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

Best Film Editing

TMT PICK: Barney Pilling (Grand Budapest Hotel)

Wes Anderson’s trademark attention to minute detail and photographic composition creates some pretty unique challenges for whoever is sitting in the editor’s chair, and Barney Pilling’s brilliant work in stringing together a remarkable number of particularly meticulous cuts is what really helped to set Anderson’s latest apart. Anderson likes using ensemble casts and employing a difficult mix of precise framing and loosely improvised work on the part of his actors. It’s what gives his films a bright, lively quality. It’s also extraordinary to think of the ways in which his editors pull it off. Pilling’s work kept the pacing of elaborate scenes impeccably taut, maintained a sense of visual continuity across a largely varied array of sequences, and was instrumental in creating Anderson’s tightest film to date. Say what you want about the movie itself; Grand Budapest Hotel is superbly edited.

Other Nominees:
• Tom Cross, Whiplash
• William Goldenberg, The Imitation Game
• Gary D. Roach, American Sniper
• Sandra Adair, Boyhood

Best Foreign Film

TMT PICK: Ida (Poland)

While fellow noms Leviathan and Timbuktu give it a run for the money, Ida soars visually. It’s beauty is in no small part due to a concise narrative, implemented elegantly. The Bergmanesque care to every frame is arresting, but never so painterly as to undermine its steady pacing. It’s daunting to articulate how perfect this film is. As with Bergman, you come away with a sour feeling, but you watch with a sense of wonder and,­ more significantly, ­true compassion for the suffering of the characters. This is a sure pick not because of originality (that’d be Timbuktu), for timeliness (Leviathan), or for having a humanitarian message (Tangerines), but because it is a triumph of economy of storytelling and sheer visual beauty. It is tasteful, yet sensual. Grim, yet life­affirming. Austere, yet vibrant. Ida is nothing short of a reclamation of that hoary cliche of timelessness, and deserves the win for it.

Other Nominees:
Leviathan (Russia)
Tangerines (Estonia)
Timbuktu (Mauritania)
Wild Tales (Argentina)

Best Original Screenplay

TMT PICK: Wes Anderson, Hugo Guinness (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

The glut of period dramas nominated each year provide the pretense of factual research to an audience ready to swallow a “true story” while consenting to a severe dearth of imagination. Few filmmakers are willing to both place themselves in history and write their way out of it. With his ever-increasing international prestige, Wes Anderson used the funds to internalize the writing of Austrian humanist Stefan Zweig — not to create a simple adaptation of his work, but to run wild with the class structures of pre-WWII Europe and fit them into a plot as mechanical as the machines that would later destroy it, all while couching that in a nesting-doll acknowledgement of his own writing process. He created an indelible protagonist in Gustave H., a bisexual libertine whose fondness for poetry and perfume never impeded his fancy for getting rich quick, and whose incongruous brotherhood with Zero while attempting to prove his own innocence was one of the most tragically lithe relationships he’d ever depicted. Once again, Anderson’s sleight-of-hand proved less formally subversive than thrillingly sincere.

Other Nominees:
• Dan Futterman, E. Max Frye, Foxcatcher
• Alexander Dinelaris, Nicolás Giacobone, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Armando Bo, Birdman
• Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler
• Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Best Adapted Screenplay

TMT PICK: Paul Thomas Anderson (Inherent Vice)

When they’re not aiming for visual bravado, Paul Thomas Anderson’s films are some of the most verbally striking in American cinema, as ambitious salesmen, con artists and village idiots speechify toward ideals too big for one human canvas. In his first full-on adapted screenplay, Anderson transmutes the stoned paranoia and free association of Thomas Pynchon’s reference-heavy text, detailing an endless corporate conspiracy in 1970s Los Angeles navigated by one cluelessly persistent detective. Joanna Newsom’s narration lends a distinctly feminine, quasi-mythical sheen to Anderson’s cast of aggro-masculine pushers, charlatans, and doped-up sexpots. Following the thread of Pynchon’s dense ideological drift, Anderson retains the offbeat speech rhythms and selfish deliberations of his best characters, resulting in his loosest and most narratively dense film, and certainly one of his funniest. As an increasingly abstract object amid a sea of prestige pictures, it’s not likely to win any Oscars, but it was certainly more surprising and enthralling moment to moment, word by word, than the other nominees. “You mean the U.S. is, like, someone’s mom… and she’s strung out?”

Other Nominees:
• Jason Hall, American Sniper
• Graham Moore, The Imitation Game
• Anthony McCarten, The Theory of Everything
• Damien Chazelle, Whiplash

Best Original Song

TMT PICK: “Everything is Awesome” (The Lego Movie)

This category boiled down to two possibilities: “Glory” by Common and John Legend from Selma or “Everything Is Awesome” from The Lego Movie. As far as choices go, they are diametrically opposite, with one being an incredibly serious anthem for change and the other being a postmodern deconstruction of the modern pop song. Ultimately, divorced from their films, “Everything Is Awesome” is the better song. It succeeds at mocking a thing while also succeeding at being the thing it mocks. It is so catchy and infectious it makes sense the entire Lego world is obsessed with it while also pointing out the shallow depths to which songs like it plunge. The reassuring anthem of the status quo, manufactured just like the plastic people it entertains, it’s also a rollicking song that can be appreciated on its own merits. It’s an impressive one-two punch, proving satire works best when it works smartest.

Other Nominees:
• “Glory,” Selma
• “Grateful,” Beyond the Lights
• “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me
• “Lost Stars,” Begin Again

Best Director

TMT PICK: Richard Linklater (Boyhood)

Shot in various locations in his native Texas over the course of 12 years, Linklater’s latest is a remarkably cohesive and engrossing narrative feature, made all the more impressive by the fact that he was making the film with children. Boyhood manages to draw us in from the first scene, establishing its compelling characters with the kind of economy that the director has been honing his entire career. Part of what made the film so exceedingly enjoyable to watch was Linklater’s shrewd decision to downplay as much as possible anything gimmicky in the manner in which the film was made. Instead to drawing attention to the progression of time — which would have been easy — Linklater’s primary concern is allowing his characters to develop their own stories and histories. It is a joy to watch, a remarkable entry in the history of American cinema.

Other Nominees:
• Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
• Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman
• Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher
• Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

Best Picture

TMT PICK: Boyhood

The scent of the beanbag chair in our basement in Perrysburg, Ohio, upon which my brother played Goldeneye for hours without getting up to pee, instead wetting his pants, and how the controller faded from black to grey as he held onto that controller for dear life, afternoons collapsing into themselves, a small voice inside my mother saying, ‘Something is wrong with your son,’ and the delicious sensation of throwing his Nintendo64 into the trash when we fought over the television, so much fighting eventually forcing my mother to purchase not one but two high-speed fans for her bedroom so she could lock the door and blast that white noise to drown out the insults thrown back and forth between the two of four children she birthed. The secret kisses we exchanged, two Mormon siblings, four years apart, in the back of the family van as we drove from Northern Ohio to Southern Ohio to visit our grandparents, sweet incestuous kisses no one talks about, and the ways we explored each other’s bodies before they went to shit for other people. Boyhood is a movie about women, women who care for boys, boys related and unrelated, boys everywhere who have no clue how to stand up without the weight of a woman to carry them from a video game to a college to a job to an apartment to a grave. Boys with mothers and toy guns, and husbands sitting in corners who need the secret entrances of women to find their keys. Boyhood is a 12-year project that happens every 12 minutes in the back of 12 family vans driving to 12 houses as 12 brothers and sisters exchange 12 kisses and 12 touches and kill each other 12 times while playing Goldeneye for 12 consecutive days. Boyhood will produce 12 more Boyhoods until there are no more 12 years left for Richard Linklater.

Other Nominees:
American Sniper
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything

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