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

30 January 2015

Oscar Nominees 2015: Part 4 of 12

Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.
Part 4 of 12:

Selma
2 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Original Song: Common & John Legend
Director: Ava DuVernay
Cast: David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tom Wilkinson, André Holland, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Common, Wendell Pierce, Lorraine Toussaint, Giovanni Ribisi, Tim Roth, Stephen Root, Colman Domingo, Stephan James, Trai Byers, Oprah Winfrey

This is one of the best films of the year. It is my #10 for 2014. It's excellent; it's hard hitting. It is also – and this is quite an achievement – a film about the past that is also fundamentally a film about the present. DuVernay has made a film about the importance of the Voting Rights Act to USAmerican politics. This is hugely important – the Supreme Court, just two years ago, gutted the Voting Rights Act, declaring (is that the correct term? no.) cynically pretending, with its head firmly in the sand, that people of color are not systematically kept away from the polls in Southern states. DuVernay's film is superb, and anyone who has seen her previous work knows that she is only going to get better. There are more things that need to be said about Selma and Oscar, though. Here it is in the Best Picture category, but its director, lead actor, screenwriters, and costume designer didn't get nominated. Many people have cried foul, and I am inclined to join them. The Best Actor category was crowded: it almost always is, in fact. As for director... the Directors branch was clearly being foolish this year because nominating Morten Tyldum in this slot over Ava DuVernay was short-sighted and silly. The Imitation Game is an asinine piece of calculated feel-good Oscar machinery, and Selma is a hard-hitting historical exposé that speaks to our contemporary moment. But, you know, the Academy is mostly old white men (and their old, white wives). I will say, though, that Selma was way too late to the party. This film and others that were released on or after December 25 (A Most Violent Year, Cake, Still Alice) did not do well with the Academy. They need time to watch those screeners, and these films need time to build buzz. Selma's campaign was mismanaged. I blame racism for a lot of things, and racism was surely partially to blame for Selma's weak showing with Oscar. But this is also the fault of Selma's publicity team. This was a mismanaged campaign; do not mistake it.
Will Win: Song
Could Win: Picture
My Rating: #10 out of 76


Wild
2 Nominations
  • Actress: Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line)
  • Supporting Actress: Laura Dern (Rambling Rose)
Cast: Witherspoon, Dern, Thomas Sadoski, W. Earl Brown, Keene McRae, Michiel Huisman

This movie was a surprise to me; I had no idea it was going to be as good as it turned out to be. It is an unimaginative nominee here, though. Witherspoon is hardly giving a notable performance here. It's a nice role and a smart movie, but not anything brilliant. Dern is brilliant here, and I was so happy to see her name on nomination morning that I actually cheered quite loudly in my apartment. She is the best thing about the movie, and my companion and I left the film praising Laura Dern and remembering all of the great work she has done over the years. Neither woman has a chance of winning on Oscar night, but I will be rooting for Laura Dern nonetheless.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #27 out of 76


Inherent Vice
2 Nominations
  • Adapted Screenplay: Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, Magnolia, There Will Be Blood)
  • Costume Design: Mark Bridges (The Artist)
Director: Anderson
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Katherine Waterston, Joanna Newsom, Owen Wilson, Josh Brolin, Hong Chau, Jena Malone, Benicio Del Toro, Eric Roberts, Reese Witherspoon, Michael Kenneth Williams, Maya Rudolph, Martin Short

A stoner movie that is way, way more than a stoner movie. This is a film about how mass culture is sold to us and how – in the best tradition of socialist critique – everything is immanent to capitalism. It's also fun and trippy and has plenty of what-the-fuck moments. I found the script difficult, as well, but I loved it for its difficulty and its complexity, and I loved the difficult, conflicted characters at this film's center. I'm not going around recommending Inherent Vice, but I enjoyed it thoroughly, and the script is incredibly good; its nomination was well deserved.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #34 out of 76



Ida
2 Nominations
  • Cinematography: Ryszard Lenczewski & Łukasz Żal
  • Foreign Language Picture: Poland (In Darkness, Katyń, Man of Iron, The Young Girls of Wilko, The Deluge, Promised Land, Pharaoh, Knife in the Water)
Cast: Agata Trzebuchowska, Agata Kulesza, Dawid Ogrodnik, Adam Szyszkowski, Jerzy Trela, Halina Skoczyńska

Easily one of the best films of the year and currently available on Netflix Instant. This is a tight little gem of a film; it's short at 90 minutes, and it is cruel and cold and unsparing, as well as gorgeous and clear and always surprising. I cannot say enough good things about it. It's my number two movie for the year and when I saw it in the theatre I had to sit in my seat for a solid five minutes after the movie ended before I was able to talk to my friends or think about moving around. This is superb filmmaking. Oddly enough I don't think it is going to win the Best Foreign Language Oscar. We'll see. I haven't yet seen Leviathan, but it currently seems to have the buzz on its side. None of that matters, though, move Ida to the top of your Instant queue. It is shockingly good.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: Foreign Language Picture
My Rating: #2 out of 76