BEST PICTURE AND BEST DIRECTOR
In 2013 and 2014, the winner of Best Director and the winner of Best Picture came from different films. In 2013, Life of Pi's director Ang Lee won Best Director defeating the hypothetical nominee Ben Affleck. We'll never know if Ben Affleck had received an Oscar nomination if Argo still would have won Best Picture, but since the Director's Guild of America Awards gave Affleck a nomination (and eventual win), there was clearly strong support for the film and the director before and after the Oscar snub.
In 2014, 12 Years A Slave won Best Picture yet its director Steve McQueen lost to the eventual winner- Gravity's Alfonso Cuaron. Neither win was a surprise as both 12 Years A Slave and Cuaron were each the favorite to win their respected categories before the 2014 Oscars.
In 2015, I think we were conditioned to have some sort of split with many predicting Boyhood's Richard Linklater to win Best Director and Birdman winning Best Picture. I think that was a condition of the past two years and not seeing the broader picture. Almost always, the Best Picture and Best Director come from the same picture and that held true for the 2015 Academy Awards.
Further, do not doubt the DGA! Not only are they an incredible predictor of who will eventually go on to win Best Director, but they also are a great predictor of Best Picture as well. Birdman was both the DGA and the Producer's Guild of America (PGA) Award winner, which means it was going to win their respected Oscar statutes.
A lot of people expected The Grand Budapest Hotel and Wes Anderson to win the Best Original Screenplay Academy Award; however, I correctly predicted Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Birdman to win. Hotel had won the BAFTA (a terrible predictor) as well as the Writer's Guild of America Awards (a great predictor); however, Birdman was not nominated for a WGA Award. This isn't terribly surprising, as many people (seemingly) can write a great script without being a member of the Writer's Guild.
Again, the biggest predictor of a screenplay award is if the film wins Best Picture, which means one should look heavily at the DGAs. 2015, probably more than any other year, shows us that the film that wins Best Picture will have a trickle down effect for other categories.
Still, the WGA is an incredibly reliable predictor of a Best Screenplay Oscar win. Graham Moore and The Imitation Game won the WGA for Best Adapted Screenplay and it also went on to win the Academy Award. I don't fault anyone predicting the WGA winner for Best Original Screenplay, Wes Anderson, would go on to the wins the Oscar, but the use of common sense (Anderson not going against Inarritu at the WGAs) in conjunction with other factors (Birdman's DGA and PGA win) to predict correctly.
Also, for the past four years, the winner of Best Original Screenplay was for a writer who also directed his picture. That would have held true for Wes Anderson, but it also is still true for Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.
There's nothing incredibly surprising about the results of Eddie Redmayne, Julianne Moore, J.K. Simmons, and Patricia Arquette winning an Oscar. All four actors won both a Golden Globe and a Screen Actor's Guild (SAG) Award and the success rate of an actor winning both as well as an Academy Award is extremely high. We'll have to look to other years in the future as the winner of the SAG who didn't win a Golden Globe has greater degrees of variability. 2015 was very consistent in terms of historical data and results.
If you're an Oscar nerd like myself, you know that the 2015 Academy Awards is the first time since 1980 that the winner of Best Picture did not also win Best Editing as Birdman won Best Picture yet Whiplash won Best Editing. However, Birdman was not one of the 5 nominees nominated for Best Editing so of course it wasn't going to win. This is an anomaly, both a statistical one for future predictions as well as a micro one in the sense of how Birdman was shot did not lend itself to earn a nomination to begin with. Going forward, the film I predict to win Best Picture is still the film I will predict to win Best Editing.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
I am just throwing out this year. The Lego Movie was, for the longest time, the front-runner to win this category, yet it's odd snub for the Oscar nominations made this year feel like an outlier year for this category. Still, I think it's worth noting that How To Train Your Dragon 2 won the Golden Globe for Best Animated Picture before the 2015 Academy Award nominations were even announced. However, The Lego Movie won the Producer's Guild of America (PGA) Award for Best Animated Feature and I still feel confident it would have won the Oscar had it earned a nomination. If anything going forward, maybe we should give the PGAs slightly more weight.
The Academy enjoys a certain type of documentary. They love underdog films, they love underdog music films (but no other art form, just music), they hate war films, but most of all, they love social documentaries about current issues. Citizenfour fits into that last category and that's why it won- according to historical data of course.
BEST SOUND MIXING AND BEST SOUND EDITING
1) Always make sure your winner is nominated for Best Picture 2) Always listen to what Grantland's Mark Harris has to say. He knows how voters think. This held true in 2015.
BEST MAKE UP AND HAIRSTYLING
1) Always bet against Marvel / Superhero films. The only superhero film since 1980 to win this award was Spider-Man II 2) Don't overthink it
THE SHORTS CATEGORIES
Despite Feast's win at the 2015 Academy Awards in the Best Animated Short category, Disney and Pixar have a horrible track record in this category. I'm still considering Feast as an outlier unless Disney wins again next year or multiple times over a multi-year stretch,
Also, just listen to what Gold Derby's Tom O'Neil has to say on the matter.
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