BEST PICTURE – BOYHOOD
History and fiction collide in the race for Best Picture this year with half of the eight nominated films based on real people & historical events. And that’s where the controversy begins.
Selma, about the famous 1965 civil rights march in Alabama led by Martin Luther King Jr., has taken its knocks for its alleged misrepresentation of then-President Johnson’s role in the struggle for equality. Meanwhile, American Sniper, the most financially successful of all the nominated films, is proving to be the most divisive. The real Chris Kyle dehumanized Muslims with both his derisive rhetoric and venomous action during his troubling war experience in Iraq. According to those who have seen American Sniper, this is all greatly downplayed. In fact, some have argued he’s portrayed rather heroically. Plus, there’s the deal with the fake baby.
In a lot of ways, the Sniper controversy reminds me of what happened to Oliver Stone’s JFK almost 25 years ago. Nominated for 8 Oscars (it only took two for editing & cinematography), many complained it misled audiences with its positive portrayal of former district attorney Jim Garrison who failed to convict innocent lawyer Clay Shaw for the assassination of President Kennedy. The stubborn, foolish Garrison, the subject of much ridicule in his time, was a lot less sensible and oratorical in real life. That said, it was a brilliant film that in no way intended to be realistic. As Roger Ebert noted in his four-star review in late 1991, JFK captured the very real paranoid zeitgeist of the era as it forcefully challenged the prevailing historical winds of conventional wisdom whether wise or otherwise.
At any event, JFK lost to The Silence Of The Lambs back in 1992 and I suspect the unrelenting heat that American Sniper has generated since late last year will see it lose this year’s Best Picture race, as well. Besides, its director Clint Eastwood, already has a couple of these gongs for making Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby, so he doesn’t really need a third.
Despite universal acclaim, it’s not likely the mostly white academy will go with the black-themed Selma, either. If I were to read the tea leaves of their souls, my guess is they’ll think voting for 12 Years A Slave was sufficient. Then again, I could be wrong.
That said, what about the others? Whiplash is a true dark horse, a surprise inclusion that will unfortunately stand no real chance of winning. Ditto Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game and The Theory Of Everything. I don’t see either of them gathering enough of a groundswell of support to pull off an upset.
In my view, Best Picture this year is really between Birdman and Boyhood. Academy members have a choice between a washed-up actor making an unusual comeback or an epic about a young boy literally growing up on screen. Ebert always said that voters go with their heart in this category, so considering the subject matter of Boyhood, that’s the one that will take the golden naked man.
BEST DIRECTOR – Alejandro G. Iñárritu (BIRDMAN)
When you win the Directors Guild of America award, nine times out of ten you go on to win the Best Director Oscar. Since he won the former for directing Birdman, Alejandro G. Iñárritu will win the latter, as well.
BEST ACTOR – Michael Keaton (BIRDMAN)
Easily the most competitive of all the acting categories this year. If there’s going to be an upset of any kind Sunday night, it might be here. Benedict Cumberbatch has won much praise for his portrayal of real-life codebreaker Alan Turing in The Imitation Game. It’s the kind of performance that usually wins: mathematical genius celebrated as a war hero until his homosexuality is discovered leading to a needlessly tragic early demise. Another possible upset: first-time nominee Eddie Redmayne as a young Stephen Hawking just as his developing ALS forever changes his life. Oscar voters love actors who play physically tortured souls.
Less likely to snag the gong are Steve Carell (Foxcatcher) or Bradley Cooper (American Sniper). Speaking of Cooper, this is his third straight nomination following previously unsuccessful bids for Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. The growing controversy over the reported softening of Chris Kyle, the bigoted veteran he plays who in reality referred to the Iraqi citizens he relished murdering as “savages”, will likely continue Cooper’s Oscar slump.
That leaves Michael Keaton. Ever since the release of the well-reviewed Birdman last autumn he has been the de facto frontrunner for Best Actor. Barring some unforeseen circumstances (like I said, either Redmayne or Cumberbatch could pull off an upset here), the veteran Keaton, who has never won before, will take the trophy on his very first nomination.
BEST ACTRESS – Julianne Moore (STILL ALICE)
Unlike the Best Actor category, the Best Actress race feels like a foregone conclusion. Reese Witherspoon has already won once before for playing June Carter Cash in Walk The Line so it’s highly doubtful she’ll win again for Wild, despite receiving tremendous reviews for her performance. Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night), another critical fave, is another former winner. The French star snagged her unexpected Best Actress gong for her portrayal of iconic French chanteuse Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose, the role that essentially launched her very successful career in Hollywood. So count her out, as well.
First-time nominees Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) and Felicity Jones (The Theory Of Everything), both British coincidentally enough, are just happy for the recognition.
That leaves Julianne Moore, the perennial Oscar bridesmaid, a five-time nominee who has never been asked to walk down the aisle. She is a highly respected performer who is long overdue for the big prize. It would be an enormous surprise if her name isn’t called out during the presentation for this category.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Patricia Arquette (BOYHOOD)
This one looks like a lock, as well. Perennial nominee & three-time winner Meryl Streep is surely a huge long shot for the Sondheim musical Into The Woods. God knows the legendarily gifted performer doesn’t need any more awards. Laura Dern, a two-time invitee to the Oscar party, isn’t going to win for her work in Wild. Emma Stone (Birdman) has to be content with her first nomination.
Although The Imitation Game’s Keira Knightly could pull off an upset here, surely Emmy winner Patricia Arquette (Medium) has the inside track. More than 20 years ago, Entertainment Weekly included her in a piece about less successful Hollywood siblings. Back then, she was just Rosanna’s little sister struggling to get out of B-movies. Today, she’s on the verge of joining an elite class of actors.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – J.K. Simmons (WHIPLASH)
Unlike Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor is the opposite of competitive. Robert Duvall (The Judge) already has a Best Actor gong for his work in Tender Mercies. Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher), Ethan Hawke (Boyhood) & Edward Norton (Birdman) are all return nominees who shouldn’t worry too much about preparing a victory speech. In the end, one man stands apart from the crowd. That would be the former J. Jonah Jameson himself, J.K. Simmons. The Law & Order alumnus is going to win for his highly regarded performance in Whiplash. Maybe now he’ll stop doing those Farmers Insurance ads.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2
The real shocker in this category is the complete absence of The Lego Movie, a major critical and commercial blockbuster during its theatrical run last March. In fact, when it came out, I said to myself that it was probably going to win this particular award. Now that it’s been completely snubbed, it’s not so easy to pick a winner from the actual nominated list.
That said, I can’t see either The Boxtrolls or Song Of The Sea taking it. Nor is it likely the Japanese film, The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya will come out on top.
This is really between How To Train Your Dragon 2 and Big Hero 6. Like The Lego Movie, they were both beloved by critics & moviegoers making my decision very difficult. Since the former got better reviews & has won more awards, I’ll go with the sequel.
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE – CITIZENFOUR
It’s still rather stunning that Life Itself, the highly acclaimed story of film critic Roger Ebert, was completely rejected for Oscar consideration. After collecting countless awards, many felt it was not only the frontrunner but the probable victor. (It even aired a few times on CNN before arriving on home video this week.) Of the five films that did make the cut, only one has been talked about just as much: Laura Poitras’ Citizenfour. A previous nominee for My Country, My Country, it would be an absolute shock if the name of her highly praised film isn’t in that sealed envelope on Sunday. A victory for Citizenfour would also be a victory for Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower who proved once & for all that President Barack Obama is more authoritarian than liberal and should definitely be impeached.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – IDA
BEST FILM EDITING – BOYHOOD
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – INTERSTELLAR
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – Hans Zimmer (INTERSTELLAR)
BEST ORIGINAL SONG – Glory (SELMA)
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN – THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
BEST SOUND MIXING – INTERSTELLAR
BEST SOUND EDITING – INTERSTELLAR
BEST COSTUME DESIGN – THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT – THE PHONE CALL
BEST ANIMATED SHORT – THE DAM KEEPER
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT – OUR CURSE
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – Richard Linklater (BOYHOOD)
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – Graham Moore (THE IMITATION GAME)
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
BEST MAKE-UP & HAIRSTYLING – GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, February 19, 2015