Kanye West talks a lot of really dumb shit but he made at least one valid point last week: if the awards shows are really, honestly about celebrating artistry and creativity, the orchestra probably shouldn't start playing the artists and creators off the stage after about 60 seconds (and why do some creators get three times longer than others?)
The reason, of course, is because awards shows are a marketing gimmick/fashion show that means very little to anyone except the winners. (If you can name the films that won last year's Best Director and Best Original Screenplay off the top of your head you have a decent shot at taking my job when I retire.)
While they were probably much more respectable in the 1950s Golden Era of Hollywood or the New Era 1970s, today's Oscars have been watered down by the cult of the celebrity, confusing tinkering with the number of "Best Picture" nominees, the fact that they seem to give people awards just for being old, the three-plus-hour runtime, and an overall lack of credibility (Forest Gump over Pulp Fiction!?)
And those are the minor issues. In 2015 the Oscars are still gender and racially unbalanced. A woman has only been nominated for Best Director twice in 87 years (Sofia Coppola — 2003's Lost in Translation and Kathryn Bigelow for 2009's The Hurt Locker. At least Kathryn won), and this year's omission from "Best Actor" for David Oyelowo's performance as Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma is more of the same.
Add to the list the fact that a litany of awards shows (Golden Globes, Directors Guild, etc.) have already given out their hardware so by this Sunday much of the anticipation and drama is lost. Also consider that Hollywood scheduling releases so many of the top contenders in the six weeks prior to Christmas (if at all) that few people have time to watch them. Add in a hour-long pre-show full of dipshits asking stupid questions and what should be cinema's biggest night becomes a big long bore that's not really celebrating anything except a new way to get you to go watch movies that came out last year.
It's a veritable circlejerk but you'll probably watch anyhow, so here are my predictions:
It should go to Michael Keaton for Birdman. Bradley Cooper is the dark horse because many Oscar voters are old as tortoises and those guys love American war movies (and he acted well in a flawed film.) Best Supporting: JK Simmons in Whiplash.
This is Julianne Moore's statue for her strong work in Still Alice, a too-gloomy-for-me Alzheimer's movie. (Note: That utterly offensive Tropic Thunder rule applies here.) Best Supporting: Patricia Arquette in Boyhood.
The Lego Movie came out in 2014 and should have been a clear winner. Except it wasn't nominated, so How to Train Your Dragon 2 will probably take this, everyone loves a cartoon where a parent dies.
Best Original Screenplay
The Grand Budapest Hotel ought to take this one because it was one of the best films of the year and voters will want to award it something (other than "Best Production Design," which they should have locked down.)
Best Adapted Screenplay
Guardians of the Galaxy is perfectly written but it didn't even get a nomination. I'd love to see Paul Thomas Anderson take this for Inherent Vice. Dark horses, American Sniper because: war! Or Imitation Game because: Nazis!
You'd think whoever directed the "Best Picture" ought to win "Best Director" but this one is too-often the consolation prize. Either way, Richard Linklater should win for Boyhood. The "gimmick" of shooting over 12 years also made him work that much harder to envision and execute a grand vision. (Sidenote: ever notice how Boyhood's teen protagonist touches his face when he's nervous exactly like the kid in Dazed and Confused?)
While it is nice to see The Grand Budapest Hotel (rightfully) nominated this race is between Birdman and Boyhood. The latter is an astounding piece of subtlety, it almost seems like nothing happens but that's because the writing and filmmaking are so well crafted, Boyhood is a universal story told perfectly and in a way no filmmaker has ever attempted. But it peaked early, people are already sick of hearing about it. Birdman, equally impressive in scope and style, also has that Hollywood catchphrase that is like money in the bank — it's "edgy". Birdman wins. Dark horse is American Sniper because it has three Academy favourites: Bradley Cooper, geriatric Clint Eastwood, and war!