Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.
The Academy Awards aren’t exactly “my tempo.” Maybe it’s the campaigning, or perhaps it’s the exceedingly more vanilla choices that keep taking one step forward and two steps back each year. Predictability has caused the general public to become more cynical towards the ceremony (you can check out my piece last year on Oscar Bait). But, of course, that’s not going to stop film fans from locking in their predictions and tuning in for the big night, which is this Sunday, February 22nd. And let’s just get real– it’s a wildly entertaining night with dozens of unexpected moments. Of course I’m talking about the infamous “selfie” picture prompted by last year’s host Ellen Degeneres.
Let’s not allow the meager number of 6,000 Academy voters who are largely made up of old, white dudes decide what goes in the pantheon of film history. Instead, we’ll make our own picks. Here are some alternative picks for who will and should take home one of those coveted gold statues. Because we all know what the accolade can do for your career– just take a look at the illustrious filmography of Cuba Gooding Jr.
AMERICAN SNIPER by Jason Hall
THE IMITATION GAME by Graham Moore
INHERENT VICE by Paul Thomas Anderson
THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING by Anthony McCarten
WHIPLASH by Damien Chazelle
Will win: THE IMITATION GAME by Graham Moore. Not that great of a film, but the tale of the misanthropic homosexual genius Alan Turing has impressed millions of people, but I’m not one of them.
Should win: WHIPLASH by Damien Chazelle. Chazelle wrote the most intimidating figure caught on film last year. Enough said.
Could win: AMERICAN SNIPER by Jason Hall. ‘Merica. That’s why.
BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE) by Alejandro G. Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. and Armando Bo
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL by Wes Anderson and Huge Guinness
BOYHOOD by Richard Linklater
FOXCATCHER by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman
NIGHTCRAWLER by Dan Gilroy
Will win: BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE) by Alejandro G. Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. and Armando Bo. This script has a lot of meat on its bones and has just enough artsy pretension to grab the attention of voters.
Should win: THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL by Wes Anderson and Huge Guinness. Did I say artsy? Well, Anderson’s flowery and at times vulgar language was a hoot and unfortunately will go home empty handed.
Could win: BOYHOOD by Richard Linklater. BOYHOOD was more about the moments in between dialogue than the words on the page, but people freaking love this move. You never know.
IDA: Poland, Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski
LEVIATHAN: Russia, Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev
TANGERINES: Estonia, Directed by Zaza Urushadze
TIMBUKTU: Mauritania, Directed by Abderrahmane Sissako
WILD TALES: Argentina, Directed by Damian Szifron
Will win: IDA. Because it’s simply that good.
Should win: IDA. But, it’s a shame FORCE MAJUERE was left off this list.
Could win: LEVIATHAN. Haven’t seen this film yet, but if it’s country of origin eludes to anything it may just be the most existential/nihilistic film at this year’s ceremony.
BIRDMAN or (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE), Emmanuel Lubezki
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, Robert Yeoman
IDA, Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski
MR. TURNER, Dick Poop
UNBROKEN, Roger Deakins
Will win: BIRDMAN because everybody loves a good gimmick now and again. But Emmanuel Lubezki crafted a damn good one.
Should win: This is a toughie, on one hand it should go to BIRDMAN, or THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, but Roger Deakins is long overdue for his Oscar. The verdict is… BIRDMAN.
Could win: MR. TURNER, just so Academy head Cheryl Boone Isaacs can get another crack at the name Dick Pope.
BIG HERO 6
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2
SONG OF THE SEA
THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA
Will win: THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA because of what I just said.
Should win: THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA is simply beautiful and undeniably charming. Gotta love it.
Could win: BIG HERO 6, even though this movie was utterly disappointing and had a weird Jesus metaphor in the subtext.
Alejanro G. inarritu, BIRDMAN or (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE)
Richard Linklater, BOYHOOD
Bennett Miller, FOXCATCHER
Wes Anderson, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
Morten Tyldum, THE IMITATION GAME
Will win: If it’s anybody but, Linklater the Academy has officially lost their mind.
Should win: Richard Linklater, duh.
Could win: Alejandro G. Inarritu has a shot, but the 12 years project has the edge.
Robert Duvall, THE JUDGE
Ethan Hawke, BOYHOOD
J.K. Simmons, WHIPLASH
Mark Ruffalo, FOXCATCHER
Edward Norton, BIRDMAN or (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE)
Will win: J.K. Simmons has been the frontrunner since Sundance 2014 and no disrespect to any of the other players here, but their roles are child’s play compared to the magic that Simmons taps into on-screen.
Should win: Did you read anything? I just read. J.K. Simmons, man.
Could win: If it was anybody else it would have to go to Edward Norton’s portrayal of an actor with lots and lots of baggage.
Patricia Arquette, BOYHOOD
Emma Stone, BIRDMAN or (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE)
Laura Dern, WILD
Kiera Knightley, THE IMITATION GAME
Meryl Streep, INTO THE WOODS
Will win: Patricia Arquette is a stone cold lock.
Should win: We were able to see Arquette mature right before our eyes and her entire performance is solid, but she’s bringing it home for her final scene where she declares “I wish I had more time!” Well Ms. Arquette this is certainly your time.
Could win: Really? Meryl Streep? Does she even need to be here? But, second place goes to Emma Stone’s rebellious character.
Steve Carrell, FOXCATCHER
Bradley Cooper, AMERICAN SNIPER
Benedict Cumberbatch, THE IMITATION GAME
Michael Keaton, BIRDMAN or (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE)
Eddie Redmayne, THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
Will win: It’s going to be Eddie Redmayne this year. But his participation in the dreadful JUPITER ASCENDING could have hurt his chances a bit.
Should win: It’s difficult to get behind a category where four out of the five nominees are playing real people. So by default it should go to Keaton for his vivacious role, but there is one crucial actor left out of the running and that is Ralph Fiennes in BUDAPEST. It was hands down the best piece of acting that 2014 had to offer. Maybe if he exercised his right to wear a prosthetic nose he could have squeaked in there.
Could win: At this point, who knows.
Marion Cotillard, TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT
Felicity Jones, THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
Julianne Moore, STILL ALICE
Rosamund Pike, GONE GIRL
Reese Witherspoon, WILD
Will win: After being nominated four times prior, Julianne Moore she has proved that she’s prolific in terms of quality in her work.
Should win: This is Moore’s to lose. Her as a woman with early onset Alzheimer’s was tearful, yet completely unforced. Gotta give it up for Rosamund Pike though she was sensational and quite frankly terrifying.
Could win: Felicity Jones isn’t quite ready, and Reese Witherspoon is picking more interesting roles, but it’s nice for them to just get a pat on the back
BIRDMAN or (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE)
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
THE IMITATION GAME
THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
Will win: Not only was BOYHOOD unanimously accepted throughout the world of cinema in 2014, it was the year’s most ambitious and ground film. A movie like this only comes around once in a lifetime, and what else can be said that hasn’t already been stated? It’s got to be BOYHOOD.
Should win: It’s going to be BOYHOOD, but if you were to eliminate that from the equation, I would say BUDAPEST over any of the ho-hum biopics listed. You can probably eliminate SELMA, THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, WHIPLASH and AMERICAN SNIPER since they were 86’d from the directing category.
Could win: BIRDMAN is our final outlier, but AMERICAN SNIPER could possibly get the award due to the MASSIVE box office tally it has accrued over the past couple of months.
The 87th Annual Academy Awards will air live on ABC on Feb. 22 at 4 p.m. PT/ 6 p.m. CT/ 7 p.m. ET.