Monday’s picks for the 87th Academy Awards

Our take on the 87th annual dog and pony show that is The Oscars

Well, here we are again. I don’t want to start off on a negative note, because I do still really enjoy the Oscars, but the more you live through, the more it does start to feel like a bit of a dog and pony show. It can be a bit of a slog, a bit self-congratulatory and it seems few people ever agree with what wins.

While on the one hand that can start to feel a bit draining, on the other it forces you to loosen up and just enjoy the spectacle of it all. It doesn’t matter what or who wins at the Academy Awards. Your favourite movie of 2014 will still be there, and it will still be your favourite. Whatever does win might still be praised 50 years from now like a The Godfather or a Lawrence of Arabia, or it might be forgotten like The Greatest Show on Earth or Ordinary People, and whatever doesn’t win might be remembered as being “robbed” 50 years from now, like Citizen Kane or Raging Bull.

Luckily for me, I also enjoy debating people, so even if my heart isn’t fully committed, I still enjoy all the jibber jabber surrounding the awards. I’m also fortunate enough to be able to add to it on some sort of professional level.

So, on that note, I’d like to offer up my picks for the 87th Academy Awards. As I usually do, I will do a rundown of the major categories, making my prediction for what will win, my declaration of what I would pick and my argument for what should have been nominated, but was not.

And away we go…

Best Foreign Language Film

Will: Ida

Should: Wild Tales

Should have been nominated: Force Majeure

The Foreign Language and Documentary categories are always a bit tough, because usually it has been downright impossible to see all of the nominees by awards time, unless you are a film festival devotee. Even with having attended a couple of film festivals in the last year, I still have only seen two of these movies. Only one of them is readily available. Nonetheless, based on buzz and its overwhelmingly positive reception, I believe Ida will take home the gold, although a Leviathan upset isn’t out of question. Out of the two I’ve seen, I would pick Wild Tales for its delightful bottled madness. And Force Majeure not being nominated is downright puzzling, as it was one of the most widely praised, and best, movies of last year.

Best Documentary, Feature

Will: Citizenfour

Should: Citizenfour

Should have been nominated: National Gallery

There’s a chance Finding Vivian Maier might pull off an upset, but I think this category is pretty much a lock with Citizenfour, a highly acclaimed doc on Edward Snowden and his NSA whistleblowing. It’s a tense, taut film with as much dramatic force as any of the narrative films up for Best Picture. It’s a worthy winner. Life Itself, about the late film critic Roger Ebert, was a notable absence in this category, but I believe Frederick Wiseman’s fly-on-the-wall look at art and its place in the world with National Gallery is another worthy contender.

Best Supporting Actress

Will: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Should: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Should have been nominated: Carmen Ejogo, Selma

Ellar Coltrane got most of the acting notice for the sprawling coming-of-age flick Boyhood, but for many, watching the parents age and change was equally fascinating. I think both Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke were excellent as the split parents of the titular boy, and Arquette will take home a well-deserved win here. It would have been nice to see Ejogo receive a nomination for her role as Coretta Scott King, wife to Martin Luther King, Jr., as she was tremendous as the partner to this monumental historical figure, and a strong, important person in her own right.

Best Supporting Actor

Will: JK Simmons, Whiplash

Should: JK Simmons, Whiplash

Should have been nominated: Andy Serkis, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

This is maybe the easiest category of the Academy Awards to call and agree with. Have you seen Whiplash? How good was JK Simmons, right? End of conversation. It’s a powerhouse performance that never feels hackneyed or forced, and, excuse the pun, hits all the right notes. People have been saying for years that Andy Serkis deserves an Oscar nomination for his motion capture acting, and I don’t think that’s ever been truer than now, with Serkis playing Caesar in the tremendous Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. To bring such humanity to a CGI ape is truly a testament to Serkis’ talent.

Best Actor

Will: Michael Keaton, Birdman

Should: Michael Keaton, Birdman

Should have been nominated: Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Honestly, I think this is a weak field this year for Best Actor, with a lot of the year’s best performances left off. I’m thinking David Oyelowo in Selma, Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler, Philip Seymour Hoffman in A Most Wanted Man and, for my money, Ralph Fiennes for being so incredibly hilarious and pitch perfect in The Grand Budapest Hotel. Out of what we do have, I think Michael Keaton’s performance was the boldest of the bunch, and I do think he will take the award, because Hollywood loves a comeback story.

Best Actress

Will: Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Should: Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Should have been nominated: Scarlett Johansson, Under the Skin

I’m almost disappointed I’m agreeing so much with what I think will win, but here’s another case of my pick being the same as what I predict the Academy voters’ will be. Julianne Moore is one heck of an actress, everyone knows it, and she brings such intelligence and humanity to this role of a woman diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers. She’s the best part of a not-quite-great movie, and deserves the recognition. I will say I’d be equally happy to see Reese Witherspoon win for her raw and underrated performance in an underrated film. And I knew it was never going to happen, but ScarJo really pushed her comfort level in Jonathan Glazer’s weird and brilliant Under the Skin, so it would have been nice to see her name up there.

Best Director

Will: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Should: Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Should have been nominated: Ava DuVernay, Selma

Often when the Best Picture race is tight, that category ends up being split with Best Director. I’m predicting that will happen again this year and Iñárritu will find his award here. In terms of a vision being executed perfectly, which I would argue is what film directing is all about, I think Wes Anderson had the strongest outing of this bunch, but the passion and patience Richard Linklater put into Boyhood is also admirable. I think leaving Ava DuVernay off the list was a missed opportunity to celebrate a young filmmaker with great vision and add some diversity to the proceedings with a well-deserved nomination.

Best Picture

Will: Boyhood

Should: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Should have been nominated: Inherent Vice

This feels like a tight race at this point between Boyhood and Birdman, but with nearly universal adoration for Boyhood, I’m predicting it will come out ahead. I admired Boyhood a great deal, but I don’t believe it’s as good an all-round movie as The Grand Budapest Hotel, which I keep calling the Swiss watch of films, it’s so precise and finely crafted. There are many films that could have also been nominated, but how fun would it have been to see Paul Thomas Anderson’s hazy comedy Inherent Vice receive a nomination? It would have been far out, man.

So that’s it for the majors, folks. I hope you enjoy the Academy Awards and I hope all of your favourite movies come up winners, unless they go against my favourite movies, in which case all bets are off. I’ll be chatting with folks and offering up witticisms on Twitter during the broadcast, so feel free to join me @CineFileBlog.

Enjoy the show.