Projection: Oscar – The 4th Annual Official Projection Oscar Ballot



As I say every year, it’s all over but the countin’.

The official deadline for returning ballots has come and gone, and now we sit, just two days away from the culmination of more than six months of teeth gnashing, endless discussion, and – thankfully – a few surprise twists that left us all in our current state: completely unsure of the final outcome, sitting on the edges of our seats until that final envelope is cracked on Sunday night.

But now, at least for this moment, I want to turn away from the endless churn of prognostication and just focus on the love of movies.

I present to you the 4th Annual “Official Projection Oscar Ballot,” one of my favorite yearly traditions in which I take a short break from the agony of prognostication and indulge in the ecstasy of celebrating the winners I would pick…if only I had an Academy ballot at my disposal.

Before we jump in, two reminders. First, please remember, these are my personal preferences, not my predictions. As you will soon see, my predictions and my personal picks don’t often match up. Second – and perhaps most importantly – I can only work with what the Academy offers. I’d love to vote for Gone Girl as Best Picture…but, alas, it’s not eligible, for it is not nominated. Oh well…

Without further ado, I present my ballot. Winners are bolded. Major categories are saved for last, of course…

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

This is actually a tough category to select a favorite. That might also be why it is so difficult to predict. But for my money – in a close race between the most fun effects (Guardians) and the most slick (Interstellar), I have to go with the most accomplishedDawn of the Planet of the Apes. Joe Letteri’s team has delivered the goods in two consecutive films. Brilliant work.

Best Sound Mixing
American Sniper

Ah, the beat of those drums. They pulsate with the same intensity of the film.

Best Sound Editing
American Sniper
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

I veered very close to awarding my Oscar vote to a certain Eastwood-helmed film that I have summarily bashed in writing for weeks now. But I have to award Birdman for its masterful editing of practical sounds, digital enhancements, and, similar to Whiplash, its percussive underpinning.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Guardians of the Galaxy

I know maybe it seems like voting for the most makeup, but frankly, great work abounds in Guardians. Its across-the-board makeup work is even more deserving than its CG effects.

Best Costume Design
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Into the Woods
Mr. Turner
Inherent Vice

I will take this opportunity and run with it. The most anti-Oscar movie is gonna get my vote, dammit. And prestige be damned, the period costuming is spot-on.

Best Original Score
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Theory of Everything
The Imitation Game
Mr. Turner

This doesn’t actually represent Hans Zimmer’s best work…although he has established a resume that is tough to surmount. But even in a film I didn’t find stirring, the scoring is, indeed, stirring.

Best Original Song
“Glory” from Selma
“Everything Is Awesome” from The LEGO Movie
“Lost Stars” from Begin Again
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me
“Grateful” from Beyond the Lights

Not even a competition, in my mind. “Glory” is a gorgeous, anthemic, and vitally important song. It’s a modern classic and should be rewarded as such.

Best Animated Feature
How To Train Your Dragon 2
The Boxtrolls
The Tale of Princess Kaguya
Song of the Sea
Big Hero 6

I should abstain, like those asinine Oscar voters claim to do in the anonymous interviews. Or write-in for The LEGO Movie. But of these nominees, while the animation is most gorgeous in Kaguya, and I like the dark undertones of Boxtrolls, I will go with the Disney megalith, which is the complete package – fun, emotional, dazzling, and inventive.

Best Foreign Language Film
Wild Tales

Pawel Pawlikowski’s film is a frontrunner for a reason. A beautiful, humane film.

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

Orlando von Einsiedel’s polemic is shattering and revolting. It is a rightful call to action. We must do something. This vote is just one small part.

Best Animated Short Film
The Dam Keeper
A Single Life
The Bigger Picture
Me and My Moulton

I love so many of these nominees, but The Dam Keeper is a true revelation of tone, form, and content. Brilliant.
Best Documentary Short Film
Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
Our Curse
The Reaper (La Parka)
White Earth

An easy choice. A masterpiece of humane cinema.

Best Live Action Short Film
The Phone Call
Boogaloo and Graham
The Butter Lamp (Le Lamp au Beurre de Yak)

Another easy standout in another strong field of contenders. A beautiful story of friendship forged because of – and in spite of – a cultural divide.

Best Production Design
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Mr. Turner
Into the Woods
The Imitation Game

I have to fall in line with the likely winner in this category. Wes Anderson is like modern cinema’s Patron Saint of Production Design. Finally an opportunity to reward one of his pristinely designed films.

Best Cinematography
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Mr. Turner

Simply Chivo. Yet again. The lighting. The lenses. The camerawork. The compositions. The complex movements within multiple environments. Unparalleled.

Best Film Editing
The Grand Budapest Hotel
American Sniper
The Imitation Game

There is simply no contest. Tom Cross realizes Damien Chazelle’s vision with an intensity that builds in every cut. The cutting of the film seems to fuse with the thematic subtext of the film.

Best Original Screenplay
Birdman, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo
The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson
Boyhood, Richard Linklater
Nightcrawler, Dan Gilroy
Foxcatcher, E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman

Surprise, surprise. Frye and Futterman’s stunning screenplay is deceptively simple. It doesn’t flow like a typical narrative. It’s often quiet, with only the subtlest hint of surface content. But the vibrating psyches of its central characters are probed with incisive power, and the story is so much richer than it seems. Look closer.

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

I am so tempted to vote for Paul Thomas Anderson here, because fuck all the haters who seem to think the narrative is inscrutable, or non-linear, or absent (newsflash: it’s none of those things…it’s a deep dive into the rabbit hole, but it can be followed from A to Z). But Whiplash is here, and it scores another easy vote from me. Chazelle’s pen is just as mighty as his camera lens. He has crafted a dual character study of frightening proportions, and none of that is possible without this airtight script.

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

I’m well on the record for not being the biggest Boyhood fan, but I’m also well on the record that Patricia Arquette is the film’s brightest shining gem…and she also gives the best performance in this category. Her performance is the beating heart of Richard Linklater’s film, she gets my vote here.

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

J.K. Simmons’ portrayal of Terrence Fletcher, one of the great movie monsters in recent history, is a soul-rattling performance, and it’s been brewing in Simmons for years. He has long overdue for a role like this, and he has relished it.

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

Had the Academy’s dismissal of Gone Girl had extended to the Best Actress category, and Rosamund Pike been overlooked for Jennifer Aniston or some such, this would have been an easy vote for Reese Witherspoon, who drives the brilliant Wild with her fierce, vulnerable performance. But oh my, they didn’t overlook Rosamund, so my vote goes to my favorite female performance of the year. It takes multiple viewings to get past the purposeful showy artifice of the character, who goes through the ringer again and again, but Pike is a lightning rod at every turn. The film hinges on her ability to own every person on the screen. And she positively owns.

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

Forget “Birdman”…Michael Keaton is, simply, The Man. And in this role – reductively referred to as a “comeback” – he is a monster and a myth, yet still a man…obsessive, desperate, selfish and self-centered, unhinged and possibly insane. And Keaton, ever the master, never misses a beat. His is the defining performance of 2014 – a towering giant of ego and pathos.

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

It’s unfortunate that Damien Chazelle and David Fincher are not here. In their absence, it’s a tough call for me between the overt mastery of Inarritu’s work and the minute subtleties of Miller’s. But vibrating underneath the surface gloss of Birdman’s long takes is its own subtle nuance, drifting through the atmosphere like the drifting mind of its screw-loose protagonist, teetering on the brink of sanity until…….BREAK. A visual marvel, yes, but not a stunt. And completely undervalued as a thematic work.

Best Picture
The Grand Budapest Hotel
American Sniper
The Imitation Game

The Theory of Everything
Another close call, this time between Whiplash and Birdman. But Damien Chazelle’s masterpiece is a real-world horror film about how one monster slowly-but-surely creates another. Obsession, desire, drive…these are the tools of human success and human destruction. And they are the propulsive beats that make this stunning film jump off the screen and land squarely in our throats. Chazelle is a filmmaker to be watched…and what a mighty high bar he has set for himself. But whatever he does next, I’m sure his blood, sweat, and tears will be splattered all over it.

And with that, my ballot is filed. Back to the grind. Only a few days left…time to start celebrating…


About Author

I married into the cult of cinema at a very young age - I wasn't of legal marriage age, but I didn't care. It has taken advantage of me and abused me many times. Yet I stay in this marriage because I'm obsessed and consumed. Don't try to save me -- I'm too far gone.