THE FINAL STRETCH

The 87th Academy Awards will take place on Feb. 22, 4 days from today.

Last-minute awards

In the past few days, a number of creative guilds have given out awards to their own, most notably the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA). Here’s how it played out.

The WGA Awards went to The Imitation Game and The Grand Budapest Hotel in their respective categories on Saturday. This does not necessarily mean they will repeat next Sunday. Winners of the prize often win the Oscar — this occurred 20 out of the last 29 years for both Adapted Screenplay and Original Screenplay — but bizarre eligibility issues make this precursor far from straightforward. Three adapted screenplay and four original screenplay Oscar winners in the past weren’t even nominated for the WGA Award, most recently 12 Years a Slave and Django Unchained. Out of the running for this year’s awards were The Theory of Everything (which won the BAFTA), Birdman (which is a good bet for Oscar) and Inherent Vice. Further, Whiplash was nominated for original screenplay rather than adapted, meaning that it will face very different competition on Sunday. All in all, don’t read too much into it. Reliability over the past 5 years: 3/5 for adapted, 3/5 for original.

The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) Award went to Birdman. With cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki (who won the Academy Award last year for Gravity), the film’s camera-work was almost universally praised. Unfortunately, this award means very little. For all we know, it can go to Dick Poop. (It won’t.) Reliability over the past 5 years: 2/5.

The Costume Designers Guild Awards went to Birdman (for Excellence in Contemporary Film), The Grand Budapest Hotel (for Excellence in Period Film) and Into the Woods (for Excellence in Fantasy Film). Amazingly, despite having three separate awards to give, the CDG is still not always on the mark. Reliability over the past 5 years: 3/5.

The Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE) Award went to Birdman. Reliability over the past 5 years: 2/5.

The Cinema Audio Society Awards (for sound mixing) went to Birdman. Reliability over the past 5 years: 4/5.

Oscar voting ended 5 p.m. yesterday, so now we just have to wait.

Spotlight on Oscar predicting

The Best Picture race is “anyone’s ballgame,” Deadline’s Pete Hammond writes. “There is a scenario that could occur, and build on Oscar night, that indeed could end with any of those eight names being called.” Suspense and surprises are key to success at the Oscars, but let’s face it — people in the business of predicting awards just want to get it right. Oscar bloggers, newspapers and magazines will be releasing their Oscar predictions this week to try to get the most correct on Oscar night and win bragging rights for the next year. While some awards seem easy to call (let’s just give Birdman Best Cinematography already), there are a number that are a lot more difficult to predict. Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor seem to be real toss-ups, but here are a few more off the beaten path. I recommend reading the articles by Mark Harris: I don’t know how accurate their predictions will be, but they are entertaining and thoughtful.

Best Original Score: The race here seems to be down to two. Alexandre Desplat’s score for The Grand Budapest Hotel is a serious contender (his other nominee, The Imitation Game, seems to have been forgotten), especially as the film itself is a lock in a number of the below-the-line categories. But The Theory of Everything by Jóhann Jóhannsson has a few advantages, chiefly that it piano-based, lush and written by an Icelandic composer.

Best Sound Mixing: This one is all across the board. I have read different prognosticators predicting that American Sniper, Birdman, Interstellar and Whiplash will win the prize. According to Harris, the issue is that “there’s precedent in the last 15 years for all four of the remaining nominees to win. Voters have gone for noisy war movies like American Sniper (Black Hawk Down, The Hurt Locker), sci-fi movies like Interstellar (Inception, Gravity), music-driven films like Whiplash (Ray, Chicago, Dreamgirls, Les Misérables), and generally popular, heavily nominated films like Birdman that don’t automatically make you think ‘Best Sound Mixing’ (Slumdog Millionaire, Hugo).

Best Makeup: Again, I’ve read that Foxcatcher, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Guardians of the Galaxy all have a chance. Voters have to decide between Steve Carell with a big nose, Groot and Old Tilda Swinton.

Best Visual Effects: This race is down to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which won the industry prize two weeks ago, and Interstellar, which many consider a better or more emotional or more Oscar-baiting movie. Harris writes, “When soulfulness is an option, soulfulness is what voters go for. Don’t believe me? Pretend this is an SAT question: Complete this sequence: The Visual Effects Academy Award has recently been won, in order, by Inception, Hugo, Life of Pi, Gravity, and … Interstellar.”

Spotlight on past Oscar humor

Here are five of my favorite Oscar-related moments in the past few years. In no particular order:

Jennifer Lawrence and Jack Nicholson. After winning an Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook, JLaw was approached (and hit on?) by JNich. She then makes some of the best faces in history.

Tina Fey and Steve Martin. This is probably my favorite presentation at the Oscars. The delivery is impeccable. I believe it is from 2009.

Honest Oscar Posters. These come out every year, but this was probably my favorite. “White Lady Saves The Day” still makes me laugh.

Anne Hathaway. Hathaway sang with Hugh Jackman when he hosted the show in his opening number. That duet probably helped land her the hosting job a few years later. She sang a song about how Jackman abandoned her. Come for the Les Mis soundtrack, stay for the look of confused horror on Hugh Jackman’s face.

The 2014 Hater’s Guide to the Oscars. I don’t know if there is one for 2015 or if it will be coming out soon, but the “hater’s guide” from last year is hysterical. So hysterical, in fact, that I tweeted about it six times last year. Best lines: (Re: “Gravity” script): “Hey guys, let’s spend a few years literally inventing a spaceship…Oh, a script? Let the coffee boy go write it” and (Re: Supporting Actresses): “Has anyone seen Mo’Nique in the past three years? Where did she go? Is she dead? Did Renée Zellweger fall down a fucking drainpipe?”

Spotlight on this Oscar ceremony

Vulture put out an article called “Here’s Everything We Know About the Oscars” to sum up a lot of news about the ceremony that has been coming out in the past few days. This is the third consecutive year that Neil Meron and Craig Zadan have produced the Oscars, and they are joined this year by “director Hamish Hamilton (Beyoncé’s Super Bowl halftime show), choreographer Rob Ashford (Peter Pan Live!), set designer Derek McLane (Peter Pan Live!), music director Stephen Oremus (Frozen), and supervising orchestrator Harold Wheeler (Dancing With the Stars) as well as a crew of hundreds.” (I’d say Beyonce is good news and Peter Pan Live! is not.)

Frozen writers Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez are writing a special number called “Moving Pictures,” which NPH will perform alongside a number of special guests including (possibly) Lady Gaga, Jack Black, Jennifer Hudson and Anna Kendrick.

Presenters include the winning actors and actresses from last year (Cate Blanchett, Matthew McConaughey, Lupita Nyong’o and Jared Leto), stars from this year (Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo and Sienna Miller) and people aimed at capturing a youthful audience (Ansel Elgort, Dakota Johnson and Josh Hutcherson).

Other News

  • GOTV: The Academy is enlisting Halle Berry and Anna Paquin to get out the vote for this year’s Academy Awards. Voters are getting “bombarded” with email reminders and receiving robocalls from the Academy president. I am not making this up.
  • Hairbrush: Academy Awards host Neil Patrick Harris tweeted, “Rehearsals are intense for the Oscars. And by rehearsals, I mean me singing into a hairbrush in front of a mirror. #Oscars2015 @TheAcademy.”
  • Everything is depressing: Apparently, nominated song “Everything Is Awesome” from The Lego Movie was written during a bitter divorce. The composer, Shawn Patterson, said that the lyrics started out as “sarcasm, heavy f—ing sarcasm.”
  • Captain obvious: The New York Times’ “For Oscars Telecast, Few Black Nominees Mean Fewer Black Viewers” states a pretty understandable truism: When African American actors are not nominated, African American viewers don’t watch. In 2011, when there were no black acting nominees, the black audience was 2.5 million, from 4.3 million the year before. Not by coincidence, in 2010, Mo’Nique, Gabourey Sidibe and Morgan Freeman were all nominated.
  • What’s next? The Telegraph looks into what is coming up for Oscar nominees, from the Oscar bait (Meryl Streep is playing Emmeline Pankhurst in Sarah Gavron’s Suffragette) to the lackluster (Edward Norton is voicing the character Sammy Bagel Jr. in the movie Sausage Party).
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