Another year, another Oscars. As with last year, keep in mind, THIS IS NOT A PREDICTIONS LIST. This “ballot” is movies which I believe should win the Oscar for their respective categories. I will, in passing, refer to the movies and people I think will win, but those are not as important. The main thing that I want to note is that for the Short Film categories, I have watched NONE of those movies, so those will be complete blind picks. I did get one right last year actually.
For reference (click the link, in italics) here is my Oscar picks post from last year.
ONTO THE NOMINATIONS!
Best Live Action Short Film: Butter Lamp (total blind guess)
Best Animated Short Film: Feast (I’ve heard of this one, so I’m picking it)
Best Documentary Short Subject: Our Curse
Our Curse is a very deeply affecting documentary about new parents who have to deal with their newborn child having a debilitating incurable disease known as congenital central hypoventilation syndrome. Its a disease in which the child, among other things, forgets to breath…. which means it could die in any instant. This disease is awful, and for parents who should be happy about their new child, are instead left with a curse. It’s an important documentary, and one which I hope will win and raise awareness.
The “Other Best Pictures”
Best Foreign Language Film: Timbuktu (dir. Abderrhamane Sissako – country, Mauritania)
Rarely, if ever, is an African country front and center in the Oscar race. Abderrhamane Sissako is one of Africa’s leading filmmakers, and his film Timbuktu about a village community’s invasion from Islamic extremists, who murder mercilessly and place a Shariah Law on the village which plagues the individuals under religious oppression and perpetual poverty, is one of the most celebrated films of the year. It’s very emotional, and very disturbing. I prefer movies which deal with peril and social issues rather than bleak and slow historical dramas, which is why the current frontrunner film, Pawel Pawlikosky’s Polish drama Ida is not the film I’m voting for.
Best Animated Film: The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (dir. Isao Takahata)
I really hate this category this year. The Lego Movie was not voted in as a nominee and it’s one of the most inexplicable snubs I’ve seen in more than 6 years… the last one being The Dark Knight not getting a Best Picture nomination. Out of spite, I’m voting for the obscure Japanese animated drama Princess Kaguya. I watched this film while I was flying back from San Francisco, and it had an incredible air of simplicity and naturalness that you don’t get from the very much cluttered and sleek curved Pixar and Dreamworks movies. This movie was hand-drawn by a single artist…. something that shows a dedication and personable work ethic that should be crowned nowadays. Add to that that the movie has a very interesting folk story that only a Japanese filmmaker could dream up with such grace.
Best Documentary Film: CitizenFour (dir. Laura Poitras)
The documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune was my personal pick as the #1 movie of 2014. That film however, unfortunately didn’t make the cut for the final 5 nominees… not that I expected it to. The Oscars love documentaries which talk about important global and national level issues that relate to modern times. A documentary about an ambitious filmmaker’s failed adaptation of a science-fiction book isn’t exactly what the Academy would put as “national priority”.
So thus, I pick the Edward Snowden documentary CitizenFour because, well… it’s the best made one. Filled with inside information and technological conspiracy that would make the current Silicon Valley-generation salivate a river, as well as important political points that keep you on your toes and force you to rethink everything you knew about government surveillance and the laws that protect it, CitizenFour puts together a jigsaw puzzle of events and comes out creating a grand painting of Snowden’s domino effect on how America and its citizens will deal with national security.
The Technical Awards
Best Visual Effects: Interstellar
Chris Nolan’s own Spacey Odyssey Interstellar didn’t exactly have many detailed special effects, most of it was barren or a giant swirl of painted colors on a black background… but the reason it should win is because it served the greatest purpose to the success of the film. They looked really good, and were a perfect miss of beautiful and terrifying adding to our curiosity, but at the same time, giving us caution, as outer space always does.
Best Sound Editing: Birdman, or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance
Birdman was a film which experimented and warped many technical aspects of cinema. What it did with sound, gunshots, orchestras, stage changing, and cuts between a giant colossus of audience applause and then the deafening silence of Riggan Thompson’s personal quarters…. this movie had Sound Editing which actually impressed. American Sniper might be the more automatic choice, but it settles for rat-tat-tat gunshots. Eastwood’s film doesn’t offer and cool experimentation. Iñárritu turns Sound Editing into an art in itself.
Best Sound Mixing: Birdman, or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance
I was really torn between Birdman and Interstellar here, but Innaritu’s film again holds that interesting experimentation of sound that revolves around the stage and outside in the city. By contrast Nolan’s films “sound” is really just blasting Hans Zimmer’s score and then cutting it to silence. It’s more utilitarian than it is creative. Birdman wins.
Best Make-Up: Foxcatcher
Can I get an amen for making Steve Carrell look creepy as hell but also still like an actual person? The subtlety will certainly get drowned out by Wes Anderson’s topsy-turvy make-up in Grand Budapest Hotel, but subtlety is usually harder to control and implement than just letting the artist “run with it”.
Best Costume Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel
The costumes of Anderson’s film evoke that pastel-upholstery charm that he loves and distinctly seem Central European. Mr. Turner would be a close second, but its more a history research job for them. The costume design team for Grand Budapest was working straight out of the eclectic charm of their director through themselves.
Best Production Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel
This one’s a no brainer. No film manages to transport its audience to vividly and fruitfully into the world of its script than Grand Budapest. This movie really was Wes Anderson’s passion project because he honestly held nothing back in terms of his creativity and his eclectic tastes… and it shows and fits perfectly with what he was trying to do.
Best Original Song: “Everything is Awesome” from The Lego Movie (music and lyrics by Shawn Patterson)
This song. Couldn’t get it out of my head, and considering The Lonely Island were involved a little bit in its creation, I was sold. It’s the only song that interests me from any of the nominees. +1 for it also being an integral part of the story of The Lego Movie.
Best Original Score: Interstellar (composed by Hans Zimmer)
The music (or in some cases the abject absence of it) for Interstellar was the key ingredient in the fluctuations of mood and intensity throughout the film. As always Zimmer delivers something that affects more than just your ears.
Best Film Editing: Boyhood (editing by Sandra Adair)
Editing comes down to how scenes unfold. Several sequences in Boyhood reveal many facets of the disturbing and awkward moments of growing up. From the cut to Mason’s mom crying on the floor of the garage after being abused by her husband to the scene where Mason and his girlfriend are discovered in bed together, Boyhood keeps things interesting and many times, moving, with its editing.
Best Cinematography: Birdman (camerawork by Emmanuel Lubeszki)
Once again we come back to the fact that Birdman‘s technical beauty and innovation in driving its narrative wins out over everything else. Lubeszki’s cinematography is brilliant, and it truly captures the frenetic, whirlwind of putting up a stage-play on Broadway and its continuous (seemingly non-edited) panning gives the effect of sleeplessness that the main character faces in trying to put together the project of a lifetime.
The Supporting Cast
Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
Playing the struggling mother of 2 children, Patricia Arquette is our annual, coming out of nowhere to win an award person. Last year it was Jared Leto. Arquette is a firecracker in Boyhood and her performance is one of genuine emotion. Her laughter, crying, and yelling all feel natural, and I guess when you work on a project for 12 years, you get a bit more personable with the character you play.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Edward Norton (Birdman, or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
This category is already sealed and done… JK Simmons is going to win for Whiplash, but I personally like Norton because his performance comes through with a surreal type of eccentricity that blurs the line between an actor and his acting. There’s many moments throughout the film which Norton switches gears from his character to his character’s character and in those moments, we see the brilliance in his performance because it faint tonal shifts that we can detect in the way he talks and walks, but its such a thin line to travel across and Norton does it with ease. It’s a truly underrated performance.
The BIG 5 Awards
Best Adapted Screenplay: Inherent Vice – written by Paul Thomas Anderson
This is a very weak category this year. Nothing really stands out. Whiplash is really more about the performances than about the story, which is simply “ok”. The rest of the nominees are your run of the mill true-story real person dramas, but they don’t transcend their character into great scripts, just kinda let the character’s reputation speak for itself. It’s noble, but not interesting. PTA’s adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s completely incoherent novel Inherent Vice is weird as hell, and a movie most people won’t even begin to understand, but its worth its Oscar because it provides a narrative that thinks completely outside of the typical framework and translates an almost Gonzo-esque fable of crime and mystery into a strangely hilarious and surprisingly illuminating drug-infused romp. Its’ weird, strange, cool, and above all, an original even when its adapted.
Best Original Screenplay: Birdman, or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance – written by Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo
Filled with witty and whirling dialogue, and a story which blends its narrative between fantasy and reality, we get to see something ambiguous, interpretive, and dreamlike within an internal struggle of an actor trying to revive his career. Birdman‘s story may not be for everyone, but even people who don’t “get” its purposefully cryptic teasing can appreciate the fact that it never takes the easy road in analyzing its characters. There is much deeper thought here than just a story.
Best Actress in a Leading Role: Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)
What a performance. Its hard to pick between Pike and Cottillard, but I chose the character who was more difficult to play. The character of Anne, a housewife and part-time sociopath, required so much of deceiving and conniving fakery through half the film… a facade that had to slowly melt away to reveal the true darkness that existed in Anne, was definitely a feat for Pike and she nailed it… because every dude who saw that movie despised her, which is exactly what she aimed for.
Best Actor in a Leading Role: Steve Carrell (Foxcatcher)
It pains me to not pick Michael Keaton who I am praying… PRAYING to win the Oscar over the ever-predictable and typical choice of Eddie Redmayne’s disabled quadriplegic Steven Hawking.
But STEVE CARRELL stole his film… just hijacked it from everyone else in the cast and nailed every scene he was in. There was an air of this incredible uncomfortable intensity which existed in every room Carrell’s duPont character entered into, and his creepy and pathetic attempts of gaining the affection of his mother played out so brilliantly in the wrestling practice facility. Enough can’t be said about Carrell’s transformation from lovable geeky comedian to mentally demented billionaire.
Best Director: Richard Linklater (Boyhood)
Filming a movie over the period of 12 years. Is it a gimmick? Maybe, but to capture the trust and belief of an entire cast and crew for that long and come out with such an emotionally resonant film that makes you nostalgic and feel for that generation of growing up, Richard Linklater did something truly remarkable. He’s an incredibly talented filmmaker, and his leadership through such a long on-and-off process and still being able to maintain that teamwork to get this project done is a directorial feat that deserves to be recognized.
Best Picture: Birdman, or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance
Interesting, innovative, deep, and personal, Birdman is a movie which is totally unlike any other this year. You can’t say that very often, especially for Oscar nominees, but what Iñárritu did here was give us something to think about and enjoy at the same time. Its filled with jokes and quirky charms, but fills in the gaps with dialogue that makes us question our culture of film, our approach to cinema, and how perception of oneself and the perception through viewers blend. There are many questions surrounding what it all means, but thats the fun of it. In a long time, we get a Best Picture film which transcends the argument of “good or bad film”.
THE TALLY (Films with more than 1 win)
Birdman – 6 wins
Boyhood – 3 wins
Foxcatcher – 2 wins
The Grand Budapest Hotel – 2 wins
Interstellar – 2 wins