Oscar Nominations are in!

My Dad and I do this little game every year, a sort of “side pot” before the Oscar nominations are announced. We gather our Intel and try to guess what the nominations will be for the ‘major’ categories. This year, I guessed more correct than he did, so there’s a small victory for me. Continue reading

Joe’s Oscar Predictions for 2015

Below are my guesstimations on the Oscars this year (or at least, some of the categories). I didn’t do any online research while putting this together, and a lot of this is based on my opinion as well as a limited amount of online research. Still, regardless the outcomes I encourage everyone to see as many of these movies as they can, before or after the Oscars. They’re just all very good.

Now, on with it!

Best Actor:




American Sniper


The Imitation Game


Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)


The Theory of Everything

I’m torn, and this is the first year in a long time that I can see this category going in multiple directions – except Steve Carell. Sorry, I like him, but this role is just not showy enough compared to the others, and the movie carries a sluggish aftertaste. Cooper also produced Sniper and he beefed up for the role, it’s also his third nomination in a row, so he’s got a decent momentum going. Been-a-duck Slumberland is building steam in general as an actor who is both great and performs decently at the box office, but The Imitation Game just doesn’t have the kind of steam that is typically seen at this point. Keaton is in the well-respected “comeback” position this year for a role that’s mirroring his life in many ways, and Redmayne did more than just imitate Stephen Hawking, he embodied a person in struggles. Now, up until early December I would’ve told you 100% this is Keaton’s statue. But Redmayne got the Golden Globe for Drama Actor, the SAG award, and the BAFTA (British Academy Awards). He’s not the extreme favorite, but he’s close, and he’ll probably take the Oscar unless older Academy Members vote for Keaton.

Supporting Actor:




The Judge




Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)



As in most years, this is one of the toughest categories because each nominee is so strong and stands out in their respective films. I didn’t see The Judge, but Duvall’s nomination feels like an obligatory move. Hawke is strong and part of a unique film; Norton is hilarious and virtually steals the show from Michael Keaton; Ruffalo is the best part of Foxcatcher. But JK Simmons has had this thing locked up since Sundance of 2014. His brutality is counterbalanced in a pair of effective emotional scenes midway through, and the three-dimensional quality of his character is sealed in stone by the end of the picture. He is Whiplash – he will win.

Best Actress:


Still Alice


Gone Girl




Two Days, One Night


The Theory of Everything

While I didn’t see Two Days, One Night, or Still Alice, I can speak to the rest of the nominees in saying that Rosamund Pike did a fantastic job. Felicity Jones carried most of her movie but Eddie Redmayne has held most of the spotlight lately; Reese was great as she always is, but Wild just didn’t ring a loud enough bell overall. Still, with Julianne Moore’s highly rated performance and sweeping the majority of acting honors, she’s the person to beat.

Best Supporting Actress:






The Imitation Game


Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)


Into the Woods

Laura Dern didn’t really make a dent for me, Keira Knightley got an obligatory pat on the back, and Meryl is Meryl. My heart is with Emma Stone for her dynamic, emotionally ranging performance in Birdman, but Patricia Arquette is virtually the centerpiece of Boyhood, the most showy role, and very, very strong.

Animated Feature Film – Without The Lego Movie in this category, I have no idea what’s going to happen, so I pass on making a prediction.



Emmanuel Lubezki


Robert Yeoman


Łukasz Żal and Ryszard Lenczewski


Dick Pope


Roger Deakins

This is Deakins’s 12th nomination…and he’s likely not going to win again because this is such a competitive category, and Unbroken is just about the least exciting of the nominees. Mr. Turner (didn’t see it) appears to mirror Turner’s actual paintings; Ida is a stark black-and-white, which sometimes gets older voters’ attention; The Grand Budapest Hotel is colorful, gorgeous, and utilizes different film sizes and aspect ratios in the storytelling; Birdman is meant to look like one-take, a free-flowing piece. Lubezki won last year for Gravity, and has a very strong shot here to win again – however, it’s almost the same concept as the opening of Gravity, a seamless-looking single take. Going against the grain a little, I’d put my vote in for Grand Budapest Hotel.

Best Directing:


Richard Linklater


Bennett Miller


Wes Anderson


Morten Tyldum


Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Weird that Bennett Miller is here, since Foxcatcher is not up for Best Picture. Also, his film is the most sluggishly paced, and this is pointed out more than the acting or nuanced camerawork. Inarritu went outside the studio system as much as he could for Birdman, and this is considered a turn for him as a comedic film as opposed to his otherwise hard dramas. Morten Tyldum crafted a fine thriller in the mold of a biopic…but this is easily the least “showy” of the nominees (not a bad thing, just not the typical vote-grabber). Linklater kept a film going over 12 years and kept not only a singular vision and style, but also a method and story. Wes Anderson has been long overdue for a nomination – and this is his first. I think this is between Linklater and Inarritu, and, based on the DGA and other recent awards, Inarritu has a slight edge.

Film Editing:


Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach


Sandra Adair


Barney Pilling


William Goldenberg


Tom Cross

I have no idea why American Sniper is here – and that’s not a joke. I really don’t. Of all the movies that were released this past year, this is the strangest to appear in this category. The editing in The Raid 2, Guardians of the Galaxy, or Captain America: The Winter Soldier are all better, in my humble opinion as a non-editor. Boyhood was cut together from filming snippets over 12 years; Grand Budapest melded different styles and times into one cohesive vision at a madcap pace; The Imitation Game bounced through time with a thriller’s pace; Whiplash was the most dynamic editing of the year in a small story, was pieced together in a short time-frame, and is a remarkably moving movie. My vote would go to Whiplash, but I think this is one of the categories Boyhood will capture, as it captured voters who respect the process of the making of the movie over anything else and they might vote for a different film for Best Picture.

Visual Effects:


Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill and Dan Sudick


Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist


Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould


Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher


Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie and Cameron Waldbauer

This one is difficult once you cull the list. X-Men was okay, as was Captain America with its gigantic action scenes. Guardians of the Galaxy made us love a walking tree as a heartwarming character; Interstellar created a whole new visual look for a black hole and immersed the audience in space travel; Dawn of the Planet of the Apes advanced motion capture filmmaking immensely. My vote would be for Dawn, But I have a sneaking suspicion Interstellar might pull away for it.


Original Screenplay:


Written by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo


Written by Richard Linklater


Written by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman


Screenplay by Wes Anderson; Story by Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness


Written by Dan Gilroy

Glad to see Nightcrawler in here, a bit confused why the list includes Boyhood. Whiplash is really an original screenplay, but because they made a short film out of one of the scenes to sell the movie, then eventually made the feature, the Academy deemed it an adaptation (opposite of the WGA awards). I think Wes Anderson will come away with the win here for Grand Budapest Hotel, even though Birdman has won a couple of writing awards. I just think that GBH won’t be handed picture or director, and the Academy wants to reward quirky films usually with the writing (Her, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). Still, Birdman has the wave right now.

Adapted Screenplay:


Written by Jason Hall


Written by Graham Moore


Written for the screen by Paul Thomas Anderson


Screenplay by Anthony McCarten


Written by Damien Chazelle

Inherent Vice was too complex for a lot of audiences, including Oscar voters; Imitation Game just won the WGA; The Theory of Everything…okay; American Sniper didn’t take enough chances and felt a little by-the-book; Whiplash is the most original idea here, because it is original, and in my mind should come away with the win.

Best Picture:


Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales and Jeremy Dawson, Producers


Nora Grossman, Ido Ostrowsky and Teddy Schwarzman, Producers


Christian Colson, Oprah Winfrey, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, Producers


Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce and Anthony McCarten, Producers


Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook and David Lancaster, Producers


Clint Eastwood, Robert Lorenz, Andrew Lazar, Bradley Cooper and Peter Morgan, Producers


Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher and James W. Skotchdopole, Producers


Richard Linklater and Cathleen Sutherland, Producer

Selma only having one other nomination virtually counts this out — hard to find a movie that has as few nominations winning best picture. The Theory of Everything is very dry and not the sharpest Best Picture material this year. The Imitation Game, despite the Harvey Weinstein machine behind it, does not have the wave of victories at this point; Grand Budapest Hotel is just a bit too quirky for the win here, sadly; Whiplash is almost too indie and the victory for JK Simmons might be considered enough by many, though it could be a Dark Horse here; American Sniper certainly has the box office, but that doesn’t always mean a win here (Avatar vs The Hurt Locker (and Eastwood wasn’t nominated…the last time a BP winner didn’t also have a nominated Director was…Argo…ok then). That leaves Birdman and Boyhood. Birdman has the momentum – SAG Ensemble award, DGA award, and Golden Globe. Boyhood has the critics raving and the respect of a 12-year journey, plus it’s less esoteric than Birdman. I don’t know, I’m actually torn with this one, and that makes this one of the most exciting Best Picture races in recent memory. I think Boyhood will come away with the win here, for the sheer fact of the film’s journey.

Those are my guesses. Hope it’s just an incredible night for everyone – nominees, winners, performers, and viewers.


Joe’s 86th Oscars Predictions: Part 2

Below are the second batch of my Oscar predictions. I tried to differentiate between what I think the Academy will pick vs. my personal choices.

10) Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

  • “Before Midnight” Written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
  • “Captain Phillips” Screenplay by Billy Ray
  • “Philomena” Screenplay by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope
  • “12 Years a Slave” Screenplay by John Ridley
  • “The Wolf of Wall Street” Screenplay by Terence Winter

11) Writing (Original Screenplay)

  • “American Hustle” Written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell
  • “Blue Jasmine” Written by Woody Allen
  • “Dallas Buyers Club” Written by Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack
  • “Her” Written by Spike Jonze
  • “Nebraska” Written by Bob Nelson

Because of WGA rules, 12 Years a Slave and Philomena were both disqualified for the WGA Awards, which were held last weekend. Those nominee slots were taken by August: Osage County and Lone Survivor. The winners that night were Captain Phillips and Her. As streamlined as the Captain Phillips script was, I do think 12 Years a Slave stands a better shot here for the Oscar. John Ridley took an intensely deep and complex true tale and crafted a moving, compelling narrative. My hope would be Linklater grabbing this for the sheer length of time he’s been able to keep the Before… characters going, and they’ve still manage to stay fresh.

For the Original category, Her should run away with it — Jonze’s story is quirky and incredibly original, and people like that in this category. Hustle was a bit meandering and not as tight as O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, Woody Allen is being plagued by recent controversy and frankly Cate Blanchett is the primary reason his movie works; Dallas Buyers Club likewise succeeds because of the acting; Nebraska is stronger in the directing than writing, although the simplicity in the story is quite appealing.

12) Music (Original Score)

  • “The Book Thief” John Williams
  • “Gravity” Steven Price
  • “Her” William Butler and Owen Pallett
  • “Philomena” Alexandre Desplat
  • “Saving Mr. Banks” Thomas Newman

13) Music (Original Song)

  • “Happy” from “Despicable Me 2”
    Music and Lyric by Pharrell Williams
  • “Let It Go” from “Frozen”
    Music and Lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
  • “The Moon Song” from “Her”
    Music by Karen O; Lyric by Karen O and Spike Jonze
  • “Ordinary Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”
    Music by Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen; Lyric by Paul Hewson

The recent disqualification of “Alone Yet Not Alone” likely will have little to no effect on the outcome of the Song category. My personal choice is “The Moon Song” for quietly capturing the feeling of Her, but “Let It Go” is so strong, so meaningful, and so catchy that I can’t imagine it not winning on Oscar night.

For Best Score, I haven’t seen The Book Thief or Philomena, and I think the Saving Mr. Banks score is very lovely (I’ve always had a soft spot for Thomas Newman). Her‘s score I don’t remember but that’s the beauty of a subtle score is that you don’t know it’s even there, not overpowering the moment but only adding to it. That being said, I really thought there was tremendous power in Gravity‘s score, and think Mr. Price will leave with this Oscar.

14) Foreign Language Film

  • “The Broken Circle Breakdown” Belgium
  • “The Great Beauty” Italy
  • “The Hunt” Denmark
  • “The Missing Picture” Cambodia
  • “Omar” Palestine

15) Documentary Feature

  • “The Act of Killing”Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen
  • “Cutie and the Boxer” Zachary Heinzerling and Lydia Dean Pilcher
  • “Dirty Wars” Richard Rowley and Jeremy Scahill
  • “The Square” Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer
  • “20 Feet from Stardom” Morgan Neville, Gil Friesen and Caitrin Rogers

I have not seen any of these films, unfortunately. I’m working on it, and hearing that both The Hunt and The Great Beauty in the Foreign Language category are quite great. For Documentary, I’ve heard that The Act of Killing is mesmerizing (I’m seeing this in about a week, looking forward to it) and also that The Square is impressive. 20 Feet from Stardom is apparently a crowd-pleaser, but those don’t necessarily do well in this category. I think The Square is picking up steam and will run with it.

16) Directing

  • “American Hustle” David O. Russell
  • “Gravity” Alfonso Cuarón
  • “Nebraska” Alexander Payne
  • “12 Years a Slave” Steve McQueen
  • “The Wolf of Wall Street” Martin Scorsese

I’ve spoken to several people with opposing views on this year’s nominees for Best Director, but general consensus is that Alfonso Cuaron will win. Some say it’ll be to make up for him not winning for Children of Men, others say it’ll be because Gravity took four years to make and technology was created for it, etc. Ultimately, Gravity is a finely executed vision on screen, and he will and should win.

But what of the others? Russell is a good filmmaker getting better and better with actors and storytelling, but American Hustle meandered too much — he got lost in style over storytelling. (*Interesting note, he is the only director to have TWO films with actors nominated in all four top categories, the other being last year’s Silver Linings Playbook for which Jennifer Lawrence went home with the Best Actress Trophy.)

Payne’s done better work with The Descendants and Sideways, and the pleasure of Nebraska comes from Bruce Dern, really. McQueen’s vision of American Slavery is truly shattering, and his decisions on when to hold a shot vs. fast editing are daring, original, and breathtaking (if that can be a term applied to 12 Years a Slave). Scorsese shows, again, that he is a master of the craft.

But alas, we can only have one with the trophy, and Cuaron’s execution was truly remarkable. Whatever you say of the performances or “story problems” in Gravity (at the end of the day, all movies have their problems) there’s no question that the vision of this director’s imagination was perfectly placed on screen.

17) Actor in a Leading Role

  • Christian Bale in “American Hustle”
  • Bruce Dern in “Nebraska”
  • Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Wolf of Wall Street”
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor in “12 Years a Slave”
  • Matthew McConaughey in “Dallas Buyers Club”

Dammit, this is a tough year. First, what about Tom Hanks? Or Joaquin Phoenix? Or freakin’ Oscar Isaac??? This was an AMAZING year for acting and filmmaking all around, don’t forget it!!

On to the nominees: Bale showed his dedication to a character’s physical attributes as much as their flaws; Dern played a lost old man with more endearment than we’ve seen on screen before; DiCaprio has rarely been better and carries WOWS handsomely; Ejiofor pulls a performance for the ages, mostly in his eyes; McConaughey is having a career revival we don’t see very often, and reached deep inside for Dallas Buyers Club. This is a real tough one, but I think the Academy will give it to McConaughey because of his recent revivals and based on the fact that he’s winning most of the critics awards as well as the SAG award. I’d say he’s almost a sure bet. My personal pick is Ejiofor.

18) Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Barkhad Abdi in “Captain Phillips”
  • Bradley Cooper in “American Hustle”
  • Michael Fassbender in “12 Years a Slave”
  • Jonah Hill in “The Wolf of Wall Street”
  • Jared Leto in “Dallas Buyers Club”

Again, this year….amazing. 12 Years a Slave alone had Paul Giamatti and Benedict Cumberbatch in equally stellar roles, and who could forget Andrew Dice Clay’s heartbreaking turn in Blue Jasmine?

But I digress: Abdi came out of nowhere and held his own, stealing the scenes from Tom Hanks; Cooper held a frantic pace in a solid group of actors; Fassbender was a wall of hatred with inner disgust facing off against Ejiofor; Hill truly held up his end of the “supporting” bargain alongside DiCaprio; and Leto, of course, did the same and more for McConaughey. Leto will win (based on the track record of recent award sweeps), but I’d personally pick Barkhad Abdi. It’s rare enough that Tom Hanks doesn’t pick up a nomination, even more rare for someone to steal the show from him.

19) Actress in a Leading Role

  • Amy Adams in “American Hustle”
  • Cate Blanchett in “Blue Jasmine”
  • Sandra Bullock in “Gravity”
  • Judi Dench in “Philomena”
  • Meryl Streep in “August: Osage County”

This year was such a STRONG year for female parts (for both sexes, actually), and this category proves it: Adams is racking up nominations with the Academy (this is her fifth) and still hasn’t won, and she was steady in her across-the-board character; Blanchett was pitch perfect neurotic and sadly crazy; Bullock carried her movie behind a helmet and even more-so when the helmet came off; Dench (I’m hearing) is touching and full of force; Streep (I’m hearing) is still Streep at the top of her game. Blanchett has the steam, the clout, and the role of the year, and I think she’ll win here, but it’s possible for Amy Adams to pull an upset. **Note that each nominee here has already won the Oscar except Amy Adams.

20) Actress in a Supporting Role

  • Sally Hawkins in “Blue Jasmine”
  • Jennifer Lawrence in “American Hustle”
  • Lupita Nyong’o in “12 Years a Slave”
  • Julia Roberts in “August: Osage County”
  • June Squibb in “Nebraska”

This category gets tougher every year. Hawkins was a surprise nomination, but don’t discount her performance as a counter-point to Blanchett’s character; Lawrence was a joy to watch, as always, and a high point of American Hustle; Nyong’o was so incredibly powerful; Roberts (I’m hearing) really held up her own against Streep and deserves every bit of this nomination; Squibb was delightfully challenging to Bruce Dern, yet with a great character background to support her actions.

I think Nyong’o has the momentum and the depth to her role to come out with a win here, truly remarkable to hold that quality of a performance through the subject matter. Squibb and Lawrence (at opposite ends of the age spectrum) might both come away with a surprise (this category is known for it), but some might be realizing that as great a person as Lawrence is, this wasn’t her best work; and Squibb’s nomination might be enough for most voters. Jennifer Lawrence is only 23, yet this is her third nomination and she’s already won one Oscar. This fact alone might be the deciding factor for voters who feel “her time will come again”.

21) Best Picture

  • “American Hustle” Charles Roven, Richard Suckle, Megan Ellison and Jonathan Gordon, Producers
  • “Captain Phillips” Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti and Michael De Luca, Producers
  • “Dallas Buyers Club” Robbie Brenner and Rachel Winter, Producers
  • “Gravity” Alfonso Cuarón and David Heyman, Producers
  • “Her” Megan Ellison, Spike Jonze and Vincent Landay, Producers
  • “Nebraska” Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa, Producers
  • “Philomena” Gabrielle Tana, Steve Coogan and Tracey Seaward, Producers
  • “12 Years a Slave” Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen and Anthony Katagas, Producers
  • “The Wolf of Wall Street” Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Joey McFarland and Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Producers

The Big one. Here’s how I broke it down:

American Hustle: Good on style, lacking in overall cohesiveness. Better acted than full picture. It’s tied for most nominations with ten, but voters might think that’s enough to acknowledge it. I’m thinking this might be a big upset Oscar night and it’ll come away with very few wins, mainly because I think it peaked way too quickly and happened to have had its release around the time Oscar nominee process was winding down.

Captain Phillips: No nomination for Hanks or director Paul Greengrass, but the full picture is great (nomination is enough). But it did come out very early in the season, and the small backlash from real-life counterparts probably hurt it’s overall chances of winning the big one. It’s technically fantastic.

Dallas Buyers Club: No Screenplay or directing nominations suggest this was more of a momentum nomination than anything else (good acting, important story, took a long time to get made). The nomination is validation enough, and McConaughey is the real “story” here.

Gravity: Cuaron’s directing Oscar as well as some technical awards might be enough to satisfy voters, though it does have as many nominations as American Hustle and appears to be a little more respected on the technical front. It also withstood some criticism from scientists and the like regarding its’ fact-based elements.

Her: Seriously lacking in major nominations, but that’s not always a stopper (The Hurt Locker, a few years back, only had one acting mention). But no directing nod is a bit more of an uphill struggle. However, it’s focus on the meaning of love in a modern age is gaining steam with viewers and voters, and the more people see it, the more they love it.

Nebraska: Not Payne’s best material, and if they end up giving Dern his Oscar than count that as the Academy saying it’s good enough. It’s too quiet of a movie to really come away with this top award, but the Academy does really like Alexander Payne so this could be the one that reaches the goal for him.

Philomena: A surprise nomination, which is enough for most voters. Lack of directing and many technical awards, as well as lack of audience, are likely factors which will slow any momentum it already has.

12 Years a Slave: Powerful and with nine nominations it has a lot of pedigree, plus it tackles a serious part of history, a subject that is not looked at lightly, with an appealing actor as protagonist and some great technical skill. Like Schindler’s List, this will likely come away with the well-deserved victory.

Wolf of Wall Street: Faced a lot of immediate backlash and turned off a lot of older voters, but Scorsese’s resume could serve to help the movie find a win, and it arrived late in the nomination game yet still managed to score a bunch, so could momentum be gaining steam?

In the end, I personally would prefer to see Gravity or Her come away with the win, but do think that 12 Years a Slave will reach victory, and will be happy to see it. At the recent Producer’s Guild Awards, 12 Years tied with Gravity, the first time that’s happened, so the race is really narrowing.

The movie is important, extremely well made and acted, and seriously great. This award most times matches the winner for Best Director, but in this case 12 Years just carries more weight, pedigree, and seriousness than Gravity does. Also, looking at the past, Hurt Locker managed a win over the technically more elaborate box office darling Avatar, so anything is possible.