If I Had a Ballot: My Picks for the Oscars

The 85th Academy Awards® will air live on Oscar® Sunday, February 24, 2013.
I am not in any way shape or form an Oscar pundit who meticulously follows the statistics of who will and won’t be nominated for an Oscar. I take guesses and much of the time my guesses align themselves with the outcomes, but that’s due largely to the overall predictability of the game. However, it rarely lessens my enjoyment of awards season despite becoming less and less enthralled with the resulting winners. Each year I hope for my personal favorite indie darling or lesser seen actress to break through, and often they don’t. So, in anticipation of the Oscar nominations being announced tomorrow, here are the actors, films and directors I would choose if I had a ballot to vote.

Best Motion Picture:
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Obvious Child
Only Lovers Left Alive
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
Guardians of the Galaxy
Best Film ended up being the toughest category for me to fill out, only because the BIG Oscar movies this year are the ones that never really caught on with me. Films like The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything are good on paper and serviceable onscreen, but they’re nothing special. For the obvious choices I picked films like Boyhood and Birdman because they extend a medium in need of a little pushing every once and a while. Whiplash and Foxcatcher could both be nominees tomorrow, although I’d guess the former first and both are dark, grueling meditations on determination but in very different avenues. The Grand Budapest Hotel and Selma both feel remarkably singular, both proudly bearing the stamp of their directors’ styles. Only Lovers Left Alive, Guardians of the Galaxy, Obvious Child and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya will never, ever, happen, but I really can’t find an argument that convinces me of why other than Oscar’s dislike of genre films.

Best Actor:
David Oyelowo – Selma
Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler
Brendan Gleeson – Calvary
Ralph Fiennes- The Grand Budapest Hotel
Michael Keaton- Birdman
Right on the Outskirts:  Jack O’Connell (Starred Up), Alfred Molina (Love is Strange), Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) and Steve Carell and Channing Tatum (Foxcatcher).
There’s a very great and very sad possibility that all but one of these performances will be nominated tomorrow, and one (Brendan Gleeson) definitely won’t. Much has been made of how this year has been a wealth of riches in terms of phenomenal male performances, and all that chatter is right. It’s just a shame that the more obvious choices are the ones that seem to be handpicked for the Academy’s approval. Benedict Cumberbatch and Eddie Redmayne are both fantastic actors and (particularly the latter) both deliver strong performances, but both feature in by-the-numbers biopics. Michael Keaton is a sure thing and maybe even a destined winner, and it’s deserved – I can’t think of any other actor that could have played the role the way he did, and being irreplaceable goes a long way. Jake Gyllenhaal has been well loved thus far and delivered a positively unhinged performance, but I still worry that he may be ousted by a safer candidate in Bradley Cooper for American Sniper. David Oyelowo should be a frontrunner but due to controversy has been sidelined despite delivering one of the most lived-in performances of the year. Ralph Fiennes is delightful and more than worthy but is very comedy-driven for most of it, and Brendan Gleeson is powerful but doesn’t stand a chance.

Best Actress:
Jenny Slate – Obvious Child
Gugu Mbatha-Raw – Belle
Tilda Swinton – Only Lovers Left Alive
Emily Blunt – Into the Woods
Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl
Right on the Outskirts: Agata Trzebuchowska – Ida
It has not been a weak year for actresses – people have just been looking in the wrong places. Jenny Slate is remarkable in a comedic role that allows her some moments of melancholy as well. Emily Blunt is a force to be reckoned with in Into the Woods, lighting up the screen whenever present. Rosamund Pike gives a sinister and subversive performance as Amazing Amy and in all reality should be the actress to beat but has industry favorite Julianne Moore to contend with. Gugu Mbatha-Raw is being overlooked for whatever reason and it’s criminal when you see her get passed over for actresses like Felicity Jones who give good performances but nothing memorable. Tilda Swinton has had one hell of a year and her character Eve is warm and natural and oozes screen presence and she’ll be looked over for Jennifer Aniston who also was in a smaller movie but has industry cred.

Best Supporting Actor
J.K Simmons – Whiplash
Chris Pine – Into the Woods
Tony Revolori – The Grand Budapest Hotel
Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher
Riz Ahmed – Nightcrawler
Right on the Outskirts: Stephan James – Selma
Mark Ruffalo and J.K. Simmons are pretty much definite sure shots for nominations tomorrow and I’ll guess now that Simmons will go on to win, and he’ll deserve it because his performance was masterful and terrifying. “Not my tempo” may have been the most threatening phrase uttered this year in film. Ruffalo brings a lot of heart to Foxcatcher, a movie that certainly needed it, and I love him in just about everything so I can’t complain about a nomination. The other three are where my hopes and dreams for tomorrow will never be touched, because despite giving great turns none of them have a shot in hell… maybe Riz Ahmed, but he’s a super long shot despite proving himself wondefully in Nightcrawler. Tony Revolori gives a strong breakout turn as Zero in The Grand Budapest Hotel, showcasing an acute comic timing that fit well with Wes Anderson’s style. Chris Pine had me laughing harder in one scene than in any other movie this year, and if the Academy ever decided to actually pay attention to offbeat or comic performances then he’d be a shoe-in. Alas.

Best Supporting Actress:
Tilda Swinton – Snowpiercer
Agata Kulesza – Ida
Rose Byrne – Neighbors
Carmen Ejogo – Selma
Patricia Arquette – Boyhood
Right on the Outskirts: Rene Russo (Nightcrawler) 
It’s another category being swamped by boring and predictable nominations. Patricia Arquette I understand and support because of her portrayal of a complicated woman and complicated mother who had one of the best damn ending scenes of the year. I get it. Few of the other predictions resonate, so here are my choices. Tilda Swinton for embracing her crazy side and not being afraid to go all-out in a performance. Agata Kulesza for being heartbreaking and sorrowful while her character pretended otherwise. Rose Byrne for being hilarious and eye-catching and, like Swinton, being unafraid to put herself out there. Carmen Ejogo for painting a quiet and loving portrait of a woman fearful of yet dedicated to a cause that she’s found herself in. All fantastic female characters, all deserving of some love.

Best Director:
Wes Anderson – The Grand Budapest Hotel
Alejandro González Iñárritu – Birdman
Ava DuVernay – Selma
Damien Chazelle – Whiplash
Bennett Miller – Foxcatcher
I have less to say here only because I don’t think any of these are too far-fetched for nominations, aside for maybe Bennett Miller. Ava DuVernay created a tonally aggressive film and succeeded largely because of it. Wes Anderson produced his best film yet in a strong filmography. Alejandro González Iñárritu changed the game and Damien Chazelle burst onto the scene with style and confidence.
Who are your predictions for tomorrow’s nominations? Let us know who would end up on your ballot!



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