Oscars 2015: Who Should Win, Who Will Win

These aren't guarantees. They're simply predictions.


Truth: We’re exhausted and absolutely fried from debating last year’s movies. Between our mid-year report, our annual report, and our not-so-distant Golden Globes coverage, the fact that we’re still talking about Boyhood, Michael Keaton, and the Selma snubs leads us to believe we’re living some sort of Groundhog Day existence.

We’re not complaining, though. This is our first year out of the gate and we’re pretty stoked with the Oscar spread. After all, most of us grew up on the films of Richard Linklater and Wes Anderson, so the idea that they could very well win top honors come Sunday night is exciting and emotionally refreshing. It’s like we’re championing old friends.

Now, that may sound delusional — and it sort of is — but I blame one thing: Oscar fever. It happens to cinephiles every year, no matter the cynicism, and we’re currently boiling at a record 107 degrees. To let off some steam, we’ve compiled our own predictions and tossed ’em up in the pages ahead. So, grab some popcorn, sit back, and read on, fellow buffs.

Here’s even a little rockin’ tune to help you get in the spirit:

–Michael Roffman

Best Animated Feature Film

best animation oscars Oscars 2015: Who Should Win, Who Will Win

Big Hero 6
The Boxtrolls
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Song of the Sea
The Tale of Princess Kaguya

What should win: The LEGO Movie
What will win: How to Train Your Dragon 2

When How to Train Your Dragon 2 won this award at the Golden Globes last month, no one was more shocked than the adults at the Dreamworks table. At this point, there is no reason to bet against them this time around. Their competition is full of underwhelmers (Big Hero 6, The Boxtrolls) and unknowns (Song of the Sea, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya), although check out Blake Goble’s review of Kaguya to see what you may have missed last year.

As for what should win, I know. I get it. The LEGO Movie wasn’t nominated. “Get over it, Justin!” Was it because of its use of real actors? Maybe. But come on! Did we need another lesson in Dragon training? If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that you only get one chance to train those beasts. Bite your head off, man. –Justin Gerber

Best Foreign Language Film

best foreign language oscar Oscars 2015: Who Should Win, Who Will Win

Ida (Poland)
Leviathan (Russia)
Tangerines (Estonia)
Timbuktu (Mauritania)
Wild Tales (Argentina)

Who should win: Ugh…
Who will win: Leviathan

Ugh, it’s really just splitting hairs in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Not to uphold the self-esteem movement and say that everybody’s a winner, but every movie nominated here deserves a little Oscar love. So much misery in these films, over land and country and identity and personal spite. Great times, all around.

But realistically, there can only be one winner, and that’s Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan, the astoundingly bleak, dark, and manic social drama about one man’s struggle to retain his dignity in the face of demeaning circumstances. His wife, his son, his lawyer, his friends, a boorish and Putin-esque mayor, my God, what feels like the entire universe is against this guy. But through this familiar sadness comes profound understanding about life and struggle in modern Russia.

For a thinly veiled critique of Putin, with sadness aplenty, Leviathan is just moving. It’s a new realist classic, and it has the awards-circuit momentum (Best Foreign Language Film at The Globes, Best Screenplay at Cannes — the only notice it won’t receive is Putin’s manly seal of approval), so we’d be okay with this win. Truly. Although, look, admittedly, we’d be pretty okay with a win from Tangerines, Wild Tales, Timbuktu, or Ida as well. Especially the precious Ida. –Blake Goble

Best Documentary Feature

best documentary oscars Oscars 2015: Who Should Win, Who Will Win

Finding Vivian Maier
Last Days in Vietnam
The Salt of the Earth

Who should win: Citizenfour
Who will win: Citizenfour

Oh, what a great category this year. It was startlingly easy to complain about omissions. Such commanding and potent docs as Happy Valley, Life Itself, and The Overnighters couldn’t even make it because the field was so crowded. Yet the field is strong with five distinct nominees.

Finding Vivian Meier’s photographic finds are fascinating. Salt of the Earth? Same thing! Oh, well that makes things easier. Two relatively similar films can often cancel each other out come awards season (see the British Best Actor noms). Last Days of Vietnam was an astute moral quandary about, well, Vietnam, and Virunga’s humanistic take on endangered gorillas could very well sneak in and nab the Oscar for Best Documentary.

But no other 2014 documentary made the cultural and critical splash that Citizenfour made. A chilling and revealing doc about the now, the Edward Snowden biopic was immediate and eye-opening. What other doc could honestly make audiences want to throw their computers out the window? –Blake Goble

Best Cinematography

best cinematography oscars Oscars 2015: Who Should Win, Who Will Win

Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman
Robert Yeoman, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski, Ida
Dick Pope, Mr. Turner
Roger Deakins, Unbroken

Who should win: Robert Yeoman, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Who will win: Emmanuel Lubeski, Birdman

Emmanuel Lubeski’s work on Birdman is a feat of sheer athleticism. With meticulous preparation and a whole lotta hustle, he seamlessly melds vérité with the garish and fantastical as he stays in hot pursuit of Keaton’s deteriorating mind. Plus, Academy voters will likely give him extra credit for the tracking gimmick, and they still love him for Gravity.

But there’s a reason that The Grand Budapest Hotel makes you wanna lick the screen, and that’s veteran lensman Robert Yeoman. As Wes Anderson’s right-eye man, he’s the primary reason all of Anderson’s films demand a big screen viewing and get the Criterion treatment. Long, long overdue for this statue, his drop-dead gorgeous work on The Grand Budapest Hotel may his be best yet. He didn’t just shoot one gorgeous movie. He shot three distinctively splendiferous ones. –Roy Ivy

Best Editing

best editing oscars Oscars 2015: Who Should Win, Who Will Win

American Sniper
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game

Who should win: Tom Cross, Whiplash
Who will win: Sandra Adair, Boyhood

Linklater and co. will go home with a bunch of trophies this award season for Boyhood and deservedly so. Editor Sandra Adair’s seamless sequencing ties together the story in a way we’ve never seen and likely never will again. The jumps from year to year in the life of Mason are never jarring and never take you out of the movie. The obvious exception would be Ellar Coltrane’s growth spurt about halfway through, but nature is what it is. Not much Adair could do about that.

Boyhood is a major achievement from a technical standpoint … but what of Whiplash? So much happens in so small a space in the battle between a drumming protégé and his (tor)mentor. Tom Cross’ work syncing up the drumbeats with particular cuts throughout the movie, especially the final showdown, is something that won’t soon be forgotten. A Whiplash win would be a dark horse win, but crazier things have happened at the Oscars. –Justin Gerber

Best Original Screenplay

best original screenplay oscars Oscars 2015: Who Should Win, Who Will Win

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Who should win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Who will win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

This will probably be the only win for The Grand Budapest Hotel, because that’s what the Academy does with movies like this. If it somehow loses to the script-free Boyhood, I’ll eat my shoe … but I’ll wrap it in a Mendl’s box first. Most stories strewn across 53 years feel like 53 years, especially when war’s involved. But The Grand Budapest Hotel pulls off an epic story within a story (within another story) without being cloying, boring, or longwinded. It’s efficient without cutting corners and has some shocking surprises that even the biggest Anderson acolytes couldn’t expect, but the best part is that zippy dialogue. Every classy and/or crass line that comes out of Gustave’s mouth deserves that trophy. –Roy Ivy

Best Adapted Screenplay

best adapted screenplay Oscars 2015: Who Should Win, Who Will Win

American Sniper
The Imitation Game
Inherent Vice
Theory of Everything

Who should win: Paul Thomas Anderson, Inherent Vice
Who will win: Damien Chazelle, Whiplash

At this point, Whiplash is the one to beat just because of how hard and publicly the Oscars struggled with where exactly it belongs; the film is based on a prior short film Chazelle had made that he transposed into a feature himself. The film’s high-wire tension, as generated by drum-based intrigue, is a marvel of storytelling economy, and Chazelle brilliantly, brutally captures the cadence of male figures of power and the ways they use psychological abuse and praise in different ways to inspire those who are most receptive to either of the above.

However, as far as who should take the statuette, we’re firmly in P.T. Anderson’s corner. Nobody’s ever been brave enough to try and bring Thomas Pynchon to the screen before, and in adapting Inherent Vice, Anderson trims the key fat (bye-bye, late-game Vegas sojourn) and finds ways to bring the novel’s hallucinatory prose to life in a way that’s never kitschy or cloying in the slightest. The film is one of those rarities that can move you to laughter or revulsion or tears without you ever fully knowing what’s going on, and that’s one of the hardest tricks a screenplay could ever pull off. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

Best Original Song

best original song oscars Oscars 2015: Who Should Win, Who Will Win

Glen Campbell – “I’m Not Gonna Miss You”, Glen Campbell … I’ll Be Me
John Legend and Common – “Glory”, Selma
Adam Levine – “Lost Stars”, Begin Again
Rita Ora – “Grateful”, Beyond the Lights
Tegan & Sara and The Lonely Island – “Everything Is Awesome”, The Lego Movie

What should win: “Everything Is Awesome”
What will win: “Glory”

An original song not only featured in a movie, but dealing with the events of said movie. A civil rights song in a civil rights film, both of which feature Common. Early indicators point towards John Legend and Common’s “Glory”, not only for its quality, but because of its topical nature in today’s climate: “Now the war is not over/ Victory isn’t won/ And we’ll fight on to the finish/ Then when it’s all done/ We’ll cry glory.” It won at the Golden Globes and will likely be Selma’s lone Oscar win.

However, while no song had as big an impact as last year’s “Let It Go”, The LEGO Movie’s “Everything Is Awesome” is arguably the biggest hit of all the nominees. Written by Shawn Patterson, Joshua Bartholomew, Lisa Harriton, and The Lonely Island, it boasts a pop performance for the ages by the ageless Tegan & Sara, and was a big deal when the animated film arrived a year ago. (Jesus. It’s been a year since The LEGO Movie came out) And would the New Radicals fan in me be averse if Gregg Alexander’s “Lost Stars” went home with the prize? Absolutely not! –Justin Gerber

Best Original Score

best original score oscars Oscars 2015: Who Should Win, Who Will Win

Alexandre Desplat, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Alexandre Desplat, The Imitation Game
Hans Zimmer, Interstellar
Gary Yershon, Mr. Turner
Jóhann Jóhannsson, The Theory of Everything

Who should win: Hans Zimmer
Who will win: Jóhann Jóhannsson

It’s a shame that Alexandre Desplat’s double-dip may well cost him a much-deserved Oscar; his score for The Grand Budapest Hotel is a perfect match for Wes Anderson’s offset preoccupations with mortality and innocence lost, alongside candy-colored whimsy. The score dictates the film’s relentless speed in the best possible way.

If it were up to us, however, this would be Zimmer’s Oscar in a landslide. For as many problems as some might’ve had with the grandiose, ear-piercing scale of Zimmer’s work on Interstellar, the film’s intentionally deafening, churchlike organs brought the film’s deep-space melodramas to a place of truly overwhelming power and even grace. It’s one of the true highlights of a film that’s been picked apart ad nauseam since long before its release.

But we’re thinking the gold will go to Jóhann Jóhannsson, whose more traditional but nevertheless moving work on The Theory of Everything fills the film’s intimate take on the biopic with a sense of warmth and wistfulness that helps to put it a cut above your standard Oscar-friendly biopic. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

Best Visual Effects

best visual effects oscars Oscars 2015: Who Should Win, Who Will Win

Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Guardians of the Galaxy
X-Men: Days of Future Past

Who should win: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Who will win: Guardians of the Galaxy

No other special effect this year wowed as much as the jaw-dropping motion capture in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. In a time where mediocre CGI weasels its way into just about every big Hollywood production, the team behind Apes — Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist — managed to create lifelike, seamlessly integrated effects. They actually made a group of chimpanzees riding on horses look real, damnit! Sadly, if Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ disappointing loss at the 2011 Oscars is any indication, they won’t be rewarded for their masterful work. Guardians of the Galaxy made a buttload of money and won critical acclaim to boot. Expect Academy voters to lazily toss it an award based on those factors instead of merit. –Adriane Neuenschwander

Best Makeup/Hairstyling

best makeup oscars Oscars 2015: Who Should Win, Who Will Win

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Guardians of the Galaxy

Who should win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Who will win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Look, if you didn’t have Tilda Swinton in your film last year, good luck winning this category. Her transformative appearances were all destined for Oscar territory, which explains why they chose one (The Grand Budapest) over the others (Snowpiercer, Only Lovers Left Alive). They chose wisely. Follow suit. –Michael Roffman

Best Costume Design

best costume oscars Oscars 2015: Who Should Win, Who Will Win

Milena Canonero, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Mark Bridges, Inherent Vice
Colleen Atwood, Into the Woods
Anna B. Sheppard, Maleficent
Jacqueline Durran, Mr. Turner

Who should win: Maleficent
Who will win: Into the Woods

It would not be the slightest bit hyperbolic to say that all of the nominees in this category are industry icons. Milena Canonero has won three Academy Awards — for Barry Lyndon (1975), Chariots of Fire (1981), and Marie Antoinette (2006) — and has been nominated nine times. Her first film job was designing the costumes for Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, and she recently won a BAFTA for her gorgeous work on The Grand Budapest Hotel. Colleen Atwood is an 11-time Oscar nominee and three-time winner, for Chicago (2001), Memoirs of a Geisha (2006), and Alice in Wonderland (2010). Her costumes for Into the Woods are reliably exquisite. Jacqueline Durran won an Oscar in 2013 for her work on Anna Karenina, in addition to nominations for Pride & Prejudice (2006), Atonement (2008), and now Mr. Turner.

Meanwhile, Mark Bridges has one Academy Award, for 2011’s big winner The Artist. He also has worked on all of Paul Thomas Anderson’s films since 1996’s Hard Eight, in addition to Blow (2002), The Fighter (2010), and Silver Linings Playbook (2012). Anna B. Sheppard has worked on the miniseries Band of Brothers, Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (2009), and last year’s Fury, and has been nominated for an Oscar three times — for Schindler’s List (1993), The Pianist (2002), and now Maleficent — but has never won. This should be her year. The range that Sheppard possesses, from wartime bleakness to dark Disney fantasy brought to lush and vivid life, is nothing short of spectacular.

However, my gut tells me that this year’s Oscar will go to Atwood, the Meryl Streep of costume design, for Into the Woods. –Leah Pickett

Best Production Design

best production design oscars Oscars 2015: Who Should Win, Who Will Win

The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game

Into the Woods
Mr. Turner

Who should win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Who will win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Did any other film in 2014 absolutely beg for attention to its detail like The Grand Budapest Hotel? And it was all imagined! Rooted in vintage European pastiches, slathered in bright colors (mostly purple and pink), every shot and every set was an idiosyncratic confection. Mendel’s chocolates and chocolatiery? The prison that looks like something straight out of Renoir? The gloriously colorful and baroque Grand Budapest Hotel itself? All just the greatest treats to behold. Sure, it had references all over the place — the orange and green décor from hotels in ’60s Berlin, the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich — but Anderson, ever the guru of amalgamated imagery and nostalgia, turned The Grand Budapest Hotel into a specific work of time and place. Here’s to hoping Adam Stockhausen and Anna Pinnock can add a little gold to their already vivacious color palettes. –Blake Goble

Best Sound Editing/Mixing

best sound mixing oscars Oscars 2015: Who Should Win, Who Will Win

American Sniper
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Editing)
Whiplash (Mixing)

Who should win: Whiplash (Mixing), American Sniper (Editing)
Who will win: American Sniper (both)

It’s been quite some time since a film not nominated for Best Picture took either of these categories (although Skyfall tied Zero Dark Thirty for the Editing crown in 2012), so the easy money is on one of those. To that effect, it’s a battle between American Sniper and Birdman, and we like the former here. The film’s taut standoffs and bursts of violence hit hard, and it’s thanks to the taut, sparse sound production that many of Clint Eastwood’s movies tend to favor as much as anything.

Though it’s hard to argue against the cacophony, car crashes, and screaming matches in silent conservatory rooms that Whiplash offers, so who knows? Also, is anyone else a bit perplexed by the inclusion of Interstellar here? While we lauded the film’s score, the often muddy mix left some scenes of dialogue so incomprehensible that theaters had to remind audiences that this was a deliberate production choice before they purchased their tickets. It’s a little questionable, from where we’re sitting. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

Best Actress

best actress oscars Oscars 2015: Who Should Win, Who Will Win

Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon, Wild

Who should win: Julianne Moore
Who will win: Julianne Moore

This award is about the quality of the performance, not the quality of the film itself. If the opposite were true, then the Oscar would not go to Julianne Moore, as Still Alice is by far the weakest entry in this category. But even based on the acting alone, it’s tough to choose a favorite. For Rosamund Pike, it’s the best performance of her career, dripping with delicious iniquity and vitriol. (Fun fact: Reese Witherspoon co-executive produced Gone Girl, and considered starring as Amy, but was told by director David Fincher that she wasn’t right for the part. She agreed.) Same goes for Felicity Jones, who has matured a great deal since her breakout role as one half of a long distance couple in the 2011 indie Like Crazy, and is a lovely, calm-in-the-storm presence as Stephen Hawking’s empathetic wife, Jane, in The Theory of Everything.

Marion Cotillard, one of the finest actors of her generation — and 2007 Best Actress winner for her virtuoso performance as Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose — is mesmerizing once again as a depressed single mother in Two Days, One Night. And Witherspoon is a revelation in her grittiest role to date, carrying Wild with the same kind of easy star quality that earned her an Oscar for playing June Carter Cash in Walk the Line, but now with layers of grief that make her character, Cheryl, both acid-edged and intensely vulnerable.

But this year, it is Moore’s Oscar to lose. She has been nominated by the Academy for Best Supporting Actress twice (Boogie Nights, The Hours) and three times for Best Actress (The End of the Affair, Far from Heaven, Still Alice). Her latest role as Alice, a linguistics professor facing a gruesome battle with early onset Alzheimer’s, is yet another potent example of what Great Acting should be. Moore has already won almost every award that it’s possible to win for this performance, including the Golden Globe and the BAFTA, and all signs point to her winning the Oscar as well. And taking into account Moore’s extraordinary body of work, in addition to her brilliant performance in a just-okay film, I can’t be even the tiniest bit miffed about her sure-thing status. It’s time. And damn, does she deserve it. –Leah Pickett

Best Actor

best actor oscars Oscars 2015: Who Should Win, Who Will Win

Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton, Birdman
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Who should win: Michael Keaton
Who will win: Michael Keaton

First of all, let me establish this up front: In a just world, Eddie Redmayne wins in a landslide as the result of voters being so moved by his work as Balem Abrasax in Jupiter Ascending that the Best Performance by an Actor Oscar is renamed the Balem until the end of time. It doesn’t hurt that his turn as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything is a marvel of transformation, following a man as his faculties begin to fail him until the only one he has left is his endlessly inventive mind.

Really, this whole category is strong, from Steve Carell’s nightmare-fueling monotony in Foxcatcher to Benedict Cumberbatch’s elevation of staid material with The Imitation Game to Bradley Cooper’s controversial, powerful rendition of Chris Kyle in American Sniper. But it’s an early choice we have to stick with, for Michael Keaton’s fearless, wired performance in Birdman is the one to beat.

Keaton savages his own career highs and lows for the film’s sake; his Riggan Thompson is a man so consumed by the need to find something he can respect himself for doing that he risks destroying the careers, and even lives, of everybody around him that he cares about, most of all himself. It’s one of those once-in-a-career performances a la The Wrestler, and it’s the one we like best on Sunday.

Should’ve been Jake Gyllenhaal, though. We’re just saying. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

Best Supporting Actress

best supporting actress oscars Oscars 2015: Who Should Win, Who Will Win

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Laura Dern, Wild
Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
Emma Stone, Birdman
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

Who should win: Patricia Arquette
Who will win: Emma Stone

For the Golden Globes, I predicted Patricia Arquette should win and Emma Stone would win. Well, color me mistaken. I’m sticking to my guns, though, for many of the same reasons I posited in my previous argument.

It’s no secret that 96% of acting is how you look, and the charisma with which you sell that look. Yes, we’re awarding Arquette’s nuance and vulnerability, but we’re also awarding her bravery in laying bare the effects of aging that accompany a 12-year shooting schedule. The reason her performance ultimately resonates more than Hawke’s is because we can actually see the toll the years have taken on her. It’s the sort of thing no special effect or make-up kit could conjure, and it’s what makes her performance, and Boyhood in general, such an singular cinematic experience.

But, this year, the stars have all aligned for Emma Stone: she’s young, talented, and teetering right on the edge of superstardom. In other words, she’s exactly the kind of actress the Oscars love to honor, especially in a year that favors age and experience. And it doesn’t hurt that her caustic, layered performance in Birdman is worthy of a statue. The only way I see Stone not winning is if Eddie Redmayne emerges as the evening’s Bright Young Talent, which is absolutely a possibility. –Randall Colburn

Best Supporting Actor

best supporting actor oscars Oscars 2015: Who Should Win, Who Will Win

Robert Duvall, The Judge
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Edward Norton, Birdman
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Who should win: J.K. Simmons
Who will win: J.K. Simmons

There aren’t many sure things at the Academy Awards this year, but this category is one of them. Whiplash garnered rave reviews from fans and critics alike, but the film doesn’t have the necessary gravitas to make it a legitimate contender for Best Picture. That’s why Academy voters will probably toss it a bone with one of the lesser awards. Thankfully, J.K. Simmons more than deserves a statuette after giving one of the year’s best performances as Fletcher, an obsessive, mildly abusive band director. It also doesn’t hurt that J.K. has been riding the publicity train recently — a sad, but necessary evil for any actor who wants to guarantee a win — with appearances on Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show. All the stars are aligned; Mr. Simmons, good job. –Adriane Neuenschwander

Best Director

best director oscar Oscars 2015: Who Should Win, Who Will Win

Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Birdman
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher
Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

Who should win: Richard Linklater
Who will win: Richard Linklater

Everybody and their mother knows who Richard Linklater is, how good he’s always been, and why he deserves an Academy Award for his crowning achievement, Boyhood. It’s an easy guess, an easy win, and best of all, a deserving win. But let’s entertain spoilers for a minute here. There’s been some speculation going around, what with Iñárritu’s Birdman winning best film at the Producer’s Guild Awards and best ensemble at the Screen Actors Guild. It’s an equally impressive vision when put up against Linklater’s.

Or what about Wes Anderson sneaking in there on his charms, skills, and long-term credibility? The Wrap considered it this Awards season’s sleeper, and voters clearly love it if it made it this far after being released last February. Anderson apparently doesn’t care about the AMPAS game, and screenplay is often better suited for unique voices like his, but still! That could be cool. Also, who let Bennet Miller and Morten Tyldum in? Get those guys outta here; they did their jobs, competently, appropriately, and flavor-free, though that benefitted one director much more.

Anyways, have a speech prepared, Rick. I’ll eat my hat if you don’t win. –Blake Goble

Best Picture

best picture oscars Oscars 2015: Who Should Win, Who Will Win

American Sniper
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything

Who should win: Boyhood
Who will win: Boyhood

A sober gambler would throw down large on Boyhood. The film’s won top honors at the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs, in addition to big wins at the Berlin International Film Festival, the Critics Choice Movie Awards, the New York Film Critics Circle, the Satellite Awards, and many more. It also helps that the film’s been propelled by a wave of universal acclaim, having appeared on more “best-of” lists than any entry out of 2014. Of course, that’s not a guarantee in the slightest, but it’s a promising sign that Richard Linklater’s coming-of-age project will be bathed in gold.

But here’s what a coked-out, down-on-his-luck, bookie-evading gambler might lean towards: Birdman. This is the sort of bet that makes total sense on a cocktail napkin — dicey wins at the Producers Guild, Critics’ Choice, the Directors Guild, and the Screen Actors Guild — but one that’s weighted with risk: is it too avant-garde, too weird, too cynical for the veteran Oscar voters? It’s really down to these two choices (that is, unless the Academy pulls a Crash and shoots for American Sniper), but if you’re asking me, the safest, most deserving, and likeliest choice is: The Imitation Game.

Just kidding. The one with Ethan Hawke. –Michael Roffman