There are few things in life that are completely unavoidable. We’ve all heard the terrible cliché about death and taxes, but to that list I would also add red lights when you’re in a hurry, screaming children on a redeye flight, baseball season lasting too damn long, the last two minutes of basketball games lasting too damn long, and the unholy amount of coverage devoted each year the Oscars.

I can certainly appreciate that many folks love watching the hours of lead up to discuss what everybody is wearing…but as I have made abundantly clear before, gym shorts or faded jeans are pretty much my uniform of choice. I get it, but it doesn’t do much for me.

I can also acknowledge the amount of time spent each year dissecting the evening’s host and trying to determine who would do a better job next year. This night is a major event on a lot of people’s annual viewing calendar. As Mama Stevens likes to say, “this is her Superbowl.”

That being said, each year if/when I turn in, it is for one very small chunk of time usually relegated to the last half hour of the show. By that point the clock on the east coast is chugging towards midnight, the audience has openly started drinking and is clamoring for the after party to begin, and everyone just wants to jump to Best Picture so they can all go home. While I fully accept and even embrace that I am the outlier here, to me the show really comes down to two categories.

My thoughts on the most important awards of the night…

Best Adapted Screenplay

Jason Hall, American Sniper
Graham Moore, The Imitation Game
Paul Thomas Anderson, Inherent Vice
Anthony McCarten, The Theory of Everything
Damien Chazelle, Whiplash

As w/ most things Academy related, this list alone shows how wonky these guys can make things, even when they don’t need to. Two months ago both Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl) and Nick Hornby (Wild) were considered locks. Somehow, neither got a nomination. Perhaps the Academy tried to lean away from blockbuster novels? Wait, no, that doesn’t work. Just look at the other names on the list. Perhaps they tried….? Yeah, I’ve got nothing.

To make matters worse, I’ve got even less to describe their curious case of handling Whiplash. This story began as the full script, only Chazelle couldn’t get it made, so he made the ending into a short that was well received and got him the funding to make the same script. Somehow that qualified it as Adapted. Wow…

As it stands, this is quite an interesting field, pitting three people from various epochs in history with three radically different personas (an ultra macho American military man, a homosexual foreign intelligence operative, and a super genius w/ a debilitating disorder), a drug addled 70’s romp, and an original idea w/ two of the more original characters to emerge from cinema in a while.

As I’m guessing you can already tell, I’m throwing my money behind Whiplash, a script I absolutely loved. I have not even seen the film (or any of the film’s yet…I have only read them all…b/c I’m a nerd like that). If JK Simmons does even half the justice to Terrence that the writing does, he deserves every last award he has won (and will continue to win).

Original Screenplay

Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris Jr., & Armando Bo, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman, Foxcatcher
Wes Anderson (screenplay), Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness (story), The Grand Budapest Hotel
Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler

Now this is what an Oscar writing field should look like! I mean, just look at that jumbled mess and try to figure out some common thread between, something that would in any way link one to another. The list runs the gamut from fading actor trying to reinvent himself on the fly to the following of a young man throw the most awkward years of his life (ballsy by all parties…) to a couple of extremely haunting characters. And that’s before we even get to Wes Anderson, who the Academy has never known quite what to do with.

Right off I think Foxcatcher and Nightcrawler can safely be scratched if for no other reason than they basically cancel each other out. Both are extremely dark, anchored by a sinister lead. Only so many votes to go around on that front I’m afraid. (I’m guessing the Academy felt the same way, as these were the only two not to also get Best Picture nominations)

Boyhood is an interesting case, and one in which I think the unique nature that makes it intriguing for the bigger awards may knock it down here. As this took twelve years to develop, it was a script that just sorta happened piece by piece. Remember we’re dealing w/ stodgy old guys here, so this one is gone.

That brings us down to Budapest and Birdman. In recent years Woody Allen, Quentin Tarantino, and Spike Jonze have all won w/ quirky (for lack of a better word) scripts that didn’t have a snowball’s chance at winning Best Picture. If that trend continues, Budapest walks.

On the other hand, there is also a strong inclination for the Academy to award shows that somehow romanticize, or at the least pontificate, on acting/movies/Hollywood. It’s a pattern that goes back clear to Sunset Boulevard and could have arguably culminated w/ a freaking silent film winning Best Picture and Best Actor for The Artist.

If such a trend continues, which I’m guessing it will, Birdman takes the prize. (Not that that’s a bad thing…it’s actually a very well done script. No seriously…I swear!)

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