UDM students, VN critic pick category favorites



Oscar night is one of the more underrated gambling nights of the year. 

The favorites win almost every category. Almost.

Perennially, there is a lone upset in one of the major categories.

Whether it’s Ang Lee winning Best Director for “Life of Pi” or “Crash” winning Best Picture in 2006, something quirky will happen.

Find the quirk, bet the other favorites and that’s easy cash in your pocket.

Here are my predictions (my head), my hopefuls (my heart) and the results of ballot filled out by a group of UDM students.



In an unusually thin field, Julianne Moore (“Still Alice”) has been predestined as a lock since mid-November to win Best Actress.

She’s been nominated five times over the past 20 years without a statue to show for it. The Academy is known to reward longevity, and there haven’t been any strong pushes from the competition.

Felicity Jones is probably next in line for her portrayal of Jane Hawking in “The Theory of Everything,” but she’s a long shot at best. Her performance is quite middling at the center of a mediocre film.

I immensely enjoy Marion Cotillard (“Two Days, One Night”) as an actress, but I still have not seen her film, which seems to be the case for most voters.

I can envision a scenario where Rosamund Pike (“Gone Girl”) pulls an upset for her work as Ben Affleck’s psychotic wife. It would be the Academy’s way of rewarding a well-received box office hit that was shut out of all other major categories.

Reese Witherspoon is also nominated for “Wild,” but her chances are next to zero. Bet the mortgage on Moore and call it a day.

UDM Ballot: Rosamund Pike

My Heart: Marion Cotillard

My Head: Julianne Moore, lock



Patricia Arquette (“Boyhood”) has been cleaning up on the awards circuit and, as the case for the other acting categories, is shaping up to be a lock for the Oscar.

It’s the heaviest role in the movie and more or less carries the film while we wait for her son Mason to enter middle school. It’s a great performance and more than deserving. Nonetheless, this is one of the stronger fields of the acting categories.

Meryl Streep received a nod for “Into the Woods” because, well, she’s Meryl “Freaking” Streep and should get nominated for almost anything she’s in. With her record number of nominations, the Academy feels that it has more than rewarded her for her life’s work.

Laura Dern (“Wild”) has a decent narrative on her side, this being her first nom in 25 years, but she has a considerable lack of buzz to win. The biggest threats to Arquette are Keira Knightly (“The Imitation Game”) and Emma Stone (“Birdman”). The Weinstein Company is pushing hard for Knightly, which has admittedly worked in the past.

I, with the rest of America, fell in love with Emma Stone and her scene-stealing, absorbingly humungous eyes in “Birdman.” Biases aside, I see Stone as a legitimate threat.

The four acting awards have fairly substantial favorites. I don’t see chalk winning all four. If “Birdman” starts going crazy and winning everything with its nine nominations, I wouldn’t put it past Stone to steal this one.

UDM Ballot: Patricia Arquette

My Heart: Patricia Arquette

My Head: Emma Stone, Upset Special



A clear and true pecking order has emerged for Supporting Actor.

Robert Duvall is bringing up the rear with a legacy nom for his work in the so-so reviewed “The Judge,” along with Mark Ruffalo for “Foxcatcher.”

After a significant gap, we come to Ethan Hawke with a sentimental and fantastic performance in “Boyhood,” but it lacks the showiness that the Academy so abundantly loves.

In another year, Ed Norton (“Birdman”) would win his first Oscar for a role in which he viciously eats up every scene he’s in.

Unfortunately for him, J.K. Simmons delivers the type of fiery, visceral performance as a music conductor in “Whiplash” that is seldom reached.

Simmons should win and will win.

No rushing, no dragging, just lock it in.

UDM, HEART and HEAD: J.K. Simmons, lock



By far, this is the tightest race. Steve Carell, for his dark turn in “Foxcatcher,” is the only nominee without a decent chance of claiming the crown.

The slight favorite is Michael Keaton, in a role originally thought to be semi-autobiographical, in “Birdman.” Had he played up the parallel narratives of a once superhero movie star searching for meaning and validation in a serious role, Keaton might’ve greatly improved his chances of winning his first statue with his very first nom.

Behind him is the cluster of Eddie Redmayne, Benedict Cumberbtach and Bradley Cooper, who all portrayed historical figures.

I borderline hated Redmayne’s acting job as Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything,” as well as almost everything else about the film. If he wins for a clearly Oscar-baiting role, I wouldn’t be too shocked, but I would be appalled.

Cumberbatch is totally solid, but not otherworldly, as Alan Turing in the World War II drama, “The Imitation Game.”

Everyone here, except Cooper, has been taking home the major year-end awards that have served as Oscar indicators. Still, Cooper is a force to be reckoned with.

I love Keaton, but Cooper’s job as Chris Kyle in “American Sniper” blows him out of the water.

He could ride “Sniper”’s record-breaking box office and popularity to an unlikely, yet warranted, victory.

UDM Ballot: Bradley Cooper

My Heart: Bradley Cooper, easily

My Head: Michael Keaton, precariously



There’s a common belief that this year will feature a split in the Best Director and Best Picture categories, and I tend to agree.

“Birdman” and Alejandro González Iñárritu will take one; “Boyhood” and Richard Linklater will take the other. The Academy will either reward the grand scope, patience, work ethic and overarching vision of Linklater’s quiet 12-year epic or the inventiveness, trickery, hyper-active pace and overall cinematic magic of Iñárritu’s seemingly one-take rollercoaster.

It’s highly unlikely, but there is a universe where the two directors split the vote so drastically that cult hero Wes Anderson swoops in and steals the award for “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” which tied “Birdman” for the most Oscar nominations (nine) in 2014.

Morten Tyldum is also nominated for “The Imitation Game” but has no chance. Bennett Miller receiving a nomination for “Foxcatcher” is both disgusting and laughable; therefore, he doesn’t have a prayer.

UDM Ballot: Richard Linklater

My Heart: Richard Linklater

My Head: Alejandro González Iñárritu