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Your Guide To Oscar & The 2015 Academy Awards!

Every year Hollywood’s brightest stars gather for the celebration to end all others. The Academy Awards, or Oscars, are upon us again this Sunday. Call it a love fest, call it self congratulation, call it a celebration of art and freedom of expression. Whatever your feelings, there’s no doubt that the Oscars are the Superbowl of the film industry, and they often bring attention to smaller and dramatic films that normally wouldn’t receive much of the attention.

This year, our resident movie expert tackles the major categories in this year’s ceremony, which is hosted by Neil Patrick Harris. Together we’ll look at who’s nominated for what, as well as who you might be able to expect to walk away with those golden statues. Get ready for your Oscar party with the 123 Dentist guide to the 2015 Academy Awards. The categories below are presented (roughly) in the order they will appear on Sunday…

BEST ACTRESS in a Supporting Role

The actress and actor categories are always the most fun and often least predictable categories, and this year is no exception. Each year there is probably no more talented category than best supporting actress and you can see why, looking at this year’s nominees.

Patricia Arquette
Arquette ages 12 years over the course of Boyhood, something rarely glimpsed in modern filmmaking. Not only does this prove brave for actresses in particular who are so often under a microscope for the way they look, but Arquette’s realistic and nuanced performance brings a realistic single mother to life in a way that Oscar is likely to reward. Arquette already took home the Golden Globe for best supporting actress, even if the role is really more of a co-lead.

– 123 Dentist’s Pick

Laura Dern
Another strong performance portraying a single woman raising young children, Dern appears on screen less but is no less powerful. Her thoughts on life, happiness and child rearing while facing an early demise due to cancer is gripping and terrifying all at once. There hasn’t been much buzz, though, so consider it a long shot.

Keira Knightley
The Imitation Game
Knightley is an Academy favourite, having been nominated before for Pride & Prejudice and she’s certainly deserving for past work like Atonement and Anna Karenina. Unfortunately Knightley is up against some fairly stiff competition, and her chances are probably quite slim.

Emma Stone
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Emma Stone is a star on the rise, and we haven’t yet seen quite how far she can go. But there’s no doubt she’s well liked and popular enough to take the gold from a political side. Her performance was strong, and Birdman was excellent. It even managed to take best ensemble at the SAG (Screen Actors Guild) Awards. Call it a possible upset, but still unlikely.

Meryl Streep
Into the Woods
Meryl Streep probably didn’t deserve her nomination as the Witch in Into the Woods, but the Academy loves her and sometimes that’s enough. Streep represents the biggest threat to Patricia Arquette in this category, and she’s the projected favourite to win, even if there’s a good chance for an upset. Our vote goes to Arquette, but everyone loves Meryl’s speeches, so you never know.

BEST ACTOR in a Supporting Role

As another strong category early in the evening, supporting actor usually features one of the least predictable awards. This year is maybe the exception to the rule, with a clear front runner and the possibility of an upset, just like with best supporting actress.

Robert Duvall
The Judge
Duvall is a living legend, having turned in Oscar caliber performances before some of the nominees were out of diapers. The nomination for The Judge, which received mixed reviews when it released in the fall is more of a sign of respect from the Academy than anything. The performance is strong of course, but not among his best.

Ethan Hawke
Like Patricia Arquette, Hawke aged 12 years making Boyhood with his longtime friend Richard Linklater. He also benefits from being one of the only characters in that movie to significantly change, other than the lead. His performance is solid and it reminded us why he’s a leading man in the first place. Tough competition below, though.

Edward Norton
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Nobody had more fun with their nominated role this year than Edward Norton. Playing an entitled, slightly unhinged version of a theatre method actor, Norton channels himself, Brando, and some Orson Welles to bring his theatrical nemesis, Michael Keaton, to life. His performance is charismatic and energetic, and contains a glimmer of sadness. Fun fact, this is one of the first time two actors known for the same role (Hulk) have gone up against each other for Oscar. It also happened recently with actors playing Batman.

Mark Ruffalo
Deliciously understated and intense in equal measure, Ruffalo has had a resurgence of late, strapping on the green spandex (for motion capture) to play The Incredible Hulk, and simultaneously acting in some of the best indie films of the year. If you missed him in last year’s Begin Again or HBO’s The Normal Heart, go check him out. Unfortunately, it’s Ruffalo’s reliable greatness that makes him a long shot for the win. Oscar tends to like it’s winners loud.

J.K. Simmons
Simmons is best known to wide release audiences as ‘that guy from those insurance commercials’ or J. Jonah Jameson, Peter Parker’s boss in the original Spiderman movies. He has made a career as the recognizable supporting character and father figure for decades, and this is not his first run at Oscar, but it is his best chance yet. With a commanding, disturbing performance as a teacher going too far, Simmons is the clear front runner and favourite to win.

– 123 Dentist’s Pick


One of the funnest categories has to be best song, because we actually get to see a live performance most years. This year should be especially moving, with four of the five numbers more serious in tone. The fifth is as far away from serious as you can get this side of ‘Blame Canada’.

“Everything Is Awesome” from THE LEGO MOVIE
Music and Lyric by Shawn Patterson
This song comes to us from Lonely Island, the team behind SNL Digital Short favourites I cannot mention in this article. It’s also the most well known and most popular (in the audience) by far. Unfortunately it’s a bit of a long shot for the Academy, who may recognize the humour inherent to the song but are more likely to play it safe. If it wins, it’ll be a show of support for the film as a whole, which sadly did not receive a nomination.

– 123 Dentist’s Pick


“Glory” from SELMA
Music and Lyric by John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn
Glory is powerful, sombre, and sums up the plight of its characters perfectly. The Academy may have not given Selma some of the attention it deserved elsewhere, but it could make up for it with a win in this category. Glory also won best song at the Golden Globes, though that has never been a factor before.

“Grateful” from BEYOND THE LIGHTS
Music and Lyric by Diane Warren
Beyond the Lights only got a limited release and missed audiences in Canada almost completely. It’s an independent movie with a run of the mill plot about a struggling pop star who finds love with a police officer. It was elevated by the performances of its leads and strong original music, which is why it was nominated here. It’s also one of the few African American films to be nominated, and even without a win it bodes well for the little-seen film. Unfortunately, it’s not likely to match up with Selma’s Glory or Everything is Awesome.

“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from GLEN CAMPBELL…I’LL BE ME
Music and Lyric by Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond
It seems unlikely that the country music star would win for a song he recorded for a documentary about himself, but that’s before you realize that the 76 year old musician’s farewell tour was conducted after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Performing allowed Glen to remember who he was, and the documentary is inspiring to millions of current and future Alzheimer’s patients. If he performs Sunday, expect a lengthy standing ovation for the superstar.


The animated film category is one of the more fun ones to guess on, especially when you’ve seen a lot of the films. Unlike Best Picture, the animated films tend to be more mainstream, with one or two exceptions from the foreign market. For a number of years, Pixar reigned supreme and could not be defeated. But that has all changed now with competition from Laika, Dreamworks and Studio Ghibli. We also have a variety of animation choices, from stop motion, anime, CGI and more. Unfortunately almost everyone’s first choice to win this year, The Lego Movie, wasn’t even nominated.

Big Hero 6
Don Hall, Chris Williams and Roy Conli
Disney’s followup to Frozen performed well, even if it wasn’t as huge as the fairy tale musical. Big Hero 6 marked Disney’s first collaboration with Marvel Comics, outside of Marvel’s cinematic universe. It won’t be the last either, judging by the success of this film. Big Hero 6 was fun, heartwarming and full of charm, though it didn’t break any rules or challenge expectations.

The Boxtrolls
Anthony Stacchi, Graham Annable and Travis Knight
We’re always rooting for the meticulously animated stop motion entry, even if they almost never win. The studio behind ParaNorman and Coraline is back with another children’s book adaptation. The Boxtrolls makes humans the bad guys and trolls the friendly misfits, and its charm brightened the darkest troll hole. This one wasn’t quite as visionary as Coraline, or as adult friendly, but it did boast some teeth in serious need of a dentist.

How to Train Your Dragon 2
Dean DeBlois and Bonnie Arnold
Dragon already won the Golden Globe, and it is Dreamwork’s gemstone now that Shrek is retired. No animated film in their catalogue has more critical praise or financial success save for Kung Fu Panda. The sequel was fun, heartfelt and generally well received. If it wins, and it very well could, it’ll be a much needed reward for Dreamworks, which has lost ground to Sony, Disney and Paramount, it’s former partner.

Song of the Sea
Tomm Moore and Paul Young
Tomm Moore made The Secret of the Kells back in 2009, and was a nominee then. The Irish team behind Song of the Sea has been raking in awards at festivals around the world, but it hasn’t been seen by North American audiences yet. If Kells was any indication, Song of the Sea will be touching, mesmerizing and somewhat reminiscent of an Irish Studio Ghibli film. Call it the underdog.

– 123 Dentist’s Pick


The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
Isao Takahata and Yoshiaki Nishimura
Studio Ghibli is the Japanese Animation equivalent of Disney, responsible for some of the most ambitious, thought provoking, moving, and beautiful animated films of all time. This year’s entry is no exception and brings a hand drawn art style rarely seen by mainstream audiences. The studio is falling on hard times these days, but be sure to check out some of their films if you get the chance.

BEST WRITING – Adapted Screenplay

Adapted screenplay is an interesting category, especially if you’ve read the source material that inspired the filmmakers. This year contains a bit of controversy as some adapted material was not always faithful to the complexities of the sources. Only two of the films nominated here are based on fiction, the other three are biopics.

American Sniper
Written by Jason Hall
If American Sniper does win, it will be an interesting statement about the controversy surrounding the film. No question the filmmakers delivered an excellent entertainment experience that examines the complexities and tragedy of a modern American soldier. It also downplayed some of Chris Kyle’s more bigoted statements and his penchant for bragging about his kills. This is one to watch.

The Imitation Game
Written by Graham Moore
Another, albeit smaller, controversy is for The Imitation Game. The question relates to how the film downplayed the struggle Alan Turing faced post World War 2. The film does show what happened to Turing, but it’s more as an afterthought. The film itself focuses on the difficulty in creating the Turing Machine, the world’s first real computer. It’s an excellent story that will hopefully lead to more Alan Turing exploration in other films and books.

Inherent Vice
Written for the screen by Paul Thomas Anderson
One of the year’s most bizarre films was billed as a kind of noir comedy caper, like a spiritual successor to The Big Lebowski. Unfortunately the final product was anything but, and while it is interesting and quite well made, technically, audiences had a hard time following it. Like, actually following it. The dialogue is often mumbled through drug induced stupors. On the plus side, it really is a solid mystery, and dialogue this dazed and confused is a difficult thing to create.

The Theory of Everything
Screenplay by Anthony McCarten
One of the surefire frontrunners, if not the guaranteed winner Sunday is The Theory of Everything. The film is heartfelt, powerful and contains the endorsement of Stephen Hawking himself. This is a big leap forward for little known author McCarten, who’s last and really only theatrical credit was Death of a Superhero in 2011. If he does win, it’s likely you’ll be seeing a few more films with his name on them soon.

– 123 Dentist’s Pick


Written by Damien Chazelle
Whiplash is not a biopic precisely, but rather inspired by real life. The story of an intense, often abusive relationship between student and teacher is one of the harder films to catch in theatres but worth the trip. It played at the Vancouver International Film Festival this fall, but if you missed it you can catch it on video soon. Intense and fast, Whiplash plays like a thriller, which is a testament to the screenplay, which contains little in the way of gimmicks to keep things exciting.

BEST WRITING – Original Screenplay

This year’s original screenplay category is superb. Not just for the quality of the works, but also for the diversity. From comic to dark, and from dramatic to real life, we have a category full of surprising, engaging, thought provoking and unique films. If you think Hollywood just turns out the same thing every year, you’ve not seen the films nominated here.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Written by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando
Birdman draws on real life influences, including the experiences of Michael Keaton. But it’s really about the age old internal struggle we face with our ego: our need to fit in or stand out, and the desire to feel like we matter. It’s all set against the brutally honest/dishonest backdrop of broadway theatre, and if it sounds complicated, it is. But it’s well worth your time.

Written by Richard Linklater
Boyhood has a good shot of taking this award, though in our opinion it’s less deserving. The film’s weakest part is its script, which is largely improvised and was written as shooting progressed. It’s nominated out of respect for the film itself and for some writers voting for the award, and it might just be refreshing enough to take home the gold. Linklater has been nominated before for his scripts, but Boyhood is a bit of an oddball in this category.

Written by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman
Oddly, Foxcatcher is a true life story of an Olympic wrestling coach and his unbelievable relationship with his athletes. Although it’s unusual to see a film based on events like this not come from a magazine article or a novel first, it does happen. Dan Futterman is the writer of Capote, also directed by Bennett Miller. He also penned the Victoria-shot Gracepoint last year and is just as well known in front of the camera. E. Max Frye on the other hand is a relative newcomer, so it will be interesting if the duo can pull off a win, though it’s unlikely.

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Screenplay by Wes Anderson; Story by Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness
Sharply written, somewhat absurd and delightfully insane, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a masterwork from a master comedy director with a style all his own. Most of what fans recognize about a Wes Anderson film comes from his art direction, framing and performances just this side of surreal. But the scripts that inspire Anderson’s worlds are the blueprint that the rest of his world is built on. It could squeak out an underdog win here as well.

Written by Dan Gilroy
Nightcrawler was looked over in almost every other category of note, and it’s a real shame because the script is edgy, dark and full of thought provoking ideas and characters. The story of a narcissistic, possibly sociopathic night owl who finds his calling leeching off of LA’s misery by shooting gore-clips for the morning news is gripping stuff, but it was deemed too dark for most awards. With any luck it might stand a chance here, if nowhere else. Fans of the film will find out Sunday.

– 123 Dentist’s Pick


BEST ACTRESS in a Leading Role

This year’s best actress category is a bit of a mixed bag. Several expected nominations were missing, like Jennifer Aniston for Cake, and Rosamund Pike received Gone Girl’s sole nomination in a major category. As Maggie Gyllenhaal so astutely pointed out though, this year’s performances are a reflection of real women, fleshed out characters, good, bad, supportive, flawed, loving, powerful women.

Marion Cotillard
Two Days, One Night
As a single mother who has to convince her co-workers not to vote her out of a job, Marion Cotillard was this year’s surprise nominee from a French/Belgium film nobody has seen. The story is simple, gripping and powerful stuff, asking important questions about self reliance and our role in society to help each other vs. putting ourselves and our families first. Cotillard’s resume is stellar and she has a good shot of upsetting the category, potentially even beating out Julianne Moore.

Felicity Jones
The Theory of Everything
As the loyal wife of Stephen Hawking, Jane Hawking stuck by her brilliant husband and helped him live a full life in shell of a body. Portraying the ‘wife’ of the subject isn’t always an easy or rewarding task, but thanks to an excellent script and careful attention to detail, Jones turns in a powerful performance as a loyal, modern woman who falls deeply in love with the soul and mind of one of history’s most brilliant men. She has already won several awards for the part, so chances are good Oscar will remember her. But she still faces some stiff competition.

Julianne Moore
Still Alice
This year’s front runner to win has to be Academy favourite Julianne Moore. Portraying a woman diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Moore takes us through the progression of the illness and lets us see what it’s like for someone struggling with the disease. The ability by Moore to fade away makes the film work, her confusion and frustration nuanced and balanced as to not distract or feel awkward. If anyone deserves the award most and has the support of the Academy, it’s Moore.

– 123 Dentist’s Pick


Rosamund Pike
Gone Girl
Discussing Pike’s performance requires going into some details about the film, which if you haven’t seen it deserves a watch on DVD or Bluray. The actress has a lot of fun playing a complex role, and she represents Gone Girl’s only hope for recognition in a major category. It’s unlikely she’ll win this year, but it was nice to see the Academy remember her.

Reese Witherspoon
Wild has all the trademarks of an Oscar bait performance. It’s a well crafted story about a flawed woman dealing with her own inner demons and struggling to find her way. It’s moving, at times gripping, and at every turn Witherspoon commands the screen and gives a compelling, realistic performance. Unfortunately she doesn’t reach quite the same heights as some of her competition, so while she has a shot, it’s a long one.

ACTOR in a Leading Role

Best actor is always a tough category, but this year more than any other in recent memory the category is stacked and there isn’t necessarily a clear winner. We’re predicting a win for Theory of everything, but it’s not clear if that will be the case. Usually Oscar appreciates a stand out performance or a career high. This year, each actor nominated reaches their absolute best, and the award will go to a deserving actor no matter what.

Steve Carell
Hours of makeup daily, a complete zap of his usual comic energy, and you have Steve Carell portraying the completely unrecognizable coach, John du Pont, in the riveting thriller about a coach pushing an athlete too far. While the film is unlikely to reach Oscar gold elsewhere, its best shot is an upset win for Carell. Unfortunately, Carell’s stellar work is overshadowed by some even bigger powerhouse performances and the makeup thing might work against him by coming off as too eager.

Bradley Cooper
American Sniper
Cooper’s uncanny resemblance to Chris Kyle and his ability to make Kyle seem noble, dangerous, despicable, and tragic all at once are reason enough to give him the gold. He’s been nominated several times of late, but so far has failed to win. That could change Sunday, but it would mean acknowledging American Sniper, which is something the Academy will be deeply divided on. The huge box office won’t hurt though. Cooper’s best chance is a split vote for other actors in the category.

Benedict Cumberbatch
The Imitation Game
Another strong english performance of a genius pioneer, Cumberbatch has the support of the internet and the geek community, but he’s a newcomer and faces stiff competition. Alan Turing manages to come off as compelling and sympathetic with Cumberbatch in the driver’s seat, but the script’s downplaying of his sexual orientation in favour of a focus on Aspergers might work against him.

Michael Keaton
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
The Academy loves a career comeback, and though Keaton chose to step away from the spotlight, his return is no less exciting. His performance carries Birdman and reminds us at every (literal) turn what we were missing without him as a leading man. Keaton lost out to Eddie Redmayne in several crucial battles before Oscar, so his chances are dwindling to take home gold, but his likability might do the trick. If nothing else, Academy voters might find the story of a washed up movie star more relatable.

– 123 Dentist’s Pick


Eddie Redmayne
The Theory of Everything
The favourite to win, Redmayne’s performance has been praised by Stephen Hawking himself, and there is no question that the Academy favours english actors portraying mental or physical disabilities. There has been some backlash at the predictability of the Academy over this, and Redmayne, though talented, could find his young age working against him.


The captain of the ship is only one of the crew, but his knowledge of the details of every part of the job help him keep everyone on the same course and working as a team. Without a strong director’s vision, there wouldn’t be a film to gush over. It’s a shame David Fincher didn’t get nominated, though.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Most years, the winner of the director award is the same as the winner of the Director’s Guild Award winner. In this case, it’s Alejandro G. Iñárritu, who is currently filming right here in BC (and Alberta) with Leo DiCaprio on a period western. The vision behind Birdman’s creation, a series of seamlessly stitched long takes, is the reason behind his expected win. Not to mention resurrecting Michael Keaton.


Richard Linklater

Though unlikely, Linklater could win this in an upset. Boyhood is a true achievement for a master filmmaker, and the culmination of a diverse and influential career. Linklater is well-loved, and he’s being supported by a lot of voters, so if there is a surprise, this is who it will be. As much as we loved Birdman, we have to go with Linklater for his sheer will in making Boyhood happen.

Bennett Miller
From Capote to Moneyball, Miller’s previous feature films have been extraordinary successes. They prove his talent and taste as an A-list filmmaker. Unfortunately Miller’s films are always known for something other than him. Each film seems to draw attention for its lead actor and/or supporting actor, which is great news for them, but it hasn’t helped Miller take home a statue.

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson
Everyone loves Wes Anderson, and thankfully he’s the only one doing Wes Anderson films in Hollywood or the bit might get a little stale. As it stands, The Grand Budapest Hotel was a triumph even by his lofty standards, and it should be enjoyed by you on Netflix right now. It’s unlikely he’ll win with stiff competition from two others, but if the vote were split you never know what could happen.

The Imitation Game
Morten Tyldum
Another unlikely candidate is newcomer Morten Tyldum, from Norway. With a few smaller films under his belt, The Imitation Game is a big leap forward, so Tyldum is no doubt happy to just be invited to Hollywood’s big night, let alone win. It would take a lot for him to upset in this category, and we do mean a lot.


At this point, not much more can be said about the nominees for best picture. What was fascinating about this year was that only 8 films were nominated out of a possible 10. With films like Gone Girl and Nightcrawler missing from the list, it’s not so much who should win the honour, so much as who should not.

American Sniper
Clint Eastwood, Robert Lorenz, Andrew Lazar, Bradley Cooper and Peter Morgan
As mentioned before, there is controversy around American Sniper’s often heroic portrayal of a divisive public figure. If it wins, it’ll be in response to the effort of the filmmakers, the studio’s marketing, and the overwhelming box office return of the film. It seems unlikely that it could win, what with the backlash from a good portion of the liberal audience, but keep in mind that Academy voters are older.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher and James W. Skotchdopole
If any film deserves to win above all the others, it has to be Birdman. Expertly constructed, entertaining, moving and full of wonderful performances, there’s nothing about Birdman that doesn’t deserve to be celebrated. Unfortunately, it’s also a story that speaks most strongly to the people who work in theatre and film, or who study it obsessively. Its message hasn’t reached as wide as it might need to win top honours.

Richard Linklater and Cathleen Sutherland
If any film were guaranteed to win Best Picture Sunday, it’s has to be Boyhood. Richard Linklater might not take best director, but his almost 15 year quest to make a single narrative story is impressive and took guts. He and his team are early frontrunners, which is impressive considering the film had a relatively early release over the summer.

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales and Jeremy Dawson
Wes Anderson’s expertly crafted comedy caper is pure nostalgic delight. It also happens to be a good choice for underdog. Consider that if the vote is split between Boyhood, Birdman and American Sniper among others, The Grand Budapest Hotel could be the last film standing, with its clearly unique tone and celebrated team, it’s the kind of upset that has happened before.

– 123 Dentist’s Pick


The Imitation Game
Nora Grossman, Ido Ostrowsky and Teddy Schwarzman
Beautiful, tense, powerful. Need we say more? The small scale British drama is going to face heavy competition from The Theory of Everything, so it’s unlikely to win. On the other hand, the Academy loves British biopics and might want to get as far away from controversy as possible. If Birdman and Boyhood feel too edgy, the Brits might just squeak through with a win.

Christian Colson, Oprah Winfrey, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner
Selma faced its share of support, and audiences were upset it didn’t receive nominations in more categories. Some groups saw it as a slight against African Americans, where others thought the film just didn’t cut it. In fairness, 12 Years A Slave did win Best Picture last year, so one can hardly accuse the academy of being completely blind to race inequality. Ironically, the backlash means voters probably won’t support Selma for best picture, even if it had a chance before.

The Theory of Everything
Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce and Anthony McCarten
Another British biopic can’t bode well when you’re talking about secret ballots. Though it has been incredibly well received and the filmmakers have the support of the Hawking family, they will need a miracle to overcome steep odds. If they win, it’ll be an upset.

Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook and David Lancaster
The true underdog is the film least likely to take home the medal, and in this case it’s Whiplash, which was a happy surprise as even a nominee. The film has benefitted immeasurably just from press it has received, so don’t feel too bad if the filmmakers are overlooked here. See the film anyway; it’s impressive.


Remember gang, our picks don’t necessarily reflect who will win, only who we want to win. We’ve tried to factor politics, marketing and likability into our critique, so you should have an idea of who the front runners are in each category. Good luck in your Oscar pool and enjoy the nominated films!