Every year, when I talk to people about putting together an Oscars picks pool, I get the same response from those who don’t want to participate:
“Well, I haven’t seen all of the movies,” they say.
But here’s the thing: Many of the voters haven’t seen all of them either. That’s not such a bad thing when it comes to choosing the five nominees since voters only nominate people in their own category -- actors nominate actors, directors nominate directors and so forth.
But once the nominations are announced, all voters cast ballots in every category.
Therefore, it doesn’t matter what you personally think of a movie, because when one is predicting the Oscars, it’s all about trying to keep in mind what the voters (some of whom haven’t seen all of the movies) are thinking as they fill out their ballots.
Take “Selma,” for example. Some people have criticized the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for perceived racism because the movie is nominated in just two categories: Best Picture and Best Song. Notably omitted from the nominations are director Ava DuVernay and actor David Oyelowo.
But was there racism? Some media outlets have reported that Paramount Pictures, the studio behind “Selma,” was late in sending out DVD screeners to voters, meaning voters had little time to see the movie before they had to turn in their nominations.
You’d have to look in the hearts of thousands of voters to see if they were prejudiced against the film for whatever reason, because of race or, say, an argument over the historical accuracy of the movie’s portrayal of President Lyndon Johnson.
Once the Academy expanded the number of movies that could be nominated for Best Picture, that was great in terms of expanding the field. However, the Academy didn’t expand the number of nominees in other categories such as Best Director, meaning that of the eight films nominated for Best Picture, three directors, including DuVernay, didn’t make the cut. (“The Theory of Everything” and “Whiplash” were the others that missed out).
DuVernay is in the same boat as director Ben Affleck two years ago, when his movie “Argo” took home Best Picture but Affleck didn’t even earn a nomination as a director. (He did get a statuette for producing it.)
So, the question is, will voters who passed over “Selma” during the nomination phase stick to their guns, or will the outcry over its lack of overall nominations rally voters to its cause?
Who is going to win Sunday night? (ABC, 8:30 p.m.) Here are a few guesses:
The nominees are: Steve Carell (“Foxcatcher”); Bradley Cooper (“American Sniper”); Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Imitation Game”); Michael Keaton (“Birdman”); and Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything”).
In a somewhat unusual coincidence, four of the five roles being depicted were real-life people. The lone exception is Keaton, who ironically is playing a meta-version of himself to some extent.
This particular race is shaping up to be one of the closest of the night. Redmayne won the Screen Actors Guild Award and the BAFTA (the British Academy Award), while both he and Keaton won Golden Globes (Keaton’s was in the comedy category). The SAG award is usually a great precursor for the Oscar, and Redmayne also enjoys the advantage of the “Masterpiece Theatre” effect (British actors portraying British roles in a period piece; for whatever reason, makes Americans swoon) as well as the fact that the Academy loves actors playing someone with an illness.
That being said, Keaton is a sentimental favorite given his long career. Hollywood loves to reward actors with long careers who achieve that exclamation-point role in the latter half of their work. Will that logic continue this year?
Give Keaton the slight edge.
The nominees are: Marion Cotillard (“Two Days, One Night”); Felicity Jones (“The Theory of Everything”); Julianne Moore (“Still Alice”); Rosamund Pike (“Gone Girl”); and Reese Witherspoon (“Wild”).
Remember what I just said about Hollywood loving to reward longtime actors for career performances? Then expect Moore to get it. In fact, about the only thing Hollywood likes more are on-screen devastating illnesses, and Moore portrays a woman with Alzheimer’s.
Moore’s main competition will come from Cotillard and Witherspoon, both Oscar favorites in the past, but Moore already has taken home the trifecta with the SAG, BAFTA and Golden Globe. No reason why her winning streak would end Sunday night.
The nominees are: Robert Duvall (“The Judge”); Ethan Hawke (“Boyhood”); Edward Norton (“Birdman”); Mark Ruffalo (“Foxcatcher”); and J.K. Simmons (“Whiplash”).
OK, remember what I just said about Hollywood loving to reward longtime actors for career performances? (Again). Simmons fits the bill perfectly, creating a memorably cruel music teacher. And Simmons took home the Big 3 listed above -- the SAG, the BAFTA and the Golden Globe -- among many other honors.
The nominees are: Patricia Arquette (“Boyhood”); Laura Dern (“Wild”); Keira Knightley (“The Imitation Game”); Emma Stone (“Birdman”); and Meryl Streep (“Into the Woods”).
Hey, remember when I said about Hollywood ... yadda, yadda, yadda? Well, anytime you have Streep listed as a nominee, throw out whatever you think you know. While Streep doesn’t always win (and doesn’t win as often as people think -- three wins in 19 nominations), her mere presence will affect how people vote.
However, Arquette took home the honors in the BAFTA, SAG and Golden Globe awards, so she should be the safe pick here.
The nominees are: Alejandro Inarritu (“Birdman”); Richard Linklater (“Boyhood”); Bennett Miller (“Foxcatcher”); Wes Anderson (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”); and Morten Tyldum (“The Imitation Game”).
Whether valid or not, with all of the criticism of the number of white nominees this year, some voters might vote for Inarritu, a native of Mexico, for diversity’s sake. However, the fact is, “Birdman’s” look is an impressive string of endless tracking shots that gave the movie a highly stylish and distinctive look. From a technical standpoint, Inarritu ought to win hands down. The Oscars love technical prowess -- Alfonso Cuaron won the directing statuette last year for the similarly impressive-looking “Gravity.”
The nominees are: “American Sniper:” “Birdman;” “Boyhood;” “Grand Budapest Hotel;” “The Imitation Game;” “Selma;” “The Theory of Everything;” and “Whiplash.”
“Selma” remains the X-factor here. If it wins, it would mostly wipe out the animosity over its lack of nominations. But if people didn’t vote for it before, will they do so now?
“Grand Budapest Hotel” is a comedy, which the Oscars tend to overlook. “Theory” and “Imitation” may cancel each other out since they are both movies about British mathematicians, thus negating the “Masterpiece Theatre” effect. And “Whiplash” might not be considered “big enough” for some voters.
That leaves “Birdman” and “Boyhood,” both of which have gotten a lot of buzz because of the unconventional filmmaking behind their production. “Boyhood” was filmed with the same cast over a dozen years, making it something of a gimmick. “Boyhood” won the Golden Globe and the BAFTA, but “Birdman” earned the SAG award for Best Ensemble Cast (the closest thing to Best Picture).
Since the Globes are voted on by the Foreign Press Association, it’s a different set of voters than those in the Academy. Meanwhile, actors make up the largest contingent of voters, making the SAG win for “Birdman” significant.
But at the end of the day, what Hollywood really loves is underdog pictures that are unconventional (think “The Artist” in 2011). So roll the dice and go with “Boyhood.”
As for all of those other categories such as Best Documentary short or Best Foreign Film? Hey, don’t ask me. I didn’t see those movies.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.