Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

29 January 2014

Oscar Nominees 2014: Part 3 of 14

The Wolf of Wall Street
5 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Director: Martin Scorsese (Hugo, The Departed, The Aviator, Gangs of New York, GoodFellas, The Last Temptation of Christ, Raging Bull)
  • Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio (What's Eating Gilbert Grape, The Aviator, Blood Diamond)
  • Adapted Screenplay: Terence Winter
  • Supporting Actor: Jonah Hill (Moneyball)
Director: Scorsese
Cast: DiCaprio, Hill, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Bernthal, Jon Favreau, Joanna Lumley, Jean Dujardin, P.J. Byrne, Kenneth Choi, Brian Sacca, Henry Zebrowski, Matthew McConaughey, Jake Hoffman, Shea Wigham

I am not sure we can call Wolf's performance on the morning of the nominations an enormous surprise given the Academy's apparent love for all things Scorsese; Scorsese's nomination, for one, was a sure thing. But the nominations of Jonah Hill and Leonardo DiCaprio were big surprises. DiCaprio in particular moved into a slot that was predicted to go to either Robert Redford for All Is Lost (more on that when we get to AIL) or Tom Hanks for Captain Phillips, which the Academy apparently loved but didn't love as much as we thought it would. I disliked this movie, and I had heard early on that Academy members were not responding politely to Wolf's unlikable protagonist, its decadence, its smugness, its filthy language, but five nominations is rather a lot, and this, I think, particularly means that Wolf is well liked by the acting branch (i.e. the branch with the most votes). I don't think this translates into any statues on Oscar Sunday, but it just might.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: Actor, Adapted Screenplay
My Rating: #67 out of 74

5 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Original Screenplay: Spike Jonze
  • Production Design: K.K. Barrett & Gene Serdena
  • Original Score: William Butler & Owen Pallett
  • Original Song: Spike Jonze & Karen O 
Director: Jonze
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johanssen, Rooney Mara, Chris Pratt, Olivia Wilde, Matt Letscher, Portia Doubleday, Laura Kai Chen.

This is so good. I didn't write a regular review about it because, well, it is hard to talk about things that are really, really good. Her is a beautiful and fascinating meditation (it might even be described as a kind of filmic experiment or improvisation) on the theme of our relationships with the sentient and semi-sentient operating systems in our lives. (If you tell me you don't have a relationship with your phone or with your computer you are lying.) But more importantly, Her is about all of our relationships: not just the ones we have with object or operating systems. Samantha, the consciousness that exists in Theodore Twombly's telephone, is just like any other beloved person, any other person with whom one might try to have a relationship. And the film is so smart about her, about how he behaves with her, about what he wants from her. Let me give just one example that I don't think is a spoiler: when I am in a relationship with someone, I have to struggle to remind myself that my beloved is not mine. He feels like mine, sometimes, and of course I occasionally have wanted to possess the men I have loved. And in Her, of course, Samantha is his. She is a conscious, living, being, but he paid for her. He owns her. She works for him. And so she stands in for the fantasy of the beloved whom we can possess, who can become truly and completely our very own and no one else's. What the film does with this is so smart and truthful, that I found myself constantly moved by what happens. It's gorgeous stuff. I should add, too, that Joaquin Phoenix should most definitely have gotten an Oscar nomination for this performance, and if it had been me in charge I would've nominated Amy Adams, as well. I am voting for the Original Screenplay to take home a statue, but it may be that the film has more of a shot in Original Score. Owen Pallett and William Butler's music is probably the most innovative and the most beautiful of the year.
Will Win: Original Screenplay
Could Win: Production Design, Original Score, Original Song
My Rating: #4 out of 75

4 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Actress: Judi Dench (Notes on a Scandal, Mrs Henderson Presents, Iris, Chocolat, Shakespeare in Love, Mrs. Brown) 
  • Adapted Screenplay: Steve Coogan & Jeff Pope
  • Original Score: Alexandre Desplat (Argo, The King's Speech, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Queen) 
Director: Stephen Frears
Cast: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Michelle Fairley, Anna Maxwell-Martin, Barbara Jefford, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Mare Winningham, Peter Hermann, Wunmi Mosaku

Philomena is an okay film. I am not sure why everyone is so into it. I guess because it's a true story. People like movies to be (as they say) based on a true story. I've never understood that very much, myself. Anyway, the Academy liked this picture a lot. Dench is brilliant in it and deserves her nomination, but all the other love I find sort of baffling. Best Picture? You'll see what I mean if you see it. Baffling. The score nomination is rather unfortunate too. It's a serviceable score but nowhere near Desplat's best efforts. (Desplat is incredibly prolific at the moment, so why not pick one of his truly excellent scores to nominate? As I say: baffling.) In any case, don't expect this to go home with any Oscars.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #53 out of 75