February 22, 2015
With the Oscar Awards coming tomorrow (February 23, morning Manila time), it is time to make my fearless Oscar predictions. Here is how I would rank this year's nominees for Oscar Best Picture based on my own opinions when I first saw these films. Unlike other years, I think all eight of these Best Picture nominees will bring home at least one Oscar.
1. BIRDMAN 10/10
Overall, this film deserves its place among the best films of the year. It can be polarizing as the topic may not be of any particular interest for some people, and they may find this film pretentious and irrelevant. However, people who love the theater (and film) will get all the inside jokes and hidden barbs scattered within its darkly witty script. For sheer audacity of tackling prickly issues about the entertainment industry with raw frankness and such cinematic brilliance, I think this film is bound for the Oscar Best Picture glory. (My Full Review)
"Birdman" is nominated for nine Oscars: Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Cinematography, Sound Mixing and Sound Editing. I think "Birdman" will win Best Picture and Cinematography, along with its sure award for Original Screenplay.
2. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL 9/10
Old European charm and gentility is stamped all over this Wes Anderson film. The production design should be commended for those beautiful sets. The candy-colored hotel and the grand mansion of Madame D. were both designed and decorated so deliciously intricate and ornate. The period costumes were amazing in their detail and sense of humor. The actions sequences were done like they were silent movies from the 1920s -- totally fun. (My Full Review)
"The Grand Budapest Hotel" is nominated for nine Oscars: Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Film Editing, Production Design, Costume Design, Makeup and Hairstyling and Original Musical Score. The sure awards here are for Best Original Screenplay, Costume Design, Makeup & Hairstyling and Production Design.
3. THE IMITATION GAME 9/10
It is a testament to the directing and storytelling skills of director Morten Tyldum, a Norwegian director I have not heard from before. He was able to take a turgid story about people trying to break enemy codes during the war, not really a visually cinematic topic to begin with, and turn it into an exciting and suspenseful thriller. He was able to unearth and draw out the dramatic potentials in the life of Alan Turing and make us all care about this person, whom we may not easily relate to in real life. (My Full Review)
"The Imitation Game" is nominated for eight Oscars: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing, Production Design, Original Musical Score. The sure Oscar here is for Adapted Screenplay.
4. WHIPLASH 9/10
"Whiplash" features some gloriously-filmed jazz band performances. I personally do not like jazz so much, but the exhilaration of the playing and the richness of the music are very hard to resist. The perfectly-edited scenes showing the band passionately playing their music had the vigor and energy of a sports match. That super-intense final scene alone will literally keep you at the edge of your seat. (My Full Review)
"Whiplash" is nominated for five Oscars: Best Picture, Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing, Sound Mixing. The Best Supporting Actor Oscar for J.K. Simmons is already a sure thing. I hope it can win one of the Sound Oscars as well given the excellent quality of the drumming sounds in the film, maybe the Sound Mixing.
5. BOYHOOD 8/10
Richard Linklater likes telling long stories. He is best known for writing and directing his "Before Sunrise" trilogy. That love story of Jesse and Celine was told in three films released nine years apart per film. Here in "Boyhood", Linklater tells a story that spans twelve years. This time, he actually took twelve years to film it (intermittently, of course). With that conceit, this is a literally epic piece of filmmaking in that sense. (My Full Review)
"Boyhood" is nominated for six Oscars: Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay and Film Editing. The Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Patricia Arquette is a sure thing. I also think Linklater will pick up the Best Director award.
6. SELMA 8/10
"Selma" tells of a crucial time during the life of Martin Luther King in the 1960s, when people of color faced in trying to register to vote in the segregated south. Of several films about the Civil Rights Movement, this one had a more authentic look and sound to it. With "Selma", director Ava Duvernay has created an elegant masterpiece of storytelling, making a series of unjust events that happened in just a single small town in Alabama resound meaningfully to audiences all over the world. (My Full Review)
Unusually, "Selma" was just nominated for one other award other than Best Picture. This was in the more minor category of Original Song, where it is bound to win an Oscar for composer John Legend.
7. AMERICAN SNIPER 8/10
Being a Clint Eastwood movie, the story of "American Sniper" (based on Chris Kyle's own memoirs) was told in a very straight-forward manner, not too much cinematic excess. The war scenes in this film are very well-shot, with excellent editing and sound mixing. It does not shirk from the violence, but there was no overkill on the gore. With the title alone, expect to watch a very American film -- a movie clearly made for its flag, country and ideals. While it has been accused of being pro-war propaganda, you will actually pick up Eastwood's anti-war sentiments along the way. (My Full Review)
"American Sniper" is nominated for six Oscars: Best Picture, Actor, Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing, Sound Mixing and Sound Editing. It will be given one of the Sound awards, probably the Sound Editing one.
8. THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING 7/10
"The Theory of Everything" is a beautiful looking film with a heartwarming inspirational subject matter. It is just too bad that real life did not give this film the happy ending we all wanted it to have. Felicity Jones as Jane was very good, as were the other supporting actors in the cast. However, this film is clearly Eddie Redmayne's showcase as ALS-stricken physics genius Stephen Hawking. (My Full Review)
"The Theory of Everything" is nominated for five Oscars: Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Adapted Screenplay and Musical Score. The Oscars for Best Actor for Eddie Redmayne and Best Original Musical Score for Johann Johannsson are surely in the bag.
My bets for the other categories:
Best Animated Feature: "How to Train Your Dragon 2" (My Full Review)
Best Foreign Language Film: "Ida" (Poland) (My Full Review)
Best Actress: Julianne Moore (for "Still Alice")
Ms. Moore's portrayal of Alice Howland, a 50-year old accomplished linguistic professor who was gradually stricken with early-onset Alzheimer's disease is poignant and dignified, not sappy nor sentimental. Having won all the other awards being given this season, it is a pretty sure bet that she will finally take home the Oscar in this her fifth nomination.
Best Documentary Feature: "Citizenfour"
The documentary about Edward Snowden and the top secret information he has about the National Security Agency is the best known among the nominees and the one with the most critical acclaim. Thus, it is the top bet to win.
Best Animated Short: "Feast"
This is the short film about a puppy who grew up with his junk food eating owner, and how his diet changed when he dated a vegan waitress. We all saw this charming animated short before "Big Hero 6", so it should be the best known among all the nominees.
Best Visual Effects: "Interstellar" (My Full Review)