Monday, February 23, 2015

Some Observations on the 2015 Oscar Results and How I Did With My Picks

This year I picked 15 of the 24 winners, not quite as good as last year’s 17 for 24, but I’ve had fewer than 15 correct in other years.  I got Best Picture winner Birdman correct.  I’ll review all the winners and my picks below.

First, some observations:

No film dominated the show, or was even a clear frontrunner.  The Grand Budapest Hotel and Birdman tied with four Oscars apiece.  Whiplash, with three wins, was the only other film to receive more than one.  And in what I believe is a first since the Oscars expanded to more than five nominations, every single Best Picture nominee won at least one Oscar.

On the other end of the spectrum, Foxcatcher (5 noms), Mr. Turner (4), Into the Woods (3), Unbroken (3), Inherent Vice (2), Wild (2), and Guardians of the Galaxy (2) were shut out.  Interstellar (5) won only for Best Visual Effects (and it didn’t deserve that.)

Despite tying with four Oscars apiece, Birdman is the “winner” over The Grand Budapest Hotel because it took home Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay among its four wins.  This was a trifecta for director/co-writer/co-producer Alejandro Inarritu.

Once again the show started at the weird time of 8:30 PM Eastern time and ran past Midnight.  Why they can’t just start it at 8:00 eludes me.  It’s not to cover the red carpet; the show starts airing at 7:00 to do that.  One hour is plenty of time to waste getting people into the auditorium.  Those of us who have to get up to work first thing in the morning would appreciate it if this show would end earlier. 

Host Neil Patrick Harris had both hits and misses with his jokes.  His off the cuff remarks (such as when he introduced David Oyelowo, who was skipped over for a Best Actor nomination, the crowd applauded, and Harris said, “Oh sure, now you like him”) seemed to work better.  Oyelowo couldn’t help but laugh.  The prepared joke Harris then did with him fell pretty flat, though.

Harris tried several puns and plays on words.  He was barely on stage before announcing that this was the show that “celebrates the best and white-ist, I mean brightest”.  Later, after Citizenfour won Best Documentary Harris noted that subject Edward Snowden “couldn’t be here for some treason.”

Harris’ funniest moment might have been when he re-created the underwear-in-public scene from Birdman where he was shown trying to get to stage after losing his robe, walking by Whiplash actor Miles Teller playing the drums, stopping him like Simmons did in the film, and then finally coming out on stage in his underwear.  He paused for a few seconds, then deadpanned, “Acting is a noble profession.”  When he came out the next time in a tuxedo he noted, “I’m now a changed man.”

One thing that was good was that after an opening number shared by Anna Kendrick and with a cameo by Jack Black – who seemed to completely disappear afterwards – Harris wasted little time getting to the first award.  It was only 10 minutes into the show when Lupita Nyong’o nervously announced “the actor goes to” and J.K. Simmons came up on stage.

I felt this was a good sign, but then they had some time wasters, such as Jennifer Hudson singing a song after the In Memoriam montage.  The impression it left was almost as if the Academy was saying, “Remember, we’ve given Oscars to black people before.”  They ask the audience to hold their applause now during the montage, but because of the song afterwards when they finally applauded it was more for the singing performance than for honoring the people who had passed.

Another time waster was Lady Gaga coming out to sing a medley of songs from The Sound of Music.  I do have to admit that she did a better job than I ever would have imagined, but if they want to honor the 50th anniversary of that movie why not bring out the cast of the movie, pretty much all of whom are still with us?

Patricia Arquette was the first person to go political in her speech instead of just thanking people.  She also said a bad word, which had to be bleeped out.  The political pandering opened up the floodgates for several others to go on about their pet causes, too.  Arquette’s was about equality of pay, although having this message coming from someone wearing a dress and jewelry worth more than most people make in a year, not to mention being the recipient of a $160,000 gift bag, made it unintentionally funny.

The best “it had to happen” moment was pairing Idina Menzel and John Travolta to announce Best Original Song.  He famously butchered her name last year when announcing her to sing Let It Go from Frozen.  Harris started the joke this year by saying that “Benedict Cumberbatch” was the most awesome name in show business and that it is how John Travolta would announce Ben Affleck.  Then Harris introduced Menzel, who came out and asked people to welcome “Glom Gazingo” and Travolta walked out.  They joked about last year’s gaff and Menzel sarcastically said, “At least it’s not like it will follow me around for the rest of my life” and Travolta replied, “Tell me about it.”  In other words, “It’s been a year; let it go people”.

Among other presenters I found it curious that they had Ben Affleck announce Best Director.  Usually that’s reserved for a prior winner of that award, yet Affleck famously wasn’t even nominated for directing Best Picture winner Argo two years ago.  This felt like it might be a bit of making up by the Academy.

Enough of that, here’s the winners of every category and how I did.  I first tried to pick the Oscar winners four years ago.  I got a respectable 16 out of 24 correct.  The next two years I tried to really do my homework and see as many nominees as possible.  The result?  I dropped to 14 out of 24 then 13 out of 24.  Last year I didn’t put much effort into it and I got 17 out of 24 – my best yet.  This year I dropped back to 15 out of 24 – not too shabby.

Here is the complete list of nominations in all twenty-four categories.  What I would pick is highlighted in yellow.  No highlight means I have not seen any of the choices.  What I thought would win is in bold.  I also said if I thought my choice was a lock, likely, educated guess, or wild-ass guess.  What actually won has an *asterisk* beside it.

Best Picture

American Sniper
Birdman*
Boyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Selma
The Theory of Everything
Whiplash

Confidence – Likely
Correct Pick? – Yes
Comment – The message of Birdman resonated with the voters and overcame the special nature of how Boyhood was filmed.

Best Animated Film

Big Hero 6*
The Boxtrolls
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Song of the Sea
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Confidence – Wild-Ass Guess
Correct Pick? – No
Comment – I had only seen How to Train Your Dragon 2, so I was at a disadvantage here.

Best Foreign Language Film

Ida*
Poland
Leviathan
Russia
Tangerines
Estonia
Timbuktu
Mauritania
Wild Tales
Argentina

Confidence – Likely
Correct Pick? – No
Comment – I had not seen any of the nominees, but Leviathan was the one that everyone seemed to feel was the best.  However, that’s not the one that won.

Best Documentary

Citizenfour*
Finding Vivien Maier
Last Days of Vietnam
The Salt of the Earth
Virunga

Confidence – Educated Guess
Correct Pick? – Yes
Comment – I’ve only seen this one nominee, and I could not imagine that the nature of it – covering the Edward Snowden leaks with the man in person as they were happening – would not seriously impress the voters.

Best Actor

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

Confidence – Likely
Correct Pick? – Yes
Comment – Eddie Redmayne played all phases of physical disability during the film, which usually merits a win. 

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

Confidence – Likely
Correct Pick? – Yes
Comment – I have not seen Moore’s performance, but she was the only one anyone was talking about in regards to winning.

Best Supporting Actor

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

Confidence – Lock
Correct Pick? – Yes
Comment – As expected, Simmons won this award.  Afterwards Neil Patrick Harris joked, in the same cadence as the Farmer’s Insurance advertising jingle (Simmons plays the Professor character in the ads) “He won Oscar.   Bum buh-bum buh-bum bum bum bum.”

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette*
Boyhood
Laura Dern
Wild
Keira Knightley
The Imitation Game
Emma Stone
Birdman
Meryl Streep
Into the Woods

Confidence – Educated Guess
Correct Pick? – Yes
Comment – Voters wanted to reward Boyhood and Arquette’s performance was the one probably most justifiable to people. 

Best Director

Wes Anderson
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Alejandro Inarritu*
Birdman
Richard Linklater
Boyhood
Bennett Miller
Foxcatcher
Morten Tyldum
The Imitation Game

Confidence – Educated Guess
Correct Pick? – No
Comment – This was the toughest one of the major categories for me.  Would voters want to reward Linklater for the special nature of how Boyhood was shot, or to reward Inarritu for the nature and filming style of Birdman?  I picked the wrong one of the two.

Best Original Screenplay

Birdman*
Boyhood
Foxcatcher
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Nightcrawler

Confidence – Likely
Correct Pick? – No
Comment – This had been Anderson’s category where he has been slotted in the past when the Academy didn’t want to go so far as to give his films Best Picture/Director nominations.  I underestimated the appeal of Birdman for more than just Best Picture.

Best Adapted Screenplay

American Sniper
The Imitation Game*
Inherent Vice
The Theory of Everything
Whiplash

Confidence – Educated Guess
Correct Pick? – Yes
Comment – American Sniper’s focus may have turned off some voters, so that left us with the man who was also a wartime hero, but was persecuted afterwards.

Best Original Song

Lost Stars
Begin Again
Grateful
Beyond the Lights
I’m Not Gonna Miss You
Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me
Everything is Awesome
The Lego Movie
Glory*
Selma

Confidence – Likely
Correct Pick? – Yes
Comment – All the bitching about the lack of “diverse” nominees made people want to give Selma the one vote they could justify.  (The performance of it got a standing ovation from the mostly white crowd – the only song to receive such a reaction.)  It’s an entertaining song, but it’s horribly out of place in the period film because of the rap sections in it. 

Best Original Score

The Grand Budapest Hotel*
The Imitation Game
Interstellar
Mr. Turner
The Theory of Everything

Confidence – Wild Ass Guess
Correct Pick? – Yes
Comment – I figured this would be a popular film and would get some wins in smaller categories.  I was right.

Best Cinematography

Birdman*
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Ida
Mr. Turner
Unbroken

Confidence – Lock
Correct Pick? – Yes
Comment – I felt the pseudo-single shot nature of this movie’s filming should easily win this award for it.  I was right.  Poor Roger Deakins (Unbroken) loses yet again in this category.  He’s now at twelve nominations (including 2 of the 5 in 2008) and has never won.

Best Editing

American Sniper
Boyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Whiplash*

Confidence – Educated Guess
Correct Pick? – Yes
Comment – It’s the flashier, lots of edits kind of nominees that usually win, that’s why I picked Whiplash and I was right.

Best Production Design

The Grand Budapest Hotel*
The Imitation Game
Interstellar
Into the Woods
Mr. Turner

Confidence – Educated Guess
Correct Pick? – Yes
Comment – I figured this would be a popular film and would get some wins in smaller categories.  I was right.

Best Costume Design

The Grand Budapest Hotel*
Inherent Vice
Into the Woods
Maleficent
Mr. Turner

Confidence – Educated Guess
Correct Pick? – Yes
Comment – I figured this would be a popular film and would get some wins in smaller categories.  I was right.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Foxcatcher
The Grand Budapest Hotel*
Guardians of the Galaxy

Confidence – Wild-Ass Guess
Correct Pick? – No
Comment – Guardians should have won this easily, but I knew there would be prejudice against a “comic book film”.  I also knew The Grand Budapest Hotel would be a popular film and would probably get some wins in the smaller categories.  I should have picked it here, too.

Best Visual Effects

Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Guardians of the Galaxy
Interstellar*
X-Men: Days of Future Past

Confidence – Likely
Correct Pick? – No
Comment – Again, Guardians should have won this in a rout, and in this category I thought it would.  Having two main characters be fully CGI and interacting with three real people – and convincingly pulling it off – is very impressive.  As it turns out, people went for the far less impressive Interstellar, probably from residual complaints from some that it deserved a Best Picture nomination and did not get it.

Best Sound Editing

American Sniper*
Birdman
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Interstellar
Unbroken

Confidence – Educated Guess
Correct Pick? – Yes
Comment – In American Sniper the sound of the bullet as it goes by or comes in really makes an impact (no pun intended), so I thought the sound awards would go to this film.  I was half right (see below).

Best Sound Mixing

American Sniper
Birdman
Interstellar
Unbroken
Whiplash*

Confidence – Educated Guess
Correct Pick? – No
Comment – In American Sniper the sound of the bullet as it goes by or comes in really makes an impact (no pun intended), so I thought the sound awards would go to this film.  I was half right.  I did think about picking Whiplash since it was only nominated in this one Sound category, which made it stand out more.  I obviously should have.

Best Animated Short

The Bigger Picture
The Dam Keeper
Feast*
Me and My Moulton
A Single Life

Confidence – Wild-Ass Guess
Correct Pick? – No
Comment – I knew nothing about any of these.

Best Documentary Short

Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1*
Joanna
Our Curse
The Reaper
White Earth

Confidence – Wild-Ass Guess
Correct Pick? – Yes
Comment – I knew nothing about any of these.

Best Live Action Short

Aya
Boogaloo and Graham
Butter Lamp
Parvaneh
The Phone Call*

Confidence – Wild-Ass Guess
Correct Pick? – No
Comment – I knew nothing about any of these.
 

Summary of Picks by Confidence Level

(The ones I got correct are highlighted in blue.)

Lock:

  1. Best Supporting Actor
  2. Best Cinematography
Likely:

  1. Best Picture
  2. Best Foreign Language Film
  3. Best Actor
  4. Best Actress
  5. Best Original Screenplay
  6. Best Original Song
  7. Best Visual Effects
Educated Guess:

  1. Best Documentary
  2. Best Supporting Actress
  3. Best Director
  4. Best Adapted Screenplay
  5. Best Editing
  6. Best Production Design
  7. Best Costume Design
  8. Best Sound Editing
  9. Best Sound Mixing
Wild-Ass Guess:

  1. Best Animated Film
  2. Best Original Score
  3. Best Makeup and Hairstyling
  4. Best Animated Short
  5. Best Documentary Short
  6. Best Live Action Short

I got my two Locks, but went only four for seven in the “Likely”s.  What helped was that I went seven for nine in the Educated Guesses, and two for six on my Wild Ass Guesses.

3 comments:

  1. I also got 15. I'd have done a lot better if I'd have hopped on the Birdman bandwagon instead of the Boyhood one.

    I did badly on the majors (I missed Picture, Director, Actor, both Screenplays, and Animated Feature) but nailed a lot of the middle awards (I hit Foreign Feature, Production Design, Cinematography, Visual Effects, Makeup/Hair, Costumes, and Documentary Feature). I also got a bunch of the wild guess-level films.

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    1. What probably helped me regarding Birdman is that I had seen it, so I knew it would really appeal to the Academy. I should have jumped on that bandwagon more, though, because although I picked it for Picture, I didn't for Director or Original Screenplay. And having seen Redmayne's performance in The Theory of Everything cemented with me that he had to win. I probably didn't get Visual Effects precisely because I had seen both Guardians of the Galaxy and Interstellar, though. Guardians' were a lot more impressive, but Interstellar had a much bigger name going into the awards.

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