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

24 January 2015

Oscar Nominees 2015: Part 1 of 12

Every year in the weeks leading up the Academy Awards ceremony, I post my thoughts on all of the nominees, although I exempt myself from the documentaries because I don't really like documentaries all that much. For me that means 50 films this year (2 more than last year). 2015 somehow seems even stranger than last year. Selma's director, actor, costume designer, and screenwriter were snubbed; Best Picture is newly up in the air; and two very deserving pictures (Grand Budapest Hotel and Whiplash managed to surprise with a ton of nominations). Because my favorite thing about all of this movie hubbub is the surprises, I am, as usual, loving Oscar season even though a great many of the big movies this year totally suck.

I say this every year, but most of the films in my top ten for the year were passed over (Under the Skin, Like Father Like Son, Fury, Force Majeure), but some scored a nomination or two (Ida, Two Days One Night) and three were nominated for Best Picture (Selma, Grand Budapest, Whiplash – that's one more than last year). In any case, I am excited for what is going to happen.

Oh, and if you're thinking why does he even care about this? I don't blame you. But I have an elaborate set of reasons for still loving the Oscars that I've explained here.

If the nominee has been nominated for Oscars previously, he or she will be listed next to his/her name in parentheses).

This year's nominees:

Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
9 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel)
  • Actor: Michael Keaton
  • Original Screenplay: Iñárritu & Armando Bo & Alexander Dinelares Jr. & Nicolás Giacobone
  • Supporting Actor: Edward Norton (American History X, Primal Fear)
  • Supporting Actress: Emma Stone
  • Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity, Children of Men, The New World, Sleepy Hollow, A Little Princess)
  • Sound Mixing
  • Sound Editing
Director: Iñárritu
Cast: Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Norton, Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough, Stone, Amy Ryan, Lindsay Duncan

I liked Birdman, but I wasn't as in love with it as most of the people I know. The movie's central gimmick works really well, and it's a kind of stunning, virtuosic picture with some great performances (Andrea Riseborough's being the standout in my mind). Edward Norton gets lots of points for being willing to lampoon his own over-earnest image. Keaton is not great in the movie, as far as I am concerned, but he is right for the picture. It seems written for him and perfect for him. Much hullabaloo has been made about the score by Antonio Sánchez being disqualified by the Academy's music branch – it was determined that the movie relies too heavily on music from other sources (notably Mahler, Tchaikovsky, and Adams). In any case, you might think it's a little odd that the Academy loved this weird movie as much as it did, but this is a movie about actors and acting, and the Academy loves movies about that.
Will Win: Actor, Cinematography
Could Win: Original Screenplay, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing
My Rating: #29 out of 73

The Grand Budapest Hotel
9 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Director: Wes Anderson
  • Original Screenplay: Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom, The Royal Tenenbaums)
  • Cinematography: Robert Yeoman
  • Film Editing: Barney Pilling
  • Original Score: Alexandre Desplat (The Imitation Game, Philomena, Argo, The King's Speech, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Queen)
  • Production Design: Anna Pinnock (Into the Woods, Life of Pi, The Golden Compass, Gosford Park) & Adam Stockhausen (12 Years a Slave)
  • Costume Design: Milena Canonero (Marie Antoinette, The Affair of the Necklace, Titus, Dick Tracy, Tucker: the Man and His Dream, Out of Africa, Chariots of Fire, Barry Lyndon)
Director: Anderson
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Jude Law, F. Murray Abraham, Saoirse Ronan, Adrien Brody, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton

This is my favorite of the Best Picture nominees and, as with Birdman, I am surprised the Academy liked this movie as much as it did. First of all, it's funny, which usually means that a movie isn't going to be taken seriously. I saw this movie with a whole group of friends (including my friend Walter – he and I cemented our friendship while drinking viognier and talking about Wes Anderson five years ago). Also, and this is a huge deal, the exquisite production designs for Anderson's films have never before been acknowledged by the Academy. This is an enormous first and a very exciting one. I don't expect this movie to win the big statue, but I do expect it to do very well, including Anderson's first Oscar for writing.
Will Win: Original Screenplay, Production Design, Costume Design
Could Win: Cinematography, Film Editing, Makeup
My Rating: #5 out of 73

The Imitation Game
8 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Director: Morten Tyldum
  • Actor: Benedict Cumberbatch
  • Adapted Screenplay: Graham Moore
  • Supporting Actress: Keira Knightley (Pride & Prejudice)
  • Film Editing: William Goldenberg (Zero Dark Thirty, Argo, Seabiscuit, The Insider)
  • Original Score: Alexandre Desplat (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Philomena, Argo, The King's Speech, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Queen)
  • Production Design: Maria Djurkovic & Tatiana Macdonald
Director: Tyldum
Cast: Cumberbatch, Knightley, Rory Kinnear, Matthew Goode, Mark Strong, Charles Dance, Matthew Beard, Allen Leach, John Northcote

Snoozefest. When you see this, I hope you're able to stay awake. This is not the film among the nominees that caused me the most ire, but it is way up there. In all honesty, too, I see why people loved it so much. It makes one feel very superior to people from the past. Oh, we're so much more evolved now and isn't it sad what they did to that poor genius over there in Britain, and didn't he just overcome? I can hardly bear it. This film's host of nominations are particularly upsetting because Tyldum's slot in the Director lineup really could've gone instead to AvaDuvernay for her work on Selma or, barring that, to someone else who made a superb film this year – Paweł Pawlikowski, say, or the Dardenne Brothers, or (more within the realm of possibility) Damien Chazelle. I have a feeling, though, that nomination morning was the high point for The Imitation Game, and the wind is now out of its sails completely; we saw this phenomenon last year with American Hustle.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #58 out of 73

6 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Director: Richard Linklater
  • Original Screenplay: Richard Linklater (Before Midnight, Before Sunset)
  • Supporting Actor: Ethan Hawke (Training Day)
  • Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette
  • Film Editing: Sandra Adair
Director: Linklater
Cast: Ellar Coltrane, Arquette, Lorelei Linklater, Hawke, Marco Perella, Brad Hawkins, Tom McTigue

I was soft on this picture for several reasons. It is not without its charms, for sure, and it has been quite popular with critics, but I found the whole thing rather boring. This was an awesome idea – really an awesome idea – but its execution simply wasn't all that spectacular. Still, who doesn't feel good about Richard Linklater finally getting his due as both a screenwriter and a director. He has been making great, quirky, interesting films for two decades now, and this is as good a time as any to honor his contributions to all of our lives. Don't let its comparatively paltry six nominations fool you: this is going to win the big one as well as two other Oscars.
Will Win: Picture, Director, Supporting Actress
Could Win: Original Screenplay, Film Editing
My Rating: #43 out of 73