Sunday, February 22, 2015

Dave-El's Oscar Picks Game For 2015

Hi, there! Dave-El here and it's time for my annual Oscar Picks Game! 

Here's how the game is played. I pick a winner for each category and if I'm right, I award myself a point. I also pick a back up choice if that wins, I give myself 1/2 point.

I've been very consistent at scoring 90% or better when I make these picks but I must warn you: of all the films represented below, I have only seen two: Big Hero 6 and How to Train Your Dragon 2. This is not an unusual situation. I rarely get to see any Oscar nominated films or performances. 

So what accounts for my rate of 90% or better? I have...media super powers? Yeah, let's go with that.

So join in and play along at home! (Or wherever you happen to be reading this).  

Best Supporting Actor

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


Simmons' name has been everywhere for his role in Whiplash. Everything I've read has basically engraved his name on the statue already.  And so what? He's very deserving of this accolade. We all loved him as J Jonah Jameson in the (good) Spider-Man films. His work for the "We are Farmers! Da Da Da Da Da Da!" commercials is exemplary.

For the win: J. K. Simmons. 
Back up choice: Oh, I don't know. What the hell, Ethan Hawke.  

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


Into the Wood did not catch fire as expected and Meryl Streep's got that "been there done that" thing going on. Imitation Game and Birdman are dominated by their male leads and Wild by its female lead. But Patricia Arquette's role in Boyhood which took 12 years to shoot seems to have the most attention and is a true acting challenge that makes Academy voters take notice.  

For the win: Patricia Arquette
Back up choice: Why not Emma Stone? The Academy can show Emma they do not hold Amazing Spider-Man 2 against her. 

Best Animated Feature
  • Big Hero 6
  • The Boxtrolls
  • How To Train Your Dragon 2
  • Song of the Sea
  • The Tale of Princess Kaguya


Trailers for The Boxtrolls irritated me and I have no idea what either Song of the Sea or Princess Kaguya is and neither does anyone in the Academy. The tough choice is what's left. How To Train Your Dragon 2 was a most excellent follow up to the already very good first film of the series. But something about Big Hero 6 resonated more with viewers as it did with me. Beymax was a standout character of incredible humor, sweetness and ultimately drama. And the world in which Big Hero 6 was set was wonderfully realized with its mash up of Tokyo and San Francisco. 

For the win: Big Hero 6
Back up choice: How to Train Your Dragon 2. This is my first back up pick that I think has a chance to actually get selected. 

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


There was a lot of buzz for Steve Carell's performance in Foxcatcher in Cannes last year but that all seemed to evaporate with the actual wide release of the film. Benedict Cumberbatch elevates everything he's in but I don't think this role is the one that will give him the win. And I'm thinking American Sniper polarization of the audience will probably work against Bradley Cooper. Right now momentum is going Michael Keaton's way and Hollywood does like to reward a long time actor who finally makes good. That being said, Eddie Redmayne delivers the kind of performance that Oscar voters just eat up.  

For the win: Michael Keaton. But it's going to be close and it could very well go to the...
Back up choice: Eddie Redmayne

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

I could write a bunch of speculation but let's save time with this one.

For the win: Julianne Moore
Back up choice: Not going to happen but hey, if it did...Reese Witherspoon? OK, sure. 

Best Original Screenplay
  • Birdman, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo
  • Boyhood, Richard Linklater
  • Foxcatcher, E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness
  • Nightcrawler, Dan Gilroy


The early buzz on Foxcatcher burned out before the film was actually released. And I don't think Nightcrawler is really on the Academy's radar. While attention is on Birdman and Boyhood, I think this more for performances and directing. So...

For the win: The Grand Budapest Hotel because Hollywood loves Wes Anderson scripts even if they don't like Wes Anderson movies.  
Back up choice: Foxcatcher (just to throw this movie a bone)

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

Seriously, I'm rolling dice here to help pick this one.  

For the win: The Imitation Game
Back up choice: The Theory of Everything

Best Director
  • Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman
  • Richard Linklater, Boyhood
  • Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher
  • Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game
And....

Best Picture
  • American Sniper
  • Birdman
  • Boyhood
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • The Imitation Game
  • Selma
  • The Theory of Everything
  • Whiplash

These two are tough. Right now, the focus seems to be on the two "B" movies, Birdman and Boyhood. Both presented unique stories in unique ways.Typically whoever wins Best Director sets the stage for Best Picture. Typically but not always. Last year I picked Alfonse Curan and Gravity for Best Director and Best Picture and while I was right on one, I underestimated the pull of 12 Years a Slave.   

So I'm hedging my bets on this so here are my picks. 

Best Director
For the win: Alejandro G. Iñárritu for Birdman
Back up choice: Richard Linklater for Boyhood

Best Picture
For the win: Boyhood
Back up choice: Birdman 

My thinking is that Boyhood owes less to directing and more to the herculean task oif assembling it in bits and pieces over a 12 year span. It's a story that touches viewers more that otherworldly weirdness that surrounds Birdman which requires a stronger directorial vision. 

So there you have them, Dave-El's Oscar Picks for 2015. 

Can a guy who hasn't seen these films be as effective at picking Oscar winners as those who actually watch these things for a living?

We'll see 'round midnight. 

Be good to one another and I'll review the results in tomorrow's post.

________________________________________________

AMENDED: 02/23/2015

Well, that hurt! 

I got a score of 78%, a very disappointing result given my history with this thing. Here are the missed calls: 

Best Original Screenplay
Because I don't get to watch these films, I have to rely on research and the experience of others to help make my guesses. And it seemed like the screenplay for The Grand Budapest Hotel was a bit of a lock. So much so that I dismissively gave the 1/2 point back up choice to Foxcatcher. Never toss a film a bone. Foxcatcher was not going to win anything. And with Birdman getting the screenplay nod, that's zero points. 

Best Actor
I don't feel too bad for this for this one. But given the Oscars' propensity for rewarding actors playing roles battling physical adversity, I really should've made Edward Redmayne my first pick, not my back up. 

Best Picture 
My research suggested a dead heat run between Boyhood and Birdman so I split my first choice picks between the two films for Best Director and Best Picture. But Boyhood struck me as an experiment in filmmaking but that does not necessarily translate into a great film. Meanwhile Birdman seemed more of a stronger, all around entity. That's what I get for lacking the courage of my convictions. 

In a subsequent post, I will talk a bit more about the show itself. It was the first time my daughter actually paid attention to what happens in an Oscar show and she had some very interesting reactions. 

But that's for next time. Until then, be good to one another.

Dave-El
I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You

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