I know posts here have been a bit few and far between. That’s at least partially because I’ve been focussing on films, so I thought I’d put that post here as well just to prove that I’m still alive. Every year I try to watch as many Oscar nominees as possible so that I can guess the winners and get on my high horse about who should have won. This year there are a total of 121 nominations across 24 categories and 60 films, or 42 feature length films if you exclude the shorts and films only nominated for a song. I only saw 18 of those films, which given that I made a significant effort, doesn’t seem a great number, although those 18 do cover 64 of the nominations, just over half of the total.
Broadly I think the nominations were ok if a bit underwhelming. There are a few standout performances which makes it sad that there can’t be multiple winners, but I don’t think there are any categories that I’d get particularly energised about if my pick doesn’t win. Well unless there’s a complete surprise! I’ve mentioned a few suggestions for people/films that were overlooked in a few categories, but although I haven’t always called them out, I think it’s a shame Belle, Calvary and Pride didn’t get any nominations.
It’s hugely disappointing that the Academy couldn’t find and that the industry couldn’t offer more people that didn’t fall into the “white male” categorisation. I’m not assigning blame for that, or thinking it’s a conspiracy, just that it’s a very sad statement to have to make in 2014 that there are no non-white actors or actresses and no women directors, screenwriters or cinematographers.
NB – unless otherwise indicated, links are to my database of films reviews.
- American Sniper – I almost went to see it a couple of times, but despite the fact it would’ve allowed me to tick off 6 more nominations, I couldn’t summon the enthusiasm. I suspect the question of whether it’s flag waving or just understated in its challenge will keep this one from any major wins.
- Birdman – a good story, interesting characters, wonderful performances and clever direction, but I was distracted by the over-use of fantasy/hallucinations, the camera style and oh-my-god the drumming the endless loud drumming.
- Boyhood – filming this over 12 years, watching children (and adults) grow is a truly phenomenal achievement in film making. Unfortunately my respect for the achievement didn’t fully convert into appreciation of the film. I didn’t connect with the characters in the same way that some have and found myself rather bored during some of the segments.
- The Grand Budapest Hotel – this film almost defies review, but I thought it was beautiful, funny, original, unpredictable and hugely entertaining.
- The Imitation Game – a story that’s absolutely made for a film with events and characters that are almost unbelievable, but absolutely real. The story is an outstanding piece of history, there’s some outstanding performances, but I’m not sure that there’s anything more than “very good” about the film making itself.
- Selma – I’m a bit ashamed that I didn’t manage to catch this one
- The Theory of Everything – as with The Imitation Game, there’s certainly outstanding performances, the real people and events are outstanding, but the film making was a bit under-whelming. It was mostly fine, but occasionally dipped into obvious foreshadowing and over-sentimental emotional manipulation.
- Whiplash. I was utterly gripped from start to finish, never knowing which way it was going to go and on the edge of my seat throughout.
Overlooked: There can be up to 10 nominations here, so to not fill all the slots is a bit odd. Calvary was one of my films of the year so it’s sad it was completely ignored by the awards. Interstellar, Foxcatcher could have been justified nominees even though I had issues with both of them and don’ t think they’d have stood a chance of winning.
My Pick: Whiplash. I think this is the film that more than any other succeeded at everything – the idea, script, direction and performances were all exceptional. I never once looked at my watch even during epic sequences of music I don’t like at all. My runner up would likely be The Grand Budapest Hotel for pretty much the same reason and maybe if I’d seen that in a cinema instead of on a dvd after Christmas tea it might even have taken the top spot.
What I think will win: I think this is going to be either Birdman or Boyhood. I thought Boyhood was a sure bet, but Birdman has had a bit of a late surge and I think it’s set to make a rather surprising (and mildly disappointing) sweep.
- Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel) – one of the really characterful directors, you always know when you’re watching an Anderson film and this one is probably his best.
- Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman) – keeping those long shots going is impressive, but I don’t think it was always a benefit to the film.
- Richard Linklater (Boyhood) – an absolutely incredible achievement.
- Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher) – Miller creates and impressive sense of tension and looming doom, unfortunately I felt the film squandered that, running way too long and being a bit too simplistic and obvious.
- Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) – a solidly constructed film, but from a directing point of view I don’t remember anything particularly special
My Pick: I really thought Richard Linklater had this one sown up which I was perfectly happy with given the incredible achievement of directing a film over this period.
The Academy’s Pick: It seems the momentum for Alejandro González Iñárritu has been building and with his Director’s Guild win, I think I think the sane money is on him at this point.
- Steve Carell (Foxcatcher) – Carell is almost unrecognisable and is deeply creepy throughout. A career defining role, but I don’t think the character had the kind of range that others did.
- Bradley Cooper (American Sniper) – didn’t see it, but there’s the possibility he’ll get votes for his third nomination in a row, rather than this specific performance.
- Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game) – perfect casting and a perfect performance.
Michael Keaton (Birdman) – a really brave role that Keaton completely throws himself in to with brilliant results.
- Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) – an amazing physical and emotional performance that had me completely forgetting I was watching an actor.
Overlooked: Ralph Fiennes for Grand Budapest? I hear incredible things about David Oyelowo for Selma and Timothy Spall for Mr Turner. I thought Jake Gyllenhaal was a sure bet for nomination after seeing the trailer for Nightcrawler. Brendan Gleeson was wonderful in Calvary and I thought Colin Firth gave a really good and unexpected performance in Before I Go To Sleep too, but it’s a crowded category.
My pick: Eddie Redmayne. If this role were just the physical transformation that Redmayne manages in order to cover about 40 years of Stephen Hawking’s life he’d still deserve to be here, but on top of that he gives an incredible emotional performance. It’s a very strong field this year, but Redmayne is still on a different level.
The Academy’s Pick: I think Michael Keaton will win on the night, the Academy seem to have a preference for the story behind the performance which Keaton has in abundance which I think will win the voters over. There even seems to be a bit of suggestion that Cooper will steal it for his 3rd consecutive nomination.
- Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night) – not seen
- Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything) – it’s extremely satisfying to see Jones nominated along-side Redmayne. She has the less glamourous role in this film but it would not have succeeded without her extremely subtle and understated performance.
- Julianne Moore (Still Alice) – not seen it
- Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) – spoiler free! She gets to play a lot of different views of the character here as she’s seen in memories and flashbacks and each is compelling, although I don’t think they were really subtle enough to give her the material to compete against the others.
- Reese Witherspoon (Wild) – not seen.
Overlooked: From what I hear, Jennifer Aniston for Cake, Amy Adams for Big Eyes. Gugu Mbatha-Raw was wonderful in Belle. Scarlett Johannsen had a good year with Under the Skin and Lucy actually, although I’m not sure either would make the cut independently.
The Academy’s pick – I’m a bit ashamed to have missed three of these films, particularly when I notice that even the two I have seen didn’t really have a female ‘lead’ they were just half of a pairing. So I don’t really have a preference on who wins. I think that Julianne Moore is going to walk away with this one as she has everything else, and from what I’ve seen of trailers and clips it’s going to be very well deserved.
Best Supporting Actor
- Robert Duvall (The Judge) – Not seen it, but I didn’t hear anything about this film to suggest it was awards worthy. Is this an automatic nomination for the name?
- Ethan Hawke (Boyhood) – um, this just seemed like every other character Ethan Hawke has ever played.
- Edward Norton (Birdman) – it’s a pretty impressive achievement to steal scenes out from under Michael Keaton, but Norton managed it.
- Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher) – I like Ruffalo a lot in pretty much everything he does, and Foxcatcher is no exception, but I’m not sure there was enough there for a nomination.
- J. K. Simmons (Whiplash) – absolutely stunning, I never knew what the character would do, whether it would be big or small, but it always made complete sense.
Overlooked – Another one I haven’t seen, but there was a lot of early buzz about the motion capture performances of Andy Sirkis and Toby Kebbell.
Mine and the Academy’s Pick – J.K. Simmons will thoroughly deserve his win here, although Norton was a strong competitor in an otherwise underwhelming field.
Best Supporting Actress
- Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) – A far more interesting performance than Ethan Hawke’s, her character had a fascinating story and Arquette was compelling throughout.
- Laura Dern (Wild) – Haven’t seen it
- Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game) – she was good, but I’m not sure she really had enough to do to make this award.
- Emma Stone (Birdman) – I found her quite irritating, swinging between moping and shouting, brooding and monologuing.
- Meryl Streep (Into the Woods) – do they just automatically find something to give Streep a nomination for? I mean she was absolutely fine in the role, but there was nothing awards worthy in it.
Mine and the Academy’s Pick – Patricia Arquette will deserve this win, although I have to say it’s another relatively week field this year.
Best Original Screenplay
Birdman, Boyhood, Foxcatcher, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Nightcrawler (didn’t see it)
My pick and the Academy’s: Screenplay is about story and dialogue to me. I think for me the best one on that front is The Grand Budapest Hotel, I think the others are elevated a lot by the performances and direction, but Grand Budapest really stands out as an original and characterful story.
Best Adapted Screenplay
American Sniper, The Imitation Game, Inherent Vice (not seen, but even the trailer looked erratic), The Theory of Everything, Whiplash
My Pick and the Academy’s: I think The Imitation Game was the most interesting one here for the way it wove different timelines together in a way that blended together perfectly to tell the story of a fascinating man.
Best Animated Feature Film
- Big Hero 6 – absolutely stunning animation and design, the level of detail is incredible. On top of that the story is both fun and carrying emotional weight, the voice acting is subtle and characterful and the whole thing works beautifully.
- The Boxtrolls – it may be the format I watched it in (streaming over a crappy internet connection rather than immersed in a cinema) but I struggled to get swept up in this. The weirdness just seemed weird and a lot of the voice acting was quite distracting (endless – hey it’s so-and-so!). The idea and style was great, but it didn’t work for me.
- How to Train Your Dragon 2 – I adored this film, a fresh and vibrant script, great characters, excellent voice acting and beautiful design. This was one of my favourite films of last year.
- Song of the Sea – Didn’t see
- The Tale of the Princess Kaguya – Didn’t see
Obviously missing: The Lego Movie, quite the snub. Particularly considering it won the BAFTA. It wouldn’t change my own pick, but I know for a lot of people it would have.
My Pick: This is a bit of a tough one as I thought How to Train Your Dragon was an easy pick, but then I saw Big Hero 6 and I think I loved it even more, if only for the fact it didn’t have a lagging section in the middle like Dragon did. So I’m going for Big Hero 6.
What Will Win: It looks like How to Train Your Dragon is the industry pick for this one.
Best Foreign Language Film
Ida (Poland), Leviathan (Russia), Tangerines (Estonia), Timbuktu (Mauritania), Wild Tales (Argentina)
What will win: Ida. It’s the one that’s had most press and Academy voters are lazy, not as lazy as me mind you given that I haven’t seen any of them and hadn’t even heard of three of them.
Citizenfour, Finding Vivian Maier, Last Days in Vietnam, The Salt of the Earth, Virunga
What will win: Another category which I haven’t seen any of and have only heard of 1 of them. So I’ll plump for that one because I’m as lazy as the voters – Citizenfour.
Short Film (Animated) – links to trailers on youtube
The Bigger Picture – quirky looking but interesting style with a mix of animation and stop motion, looks a bit too weird for me.
The Dam Keeper – I’m not sure whether I think this animation style is gorgeous, or very hard to focus on. It looks interesting though.
Feast – The only one I’ve seen (it’s on before Big Hero Six) and it’s all that you’d expect from a Disney short, polished animation, a good splash of originality and a beautiful little story. Very charming.
Me and My Moulton – This was the trailer that most made me want to watch the film, it looked interesting and engaging.
A Single Life – I don’t really know where this was going.
What will win: it looks like The Dam Keeper has the momentum to win this and with the unusual but beautiful style and a poignant seeming story, that seems fair. Feast also stands a good chance, but may not be significant enough.
Short Film (Live Action) – links to trailers on youtube
Aya, Boogaloo and Graham, Butter Lamp (La Lampe au Beurre de Yak), Parvaneh, The Phone Call
What will win: I think this will go to The Phone Call as it has a recognisable cast, looks professional and seems to have an interesting and powerful story.
Documentary Short – links to trailers on youtube
Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1, Joanna,
Our Curse, The Reaper (La Parka), White Earth
Too many of these seemed to focus on the cinematography or style for my taste, just watching the trailer I have absolutely no idea what 2 of them are about and only a vague idea for another two. Personally I like my documentaries to focus on the content, preferably telling me about an issue (either present or historical) about which I know less than I should. Crisis Hotline stood out to me for that, and I think it will win for that and the fact that the Academy will vote for the issue as much as the film making.
Best Original Score
The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Interstellar, Mr. Turner, The Theory of Everything
What will win: The only score I can remember even noticing was The Grand Budapest Hotel, so lets go with that.
Song – links are to the songs on youtube
- Everything is Awesome (Lego Movie) – it’s a lot of fun and a great fit for the movie, but it’s a deliberately rubbish song, which is clever… but still rubbish.
- Glory (Selma) – A powerful song for a powerful film. It had my attention, made me listen to the lyrics, was interesting both musically and induced an emotional response.
- Grateful (Beyond the Lights) – A solid song, the kind of song that I would actually listen to, left me tapping my foot and humming along.
- I’m Not Gonna Miss You (Glenn Campbell… I’ll Be Me) – nice lyrics, nice song.
- Lost Stars (Begin Again) – Fine, but nothing particularly special.
What Will Win – Three of the films I’d not really heard of and I think a lack of recognition will hurt them, and they’re not particularly outstanding songs either. Everything is Awesome stands an excellent chance I think if for no other reason than as a push-back against the lack of nomination for the film itself. But I think given the choice between silly and powerful messaging, Glory from Selma will and should win.
Best Production Design
The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Interstellar, Into the Woods, Mr. Turner
What will win and what should win: The Grand Budapest Hotel will walk this one which is fair enough although I think Interstellar is also worthy of praise and Mr Turner looked beautiful.
Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Ida, Mr. Turner, Unbroken
My Pick and the Academy’s: Birdman. The way the whole film appeared to be one long shot was quite an achievement, particularly when blending with the fantasy elements. I found it irritating at times, but still impressive.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Foxcatcher, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Guardians of the Galaxy
What should win: It always seems ridiculous to me to have films with spectacular prosthetics and alien makeup competing against more naturalistic makeup. I always figure the spectacular is more… well… spectacular, so my vote would go to Guardians of the Galaxy.
What will win: Grand Budapest Hotel seems to be the hot pick, although I can’t for the life of me remember anything outstanding in the makeup.
Best Costume Design
The Grand Budapest Hotel, Inherent Vice, Into the Woods, Maleficent, Mr. Turner
What should win: I would’ve liked to see The Hobbit in here actually.
What will win: The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Best Film Editing
American Sniper, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Whiplash
What will win: Boyhood will win for the seamless joining of 12 years of footage. Whiplash
Deserves praise for the way the drumming sequences are made so compelling.
Best Visual Effects
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier – I don’t actually remember any of the effects in this, maybe that’s a good thing in terms of quality, but a bad thing for awards recognition.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – I haven’t seen it, but you don’t have to look beyond the trailer to see how incredible the motion capture was.
- Guardians of the Galaxy – loads of big space stuff AND character work that was impressive in terms of making two of the Guardians completely believable despite being CGI. There seemed a good breadth of work here.
- Interstellar – a lot of beautiful space stuff, but was it actually anything ground breaking in terms of technical achievement.
- X-Men: Days of Future Past – I remember two stunning sections, the attack where they use the portals and the quicksilver scene. Both of which actually did really good jobs blending effects with characters which I thought was impressive.
My pick: I think I’d probably pick Guardians as it shows the biggest range of effects. Apes and Interstellar both excelled in specific areas, but Guardians covered everything. Godzilla should be there instead of Captain America, it was a terrible film, but the effects were good.
What will win: I think Interstellar will probably take it.