Even though we already have a celebrated awards ceremony at The Dissolve—The Newsies, which are unmatched in prestige—we’re still hurt that the Academy hasn’t yet asked us to weigh in on the Oscar winners. In an effort to prove to the Academy just how dedicated, unbiased, and completely brilliant we are, we’ve imagined a better, hypothetical universe for ourselves, one in which we each get an Oscar to dole out to the person or movie of our choosing. Below, we detail who gets our highly coveted fake Oscar and why. We’ll await your call for next year, Academy.
Scott Tobias, Best Picture, Boyhood: I did my best to find some quirky, unexpected recipient of my imaginary award—like Dick Pope’s cinematography for Mr. Turner, which renders its subject’s work in vivid digital paint—but I just can’t stop thinking about the race for the big prize and how much I’d love to have the power to end it right now. Though I argued earlier about the ugly temptation to use one Oscar contender as a cudgel with which to beat another Oscar contender, I can’t help to succumb. Put starkly: Boyhood would be one of the great Best Picture winners of all time, honoring the magnum opus of a director whose curiosity, versatility, and independence has been an inspiration for the better part of 25 years. A Birdman win would be less than ideal. To focus on the positive, though, Boyhood has a universality to it that starts with the title, but it also represents a culture that’s distinctly removed from Hollywood’s coastal mindset. Make no mistake: Boyhood may be a frontrunner, but it would be a victory for the outsider.
Rachel Handler, Best Actress, Julianne Moore in Still Alice: Still Alice is a very good movie—it’s powerful and heart-wrenching, rife with agonizingly true-to-life moments that illuminate the way Alzheimer’s can drain the life from an individual and from a family. But ultimately, as Scott put it in his review, it’s “straightforward to a fault,” coloring inside the lines and suffering from a lack of fresh perspective. As a blisteringly intelligent linguistics professor struggling with early-onset Alzheimer’s, Julianne Moore completely transcends her source material. Moore transforms from vibrant to vacant so slowly that it’s nearly imperceptible—in her early scenes, she’s a live wire, effortlessly explaining complex science to her students and bantering wittily with her husband and three children; in her final scenes, she appears to have swallowed herself, portraying the emptiness and intense vulnerability of Alzheimer’s with equal parts grace, understanding, and horror. I worry Moore’s performance might be overlooked because of how subtle and quiet it is—it’s missing the sharp edges of Rosamund Pike’s performance, the feel-good triumph of Reese Witherspoon’s, and the prestige of Felicity Jones. But Moore deserves this one, even more so because she has yet to win an Oscar (even a fake one).
Genevieve Koski, Best Actress, Rosamund Pike: Imma let you finish, Rachel, but Rosamund Pike gave the Best Actress performance of all time. Or at least of 2014, in Gone Girl, as the malicious, malevolent, yet strangely alluring Amy Dunne. This may just be my desire to see an unlikely upset speaking, though, as Pike is the longshot in this very stacked category; I’d be perfectly happy if any of the nominees won (save maybe Felicity Jones, who never rose above the level of “just fine” for me), but I’d be most happy if Pike won. She walks such a thin, tricky tonal line in that role, and takes a character already known to millions from Gillian Flynn’s book and makes her her own. I’d also just like to see any recognition for Gone Girl at the big show; it was my No. 3 movie of last year, and a win for Pike would make up for its overall lack of Oscar noms, and then some.
Tasha: Best Original Screenplay, Whiplash: You guys are boring me with your safe choices—not just picking the category front-runners, but the front-runners in cases where those leaders deserve the win. I’m pretty okay with the expected winners this year in general—except in Best Animated Feature, where I want Tomm Moore’s Song Of The Sea to win, but I’ve expressed that wish often enough in various pieces here that I’m bored with that vote, too. So here’s my left-field award: Damien Chazelle’s perfect script for Whiplash, which I want to see win Best Original Screenplay. Here’s the complicated bit: It isn’t nominated in that category. It’s in the running for Best Adapted Screenplay, because Chazelle initially shot a short-film version of the story to sell investors on the feature film he was planning. But claiming Whiplash is based on the short proof-of-concept work is like claiming the latest Stephen King novel is based on the sample chapter he posted on his blog as a teaser. It makes no sense as a nomination-category choice. And the nomination as it stands feeds into my annoyance with lazy journalists claiming, based on lazy IMDd work, that various films are “based on” other iterations of the project, including ones conceived simultaneously, or even ones that don’t actually exist. I want Whiplash to win Best Original Screenplay because it was one of my favorite scripts this year, but also as a blow for common sense and the facts. And, I dunno, truth, justice, and the American way while I’m at it.
Nathan: Best Supporting Actor, J.K. Simmons, Whiplash: Tasha, I am going to be boring with a safe choice that’s also damn near undeniable in its awesomeness. I’m talking of course about J.K. Simmons’ ferociously profane turn as a music teacher whose abusive style, wild expectoration, and eagerness to physically as well as verbally destroy his fragile, validation-seeking students drives some to undreamed heights of creative achievement and others to quit music or living altogether. It is a performance at once tightly controlled and utterly volcanic, a turn that angrily demands attention and has been receiving plenty of it since the movie debuted to a rapturous reception at Sundance. Simmons has been terrific for decades, but this would not be a legacy award—it would be the right award for the right actor in the right movie.
Keith Phipps, Best Picture, Selma: Look, I know it's not going to happen, but how sweet would a surprise victory for Selma be? It would be a deserving winner, but it would be a corrective for the last few months. Has any film gotten a rawer deal in an Oscars race than Selma? From the trumped-up controversy to all the nominations that didn’t happen, it’s a terrific film that’s been given one disservice after another. There’s also this: It would be so out of nowhere it would leave the Oscar prognostication industry baffled as to how they could have gotten it wrong so wildly and for so long. Because wouldn’t it be great if the Oscars weren’t so easy to predict?