TMT Picks: The Oscars 2015 Who we think should win at the 87th Academy Awards

One of my most dreaded bar trivia categories is The Oscars: Who’s been nominated more than 17 times for Best Supporting Actress? Which year did the Best Adapted Screenplay category result in a three-way tie? Billy Corgan made a cameo in which 1997 Oscar-nominated documentary? Because I like movies that aren’t about people with British accents, learning important lessons about life, or famous attractive actors looking slightly less attractive, je m’en fous about who wins.

But like the satisfying feeling that just spread throughout my body from Googling the French expression for “I don’t give a shit” and inserting it pointlessly into the above paragraph, I do enjoy the opportunity for feeling superior that’s afforded by The Oscars and other popular awards programs. Passing judgment on other people’s tastes is a lot of fun, especially if those other people actually have awesome jobs in the US film industry, while I just edit the film section of a site people read for music.

More importantly, complaining about — I mean, collectively expressing our dissatisfaction with — definitive awards programs is also usually a good social activity; when we complain together, we’re really collaborating on a draft of our collective — and magisterial — counter-narrative on prevailing notions of artistic worth, the valuation of culture, and the fact that Jennifer Aniston didn’t actually look half bad sans makeup.

This year, we didn’t vote on our picks; instead, each writer selected their favorites for one or more categories, and made a case — sometimes a really weird one — to sway us. If you miss good ol’ democracy, go read last year’s feature. And don’t forget to give this year’s shorties some love.

Best Actress in a Leading Role

TMT PICK: Reese Witherspoon (Wild)

Reese Witherspoon sacrifices herself to a bear. She gets a divorce, shoots some heroin, and has a lot of filthy homeless sex. She takes a pregnancy test and decides to give birth on the Pacific Crest Trail. She hikes the Pacific Crest Trail and gives birth to a granola bar the length of her body. She carries the granola bar on her back and tags rocks with Emily Dickinson graffiti. She peels off her toenails and eats them. She washes herself in snow to feel high. A small child appears in the middle of Oregon and sings her a song while she whips herself with tree branches. She cries and tells the child he’s a terrible singer. A wolf appears in the middle of the afternoon and says, Chaos Reigns, and she says, Wrong movie, Wolf. Lars Von Trier sends her new hiking boots from R.E.I. but they’re a size too small. One day a bear walks by one of her Dickinson poems and is touched by its sincerity so he swipes right on Witherspoon’s Tinder profile. They agree to meet somewhere in Washington state, where he will eat her. She does it for the Oscar.

Other Nominees:
• Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night
• Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
• Julianne Moore, Still Alice
• Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl

Best Actor in a Leading Role

TMT PICK: Michael Keaton (Birdman)

On his sadder nights, Michael Keaton walks from his apartment to Popeyes and orders the 16-Piece Bonafide Meal. The Bonafide Meal consists of 16 pieces of juicy Bonafide® Chicken, with three large Signature Sides and eight hot, buttery biscuits. He orders it Spicy and takes it home to eat while watching Naomi Watts in Funny Games. Funny Games is one of his favorite movies because it’s a re-make of a film that the director already made, and Michael Keaton enjoys referring to it as ‘Meta’ in social circles because industry people seem impressed with that term, like it makes him appear smarter than he actually is, and he wants people to like him, but he doesn’t really understand what it means. His favorite scene in Funny Games is when Naomi Watts is tied up in her underwear and humiliated in a roomful of men. He feels aroused by the chicken grease. Some nights he dreams of re-making Batman starring him as Batman not doing Batman things, but just eating chicken in front of the TV and being a normal-ass dude. This morning he licked his reflection in the bathroom mirror because his reflection told him to do that. He wonders what Michelle Pfieffer is doing right now. He gets a call from his agent: You’ve been nominated, he says. What? Nominated. For an award? Yes, dumbass. For what? The Oscar, the most deliciously golden piece of Popeyes Chicken you could ever order, Michael, is going to be handed to you on stage in front of millions of bodies, and all you have to do is be there and open your mouth. But I haven’t made a movie in years. Yes, you have. No, I haven’t. What the hell is wrong with you, don’t you remember Multiplicity? But that was 1996; this is 2015. No matter, the Academy thought your performance was so Meta that it outlasted the confines of time and space, and now there’s a piece of chicken on a stage in Hollywood waiting for you. Do you want it or not?

Other Nominees
• Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
• Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
• Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
• Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

TMT PICK: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)

While the film has been ostensibly about a boy’s life as he grows up and endures various changes, with one scene in Boyhood Patricia Arquette reminds audiences that it wasn’t just the kid who was suffering through all these changes. As she breaks down towards the end of the film, Arquette powerfully demonstrates that not only was she enduring all of those changes as well as her son, but also she was aware of the passage of time and bore the brunt of all these changes. While Mason, the titular boy, merely exists and develops an interest in photography or hangs out with friends until he starts to form a personality, Arquette’s mom is dealing with a child going through these changes as well as pursuing higher academia and also her own failed choices in various romantic partners. And that’s when the entire film revises for just a moment in the eyes of the audience and you realize she has been suffering through it all with all of the knowledge and fear that being an adult brings. It’s a subtle performance that is strong throughout the film, but it’s that scene that brings everything into focus and delivers a punch as Mom meets Mortality, and doesn’t like what she sees.

Other Nominees:
• Laura Dern, Wild
• Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
• Emma Stone, Birdman
• Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

TMT PICK: J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)

J.K. Simmons’ performance as Fletcher in Whiplash is so powerful that if he somehow fails to win this year, the actual winner should never stop apologizing to the prolific character actor. He dominates the film not just through sheer force of his tirades, but also through subtle manipulations and quiet moments with his young co-stars. He represents an abusive yet seductive perspective, like a mythical siren screeching about perfection, that it makes sense when Andrew (Miles Teller) falls under his spell. Without Simmons in this role, it’s unlikely the film could exist. He lends such credibility to Fletcher’s ferocity it intimidates even audience members, but also is able to make his vision of a world constantly striving to be better seem sincere and not just like the cover story of an abusive prick. Add to that the fact that Simmons has been so good for so long as a character actor and this becomes a justly deserved win for a man who so easily embodies all manner of richly designed characters.

Other Nominees:
• Robert Duvall, The Judge
• Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
• Edward Norton, Birdman
• Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher

Best Cinematography

TMT PICK: Robert D. Yeoman (Grand Budapest Hotel)

Even more than their patented sincerity and wistful viewpoint of history, Wes Anderson’s films are known for his signature use of planimetric shots. The perpendicular framing and frontal angles are as much a part of the story as the characters and dialogue; it provides a way for us to approach his characters with equidistance, rather than superiority. With Grand Budapest, Anderson mounts his most expensive, plot-heavy and layered contraption yet, but his eternally competent DP, Robert Yeoman, was more than up to the challenge. Juggling three different aspect ratios — from dingy widescreen bathhouses to the glistening pink walls and nosebleeds in 4:3 — as well as having to integrate a considerable variety of live-action and stop-motion setpieces seamlessly, it’s understandable why the Academy decided to give Yeoman his first nomination. Few films this year felt as daring and airtight in their visual schema, nor gave credence to Roger Ebert’s inherently naïve (but no less worthy) belief in cinema as a machine that generates empathy.

Other Nominees:
• Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman
• Dick Pope, Mr. Turner
• Ryszard Lenczewski and Lukasz Zal, Ida
• Roger Deakins, Unbroken

Best Documentary

TMT PICK: The Salt of the Earth

While CitizenFour is almost sure to win owing to its relevance to our current state of digital malaise surrounding the NSA, it also failed to reveal much more about a social issue than what we could have gleaned from reading Glenn Greenwald’s incendiary pieces in the Guardian before he got axed. We chose Wim Wenders’ ponderous and breathtaking portrait of Sebastião Salgado because it so beautifully realizes what’s possible in documentary filmmaking. Taking some of the same energy of Wenders’ 2011 Pina, but with the added benefit of its subject still being, you know, alive, The Salt of the Earth naturally and without agenda elucidates a whole boatload of insights about the human condition from a man who had the great privilege of documenting that condition in all sorts of circumstances across the globe. The film is a gorgeous piece of work that bears Wenders’ trademark understated humanism throughout, and we think it deserves just about every accolade it can garner.

Other Nominees:
Finding Vivian Maier
Last Days in Vietnam

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