How To Stay Invested In The 2015 Oscars Ceremony, Because We Basically Know Who's Going To Win

Patricia Arquette: locked. J.K. Simmons: set. Julianne Moore: guaranteed. It’s getting to the point where we might feel like we don’t even need to watch this year’s Oscars. The past several years have seen an upsurge in award results predictability, thanks to the Academy’s ever increasing dogmatism (and, perhaps, a hike in the viewing public’s industry savvy).

This year, we find ourselves with a handful of major category wins all but legally notarized. Arquette, who shone as the emotional fulcrum of the universal favorite Boyhood, is a surefire win in the Best Supporting Actress category. Simmons, a veteran character actor who finally landed the perfect showcase (Whiplash) of his gruff tenacity, has a tight hold on Best Supporting Actor. And the most certain of all the Oscar certainties lies with Julianne Moore, long overdue for Academy recognition and perhaps better than she has ever been in this year’s heartbreaking Alzheimer’s drama Still Alice.

And those are just the really undeniable ones. The Theory of Everything star Eddie Redmayne is a pretty good best for Best Actor, though hesitation spurs from the second tier organization favoritism of Michael Keaton in Birdman. Said movie has a mighty fair shot at Cinematography and Editing; Into the Woods is a no-brainer for Costume Design.

So, with all of this confidence casting a shadow over the opening of envelopes, the Oscars faces the fatal threat of anticlimax. How can we get excited over an awards show when we practically know who’ll win so many of the awards?

Well, there are a few smaller categories that might yet keep you invested in ways you didn’t expect…

Best Adapted and Original Screenplay

It seems like Oscar tradition to throw a bone to the real best movies of a given year in the Screenplay categories. Here are films that are too weird, esoteric, alienating or otherwise incompatible with the drab methodology of the Best Picture selection, but that are too good to go unheralded. This year, we’ve got one on each side of the writing fence.

Let’s start with Adapted Screenplay, which somewhat more often than its counterpart incurs the same disappointments as the Best Picture category. This year, we have an opportunity to recognize a movie that got no love anywhere else on the Oscar map, but which stands as one of 2014’s most shining masterpieces: Inherent Vice.

While director Paul Thomas Anderson and star Joaquin Phoenix are hardly strangers to Academy recognition, the across-the-board rejection of Inherent Vice is perhaps the best suggestion of the Academy’s didactic xenophobia. Though masterfully crafted and duly enjoyable, the movie doesn’t fall in line with “what an Oscar film ought to be,” in accordance with the Academy’s views. Though a Best Adapted Screenplay win wouldn’t change matters substantially, it could help to induct a wider scope of style and theme into the Oscar pool.

Over on the Original Screenplay side, we have a movie that did earn its share of Oscar love this year, but that hasn’t got much of a shot in any other category: The Grand Budapest Hotel. Likely to be defeated by Boyhood in both the Best Picture and Best Director categories, Best Original Screenplay will be Grand Budapest’s chance to win the publicity that films like it — if there even are any, considering how unique this immaculate wonder truly is — desperately need.

Best Animated Feature

Eight of the 13 Best Animated Feature winners to date have hailed from the Disney umbrella, with seven of those being Pixar productions. This year, we do have a Disney film in contention: the superhero adventure film Big Hero 6. However, while the movie might be considered a frontrunner, it is hardly the predestined victor that many of its predecessors were considered to be.

Up against the House of Mouse is fellow American animation giant DreamWorks (with the abysmal How to Train Your Dragon 2) and blossoming contender Laika (with its third nomination out of three extant pictures, The Boxtrolls).

But the romance of this category comes with one of its two foreign language nominees: The Tale of Princess Kaguya, a Studio Ghibli movie from 79-year-old director Isao Takahata. On top of being one of the most wonderful films to hit theaters in 2014, Princess Kaguya is an important courier for the broadening of America’s eye line when it comes to animation.

The realm of animation has been a veritable hegemony for Disney and Pixar, rendering of the intrinsically expansive genre a fairly narrow lens of creativity. While DreamWorks doesn’t exhibit many a leap in ingenuity from the Disney/Pixar platform, we do see a share of originality in the products of Laika, and even more so in the Studio Ghibli masterpieces.

One could argue that Spirited Away, the second movie to win the Best Animated Feature Award and the only Studio Ghibli winner to date, is in fact the category’s greatest victor of them all. Well, Princess Kaguya blows the wonderful Spirited Away out of the water. An Oscar triumph thereof wouldn’t just be an isolated win, but an effort toward the expansion of America’s desperately limited treatment of the majestic field that is animation.

Best Original Song

Finally, what might actually be the most important category of the year, and quite uniquely so: Best Original Song. The significance of this category hinges on one nominee — Common’s number “Glory” from Selma — and said film’s lack of recognition anywhere else other than Best Picture (for which it is quite possibly the least likely victor).

Any attention Selma can get is deserved and necessary; if Common’s song, itself infused with the unsubtle inflammatory subject matter that courses through Selma, can attract enough ears, then perhaps some of these listeners will be drawn to seek out the movie. At the very least, Common’s overt themes could spark further interest in, and investigation of, the subject at hand of the American justice system’s prevalent problem with racism.

So even if you’re fairly sure who’s set to win all the big awards, you might still be invigorated by some of these smaller categories’ races. Don’t give up your Oscar passions just yet — there’s still plenty to root for.

Images: Fox Searchlight Pictures; Warner Bros.; Toho; Paramount Pictures