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Okay, so I'm still grumpy about "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" not scoring a Best Picture nomination (Seriously. Check it out if you already haven't).
That won't keep me from watching, predicting, and tweeting (@louharry) the Oscars this Sunday.
Here's my cinematic guesswork.
It's said to be a battle between "Boyhood' and "Birdman," two wildly ambitious and innovative films. I admire the latter and loved the first 2/3 of it, especially the way it captures the anxiety of performance in a way I haven't seen. But while it builds in a refreshing, compelling, original way, "Birdman" suffers from an unsatisfying final quarter. While some argue about the pacing of "Boyhood," I didn't find it too long at all. And my main complaint (that cardboard second husband) is out of the way early on. Out of the non-"Ape" choices given, my pick is "Boyhood" and I think the Academy will go there as well.
For me, hands down, it's "Birdman," a film that stretches the filmmaking rules in a bold, right-for-the-material way. The Academy may well split the Best Picture/Director honors as well.
Michael Keaton's work is remarkable in "Birdman" and the inginuity of his performance is subtle (playing an actor acting is a unique challenge). But it's difficult to argue with the quality of Eddie Redmayne's performance in "The Theory of Everything" and it's the kind of role that Oscars tend to gravitate toward. On the other hand, Academy voters have a history of giving awards to career actors who haven't yet gotten a nod, so Keaton isn't out of the question.
I haven't seen "Still Alice," but I'll be taking Julianne Moore on my Oscar ballot.
Best Supporting Actor
If there's a gimme this year, it's J.K. Simmons in "Whiplash." Edward Norton might have been a contender in "Birdman" if his character had a bigger payoff scene.
Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette in "Boyhood."
Best Original Screenplay
It would be interesting if Picture, Director, and Screenplay awards go to three different films. The primary strengths for "Boyhood" and "Birdman" aren't the scripts. "The Grand Budapest Hotel," however, is firmly anchored in the original vision of its writing. I didn't love the film like others did, but I think it's going to win here.
Best Adapted Screenplay
A tougher category here. "The Imitation Game," unlikely to win anything else, seems the strongest possibility. I was more moved by the stage adaptation of the same story, "Breaking the Code," but Graham Moore's script is the most likely winner barring a surge from "American Sniper."
Best Film Editing
My vote is for "The Grand Budapest Hotel" but "Whiplash" and "Boyhood" are also in the running.
It would be a crime if "Birdman" didn't take it, which would be back-to-back wins for Emmanuel Lubezki, who also lensed "Gravity."
Best Production Design/Costumes/Make Up and Hairstyling
I'm calling for "The Grand Budapest Hotel" in all three.
Best Visual Effects
"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes." Don't get me started.
Best Original Score
Anything but "Interstellar," please.
There are other categories as well, but I'll pass on predictions there either because I didn't see enough of the nominees or don't have a clear choice.
Hope you can join me on Twitter @LouHarry Sunday night.