Friday, January 16, 2015

2015 Oscar Nominees: Reactions and Predictions


Well, we've had one day to look over the nominations for the 87th Annual Academy Awards.  The big surprise wasn't in the batch, but in the presentation.  We had two announcements for all 24 categories, one group by J.J. Abrams and Alfonso Cuaron, the second by Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs and Chris Pine.

On a personal note, I was more irritated than displeased that E!, a channel that touts itself as being "Entertainment" decided the Academy Award nominations were not that important to cover, devoting that early hour to the merry exploits of the insipid Kardashian/Jenner family in a Keeping Up with the Kardashians marathon, proving that E! covers 'entertainment' like I cover Dirk Nowitski in a pick-up game.  CNN was no better, cutting into the announcing of other categories to talk about the 'more important' categories which the viewer had already seen.  They really are inept.  Almost glad I got FOX News back.

Well, now to the matter in hand.  Let's look over some of the nominees (a full goings-over for all categories will be forthcoming). 


Everything is Awesome (The Lego Movie)
Glory (Selma)
Grateful (Beyond the Lights)
I'm Not Gonna Miss You (Glen Campbell...I'll Be Me)
Lost Stars (Begin Again)

Well, there are three I expected : Everything is Awesome, Glory, and Lost Stars.  I thought Lost Stars would have the edge (Everything is Awesome is too peppy, Glory has rap and the Academy has already rewarded that genre twice).  The other two, Grateful and I'm Not Gonna Miss You, are not big surprises as they have been on many potential nominees lists for some time.  Having heard all of them, while Everything is Awesome is a nice number, the failure of The Lego Movie to get a Best Animated Feature nomination hurts it.  Lost Stars I would have said is the likely winner, but then there's Glen Campbell, whose song from the documentary about him looks like it's pulling ahead.  Campbell is slipping away due to Alzheimer's Disease, and I'm Not Gonna Miss You is as honest a number about how soon he won't remember what was most important to him.  It may be a final chance to pay tribute to him, and whether he'll be in good enough condition to perform is still up in the air.  However, while the Academy doesn't 'do country', it has given Oscars for songs from Documentaries (I Need to Wake Up from An Inconvenient Truth).

Prediction: I'm Not Gonna Miss You. from Glen Campbell...I'll Be Me.


American Sniper (Jason Hall)
The Imitation Game (Graham Moore)
Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson)
The Theory of Everything (Anthony McCarten)
Whiplash (Damien Chazelle)

In what can only be called another case of "the Academy is nutty", Whiplash ended up in Adapted Screenplay by the most bizarre of circumstances.  Written directly for the screen, a short film was made as a promotional tool to secure funding for a feature-length film.  The short film was screened at some festivals I believe, and received prizes.  From that sprung the feature-length film we have now.  Thus, the Academy decided, since it had been released as a short film PRIOR to it being made a feature, it was 'adapted' from the short film rather than written directly for the screen, ergo Adapted Screenplay.  This despite the fact that the Writers Guild nominated Whiplash for Original Screenplay.  Whiplash thus ends up in the odd position of being spoiler for the others, not that I'm particularly thrilled about any of them.  Of particular ire is The Theory of Everything, as shameless an Oscar-bait and perfunctory feature as I've seen in a long time.  The more I think on it, the more I genuinely hate it. 

The big surprise is that Gone Girl, almost considered a shoe-in to WIN, is nowhere in the Oscar race save for Actress, a stunning turn of events for something touted as a major competitor in this year's big prizes.  The love (or inclusion) for Whiplash might have denied Gone Girl one of the few chances it had of winning.  Then again, the fact that Whiplash WAS nominated for Best Picture and Gone Girl wasn't says much about the lack of support in the Academy for the latter. 

Prediction: Whiplash, screenplay by Damien Chazelle


Birdman (Alejandro G. Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr., & Armando Bo)
Boyhood (Richard Linklater)
Foxcatcher (E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness)
Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy)

With Whiplash out of this competition, the floodgates are open to all the others.  I think the real fight will be between Birdman and The Grand Budapest HotelBoyhood has a chance but I think it has a stronger chance for the bigger prizes, while Grand Budapest Hotel looks like its hanging on by the thinnest of threads to win Director or Picture.   Wes Anderson has been nominated for Screenplay before, and the Academy may decide this is the best place to honor Grand Budapest Hotel and Anderson.  I'll call it a consolation prize for knowing it won't win Best Picture. 

As for the others, the fact that neither Foxcatcher or Nightcrawler are nominated for Best Picture while the others are (and Nightcrawler has no other nominations) pretty much rule them out.

Prediction: The Grand Budapest Hotel, screenplay by Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness.


American Sniper
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game

The BIG surprise is Whiplash's inclusion.  Why?  Best Film Editing and Best Picture almost always go hand in hand if a film is nominated in BOTH categories.  To me that indicates strong support for the little drummer boy movie that could.  It also suggests that both Theory of Everything and especially Birdman are pretty much out of the running for Best Picture.  Why?

Out of the past ten winners five were for the eventual Best Picture winner (Crash, The Departed, Slumdog Millionaire, The Hurt Locker, and Argo).  Of the other five, two were for films not nominated for Best Picture that beat out the eventual Best Picture winner (Bourne Ultimatum beating out No Country for Old Men and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo defeating The Artist) and the other three were Best Picture nominees that didn't win Best Picture itself (The Aviator, which lost to Million Dollar Baby, The Social Network, which lost to The King's Speech, and Gravity, which lost to 12 Years a Slave).  You have to go back to 1980 (thirty-four years ago) to find when a Best Picture winner did not receive a Best Editing nomination (Ordinary People) and there's never been a case when a Best Picture nominee wasn't nominated for Film Editing as well.

Either way, should Whiplash win it comes out ahead.  If it wins, the chances of it stunning with a Best Picture win would follow Academy precedent. If it wins and still loses Best Picture, well, it still won something.

However, WILL Whiplash actually win? Right now I think it's chances are pretty slim, leaving the fight between the two most likely Best Picture winners: Boyhood and The Grand Budapest Hotel.  Out of those, the three-hour long opus to an ordinary life I think is the leading contender.

Prediction: Boyhood


Big Hero 6
The Boxtrolls
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Song of the Sea
The Tale of Princess Kaguya

Where's The Lego Movie?  I guess everything's not awesome, as another 'sure thing' went the way of all flesh.  Instead, in perhaps a repudiation of CGI, two small, traditional animation films find themselves competing against bigger names.  While I'd love to see Song of the Sea and The Tale of Princess Kaguya in general (or see them win), I don't think the Academy will pick something that obscure.  Again, in the brief history of this category, only ONCE has a traditional animation film won, and calling Spirited Away 'obscure' is a bit of a stretch. 

That being said, the fight is between the first three, and for the moment, I'm leaning heavily towards the only sequel in the bunch.

Prediction: How to Train Your Dragon 2 (just don't let J-Lo introduce this category).


Emmanuel Lubezki (Birdman)
Robert Yeoman (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
Lukas Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski (Ida)
Dick Pope (Mr. Turner)
Roger Deakins (Unbroken)

Roger Deakins has received 12 nominations including this one.  He's one of the greatest cinematographers working today.  It's a pit he just can't pick a winner.  Deakins has become the Susan Lucci of Cinematography, keeping a shocking losing streak alive.  The fact that Unbroken has pretty much bombed both critically and commercially are strangling its chances.

Now, that leaves us with four films, and my heart tells me The Grand Budapest Hotel has this category almost all cleared out of competition.  No pesky Theory of Everything or Imitation Game to muck up its way to a win.  Grand Budapest Hotel was, if nothing else, quite pretty (Anderson's films being almost always visually self-aware).  However, let's not quite rule out Dick Poop...I mean, Pope, just yet.  After all, the last time that a Best Cinematography winner was not nominated for Best Picture was in 2006, a mere eight years ago, when Pan's Labyrinth won.  Incidentally, this was the last time all five Best Cinematography nominees were not Best Picture nominees as well.  

Ironically enough, one of the nominees that year was...Dick Pope! 

However, for now I'm leaning towards pretty, pretty, pretty...even though nothing would please me more than to see the man whose name Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs butchered win.

Prediction: The Grand Budapest Hotel


Patricia Arquette for Boyhood
Laura Dern for Wild
Keira Knightley for The Imitation Game
Emma Stone for Birdman
Meryl Streep for Into the Woods

Do the Academy ballots have Meryl Streep's name pre-printed on them? I hope she enjoys the party, because she won't win.

Neither will Laura Dern, the true shock of the nominees.  I have the Wild screener waiting patiently for me, but the talk I've heard is that it is almost a 'blink-and-you-miss-it' performance.  Little chatter was building for Dern, but don't discount her popularity.

However, here we do have a frontrunner, and it is hard to imagine that she won't beat her younger contenders Knightley and Stone.  Again, going by my theory, there are two nominees based on real-life people, but neither will win. 

Prediction: Patricia Arquette for Boyhood


Robert Duvall for The Judge
Ethan Hawke for Boyhood
Edward Norton for Birdman
Mark Ruffalo for Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons for Whiplash

Robert Duvall was one of the few bright spots in a film dismissed by critics and audiences, and is now the oldest nominee in his category at 84.  It bears remembering that Ethan Hawke has with this nomination a total of four Academy Award nominations in total (two for writing, and now two for Supporting Actor).  At times dismissed, Hawke still shows he has some of the promise when he was first touted as the next big thing.  Ruffalo and Norton, who now tie the legendary thespian Jonah Hill for two nominations, continue to have hit and miss careers, but both of them continue to show that behind their activism and occasional nuttiness, they still can deliver great performances.

We have only one nominee for someone playing a real-life person, again going by my theory that in the supporting races, those playing real people have a weaker chance of winning.  Regardless of who ultimately wins, we are blessed to be spared perhaps the most horrifying words ever conceived in the mind of man...

Academy Award nominee Channing Tatum.

Leaves a bad taste in one's mouth.  As my mother says, "Don't say that even as a joke!"

Pity that all of them have lost before a single ballot has been filled out, for all these past nominees will end up losing to the only first-time nominee on the list who is about the only sure thing this year.  J. Jonah Jameson, your time has come.

Prediction: J.K. Simmons for Whiplash


Marion Cotillard for Two Days, One Night
Felicity Jones for The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore for Still Alice
Rosamund Pike for Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon for Wild

Amy Adams was on the cusp of having six career nominations, which would have tied her with such luminaries as Deborah Kerr, Thelma Ritter, and Glenn Close.  For the moment, she'll have to content with tying Irene Dunne, who like Adams lost all five of her nominations.  It also knocked out a chance to have three Best Actress nominees that played real-life people.   The last time you had more than two Best Actress nominees based on real people was in 2009, and the last time you had only two real-life based figures nominated was in 2011.

We also lost out on Jennifer Aniston's hoped-for chance to be the first Friends star to get an Academy Award nomination.  We're counting on you, David Schwimmer.

Still, we have a curious mix.  Pike has the only nomination Gone Girl received, which is surprising given how critics kept going on about its brilliance.  We have an outlier in Cotillard, who gets a second nomination in a foreign-language film (and she ironically is the last person to win Best Actress for a foreign-language film). We have two nominees playing real-life figures, and normally even the pathetic Jones' turn in The Theory of Everything would be a front-runner.

Fortunately for us, we have another sure-fire way to get an Oscar/nomination: playing a sick person.  Just ask Tom Hanks.  It also helps that Julianne Moore now has tied Amy Adams for five nominations without a win, and there's this push to have this be 'her' time. 

Prediction: Julianne Moore for Still Alice


Steve Carrell for Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper for American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch for The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton for Birdman
Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything

If there is one certain thing in the Academy Awards, is that a Leading Actor who wants an Oscar should play a real-life figure.  Here, a shocking four out of the five nominees are for biopics, with Michael Keaton being the odd man out.

Of course, Keaton's nomination wasn't a surprise.  What was almost downright shocking were the nominations for Carrell and Cooper.  Most people had pretty much written Carrell's turn as John du Pont off, declaring his Oscar-bait turn as dead.  Never discount yet another sure-fire way to an Oscar nomination: a comic going 'dramatic'.  With Foxcatcher, Carrell knocked two birds with one stone. 

While Carrell was getting some buzz, weak though it was, that ultimately paid off, Bradley Cooper is perhaps the most surprising/shocking.  I doubt anyone thought Cooper's turn as Chris Kyle, the deadliest sniper in American history, would get him his third nomination in as many years.  The naysayers now have to concede that Bradley Cooper isn't just a pretty face with beautiful eyes.  He's a genuine, serious, actor. 

Both of these, I'm convinced, cost David Oyelowo a nomination for playing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma.  That does mean that all twenty acting nominees are white.  It doesn't matter to me what a nominees racial background is, but it is worth noting that the Academy and Hollywood in general has a greater race problem than what was purported in Ferguson...OK, minus anyone getting killed.

The last time there were four real-life portrayals nominated was in 2004, where Jamie Foxx won for Ray.  This bodes especially well for Redmayne, whose mechanical, soulless, and naked plea for an Oscar in The Theory of Everything is one of the two battling it out.  Honestly, I don't get the Redmayne-love.  His "I'm shocked, SHOCKED to be nominated" schtick is a better performance than the one he gave in The Theory of Everything.  It's gotten to a point that I am beginning to seriously hate not just Redmayne's performance, but hate the man himself for his shameless campaigning for an Oscar. I also think his campy turn in Jupiter Ascending is closer to the real Redmayne than this 'moving' performance. 

Make no mistake: everything about The Theory of Everything was a shameless campaign for Oscars, and Redmayne in particular was working towards that naked man.  From the moment the script came his way, he already was practicing his acceptance speech to his inevitable victory.

Speaking of speeches, Keaton's more moving one at the Golden Globes may play a factor as he battles it out with the upstart Briton.  Don't underestimate the power of a well-crafted speech at the Globes.  Emma Thompson's Adapted Screenplay win for Sense & Sensibility was owed in part by her sparkling acceptance of Adapted Screenplay at the Globes.  

Keaton and Redmayne are the ones fighting it out (leaving the others praying they'll split enough votes to allow them to sneak in), and Keaton needs every weapon he can lay his hands on.  He needs sparkling speeches.  He needs the affection and goodwill of his fellow actors as he makes his 'comeback' (something the Academy loves to reward).  Keaton, while a strong contender, is facing a fierce uphill battle.

There have been cases of fictional characters beating the biopics, but we have to go back to 2000 to find when an actor won for a fictional role against more than two real-life roles (Russell Crowe's Maximus smiting Javier Bardem's Reinaldo Arenas, Ed Harris' Jackson Pollack, and Geoffrey Rush's Marquis de Sade).  However, no one has beaten four biographical performances as of yet. 

The others should just enjoy the show and pin their hopes on a bloodbath between Keaton and Redmayne, because those two are the only ones with a real shot.

As a side note, Cumberbatch got his wish.  He is an Oscar nominee after failing so spectacularly to get a nod for The Fifth Estate (and don't nobody tell me he didn't have that in the back of his mind when working on either that or The Imitation Game).  He already has the Emmy for Sherlock (inexplicable as it may seem).  He seems like a genuinely funny figure, always photobombing people whenever he has a chance.  His reputation as a 'serious' actor is so great one really can't believe he could do comedy, though I think he should do some.  However, there is simply too big a fight between Keaton and Redmayne to give him much of a shot to be an Emmy and Oscar winner within the same year.

This is the one simply too close to call, but my prediction is one that I think is hanging on to the thinnest of leads.

Prediction: Michael Keaton for Birdman


Alejandro G. Inarritu for Birdman
Richard Linklater for Boyhood
Bennett Miller for Foxcatcher
Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel
Morten Tyldum for The Imitation Game

This is why I think The Theory of Everything will go down in flames. No Best Director nomination.

Granted, Argo won Best Picture without being nominated for Best Director, but in the past ten years eight have been straight correlations between the two (with Ang Lee being the odd man out, winning Best Director without either Brokeback Mountain or Life of Pi going on to win Best Picture, a most curious record).  In short, a film winning Best Picture without its director being nominated is more an aberration than an indication.  Also, you have to consider that there might have been personal and professional jealousy that kept Affleck from being nominated.  That can't be applied to James Marsh.

You have to go back to 1989 to find when the Best Director winner didn't go on to win Best Picture prior to Lee, and that was Oliver Stone for Born on the Fourth of July.  At least Born on the Fourth of July was nominated for Best Picture.  To find the last Best Director to win without his/her film being nominated for Best Picture, you have to go way, way back...all the way to 1929!  That's the Second Academy Awards, where Frank Lloyd won for the non-nominated The Divine Lady.

With that in mind, kick Miller's surprise nomination out of contention.

It leaves us with really three serious contenders (Tyldum will just have to settle for asking for more money).  There's the 12-years-in-the-making Linklater.  There's the quirky Anderson, who can simply no longer be ignored as a mere art-house darling.  There's Inarritu, the not-as-quirky but still more avant-garde figure.

I think that all things being fair, the one that has the best chance of winning Best Picture will also win Best Director, and the decades-long film I think has the inside edge.

Of course, it helps that Ava DuVernay, Selma's director and perhaps the only real major competition to Linklater and Anderson, won't be admitted to the old (white) boys' club just yet, and seeing her left off for Directing when she did such a fine job for Selma is more a reflection of the Academy's fondness for 'more serious' and 'traditional' fare than anything else. 

Prediction: Richard Linklater for Boyhood


American Sniper
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything

Let's rule out some off the bat.

Selma has two nominations, this and Original Song.  You don't win Best Picture with such a paltry number of nominations.  While part of me is happy to see Oprah Winfrey denied...again (after failing to get what she thinks she's due for Lee Daniels' The Butler), part of me thinks Selma is a better film than that hopeless Oscar-bait Theory of Everything (which won't be remembered in ten years like The Social Network or Life of Pi or Hugo will).  Whiplash, a film that isn't even in wide release, got more nominations for goodness sake.

The Theory of Everything has no Best Director or Film Editing nomination, and Birdman has no Best Film Editing nomination.  It's hard for a Best Picture winner to win if it hasn't been nominated for at least either, let alone for both. 

American Sniper may find itself as the 'too commercial' of the bunch to win, and if it smacks of being pro-America/pro-military, then forget it. 

Whiplash is one most America hasn't heard of, let alone seen.  It's Film Editing nomination puts it as a strong contender, but I doubt strong enough to knock the real contenders (and no, it isn't The Imitation Game, though with eight nominations it can't be completely ruled out).

It's a war between the charming light comedy The Grand Budapest Hotel and the sincere BoyhoodBoyhood has many critics loving it, holding it as some epic turn in cinema history.  HOWEVER, The Grand Budapest Hotel has nine nominations compared to only five for Boyhood, and the film that has the most nominations tends to be the front-runner.  Birdman, granted, has nine nods as well, but not in categories that point to it being a serious contender.

Allow me to be a bit cynical here and suggest that Boyhood's punishing almost three-hour running time may be a bit too much for most Academy members.  I should point out that Boyhood is slightly shorter than Gone With the Wind (still the longest winner), Ben-Hur, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, or Lawrence of Arabia.  No one that I know of has made a case as to how Boyhood is in the same league as any of those films. 

The Academy members may also have a special fondness for Grand Budapest Hotel, given that many of them could be as old as Madame H. in real life.

Again, at the moment it is oddly too close to call, but I'm giving the slight edge to the longer of the two.

Prediction: Boyhood

Now, I have seen only three Best Picture nominees: Selma, The Theory of Everything, and The Grand Budapest HotelBirdman is the only one of the others that I received a screener to, jumping to the front of the cue.  American Sniper and The Imitation Game are currently in theaters, and Boyhood is on Video on Demand and DVD.  Whiplash is the only one not to have played in The EP, but I expect it to get a wider release now.

Once they are all seen, and once I know whether I will have a chance to see the Animated and Live-Action Shorts like I did about two years ago, I can give a better prediction.

In the name of all that's holy,

No comments:

Post a Comment

Views are always welcome, but I would ask that no vulgarity be used. Any posts that contain foul language or are bigoted in any way will not be posted.
Thank you.