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The Oscar Ballot

On your mark, get set, Oscar!!

I have been working on this post for over two weeks!!  I started it, intending to post a preliminary prediction, but then I've been seeing more and more of the nominees, so I had to edit it. Then, last week, I decided to put off publishing it until the last minute, so I only had to do this once.
(I put an asterisk* next to films I've not yet seen.)
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE NOMINEES
STEVE CARELL Foxcatcher
BRADLEY COOPER American Sniper
BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH The Imitation Game
MICHAEL KEATON Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
EDDIE REDMAYNE The Theory of Everything
Personally, I think this is Eddie Redmayne's game here. He puts full emotion and wit and force behind a real person with a seriously debilitating disease: I completely forgot a few times that I was watching an actor and not Stephen Hawking himself. I saw Foxcatcher the most recently of all these films, and I can really see why it got the acting noms, but not the one for Best Picture. Steve Carell was really playing counter to his normal goofiness. His character was really disturbing to watch, and the whole thing kinda felt like a male version of Heavenly Creatures when. American Sniper was great, and Bradley Cooper turned in a transformative performance as well, but the film is too Republican for such a Democratic-skewing voter pool. I'd love to see Benedict Cumberbatch win, and I really think that The Imitation Game has a real shot at winning Best Picture, but I don't think that Ben can really top Eddie's Stephen Hawking. Michael Keaton was phenomenal, and I LOVED Birdman, but again, I think this is Eddie's trophy.
My pick: Eddie Redmayne
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE NOMINEES
ROBERT DUVALL The Judge
ETHAN HAWKE Boyhood
EDWARD NORTON Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
MARK RUFFALO Foxcatcher
J.K. SIMMONS Whiplash
I will be VERY upset if JK Simmons doesn't win this. Whiplash was an incredible film, and while I don't think it will actually win Best Picture, Simmons was absolutely terrifying in it. I feel like this is the lightest category because I don't really feel like Robert Duvall necessarily deserved the nomination here. I mean, he was good, but he was about the only really good part of The Judge. Ethan Hawke was the best part of Boyhood, other than it's gimmick (I'll get to that in a minute), but again, not really trophy-worthy. Edward Norton was great in Birdman, and so was Mark Ruffalo in Foxcatcher, but in my opinion, JK has this in the bag.
My Pick: JK Simmons
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE NOMINEES
REESE WITHERSPOON Wild
MARION COTILLARD Two Days, One Night
FELICITY JONES The Theory of Everything
JULIANNE MOORE Still Alice
ROSAMUND PIKE Gone Girl
I started out really liking Rosamund Pike for this. I don't really think she'll win anymore, I'd put money on Julianne Moore first. If you haven't seen Gone Girl, it's a really hard one to watch. I somehow completely insulated myself from hearing the spoilers before I walked into the theater, which I was really grateful for, but now I have zero wish to ever watch it again. It's like the suburban version of American History X without the racism. Honestly, I think Felicity Jones got her nomination just because the movie itself was so fantastic and a lovely acting piece, and her performance was lovely and perfectly done, but not "showy" enough somehow to really take the trophy. Reese has drugs and sex, Rosamund has crazy, and Felicity has long suffering wife. Julianne has early-onset Alzheimer's and Marion Cotillard has to convince her coworkers not to opt for a bonus instead of keeping her as a coworker. There's more "real drama" in the other roles. 
My Pick: Julianne Moore
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE NOMINEES
PATRICIA ARQUETTE Boyhood
LAURA DERN Wild
KEIRA KNIGHTLEY The Imitation Game
EMMA STONE Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
MERYL STREEP Into the Woods
Honestly, I feel like I don't really care about this category. The performances here are good, solid performances, but nothing really stood out to me. Meryl is always amazing, but Into the Woods didn't really feel like an awards contender, and I feel like she got nominated because she's Meryl, not because the role was particularly good. Laura Dern was good, but only in about 3 scenes, and they weren't very meaty. Keira was excellent, but again it doesn't feel like an award winning role. I'd like to see Emma Stone win, especially as I didn't even particularly like Patricia Arquette's performance in Boyhood. Then again, I didn't really like Boyhood in general. A lot of the other predictions point to Patricia, but I'm going Emma here.
My Pick: Emma Stone
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM NOMINEES
BIG HERO 6
THE BOXTROLLS
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2
SONG OF THE SEA*
THE TALE OF THE PRINCESS KAGUYA*
So I haven't seen 2 out of the 5 nominees. I had to make a choice between seeing Song of the Sea and seeing the Animated Short Films, so I saw the shorts because I haven't been able to even FIND where to see The Tale of Princess Kaguya. Of the 3 that I've seen, I really love all of them. I think though that Big Hero 6 was my favorite of the 3. The Boxtrolls was so lovely, but the story wasn't the best ever, and How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a sequel, though, again, I loved it.
My Pick: Big Hero 6
DIRECTING NOMINEES
BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE) - Alejandro G. Iñárritu
BOYHOOD - Richard Linklater
FOXCATCHER - Bennett Miller
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL - Wes Anderson
THE IMITATION GAME - Morten Tyldum
I think this is Richard Linklater's game. With the commitment that it took to make Boyhood, and the way the critics are raving about it, I don't think anyone else really has a shot. Birdman probably should win, and would most likely get my vote, just because the whole movie is original and cool and the whole thing is about Hollywood and Michael Keaton is playing a larger-than-life version of himself. The Grand Budapest Hotel is the film that I would be most likely to watch over and over again because it's lovely and droll and heightened in a way that you don't see get recognized very often. The Imitation Game would probably win in another year, against different competitors, and while I love it, I think it gets beaten by Birdman which will probably lose to Boyhood. Such is the nature of Hollywood. If I was betting, I'd pick Richard Linklater, but if I was voting, I'd pick Alejandro Iñárritu.
My Pick: Alejandro Iñárritu
BEST PICTURE NOMINEES
SELMA
THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
WHIPLASH
AMERICAN SNIPER
BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE)
BOYHOOD
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
THE IMITATION GAME
This category confounds me a bit this year. I think I'm expecting Boyhood to win, even though I don't think it should.  I would personally vote for Whiplash, but I don't think it will win - it's too small a movie. American Sniper was a phenomenal movie, directed by Clint Eastwood, but it feels to Republican for the average Academy voter. The Grand Budapest is a really lovely, droll movie, but it didn't get any acting nominations, and I'm not hearing much buzz about it (and honestly, I don't see it as the kind of film that the Academy likes to honor - as much as I loved it, I'm surprised it got nominated at all). Selma was good, but again, no acting nominations, and no directing nomination. I'm hoping Boyhood doesn't win because I honestly didn't like it that much. It relied entirely on it's gimmick of watching these kids grow up, with no plot. I wanted story, I wanted something more. It's compelling viewing, but not really a good movie, if that makes sense. As good as The Theory of Everything is, I don't see it winning for some reason. I think maybe because it's a quieter movie: it's a love story with a long-suffering wife. That basically leaves Birdman versus The Imitation Game and Birdman is just such a COOL movie. The Imitation Game is a great film, and it's got so much relevance to today's society: from the whole thing being about the beginning of computers to the homosexuality of it's lead character. Birdman on the other hand is about Hollywood, and the whole thing looks like it was a single take (cleverly edited and shot) and it's gritty and New Yorker and just plain cool.
My Pick: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
CINEMATOGRAPHY NOMINEES
BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE)
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
IDA*
MR. TURNER*
UNBROKEN*
Ok, again, I haven't seen all these nominees, but Birdman looks like it was all shot in one take. From the lighting to the camera angles to the performances, the whole thing feels a lot like a stage play, all done in one night, even though the plot takes place over more than one day. 
My Pick: Birdman
COSTUME DESIGN NOMINEES
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
INHERENT VICE*
INTO THE WOODS
MALEFICENT
MR. TURNER*
I really don't know much about Costume design, but of the films I've seen on this list, I think Maleficent has the ones that most complement the film itself. They're definitely a piece of the overall design, but not so completely distracting that you miss the performances.
My Pick: Maleficent
FILM EDITING NOMINEES
AMERICAN SNIPER
BOYHOOD
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
THE IMITATION GAME
WHIPLASH
I'm honestly surprised that Birdman didn't get nominated here, the editing is what makes the whole thing feel like a single take. I'm hoping Whiplash wins here because the pacing and rhythm of the film is so brilliantly woven into the overall story. Boyhood will probably win because, as in reality TV, they always shoot so much more than they need and then it's up to the editors to create something cohesive.  Beyond that, I don't really feel like I can speak to this category.
My Pick: Whiplash
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM NOMINEES
IDA*
LEVIATHAN*
TANGERINES*
TIMBUKTU*
WILD TALES*
I haven't seen any of these. I'll probably go see Timbuktu later today or tomorrow, but I still haven't seen any of the others, so I have to abstain.
My Pick: Abstain
MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING NOMINEES
FOXCATCHER
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
Foxcatcher by a nose? Maybe. Steve Carrell's nose seems to be the only real makeup feat in the film, so I can't speak to the other parts. Guardians of the Galaxy had some serious makeup going on, and I think the only character who didn't have some kind of full-body paint, or prosthetic or something was the Star-Lord himself (and John C. Reilly). Even Glenn Close had some pretty awesome hair. The Grand Budapest Hotel had some cool stuff going on too: Tilda Swinton, chameleon that she is, played a 95 year old woman (successfully I might add), Saoirse Ronan has a pretty awesome birthmark, and the general hair and other makeup stuff is just so heightened and sleek.
My Pick: The Grand Budapest Hotel
PRODUCTION DESIGN NOMINEES
THE IMITATION GAME
INTERSTELLAR
INTO THE WOODS
MR. TURNER*
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
What do I know about Production Design? Seriously. Well, I think each one of these films looked and felt really appropriate and cool and interesting for their stories.  I think I'm going to abstain here.
My Pick: abstain
SOUND EDITING NOMINEES
AMERICAN SNIPER
BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE)
THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES
INTERSTELLAR
UNBROKEN*
What do I know about sound editing?  I'm going to pick Birdman just because it had those cool drums, and Whiplash isn't nominated here.
My Pick: Birdman
SOUND MIXING NOMINEES
AMERICAN SNIPER
BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE)
INTERSTELLAR
UNBROKEN*
WHIPLASH
Again, what do I know about sound mixing? What's the difference between mixing and editing? I don't get it. Seriously, can someone explain it to me?  Thanks.  I'm picking Whiplash because I want it to win everything, even if I think Interstellar will probably win.
My Pick: Whiplash
VISUAL EFFECTS NOMINEES
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
INTERSTELLAR
X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER
DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
This is the category that gets all the comic book movies (and the ones that feel like comic book movies).  I think Guardians of the Galaxy has got this, just because it's all space-y and heightened and brightly colored and has a talking raccoon that is actually as believable as a talking raccoon can possibly be.
My Pick: Guardians of the Galaxy
WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY) NOMINEES
AMERICAN SNIPER
THE IMITATION GAME
INHERENT VICE*
THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
WHIPLASH
Obviously, I haven't seen all of these movies, and I haven't read any of the original material that they're based on. My vote would obviously be for Whiplash, but my understanding is that it isn't *really* an adaptation, and as such probably won't get the award. That said, if Whiplash doesn't win, I think The Theory of Everything will probably win. I can't say for sure why I think that, but it'd be my second choice.
My Pick: Whiplash
WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY) NOMINEES
BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE)
BOYHOOD
FOXCATCHER
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
NIGHTCRAWLER
Boyhood again? Really? There isn't a story really at all in that. It's just watching a kid grow up and his family disintegrate. I'm starting to get really annoyed by that film.  I'd like to see Nightcrawler win, but seeing as this is it's only nomination, I don't really expect that to happen. Foxcatcher is based on a true story, and isn't nominated for best picture. I'd vote for The Grand Budapest Hotel over Birdman, but I think Birdman is more likely to take home the trophy.
My Pick: Birdman
DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE) NOMINEES
CITIZENFOUR*
FINDING VIVIAN MAIER*
LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM*
THE SALT OF THE EARTH*
VIRUNGA*
I haven't seen any of these, so I have to abstain.
My Pick: abstain
DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT) NOMINEES
THE REAPER (LA PARKA)
WHITE EARTH
CRISIS HOTLINE: VETERANS PRESS 1
JOANNA
OUR CURSE
I loved all of these, and I could have sworn I already did a blog post about them, but apparently it never made it into the computer. I'm hoping that Joanna will win this one because it's such a lovely portrait of this mom with cancer. The cancer takes a backseat to her relationship with her son, and the cinematography is just gorgeous. I think The Reaper has a really good shot at winning too, especially with all the animal rights activism in Hollywood. That film makes me want to stop eating all conventional meat. Organic is so much kinder to the animals
My Pick: Joanna
SHORT FILM (ANIMATED) NOMINEES
THE BIGGER PICTURE
THE DAM KEEPER
FEAST
ME AND MY MOULTON
A SINGLE LIFE 
See yesterday's blog post for explanation.
My Pick: The Dam Keeper
SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION) NOMINEES
THE PHONE CALL*
AYA*
BOOGALOO AND GRAHAM*
BUTTER LAMP (LA LAMPE AU BEURRE DE YAK)*
PARVANEH*
I'm see all of these NEXT Wednesday. Look for the blog post at the end of the week.
My Pick: abstain
MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE) NOMINEES
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
THE IMITATION GAME
INTERSTELLAR
MR. TURNER*
THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
I didn't actually notice the scores in any of these films, and can't speak to which one should win. 
My Pick: abstain
MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG) NOMINEES
THE LEGO MOVIE
“Everything Is Awesome” from The Lego Movie; Music and Lyric by Shawn Patterson
SELMA
“Glory” from Selma; Music and Lyric by John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn
BEYOND THE LIGHTS
“Grateful” from Beyond the Lights; Music and Lyric by Diane Warren
GLEN CAMPBELL…I’LL BE ME*
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me; Music and Lyric by Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond
BEGIN AGAIN
“Lost Stars” from Begin Again; Music and Lyric by Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois
From what I understand, I'm Not Gonna Miss You is the most likely to win, but I haven't seen it, and only just heard the song about an hour ago. Of the other songs, I like Lost Stars just because it feels really appropriate for the movie. And Everything is Awesome is everything a pop song in a kids' movie should be: peppy, catchy and semi-annoying to have stuck in your head.
My Pick: abstain
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