Oscar Watch 2015: Best Picture

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Best Picture. It’s the most coveted prize in all of cinema and in a few short days, we’ll see one of eight films take home the golden statue. Pop-Break’s resident film editor and Oscar guru Dan Cohen analyzes.

American Sniper

If there were ever a movie to have momentum going into an Oscar race, American Sniper would be it. The amount of money it’s made is unprecedented, especially in the “franchise or bust” world we live in today. Not that box office indicates Oscar, but it does help in getting the film more attention. The Academy loves its war movies, and American Sniper fits that bill of the vintage war epic. It’s also just a damn good movie. While it certainly has become a legit Best Picture contender, there are a few factors holding it back. One is the controversy factor – is it a pro-war movie? Anti-war movie? How accurate is the depiction of Chris Kyle? Controversy, controversy, complaining, complaining. The other problem is Clint Eastwood not getting a Best Director nomination, which is never a good sign for winning Best Picture. We’ve seen this trend get debunked recently though with Argo a couple years ago. It has a tough mountain to climb, but don’t be surprised if American Sniper pulls off the upset.

American Sniper Poster

Chances of Winning: High

Is the Movie Worthy of Best Picture? Yes

Birdman

Birdman could easily be the American Hustle of this year and walk away with 0 Oscars, or it could take a ton of major awards, including this one. Birdman is the movie everyone has fawned over. Even with Boyhood there are grumblings of complaints, but I haven’t read one criticism of Birdman. Praise is all over the place with nominations left and right. Where Birdman could falter though is in its meta-ness and “too cool for school” attitude. It appeals to that younger generation of film bloggers, which may turn the Academy off, even though it takes a ton of shots at franchise filmmaking. Birdman’s inability to gravitate towards one specific audience could be its downfall. It has a lot to say, but it’s very jumbled. At the end of the day though, Birdman won both the PGA (Producers Guild Award) and DGA (Directors Guild Award), and that alone makes Birdman a serious threat to take home the glory.

Chances of Winning: High

Is the Movie Worthy of Best Picture? Yes

Boyhood

Boyhood has been talked about ad nauseam. We know the deal – it was filmed over 12 years. This ironically is its biggest strength and weakness, because there will be Academy members who don’t buy into the gimmick. The movie is no doubt the favorite to win this award, but if you think it’s a lock, you got another thing coming. Momentum has shifted on this film. I could also see a scenario in which Best Picture is the only award Boyhood actually wins. Where the movie is considered to be a monumental achievement, are the individual parts strong enough to win elsewhere?

BoyhoodChances of Winning: High

Is the Movie Worthy of Best Picture? Yes

The Grand Budapest Hotel

This is Wes Anderson’s most Academy accessible film. While still a comedy, it has that spectacle appeal, which is why it’s the director’s first ever Best Picture nomination. The Grand Budapest Hotel is very well liked, and the fact that it has so many nominations across the board makes it a possible dark horse. While fourth in the race, I wouldn’t be completely shocked if this stole the award. Bottom-line: Wes Anderson will walk away with a statue come Oscar night, but it will probably be for screenwriting.

Chances of Winning: Mid-Tier

Is the Movie Worthy of Best Picture? Yes

The Imitation Game

My thoughts throughout this year’s Oscar coverage have been pretty clear on The Imitation Game. It’s a mediocre, safe, paint by numbers movie, which sadly makes it an Oscar darling. With the exception of Best Adapted Screenplay, this movie is destined to only be along for the ride. I guess with Morten Tyldum’s surprise Directing nomination, you can’t fully ignore it, but I can’t imagine this film beating the other juggernauts in this category.

Chances of Winning: Mid-Tier

Is the Movie Worthy of Best Picture? No

Selma pic 1Selma

This nomination still puzzles me. I don’t understand how it gets in with no nominations anywhere else on the board except Best Original Song, yet Foxcatcher got two acting nominations, Screenplay, and Director, but no Best Picture? I don’t get it. I feel like Selma willed its way onto this list. It’s a solid movie with one great performance, but it has no chance here.

Chances of Winning: Low

Is the Movie Worthy of Best Picture? No

The Theory of Everything

I’m going to make this short. It’s nominated on the back of its two main performances, and that’s it. No chance.

Chances of Winning: Low

Is the Movie Worthy of Best Picture? No

Whiplash

Save the best for last. It’s one of my last opportunities to tell you that Whiplash is the best film of 2014, yet sadly it has no chance at this award. While I’m thrilled to see it on here so the film can get more notoriety, it harkens back to one of the biggest complaints I have about the Oscars. Much like my favorite movie of last year (Her), character driven small pieces like Her and Whiplash are always the bridesmaids, but never the bride. They win awards for Best Screenplay, but never the big prize. The Academy needs that epic/spectacle quality, making films like Annie Hall winning Best Picture a mere memory. I hope someday this changes.

Chances of Winning: Low

Is the Movie Worthy of Best Picture? Yes

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Daniel Cohen is the Film Editor for Pop-Break. Aside from reviews, Daniel does a weekly box office predictions column, and also contributes monthly Top Tens and Op-Ed’s on all things film. Daniel is a graduate of Bates College with a degree in English, and also studied Screenwriting at UCLA. He can also be read on www.movieshenanigans.com. His movie crush is Jessica Rabbit. Follow him on Twitter @dcohenwriter.
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Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow’s fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.