Last Chance Oscar Cheat Sheet

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Let us start by invoking the much-too invoked yet always timely and pertinent William Goldman quote about Hollywood:

NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING

When it comes to predicting the Oscar winners this is the #1 rule.

However, this will not stop us or anyone else who cares even a little about show business and pop culture for indulging in one of our most beloved annual American pastimes. Even those who admit to not knowing anything about who might take home the Academy gold in a given year will likely wind up at a party or pass through a store where the prize for predicting the most Oscar winners or even the winner of a single close race is too good to pass up

So for all of you – and them – and because I’ve been doing this on my own and publicly for at least three decades and have never, not once, managed to sweep the entire board – here are:

I'd like to thank... myself

I’d like to thank… myself

THE CHAIR’S OSCAR PICKS

But wait –

Before we start, I’m going to suggest a few Oscar drinking games to pass the time in what I predict will be AT LEAST a three and a half hour show – more likely three hours and 43 minutes, if I were a predicting man. (Note: If?)

For those who love to drink: Take a belt every time The Interview, Seth Rogen, James Franco and Sony Pictures are mentioned. If you do, it is doubtful you will be awake or even alive by the end of the show. But neither will most of the rest of us so never fear.

For those who very much enjoy/like drinking socially: Throw one back each time anyone even alludes to hacking, hacking into emails, people in the movie business talking behind each other’s backs or Sony Pictures, Amy Pascal or Scott Rudin. (Note: Not knowing who Amy Pascal and Scott Rudin are should cause no embarrassment. Most of the world doesn’t either.  Not really)

Let's hope the jokes tonight are funnier than the movie #aimhigh

Let’s hope the jokes tonight are funnier than the movie #aimhigh

For moderate drinkers who still like a taste: Top off your glass each time Clint Eastwood’s age, Hollywood’s lack of patriotism or playing fast and loose with the facts of a movie subject like American Sniper’s Chris Kyle comes up for discussion. Do NOT drink if it’s a mere mention of American Sniper in passing because this will happen quite a bit during the show given its six nominations. Though it will win 0.0 in all of its major categories. #Predictionsspoiler

For only special event drinkers: Grab a glassful of something whenever a Rudy Giuliani/Pres. Obama joke is made. Actually, let’s throw in any mention of #OscarsSoWhite or how generally White the field of nominees are this year. Since this will clearly get more than a few passing references and you don’t get to drink very often – You’re welcome.

For us gays and others who support our gay agenda: Any LGBT innuendo at all in the course of the show counts as a reason to take a sip. This should guarantee EVERYONE will be pretty toasted by the time the Barbara Walters special does not air following the show this year. (Note: Yes, every appearance of Neil Patrick Harris counts. And you’re welcome – again).

Let's do this!

Let’s do this!

Okay – here goes:

THE CHAIR’S 2015 REAL OSCAR PICKS:

2015-oscars-best-picture-860x442

Best Picture

American Sniper

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Selma

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

Let’s get this one out of the way first because it really is a toss-up this year between Birdman and Boyhood. Odds makers and conventional wisdom are giving Birdman a slight edge in light of its last-minute surge in other awards competitions. But my pick is Boyhood. Here’s why. At the end of the day, Birdman is a movie that does not paint Hollywood or the movie industry in a particularly flattering light. I can’t imagine voters, many of whom make their living off of superhero blockbusters, rewarding a film that ultimately thumbs its nose up at superhero blockbusters. Yes, this town is that small.   I suppose I could be wrong – but I don’t think so. And no, American Sniper will not sneak in at the last minute. Which confirms nothing the flyover states think about us.

Chair’s Pick: Boyhood

Director

The Bird and the Boy

The Bird and the Boy

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Boyhood Richard Linklater

Foxcatcher Bennett Miller

The Grand Budapest Hotel Wes Anderson

The Imitation Game Morten Tyldum

I’ve given this one a lot of thought. Here’s the thing – I don’t see how the Academy will give up the chance to honor an American director who spent 12 YEARS making a critically-acclaimed film that he shot every summer for over a decade. In the area of mainstream narrative fiction filmmaking, that’s never been done to such widespread acclaim and effect. Not to mention, this is a guy who has toiled amiably and well in the indie and major studio film trenches for decades. I know the DGA awarded Inarritu – who is a brilliant filmmaker. But not here. I don’t think…

Chair’s Pick: Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Actor

The man loves a good costume

The man loves a good costume

Steve Carell in Foxcatcher

Bradley Cooper in American Sniper

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game

Michael Keaton in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything

This is another close race that seems to come down to a two-way battle between Eddie Redmayne and Michael Keaton.   It seems likely that ER will win for taking on the task of both physically and mentally evoking the struggles and triumphs of Stephen Hawking. I thought so too until this morning when I visualized everyone I know or know of in the Academy looking at their final choices and remembering Michael Keaton in not only Birdman but Mr. Mom – not to mention the first Batman movie – and Night Shift – and Beetlejuice! Yes, Beetlejuice!!!!

They just won’t be able to do it – vote for the other guy. Plus, Michael Keaton was brilliant in Birdman and if you believe Boyhood will take best picture here’s a chance for all those voters to even score.

Chair’s Pick: Michael Keaton, Birdman

Supporting Actor

After tonight, he may not have to sell you insurance anymore

After tonight, he may not have to sell you insurance anymore

Robert Duvall in The Judge

Ethan Hawke in Boyhood

Edward Norton in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Mark Ruffalo in Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons in Whiplash

Four words – well, two words and two initials – J.K. Simmons, Whiplash. It’s the role of a lifetime that could have gone terribly wrong if it were not played just right. Whiplash was one of my fave films this year. And to the naysayers – yes, it was theatrical and stretched credulity just a bit but NEVER stretched the emotional truth of its characters. That’s why it’s a terrific film. One that would never work without the performance delivered by this year’s Oscar-winning supporting actor.

Chair’s Pick: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Actress

Slayin' it on the carpet

Slayin’ it on the carpet

Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night

Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything

Julianne Moore in Still Alice

Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon in Wild

This one’s easy. It’s Julianne Moore’s year. It’s her fifth nomination and she’s never won. Plus, she was heartbreakingly perfect in Still Alice. Plus, she’s taken every other major award. Two plusses equal —

Chair’s Pick: Julianne Moore, Still Alice.

Supporting Actress

How many actresses would let us all watch them age like this? #killinit

How many actresses would let us all watch them age like this? #brave

Patricia Arquette in Boyhood

Laura Dern in Wild

Keira Knightley in The Imitation Game

Emma Stone in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Meryl Streep in Into the Woods

Once again, this is a gimme. It’s going to be Patricia Arquette. She’s won everything else and, well, she gave 12 years of her life to be contemporary America’s new onscreen Mom. That’s right, it’s still America and at the end of the day we all really do LOVE our Moms. Even in Hollywood. No matter what we might have once said in our therapy sessions.

Chair’s Pick: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Animated Feature

OK.. sure!

OK.. sure!

Big Hero 6 Don Hall, Chris Williams and Roy Conli

The Boxtrolls Anthony Stacchi, Graham Annable and Travis Knight

How to Train Your Dragon 2 Dean DeBlois and Bonnie Arnold

Song of the Sea Tomm Moore and Paul Young

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya Isao Takahata and Yoshiaki Nishimura

I’m depending on friends and what I’ve read on this one. And the verdict has been unanimous for:

Chair’s Pick: How to Train Your Dragon 2

(Note: Though I will admit that most of those surveyed say they liked Big Hero 6 better. Which, once again, has nothing at all to do with what will win).

Adapted Screenplay

American Sniper Written by Jason Hall

The Imitation Game Written by Graham Moore

Inherent Vice Written for the screen by Paul Thomas Anderson

The Theory of Everything Screenplay by Anthony McCarten

Whiplash Written by Damien Chazelle

I’d say Whiplash if this was the original screenplay category but due to a silly technicality that film has been thrown into a slot where it can’t compete. Too much controversy over the facts in American Sniper and in the case of The Theory of Everything its strength wasn’t its script. Most people I know couldn’t follow Inherent Vice but I thought that crazy screenplay was sort of crazy fabulous. Not that anyone asked.

In any event, here’s the Academy’s chance to honor one of the few now acknowledged gay heroes in contemporary history – Alan Turing.

Chair’s Pick: Graham Moore, The Imitation Game

Original Screenplay

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) Written by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo

Boyhood Written by Richard Linklater

Foxcatcher Written by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman

The Grand Budapest Hotel Screenplay by Wes Anderson; Story by Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness

Nightcrawler Written by Dan Gilroy

For the love of everything I hold dear, I don’t at all get all the love for the Grand Budapest Hotel and, most especially, its script. Huh? What? Seriously, I’m in the dark – more like a haze where I can’t make out – well, anything. Still, after decades of being a writer the one thing I’ve learned is that there are just some things I will never understand, much less see. Wes Anderson seems like an extremely nice fellow with an undeniable talent for bringing his visions to the screen. I wish him well. Just not in this category. But he will win.

Chair’s Pick: Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Cinematography

Birdman-Steadicam02

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) Emmanuel Lubezki

The Grand Budapest Hotel Robert Yeoman

Ida Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski

Mr. Turner Dick Pope

Unbroken Roger Deakins

Any one of the nominees are deserving. But it seems inevitable that the sheer audaciousness of Birdman is going to win. The dazzling visual images in The Grand Budapest Hotel could be a spoiler. But probably not.

Chair’s Pick: Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman

Costume Design

that's a lot of look

that’s a lot of look

The Grand Budapest Hotel Milena Canonero

Inherent Vice Mark Bridges

Into the Woods Colleen Atwood

Maleficent Anna B. Sheppard and Jane Clive

Mr. Turner Jacqueline Durran

Milena Canonero will win for TGBH. She’s won three Oscars previously and her work here was superlative – as always. Plus, I’ve met her and it’ll be fun to see her onstage at the Kodak theatre talking to a billion people worldwide – though this in no way influences my choice since she’s won most of the other awards in this category already.

Chair’s Pick: Milena Canonero, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Documentary Feature

will he skype in?

will he skype in?

CitizenFour Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy and Dirk Wilutzky

Finding Vivian Maier John Maloof and Charlie Siskel

Last Days in Vietnam Rory Kennedy and Keven McAlester

The Salt of the Earth Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado and David Rosier

Virunga Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara

This one is going to CitizenFour despite the groundswell for the crowd-pleasing Virunga at the last minute. We here in Los Angeles are nothing if not government-doubting, paranoid, bleeding heart liberals. Yes, the rest of you are correct. But they’re our awards. #EdSnowden4Ever

Chair’s Pick: CitizenFour

Documentary Short Subject

Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry

Joanna Aneta Kopacz

Our Curse Tomasz Sliwinski and Maciej Slesicki

The Reaper (La Parka) Gabriel Serra Arguello

White Earth J. Christian Jensen

A tough choice. I haven’t seen all of them but those I spoke with and read seemed quite affected by the artistic and heart-breaking Joanna, which traces the real story of a Polish woman dying of cancer who becomes a blogger and witness to her own final days, along with her husband and young children. This takes nothing away from what I believe will be the winner – Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1. See, just because Hollywood will not be voting American Sniper best picture it still supports the troops. Really and truly. This is a way to prove it – even though it will also change no one’s mind about us. It is already way, way waaaaay too late for that.

Chair’s Pick: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

Film Editing

American Sniper  Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach

Boyhood  Sandra Adair

The Grand Budapest Hotel  Barney Pilling

The Imitation Game  William Goldenberg

Whiplash  Tom Cross

I don’t know how this award doesn’t go to Boyhood. Twelve summers of footage in twelve years for one film?? Seriously. Though if I were a voter it would be Whiplash. Still, I’m not who counts here. But only here.

Chair’s Pick: Sandra Adair, Boyhood

Foreign Language Film

Black and White. Check. Nuns. Check. Holocaust. Check. Oscar... check!

Black and White. Check. Nuns. Check. Holocaust. Check. Oscar… check!

Ida Poland

Leviathan Russia

Tangerines Estonia

Timbuktu Mauritania

Wild Tales Argentina

I know many of the Johnny Come Lately prognosticators are going with the hipper than hip Wild Tales. But Ida was about the Holocaust. And it was genius. Yeah, I said it. And under 90 minutes. And about the Holocaust. #CaseClosed.

Chair’s Pick: Ida

Makeup and Hairstyling

winning by a nose ... #couldnthelpmyself

winning by a nose … #couldnthelpmyself

Foxcatcher Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard

The Grand Budapest Hotel Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier

Guardians of the Galaxy Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White

Something tells me it’s Foxcatcher. Not since Nicole Kidman’s nose in The Hours has talk about a film ever centered so much on…. Well, you know what I mean. Some folks are saying it’s a tech/design category and as such it’s got to be TGBH. I beg to differ.

Chair’s Pick: Bill Corso and Dennis Liddlard, Foxcatcher

Original Score

The Grand Budapest Hotel Alexandre Desplat

The Imitation Game Alexandre Desplat

Interstellar Hans Zimmer

Mr. Turner Gary Yershon

The Theory of Everything Jóhann Jóhannsson

This one feels unpredictable to me and if you’re betting, don’t gamble away the house. But there was something about the score of Theory that seemed to buoy the film beyond what it read like on paper and many others seem to agree. So –

Chair’s Pick: Johann Johannsson, The Theory of Everything

Original Song

“Everything Is Awesome” from The Lego Movie, Music and Lyric by Shawn Patterson

“Glory” from Selma, Music and Lyric by John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn

“Grateful” from Beyond the Lights, Music and Lyric by Diane Warren

“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me, Music and Lyric by Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond

“Lost Stars” from Begin Again, Music and Lyric by Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois

There is NO way the Academy will not take its chance here to give something to Selma. Besides, it’s a terrific song. Awesome, actually. #NoLegos.

Chair’s Pick: John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn, “Glory” from Selma

Production Design

mr oscar... checking in...

mr oscar… checking in…

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

The Grand Budapest Hotel wins best original screenplay and not production design??? Well, the Oscars are just perverse enough to do that – except they won’t. Whenever you hope they’ll be perverse they inevitably disappoint.

Chair’s Pick: Adam Stockhausen, Anna Pinnock, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Animated Short Film

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

There are several worthy entries here and this category is often a surprise – not to mention an Oscar pool spoiler. So NO ONE ever REALLY knows for sure. However, I did see Feast. There are a lot of dog lovers in the movie industry who credit the support of their furry friends for their best work. To not honor a film that does so would be just plain rude. #WeHeartOurAnimals. #AndOurVetsAnimals.

Chair’s Pick: Feast, Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed

Live Action Short Film

Aya Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis

Boogaloo and Graham Michael Lennox and Ronan Blaney

Butter Lamp (La Lampe Au Beurre De Yak)” Hu Wei and Julien Féret

Parvaneh Talkhon Hamzavi and Stefan Eichenberger

The Phone Call Mat Kirkby and James Lucas

Any time you get a basically two character short film about suicide played by actor/movie stars at the caliber of Sally Hawkins and Jim Broadbent – well –

Chair’s Pick: The Phone Call, Mat Kirby and James Lucas

Sound Editing

either a drum or a gun

either a drum or a gun

American Sniper Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) Martín Hernández and Aaron Glascock

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Brent Burge and Jason Canovas

Interstellar Richard King

Unbroken Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro

No one I spoke to or read really understands the true difference between these two sound categories or how they will shake down. But there is a consensus and it falls to firearms and the exploding of bombs – in real life and time.

Chair’s Pick: Alan Robert Murray and Bob Asman, American Sniper

Sound Mixing

American Sniper John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and Thomas Varga

Interstellar Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker and Mark Weingarten

Unbroken Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and David Lee

Whiplash Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley

I’d give it to Whiplash because of the intricate mix of music that significantly impacts the effectiveness of that multi-nominated film. But at the end of the day voters will also know it was equally important to always believe we were in the terrorizing middle of Iraq for us to feel the full impact of American Sniper. The gravity of the latter will outweigh the skill of the former.

Chair’s Pick: John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin, American Sniper

Visual Effects

Throwing it a bone #2001reference

Throwing it a bone #2001reference

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill and Dan Sudick

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist

Guardians of the Galaxy Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould

Interstellar Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher

X-Men: Days of Future Past Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie and Cameron Waldbauer

It’s not good politics for voting Academy members to fully ignore a Christopher Nolan film right now. I’m not entirely sure why and neither are they. But all things being equal, it takes some kind of visual effects to make you feel like you were floating in space for almost a full century rather than the actual two hour and 45 minute running length of the entire film. No, I will not go for the obvious joke.

Chair’s Pick: Paul Franklin, Adrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher, Interstellar

If you’ve made it this far, you have our full permission to appropriate – or ignore – any or all of our picks. Check back on Monday to see how well or poorly I’ve done. And remember, when a test is especially difficult I, for one, always grade on a curve.

Don’t miss a beat with the Chair tonight as he tweets his way through the Oscars (Keep your cheat sheet closeby!)

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