Every week, the Criticwire Survey asks film and TV critics two questions. (The answer to the second, “What is the best film in theaters right now?” can be found at the end of this survey.) Send suggestions for future questions to sam at indiewire dot com.
Experienced Oscar-watchers know better than to overinvest in who wins what,
but there are always a few nominees we can’t help rooting for, and
against. Which Sunday-night victory would make you the happiest, and
which would drive
you the most insane?
Ben Travers, Indiewire
Worst case: The adapted screenplay race is a veritable minefield of possible calamity. A win for “American Sniper,” “The Imitation Game” or even “The Theory of Everything” would send me up to the rooftop ready to take a nosedive, but let’s focus on the worst of the bunch to save time. Jason Hall’s “Sniper” script is so incomplete its lack of clarity generated months of controversy (and a giant box office). People couldn’t settle for saying, “Well, the script just didn’t answer any of the questions it introduced, nor did it accurately depict almost anything in its own story.” Instead, they debated everything, it seems, other than whether or not they should be wasting their breath on a movie from the writer of 2013’s megabomb “Paranoia.” If he wins, it’s incomprehensible, unjust and quite cruel to young writers looking to learn the ins and outs of good screenwriting.
Best case: That’s why my greatest joy would come from an “Inherent Vice” victory in the same category. Paul Thomas Anderson did the impossible in adapting Thomas Pynchon’s intricate story of Doc Sportello, weaving an equal parts complex and delightful trip through ’70s L.A. Even critics of the film should be willing to admit its in line with the source material in both tone and feel, making “Inherent Vice” the ideal to strive for in this genre. Throw in the absurd fact PTA is zero for six at the Oscars, and you’ve got yourself the most deserving candidate of the night.
Alan Zilberman, Brightest Young Things, RogerEbert.com
Best case: I’ll be happiest if, somehow, “Selma” wins Best Picture. It’s so much better than middling Great Man biopics, and it’s demonstrate that the Academy is no longer seduced by whatever op-ed drives a smear campaign.
Worst case: I’ll be driven insane if Eddie Redmayne wins Best Actor. His performance is all about bittersweet histrionics, instead of depth of feeling, and I’m tired of The Academy’s obsession with physical transformations.
Monica Castillo, International Business Times
Best Case: Wait, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” isn’t going to sweep the awards? I wouldn’t mind a “Selma” upset for the hell of it. It’s such a crapshoot this year to pick a winner, I feel very ambivalent about deciding on a certain film.
Worst Case: Except I will probably spill my champagne in anger if “The Theory of Everything” wins Best Picture. It’s such a cinematic abomination (aside from the lead performances) it would almost be a disservice to the Academy to chose the most lackluster picture for its shiny gold award.
Neil Young, Hollywood Reporter, Sight & Sound
Best case: Sunday night is all about Julianne Moore, because if we have to have Oscars then Julianne Moore has to have an Oscar.
Worst case: At the time of writing those wise sages the UK bookies have “Whiplash” as 3/1 2nd favorite (behind “The Imitation Game”) for Adapted Screenplay, which is insanity-stoking as a) this film is only “adapted” in that it’s an extension of Chazelle’s own short, and b) the script of “Whiplash” is an egregious embarrassment, pitifully unworthy of the rightly nommed Simmons, Cross, Mann, Wilkins and Curley.
Peter Howell, Toronto Star
Best case: I’m so tired of the “Boyhood” vs. “Birdman” punditry, including my own, that I’d be delighted if the Academy made chumps of us all by giving Best Picture to “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” I was reminded how much I love this movie by watching Matt Zoller Seitz’s thoughtful video essay on it. Even though “Grand Budapest” likely won’t win Best Picture, it’s exciting to dream the dream. I’m attempting to mirror what Mr. Moustafa says of Gustav H.’s reveries: “He certainly sustained the illusion with a marvelous grace.”
Worst case: If an Academy choice could drive me “insane,” I’d have been in the nuthouse a long time ago. But I’d be mildly perturbed if anyone other than Julianne Moore won for Best Actress or anyone other than J. K. Simmons for Best Supporting Actor. Both are excellent actors, long overdue for Oscar laurels.
Scott Mendelson, Forbes
Best Case: Offhand, the somewhat unlikely contender who I am rooting for is Dan Gilroy in the Best Original Screenplay category for “Nightcrawler.” It was my favorite film of the year so obviously I’d be thrilled if the film’s writer/director took home an Oscar. Still, at this point in his
career, the nomination is his own reward and he’ll be back. Obviously I’d be super amused if SELMA somehow won Best Picture, since it’s my favorite of the nominated films, but that’s obviously not going to happen. In terms of just causing pandemonium, I’d be amused if Bradley Cooper (who is quite good in an often understated turn) won Best Actor for “American Sniper.” Frankly the fact that Michael Keaton might lose Best Actor while “Birdman” might win Best Picture and Best Director kind of blows my mind, since Keaton’s performance seemed to be the central reason people were interested in and embraced the movie in the first place.
Worst Case: I think the most jaw-droppingly stupid victory would be if Robert Duvall won Best Supporting Actor for “The Judge.” It’s a movie that almost no one liked, one that didn’t even do well at the box office, one that didn’t even that many huzzahs for Duvall’s over-the-top supporting turn save for one grim moment in a bathtub. It’s one thing to shine in a disappointing movie (I’m no fan of “Foxcatcher,” but Ruffalo is great as always), but Duvall didn’t even give that interesting of a performance in one of the year’s worst films. I can’t imagine him winning, but the fact that he even got nominated means I can’t entirely write it off.
Richard Brody, New Yorker
They can’t make the Oscars early enough. The perpetual awards season is like the unending electoral cycle, with its gotcha games and well-timed smears, plus the additional problem of not mattering. Okay, it matters, because an Academy Award can give a career a major boost and help a filmmaker get work produced that might not otherwise see the light of a projection bulb. But awards fatigue has already set in, and, given the serious unlikelihood that the actual best picture will win Best Picture (of course, I mean “The Grand Budapest Hotel”), a modest proposal that this year’s edition defer to the practicalities of the campaign and put on its full meta jacket, bestowing its awards to the awards that have already been given: Best Emcee, Best Original Introduction, Best Outfit, Best Acceptance Speech, Best Entrance, Best Exit, Best Male Presenter, Best Female Presenter, Best Stage Direction, Best Ceremony, and, to cap it off, Best Best-Picture Award (which would go to the National Society of Film Critics for “Goodbye to Language”). But you did ask a question. The nomination process for foreign films is a sham and a shame, and it was already a major pleasant surprise to see Abderrahmane Sissako’s great “Timbuktu” among the candidates for Best Foreign Language Film; it’s also a reminder that no film by a sub-Saharan African director has ever won the award (I’m excluding “Black and White in Color” by the French director Jean-Jacques Annaud and “Tsotsi” by “X-Men’s” Gavin Hood) — not even a film by Ousmane Sembene, who, for the forty-year span of his career, was one of the world’s best directors and never got nominated. So it’s about time.
Danny Bowes, Salt Lake City Weekly, The AV Club
Best Case: My emotional detachment from the Oscars this year is so complete it should have subtitles, but as it happens I do have answers. The thing that would make me happiest (that’s even remotely likely to happen, since for some reason a “Grand Budapest Hotel” sweep is out of the question) is for “The Tale of Princess Kaguya” to win Best Animated Feature, because it’s about thirty times better than anything else nominated (and considerably better than the non-nominated “Lego Movie”) but is still a long shot because apparently no one bothered to watch it.
Worst Case: While it won’t drive me insane, I’ll be less than pleased with any non-acting, non-Lubezki awards for the odious, masturbatory “Birdman.” But there are limits to that displeasure. It’s just the Oscars.
Adam Batty, Hope Lies at 24 Frames Per Second
Best Case: I’m going to remain hopeful and cross my fingers for The Society of the Crossed Keys and Wes Anderson’s “Grand Budapest Hotel” to win big. While I fear it may struggle with the bigger prizes I’ve got a feeling it will do well in the technical categories. That being said, I also feel like it would be a victory for good taste should “Boyhood” take the top honors.
Worst Case: On the flip side, I’ve avoided entirely the two Brit-factory produced prestige biopics, so will save my concern for “Birdman,” which is being held aloft far too highly in some quarters.
Tomris Laffly, Movie Mezzanine, Film Journal International
We all get so worked up in the heat of the awards season and rant endlessly (and often times, unreasonably) about who should win/who should NOT win. But now that the Oscar voting has come to an official end, maybe we can pause for a moment, take a deep breath and realize no matter what happens on Oscar night, many artists’ hard work and dedication will be rewarded and who is to say one is more or less deserving than the other? It’s all relative. I do hope all nominees still have some joy and enthusiasm left in them after months and months of campaigning, and they feel the pride of their nomination.
Now that I have said this out loud, I believe I have earned my right to go back to ranting and speculating. Okay, just kidding. Honestly, no likely victory we’ve been talking about the past few weeks would drive me insane, even though I am more supportive of some than others. I will just say that I would be thrilled if Michael Keaton pulls a win over Eddie Redmayne (the more likely winner of Best Actor), and if “Whiplash” pulls an upset in Best Editing category (despite “Boyhood” being widely predicted to win there.) Best Picture/Director? I won’t even touch those.
Joey Magidson, The Awards Circuit, First Showing
Best Case: One of the things I’ve learned as an Oscar prognosticator is that you need to keep emotion out of your predictions. At the same time though, I’ll be crossing my fingers that “Interstellar” manages to pull off a win, either in Best Original Score or Best Visual Effects. That would make my evening.
Worst case: On the flip side, if “American Sniper” somehow winds up pulling an upset in Best Adapted Screenplay, that would ever so slightly drive me nuts.
Q.V. Hough, Vague Visages
Best Case: In honor of the 87th Academy Awards, I will run 87 laps around the Fargo Theatre in celebration if “Boyhood” doesn’t win Best Picture. It’s not that I don’t respect “Boyhood” and the technical achievements of Richard Linklater, I just don’t think it’s the film of the year.
How would “Boyhood”affect the average American viewer without endless pop culture references to incite applause or collective hand-holding? I get it — “Boyhood” makes viewers (especially parents) feel good, but we’re talking about best picture. Then again, maybe that’s what Best Picture is all about in 2015: viewer connection. It’s the age of nostalgia. Unfortunately, the raw intensity, flawless acting and outstanding cinematography of Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Ida” goes unnoticed.
I’ll be rooting for Marion Cotillard (Best Actress), the aforementioned “Ida” (Best Cinematography/Foreign Language Film) and Wes Anderson for “Grand Budapest Hotel” (Best Director/Original Screenplay).
I can’t think of a single scene in “Boyhood” that I have to watch again. Good film? Yes. Best Picture? No.
Edwin Arnaudin, Asheville Citizen-Times
Best Case: I remain in pleasant disbelief that Wes Anderson is likely to win Best Original Screenplay for “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” but Paul Thomas Anderson also being rightfully honored for “Inherent Vice” would give me even greater pleasure. His boiling down of Thomas Pynchon’s borderline incomprehensible novel into a film that, OK, may not be entirely cut and dried on the initial view but pretty much is on the second is a major accomplishment and makes his fellow nominees look merely adequate by comparison.
Worst case: On the flip side, Michael Keaton losing Best Actor to Eddie Redmayne is going to garner my loudest groan of the evening. I remain unconvinced why the latter’s Stephen Hawking is considered by so many to be such a remarkable bit of acting. How can it be a great performance when you can barely move and when you can, neither the screenwriter nor director give you a chance to be great? Compare that to what Keaton is doing in “Birdman” – essentially the opposite in all regards – and you wonder how Redmayne even became a finalist.
Luke Goodsell, Movie Mezzanine, Empire
Best Case: I’d love “The Grand Budapest Hotel” to win, but let’s face it — it’s way too good to even be here.
Worst case: “Boyhood” would probably drive me crazy, because it’ll provide more fuel for its critics to decry Richard Linklater’s evil plan to destroy cinema, to suggest that watching it actually causes cancer, or to speculate how many puppies were slaughtered during the production. (He deserves better.)
Greg Cwik, Indiewire, Sight & Sound
Best case: While “Boyhood” deserves to win Best Picture (as Eric Kohn fervidly argues at Indiewire), I would do backflips, or at least attempt to do backflips, and probably snap my neck in the process, if “The Grand Budapest Hotel” wins on Sunday. To say it’s the culmination of Wes Anderson’s prodigious talents and singular style is beside the point; every new Anderson film is the new culmination of his talents. “Fantastic Mr. Fox” was his best film 5 years ago, and “Moonrise Kingdom” was his best two years ago. For all I know his next film will top this one. But something about “Grand Budapest” feels freer, more passionate, not so much a radical departure as much as it is a radical reinforcement of Anderson’s proclivities. Anderson seems to be giving the finger to his critics, like, “Oh, you don’t like my symmetrical shots? I’ll give you symmetrical shots within symmetrical shots! Oh, you don’t like voiceovers and flashbacks? I’ll give you voiceovers within flashbacks within voiceovers within flashbacks!” It has an acerbic sense of humor, plus Jeff Goldblum. It’s also his most melancholic feature yet, with a surprisingly downer of an ending that makes “I wonder if he remembers me” sound jocular. I’d also be happy if Keaton nabs Best Actor, not because he gave the year’s best performance, but just to hear him yell at Hollywood, “You wanna get nuts? Okay, let’s get nuts!” [Camera cuts to Jack Nicholson]
Worst case: I’ll be pretty pissed if Steve Carrell wins Best Actor for wearing a big fake nose, or if “The Imitation Game” wins anything, particularly Best Editing, because that makes no fucking sense at all.
Ethan Alter, Film Journal International, Yahoo! Movies
Worst case: Coming off what was a particularly strong year for documentaries, I’ve been disappointed by the extent to which “CITIZENFOUR” has gone unchallenged in the nonfiction feature race. While the sequences in Snowden’s hotel room are riveting, the rest of Laura Potiras’ film feels cobbled-together, like she’s gathering scraps of footage to bump the movie up to feature length. So I’m not especially enthused at its inevitable Oscar night victory — not that the other nominated films are necessarily ideal alternatives. (I still wish that at least one of my 2014 doc favorites — Frederick Wiseman’s “National Gallery,” Gabe Polsky’s “Red Army” and Lofty Nathan’s “12 O’Clock Boys” —had been recognized.) Obviously, “CITIZENFOUR” has touched a nerve with a wide swath of viewers, but for a non-believer like myself, the film’s tidal wave of victories more closely resembles a capitulation rather than a coronation.
Best case: Sticking in the non-fiction realm, this sounds wishy-washy, but I’ll be genuinely thrilled with whichever film wins the Best Documentary Short Oscar. When I initially read over the synopsis of the nominees, I inwardly groaned at enduring what sounded like a parade of misery: sick children (“Our Curse”), dying parents (“Joanna”), Mexican slaughterhouses (“The Reaper”), crisis call centers (“Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1”) and bleak working class landscapes (“White Earth”). While the subject matter is always heavy, though, none of the individual films are a slog. Each tells a complete story with a compelling point-of-view and achieves a lasting resonance. To me, at least, whichever short ends up winning, it’ll be a stronger example of the documentary form than “CITIZENFOUR.”
Jeff Berg, Las Cruces Bulletin, ABQ Free Press
Best case: “Song of the Sea” winning Best Animated Feature.
Worst case: “Selma” or “Boyhood” winning Best Picture. Neither are deserving.
Adam Kempenaar, Filmspotting
Best case: “Boyhood” taking Best Picture.
Worst case: “The Theory of Everything” or “The Imitation Game” beating “Boyhood” for Best Picture — but since that won’t happen, I’ll go with “Birdman.”
Joanna Langfield, the Movie Minute
Worst case: I hate to get to invested in this stuff, but it would really make me crazy if “Boyhood” doesn’t get recognition for either Best Picture or Director. I, for one, am in awe of the finished product, but as someone however tangentially involved in the film world, I can’t imagine a voter not recognizing the almost unique commitment to the filmmaking world that fueled this beautiful result.Sure there are very worthy contenders on the slate, but, as I see it, voting against this at least equally strong movie is, in a way, voting against the passion for and future of the business in which that voter has earned his or her keep. But weirder things have happened. I won’t go flying off a hospital ledge of anything but even if it “loses” I sure appreciate what this movie means to the audience as well as to the industry that created it.
Peter Keough, Boston Globe
Worst case: “Birdman” over “Boyhood.”
Gary Kramer, Gay City News, Philadelphia Gay News
Best case: I always find the Oscar nominations more interesting than the awards/ceremony itself. I recall attending the Miami Film Festival the year “Crash” beat “Brokeback Mountain” and finding out who won the next morning. So this year, I’m really not that invested in if “Birdman” beats “Boyhood” or if “The Grand Budapest Hotel” provides an upset, even though I’d love to see “Selma” steal the prize.
The only category I’m really concerned about this year is Best Foreign Language Film, as I am showcasing Argentina’s “Wild Tales” as the Film of the Year in “Directory of World Cinema, Argentina, Vol. 2,” which I am co-editing. If “Wild Tales” wins (and I think it has a shot, because it’s a crowd-pleaser) it will be a hat-trick for Argentina, which is the only Latin American country to ever win in this category. That said, I picked “Ida” as my best film of 2014, so I can’t said I’ll be too disappointed if that wins.
Worst case: My other favorite category is the Best Short Film Live Action, and while the brilliant “Butter Lamp is a real longshot, I’d love to see that upset “The Phone Call” which will likely (and undeservedly) take the prize.
Luke Y. Thompson, Topless Robot
I will be upset if the Oscars’ idea of throwing a bone to “Selma” is to give it best song, when “Everything Is Awesome” is clearly the best tune in this category since Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.” I’ll be very happy for Ava if “Selma” wins Best Picture, but I’ll be even happier for the slew of hilariously enraged articles that’ll crop up if “American Sniper” gets anything. Other than that, it’s a year of respectable but not remarkable entries. The only one I really want to see shut out is T”he Theory of Everything.”
Jason Shawhan, Nashville Scene, Interface 2037
Best case: I always work during the proper Oscar broadcast, but you can always hear people’s reactions. My sincerest hope is that Rosamund Pike wins. I adore frontrunner Julianne Moore in ways that defy description, but Pike in “Gone Gir”l is an exceptional achievement, a direct throughline to Deborah Kara Unger’s majestic Catherine Ballard in “Crash,” and also a performance that sloughs off supporting performances in bland rom-coms hopefully forever. So while I will cheer for Moore, I’d like to see Pike get it.
Worst case: The only thing that will summon a huge torrent of invective from me at this point is if “The Imitation Game” wins Best Picture, because its offensive awards campaign really does illustrate how empty and grotesque the actual film is. It’s shameless doublespeak, and I can even accept the incoherent macho art crisis of “Birdman” more than that.
Josh Spiegel, Movie Mezzanine
Best case: What will make me happiest on Oscar Sunday is simple: a Wes Anderson film winning an Oscar or four. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” isn’t my favorite of Anderson’s — that is, and may always be, “The Royal Tenenbaums” — but it’s very close, and was my second-favorite film of 2014. So as much as I remain baffled that Ralph Fiennes didn’t even get nominated in spite of being such a major part of why the film works, if the screenplay, production design and even cinematography take home the gold, I’ll be happy. (Can you believe this is the first time Robert Yeoman’s even been nominated for his work? How is that possible?)
Worst case: Because I haven’t seen as many of the nominees as I’d like, I don’t know that any wins will drive me insane. Of course, if “Birdman” does wind up taking home the Best Picture Oscar, I won’t be surprised — the inside-baseball angle is always appealing to voters — but it’ll be a classic winner that most people struggle to remember in six months’ time, which is antithetical to the idea, if not the execution, of the awards.
Anne-Katrin Titze, Eye For Film
Best case: I am rooting for the Best Costume Design Oscar to go to longtime Wes Anderson collaborator Milena Canonero for “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” She has been dressing travelers since “The Shining” and “Out of Africa.” She showed us what to wear on “The Darjeeling Limited” and suggested little red knit caps under the sea. Canonero’s last Oscar win was when she adorned Kirsten Dunst as future queen on the way by coach from Austria to France in Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette.” André Leon Talley told me “Milena Canonero — that’s the only one” working in film today that he liked.
Worst case: It would not drive me wild, and yet, if the contrived and emotionally shallow “Birdman” won for Best Picture, I surely would shake my fist disapprovingly like Burt Lancaster in “Birdman of Alcatraz.”
Q: What is the best movie in theaters?
Other movies receiving multiple votes: “Timbuktu,” “What We Do in the Shadows”