Tech Support: Final thoughts on Oscar's crafts as 'Budapest' and 'Sniper' aim for gold

Posted by · 11:20 am · February 18th, 2015

The guilds, British Academy (BAFTA) and critics have all had their say. We're now four days from the 87th annual Academy Awards, so it's time to finally analyze the race for the wins. Most categories are fairly predictable, but there are some wildcards.

While I expect “The Grand Budapest Hotel” to take more than its share of craft categories, with “American Sniper” and possibly “Birdman” doing well, too, it's fair to say we won't be seeing a year like last year, where “Gravity” took six of 10 categories, and “The Great Gatsby” took two more.

More interesting is what I suspect will be a trend of repeat Oscar winners. I'm guessing the winners in most categories (Cinematography, Costume Design, Makeup and Hairstyling, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Visual Effects) will have already thanked the Academy before. While most of these winners would be deserving, several big names will still be waiting for their first statuettes. I'm hoping I'm wrong about some of this.

Let's consider…


Emmanuel Lubezki undoubtedly came close to winning this category for “Children of Men” and “The Tree of Life.” Last year, he finally won an Oscar on his sixth nomination, for “Gravity.” It seems all but certain that he'll now win two statuettes in a row for his BFCA/BAFTA/ASC-triumphant lensing of “Birdman.” In addition to precursors, the fact is the film's photography is a tremendous part of its success and will live in film history.

Some day, Roger Deakins will win this category. He has to, right? And I'd say his epic lensing of “Unbroken” is second, if only because it is so epic. But it's a very distant second in a category where Lubezki is so far ahead. Dick Pope will have to be content with one of his Mike Leigh collaborations finally being recognized (“Mr. Turner”) while Robert Yeoman (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”) and the duo of Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski (“Ida”) should simply savor their first nominations.

Will Win: “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Could Win: “Unbroken”
Should Win: “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” (But I really, really want to see Deakins with a statue in his hands.)


The legendary Milena Canonero is far ahead in this category for creating the world of the “Grand Budapest.” (That purple is iconic.) Having won BAFTA, Costume Designers Guild and BFCA awards for this likely crafts category sweeper, I'm very confident Canonero will pick up statuette number four.

In a field consisting mostly of other past winners for films not as widely loved by AMPAS – Colleen Atwood (“Into the Woods”), Jacqueline Durran (“Mr. Turner”) and Mark Bridges (“Inherent Vice”) – her fourth win is unlikely to raise any eyebrows. Anna B. Sheppard (“Maleficent”) will remain the sole non-winner in the category but that cannot be surprising for a summer film with no other nominations.

Will Win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Could Win: “Into the Woods”
Should Win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”


Now here's an interesting race – one of a few crafts categories that seems genuinely open. (The absence of BFCA winner “Birdman” from the final five will undoubtedly draw “Brokeback Mountain” comparisons if the film does not win the top prize.)

One would think Sandra Adair would be best-poised to win this category for the other major Best Picture contender, “Boyhood”. She did win the ACE Eddie drama award (the film's sole guild prize outside of Patricia Arquette's SAG win) and one has to admire her 12-year effort. But while I think Adair will win, cases could be made for other contenders.

Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach put together notable suspenseful war movie elements in “American Sniper,” a late breaker on the scene. A triumph here is possible and could be a sign of major upsets coming in Best Picture or Best Actor. Even more likely, in my opinion, “Whiplash” could pull a “Traffic” and win every non-Best Picture award for which it is nominated. This was an editing showcase and won the BAFTA.

Barney Pilling, despite an ACE Eddie win and setting a crisp pace, will likely need to be satisfied with his nomination for “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” William Goldenberg seems least likely given that “The Imitation Game” appears to have stalled.

Will Win: “Boyhood”
Could Win: “Whiplash”
Should Win: “Whiplash”


So I realize creating monsters on a major blockbuster is a classic way to win here, so “Guardians of the Galaxy” has to be considered. And, yes, transforming a famous actor to make him unrecognizable can be a force to be reckoned with in this category, so let's not totally rule out “Foxcatcher.”

But, really, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a design showcase, with period work, aging, birthmarks and tattoos to demonstrate the multi-faceted achievements of the makeup artists. When you also consider that it's won the BFCA and the BAFTA, and is the sole Best Picture nominee among the final three, its path to victory seems all but assured.

Will Win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Could Win: “Guardians of the Galaxy”
Should Win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

One of the trickier crafts categories to predict this year is Best Original Score. Jóhann Jóhannsson won the Globe for his soaring “Theory of Everything” score, while Alexandre Desplat has won the BAFTA (and the Grammy!) for his joyous compositions for “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Either could win the Oscar, but I'm giving the edge to Jóhannsson given the uniqueness of his score, the fact that first-time nominees frequently win when nominated, and that Desplat could encounter some vote-splitting problems, also being nominated for “The Imitation Game.” (Though it should be noted, composer names aren't listed on the ballot, so this might not be a significant concern.)

Gary Yershon should be content having earned an inspired and surprising nomination for “Mr. Turner,” while Hans Zimmer feels like he's just along for the ride for “Interstellar.”

Will Win: “The Theory of Everything”
Could Win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Should Win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”


Enough has been written about “Selma” only earning nominations for Best Picture and Best Song. If it's any consolation, it now seems highly likely to win this category, for John Legend and Common's appropriate end credits song, which already has BFCA and Golden Globe wins to its credit.

All four other nominees are the sole nominees from their films. But that is not necessarily a death blow in this category. They all have something going for them – “Grateful” from “Beyond the Lights” has legend Dianne Warren's push, “Lost Stars” from “Begin Again” is a hugely popular entry, “I'm Not Gonna Miss You” from “Glen Campbell…I'll Be Me” has enormous sentiment behind it, and “Everything is Awesome” from “The LEGO Movie” has bubblegum appeal and a prominent place in its film.

How will this work out in the wash? I, for one, doubt any of them will be able to emerge as a clear challenge to “Glory.”

Will Win: “Glory” from “Selma”
Could Win: “Grateful” from “Beyond the Lights”
Should Win: “I'm Not Gonna Miss You” from “Glen Campbell…I'll Be Me”


Even when it wasn't clear that “The Grand Budapest Hotel” was going to be a nominations sweeper, its production design always seemed the logical place to award the movie. Now, Adam Stockhausen and Anna Pinnock seem highly likely to win well-deserved first Oscars for what can only be described as creating a title character. Surely the first time a Wes Anderson movie wins Oscars, Best Production Design needs to be among them?

Maria Djurkovic's first nomination for “The Imitation Game” is likely a distant second. “Interstellar,” “Into the Woods” and “Mr. Turner” are all worthy nominees, but I cannot see them beating “Grand Budapest” in the discipline that is perhaps the quintessential trademark of Wes Anderson films.

Will Win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Could Win: “The Imitation Game”
Should Win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”


Regardless of what happens in Sound Mixing, I fully expect Bub Asman and Robert Alan Murray to triumph in this category for “American Sniper.” It's the obvious place to award the Eastwood effort and I'm sure the Academy will admire this creation of Iraq War chaos. It had a good showing at the MPSE Awards (but then again, so did “Birdman” and “Unbroken” due to the multiple categories).

“Birdman” is likely in second given that it's a potential Best Picture winner and it has a fighting chance to take the Sound Mixing statuette – but are the sound effects really what people are going to most remember from this film? “Unbroken” is clearly in second among the war movies, “Interstellar” doesn't make sense as a winner of anything other than Visual Effects, and even though “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” would have my vote, it's clearly just along for the ride.

Will Win: “American Sniper”
Could Win: “Birdman or (“The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Should Win: “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”


I would love to see “Whiplash” repeat its BAFTA win here. The sound builds the mood and complements what we see on screen to an extent done in no other film this year. Ultimately, however, the fact that it was not even nominated for the Cinema Audio Society award gives me pause. Moreover, “American Sniper” just seems like a likelier winner, given that it is a war film with enormous box office behind it, and is a dark horse to win the top prize. And it would be nice to see Eastwood's longtime production sound mixer Walt Martin win a posthumous statuette.
“Birdman's” Society triumph means it is also in contention, especially if it sweeps (think “Slumdog Millionaire”). “Interstellar's” nomination is quite something given the criticism leveled at it, but even putting that aside, I cannot see it having enough going for it to win this category. Ditto for “Unbroken,” which is clearly secondary in terms of war films (behind “American Sniper”) and Frank Montaño/Jon Taylor films (behind “Birdman”).

Will Win: “American Sniper”
Could Win: “Whiplash”
Should Win: “Whiplash”


Three years ago, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” seemed poised to win this category for revolutionizing the art form. It didn't seem right to me so I observed two facts that still hold true to this day:

1. A non-Best Picture nominee has not triumphed over a Best Picture nominee in this category since 1970, when “Tora! Tora! Tora!” beat “Patton”; and

2. A film hasn't won this category without a single other nomination since 1992, when “Death Becomes Her” beat “Batman Returns.”

Fortunately for “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” which won the BFCA award and netted more than its share of Visual Effects Society wins, there is no Best Picture nominee in the field this year. But it remains a lone nominee, and the work, though amazing, is no longer as novel as it was on its predecessor (even if it is quite advanced from that point).

“Interstellar” is clearly respected by the Academy in some areas, having earned five nominations (even for its derided sound mixing). With a BAFTA win to its credit and as many total nominations as the other four nominees combined, Nolan's film has to be considered the favorite this year. I hope I'm wrong.

“Guardians of the Galaxy” is a clearly beloved romp that has dark horse potential. While “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” are deserving nominees, earning their franchises their first Oscar nominations (outside of “The Avengers”), they're going to have to be content with the nominations given the competition.

Will Win: “Interstellar”
Could Win: “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”
Should Win: “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”

And that's all folks. Tune in Monday for the postmortem and click through to the next page if you're interested in my predictions in other categories.

Enjoy Oscar night!


Best Picture
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”

Best Director
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”

Best Actor
Michael Keaton, “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”

Best Actress
Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”

Best Supporting Actor
J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”

Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”

Best Adapted Screenplay
“The Imitation Game”

Best Original Screenplay
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”

Best Cinematography
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”

Best Costume Design
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Best Film Editing

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Best Music (Original Score)
“The Theory of Everything”

Best Music (Original Song)
“Glory” from “Selma”

Best Production Design
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Best Sound Editing
“American Sniper”

Best Sound Mixing
“American Sniper”

Best Visual Effects

Best Animated Feature Film
“How to Train Your Dragon 2”

Best Foreign Language Film

Best Documentary Feature

Best Documentary Short Subject
“Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1”

Best Short Film (Animated)
“The Bigger Picture”

Best Short Film (Live Action)
“The Phone Call”

Comments Off on Tech Support: Final thoughts on Oscar's crafts as 'Budapest' and 'Sniper' aim for gold Tags: , | Filed in: HitFix · In Contention