OSCAR PREDICTIONS 2015: The race for Best Picture

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The 87th Academy Awards, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, are set for Sunday, February 22nd and it's time to analyze just who or what is going to be walking off that stage with an Oscar.  If you follow my website, you will know that I've been tabulating all of the minor and lead-up award winners in all of the Oscar categories since last November on my 2015 Awards Tracker.  To put it in educational terms to match this website's theme, those numbers have been my "data analysis" to predicting just what films are going to win.   

It's time to begin making my formal and official Oscar predictions.  In this seventh and final post, we've come to the big one, folks.  Here's my analysis and breakdown of the race for Best Picture.  This is a close one, so read on!  Let's do this!  I've said it all season.  Stick with me and I will win you your Oscar pool.


The nominees:  "American Sniper," "Birdman," "Boyhood," "The Grand Budapest Hotel," "The Imitation Game," "Selma," "The Theory of Everything," "Whiplash"

AWARDS TRACKER (number of prior award wins in this category):  

23- "Boyhood," 7- "Birdman," 4- "The Grand Budapest Hotel," 3- "Selma," 2- "Gone Girl," 1- "A Most Violent Year," 1- "Whiplash," 1- "The Imitation Game," 1- "American Sniper," 1- "Nightcrawler," 1- "Snowpiercer," 1- "Ida," 1- "Goodbye to Language," 1- "Still Alice," 1- "Winters Sleep"

Who was snubbed:  Let's start with omissions.  Truthfully, it's hard to cry about nominees missing a field where there are more than five nominees.  This is kind of like pouting about the 65th team in a 64-team tournament.  Still, I say, if the Academy is going to allow ten nominees, fill it up with ten nominees.  There are eight this year, so the two that should have joined the others, with no question, are "Gone Girl" and "Selma."  "Gone Girl" was the best crime thriller in quite some time and "Selma" is just plain special.  To see them left out stings a little.

Happy to be there- AKA "The First Cut":  For as much as we can play armchair Academy voter and fill out a ballot of ten full nominees, truthfully, we only ever needed five.  The now six-year old rule to expand from the normal five is getting silly because how many nominees really have a chance to win.  Some nominees are in here purely as fringe.  So, let's cut our field of eight down to five, call them lucky, and really focus on the Top 5.  From a pure data standpoint, the weakest three nominees are (unfortunately) "Selma," (fortunately) "The Theory of Everything," and (unfortunately) "Whiplash."  The other five nominees have more total nominations than each of those three films (with 2, 5, and 5, respectively).  That's the first cut.   

The true finalists- AKA "The Final Five":  "American Sniper," "Birdman," "Boyhood," "The Grand Budapest Hotel," "The Imitation Game"  

Who should win:  First cut be damned, my friends and followers know what I would pick if I had a say.  "Whiplash" has been my number one film of 2014 since it rocked my world in October.  I don't care if it just misses the cut statistically.  That's the movie I can't stop stumping for and recommending to friends before I ever get to the "Birdman" and "Boyhood" types.  If I was running the show, "Whiplash" would win and be the lowest grossing Best Picture winner, even lower than "The Hurt Locker," in generations.  Quality beats money.

Who will win:  Alright, let's break these final five down.  The first two of the finalists that don't have a chance are "The Grand Budapest Hotel" and "The Imitation Game."  Both are more respected for their writing and art than overall impact.  Both are likely walking away with each of the screenplay Oscars.  That's the bones thrown their way.  After that, you have "American Sniper," the colossal crossover hit that is still turning heads and wowing audiences as we speak.  Is it too popular to be considered artistically superior?  I don't think so.  The Clint Eastwood pedigree is strong, but he himself didn't get nominated for Best Director, which dramatically cuts "American Sniper"'s Best Picture chances in good, old liberal Hollywood.

What's left has been a two-horse race with late-breaking developments.  If you look at the Awards Tracker data, this should be "Boyhood"'s Oscar with ease.  It's won more than a lion's share of Best Picture awards.  However, everyone you read and follow lately is getting you to believe that "Birdman" has a real shot to dethrone "Boyhood" and win.  It won the Best Ensemble award at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, their equivalent to a best overall prize.  It won the PGA Award from the Producers Guild of America, which is voted on by the producers that end up being the recipient of the Best Picture Academy Award.  Lastly, pundits are talking about "Birdman" director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu beating "Boyhood" director Richard Linklater for Best Director DGA Award from the Directors Guild of America.  That's compelling data, for sure, but some of it is apples to oranges.  Actors and directors are just two branches to a very big tree.  The PGA Award is a legit, though.  Outside of a tie in 2013, the PGA winner has matched Best Picture winner since 2006.  That's a heck of a streak.

Still, this feels like last year when all of the trendy pickers thought something fancy like "Gravity" would beat something traditional like "12 Years a Slave."  Well, look how that turned out in the end.  Traditional won.  There's something to be said for momentum, sure, but "Birdman" feels like "Gravity" and "Boyhood" feels like "12 Year a Slave."  My smart prediction sides with traditional.  Put my money on "Boyhood" and take it to the bank.  I think it survives the threat.