Cadenza picks the Oscars: Who will win, who should win?

Show business is all-abuzz as the pinnacle of awards season, the beloved and lauded Academy Awards, fast approaches. As usual, there is much speculation about who will be taking home the trophies come Sunday evening, and Cadenza’s staff is here to throw in its own two cents (about the big five categories at least) about who will be up on stage giving that teary-eyed speech and letting you know if we think it should be someone else. After all, what are the Oscars without a little controversy or a left-field surprise in the show somewhere?

The Academy Awards will air this Sunday, Feb. 22 on ABC beginning at 6 p.m. with red-carpet pre-show.

Best Picture

Will Win: “Boyhood” / Should Win: “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”

If there’s anything the Oscars love, it’s a good gimmick. That’s not to say that “Boyhood” is a bad movie—far from it. However, it’s hard to separate director Richard Linklater’s stunning and innovative 12-year filming process and the fascination of watching the same actors age during the entirety of a movie from the actual quality of the film.

At its heart, “Boyhood” is a classic but well-done independent film about growing pains and the ties of family and how they strain. Take away the bandwagon hype, and it should not be beating out much more structurally innovative films on the Best Picture ballot. An early Golden Globe win for Best Motion Picture, however, suggests that “Boyhood” is looking the most likely choice come Sunday night.

And “Birdman” is the kind of forward-thinking and inventive film that should be winning Oscars, although left-field films usually have trouble winning a golden statue. The black comedy co-written, produced and directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inárritu follows a Hollywood actor (Michael Keaton) on the last legs of his career, desperately holding onto to his most famous role as superhero “Birdman,” as he attempts to mount a Broadway product. The dark humor, layered narrative and structural reflection of a descent into madness make “Birdman” the most exciting and thought-provoking movie on the Best Picture ballot, but since when has the Academy gone in for the dark, provocative nominees? –Kayla Hollenbaugh

Best Actress

Will Win/Should Win: Julianne Moore in “Still Alice”

Julianne Moore is a critic favorite for the Best Actress statue this Sunday, and deservedly so. Not only is the acclaimed actress long overdue for an Oscar of her own, but her performance in “Still Alice,” as a linguistics professor diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s, should be the one to win it for her. “Still Alice” may not have gotten much publicity or as wide of a release as the other films and actresses nominated in this category, but that’s never stopped the Academy from giving an award to a well-known actress for a finely tuned and emotional performance.

Audiences watch, riveted, as Moore tragically displays the narrative of a driven and focused woman who loses her memory and the structure of her world, becomes distant from her family and eventually can no longer even form sentences. “Still Alice” may not have been exactly happy viewing, but it is a career-defining role for Moore, and she should be recognized for it.

Other dark horses may also include already-Academy-recognized Marion Cotillard for her role in the even-less-watched film “Two Days, One Night” (Cotillard does seem to be an Academy darling) or Reese Witherspoon for her touching and grounded performance as Cheryl Strayed in “Wild.” Although Witherspoon’s turn highlighted the actress’ ability to get at the heart and humanity of a role and access the reality of a story, Moore should still get a leg up for her absolute commitment and emotional gravitas in “Still Alice.” –Kayla Hollenbaugh

Best Supporting Actress

Will Win: Emma Stone in “Birdman”
Should Win: Laura Dern in “Wild”

In my imaginary version of this Sunday’s Oscars, “Birdman” will get shafted for Best Film, and Emma Stone will represent a consolation prize of sorts, collecting the statue for Best Supporting Actress. It’s a strong field (notwithstanding the kind of throwaway, seemingly annual nomination for Meryl Streep—her performance in “Into the Woods” was solid but nothing career defining), but Stone has been attracting a generous amount of buzz for her portrayal of Michael Keaton’s daughter in “Birdman,” the recovering addict who decides to serve as her father’s assistant.

Stone is already a little bit of a Hollywood darling these days, and people would undoubtedly tune in for her sure-to-be witty and oft-replayed acceptance speech. In fact, her performance was mesmerizing, providing just the right blend of darkness and tender feeling that made “Birdman” so good. Honestly, her winning would be no miscarriage of justice.

However, Laura Dern stands out as my pick for the dark horse award of the night. Although not quite a household name in Hollywood (although if you don’t know her, have you really been paying attention to cinema?), Dern has been quietly and successfully building a strong repertoire of performances and character work, and her role as Bobbi Strayed, Cheryl’s mother, in “Wild” is exemplary of Dern’s best work. Affectionate, emotional and just a little bit infuriating all at the same time, Dern’s Bobbi was an immaculate foil to Reese Witherspoon’s Cheryl, with the two playing off each other in the heart-rending mother-daughter scenes, especially as Bobbi succumbs to cancer. Dern gives “Wild” heart and humanity beyond the story of an ex-party girl setting out into the wilderness to “find herself,” and although an award for her might be unlikely, it would be the best dark horse selection of the night. –Kayla Hollenbaugh

Best Actor

Will Win/Should Win: Eddie Redmayne in “The Theory of Everything”

This category is one of the hardest picks this year, with some amazing talent vying for the top spot. While I’ll quickly throw in my personal apppreciation for Benedict Cumberbatch and Bradley Cooper’s phenomenal performances in “The Imitation Game” and “American Sniper,” respectively, there are really only two contenders in the race at this point.

The young underdog Eddie Redmayne, with his heart-wrenching portrayal of Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything,” is quickly gaining on the veteran Michael Keaton for his meta piece about a washed-up actor in “Birdman.” While Keaton had a substantial lead for most of the awards season, Redmayne picked up the Screen Actor’s Guild prize a few weeks ago—the award that has predicted the Oscar pick the last 12 years.

Even with that omen hanging over the ceremony this weekend, this category is still neck and neck. I’m going with Redmayne—the young British actor is an up-and-coming talent with many more Oscar nominations down the road. If Jennifer Lawrence’s win and Emma Stone’s nomination means anything, it’s that the Academy is looking to introduce some younger talent. –Kendall Carroll

Best Supporting Actor

Should/Will Win: J.K. Simmons in “Whiplash”

Even before the Supporting Actor nominations came out, we all kind of knew what the slate would look like. J.K. Simmons, Ethan Hawke and Edward Norton were locks, Mark Ruffalo was a solid bet and Robert Duvall has enough Academy respect to earn a nomination for anything he does. Tyler Perry could’ve taken the fifth slot for his work in “Gone Girl” and I wouldn’t have complained, but it’s a moot point because there is only one clear winner here.

J.K. Simmons is going to run away with this category. Acting alongside Miles Teller in the spectacular but slightly underdone “Whiplash,” Simmons stole the screen. Playing a sadistic, drill-sergeant-esque music teacher, Simmons is practically a co-lead and gives the movie most if not all of its character. While Teller’s performance is commendable and he as an actor is growing into a force of a leading man, Teller played off Simmons’ expertly wrought vileness. Even though Teller had lead billing, Simmons was the true lead of the movie.

The only other nomination in this category that could give Simmons a run for his money is Ethan Hawke. Depicted as the father in Richard Linklater’s 12-year project, Hawke perfectly projects fatherly love despite being in and out of his son’s life. For all of his shortcomings, Hawke’s character is the rock that keeps the movie grounded. The Academy could decide to give Hawke the award simply for his commitment to a 12-year project, and it would still be a deserving win.

Norton and Ruffalo both put in solid, smirk-heavy performances, but neither stole the screen like Simmons and Hawke. Duvall should just be happy to have another nomination and to own the record of being the oldest male actor nominated. –Wesley Jenkins

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