OSCAR PREDICTIONS 2015: The visual and artistic categories

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PART 1: THE VISUAL AND ARTISTIC CATEGORIES

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 first post, we look at the visual and artistic technical categories that include cinematography, production design, costumes, makeup/hairstyling, editing, and visual effects.  Let's do this!

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

The nominees:  Emanuel Lubezki- "Birdman," Robert Yeoman- "The Grand Budapest Hotel," Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski- "Ida," Dick Pope- "Mr. Turner," Roger Deakins- "Unbroken"

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

20- Lubezki, 3- Yeoman, 3- Hoyte Van Hoytema- "Interstellar,"  2- Robert Elswit- "Nightcrawler," 2- Zal and Lenczewski, 1- Pope

Who was snubbed:  Laugh at not knowing what it is, but cinematography, which is the camera and shooting aspects of the movie done by the Director of Photography, is one of my favorite elements of a film.  It's something I notice and champion when I see it done well.  The work that stands out in this category as a snub is that of Hoyte Van Hoytema's from the Christopher Nolan film "Interstellar."   HVH used practical camera work, actual 70mm film, and no green screens.  The film has a unique feel from those elements on on large scale that deserved Oscar consideration.  A second argument can be made of the handheld digital grit of Robert Elswit's work in "Nightcrawler" for being equally raw and undoctored by extra effects.

Happy to be there:  It's rare to see a foreign language film get love in technical and artistic categories, so the nominees doing backflips for even being considered are Zal and Lenczewski for "Ida."  

Who should win:    If I had a vote in this category, I'm picking exteriors over interiors.  That's the more challenging shooting, in my opinion.  I know "Birdman" is running away with this category with its illusion of long takes and single cuts, but Dick Pope's work in "Mr. Turner" was extraordinary for highlighting the magnificent landscapes and nature that eventually became the famous art of J.M.W. Turner, the renowned "painter of light."  It's not that paintings came to life.  It's that you see the inspiration from regular sights that became more than regular.

Who will win:  Emanuel Lubezki for "Birdman" is one of the artistic locks of the night and it will be his second Oscar in a row after his amazing work last year in "Gravity."  The American Society of Cinematographers, the guild matching this category, named Lubezki which seals the deal.  This one is a lock.  Those digitally masked long takes are still really good work in this category.

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

The nominees:  "The Grand Budapest Hotel," "The Imitation Game," "Interstellar," "Into the Woods," "Mr. Turner"

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

13- "The Grand Budapest Hotel," 1- "Birdman," 1- "Guardians of the Galaxy," 1- "Maleficent"

Who was snubbed:  This is a place where some of the bigger blockbusters deserve a shot because of their sheer volume of set creation.  With that in mind, "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" both deserve to be here.  Great sets in big pictures!

Happy to be there:  The one gaudy blockbuster that did make the field was "Into the Woods," a movie audiences soundly forgot quickly out of the Christmas box office.  Sure, translating a stage musical to film was going make nice sets and locations, but I would have gladly taken superheros or hobbits here instead.

Who should win and will win:  There is no film in this category more perfect or deserving than "The Grand Budapest Hotel."  Every single hotel scene from that mystery/comedy was shot on a created location inside an abandoned German department store atrium re-fashioned as a fully functioning throwback hotel of decadence.  The cheeky miniature models for the wide shots trump anyone else cheating green screens and CGI mattes.

BEST FILM EDITING

The nominees:  "American Sniper," "Boyhood," "The Grand Budapest Hotel," "The Imitation Game," "Whiplash"

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

5- "Birdman," 3- "Whiplash," 3- "Edge of Tomorrow," 3- "Boyhood," 1- "The Grand Budapest Hotel," 1- "The LEGO Movie," 1- "Citzenfour," 1- "Fury"

Who was snubbed:  Too often the dramatic Best Picture nominees steal slots in this technical and artisitic categories from broader and more deserving films.  A perfect example of that is "Edge of Tomorrow."  As a popcorn blockbuster, it's not an Oscar-caliber movie for big awards, but what it does extremely well is piece together that repeating time loop Tom Cruise's main character finds himself in.  What could have been redundant and repetitive was cut and created fresh and unique with each loop.  It's superior technical work that deserves to be there.

Happy to be there:  The two dramatic Best Picture nominees that are here for those aforementioned padded stats are "The Imitation Game" and "American Sniper."  Neither have editing and construction that stands out.  Both are your typical three-arch and polished final pieces.  There's nothing too edgy or unique to either film's editing.  They could have been bounced for "Edge of Tomorrow" and "The LEGO Movie" and its use of combining CGI with stop-motion brilliantly.

Who should win:   If I was voting, I would be bucking that Best Picture tie-in tradition and going with the one that has the technical precision, like "Gravity" last year.  That film is "Whiplash," my #1 film of the year, which shows my heart.  "Whiplash" pops with rapid cuts and music like an Edgar Wright film and it owns the best and most energetic pacing of any movie nominated.  I so want to give "Whiplash" the upset.  The British Academy of Film and Television Awards (BAFTA) agreed with me this past weekend, but I think status quo and the data gives it to tradition..    

Who will win:  What I mean by tradition is that, historically more than 60% of the time, the winner of Best Film Editing matches the Best Picture winner.  "Birdman isnt't here and "Boyhood" is that frontrunner.  Furthermore, it has a big feather in its hat in this very artistic field.  "Boyhood" won the ACE Eddie Award for Best Film Editing given by the American Cinema Editors, the likely largest Academy voting group in this artistic field.  As much as I love "Whiplash," "Boyhood" would be a deserving winner in its casual and seamless combination of 12 years worth of evolving footage. 

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

The nominees:  "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," "Guardians of the Galaxy," "Interstellar," "X-Men: Days of Future Past"

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

5- "Interstellar," 2- "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," 1- "Edge of Tomorrow," 1- "Big Hero 6," 1- "How to Train Your Dragon 2," 1- "Transformers: Age of Extinction"

Who was snubbed:  I think the best of the best is all here with these five.  I'm so pleased to see "Transformers: Age of Extinction" get snubbed.  Maybe quality is finally winning over quantity.  Maybe you could switch out "X-Men: Days of Future Past" or "Captain American: The Winter Soldier" with "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies," but even that is splitting hairs.

Happy to be there:  Looking at the final five, the one that kind of sticks out as different is "Interstellar."  The rest are the mega-popular comic and genre films.  "Interstellar" deserves to be there for sure, but still should feel special and lucky.

Who should win:  There is no doubt in my mind that "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" should win.  This shouldn't even be a contest.  Their performance capture work is nothing short of groundbreaking and extraordinary to flesh out living and breathing characters of layered pixels and textures that couldn't look more believable.  That technology has come a long way from "The Polar Express" and this is the place to honor it with the best use of it yet in a superior and quality film.  I have a hunch it's not going to win, though.

Who will win:  I think the data is true to show that "Interstellar" is the frontrunner.  It deserves solid consideration for its practical effects combined with the special ones to create a masterful space landscape.  It will match "Gravity" from last year as a space-themed film winning this award for the second year in a row.  I really wish it was "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," but "Interstellar" is the more prestige picture and choice for older voters to honor.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

The nominees:  "The Grand Budapest Hotel," "Inherent Vice," "Into the Woods," "Maleficent," "Mr. Turner"

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

4- "Grand Budapest Hotel," 1- "Guardians of the Galaxy"

Who was snubbed:  Just once, I'd love to see a comic book film get credit for translating costumes from the page to the screen.  I think "Guardians of the Galaxy" did that better than any comic book film to date in matching a classic look with modern materials and looks.  That deserved recognition.

Happy to be there:  The 1970's counts nowadays as a "period piece," so the gonzo fashions of "Inherent Vice" got a nomination.  Most people will call it dressing out of the back of your parents' closest rather than "costume design," but it is in over its head compared to the other nominees here.  

Who should win and will win:  The artistic sweep of "The Grand Budapest Hotel" continues with a slam dunk win in a category that it deserves.  Just look at those awesome uniforms from the film.  Nothing else is close to that unique and good.  The only competition it has is the name recognition of Colleen Atwood for "Into the Woods," a three-time winner and eleven-time nominee in this field.  She's the modern master with the biggest resume.

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

The nominees:  "Foxcatcher," "The Grand Budapest Hotel," "Guardians of the Galaxy"

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

2- "The Grand Budapest Hotel," 2- "Guardians of the Galaxy" 

Who was snubbed:  This is one of those lame Oscar categories that only names three final nominees instead of five.  It harms nothing to include two more names and give two more films the honor and chance to compete.  If I'm naming two more, I'd go with "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" for sheer volume of hair and makeup work and also "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" for doing hair and makeup just a little bit differently than everyone else.

Happy to be there:  Seeing as how these is narrowed to three, all of the nominees should be happy to be there.  None should be more so than "Foxcatcher," which is included here solely for Steve Carell's teeth and nose and nothing else of merit.  It's got nothing on the other nominees.

Who should win and will win:  It would be fun and nice to see "Guardians of the Galaxy" win and represent comic book films where hair and makeup are huge and essential, but this award is earmarked for "The Grand Budapest Hotel" and its continued solid returns in the artistic areas.  Their hair and makeup work has the volume, the difficulty, the fun, and the prestige from the right picture to win this category fair and square.  The icing on the cake for this prediction was the Makeup and Hairstyling Guild naming "The Grand Budapest Hotel" their best over the weekend.

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