Friday, February 20, 2015

Reid's 2015 Oscar Preview

For the last few years, I've been writing an article similar to one in the Boston Globe in which critics preview the Academy Awards, using 4 categories:  “Will Win,” “Should Win,” “Shouldn’t Be Here,” and “Was Robbed.”  They follow each with a paragraph about the races.   I used the same format to preview eight categories of the 2015 Academy Awards (movies from 2014).

Best Picture

The Nominees: "American Sniper," "Birdman," "Boyhood," "The Grand Budapest Hotel," "The Imitation Game," "Selma," "The Theory of Everything," "Whiplash" 
Will Win: “Boyhood”
Should Win: “The Imitation Game”
Shouldn’t Be Here: “The Theory of Everything”
Was Robbed:  “Interstellar” 

"Boyhood" is an excellent movie, but it will win for the wrong reason...because of the way it was made, over the course of 12 years.  Granted, the results are unlike what most traditional movies can achieve, but the script and story line are not so interesting and innovative as to award it all the acclaim it is receiving.  If there was an award for "Most Committed Moviemaking Project," "Boyhood" should win hands down, but it is not as good a film as "The Imitation Game."

Best Actor

The Nominees:
  • Steve Carell in "Foxcatcher"
  • Bradley Cooper in "American Sniper"
  • Benedict Cumberbatch in "The Imitation Game"
  • Michael Keaton in "Birdman"
  • Eddie Redmayne in "The Theory of Everything"
Will Win: Eddie Redmayne in "The Theory of Everything"
Should Win: Michael Keaton in "Birdman"
Shouldn’t Be Here: Steve Carell in "Foxcatcher"
Was Robbed:  Jake Gyllenhaal in "Nightcrawler"

It seems like almost every year, the Academy gives its best acting awards to actors who play characters who are either famous people or have some sort of affliction; these roles are designed for Oscar, and this year, two such performances will win--those of Eddie Redmayne (who plays a famous person with an affliction) and Julianne Moore.  Granted, they each did an outstanding job, but I wish the voters would be brave enough to give the awards to more nuanced performances, like the one given by Michael Keaton this year.  Otherwise, Steve Carell is nominated for his makeup, not for his painfully boring performance, especially when compared with Jake Gyllenhaal's amazing turn as a creepy newshound in "Nightcrawler."

Best Actress

The Nominees:
  • Marion Cotillard in "Two Days, One Night"
  • Felicity Jones in "The Theory of Everything"
  • Julianne Moore in "Still Alice"
  • Rosamund Pike in "Gone Girl"
  • Reese Witherspoon in "Wild"
Will Win: Julianne Moore in "Still Alice"
Should Win: Reese Witherspoon in "Wild"
Shouldn’t Be Here: Rosamund Pike in "Gone Girl"
Was Robbed:  Agata Trzebuchowska in "Ida"

Ditto to my complaint regarding the Best Actor category.  Here, Julianne Moore will win because of the part, not because her acting was any better than that of Reese Witherspoon, who already won this award for her less interesting performance in 2005's "Walk the Line."  And how Rosamund Pike was nominated for her wooden performance in "Gone Girl" is a complete mystery.

Best Director

The Nominees:
  • Alejandro Iñárritu for "Birdman"
  • Richard Linklater for "Boyhood"
  • Bennett Miller for "Foxcatcher"
  • Wes Anderson for "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
  • Morten Tyldum for "The Imitation Game"
Will Win: Richard Linklater for "Boyhood"
Should Win: Richard Linklater for "Boyhood"
Shouldn’t Be Here: Bennett Miller for "Foxcatcher"
Was Robbed:  Joon-ho Bong for "Snowpiercer"

This is where "Boyhood" should be most honored.  Richard Linklater's commitment to this excellent and difficult project deserves all the accolades it can get.  On the other hand, Bennett Miller's unfathomable lack of pacing should win for "Worst Director."  And Joon-ho Bong should be given some credit for making viewers suspend disbelief while creating multiple thrills in the absurd but highly watchable "Snowpiercer."

Best Supporting Actor

The Nominees:
  • Robert Duvall in "The Judge"
  • Ethan Hawke in "Boyhood"
  • Edward Norton in "Birdman"
  • Mark Ruffalo in "Foxcatcher"
  • J.K. Simmons in "Whiplash"
Will Win: J.K. Simmons in "Whiplash"
Should Win: J.K. Simmons in "Whiplash"
Shouldn’t Be Here: none
Was Robbed:  Bill Nighy in "Pride"

This category got it right.  These were five very good performances, and I only wish there had been space for Nighy's excellently understated role in "Pride."  On any other year, Norton would likely win for his manically brilliant comedic performance in "Birdman," but this year's best performance in any role in any movie belonged to Simmons, as the manipulative bandleader in "Whiplash."  It will go down as one of the all-time great roles.

Best Supporting Actress

The Nominees:
  • Patricia Arquette in "Boyhood"
  • Laura Dern in "Wild"
  • Keira Knightly in “The Imitation Game”
  • Emma Stone in "Birdman"
  • Meryl Streep in "Into the Woods"
Will Win: Patricia Arquette in "Boyhood"
Should Win: Patricia Arquette in "Boyhood"
Shouldn’t Be Here: Meryl Streep in "Into the Woods"
Was Robbed:  Minnie Driver in "Beyond the Lights"

I've always liked the acting of Patricia Arquette, but even I was surprised by the depth and breadth of this performance as the mom in "Boyhood."  And just because Meryl Streep is the best living movie actress should not guarantee her an annual Oscar nomination, certainly not over Minnie Driver's excellent role as a misguided stage mother in "Beyond the Lights."

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Nominees:
  • Jason Hall for "American Sniper"
  • Graham Moore for "The Imitation Game"
  • Paul Thomas Anderson for "Inherent Vice"
  • Anthony McCarten for "The Theory of Everything"
  • Damien Chazelle for "Whiplash"
Will Win: Graham Moore for "The Imitation Game"
Should Win: Graham Moore for "The Imitation Game"
Shouldn’t Be Here: Jason Hall for "American Sniper"
Was Robbed:  Nick Hornby for "Wild"

"The Imitation Game" was the year's best film, but this is likely to be its only major award, which is unfortunate.  Otherwise, "American Sniper" is vastly overrated, while Nick Hornby's script for "Wild" really brought Cheryl Strayed's journey to life.

Best Original Screenplay

The Nominees:
  • Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. and Armando Bo for "Birdman"
  • Richard Linklater for "Boyhood"
  • E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman for "Foxcatcher"
  • Wes Anderson for "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
  • Dan Gilroy for "Nightcrawler"
Will Win: Wes Anderson for "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Should Win: Wes Anderson for "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Shouldn’t Be Here: E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman for "Foxcatcher"
Was Robbed: Jonathan and Christopher Nolan for "Interstellar"

This one is close between "Birdman" and "Budapest," with the nod going to Wes Anderson for the inventive weirdness for which he is known.  I'm not sure how they ignored the screenplay for "Interstellar," which successfully explored themes first described by Einstein and Hawking while making them accessible to the common moviegoer.

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