Oscars 2015: My predictions

Oscars

I seem to have plateaued. For 2013 and 2014, I predicted 18 of 24 Oscar winners correctly, a personal best since I’ve started wasting my life with this stuff. Can I do better this year?

Here are my predictions for the 2015 Academy Awards:

UPDATE: 18. Again. I started hot and Birdman ruined me.

Oscars Ballot 2015

Academy Awards Oscars 2015 ballot

You can get your ballot at The Hollywood Reporter.

The Oscars air on ABC/CTV Sunday, Feb. 22, at 8 p.m. with host Neil Patrick Harris. Yes, these are the 2015 Oscars.

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Review: Frozen on DVD/Blu-Ray (+ Saving Mr. Banks)

"FROZEN" (Pictured) ELSA. ©2013 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

Seventeen weeks after its theatrical release, Frozen is being released on DVD and Blu-Ray today. The Disney musical and Oscar winner for best animated film is still in the Top 10 at the North American box office, having grossed more than $2.1 million this past weekend.

The film is a return to the heyday of the Disney musical and is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen. Frozen just reached the billion-dollar mark at the worldwide B.O., but if you are not one of the people who contributed to that monstrous haul, here’s a quick synopsis. Elsa and Anna (pronounced like Faris, not Wintour) are sisters and princesses. Elsa has magical powers but hasn’t learned to control them yet, so she’ll sometimes accidentally freeze stuff … like her younger sister Anna. After a close call, Elsa stays locked up in her room for years, away from her sister and any human contact. The two princesses are in their castle, closed off from their town, until Elsa’s Coronation Day. Anna’s thrilled; “for the first time in forever,” there’ll be people in their castle. But Elsa’s worried; she hasn’t quite mastered her magic yet and must keep the townspeople from finding out her secret. At the Coronation Ball, Anna tells Elsa some news that really sets off her older sister. After freezing the town perpetually, Elsa banishes herself to a faraway mountain, leaving her townspeople literally in the cold.

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Oscars 2014: My ballot

Oscars

Not to gloat, but I did pretty well on my Oscar ballot last year.

18/24 correct predictions, which was a stark improvement from 2012 when I only predicted 13 of 24 winners correctly (and 15 of 24 in 2011).

I’m taking a few risks with my predictions this year, namely that American Hustlewhich I loved, will be shut out. There are fewer categories this year that are total locks, but the Globes and all the Guild awards suggest it’s a three-way race for best picture, with Gravity, American Hustle and 12 Years a Slave battling out; on the acting front, Cate Blanchett and Jared Leto are the only sure winners tonight, with the supporting actress category especially contentious. Will it be newcomer Lupita Nyong’o for her harrowing work in 12 Years a Slave or American sweetheart/everyone’s BFF Jennifer Lawrence for her feisty turn in American Hustle?

THE VERDICT: I tied my 2013 score of 18. I thought Captain Phillips would win the adapted screenplay award, Her the production design Oscar, The Lone Ranger for makeup and hairstyling, The Act of Killing for documentary. Get a Horse! lost the animated short award to Mr. Hublot – the biggest surprise of the night, in my opinion – and the live-action short went to Denmark’s Helium, not France’s Just Before Losing Everything. Check out my updated ballot below with all the winners highlighted.

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Review: The Wind Rises

The Wind Rises

Japanese animation titan Hayao Miyazaki’s reported final film The Wind Rises is a heck of a way to bow out for the filmmaker whose credits include My Neighbour TotoroHowl’s Moving CastlePrincess Mononoke and Oscar winner Spirited Away.

The Wind Rises is nominated in this year’s animated film Oscar race. While it’s not a straight-up children’s film in the same way Frozen or Despicable Me 2 are, it’s kid-friendly. The best way I can describe The Wind Rises is that it’s a (superb) period drama that happens to be (gorgeously) animated.

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Review: Omar

Hany Abu-Assad's Omar

Director Hany Abu-Assad’s latest, the Oscar-nominated Omar, is sometimes a thriller, sometimes a love story, sometimes a political drama, and sometimes all three at once.

How it manages that so well, I’m not sure, but it never feels false or forced and that’s a testament to the storytelling abilities of Abu-Assad (probably best known for his suicide-bomber drama Paradise Now), who in Omar uses an almost all-green cast to weave his tale of a group of freedom fighters in the Occupied Territories.

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Oscars 2014: Surprises and snubs in this year’s crop of nominees

Oscars

At this point in awards season, and after weeks of best-of year-end lists that take some of the guessing out of the awards-prediction game, very few revelations could really surprise movie fans following the Academy Awards’ nominations announcement this morning and indeed, pretty much every nominee announced was a possible contender. No left-field entries here.

Nine movies will be competing for the best picture Oscar, with American Hustle and Gravity picking up 10 nominations each, followed by 12 Years a Slave with nine. Quebec directors’ Denis Villeneuve and Jean-Marc Vallée’s films picked up seven nominations in total: Prisoners is nominated in the cinematography category for the great work by director of photography Roger Deakins, who also worked on last year’s visually mesmerizing Skyfall. Dallas Buyers Club picked up two acting nominations for Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey – two Golden Globe winners already – as well as makeup, editing and best original screenplay nominations. Dallas Buyers Club will also be vying for the best picture Oscar.

Ever since the Academy upped the best-picture nominees to “a maximum of 10,” I’ve felt that you can still have five without missing any. This year is no different: American HustleCaptain PhillipsDallas Buyers ClubGravityHerNebraskaPhilomena12 Years a Slave and The Wolf of Wall Street. I could have done with just HustleGravityHer12 Years and Wolf.

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Review: 12 Years a Slave

Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave (dir. Steve McQueen)

Often difficult to watch but always captivating, 12 Years a Slave is unrestrained in its depiction of the brutality of slavery in pre-Civil War United States.

Chiwetel Ejiofor is Solomon Northup, a free man living in Saratoga, N.Y., with his wife and two children. On a trip to Washington – Northup is a talented violinist who is promised a two-week engagement with a travelling show – he is tricked, drugged, kidnapped and eventually sold into slavery. He wakes up in shackles; he pleads with his captors, but it’s no use. Soon after, he’s on a boat heading south to Louisiana where he’s not so much given a new identity as one is imposed on him by his abductors. He resists, to no avail.

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