Call your shot: Oscar ballot is in

When it comes to the red carpet, we simply do not tolerate Monday morning experts. To join the after party conversation (and bragging rights) you have to call your shot first, before 5:30 Pacific Standard Time on Sunday Feb. 22.

The Bride wages a spirited battle each year for supremacy of the household. But even when I lose, like last year by ONE POINT, I remain convinced I know better than even the Academy itself.

I lost last year to take a stand for David O. Russell, who on two consecutive years wrote such compelling characters that his actors won nominations in all the top four acting categories. Eight for eight over two years and he doesn’t win a writing award? It’s a travesty of justice.

So take note especially of the “should” win category of which I am most proud. Losing does not daunt me nor discourage me, though I plan on returning to my rightful place with Oscar in hand this year. (and try to avoid stubborn votes like my Russell vote last year when I knew it would likely cost me).

Without further ado, my ballot:

  • Three points for Best Picture
  • Two points for Best Actor/Actress, Supporting Actor/Actress, Director
  • One point for the other categories.
1) Best Picture: American Sniper, Birdman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything and Whiplash.
WINNER:  Birdman
SHOULD WIN: The Imitation Game.
Even though nominated for best picture, The Imitation Game is still underrated. The movie ended and I said simply, “brilliant.” It was also important.
Birdman is incredible too, but it’s ending was a cop out. A movie, a story, a song, whatever it is, has to end. The ending is part of the story like the beginning. The unexplained look skyward by Emma Stone was a movie trick to create discussion… to raise debate by not doing their job to write the end.
If you don’t believe me revisit this debate on one of the most controversial endings in recent years, The Sopranos.
2) Best Director: Alejandro G’inarritu (Birdman), Richard Linklater (Boyhood), Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher), Wes Anderson (Grand Budapest Hotel), Morten Tyldum (The Immitation Game).
WINNER: G’inarritu
SHOULD WIN: Linklater
Many want to give Boyhood the best picture because of the sheer tenacity and genius of making a movie over 12 years. (At one point The Bride told me “they sure are finding kids of different ages that look the same.”)  But as good an indie movie as this was — and it was very good — it simply didn’t match the awe-inspiring power of leading best picture candidates including The Theory of Everything. But here is where it should shine and where Linklater, the true hero of the movie, should get his due. But… ah but, the risk of a mock one-cut movie made Birdman artistically transcendent and for that jewel, I think he wins here. I really can’t argue it, though my love of indies pulls for Linklater.
3) Best Actor: Steve Carrell (Foxcatcher), Bradley Cooper (American Sniper), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Immitation Game), Michael Keaton (Birdman), Eddie Redmayne (Theory of Everything).
WINNER: Michael Keaton
SHOULD WIN: Benedict Cumberbatch
The most interesting battle of the night. Redmayne is the favorite. For sheer physical expression and acting without words he likely deserves the award. But I’m going for the upset (The Russell Mistake flashes in my brain). I think Keaton will be honored for his comeback and his longevity. I return again to The Imitation Game, where the brilliance I mentioned earlier was largely attributable to Cumberbatch. He excels among this powerful slate of actors.
Ah crap, even as I write this I think Redmayne will win. What is wrong with me?
4) Best Actress: Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night), Felicity Jones (Theory of Everything), Julienne Moore (Still Alice), Rosa Mund Pike (Gone Girl), Reese Witherspoon (Wild).
WINNER: Julienne Moore
SHOULD WIN: Rosa Mund Pike.
I’m blatantly hedging my bets, which could backfire. But if Redmayne wins, I suspect Jones will as well. This category lacks the sizzle of other years, which is why Juliene Moore might sneak in and grab it. I need to make sure I get one win if Keaton loses so I’ll go with the favorite Moore.
All the performances were good, yet only one in my mind approached great and that was Pike. The physicality of her ability to change her look is impressive. But her demeanor and persona conveyed the truly borderline personality that dominates this film.
5) Best Supporting Actor: Robert Duvall (The Judge), Ethan Hawke (Boyhood), Edward Norton (Birdman), Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher), J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
WINNER: JK Simmons
SHOULD WIN: Robert Duvall
Barely second only to the actor category for competitive balance, these were all strong performances. But they have all but given the Oscar to the Farmer’s Insurance guy, and I can’t get my head around it. His mercurial performance as a megalomaniac band teacher (just dreaming up that combination and making it convincing is commendable for both writer and actor) is powerful. But I thought it was a bit limited. Norton was impressive. His range in this performance is the true definition of a supporting actor. He enlivens every scene. Yet somehow I lean toward Duvall, who like Robert Downey Jr. in the same movie, started playing a role very consistent with his career but slowly and surely he broke out into a depth of acting that speaks to his long, illustrious career. In a photo finish I would give it to him, even though the movie was way, way, way too long.
6) Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood), Laura Dern (Wild), Keira Knightly (The Immitation Game), Emma Stone (Birdman), Meryl Streep (Into the Woods).
WINNER: Arquette
SHOULD WIN: Keira Knightly
Again I don’t fully understand the march to anoint Arquette any more than Simmons. But I don’t see anyone beating her, which is amazing considering the talent in this category. How Streep doesn’t win every year stuns me. Stone was even better than when she was in The Help. But Knightly is whimsical, serious, captivating and a key role in the best movie of the year.
7) Best Foriegn Language Film: Ida (Poland), Leviathan (Russia), Tangerines (Estonia), Timbuktu (Mauritania), Wild Tales (Argentina).
SHOULD WIN: Leviathan
Leviathan has everything a great movie should have in this country except English so it can get consideration for the bigger awards. But Ida has what the Academy loves, a holocaust story that is deeply moving.
8) Best Adapted Screenplay: Jason Hall (American Sniper), Graham Moore (Imitation Game), Hall Thomas Anderson (Inherent Vice), Anothony McCarton (Theory of Everything), Damien Chazelle (Whiplash)
WINNER: Theory of Everything
The one category I simply could not pick a winner.  Whiplash is built off its script. Without that, it is a low-grade indie that few watch. With it, it’s an Oscar nominee.
As such, the rather contrived ending of the drummer taking a concert hostage after he already once played immediately following a car crash just went too far to prove the nuttiness of this teacher/student relationship. Thus, I give it to The Theory of Everything and hope the Academy agrees.
9) Best Original Screenplay: Birdman, Boyhood, Foxcatcher, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Nightcrawler
WINNER: Birdman
I love the screenplay for Birdman, but the true originality of Boyhood’s entire arc flowed from the writing. In true indie fashion the tight dialogue drives this long film and makes it seem far less long than say, The Judge, which despite incredible acting seemed 45 minutes too long and didn’t know where to end. Birdman’s greatness is the directing that I think empowers the screenplay itself (especially the bogus ending). Boyhood deserves its due and I think this is where the Linklater earns it.
10) Best Original Song: Everything is Awesome (Lego Movie), Glory (Selma), Grateful (beyond the lights), I’m not gonna miss you (Glen Campbell, I’ll Be Me), Lost Stars (Begin Again).
I can’t see how this delicate mix of crooning John Legend and rapping by Common with all its significance in light of #Ferguson does not dominate.
11) Best Animated Feature: Big Hero Six, Box Trolls, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Song of the Sea, Tale of Princess Kaguia
WINNER:  How to Train Your Dragon 2
The experts are all over this one, so who I am to argue, since I didn’t watch a one.
12) Best Documentary Feature: Citizen Four, Finding Vivian Meyer, Last Days of Vietnam, The Salt of the Earth, Verunga
WINNER: Citizen Four
SHOULD WIN: Citizen Fout
I think the Academy will make a pro-Snowden statement here and again, I didn’t watch these so…
13) Best Costume Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel, Inherent Vice, Into the Woods, Malifacent, Mr. Turner
WINNER: Grand Budapest
SHOULD WIN: Grand Budapest
Into the Woods might snag this one, but the unique costumes and colors and subsequent shots used by the director of Budapest are his signature and what makes his movies his.
Come on Academy, prove me right. Sunday night I shall sing with Queen, “We are the champions… my friends!”

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