Oscar Preview: Josh Axelrod's Predictions

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Graphic by Josh Axelrod

Josh Axelrod

Graphic by Josh Axelrod

oscar predictions

Graphic by Gabriela MacPherson

Best Picture: This is the big one and the hardest to call at the moment. Right now the top three are Boyhood: Richard Linklater’s marvel of a film about a child growing up filmed over the course of twelve years, Birdman: a visually incredible work of art that comments on everything from film criticism to egoism, and Selma: a Martin Luther King Jr. biopic starring David Oyelowo from last year’s Lee Daniels: The Butler. Boyhood and Birdman are both incredible films in their questioning of conventions and graceful collision into filmmaking boundaries, but honestly I fear their innovation might hurt them. The Academy tends to shy away from such artsy, inventive indies and typically goes for the safer pick. I really hope I’ll be wrong, because these movies are both instant classics and deserve shiny statuettes to reward their ingenuity. But Selma is a huge dark horse threatening to sneak in and steal the big prize. Other huge contenders are The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything – biopics slated for Christmas releases- as well as Gone Girl, Interstellar, and Whiplash. Also look out for the dark, based-on-a-true-story thriller Foxcatcher. Some long shots helmed by expert directors that could nuzzle their way into the expandingly diverse category are Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, and Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper. I think The Grand Budapest Hotel could easily unseat the Oscar bait-y Unbroken for the tenth spot, as the Academy’s love for Anderson grows every year, as their vision shifts away from the typical, traditional film.
Best Actor: What a toss-up it is this year. Right now everyone’s banking on Michael Keaton for Birdman. Was it a transformative performance? Sure. Has it been a while since Keaton’s donned the leading role cape? Absolutely. Is this a triumphant performance featuring the best acting Keaton’s ever done? Inarguably. But never dismiss the power of the historical portrayal. David Oyelowo, Eddie Redmayne and Benedict Cumberbatch are all getting rave reviews for their respective performances as the civil rights champion Martin Luther King Jr., genius physically-disabled scientist Stephen Hawking, and the closeted-homosexual World War II code-breaker Alan Turing. These newbies have a lot of momentum rolling for them right now and could easily seize the Oscar. Additionally, Steve Carrell is earning plaudits for his transformation from comedic goofball to dark portrayal of a murderer. The academy LOVES when comedians go for drama. (Look to Robin Williams and Tom Hanks whose careers started in comedy, and especially Jonah Hill for his recent, somewhat baffling nominations.)  And finally, Jake Gyllenhaal and Bradley Cooper are beloved actors who can apparently always use another nomination according to the voters. I guess what I’m trying to say here is this category’s results are not easily declarable. Only when Oscar night arrives will we know for sure.
Best Actress: Unlike last year’s surefire lock on Cate Blanchett to win the award, this year’s Best Actress field is a lot blander and tamer. Julianne Moore and Reese Witherspoon are the two frontrunners for their portrayals of a psychologist battling Alzheimer’s and a flawed woman who hikes the Pacific Crest Trail in Still Alice and Wild respectively. Hopefully, Julianne Moore will pick up her first win after four previous losses.
Best Supporting Actor: Boy was I convinced J.K. Simmons had this in the bag. I saw his terrifying performance in Whiplash and was ready to give him the award right there. But then I saw Birdman and realized this category is far from a lock. Edward Norton gives his best performance since 1999’s American History X. Who will win the Oscar? Odds are leaning towards Simmons but it could go either way. Who will have deserved it the most? That is simply a question for the ages.
Best Supporting Actress: At least if Boyhood can’t take home the big award it can expect to win for Patricia Arquette’s touching portrayal of a mother who loves her child dearly. However, Emma Stone is fantastic in Birdman and should put up a fight. Ultimately, the award will probably go to Arquette, but this first Oscar competition signifies a promising and exciting career ahead of Stone.
Best Director: Hard to call, again. Expect bids for Richard Linklater (Boyhood), Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Birdman), David Fincher (Gone Girl), Ava Duvarney (Selma) and maybe even Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher). However, both Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)  or Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) could easily creep into this category for their stylish, artistic productions. The win has to go to either Linklater for his vision and scope in creating his masterpiece over the course of twelve years, or Inarritu for his experimental uninterrupted one-shot directing style. Either way, it will be well deserved.
The Oscar race this year is heating up as December is always a pivotal month for the film competition. Follow me, Josh Axelrod, as I continue to report on all the breaking Academy Award news and offer my daring opinions.