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2015 Oscar Preview

todayFebruary 21, 2015 28 1

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By Andrew Nogay
Blog Content Contributor

The Oscars; the most arbitrary thing in the movie industry that actually matters. Nobody ever agrees with the nominations, and the movies that are nominated definitely skew to a certain demographic. As of 2012, 77% of the Oscar voters were male, 94% were white and the median age was 62. No wonder the same types of movies get nominated every year. A definite chasm has emerged between the kinds of movies that get Oscar attention and the ones that are considered best movies of the year. Some of the most interesting movies of recent years, like The Place Beyond the Pines and Take Shelter, don’t get even get Oscar whispers, let alone nominations. They may be odd movies with unconventional themes, but they are the types of movies that stay with you. This is an unfortunate trend. After all, Taxi Driver was nominated for best picture back in the ’70s, and that’s about as strange and dark as movies come.

The worst thing is, the Oscars do matter. The public places their interest in the nominated movies, and the buzz generated in turn generates more money for the studio. Getting Oscar nominated movies is a pretty profitable venture, so making movies in the Oscar cookie-cutter mold is what studios do. Lets say a bunch of biopics are nominated in a given year (like this year), it’s pretty certain the studios will pump a bunch of money into biopics in the next few years rather than less conventional movies that have a chance of being different. So the kinds of movies that get nominated are important.


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

What I think will win: Boyhood

What I wish would win: Boyhood

Personal favorite that was not nominated: Inherent Vice

Boyhood was legitimately my favorite movie of the year, and it is the current front-runner for best picture, so that is pretty awesome. This is a once in a decade occurrence. Birdman is the next favorite to win, and that would not be disappointing for me either. Both were made in unique ways, with one being made over 12 years, the other being made to look like it took place in a single shot. I had honestly not seen a narrative film like Boyhood in my life, and Birdman took the rarely-used fake-single shot technique but carried it over to several days and was not limited by it like some movies are. See guys, sometimes creativity is *gasp* what makes art great.

As for the best movies that were not nominated, this was an especially strong field. Inherent Vice barely made it over Gone Girl, Nightcrawler, The Guest, The Babadook, and Blue Ruin. It might not be the best Paul Thomas Anderson movie, but few movies this year were made with the kind of precision and excellence it had across the board. Plus, it was just an enthralling picture. As for the other non-nominated films I mentioned, I would easily have any of those over American Sniper or The Theory of Everything.

“Hey that cloud looks like an Oscar nomination.” Photo credit to the Oscars website.

Best Actor

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

Who I think will win: Michael Keaton

Who I wish would win: Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler

Personal favorite that was not nominated: Jake Gyllenhaal

It seems like right now Keaton is the front-runner, and I am honestly fine with that. He is the best of a mostly-mediocre bunch in my opinion, but he was still great in Birdman. With the history and baggage he brought to the role, really only Keaton could have played the character with the kind of subtext that put Birdman on the next level. Bradley Cooper is the dark-horse right now, and he was the best thing in American Sniper by a mile, so it would not be the worst thing if he won.

As for Jake Gyllenhaal, I really do think he gave the best performance I saw this year. His character is like a cross between Travis Bickle and Patrick Bateman, and he pulls it off spectacularly. He is weird and a sociopath, and the movie lets him explore his darkness to the fullest extent. I might’ve loved this performance so much because in most of Jake Gyllenhaal’s best movies, he plays a character who is just not all there mentally, whether it’s obvious (like in Donnie Darko) or more subtle (like Zodiac or Prisoners). But this is the first time he completely lets go, to the point where the audience is supposed to hate his character. I know I did, and I’m a big fan of Jake Gyllenhaal, I’m predestined to like his characters in any movie. By the end of Nightcrawler I had nothing but contempt for his character, so that’s a pretty impressive performance. Also Joaquin Phoenix might be our best working actor right now, and he was phenomenal in Inherent Vice, his overlook is a sore as well.

Michael Keaton has problems man. Photo credit to the Oscars website.

Best Actress

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

Who I think will win: Julianne Moore

Who I wish would win: Rosamund Pike

Favorite that was not nominated: Scarlett Johansson, Under the Skin/Essie Davis, The Babadook

A caveat here: I did not see Still Alice. It didn’t come into theaters near me until recently, and from what I heard, it’s the type of movie with an amazing performance (Moore), but wasn’t that great otherwise. It’s reminiscent of Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady, which she won the Oscar for in 2012. However, Julianne Moore is a great actress, and she plays a woman who gets diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, so with a premise like that this is a layup. It’s like being in the Super Bowl and having the ball at the one yard-line, down four with 30 seconds left, with a timeout and the most physical running back in the league as well as one of the better-regarded “clutch” quarterbacks. Um, never mind bad example. Still though, it’s almost certain at this point that Moore is going to win.

Rosamund Pike gave the best performance I actually saw, and I would like it if she won. Why? Because she plays the villain (or at least the more sociopathic part of her marriage), a nuanced and interesting one at that. The Oscars are always terrible at rewarding good antagonists. Somehow Ralph Fiennes didn’t win one of the kagillion Oscars that Schindler’s List won despite being absolutely amazing in it. Also, never forget that Dennis Hopper wasn’t even nominated for Blue Velvet, which might be one of the dozen most gravitating performances ever put on screen. Anyway, Pike is beyond great in Gone Girl, she plays her character with the sort of malice that is bubbling just beneath the surface, so that the audience knows that it is there, but never overplays her hand and makes it apparent.

As for Scarlett Johansson and Essie Davis, both were great in genre movies (sci-fi for Johansson, horror for Davis), in types of movies that never get Oscar attention. And I have absolutely no idea why. Johansson plays an alien who takes the body of woman to seduce random men for some unknown reason, most likely killing them. But as the movie goes on, she starts to slowly learn what it’s like of being a human. It’s a bizarre film, and Johansson probably says all of about 100 words in it, but she is spectacular. I’ve never really seen anything like it before. In The Babadook, Davis plays the widowed mother of a boy who starts to act out because of a perceived monster living among them, and eventually the demon makes itself known. She blames the son for the death of her husband (he died in a car accident as they were going to the hospital to give birth), and even resents the kid because of his acting out. The demon in the house acts as a metaphor for the hatred she has of her own kid, and Davis pulls off every emotion perfectly, from haggard, to hopeless, to evil, and even happy. Man it was so good to watch a horror movie with actually good acting.

Rosemund Pike
“I’m out-acting you Ben. Sorry not sorry.” Photo credit to the Oscars website.

Best Supporting Actor

Robert Duvall, The Judge
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Edward Norton, Birdman
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
JK Simmons, Whiplash

Who I think will win: JK Simmons

Who I wish would win: Ethan Hawke

Personal favorite that was not nominated: Josh Brolin, Inherent Vice

I would have no qualms with JK Simmons winning. I mean, he’s a pretty awesome actor. I just thought that Ethan Hawke was perhaps the best part of Boyhood, and he had such a calming effect on that film. Edward Norton is an absolute scene-stealer in Birdman, and he again is a fantastic actor who has never won an Oscar. My favorite thing about this category is that JK Simmons and Edward Norton played the two best neo-nazis characters ever, with Simmons playing Schillinger in Oz and Norton playing the lead in American History X. If I were running the Oscar show (and thank god I’m not) I would definitely address this in some fashion.

Josh Brolin was another scene-stealer, as every interaction between him and Joaquin Phoenix are absolute gold. I don’t want to spoil anything, but there’s a scene at the end of the film between the two that is probably the funniest thing I’ve seen this year. If there was an Oscar category for best chemistry, Brolin and Phoenix would win.

Best Supporting Actress

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

Who I think will win: Patricia Arquette

Who I wish would win: Patricia Arquette

Personal favorite that was not nominated: Tilda Swinton, Snowpiercer

Patricia Arquette has been so under appreciated her entire career, to the point that people probably forgot about her until Boyhood came out. Now we can back over her career and realize that she was really one of the better actresses of her generation. Well, at least it happened eventually rather than not at all. She probably has more screen time than some previous best lead actress nominees, and Boyhood is a story about her almost as much as it is about the boy. Her last scene, the one right before Mason goes off to college, is probably the scene most people will remember about Boyhood, and  it’ll probably become the most memorable scene of the entire year. It’s amazing in so many ways, and she kills it.

Tilda Swinton was so freaking weird in Snowpiercer, which itself is an incredibly weird film. I can’t even begin to describe the plot, just go look it up. Anyways, Swinton is one of the best actresses in the world, and she is kinetic in this small part. She’s some sort of future-fascist liaison between the rich and the poor people on the train, and she is hilariously villainous.

Best Director

Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game
Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher

Who I think will win: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Who I wish would win: Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Personal favorite that was not nominated: Paul Thomas Anderson, Inherent Vice

Honestly Linklater and Iñárritu are a tie for me. I’d be happy with either winning, and it looks like they’re the only two real candidates. Both won directing Golden Globes (Linklater for drama, Iñárritu for comedy), and it seems like a dead heat for the Oscar. The interesting part about this debate is that both were innovative, but it in different ways. Iñárritu was technically innovative, while Linklater was conceptually innovative. How many directors have the chops to pull off what Iñárritu did? Not many, and even those that could pull it off wouldn’t have done it as effectively in all likelihood. Meanwhile Linklater did a thing that nobody has really tried before, and it takes great skill to direct children as well as he did, as well as being able to hold a production like that together over the span of 12 years. I think that Iñárritu is going to win because his style is more apparent, and I hope Linklater wins because I feel his job was a bit more difficult. However I feel like they’re the only directors right now who could’ve made their respective films.

As for P.T. Anderson, his directing was amazing, as always, in a challenging movie that I guess didn’t resonate with Oscar voters that much. He might be the best director going right now, so it’s usually a travesty when he isn’t nominated for this award. However, I also want to mention two up and coming directors who put out amazing films this year that weren’t even on the Oscar’s radar: Adam Wingard, who made The Guest, and Jeremy Saulnier, who made Blue Ruin. Wingard has intrenched himself, along with screenwriting partner Simon Barrett, as two of the definitive voices of the modern horror genre through the V/H/S movies as well as the excellent You’re Next. The Guest is a thriller made in the mold of The Terminator and Halloween, and it is the most fun I had in a movie theater this year. Saulnier has less credits to his name, with just some shorts and the absolutely hilarious zero-budget horror comedy Murder Party, but Blue Ruin was made the skill and patience of an Oscar-winning director. It is a take on the revenge thriller that is sure to be a cult film in the next few years. Actually both of those movies are going to reach cult status one day in all likelihood. It’s just too bad we can’t appreciate them properly when they come out.

Richard Linklater
Richard Linklater on set, doing director stuff I’m sure. Photo credit to the Oscars website.

Best Adapted Screenplay

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

Who I think will win: Theory of Everything

Who I wish would win: Inherent Vice

Personal favorite that was not nominated: Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl

I don’t have any real reason for thinking that Theory of Everything is going to win, it just seems like something that would happen. Ugh. I’m already mad about it. I think Inherent Vice should win this category. It’s based off a book by Thomas Pynchon, whose material is mostly known as unfilmable. And P.T. Anderson filmed it. Not only that, he made a great movie from it. As far as degree-of-difficulty, though I’m not familiar with all of the source material nominated, he seemed to have the highest on this list.

Gone Girl was snubbed so hard in this Oscar season, and I have no idea why. It was a good movie, it made a lot of money and David Fincher has a history of success with the Oscars. Kinda. Well he’s been nominated before at least. It was an impressive script I thought, and it was cool that the author apparently changed the last third of the movie so it didn’t overlap with her book. I thought the ending to Gone Girl was great, so that shows skill in adapting her own work, knowing how to write for a medium that isn’t her specialty.

Best Original Screenplay

Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo, Birdman
E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman, Foxcatcher
Wes Anderson; Story by Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler

Who I think will win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Who I wish would win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Favorite that wasn’t nominated: Steven Knight, Locke

I could also see Birdman winning this category, and I would be perfectly okay with that. But on the other hand, somehow Wes Anderson has never won an Oscar for his screenplays, which is kinda ridiculous. His scripts are always fantastic, and they’re usually the best part of his films. The Grand Budapest Hotel was one of his better movies, and structurally it might’ve been his most complex screenplay. Not only was it hilarious, it also went to a very emotional and nostalgic place, something that not all of Anderson’s movies do.

Locke was a very interesting film. It’s about Tom Hardy driving, talking to his family, coworkers and mistress on what becomes the most important day of his life. He’s the only person who actually appears on screen, and he gives a great, undeterred performance, but even more impressive than Hardy was the script. It keeps the viewers attention in a single location, with a single live actor, and keeps the twists and turns of the plot steady and logical. Most of all, in just an hour and a half car ride with Hardy’s character, we get an understanding of him that’s more in-depth than any other character I saw this year.

Best Foreign Language Film

Wild Tales

Who I think will win: Ida

Who I wish should win: Ida

Personal favorite that was not nominated: World of Kanako

I wasn’t super excited about seeing Ida. It checks pretty much all the boxes on the list of stereotypically dry foreign film Oscar nominees. It’s in black and white, European, a drama, a period piece and is even about religion. Of course, the same things could be said about Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries, and that’s one of the best films ever. And Ida was one of the better movies I saw this year. It’s about a young nun who discovers she has an aunt, her only living relative, visits her and uncovers secrets about the parents she never knew. The aunt, with her smoking, occasionally having sex and drunk driving comes off like Keith Richards crossed with Amy Winehouse in comparison to her niece, and their differences was the low-key hilarious thing about this movie that is otherwise completely devoid of laughter. It’s incredibly somber, beautifully shot (it uses a lot of deep focus and that’s my jam man) doesn’t condescend with the viewer’s intelligence.

Ida is also…pretty dry. I wasn’t bored by it, but I can understand people that were. There are so many amazingly interesting and original foreign films that don’t get Oscar consideration because countries can only submit one film each, and those films tend to be on the more placid, intellectual side rather than the crazy hold-nothing-back movies that are all over the world. I saw World of Kanako at Fantastic Fest last year, and it was a blast, easily one of the best movies I saw there. It would be my pick of the foreign films I saw there, but there’s others that deserve attention. These include Jacky in the Kingdom of Women, Cub, Goodnight Mommy, among many others. They’re different sorts of movies, not really the kind usually get Oscar nominations, and I understand that. I just don’t agree with it.

Ida’s and Ida’s wild-and-crazy aunt shown here. Photo credit to the Oscars website.

Best Documentary Feature

Last Days in Vietnam
Finding Vivian Maier
The Salt of the Earth

Who I think will win: Citizenfour

Who I wish would win: Citizenfour

Personal favorite that was not nominated: Jodorowsky’s Dune

Citizenfour is deservedly going to win this category, and only time will tell if it reaches the plateau of most important documentaries ever made. It’s the first hand account of one of the biggest news stories of the aughts, as it was unfolding, with the person responsible for it. Is it biased? Of course, the filmmaker had a personal relationship with Edward Snowden, he actually reached out to her specifically because he knew of her skill handling subject matter like this. But it has a story to tell, and tells it well. This movie actually unfolds like a legit thriller, despite the audience knowing what happens. Of course, I thought that The Act of Killing was a shoe-in for best documentary last year, but it didn’t win. Which is too bad, it’s on the shortlist of best documentaries I’ve ever seen, and I thought it should’ve gotten an actual best picture nomination.

Although hit might not be as socially relevant as Citizenfour, Jodorowsky’s Dune is a treat for lovers of cinema. It tells the story of cult director Alejandro Jodorowsky‘s plan to adapt the epic sci-fi novel Dune in the ’70s. He assembled some of the most interesting talents of the time for the project, including H.R. Giger, Salvador Dali, Orson Welles, Pink Floyd, Dan O’Bannon, Mick Jagger and David Carradine, and story-boarded the entire film, but the project eventually fell through. Some films are ahead of their time, and can’t be appreciated when they come out. Jodorowsky’s vision of Dune was so ahead of its time that it couldn’t be made. If it had been made, it would’ve been a work of absolute genius, albeit an excessive one. The thing this documentary does really well is letting the viewer know the scope of the massive project, and the influence it had despite never being made. It also leaves behind a hint of sadness, because the whole history of film would’ve been changed forever if Jodorowsky had made Dune, arguably for the better.

Another great documentary I saw that wasn’t nominated was Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD. It’s a dynamic documentary about the revolutionary British comic book 2000AD, which is responsible for bringing up some of the best comic book writers ever, such as Alan Moore and Grant Morrison, as well as creating some iconic characters, like Judge Dredd. It’s subject matter isn’t necessarily “Oscar material”, but it was such an enjoyable movie that I don’t think that should matter. The interviews were excellent, particularly those of Pat Mills, who comes off like the comic book writer version of Johnny Rotten. 2000AD had such an impact not only on comic book culture, but pop culture in general, and this doc did a good job at showing their influence.

“You see, Rachel and Ross’s relationship could never work when they were younger, but as they…oh right the NSA.” Photo credit to the Oscars website.

Best Original Song

Gregg Alexander, Danielle Brisebois, Nick Lashley, and Nick Southwood, “Lost Stars” (Begin Again)
John Legend and Common, “Glory” (Selma)
Shawn Patterson, Joshua Bartholomew, Lisa Harriton, and the Lonely Island, “Everything Is Awesome” (The Lego Movie)
The-Dream, “Grateful” (Beyond the Lights)
Glen Campbell, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” (Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me)

Who I think will win: “Glory”

Who I wish would win: “I’m Not Gonna Miss You”

Personal favorite that was not nominated: “Spooks” from Inherent Vice, by Jonny Greenwood, Gaz Coombes and Danny Goffey

Glory is probably going to win, it’s a good song with a message with the biggest star power of the nominated songs. However, the song I enjoyed the most was I’m Not Gonna Miss You, so there. Pretty cut and dry really. I completely understand that music is incredibly subjective, so there’s my two cents on this subject. I also really enjoyed spooks. The music with Joanna Newsom’s tripped-out hippie monologue playing over it was really cool. Plus Jonny Greenwood is in Radiohead, and I love Radiohead so much that I need to stop talking about them now or I’ll write another 2,000 words on them. I will say that the scores he does are really good, I wonder if he’ll ever do film scores for non-P.T. Anderson movies.

Best Original Score

Johann Johannsson, The Theory of Everything
Alexandre Desplat, The Imitation Game
Alexandre Desplat, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Hans Zimmer, Interstellar
Gary Yershon, Mr. Turner

Who I think will win: Johann Johannsson, The Theory of Everything

Who I wish would win: Antonio Sanchez, Birdman

Personal favorite that was not nominated Antonio Sanchez

I am not a good judge on which one of these scores will win, so I just have a feeling that The Theory of Everything is going to win this category. Perhaps Desplat’s two nominations will cancel each other out, and Johannsson’s contemplative and intriguing score will resonate. It’s a good score honestly. It’s really the kind of music I imagine playing if I invented something. Or did anything of substance. Hmm. Anyways, I’m actually really surprised Birdman’s score isn’t on here. It’s rather simple, most just a drum beat, but it was certainly the score I noticed the most this year. It was so integral to the motion and tension of Birdman, but it wasn’t overbearing. I honestly didn’t hear a film score I enjoyed more or added more to the film than Birdman’s, so if it was actually nominated I would’ve voted it to win no doubt.

Best Animated Feature

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

Who I think will win: How to Train Your Dragon 2

Who I wish would win: How to Train Your Dragon 2

Personal favorite that was not nominated: The Lego Movie

Sometimes it seems like Pixar, Disney and DreamWorks just trade off wins in this category, and this time it’s probably going to be DreamWorks. The first How to Train Your Dragon was one of the most well-regarded animated films of the past decade at least, and of course it lost to juggernaut that was Toy Story 3. Now it’s almost as well-regarded sequel is probably going to win, maybe because Pixar took the year off. But don’t worry, Pixar is pumping out two films this year, and both sound awesome. So chances are this time next year we’ll be celebrating another Pixar masterpiece. Or maybe even two. Perhaps the conversation for this category next year is which one of Pixar’s films are going to win. This year, the conversation mostly seemed to be about the absence of The Lego Movie in the nominees. Some even thought before the nominees were announced that it was the front-runner, and I wouldn’t argue with that. Being able to make such a funny movie based off a product is amazing. It just shows how talented Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are that The Lego Movie didn’t end up being like Battleship.

How to Train Your Dragon 2
Ayyyy. Photo credit to the Oscars website.

Best Visual Effects

Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Guardians of the Galaxy
X:Men: Days of Future Past

Who I think will win: Interstellar

Who I wish would win: Interstellar

Personal favorite that was not nominated: Godzilla

Interstellar’s special effects, especially during the wormhole scene, were at times mind-blowing. It was a good movie no doubt, probably better than the last few Christopher Nolan films, but the special effects took the cake for me. They were beautiful, and they were able to resonate with the audience instead of just being for show. It would be rather surprising if it didn’t win this category.

I do feel Godzilla should’ve been in there, but I have to admit my bias: I am a huge Godzilla fan. Always has been. For some reason he was my childhood hero instead of somebody like Superman, Batman or a regular childhood hero. I even wrote him a letter once when I was like three without an address on the envelope. It came back to my house like a day latter and couldn’t understand why…I had trouble with the postal service as a youngster. When the new Godzilla came out, and it was ACTUALLY GOOD OH MY GOD YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND HOW AMAZING THAT WAS ARHGKJDLA sorry I’ll compose myself. I don’t care what anybody says. After the travesty of the first American Godzilla, this one was a godsend. The special effects were also really damn good, to get back on track. Godzilla himself needs to both fearsome as a personal threat, and nearly godlike in his scope. This Godzilla pulled that off.

Best Film Editing

American Sniper
Grand Budapest Hotel
Imitation Game

Who I think will win: Boyhood

Who I wish would win: Boyhood

Personal favorite that was not nominated: The Guest

I’m not sure if there’s an editing job like Boyhood before. The hard part is that you have to weave footage shot over actually 12 years into a movie that isn’t supposed to be about each individual year, and that’s what happens. It’s not like in Boyhood there was a title card that said “Mason-Age 11” and told the high points of when he was 11. If the editing is done correctly, everything was supposed to flow into each other, and the audience shouldn’t be able to tell each year’s segment apart. This is achieved, as I couldn’t tell the difference really between Mason as a seven or eight year old or tell his middle school years apart for example. Also, the editing would be the thing to keep everything in the film consistent, and it was.

I thought The Guest was edited awesomely. The action sequences had a rhythm to them that few films have, and everything in the film was trim and tight. It’s the type of editing that the viewer actually notices, in a good way.

Best Cinematography

Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman
Dick Pope, Mr. Turner
Robert D. Yeoman, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Ryszard Lenczewski and Łukasz Żal, Ida
Roger Deakins, Unbroken

Who I think will win: Emmanuel Lubezki

Who I wish would win: Emmanuel Lubezki

Personal favorite that was not nominated: Daniel Landin, Under the Skin

Birdman is the obvious front-runner here, and I wholeheartedly agree. The difficulty and artistry of the photography in that film is unfathomable. It’s audacious and proud, and is the engine that makes Birdman work. Everything was so deliberate, which is difficult to do in long takes. For example, earlier I applauded the cinematography in Ida, which was also very deliberate in the shots it chooses, but it had mostly no camera movement, while in Birdman the camera is constantly in motion. If the timing of the camera movement and shots were off by any amount, Birdman is a lesser film.

Under the Skin was a beautiful to look at. The lighting and colors influenced the shots more than any other film I saw, and it was overall very uniquely made. Even if the story dragged a bit (just kidding there was no real plot to speak of), Under the Skin kept my attention just by what was shown onscreen. Shots with Scarlett Johansson were particularly well-done, she was photographed strikingly throughout.

Best Sound Editing

American Sniper
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Who I think will win: American Sniper

Who I wish would win: Birdman

Personal favorite that was not nominated: Godzilla

Best Sound Mixing

American Sniper

Who I think will win: American Sniper

Who I wish would win: Birdman

Personal favorite that was not nominated: Godzilla

I’m going to lump these two categories together, because I turned out to have the same picks for both categories and I honestly don’t know enough about either to know the intricacies of each. Also, four of the last five years these two categories have had the same movie win, so I feel I’m a little justified.

Because American Sniper is a war film, it’s probably going to win these categories. War films have done well in this category recently, as The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty won either one or both of these categories, and Lone survivor received it’s only two nominations last year in these categories. Which is understandable, war scenes are difficult to film and they have to have great sound to be realistic. My issue with American Sniper winning these awards is that it’s nominated for this award for the war scenes, but the war scenes were much less interesting to me than the scenes when Bradley Cooper’s character comes back to the U.S.

I would put my vote to Birdman, because with a camera that’s constantly in motion, picking up sound must be incredibly challenging, and because the sound was just very well-done. The interchange between the film’s dialogue and natural sound and the score was Oscar-quality. As for Godzilla, the main reason behind me wanting it in this category is because Godzilla’s roar in was great in it. The roar is always an important ingredient to any Godzilla flick, and they nailed it in the new one. Of course the other sounds were well-done throughout the movie as well.

American Sniper
Hey get that flag out of the shot! It’s in the way- oh now I see what you’re doing. Photo credit to the Oscars website.

Best Costume Design

Colleen Atwood, Into the Woods
Anna B. Sheppard, Maleficent
Milena Canonero, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Jacqueline Durran, Mr. Turner
Mark Bridges, Inherent Vice

Who I think will win: Into the Woods

Who I wish would win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Personal favorite that was not nominated: Only Lovers Left Alive

I have a feeling that Into the Woods is going to win this category, because it’s custom designer has won three Oscars, it’s based on a very famous musical and the Academy usually goes for prestige in categories like this. The costumes themselves look cool anyways, and to be honest I don’t know a whole lot about costumes other than “hey this stuffy shirt looks a little cooler than this stuffy shirt”. So I thought that The Grand Budapest Hotel had the coolest looking stuffy shirts this year. Ralph Fiennes looked good in particular, but overall I thought the customs were great. Only Lovers Left Alive was a supremely cool vampire movie from Jim Jarmusch, and it had some really interesting non-historical costumes. The clothes of the main characters needed to be both hip and gothic, as they were non-violent vampires who are just about the most coolest cats around.

Best Production Design

Adam Stockhausen and Anna Pinnock, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Suzie Davies and Charlotte Watts, Mr. Turner
Dennis Gassner and Anna Pinnock, Into the Woods
Nathan Crowley, Garry Fettis, and Paul Healy, Interstellar
Maria Djurkovic, The Imitation Game

Who I think will win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Who I wish would win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Personal favorite that was not nominated: Snowpiercer

If screenplays are the best part of Wes Anderson movies, then the production designs are the second best. His sets are always something to behold. They’re so meticulous and exact, but also incredibly colorful and vibrant. In Grand Budapest, the production design does a particularly good job of setting the mood of the scene, as it is more melancholy than most Wes Anderson movies, but it also doesn’t lack with the quirkiness. I’m not sure if Grand Budapest will be the film to get Anderson past his Oscar block (none of his films have ever won an Oscar), but it has as good a chance in this category as any it’s nominated for.

Snowpiercer had the second best production design I saw this year I thought. The entire thing takes place on a train, and as the rebellion moves through the train, each room has to have a specific purpose and look, and some of those rooms were spectacular to look at. The creativity in some of the rooms was incredible. For example, there’s a room that’s just a giant aquarium filled with fish that the rich people use for sushi, and it looks so good. At a certain point I thought “could they REALLY have that on a train?”, but it is supposed to show the excess of the people at the front of the train. This production design works on a few levels.

The Grand Budapest Hotel
That’s right, Owen Wilson and Owen Wilson’s nose make an appearance in Grand Budapest. Photo credit to the Oscars website.


Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Guardians of the Galaxy
The Grand Budapest Hotel

Who I think will win: Foxcatcher

Who I wish would win: Anything else

Personal favorite that was not nominated: Inherent Vice

I think Foxcatcher is going to win this category over the more deserving Guardians of the Galaxy because it’s more of an “Oscars film”, despite the fact it isn’t that great of a film to begin with. Sure it might be the type of movie that the Academy goes for, as it’s a prestige drama based of real life events, but did anybody in the Academy ask if it’s actually good? It would be so substantially better movie if it was a dark comedy, because Steve Carell’s character is so weird and awkward, but instead it’s serious the entire time. This of course made it hilarious in my mind. I did not laugh at a movie all of last year more than when I saw Foxcatcher, it was so bad me and my friend had to move to the other side of the theater at the beginning so our laughter couldn’t disrupt the people actually watching it. Eventually the seriousness wore on me, and then I was just in the theater watching an alright movie. In 15 or 20 years, somebody is going to make a new film based off this event, make it a dark comedy, and it will be ten times more enjoyable to watch. That might be why I’m upset this movie is so well-regarded. There was a better way to make to Foxcatcher, but the choice to not have any sort of relief parts in a film that desperately needed them stopped it short of it’s potential.

Anyway, I think it’s going to win this category because of Steve Carell’s nose and Channing Tatum’s hair. All criticism aside, Mark Ruffalo’s beard was on-point in this movie. Speaking of facial hair, I wish Inherent Vice were nominated, if only because of Joaquin Phoenix’s dynamite sideburns. Those are like side of an angel‘s wings, placed softly on one our best actors.

Steve Carell
*breathing intensifies* Photo credit to the Oscars website.

Best Short Film, Live Action

Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis, Aya (Chasis Films)
Michael Lennox, director, and Ronan Blaney, Boogaloo and Graham (Out of Orbit)
Hu Wei and Julien Féret, Butter Lamp (La Lampe au Beurre de Yak) (AMA Productions)
Talkhon Hamzavi and Stefan Eichenberger, Parvaneh (Zurich University of Arts)
Mat Kirkby, director and James Lucas, The Phone Call (RSA Films)

Who I think will win: Boogaloo and Graham

Personal favorite that was not nominated: My Father is a Bird

Best Short Film, Animated

Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees, The Bigger Picture (National Film and Television School)
Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi, The Dam Keeper (Tonko House)
Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed, Feast (Walt Disney Animation Studios)
Torill Kove, Me and My Moulton (Mikrofilm in co-production with the National Film Board of Canada)
Joris Oprins, A Single Life (Job, Joris & Marieke)

Who I think will win: Feast

Personal favorite that was not nominated: A Town Called Panic: A Christmas Log 

Best Documentary, Short

Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry, Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
Aneta Kopacz, Joanna
Tomasz Śliwiński and Maciej Ślesicki, Our Curse
Gabriel Serra Arguello, The Reaper (La Parka)
J. Christian Jensen, White Earth

Who I think will win: Crisis Hotline: Verterans Press 1

Personal favorite that was not nominated: The Chaperone

So here’s the thing with these three categories: I did not see any of the nominated shorts. The only time this year I was able to see short films of any kind was at Fantastic Fest, and though I saw some great things there none were nominated for an Oscar. So I picked the one’s that are going to win mostly based on what they’re about, which is what I do anyway every year when I’m in an Oscar pool. Because of that, I didn’t pick a short I wish would win, because I truly don’t know.

Boogaloo and Graham is about two Irish kids who take care of cute little chickens during The Troubles, and it looks just as adorable as depressing. Feast is a Disney short, so I’m pretty much going off that for picking it to win. Crisis Hotline: Verterans Press 1 is about the hotline for war veterans who are experiencing trauma or having trouble in general, that sounds really freaking intense, and it was made by HBO so there’s a prestige company behind it as well.

My Father is a Bird was the short at Fantastic Fest I was looking forward to the most, and it did not disappoint. It’s about a teenager whose dad is a bird, so there’s that. Also, the kid discovers masturbation, but every time he does it his dad actually dies a little bit, so he has to stop or his awesome flying bird-dad will die. Yes, this is an actual thing somebody made. Yes, it is as awesome as it sounds. It’s even better if you think of it as a prequel to Birdman.

A Town Called Panic: A Christmas Log is the short I saw at Fantastic Fest that I thought would have the best shot at getting an Oscar nomination, as it’s not as weird as most of the good shorts I saw there (see above for an example). In fact, I would say it has almost universal appeal, it’s the best Christmas special I’ve seen in a long time. It was hilarious, well-made and the entire family could watch it. If I were ABC or something, I’d buy the rights to it and show it every Christmas season, along with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and the rest. It’s that good.

The Chaperone was a neat little story that isn’t nearly as important or socially relevant as say traumatized war veterans, but it was funny and was interestingly made. It does the whole animated documentary thing, which I enjoy, and the animation was very nice to look at. It’s a feel-good story that isn’t sappy at all, just enjoyable.


So those are my thoughts on the 2015 Oscars. My perpetual disappointment with the Academy didn’t subside this year, but as long as The Theory of Everything or doesn’t win everything than I’m mostly happy that Boyhood and Birdman are the frontrunners for best picture, among other categories. The Theory of Everything in is an Oscar-bait movie if I’ve ever seen one, and if movies like that keep doing well at the Oscars the status quo will be kept instead of pumping the much-needed new blood into the Oscars. But who knows how the Oscars are going to play out. I certainly don’t. Much like Jon Snow or Jenny McCarthy, I know nothing.

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