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Adnan’s Oscar picks, Part 2: Thinking with his head

EDITOR’S NOTE: At ESPN, Adnan Virk wears many hats but rarely does he don a tuxedo. For the second straight year, Front Row has enlisted the network’s resident movie buff to handicap The Oscars (ABC, Sunday, 7 p.m. ET). Virk has seen “every nominee for best picture and director; four acting categories; and two each in the writing and editing categories,” he said, reaffirming his seriousness on the subject. Now, decked out in a virtual tux and top hat, Virk concludes his two-part “Head and Heart” picks. Today’s edition focuses on who Adnan’s head believes will win 2015 Oscars in the major categories; yesterday, he allowed his heart to guide him to the winners. A chart summarizing his picks is included at the bottom of this post.

Actor Ellar Coltrane portrays Mason Evans Jr. in Boyhood.
Actor Ellar Coltrane portrays Mason Evans Jr. in Boyhood.

Best Picture: “Boyhood”

There are a litany of unworthy Best Picture winners in cinematic history: “Ordinary People” over “Raging Bull” in 1980, “Dances with Wolves” over “GoodFellas” in 1990, and “No Country for Old Men” over “There Will Be Blood” in 2007. Rare is the year that the Best Picture winner is actually the most deserving of all the nominees. “The Imitation Game” is intelligent and involving and “Selma” is a rousing political picture from Ava Duvernay and in other years, those films might win Oscar’s ultimate prize. But Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood,” an audacious experiment that works on a grand scale, is that timeless picture that unfolds like something close to a minor miracle, mixing honesty and insight in equal measure.

Best Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, “Birdman”

The winner of the Directors Guild Award has a 90 percent chance of winning the Academy Award and that’s the biggest reason why I think the winner will be Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu over Richard Linklater. Inarritu, the gifted director behind “Babel” and “21 Grams,” will take home an Oscar for his outrageous stunt that he pulls off with élan and flourish in Birdman. Hoping to put the audience in the mindset of its bedeviled star seeking to keep it together amid the chaos unfolding around him, Inarritu films incredibly complicated long takes with his steadicam, darting in and out of the action without a single cut. It’s breathless, frenetic and claustrophobic, successfully catapulting the audience into that intoxicating and exhausting world of Broadway.

Actor Michael Keaton portrays Riggan Thomson in Birdman.
Actor Michael Keaton portrays Riggan Thomson in Birdman.

Best Actor: Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything”

I’m praying it will be Michael Keaton following up his Golden Globe win and delivering another beauty of an acceptance speech, as he receives the crowning achievement of a truly versatile career. But I fear the winner will be Eddie Redmayne for his transformative turn as the brilliant Stephen Hawking in the wildly overrated “Theory of Everything,” the most predictable piece of awards bait in years. It’s not that Redmayne isn’t worthy of some acclaim; at the very least, his performance is a physical marvel. But the role is so formulaic in what the Academy rewards (British actor + real life hero + handicapped) it’s a shame that Keaton will likely miss out. Besides, a case could be made that David Oyelowo should win for “Selma” for his deeply humanist turn as Martin Luther King Jr. – and he wasn’t even nominated. There is an undercurrent of support for Bradley Cooper, nominated for an Academy Award for the third year in a row with the most popular movie nominated (“American Sniper” has grossed over $300 Million dollars) but I don’t see it happening.

Best Actress: Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”

She has won every major award leading up to the grand event so there’s no reason to think Julianne Moore won’t take home her first Oscar for her poignant work as a woman suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s in “Still Alice.” The film didn’t receive any buzz in any other categories so the success of the film purely rests on the divinely talented Moore’s shoulders and she delivers, with her characteristic understated brilliance.

Actress Julianne Moore (l) portrays Alice Howland in Still Alice.
Actress Julianne Moore (l) portrays Alice Howland in Still Alice.

Best Supporting Actor: JK Simmons, “Whiplash”

JK Simmons has similarly swept up hardware in every major ceremony leading up to this Sunday’s culmination of film awards season and his blistering turn as a jazz music teacher who seems to be airlifted out of the military is intense and powerful. His pugnacious style of teaching is essentially blunt trauma to his pupils but in his strangely twisted manner, he doesn’t see himself as a villain but rather a renegade coach who will stop at nothing to engineer results. Much like the veteran character who embodies the character, there’s no stopping this winning streak.

Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”

Patricia Arquette will be the lone winner from the outstanding acting ensemble of “Boyhood” that also included a career high from the reliably affecting Ethan Hawke and an astonishing debut from Ellar Coltrane. Arquette overcomes the hoary cliché of the working class mother who is harried and shrill and something we’ve seen far too often in overwrought melodramas. Instead, her character is resilient more than anything; flawed in her choice of partners yes but undeniably doting and loving to her two children. She doesn’t have much competition in the category either despite the presence of the greatest actress in film history, Meryl Streep, who earned a token nomination for the nauseating musical “Into the Woods.”

Patricia Arquette portrays Olivia Evans in Boyhood.
Patricia Arquette portrays Olivia Evans in Boyhood.

Most Glaring Oversight: “Life Itself”

The best film of the year, nonfiction or otherwise was Steve James life affirming documentary “Life Itself” about one of my heroes, Roger Ebert. James was unjustifiably ignored for his basketball documentary “Hoop Dreams” which Siskel and Ebert championed when it was released in 1994 and this time James returns the favor to the legendary and widely influential film critic, whose battle with cancer was an inspiration to all. The Academy should be ashamed of themselves for ignoring this masterpiece.

The Adnans

CategoryHeartHead
Best Picture"Boyhood""Boyhood"
Best Director Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, “Birdman”
Best ActorMichael Keaton, “Birdman”Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything”
Best ActressJulianne Moore, "Still Alice"Julianne Moore, "Still Alice"
Best Supporting ActorJK Simmons, “Whiplash”JK Simmons, “Whiplash”
Best Supporting ActressKeira Knightley, “The Imitation Game”Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”
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