Ah it is finally the night when all of Hollywood gets together in their finest threads and pats each other on the back for a job well done. For years I have enjoyed watching the Oscars and I have absolutely no idea why. Possibly because I am obsessed with movies and I tend to have an opinion on them. However, this doesn’t explain it all, as I universally watch all awards shows. Tonys…check, Emmys…yep, Grammys…great for the performances, Golden Globes…sure why not Hollywood gets drunk and so should I! Yeah I am generally an awards show junkie, but this is never more apparent than on Oscar night. Each year once the nominations come out I do my best to try and watch all of the ‘major’ nominated movies. I always fail to get there, but I do make a serious effort. This year was no exception. Prior to the show I have seen most of the major films out there with nominations in any of the acting categories, writing, directing and of course Best Picture. I will provide thoughts on the movies throughout this piece but to serve as a baseline I have seen the following movies to date:
The Imitation Game, Birdman, Boyhood, The Theory of Everything, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Whiplash, Foxcatcher, Gone Girl, Still Alice, Into the Woods, and the LEGO Movie…wait that didn’t get nominated for animated feature?
That is a bunch of crap. On to the categories.
Non ‘big’ categories
I’m not going to spend a lot of time here. Visual effects I think will go to Interstellar (haven’t seen) mostly because the Academy has basically ignored the effects achievements of the Marvel universe to date so I think that basically disqualifies Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America 2 from contention. I know nothing about film editing, cinematography, production design, etc. except that I would have to say that Alejandro G. Inarritu’s Birdman was the most visually stunning piece of cinema this year. Boyhood was unique in the way it was made and will likely win editing because of that, but nothing matches the visual prowess and uniqueness of idea that Inarritu had with Birdman. I felt the same way about Gravity last year and I think that dominated the visual categories. The only other category here to touch on is original song which I fully believe will go to John Legend and Common for Glory from Selma. The only other contender here is Everything is Awesome from the LEGO Movie which could pull an upset for being a catchy tune in a kids movie the same way I felt about Let it Go last year for defeating U2’s song from the Nelson Mandela movie. The only difference is that Everything is Awesome does not have the same top 40 staying prowess that Let it Go had/has/had…I don’t know, I still feel like I hear that song.
Nominees are Patricia Arquette – Boyhood, Laura Dern – Wild, Keira Knightley – The Imitation Game, Emma Stone – Birdman, and Meryl Streep – Into the Woods.
First off, I am disappointed this was Into the Woods only nomination. I’m not sure where the rest would have come from other than a nod for Best Picture, however, I felt as a self proclaimed musical junkie that this was a better film adaptation of a musical than Les Miserables was two years back and that film netted Anne Hathaway a win in this category. Sorry Woods fans.
For this one, it is a pretty open and shut case. Patricia Arquette was downright amazing as the mother in Boyhood. The relationship that it seemed she built with the children in this movie by being in their lives for 12 years had that feeling of reality that I can imagine would be tough to achieve. She was absolutely perfect and had she been nominated in the lead category she would likely be giving us a race between her and Julianne Moore. There was raw emotion of being in three shitty relationships in her life. Achieving her professional goals only to have them not be enough when she starts banging/marries her student and becomes house poor. Watching husband number 1 swoop in and be a hero to the kids and in the process likely become the man she wishes he would have been 18 years ago, especially when he has a kid with his new wife and is the doting father. She embodied the single mother and the issues that would go along with this life. Perfection.
I don’t want to take away from the performances provided by the other ladies, especially that of Emma Stone who finally was given a vehicle to demonstrate her talents, but this is a one horse race and has been for the last 12 years.
Will/Should Win – Patricia Arquette
Nominees are J.K. Simmons – Whiplash, Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher, Edward Norton – Birdman, Robert Duvall – The Judge, and Ethan Hawke – Boyhood.
Another category, another route. J.K. Simmons will easily walk away with the hardware here and most deservedly so. The long time character man took on the role of a sadistic jazz band instructor and was truly terrifying in the role. He was basically an abusive lover in this role. The guy/girl you know you should leave behind, but for some reason you can’t bring yourself to it. They have you wrapped up in their cocoon and you can’t fight your way out. That is how Miles Teller’s character felt. He knew this guy was driving him into the ground and depression, but maybe, just maybe he would also make him the all time great jazz drummer that he strove to be. Simmons’ character was always in control, always knew the next move and was the brooding, driving force behind this film.
Out of the other nominees I thought there was some amazing work done, but I was a bit surprised by the inclusion of Mark Ruffalo over Channing Tatum. In watching this movie Tatum played clearly the more interesting role of the wrestler who was befriended and became embroiled in John du Pont’s web of control or deceit, depending on your point of view. He was an emotionally damaged character who needed to emerge from his older brother’s shadow and found what he thought was the avenue to achieve that. Very interesting work. Edward Norton was also captivating playing what I can only imagine is a bit of a cartooned version of himself. The overly method actor on stage who wants to challenge everything to be great, even if it doesn’t always get there. I touched a bit on Hawke above, although his work was good in Boyhood he clearly didn’t have the meat to work with in the film that Arquette did. Being the dad who flys in and out of the kids life, gets to take him to ball games and sleepovers at his shitty apartment with the stoner roommate doesn’t give you type of material that the Academy will reward.
Will/Should Win – J.K. Simmons
Nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay are American Sniper, The Imitation Game, Inherent Vice, The Theory of Everything and Whiplash
Nominees for Best Original Screenplay are Birdman, Boyhood, Foxcatcher, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Nightcrawler
I don’t have a lot of thoughts here. I think this where the Academy will reward The Imitation Game. This is a movie clearly loved by the Academy but it isn’t thought to be a contender for any of the other big awards, so I think it gets the win here. The only other play is that the Academy awards P.T. Anderson for Vice, they love the guy and he didn’t get a nomination in any other category which is a departure for his films. In the original category my guess is that this is where Wes Anderson could get some gold. The Academy also seems to love this film but it isn’t seen as a key contender for any of the other categories. Boyhood and Birdman could also be winners here with an edge in my opinion going to Birdman. More on my overall thoughts later.
Adapted will/should win – The Imitation Game
Original will win – The Grand Budapest Hotel, should win – Birdman
Nominees are Julianne Moore – Still Alice, Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl, Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything, Marion Cotillard – One Day/Two Nights, and Reese Witherspoon – Wild.
A lot of people felt that Jennifer Aniston got snubbed here for her performance in Cake. I haven’t seen that film, but I am on board with team Aniston as she has someone who has become more interesting as she has gotten older and is still hot. Also, I feel a bit bad for Rosamund Pike, and Gone Girl in general, that this award has become such a runaway for Moore. I thought Gone Girl was a great film that had Oscar written all over it. Pike’s performance as the upper east/west side rich chick who marries Ben Affleck’s kinda sorta loser dude doesn’t like Missouri and unleashes the conniving bitch in her that she always had was fan-freaking-tastic. I also thought the movie was great, but I am a fan of Fincher and Emily Ratajkowski’s knocks (she is the girl from the Blurred Lines video), so I may have been biased. Also, our Oscar host NPH was also pretty damn good in that film to until SPOILER ALERT he gets his throat slashed by Pike when he is in the middle of coitus. What a way to go.
Overall though, I have seen Still Alice and Julianne Moore takes the journey of a woman with early onset Alzheimer’s disease and brings you along for the ride as she quickly deteriorates from the collegiate professor that she once was to a shell of a woman who cannot remember the names of her own children. I was hoping for a different ending to the film and there were some overall disappointments with it (it was a bit clunky at times and made some leaps in transition) but Moore’s performance was not one of them and she will finally get her Oscar due.
Should/Will win – Julianne Moore
Nominees are Michael Keaton – Birdman, Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything, Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game, Bradley Cooper – American Sniper, and Steve Carell – Foxcatcher
A race! Yes this one is not set in stone even though it seems that Redmayne has taken a small advantage with his wins at the SAG awards and the BAFTAs along the way. I personally view this as a three horse race, with the full disclaimer that I have not seen American Sniper (I wanted to, just didn’t have the time in the end), between Keaton, Redmayne and Cumberbatch. I think we should first start with Redmayne and Cumberbatch as they are likely view in a similar light. Both played British geniuses one a bit more under appreciated than the other. Both go through a serious issues Redmanye with Hawking’s struggles with motor neuron disease and Cumberbatch with Turing’s struggle with being homosexual at a time when that would result in imprisonment. For me I actually appreciated Cumberbatch’s performance more as it was an emotional, as opposed to physical, struggle. I thought he brought some depth and an interesting point of view to someone who was a social outcast in his time and could never figure how to quite fit in. I think some look at the ‘not fitting in’ from the point of view that well he is a genius who couldn’t bring himself down to the mere mortals but I think the struggle that Cumberbatch portrayed was a bit deeper than that. I felt that there was a level of him who buried himself in the work and removed himself from the social scenarios as a way of burying his deeper secrets. Still Redmayne did an amazing physical transformation during the film and pulled off the facial ticks and other traits that we have come to know of Stephen Hawking as he is still a living breathing genius and not someone who potentially committed suicide as a means of coping. In the populous I think most view Redmayne’s performance as superior, me personally I don’t.
That brings me to Michael Keaton, the man who should win in my opinion. I know some look at this as Keaton is just playing himself. The former superhero character who walked away from the franchise and has been trying to stay relevant ever since. I know there are parallels but this to me was interesting work. Michael Keaton does not seem like a man who is hurting for money, he is not a man who is risking everything by adapting a show for Broadway to do something meaningful. However, this movie is meaningful. It is more than actors playing actors. It is a look at how we all have the need to be relevant and appreciated in whatever our theater of life happens to be. I am not a professional writer or critic so I don’t have that need in this Forum. However, I do have those needs in my professional life. I want to know that the people I work for, the people who work for me, and my clients appreciate the hours that I put in to my job. That I am recognized by my superiors as being someone who IS good at what they do. This doesn’t always happen and when it doesn’t it affects the way you approach things at work and maybe it even trickles into your personal life. This is seen in the Birdman as Riggan isn’t only trying to reclaim artistic truth, he is trying to reclaim a lost relationship with his daughter, a new but fading relationship with a co-star, a severed relationship with his ex-wife all while trying to shed the perception of a one trick pony that the populous has bestowed upon him. Luckily most of us don’t live in the world of public perception, otherwise we may also be squawking in the middle of New York while sprouting our imagined wings, just looking for a way to fly again.
Should win – Michael Keaton
Will win – Eddie Redmayne
Best Director and Best Picture
Director nominees Alejandro G. Inarritu – Birdman, Richard Linklater – Boyhood, Bennett Miller – Foxcatcher, Wes Anderson – The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Morten Tyldum – The Imitation Game
Picture nominees Birdman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, American Sniper, The Theory of Everything, and Whiplash
So I have lumped these two as one because I think at the end of the day they are both two horse races between Birdman and Boyhood. With all due respect to Wes Anderson I was a bit surprised that this was the film that ended up garnering him a slew of Oscar nominations. I liked Grand Budapest, but not nearly as much as his last effort Moonrise Kingdom (which was nominated for screenplay). I think he out Wes’ed himself on this one and for some reason the Academy went bonkers. I also really enjoyed The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything. Both biopics presented supremely unique minds of our time who have their own unique stories. I especially enjoyed Felicity Jones as Stephen Hawking’s first wife Jane. Her emotional journey watching the man she loves become more and more impacted by his disease while also becoming more and more dependent upon her for his work all while her professional aspirations go astray was a unique emotional journey.
Still we are poised with the question, Boyhood or Birdman? Linklater’s unique picture that was 12 years in the making or Inarritu’s visual masterpiece that was also unique and original for its ‘uncut’ style? A story of growing up and the challenges faced by parents as their children become older and more independent or the story of a man trying to conquer his inner demons? Both are interesting films and would be deserving winners of either or both awards. These were two of the most unique movies that have been produced in recent memory, and while the scripts weren’t as poetic as something Tarantino would have penned they both achieve something dramatic and new. In the end my thoughts arrive at a point that Birdman to me was just a more interesting movie. The story was interesting, the overall acting was interesting, and the way the movie was made was so completely inventive and interesting that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Possibly for me Boyhood didn’t resonate as much as it was drastically different than my childhood and I am not a parent so I haven’t experienced the challenges of rearing a young mind to find themselves. There is a point to Boyhood that I don’t know I quite agree with. I didn’t like the fact that the boy supposedly had it figured out that he wanted to be a photographer in like the 10th grade. I’m sure it is an interest, however, I don’t know who all is that certain of what they want to do when they are 18. Still maybe that is part of the point, at 18 we all have aspirations of who and what we want to be and maybe if we looked back on our lives we all wish we were that kid chasing that crazy dream. I guess I just identify more with that man struggling to find acceptance in his profession and personal life more than someone still trying to find themselves or the people responsible for helping them along the way.
At the end of the day I feel that these awards will be split and Linklater will be rewarded for the 12 year journey he took by getting the director nod and Inarritu’s will get the award for overall picture to reward all aspects that went into this film.
Director – Will win – Richard Linklater and possibly should too.
Picture – Should/Will win – Birdman