: that’s real life!). I imagine it’s what prevented the Academy’s Foreign Language branch from fully embracing the film, which is an utter shame since it’s one of the few standouts of 2014 that we’re likely to talk about ten years down the road.

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Best Director

Will and Should Win: Richard Linklater, Boyhood – After dominating the indie scene for over two decades, Richard Linklater is finally given the awards spotlight film enthusiasts long believed would never come. Because such small-scale direction is rarely if ever rewarded, I shudder to think the Academy wouldn’t find it in their hearts to recognize Linklater’s talents after such an illustrious career, not to mention a film that revolutionized the way filmmakers could approach narrative cinema. Each AMPAS member knows full well Linklater is likely to never return to the awards race in such a prolific manner ever again, so to pass up this rare opportunity to reward his talents would be a tragic denial of indie filmmaking’s greatest champion and auteur. Coupled with the fact that his closest competitor in the race, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, will probably be back in contention next year for The Revenant, it’s really a no-brainer as to which director voters will feel compelled to vote for when checkmark meets box.

Should Have Been Nominated: Despite my issues with its script, the bulk of Whiplash owes its greatness to one man and one man only: director Damien Chazelle. His touch is palpable in every frame, be it the production design, acting, editing, sound mixing, etc. You know full well who the conductor of this indie train is, and you certainly don’t want to mess with this man’s vision once he’s got the ball rolling. In fact, Chazelle’s high degree of directorial focus is perhaps scarier than the diabolical villain he created. Chazelle made damn sure everything in Whiplash was his tempo.

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Best Actor:

Will and Should Win: Eddie Redmaye, The Theory of Everything – I’ve actually be stewing around with my preference in this category for a few weeks now. I’m usually a man who isn’t affected whatsoever by a compelling sob story, but even I began to fall under Michael Keaton’s spell after his tearful speech at the Golden Globes. Once I was able to get my emotions back in check, I then turned my pom poms over to Bradley Cooper, who really raised the bar for himself with his humanistic yet unceremonious portrayal of American Sniper’s Chris Kyle. Finally, I really had to look deep into my soul and unearth the truth that was buried all along: Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of Stephen Hawking is the only performance among the five whose “acting” I never once questioned. We all just sort of walked into the movie and took his effortless depiction for granted, without ever realizing that Oscar-winning acting comes from those who make it look easy despite the obvious challenge at hand. Redmayne’s task was more physically and emotionally demanding than any of his competitors, made even more difficult since the man he is portraying is alive and can quickly run to the press in a fury if Redmayne had made a mockery of him. Eddie Redmayne’s sensitivity, research, openness, and talent brought him the closest any actor has come to mirroring a Daniel Day-Lewis performance. After winning the SAG, the Golden Globe and the BAFTA, there’s just no way this nice guy — who gave quite literally the performance of a lifetime — is going to be sent home empty-handed after all his hard work and successful awards campaign.

Should Have Been Nominated: Jake Gyllenhaal’s sleazy, conniving yet entirely captivating performance as prospective crime news reporter Louis Bloom in Nightcrawler is the perfect example of an actor pushing themselves to the brink of total, balls-to-the-wall insanity. We held on to every creepy, arrogant word uttered by Gyllenhaal, who delivered every chilling monologue with the intensity of an Indy 500 racer. Gyllenhaal’s stock as an actor has climbed ever since his comeback in Source Code, finally coalescing in a performance as memorable to this generation of moviegoers as Robert De Niro was in 1976’s Taxi Driver. Just like Mommy, perhaps Gyllenhaal’s performance was too in-your-face to fully digest and appreciate, but just wait a few more years – before we know it, we’ll be quoting and paying tribute to this superb acting turn like it’s just another Tuesday.

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Best Actress:

Will Win: Julianne Moore will easily claim this trophy for Still Alice, more for her long list of snubs and extraordinary career than a performance that, while tragically unnerving, won’t stand tall upon reflection of an undervalued yet incredible year for female acting.

Should Win: Delivering what I am coining as the “Inception” of performances, Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl gave us layer after layer of varied woman, each reconstructed by the male gaze in some twisted fashion or another. More than just a classical femme fatale, Rosamund Pike unearthed the suffering women have long endured internally to create a fully realized anti-heroine whose dark agenda you could nearly empathize with.

Should Have Been Nominated: Diving back into her vulnerable teenage years as the cancer-suffering Hazel Grace in The Fault in Our Stars, Shailene Woodley made every moment feel as natural and lived-in as any performance I’ve seen from 2014. It was clear to everyone watching just how important this part was to Woodley, as every line or character interaction was treated with the utmost respect to John Green’s precious source material. Woodley’s effortless fake-funeral eulogy might be the greatest display of an uninterrupted monologue of last year, building up to a swell of emotional outpour that brought audiences to tears right alongside Woodley. Those tears were more than real – they pretty much prove that acting isn’t just a job for Woodley; it’s a privilege that sharpens her emotional awareness of life’s various ups and downs.

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Supporting Actor:

Will and Should Win: J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)

Should Have Been Nominated: Joaquin Phoenix (The Immigrant)

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Supporting Actress:

Will and Should Win: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)

Should Have Been Nominated: Suzanne Clement (Mommy)

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Original Screenplay:

Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Should Win: Foxcatcher

Should Have Been Nominated: Mommy

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Adapted Screenplay:

Will Win: The Imitation Game

Should Win: American Sniper

Should Have Been Nominated: The Fault in Our Stars

Animated Feature:

Will and Should Win: How to Train Your Dragon 2

Should Have Been Nominated: The Lego Movie

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Production Design:

Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Should Win: Interstellar

Should Have Been Nominated: The Babadook

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Cinematography:

Will Win: Birdman

Should Win: Ida

Should Have Been Nominated: A Most Violent Year

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Costume Design:

Will and Should Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Should Have Been Nominated: The Immigrant

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Film Editing:

Will Win: Boyhood

Should Win: Whiplash

Should Have Been Nominated: Foxcatcher

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Makeup & Hairstyling:

Will and Should Win: Foxcatcher

Should Have Been Nominated: Unbroken

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Sound Mixing:

Will Win: American Sniper

Should Win: Whiplash

Should Have Been Nominated: Noah

Sound Editing:

Will and Should Win: American Sniper

Should Have Been Nominated: Enemy

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Visual Effects:

Will and Should Win: Interstellar

Should Have Been Nominated: Enemy

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Original Score:

Will Win: The Theory of Everything

Should Win: Interstellar

Should Have Been Nominated: Under the Skin

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Original Song:

Will Win: “Glory” (Selma)

Should Win: “Lost Stars” (Begin Again)

Should Have Been Nominated: “No Fate Awaits Me” (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby)

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Foreign Language Film:

Will and Should Win: Ida

Should Have Been Nominated: Mommy

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Documentary Feature:

Will and Should Win: Citizenfour

Should Have Been Nominated: Life Itself

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Animated Short

Will Win: Feast

Should Win: The Dam Keeper

Should Have Been Nominated: N/A

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Live Action Short:

Will Win: The Phone Call

Should Win: Parvaneh

Should Have Been Nominated: N/A

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Best Documentary Short:

Will and Should Win: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

Should Have Been Nominated: N/A