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Oscar picks: Critics weigh in

After the pomp and pageantry of the 2014 Oscar ceremonies, this year's Academy Awards (airing Feb. 22 on ABC) seem downright eccentric. Three offbeat entries dominate the major categories: Richard Linklater's expansive "Boyhood," Alejandro G. Iñárritu's acerbic "Birdman," and Wes Anderson's melancholy candy box, "The Grand Budapest Hotel." Two more prototypical examples of Oscar fare, "The Theory of Everything" and "The Imitation Game," may get skunked, as may the cathartic "American Sniper," a career peak for Clint Eastwood and a hit with people who actually pay to see movies. (The equally deserving "Selma" already got snubbed in the nominations.) And let's not forget "Whiplash," the second film from an unknown kid that serves as a refresher course in what makes movies great: strong stories well told. What does it all mean? The same thing it does every year: The movie that wins is the one that makes Hollywood feel best about itself.

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PICTURE

TY BURR

Will win: "Boyhood"

Should win: "Boyhood"

Shouldn't be here: "The Theory of Everything"

Was robbed: "The Immigrant"

After the critics' awards and Golden Globes and craft prizes and BAFTAs, the big race comes down to a staring match between "Boyhood" and "Birdman," strikingly atypical Oscar nominees both. Could Academy voters split the vote and end up going for the old-school comforts of "The Theory of Everything" or "The Imitation Game"? Perhaps. More likely, the gentle, macrocosmic "Boyhood" will win out over the rapturously made but polarizing "Birdman," especially with the large actors' branch.

JANICE PAGE

Will win: "Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)"

Should win: "Boyhood"

Shouldn't be here: "The Theory of Everything"

Was robbed: "Nightcrawler"

Charges of inaccuracy weakened several nominees. Good films were again overlooked ("Nightcrawler," "Obvious Child"). Which brings us to "Boyhood" vs. "Birdman," a race that suddenly seems neck and neck. "Boyhood" is a singular achievement, a creative and logistical marvel, a critical winner. "Birdman" is a very strong film with a very puzzling ending, but it's taken top honors from the producers, directors, and screen actors guilds. The last time that sweep didn't predict best picture was when 1995's "Apollo 13" lost to "Braveheart."

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Ellar Coltrane at age six in the film “Boyhood.”
Ellar Coltrane at age six in the film “Boyhood.”IFC Films/ AP

DIRECTOR

TY BURR

Will win: Richard Linklater, "Boyhood"

Should win: Richard Linklater, "Boyhood"

Shouldn't be here: Morten Tyldum, "The Imitation Game"

Was robbed: Clint Eastwood, "American Sniper"

Actually, both Eastwood and Ava DuVernay ("Selma") belong in this category, at the expense of Tyldum and (arguably) Bennett Miller of "Foxcatcher." "Birdman" may win on the strength of its dazzling craftsmanship, but voters will probably prefer to reward the much-loved Linklater for a career of going his own risky, talky, mellow way.

JANICE PAGE

Will win: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, "Birdman"

Should win: Richard Linklater, "Boyhood"

Shouldn't be here: Bennett Miller, "Foxcatcher"

Was robbed: Damien Chazelle, "Whiplash"

For many years to come, in film schools everywhere, the collected works of Richard Linklater will be analyzed and revered. No one is more masterful at crafting intimate human dramas that realistically chronicle the passage of time. But maybe Linklater makes it look too easy. How else to explain that 12 years of inspired filming ("Boyhood") may lose out to one long stitched-together tracking shot ("Birdman")?

Richard Linklater.
Richard Linklater.David Buchan/Getty Images

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

TY BURR

Will win: Eddie Redmayne, "The Theory of Everything"

Should win: Michael Keaton, "Birdman"

Shouldn't be here: Steve Carell, "Foxcatcher"

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Was robbed: David Oyelowo, "Selma"

Voters love British actors. Voters love British actors playing real people who face physical challenges. Voters love handsome British actors who put their bodies on the rack for a role. Game, set, match to Redmayne, unless Keaton's remarkable late-career resurgence is the narrative that makes the Academy happier. Carell's isn't a lead performance (it's co-supporting), but Oyelowo's sure is.

JANICE PAGE

Will win: Michael Keaton, "Birdman"

Should win: Michael Keaton, "Birdman"

Shouldn't be here: Benedict Cumberbatch, "The Imitation Game"

Was robbed: Jake Gyllenhaal, "Nightcrawler"

Remember how right it felt when Matthew McConaughey took home an Oscar last March? That could again be the narrative with this year's Michael Keaton resurrection. Yes, Eddie Redmayne's contorted portrait of Stephen Hawking looks poised to carry the day. But I'd bet my kid's woobie that Mr. Mom triumphs. And I'd swap Cumberbatch's stammering genius (it's gotten old) for Gyllenhaal's freshly oiled sleaze, too.

Ty Burr about his Oscar predictions - Actor/Actress

Globe movie critic Ty Burr about the upcoming Academy Awards and who he thinks will win Best Picture, Actor and Actress.

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

TY BURR

Will win: Julianne Moore, "Still Alice"

Should win: Marion Cotillard, "Two Days, One Night"

Shouldn't be here: Rosamund Pike, "Gone Girl"

Was robbed: Scarlett Johansson, "Under the Skin"

How is Moore the runaway favorite for a film that few have seen and few are likely to? Because her turn as a woman coping with early-onset Alzheimer's is another committed, empathetic, unsentimental, and humane performance in a career full of them, and it's about time she was honored. For all that, Cotillard's stressed-out working mom may do as much, if not more, with less.

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JANICE PAGE

Will win: Julianne Moore, "Still Alice"

Should win: Julianne Moore, "Still Alice"

Shouldn't be here: Rosamund Pike, "Gone Girl"

Was robbed: Jennifer Aniston, "Cake"

Aniston should have been a top contender for her compelling portrait of a chronic pain sufferer in "Cake." Instead, because the film wasn't seen, she's a nonfactor. Marion Cotillard already has an Oscar, so Moore has a clear path to gold. If the Academy wanted to reward a portrait of psychosis, instead of Pike's outrageously overacted performance it should have looked to Essie Davis in "The Babadook."

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

TY BURR

Will win: J.K. Simmons, "Whiplash"

Should win: J.K. Simmons, "Whiplash"

Shouldn't be here: Robert Duvall, "The Judge"

Was robbed: Channing Tatum,
"Foxcatcher"

Every once in a while, this category becomes the "beloved-character-actor-finally-gets-recognized" award, and can anyone carp that it's Simmons's turn this year? Especially when he earned it with the fire and brimstone of his performance as a mesmerizingly manipulative music professor. Hear those Oscar drumbeats? It's his tempo.

JANICE PAGE

Will win: J.K. Simmons, "Whiplash"

Should win: J.K. Simmons, "Whiplash"

Shouldn't be here: Ethan Hawke, "Boyhood"

Was robbed: Alfred Molina, "Love Is Strange"

This year's sure bet, the one that would require a Malcolm Butler interception to derail, is Simmons taking home a statue for the sadistic jazz band maestro he plays in "Whiplash." Simmons is so chilling in the role, it's hard to watch his Farmers Insurance commercials now without sweating.

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Ty Burr about his Oscar predictions - Supporting Actor/Actress

Globe movie critic Ty Burr about the upcoming Academy Awards and who he thinks will win Best Picture, Actor and Actress.

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

TY BURR

Will win: Patricia Arquette, "Boyhood"

Should win: Patricia Arquette, "Boyhood"

Shouldn't be here: Meryl Streep, "Into the Woods"

Was robbed: Katherine Waterston,
"Inherent Vice"

A lot of people — not just women — saw themselves in Arquette's sweet, honest playing of Mason's mom in "Boyhood," moving from late youth to middle-age and wondering where it all went. Streep's nomination is pure Oscar knee-jerking; let's just say her singing voice is. . . adequate. But Waterston's Shasta Fay Hepworth haunts some of us still.

JANICE PAGE

Will win: Patricia Arquette, "Boyhood"

Should win: Patricia Arquette, "Boyhood"

Shouldn't be here: Meryl Streep, "Into the Woods"

Was robbed: Jessica Chastain, "A Most Violent Year"

Who doesn't love Laura Dern? Especially in "Wild," where she's a near-saintly mother figure. But Dern can't match the technical difficulty of Arquette's 12-year matriarchal odyssey in "Boyhood," or the effortless credibility it radiates. Chastain deserved a spot. La Streep? The one person she can't mimic, apparently, is Bernadette Peters.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

TY BURR

Will win: "Birdman," Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris Jr., and Armando Bo

Should win: "Birdman"

A very tight race between "Birdman" and "Grand Budapest Hotel," both feats of tricky meta-movie construction. You could bet on either and you'd stand a chance of being right.

JANICE PAGE

Will win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness

Should win: “Birdman,” Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris Jr., and Armando Bo

Could go either way. Do the Wes Anderson fans beat back the "Birdman" supporters? Possibly, but Anderson really should have won for "Moonrise Kingdom." This time, "Birdman" is more deserving. And speaking of deserving, how about a nod for "Dear White People"?

From left: Chivo Lubezki, Alfonso Cuarón, Guillermo del Toro, and Alejandro González Iñárritu.
From left: Chivo Lubezki, Alfonso Cuarón, Guillermo del Toro, and Alejandro González Iñárritu.Invision for FOX Searchlight/AP

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

TY BURR

Will win: "The Imitation Game," Graham Moore

Should win: "Inherent Vice," Paul Thomas Anderson

"Vice" and "American Sniper" adapt their sources with more creativity (and creative license), but the familiar biopic stylings of "Imitation" will probably win the day here.

JANICE PAGE

Will win: "The Imitation Game," Graham Moore

Should win: "Whiplash," Damien Chazelle

Fans of "The Imitation Game" know this is its best shot, and they'll make it count. A snappier, savvier choice would be "Whiplash." Better still would be a nomination for "Snowpiercer" (Bong Joon Ho and Kelly Masterson). But that's a bridge too far for Oscar.

Felicity Jones (left) and Eddie Redmaynein “The Theory of Everything.”
Felicity Jones (left) and Eddie Redmaynein “The Theory of Everything.”Liam Daniel / Focus Features/Focus Features

ANIMATED FEATURE

TY BURR

Will win: "How to Train Your Dragon 2"

Should win: "The Tale of the Princess Kaguya"

In the absence of "The LEGO Movie," the front-runner is Dreamworks' return to its popular and admired "Dragon" saga. But Isao Takahata's "Kaguya" is a once-in-a-blue-moon original.

JANICE PAGE

Will win: "How to Train Your Dragon 2"

Should win: "The Tale of the Princess Kaguya"

How "The LEGO Movie" was overlooked in this category – easily the year's biggest snub – is almost as big a mystery as how "Dragon 2" became the front-runner. "Princess Kaguya" is by far the most artistic and deserving of the nominees. Yet "Dragon 3" seems as inevitable as a poisoned cannoli.

“How to Train Your Dragon 2.”
“How to Train Your Dragon 2.”

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FEATURE

TY BURR

Will win: "Ida" (Poland)

Should win: "Leviathan" (Russia)

If the Academy wants to tick off Putin, they'll opt for "Leviathan," a relentless takedown of modern Russia. But the gorgeously shot post-Holocaust morality tale "Ida" may be more their speed.

JANICE PAGE

Will win: "Ida" (Poland)

Should win: "Ida"

"Force Majeure," which many expected to be a favorite, isn't even here. Since hardly anyone has seen "Timbuktu" or "Tangerines," and "Wild Tales" is way too wacky for Oscar voters, it's between "Ida" and "Leviathan," both excellent. The iconoclastic "Leviathan" would still be a victory for Russia. Therefore, "Ida" wins.

Agata Kulesza and Agata Trzebuchowska in the 2013 Polish film “Ida,” directed by Pawel Pawlikowski.
Agata Kulesza and Agata Trzebuchowska in the 2013 Polish film “Ida,” directed by Pawel Pawlikowski.Music Box/Courtesy of Music Box

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

TY BURR

Will win: "Citizenfour"

Should win: "Citizenfour"

A tough category, and it's possible "Virunga," a powerhouse about endangered gorillas, may have a late surge. But the Edward Snowden doc may hit voters where they live after the recent Sony hacking scandal.

JANICE PAGE

Will win: "Citizenfour"

Should win: "Citizenfour"

Say what you will about Edward Snowden, he knows how to pick a winning filmmaker. Laura Poitras's fearless "Citizenfour" sculpts a riveting human story out of a pile of leaked NSA documents. No other nominee comes close to its degree of difficulty, or impact.

Edward Snowden in ”Citizenfour.”
Edward Snowden in ”Citizenfour.”RADiUS-TWC/Courtesy of RADiUS-TWC

VISUAL EFFECTS

TY BURR

Will win: "Interstellar," Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter, and Scott Fisher

Should win: "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett, and Erik Winquist

Expect Christopher Nolan's sci-fi parable to get some love here — unless "Apes" or "Guardians of the Galaxy" prevails.

JANICE PAGE

Will win: “Interstellar,” Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter, and Scott Fisher

Should win: “Interstellar”

While not the slam dunk that "Gravity" was last year, "Interstellar" should take this category easily. Just turn off the sound if you screen it at home.

Matthew McConaughey in '"Interstellar."
Matthew McConaughey in '"Interstellar."Melinda Sue Gordon/Paramount Pictures/AP

CINEMATOGRAPHY

TY BURR

Will win: "Birdman," Emmanuel Lubezki

Should win: "Mr. Turner," Dick Pope

That seamless seeming single-shot-take, stretching from one end of "Birdman" to the other, may make Lubezki a back-to-back winner after last year's "Gravity." But Pope's "Turner" canvas — wow.

JANICE PAGE

Will win: "Birdman," Emmanuel Lubezki

Should win: "Mr. Turner," Dick Pope

The visual brilliance of "Mr. Turner" is that it doesn't just imitate a J.M.W. Turner painting, it shows us how the artist saw his world. Unfortunately, that vision wasn't matched in the script. Lubezki's flashier camerawork, and the "Birdman" groundswell, will carry him to victory.

Timothy Spall in "”Mr. Turner.”
Timothy Spall in "”Mr. Turner.”Simon Mein/Sony Pictures Classics/Simon Mein, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

FILM EDITING

TY BURR

Will win: "Boyhood," Sandra Adair

Should win: "Whiplash," Tom Cross

The challenge of sculpting one boy's life out of 12 years of footage should impress voters into awarding "Boyhood" the prize. The editing in "Whiplash," though, soars with the bravura of youth.

JANICE PAGE

Will win: "Boyhood," Sandra Adair

Should win: "Boyhood"

Twelve years of footage, one coherent movie that runs under three hours. You do the math.

SOUND EDITING

TY BURR

Will win: "American Sniper," Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman

Should win: "American Sniper"

What we hear in "Sniper" is as important as what its main character sees; Eastwood's sound team creates an aural picture of war as hell.

JANICE PAGE

Will win: "Interstellar," Richard King

Should win: "American Sniper," Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman

To repeat, "Interstellar" is this year's "Gravity." It's the default checkbox for every technical category, even if it's mostly noise on closer listen. Just turn off the picture if you screen it at home.

Kyle Gallner (left) and Bradley Cooper in "American Sniper."
Kyle Gallner (left) and Bradley Cooper in "American Sniper."Warner Bros. Pictures/AP

SOUND MIXING

TY BURR

Will win: "Interstellar," Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker, and Mark Weingarten

Should win: "American Sniper," John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff, and Walt Martin

If sound editors are the composers of what a movie sounds like, the mixers are akin to orchestra conductors, balancing all the parts. The deep-space soundscapes of "Interstellar" may take the gold here.

JANICE PAGE

Will win: "Interstellar," Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker, and Mark Weingarten

Should win: "Whiplash," Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins, and Thomas Curley Check.

PRODUCTION DESIGN

TY BURR

Will win: "The Grand Budapest Hotel," Adam Stockhausen and Anna Pinnock

Should win: "Mr. Turner," Suzie Davies and Charlotte Watts

The delightful dollhouse precision of the sets and design for "Grand Budapest" will be rewarded, and deservedly so, even if "Turner" has subtler and more profound visual pleasures.

JANICE PAGE

Will win: "The Grand Budapest Hotel," Adam Stockhausen and Anna Pinnock

Should win: "The Grand Budapest Hotel"

Name another movie that looks like a box of macarons. Moviegoers loved "Grand Budapest," and one of the things they loved most was the look of it.

Ralph Fiennes, Saoirse Ronan, and Tony Revolori in “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”
Ralph Fiennes, Saoirse Ronan, and Tony Revolori in “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”Bob Yeoman/Fox Searchlight/Fox Searchlight

COSTUME DESIGN

TY BURR

Will win: "The Grand Budapest Hotel," Milena Canonero

Should Win: "The Grand Budapest Hotel"

If the witchy surrealism of "Into the Woods" and "Maleficent" cancel each other out, Milena Canonero's witty Art Deco outfits (and that Lobby Boy uniform!) for "Grand Budapest" should prevail.

JANICE PAGE

Will win: "The Grand Budapest Hotel," Milena Canonero

Should win: "The Grand Budapest Hotel"

As "Interstellar" is to the technical categories, "Grand Budapest" is to the design categories. Check.

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

TY BURR

Will win: "Guardians of the Galaxy," Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White

Should win: "The Grand Budapest Hotel," Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier

A tough category, actually. Will voters go for the goofy cleverness of "Guardians," the outré twee of "Grand Budapest," or Steve Carell's nose in "Foxcatcher"? My money's on the comic book heroes.

JANICE PAGE

Will win: "Foxcatcher," Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard

Should win: "The Grand Budapest Hotel," Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier

Steve Carell's prosthetic nose vs. Tilda Swinton's voluminous wig and old-age makeup. Both actors were rendered unrecognizable, but voters will remember the "Foxcatcher" proboscis as a key image of the 2014 movie season. So it wins, by a . . . you know.

Steve Carell (left) and Mark Ruffalo in "Foxcatcher."
Steve Carell (left) and Mark Ruffalo in "Foxcatcher."Scott Garfield/Sony Pictures Classics/AP

ORIGINAL SCORE

TY BURR

Will win: "The Theory of Everything," Jóhann Jóhannsson

Should win: "The Grand Budapest Hotel," Alexandre Desplat

This category is really Desplat's to lose, and with both his "Grand Budapest" and "Imitation Game" scores nominated, he may well cancel himself out. In which case, "Everything" is the favorite.

JANICE PAGE

Will win: "The Grand Budapest Hotel," Alexandre Desplat

Should win: "The Grand Budapest Hotel"

Desplat has two chances to finally claim his first Oscar in eight nominations. No one remembers the score of "The Imitation Game"; "Grand Budapest" is the one that will reward him.

ORIGINAL SONG

TY BURR

Will win: "Glory" ("Selma"), John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn

Should win: "Glory" ("Selma")

No contest here: with a Golden Globe under its belt and an emotional live version that closed out the Grammys, the "Selma" song will win. Plus, there's all that Academy guilt over snubbing the movie elsewhere.

JANICE PAGE

Will win: "Glory" ("Selma"), John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn

Should win: "Glory"

If you haven't seen John Legend and Common performing "Glory," you haven't been watching television. They're everywhere, and so is this inspiring anthem, the only real chance for "Selma."

David Oyelowo (left) with director Ava DuVernay on the set of the film "Selma."
David Oyelowo (left) with director Ava DuVernay on the set of the film "Selma."Atsushi Nishijima/Paramount Pictures/AP/Associated Press

DOCUMENTARY SHORT

TY BURR

Will win: "Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1," Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry

Should win: "Joanna," Aneta Kopacz

An excellent and very tough group of docs, dealing with everyday heroes and confrontations with death. "Crisis Hotline" will strike home for Oscar voters, but the Polish "Joanna," about the relationship between a dying mother and her young son, is even more overpowering.

JANICE PAGE

Will win: "Joanna," Aneta Kopacz

Should win: "Joanna"

The front-runner here is "Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1," an important film about the importance of helping veterans deal with PTSD and other issues. As filmmaking, however, "Joanna" is far superior – a moving, artfully crafted cancer story that's life-affirming if not death-defying.

A scene from “Joanna.”
A scene from “Joanna.”

ANIMATED SHORT

TY BURR

Will win: "Feast," Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed

Should win: "The Dam Keeper," Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi

Disney's puppy-love crowd-pleaser will win, if only as a make-good for last year's "Get a Horse!," which should have won. The eerie "Dam Keeper" is the most creative entry.

JANICE PAGE

Will win: "Feast," Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed

Should win: "Feast"

Stars a rescued puppy. Enough said.

”Feast.”
”Feast.”

LIVE ACTION SHORT

TY BURR

Will win: "The Phone Call," Mat Kirkby and James Lucas

Should win: "Butter Lamp," Hu Wei and Julien Féret

"The Phone Call," a heart-rending short drama about a crisis-line volunteer (Sally Hawkins) and a suicidal man (Jim Broadbent) will impress voters more than the rich Tibetan ethno-snapshot "Butter Lamp."

JANICE PAGE

Will win: “The Phone Call,” Mat Kirkby and James Lucas

Should win: “The Phone Call”

Stars Sally Hawkins and Jim Broadbent.

”The Phone Call.”
”The Phone Call.”

Ty Burr can be reached at tburr@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @tyburr.


Janice Page can be reached at jpage@globe.com.