Well here we are. For the fourth year in a row, I saw all the Best Picture nominees, as well as a handful of the other nominated films this year. Let's get started with my personal preferences in the Big 8 Categories. I have not ranked the nominees I did not see.
|Best Adapted Screenplay|
|2||Graham Moore||The Imitation Game|
|3||Anthony McCarten||The Theory of Everything|
|4||Jason Hall||American Sniper|
|-||Paul Thomas Anderson||Inherent Vice|
While the categorization of Whiplash as Adapted is silly, (according to the academy, it is "adapted" based on a short of the same name by Chazelle, that was made to sell the film after the film's script was completed) it is, to me, the best written of the four I saw.
|Best Original Screenplay|
|2||Wes Anderson and Hugo Guiness||The Grand Budapest Hotel|
|3||Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. and Armando Bo||Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)|
|-||E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman||Foxcatcher|
This is the first of a few head-to-head-to-head battles between Linklater, Wes Anderson, and Iñárritu, and the only one where Anderson has a real chance. I personally think this is the best place to honor Linklater's 12 years of work, but I have also heard good things about the Nightcrawler screenplay.
|Best Supporting Actor|
|2||Edward Norton||Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)|
|-||Robert Duvall||The Judge|
Another case of category fraud for Whiplash, as Simmons is as much the lead of the film as Miles Teller is. That said, he's also phenomenal and well deserving of the win.
|Best Supporting Actress|
|2||Emma Stone||Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)|
|3||Keira Knightly||The Imitation Game|
|4||Meryl Streep||Into the Woods|
Patricia Arquette was the soul of Boyhood. Stone and Knightly both gave interesting performances, but this category is not close. Meryl Streep was the third best supporting actress in Into the Woods.
|1||Eddie Redmayne||The Theory of Everything|
|2||Michael Keaton||Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)|
|3||Bradley Cooper||American Sniper|
|4||Benedict Cumberbatch||The Imitation Game|
This is by far the closest of the acting categories, and deservingly so. Keaton and Cumberbatch likely took these roles assuming they would be Oscar wins, and both of their performances are deserving of recognition. And Cooper, who is now nominated for the third consecutive year, impressively became Chris Kyle and carried the movie in a way few could. But to me Redmayne's performance and transformation throughout the film stands slightly above the others.
|1||Rosamund Pike||Gone Girl|
|2||Felicity Jones||The Theory of Everything|
|-||Marion Cotillard||Two Days, One Night|
|-||Julianne Moore||Still Alice|
Pike is a revelation as Amy in Gone Girl, while Jones' performance is not much more substantial than Knightly's supporting role. This category goes to one of the biggest problems with this year's Oscars, as only one nominee is from a Best Picture nominee, and she is undeniably the second character in that. My attempt to see Still Alice was derailed by a couple hours of shoveling slush today, but this is obviously not a real race.
|1||Alejandro González Iñárritu||Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)|
|3||Wes Anderson||The Grand Budapest Hotel|
|4||Morten Tyldum||The Imitation Game|
Iñárritu vs. Linklater vs. Anderson Round 2 goes to Iñárritu, who has the more clearly directed film the Linklater. Boyhood is more about the concept, while Birdman is about what you see on screen.
|1||Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)|
|4||The Grand Budapest Hotel|
|5||The Theory of Everything|
|6||The Imitation Game|
Birdman was definitely the movie I found to be "best," although Whiplash is the film I enjoyed the most. On the other hand, American Sniper was a well executed version of a film I would never love, while Boyhood just didn't hit me; I appreciated it more than I enjoyed it. But for the third straight year, no films I truly disliked.
That's what I would pick, but here are my actual predictions for what happens tonight, based on both my opinions and my weighting various "experts":
|Picture||Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)|
|Actor||Eddie Redmayne||The Theory of Everything|
|Actress||Julianne Moore||Still Alice|
|Supporting Actor||J.K. Simmons||Whiplash|
|Supporting Actress||Patricia Arquette||Boyhood|
|Adapted Screenplay||Graham Moore||The Imitation Game|
|Original Screenplay||Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. and Armando Bo||Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)|
|Animated Feature Film||How to Train Your Dragon 2|
|Foreign Language Film||Ida|
|Documentary Short||Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1|
|Live Action Short||The Phone Call|
|Animated Short||The Dam Keeper|
|Original Score||The Theory of Everything|
|Sound Editing||American Sniper|
|Production Design||The Grand Budapest Hotel|
|Cinematography||Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)|
|Makeup and Hairstyling||The Grand Budapest Hotel|
|Costume Design||Into the Woods|