Oscar Predictions Part 1: Screenplay, Sound, and Music

     February 19, 2015


And so we’re here at last. After covering this year’s awards race since last September, when a slew of films broke out of the festival scene and announced themselves as serious Oscar contenders, it’s time to decide once and for all who’s going to come out on top. This year gives us some challenging races in a number of categories, but after taking a deep breath and changing my mind an average of 7 times per category, I think I’ve finally settled on my predictions.

I’ll be doling these out in three parts, starting today with the highly competitive screenplay categories, as well as the sound-centric categories. We’ll continue tomorrow with the rest of the technical categories, and finish up with the final ones on Saturday—just in time for Sunday’s ceremony.

Without further ado, let’s get started…

Best Original Screenplay

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. and Armando Bo

Boyhood – Richard Linklater

Foxcatcher – E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness

Nightcrawler – Dan Gilroy

birdman-michael-keaton-posterBoy, this is a tough category this year. Both Best Picture frontrunners—Birdman and Boyhood—have very decent shots at winning, but I have a feeling something else entirely might be taking this one home. Given its lack of total nominations, I think Nightcrawler’s nomination is its prize here, and Foxcatcher is a respected film, but probably too cold to garner widespread support from the Academy. So we’re left with roughly a three-way tie between Birdman, Boyhood, and The Grand Budapest Hotel. 

Birdman’s screenplay isn’t really the centerpiece in that film; the key to its success lies in the visual execution and performances. And Boyhood may be slightly hindered by the fact that Richard Linklater isn’t shy in revealing that the screenplay was written bit-by-bit, year-by-year, with heavy influence from his cast. And so I’m going with The Grand Budapest Hotel (which also won the WGA prize) for the win, betting that the Academy is ready to give Wes Anderson his first Oscar.


The film raked up a slew of nominations and may just be the most universally liked Best Picture nominee of the bunch. Moreover, in recent years this race has gone to the “artsy” screenplay over the perceived frontrunner. Everyone was sure American Hustle was going to take it last year, but Spike Jonze ended up winning for Her. I think Grand Budapest hits that sweet spot that pleases both the artistically inclined and those wanting something a bit more commercial or “easy to swallow”, so I’ve got a feeling Anderson will be stepping up to the podium.

Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Dark Horse: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Should Win: Nightcrawler

Should Have Been Nominated: The LEGO Movie

Best Adapted Screenplay

American Sniper – Jason Hall

The Imitation Game – Graham Moore

Inherent Vice – Paul Thomas Anderson

The Theory of Everything – Anthony McCarten

Whiplash – Damien Chazelle

the-imitation-game-keira-knightley-benedict-cumberbatchWhile almost everything seems to be an adaptation these days, the Best Adapted Screenplay field at this year’s Oscars was surprisingly thin. But that’s not to say it’s an uncompetitive race. The lack of total nominations for Inherent Vice doesn’t give me confidence in its chances here and The Theory of Everything is much more of a performance-driven piece, so I’d say those are our two least likely winners (though Theory won the BAFTA prize, which is still puzzling to me). American Sniper has a shot, but the film has become more divisive as the race has worn on, so I’m doubtful it will gain the widespread support it needs. Whiplash ended up in Adapted rather than Original due to a technicality, and while I think it has a serious chance at winning, I’m going with The Imitation Game here.

While there’s been some warranted controversy over how The Imitation Game glosses over certain details of Turing’s life and twists others, this is a movie that older voters seem to have really gone for, and it’s one that plays to the Academy’s sentimental side. I also get a strong The King’s Speech vibe from this film, and it’s no coincidence that Harvey Weinstein is behind the Oscar campaigns for both. He’s been working incredibly hard to push this movie through the final stretch, and seeing as how this category is its best shot at a win, I’m not one to bet against Harvey. I’m not ruling out the possibility of a Whiplash or American Sniper spoiler, but after taking home the WGA prize, this feels like The Imitation Game’s to lose.

Will Win: The Imitation Game

Dark Horse: Whiplash

Should Win: Inherent Vice

Should Have Been Nominated: Gone Girl

Best Original Score

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Alexandre Desplat

The Imitation Game – Alexandre Desplat

Interstellar – Hans Zimmer

Mr. Turner – Gary Yershon

The Theory of Everything – Jóhann Jóhannsson

the-theory-of-everything-eddie-redmayne-felicity-jonesAnother tough category. An important thing to remember is that when Academy voters get their ballots, the names of these composers will not be on them. So I don’t think there’s much danger of Desplat “splitting votes” with himself. Zimmer’s Interstellar score is no doubt the biggest of the bunch, but “most” doesn’t tend to describe the winners of this category, and while he’s been nominated a lot, Zimmer hasn’t won since The Lion King. But that doesn’t mean the Academy will sway traditional either, as the last few winners (Gravity, Life of Pi, The Social Network) could better be described as “striking”. There’s considerable support for The Theory of Everything, and if the voters opt to go emotional that could very well be the winner, but in keeping with the trend of recent years I think Desplat’s playful, inventive, and slightly sinister The Grand Budapest Hotel comes out on top.

If Grand Budapest wins it will be a well-deserved trophy for Desplat, who has been nominated for 8 Oscars and has yet to win. It also makes sense that, as is the case with Best Original Screenplay, The Grand Budapest Hotel seems to be one of the most well-liked films of the year.

Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Dark Horse: The Theory of Everything

Should Win: Interstellar

Should Have Been Nominated: How to Train Your Dragon 2

Best Original Song

“Everything Is Awesome” from The Lego Movie – Music and Lyric by Shawn Patterson

“Glory” from Selma – Music and Lyric by John Legend and Common

“Grateful” from Beyond the Lights – Music and Lyric by Diane Warren

“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me – Music and Lyric by Glenn Campbell and Julian Raymond

“Lost Stars” from Begin Again – Music and Lyric by Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois

selma-david-oyelowo-carmen-ejogoWith all the hubbub surrounding the near-total snub of Selma, the Academy at least seems likely to award the film for one its two nominations. The rousing “Glory” is as much a call-to-arms as it is a catchy tune, perfectly accompanying the historical-yet-relevant thematic throughline of the film. This is one of the more assured wins of the night, but if a significant amount of voters are feeling especially angry about The LEGO Movie’s snub in the Best Animated Feature race, “Everything Is Awesome” could maybe play the spoiler. But I don’t think it’s all that likely.

Will Win: Selma

Dark Horse: The LEGO Movie

Should Win: Selma

Should Have Been Nominated: “Ryan’s Song” from Boyhood

Best Sound Editing

American Sniper

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies



interstellar-matthew-mcconaughey-anne-hathaway-david-gyasiThere are two very important facts to keep in mind with regards to the Best Sound categories: 1) There is a significant difference between Sound Editing (the creation of sounds that don’t exist) and Sound Mixing (the mixing of sounds recorded on set); and 2) The majority of Academy voting members probably don’t know the difference. As such, the most prominent films are heavily favored to win, and so the Best Picture nominees receive more attention than non-Best Picture nominees.

Everyone’s pretty much over The Hobbit movies so I think it’s safe to say that one’s out of the running.  Interstellar had its fair share of sound controversies so that could overwhelm its chances here, though films with a sci-fi bent do tend to perform quite well in this category and the complaints were over Interstellar’s mix, not necessarily its soundscape. Birdman is more impressive in the Sound Mixing category and it feels like a bit of an odd duck in this category, which leaves us with American Sniper. I’d say it’s fairly close between Sniper and Interstellar, and though Christopher Nolan’s films do well in this category, I’m giving the edge to Sniper as a way for voters to recognize that film while acknowledging other nominees in the bigger categories.

Will Win: American Sniper

Dark Horse: Interstellar

Should Win: Interstellar

Should Have Been Nominated: Fury

Best Sound Mixing

American Sniper

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)




bradley-cooper-american-sniperThis category is where Interstellar’s issues likely put it out of the running, and Unbroken is somewhat of an outlier so I’d push that one out as well. If we then narrow it further down to Best Picture nominees, we’re left with American Sniper, Whiplash, and Birdman. Technically the latter is mighty impressive given the length and variety of the takes involved, but Whiplash could really take this one, both because it’s deserving and because it’s a way to honor the film outside of the larger categories.

However, voters have a tendency to recognize the same movie in both sound categories, and since Whiplash’s sound mixing prowess—for a non-action/sci-fi film—isn’t as pronounced as something like Les Miserables, I’m less confident that there will be a split. But consider Whiplash a close second.

Will Win: American Sniper

Dark Horse: Whiplash

Should Win: Birdman

Should Have Been Nominated: Locke

Check back tomorrow as I offer up my predictions for the rest of the technical categories as well as the ones that will probably screw up your ballot, the shorts.

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