Paul’s 2017 Academy Award Predictions

 

 

I love the Academy Awards. I know that the Oscars are becoming less and less relevant to film enthusiasts, especially since the awards are just seen as Hollywood patting themselves on the back, but that was never what the Oscars meant to me. I’ve always seen the awards as a celebration of everything film, both new and old. If it was just about the awards, we would not get the hosts talking about how cinema has effected them, or tributes to movies from the past or particular genres, or the Lifetime Achievement Award (which is going to Jackie Chan this year).

There is a love for movies from the Academy Awards. And while the winners of the evening often use their moments to make statements about the world (I can garauntee at least three winners will slam Trump in some way), I try to not let that overshadow the festivites and the passion for cinema.

It is because of this undying love for movies that I am pleased to go through my predictions and picks for this years’ Academy Awards. As always, I will list who I want to win the award regardless of how likely it is they will win, who should win as an unbiased point of view while looking at who truly deserves to win, and who actually will win that award. I will also not be looking at any of the documentary awards or shorts, since I know nothing about any of those categories (although I do expect “O.J.: Made in America” to win Best Documentary).

And for the record, I did see all nine films nominated for Best Picture, but not every movie nominated for an award. Strangely enough, I only saw one of the performances nominated for Best Actress, yet saw every performance nominated for Best Actor. With all that said, let’s start by looking at –

 

Best Cinematography –

Who I Want to Win: “La La Land”

Who Should Win: “Arrival”

Who Will Win: “La La Land”

The beginning of a trend you will notice this year – “La La Land” dominating in almost every category it is nominated for. The reason for this is because Hollywood has always loved their musicals, and they are legitimately difficult to pull off in terms of cinematography, choreography, acting, pacing, editing, lighting, production design and so many other aspects. The fact that we have not had a good musical in a while is going to help out “La La Land” significantly.

 

Best Costume Design –

Who I Want to Win: “Fantastic Beasts”

Who Should Win: “Fantastic Beasts”

Who Will Win: “Jackie”

I liked the costumes in “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” so I’ll be rooting for it. But I doubt a fantasy film will walk away with this award.

 

Best Editing –

Who I Want to Win: “Arrival”

Who Should Win: “La La Land”

Who Will Win: “La La Land”

The editing in “Arrival” added to the films’ pacing and sense of mystery, so I applaud “Arrival” for that. But “La La Land” is going to clean house this year.

 

Best Makeup and Hairstyling –

Who I Want to Win: “Star Trek Beyond”

Who Should Win: “Star Trek Beyond”

Who Will Win: “Star Trek Beyond”

The aliens in “Star Trek: Beyond” were impressive, and most of them were not done digitally. That makes them even more impressive in this day and age.

 

Best Music –

Who I Want to Win: “Lion”

Who Should Win: “La La Land”

Who Will Win: “Lion”

I think the Academy is going to feel bad for giving “La La Land” so many awards that they’ll decide not to give them one of the smaller awards. This is one I see going to a different movie, and “Lion” has the best chance to get it.

 

Best Original Song –

Who I Want to Win: “Can’t Stop the Feeling”

Who Should Win: “How Far I’ll Go”

Who Will Win: “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”

This one could be either “Audition” or “City of Stars” but I was more impressed by Emma Stone’s rendition about a town full of people who want more out of life. That being said, I wouldn’t mind if it went to “Can’t Stop the Feeling” or “How Far I’ll Go” either.

 

Best Production Design –

Who I Want to Win: “Arrival”

Who Should Win: “Fantastic Beasts”

Who Will Win: “La La Land”

Musicals have owned this category in the past, and I don’t think “La La Land” will be an exception.

 

Best Sound Editing –

Who I Want to Win: “Arrival”

Who Should Win: “Arrival”

Who Will Win: “Deepwater Horizon”

Like last year, I’ll point out the difference between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing – Editing is the creation of the sound effects, Mixing is combining all those sound effects into one coherent piece.

 

Best Sound Mixing –

Who I Want to Win: “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

Who Should Win: “Hacksaw Ridge”

Who Will Win: “La La Land”

 

Best Visual Effects –

Who I Want to Win: “Kubo and the Two Strings”

Who Should Win: “Kubo and the Two Strings”

Who Will Win: “The Jungle Book”

Nothing would make me happier than to see an animated film win Best Visual Effects, especially one like “Kubo and the Two Strings” which was the most visually unique movie of 2016. But I don’t see the Academy giving it high marks due to being animated, so I’ll pick “Jungle Book” for basically creating a whole new world.

 

Best Animated Feature Film –

Who I Want to Win: “Kubo and the Two Strings”

Who Should Win: “Kubo and the Two Strings”

Who Will Win: “Zootopia”

Again, “Kubo and the Two Strings” getting some form of recognition would be amazing due to how creative and imaginative it was with the whole paper concept. But it’s not Disney, and the Academy rarely gives out this award if Disney is involved. What’s even worse is that “Kubo” is up against two Disney films this year, “Zootopia” and “Moana.”

 

Best Adapted Screenplay –

Who I Want to Win: “Lion”

Who Should Win: “Moonlight”

Who Will Win: “Moonlight”

Now we start getting to the bigger awards.

I feel bad for “Moonlight” because it is the most honest and respectful movie of 2016, but I don’t see it winning many awards this year. This is one that it probably will win though.

 

Best Original Screenplay –

Who I Want to Win: “Hell or High Water”

Who Should Win: “The Lobster”

Who Will Win: “La La Land”

A musical winning Best Screenplay? Yeah, with the great dialogue between Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, I could certainly see that happening.

 

Best Directing –

Who I Want to Win: “Moonlight”

Who Should Win: “Moonlight”

Who Will Win: “La La Land”

The acting was the most consistent and moving in “Moonlight” but “La La Land” will get the edge for directing a cast of thousands to sing and dance.

 

Best Supporting Actress –

Who I Want to Win: Naomie Harris from “Moonlight”

Who Should Win: Naomie Harris from “Moonlight”

Who Will Win: Viola Davis from “Fences”

Now, onto the acting awards and while the supporting awards are wide open, Best Actor/Actress are pretty much sealed up at this point.

Naomie Harris had the most difficult performance to deliver out of the candidates this year, which is why I give her the edge. But Viola Davis will walk away with the award for having to compete with Denzel Washington’s hardened jerk of a husband and come across as fiesty and strong.

 

Best Supporting Actor –

Who I Want to Win: Jeff Bridges from “Hell or High Water”

Who Should Win: Dev Patel from “Lion”

Who Will Win: Mahershala Ali from “Moonlight”

This is the one award I’m not entirely convinced on. On the one hand, Jeff Bridges gave one of my favorite performances of 2016, and Dev Patel stole the show in “Lion.” But Mahershala Ali came across as the most kind soul in a film full of twisted individuals. His character makes a lasting impression on you and Ali’s performance is the reason for that.

Best Actress –

Who I Want to Win: Emma Stone from “La La Land”

Who Should Win: Emma Stone from “La La Land”

Who Will Win: Emma Stone from “La La Land”

Part of the why I say Emma will win is because she’s the only one of the five nominees I’ve seen. But another is that she admitted to how difficult the song and dance numbers were for her. Sweating buckets after just a few minutes of physical workouts, turning beat-red quickly into a dance sequence, and yet making it all look so elequent.

 

Best Actor –

Who I Want to Win: Ryan Gosling from “La La Land”

Who Should Win: Casey Affleck from “Manchester by the Sea”

Who Will Win: Casey Affleck from “Manchester by the Sea”

The only reason I want Ryan Gosling to win is so “La La Land” can sweep the Academy Awards. For those unaware, a film “sweeping” the Oscars doesn’t mean it wins every category it is nominated, for but to win the five biggest awards of the night – Best Screenplay (Adapted or Original), Best Director, Best Actress, Best Actor and Best Picture. It has only happened three times in the history of the Academy Awards (1934’s “It Happened One Night,” 1975’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and 1991’s “Silence of the Lambs”) and I want to see another film do that. “La La Land” might be our best chance to sweep, but that means Ryan Gosling will have to outshine Casey Affleck, the very clear favorite to win that award.

 

Best Picture –

Who I Want to Win: “Arrival”

Who Should Win: “Moonlight”

Who Will Win: “La La Land”

And so we come to the final award of the evening and one that isn’t nearly as open as the past few years. Last year was close between “Spotlight” and “The Revenant,” while 2015 had “Birdman” against “Boyhood.”

If it is a competition between two films this year, it would be “La La Land” and “Moonlight,” with a favorite leaning far more in the musicals’ favor.

“Arrival” was the most relevant movie of 2016, while also being a wonderfully entertaining science fiction film. But that sci-fi element is going to turn the voters away and ultimately “Arrival” is just happy to be nominated, along with “Lion,” “Hidden Figures,” “Fences” and “Hell or High Water.”

“Hacksaw Ridge” gets a slightly better chance than the others due to being a war movie, but not one that particularly stands out above the other films nominated this year. It adds diversity and could slip into win some minor awards, but certainly not Best Picture.

“Manchester by the Sea” is the underdog to Best Picture, but I think it’s too depressing to win the category over some of the other films nominated. Honestly, I would rather see “Lion” or “Hidden Figures” win Best Picture over “Manchester.”

“Moonlight” is the most artistic and honest film of the year and it deserves to win Best Picture. The performances all hit their marks, the cinematography was inventive for this subject matter, and it didn’t feel the need to explain how every character was feeling, letting the film show us a characters’ emotions rather than being told their feeings. “Moonlight” is the outside favorite to win.

But, with all that being said, “La La Land” pretty much has this award locked up. If there was a theme throughout most of the films nominated for Best Picture, it is one of sadness and depression, especially in films like “Manchester by the Sea,” “Fences” and to a lesser extent “Hell or High Water.” But “La La Land” is the counterpoint to all that, a colorful, vibrant, dream-like movie that celebrates classic musicals while also not being afraid of the real world. As I’ve mentioned in the past, the Academy loves it when a Best Picture nominee honors Hollywood in some way, as we saw with winners like “Argo,” “The Artist” and “Birdman.” I think “La La Land” will be joining that category.

And those are my picks for the 2017 Academy Awards. I know I am leaning far too much on “La La Land,” but I honestly see the Academy adoring the film like they did with “Mad Max: Fury Road” last year. Will “La La Land” sweep the Oscars or will they try to show a bit more diversity? Only time will tell and we will find out this Sunday.

 

Paul’s 2016 Academy Award Predictions

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With the Academy Awards approaching, it is about that time again to go over my predictions for this years winners.

As I’ve said previously, 2015 was a wonderful year for cinema, and a fair amount of the best films this year got a lot of nominations. Personally, I would have liked to see a bit more diversity in other categories, but most of the nominated films do deserve to be in their respective categories.

To me, it looks like this year of the Academy Awards appear that they will be continuations from last year, and giving long-time artists their respect. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and “The Revenant” seem to be in position to dominate just like “Birdman” did last year, while Sylvester Stallone practically has the Best Supporting Actor award already. I’m looking forward to Best Original Score this year, because it comes down to two masters of their craft – Ennio Morricone and John Williams.

With all of that said, let’s take a look at my predictions. As with the last few years, I’ll be skipping documentaries, shorts and foreign film categories, since I know nothing about them. Although, it does sound like “Son Of Saul” will win Best Foreign Film based off of what I’ve heard.

Best Cinematography:

Who should win: “The Revenant”

Who will win: “The Revenant”

Who I want to win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

While I adored the cinematography in “Mad Max: Fury Road,” there is no doubt that “The Revenant” was more impressive. The fight scene with the bear holds everything you need to know about why it has the best camera work of the year, as we watch this visceral and violent scene takes place, all without cutting away.

“The Revenant” is full of great examples like that, and like “Birdman” last year, this will help it achieve victory in this category.

Best Costume Design:

Who should win: “The Danish Girl”

Who will win: “Cinderella”

Who I want to win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Hard to say on this one, since I have not seen “The Danish Girl” or “Cinderella,” but the Academy tends to love big period piece dramas like “Cinderella,” especially when each character has their own unique dress in trying to show off the other. Plus, the level of extravagance is taken to a whole different level by adding director Kenneth Branagh, who takes the visual style of a Shakespeare play and amps it up to 11.

I predict that will be reflected in the Academy’s decision.

Best Editing:

Who should win: “The Big Short”

Who will win: “The Big Short”

Who I want to win: “Spotlight”

To me, the editing was the best part of “The Big Short,” and one of the standout examples of editing in 2015. “Spotlight” had some wonderful editing as well to keep everything contained so well, but “The Big Short” used editing to help advance the story. That gives it the win in my eyes.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling:

Who should win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Who will win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Who I want to win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

No one’s ever heard of “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared” so it won’t be winning this category. I can’t recall that much of impressive makeup in “The Revenant,” other than Leo being covered in blood and lots of hair. So, by default, “Mad Max: Fury Road” has this one sealed up.

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Best Original Score:

Who should win: “The Hateful Eight”

Who will win: “The Hateful Eight”

Who I want to win: “The Hateful Eight”

This is the one that I’m really looking forward to. It will come down to two composers this year, Ennio Morricone for “The Hateful Eight” and John Williams for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Let that sink in for a minute.

This year, we are witnessing the composer of “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” “Cinema Paradiso” and “The Thing,” go up against the composer of “Jaws,” the Indiana Jones movies, “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” and every Star Wars films. Morricone is back in the genre that he excels at – Westerns. While Williams is back to composing arguably his greatest score. We are watching two legends of film scoring going at it here, and it could go to either one.

I think it will go to Morricone, because of the legacy that he has left. The Academy loves to give it to very old people who have never won the award, or haven’t won it in a long time. John Williams already has more Academy Awards than Meryl Streep, so to give it to an 87-year-old man whose career started in the early 1960s in Italy would be wonderful to see.

Best Original Song:

Who should win: “The Writing’s On The Wall” by Sam Smith

Who will win: “The Writing’s On The Wall” by Sam Smith

Who I want to win: “The Writing’s On The Wall” by Sam Smith

I’m going with the song that I enjoy listening to. I’ve never heard of the other ones, so that might be swaying my vote. But Sam Smith is well-known now and everyone loves the Bond songs.

Best Production Design:

Who should win: “The Martian”

Who will win: “The Revenant”

Who I want to win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

For me, the film that ends up feeling the biggest with the most impressive size, scope and feel to it wins this category. I felt that, of these five films, “Mad Max: Fury Road” had that in spades, but I doubt the Academy agrees with me on that.

“The Martian” should win because it felt like it was taking place on different planet, while still feeling down to Earth. The production design was simple, yet effective. But I think it’ll go to “The Revenant” for the vast distance that the film covered and making it feel like a vast untamed wilderness.

Best Sound Editing:

Who should win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Who will win: “The Revenant”

Who I want to win: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

Before I go into my predictions, I feel like this needs to be addressed – What is the difference between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing? Over the past few years, I’ve seen this question come up a lot and people asking why they don’t just combine the two awards together.

Here’s the difference between the two. Sound Editing is the creation of all the sound effects for a movie, outside of the music, including additional dialogue recording, or ADR for short. Sound Mixing is combining all the sounds of the film, sound effects, music, dialogue, etc., into one solid coherent piece. In other words, the editing is about the guys who make the sounds, while the mixing is for those that put it all together.

Anyway, I would love to see “Star Wars” win this one, for recreating all the classic sounds of Star Wars while updating it. But it will probably go to “The Revenant” because duplicating the noises of the wild tends to rather difficult, especially when you’re trying to recreate a wilderness that hasn’t existed for hundreds of years.

Best Sound Mixing:

Who should win: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

Who will win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Who I want to win: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

Again, with the distinction between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing in mind, I have to give this to the film that made its sound as amazing to listen to as the visuals were thrilling, “Mad Max: Fury Road.” As great as the sound was for “Star Wars,” the sound of “Mad Max” has grown on me and has stuck with me as long as the everything else about this masterpiece has.

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Best Visual Effects:

Who should win: “Ex Machina”

Who will win: “The Revenant”

Who I want to win: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

The bear will give “The Revenant” the win on this one.

Best Adapted Screenplay:

Who should win: “Room”

Who will win: “Room”

Who I want to win: “The Martian”

And now we begin to come down to the final categories, starting with the screenplay awards.

“Room” will take this one due to Emma Donoghue, who wrote the novel, returning to write the screenplay. That is a big deal, since nothing would be lost in the adaptation. This one comes down to how faithful the screenplay is to the source material, and “Room” will get extra points by getting the same writer as the novel.

Best Original Screenplay:

Who should win: “Spotlight”

Who will win: “Spotlight”

Who I want to win: “Spotlight”

I know this may look like it comes easy for “Spotlight” but this one was tricky.

There are a lot of well-written original films this year, including “Inside Out’ and “Ex Machina”‘s dialogue. But “Spotlight” took years of material from the Boston Globe, took everything to heart, and did there best to stay accurate to reality without diluting the story and message. It is original, yet at the same time, it is an adaptation of reality.

Best Animated Feature:

Who should win: “Inside Out”

Who will win: “Inside Out”

Who I want to win: “Inside Out”

This is the no-brainer pick this year. While “Inside Out” will face competition from “Anomalisa,” this is Pixar doing what they do best. Pixar always has this category wrapped up, and this year will be no different.

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Best Directing:

Who should win: Tom McCarthy for “Spotlight”

Who will win: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for “The Revenant”

Who I want to win: Tom McCarthy for “Spotlight”

And now the big ones. This year, most of the awards are pretty difficult (aside from one). There are many nominees that are worthy of winning, and it can be difficult if the Academy wants to give it to those that deserve it or those that they know about.

With that said, Tom McCarthy should be the favorite to win this award, by making a film that feels less like trying to recreate reality and more like actual reality. But Inarritu is the favorite to win this award, as I’m sure the Academy would like to give the award to someone two years in a row.

Best Supporting Actress:

Who should win: Kate Winslet from “Steve Jobs”

Who will win: Kate Winslet from “Steve Jobs”

Who I want to win: Jennifer Jason Leigh from “The Hateful Eight”

This one is hard, because of all the nominees, I’ve only seen three of them – Rachel McAdams, Kate Winslet and Jennifer Jason Leigh. McAdams was good, but nothing spectacular, I don’t see “Spotlight” winning any of the acting awards. Jason Leigh was amazing to watch as she seemed to love playing the bad guy and took delight in making someone’s life a living hell.

But Kate Winslet gave that movie the necessary heart that it needed, as she kept Steve Jobs in check. If it weren’t for her, Fassbender’s performance would have been too sharp and unforgiving. I’m giving it to Winslet.

Best Supporting Actor:

Who should win: Sylvester Stallone from “Creed”

Who will win: Sylvester Stallone from “Creed”

Who I want to win: Sylvester Stallone from “Creed”

When it was announced that Sylvester Stallone was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, at an event that is normally very quiet and very reserved, the crowd erupted in a standing ovation. If that isn’t a give away clue that Stallone will win this award, I don’t know what is.

Stallone easily has this one for giving the best performance out of anybody this year.

Best Actress:

Who should win: Brie Larson from “Room”

Who will win: Brie Larson from “Room”

Who I want to win: Brie Larson from “Room”

Like with Best Original Screenplay, this is not an easy pick, but Brie Larson will win this award.

This year, it comes down between Larson and Cate Blanchett. What gives Larson the advantage is that Blanchett won the award two years ago for “Blue Jasmine,” so that might sway some voters. Same with Jennifer Lawrence for her role in “Silver Linings Playbook,” and Charlotte Rampling and Saoirse Ronan are a little too low-profile to win this award. Larson has won several awards for her performance already, so I think that helps out as well.

Best Actor:

Who should win: Leonardo DiCaprio from “The Revenant”

Who will win: Leonardo DiCaprio from “The Revenant”

Who I want to win: Matt Damon from “The Martian”

Finally, Leo will win one!

At this point, the voters feel sorry for Leonardo DiCaprio. Six times he has been nominated for Best Actor, and he has never won. While “The Revenant” was not his best performance in recent memory, it was still a captivating performance that had little to no dialogue from him. He will get this one more out of sympathy and not earning it.

best picture nominees

Best Picture:

Who should win: “Spotlight”

Who will win: “The Revenant”

Who I want to win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

And so we come to the biggest award of the night. With eight nominees, this year it comes down to two films – “Spotlight” and “The Revenant.”

As much as I would love “Mad Max: Fury Road” to win the award this year, the Academy is probably turned off by it being one extended car chase sequence through a post-apocalyptic future. It is the one of the most technologically impressive films this year, but it will not win Best Picture.

“The Martian” has some tough competition, having a similar plot to “The Revenant” but that western survival tale still being fresh in people’s memories. This one could be sneak up on other awards, but not here.

“Room” is certainly the indie darling this year, but I don’t think the Academy will look at it beyond its screenplay and Brie Larson’s performance. It is the underdog nominee in this case, but its chances are slim.

“The Big Short,” “Brooklyn” and “Bridge Of Spies” are just happy to be here.

That leaves us with the final two, and I’m still unsure about who is going to win. My gut reaction is to say that “Spotlight” should win Best Picture for being the most respected and well-put together film of 2015.

But, the Academy is still high on Inarritu winning everything for “Birdman” last year, and to be able to come out with another high-profile film so quickly. The Academy is going to eat up Leonardo DiCaprio and the cinematography is impressive, to say the least.

Therefore, I believe that “The Revenant” will win Best Picture for 2015. I will have my fingers crossed in the hopes that either “Spotlight” or “Mad Max: Fury Road” can win the award, but the Academy is too much in love with Inarritu for the film to fail.

But we will find out very soon if my predictions are accurate. Because on Sunday, the 88th Academy Awards will take place and the best that cinema has to offer will be crowned.

 

Paul’s 2015 Oscar Reactions

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Another year of the Academy Awards has come and gone. Congratulations to the winners, especially “Birdman” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” for walking away with four awards each. And congratulations to every nominee. To have the honor of even getting to a candidate for an Academy Award takes a lot of passion, hard work, dedication and a bit of luck. There were a lot of deserving films this year, with each category have several nominees that could have easily gotten these prestigious awards.

This was one of the hardest years to judge cinema in some time, since there were so many noteworthy and fascinating films to come out. “Boyhood,” “American Sniper,” “Nightcrawler” and “Wild” are some of the others that blew my expectations and made me forget that cinema is more than just a bunch of moving pictures.

Speaking of “Moving Pictures,” let’s talk about the Award show itself. Last year, I felt that the awards were decent, with the highlights being the acceptance speeches, the bad points being the award presenters and the strange being Ellen Degeneres as host, specifically her trying to balance her usual style of comedy and pleasing to a bigger audience.

But after watching this year’s award show, I think my opinion of last year’s has changed a bit, especially on Ellen. This was accomplished by looking at this year’s host – Neil Patrick Harris. This man knows how to make an award show funny, energetic and something that you want to see. He’s done that multiple times with the Tony Awards.

Yet, NPH often fell flat on the Oscars this year. Most of his jokes were stilted and awkward, where he just stared at the camera waiting for a response, followed by a weird smile. Sometimes he nailed it, like with the opening musical number, with NPH reenacting scenes from “Singing’ In The Rain,” “North By Northwest” and others, and even getting Anna Kendrick and Jack Black involved.

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It felt like the jokes which NPH improvised worked spectacularly, like the payoff to his predictions briefcase. But other times, when he had pre-planned jokes, it all fell apart before Neil could finish the joke. Just like Ellen did last year.

This has convinced me – Scripted comedy always sucks for the Oscars. Why do you think Billy Crystal was such a great host? Because he came up with his own material and was great improv comedy. James Franco and Anne Hathaway were terrible hosts because they didn’t know much about stage comedy and how to work an active crowd.

So I apologize to Ellen Degeneres for my awkward criticisms of her hosting abilities last year. I was under the impression that you were in charge of most of your own jokes. But clearly, the production crew behind the Academy Awards had pre-planned jokes for you to make. Jokes that were not funny and that you were not behind, just like NPH was this year. Both Ellen and Neil are great comedians, but the Oscars is not the place for good comedy.

If there is a lesson here, it is this – Pick Oscar hosts who are great at improv comedy, and let them write every single joke. Maybe then you’ll find a host that can match Billy Crystal.

Anyway, outside of that debacle, there were several parts that I adored this year. The previously mentioned opening musical number was the first, and it managed to encapsulate so many reasons why movies are a joy to watch. That they are more than just entertainment and a medium to make money, but a gateway to other worlds, to meet people we grow to love or despise. NPH was clearly having a blast with his own shadow, and so was I.

Like last year, most of the acceptance speeches were great, especially J.K. Simmons speech about talking to your parents and not texting them. Or the winner for “The Imitation Game”‘s screenplay, who talked about the kids who don’t feel like they belong because they’re different, and to tell them they’re not weird and to embrace what makes them different and unique.

Eddie Redmayne

But the segment that I will remember for a long time is the performance for “Everything Is Awesome.” From the visual style heavily relying on Legos, to Batman coming on stage and singing his hit song, this was everything that made “The Lego Movie” the great movie that it is. I especially liked the construction workers handing out lego-constructed Oscars to people in the audience, especially Oprah and Emma Stone, as if they knew neither of them were going to win an Oscar so they’ll get this one instead.

Seriously, can I get one of those Lego Oscars? Please?

Finally, John Travolta got his vindication. A chance to apologize for butchering Idina Menzel’s name last year, though after a bit more ridiculing. I loved that, because of that incident, neither of them will ever live it down. Travolta touched Menzel’s face a bit too much during it, but that just seems to be how he rolls. Over-actor gonna over-act.

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However, aside from the scattered comedy throughout the show, there were still some points that I did not care for. In particular, the over abundance of political agendas by some of the winners like Patricia Arquette and John Legend/Common. Arquette used her time to talk about how women need more money in the work place, and John Legend mentioned that the U.S. has more African-Americans in jail now than there were slaves.

Look, I could not care less what your political stance is on either of those issues. Whether you think women should get paid more than men or that criminals should roam the streets just because they’re African-American is not my concern. But that kind of stuff does not belong at the Academy Awards.

This is a celebration of everything cinema, showcasing the best that film has to offer in the last year. I don’t want to see someone get up on their soap box to talk about their world issues when they just won an award for acting. Politics do not belong in an awards show celebrating film.

Also, what exactly was John Legend trying to say? That we should let lots of people out of jail because they’re African-American? Because those people were put in jail for a reason. The majority of them were put in there for breaking the law, and putting them back out on the streets means that they could do it again, including murder, rape, abuse and burglary. That sounds like a smart idea.

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I’m not sure that’s what he meant though. That’s just what I got out of it, and it sounded stupid.

Overall, this was a fairly uneventful Academy Awards. The comedy was dull, though there were a few surprises every once in a while, the acceptance speeches ranged from poetic and heart-warming to preachy and confusing, and several musical numbers were the highlights of the night. Neil Patrick Harris clearly did the best that he could with what he had to work with, even if the production team behind the Academy Awards limited what he could do and say.

Not many big surprises for winners, aside from Richard Linklater not winning Best Director for “Boyhood.” I felt that he had that one all wrapped up, only for “Birdman” to sweep most of the big awards. A nice evening was had though, with a few very nice and awesome moments thrown in.

And I can honestly say I did not expect some select songs from “The Sound Of Music” to ever be played by Lady Gaga. That came as a big surprise to me.

Paul’s 2015 Academy Award Predictions

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For the first time, I have watched every single film nominated for Best Picture. For that reason, I feel confident in the majority of my predictions for the 2015 Academy Awards.

With these predictions coming out as close as possible to Oscar Sunday, I have given each of these categories much thought. Like last year, there aren’t many stand out winners, other than a few technical awards. Many of the bigger ones are still up for grabs, so it is still anyone’s game.

Like last year, I will be giving out who I want to win, who should win and who will win for every award. I will be skipping the Documentaries, Short Subjects and Foreign Film categories though, since my guesses would be about as good as randomly throwing a paper airplane at a board and hoping that it sticks.

And now, here are my picks for the 2015 Academy Awards.

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Best Visual Effects:

Who I want to win: “Guardians Of The Galaxy”

Who should win: “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes”

Who will win: “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes”

Bringing over 200 apes to life, each with their own individual movements and personalities, is not small feat. As great as “Guardians Of The Galaxy” looked, the effects in “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes” puts it to shame.

Best Sound Editing:

Who I want to win: “American Sniper”

Who should win: “Interstellar”

Who will win: “American Sniper”

The reason I have “American Sniper” winning this one is because most of the other four films don’t have much sound to edit. “Interstellar” and “Birdman” were quiet movies when they needed to be, so I don’t know why they would win this award. I did not see “Unbroken,” so I cannot say anything on that. And “The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Fire Armies” was not that impressive when it came to sound. That leaves “American Sniper” to win this award.

Best Sound Mixing:

Who I want to win: “Whiplash”

Who should win: “Whiplash”

Who will win: “Whiplash”

The sound of “Whiplash” helped give the film its identity, so it should be winning all the sound categories.

Best Production Design:

Who I want to win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Who should win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Who will win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

One of the coolest looking films of 2014, as well as one of the more visually elaborate movies of the year. In categories like these, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” was them sealed up.

Best Original Song:

Who I want to win: “Everything Is Awesome” from “The Lego Movie”

Who should win: “I’m Not Going To Miss You” from “Glenn Campbell…I’ll Be Me”

Who will win: “Glory” From “Selma”

Unfortunately, we don’t have two songs that have taken over the world, like “Let It Go” and “Happy” did last year. “Everything Is Awesome” almost did at the beginning of 2014, but that fad has waned since then.

So, I’ll go with the song that many people are praising and won the same award at the Golden Globes, “Glory.” I wasn’t all that impressed by it, much like I was with “Selma” in general, but seeing as this one of the two awards that “Selma” is nominated for, and I don’t see it winning Best Picture, the Academy will give it to them here.

Best Original Score:

Who I want to win: “Intersellar”

Who should win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Who will win: “The Theory Of Everything”

I’m all over the board on this one. Two scores done by the same man, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “The Imitation Game” both being done by Alexandre Despalt, but there were key scenes in “The Theory Of Everything” that relied heavily on the score to carry the mood and tone. A hard task for a score to pull off, yet Johann Johannson did it masterfully. He should bring home the award for that reason.

Best Makeup And Hairstyling:

Who I want to win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Who should win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Who will win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Makeup and Hair so elaborate, that it would be a crime if “The Grand Budapest Hotel” didn’t win this award.

Best Film Editing:

Who I want to win: “Whiplash”

Who should win: “American Sniper”

Who will win: “American Sniper”

The editing in “Whiplash” turned it from a decent film with a standout performance into a masterfully woven tail where music is more than just the backdrop.

However, the editing was just as impressive in many key scenes of “American Sniper.” And since that is a story that more of the Academy can relate to, I see the war film winning this award.

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Best Costume Design:

Who I want to win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Who should win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Who will win: “Mr. Turner”

I’m going to go with an outside pick here. Even though I have not seen “Mr. Turner,” based off the trailer, it looks as though it could win a couple awards, especially since it nominated for four awards this year. I see it winning at least one, and it could end up being this. As elaborate and well-thought out as the costumes were in “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” I see “Mr. Turner” walking away in the best dressed attire.

Best Cinematography:

Who I want to win: “Birdman”

Who should win: “Birdman”

Who will win: “Birdman”

This is the no-brainer pick of this year. “Birdman” was the most visually impressive film of 2014.

Best Animated Film:

Who I want to win: “The Lego Movie”

Who should win: “How To Train Your Dragon 2”

Who will win: “How To Train Your Dragon 2”

Oh wait, “The Lego Movie” isn’t nominated? Stupid Academy. Wouldn’t know a good animated movie if it digitally bit them on the butt.

“The Tale Of Princess Kaguya” and “Song Of The Sea” are just happy to be there. Of “Big Hero 6,” “The Boxtrolls” and “How To Train Your Dragon 2,” the Dreamworks film stood out above the others with its vast landscape and ever-expanding roster of developed characters. The award will go to “How To Train Your Dragon 2.”

Best Adapted Screenplay:

Who I want to win: “Whiplash”

Who should win: “American Sniper”

Who will win: “American Sniper”

I think this one is wide open for almost anyone to win. Some are saying “The Imitation Game,” and others are saying “The Theory Of Everything” will win this award. My money is on “American Sniper,” since the Academy might take pity on “American Sniper” for not winning some of the other bigger awards. Just a hunch that I have.

Best Original Screenplay:

Who I want to win: “Nightcrawler”

Who should win: “Birdman”

Who will win: “Birdman”

I would be eternally grateful to the Academy if they gave this award to “Nightcrawler.” But since the majority of “Birdman” hinges on the dialouge and the script, and the Academy appears to be digging “Birdman.” Another lock up for “Birdman.”

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Best Supporting Actress:

Who I want to win: Emma Stone from “Birdman”

Who should win: Patricia Arquette from “Boyhood”

Who will win: Patricia Arquette from “Boyhood”

As good as Emma Stone was in “Birdman,” Patricia Arquette gave the most level-headed and emotional performance of the year in “Boyhood.” Arquette pretty much has this one wrapped up.

Best Supporting Actor:

Who I want to win: Edward Norton from “Birdman”

Who should win: J.K. Simmons from “Whiplash”

Who will win: Edward Norton from “Birdman”

This was a hard one.

Edward Norton added charm and elegance to “Birdman,” and when Keaton was not on-screen, I wanted to see what Norton was up to. That being said, J.K. Simmons was the best part about “Whiplash” so I believe he is just as deserving of the award as Norton is. I think the Academy will give it to Norton, with Ethan Hawke in “Boyhood” being a dark horse candidate.

Best Director:

Who I want to win: Richard Linklater for “Boyhood”

Who should win: Richard Linklater for “Boyhood”

Who will win: Richard Linklater for “Boyhood”

Last year, Best Director went to Alfonso Curoan for “Gravity” and Best Picture went to “12 Years A Slave,” the two most deserving films of those awards. I think the Academy wanted to give both films that award, but couldn’t, so they gave Director to one and Best Picture to the other. Gravity got Best Director due to it being done by the determination and passion of Curoan. I believe the same will happen this year between “Boyhood” and “Birdman.”

Much like “Gravity,” “Boyhood” is driven by the tenacity and love of cinema of Richard Linklater. If Linklater does not get this award, then “Birdman”‘s director will, and “Boyhood” will probably walk away with Best Picture.

Best Actress:

Who I want to win: Resse Witherspoon from “Wild”

Who should win:  Resse Witherspoon from “Wild”

Who will win: Julianne Moore from “Still Alice”

I want to say that Resse Witherspoon has this award locked up, but the Academy loves to give awards to actors and actresses playing people with mental or physical diseases. Julianne Moore is playing a woman with Alzheimer’s, and whether she actually gives a good performance beyond that is pretty much irrelevant.

In any case, it will be either Moore or Witherspoon that walks away with this award, and I would love it if Resse managed to pull it out. I just don’t see that happening though.

Best Actor:

Who I want to win: Michael Keaton from “Birdman”

Who should win: Eddie Redmayne from “The Theory Of Everything”

Who will win: Michael Keaton from “Birdman”

Again, the Academy loves the handicapped actors, which is why Eddie Redmayne is getting as much discussion as he is. That, and he is playing a well-known person in reality, to the point that even Stephen Hawking was convinced that it was him on the screen.

From a single performance perspective, Michael Keaton was the best actor in 2014. Grounded, heartfelt and emotional, he was the reason that “Birdman” was so good. Hopefully the Academy will see that and give him the award. Could go to either Redmayne or Keaton.

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Best Picture:

Who I want to win: “Birdman”

Who should win: “Boyhood”

Who will win: “Birdman”

And so we come to the last and biggest award of the evening. One that is still being debated about who deserves it. Like with “Gravity” and “12 Years A Slave” last year, this one comes down to two films – “Birdman” and “Boyhood.”

“The Theory Of Everything” and “The Imitation Game” are quite similar, in that they are both a biopic about two famous British people who changed the world with their inventions and intelligence, but both also faced difficult personal barriers to overcome. I don’t see either of them winning this award.

“Whiplash,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “American Sniper” are just happy to be here. Each will win other categories, but none of them are going to be winning this one. They’re either too controversial or too under the radar.

“Selma” not being nominated for more awards and the possibility of it not winning Best Picture have caused more controversy this year than anything in the past. To those, I say this – Was it really the best film of 2014? Or do you just respect it for its subject material? Because there is a big difference. The winner of the Best Picture award should go to the film that is clearly the most well put together, tells a story that resonates with the audience and will still be an excellent film years from now. I do not think this is “Selma.” There is a possibility “Selma” could win, but it is small compared to the last two films on the list.

I’d like to point out some of the films in the last few years that have won Best Picture – In particular, “Argo” in 2012 and “The Artist” in 2011. Both films have a similar theme – they talk about the film industry and how it is not a perfect or caring system. To me, this says that the Academy adores films that talk about the film industry and how bad it can be at times. How it takes a caring and passionate soul, and turns him into a greedy, self-absorbed man.

“Birdman” is that film.

I could just be overanalyzing it, but from a technical and personal perspective, “Birdman” is a superior film to “Boyhood.” I certainly respect “Boyhood” more than “Birdman,” for being able to take a twelve year journey through one boy’s life and have it resonate with so many people. However, “Birdman” excels ahead of “Boyhood” in acting, cinematography and writing. If the trend of movies about movies does not give “Birdman” the win, those categories will.

This was a hard year to judge the Academy Awards on, since this the first year where I had seen almost every single nominee, especially all the Best Picture candidates. We’ll find out in just a bit if my predictions are correct.

NPH