Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Hypothetical Look at Potential Oscar Nominees in Films Already Out

It seems a little early to announce who the finalists are for next year's Oscars. However, there is only hope to be made that we have already seen some nominees release quality films. With Oscar season looming on the horizon, I have decided to do a hypothetical look at films that I have seen and feel stand some chance of getting into next year's Oscar race. Please don't consider this a complete compendium, as some categories are missing from this analysis. The follow is a list of already standout selections that I feel stand some chance in holding their own weight as we get further and further into the heart of my favorite time of year.

Left to right: Ellar Coltrane and Ethan Hawke in Boyhood
- Boyhood -
- The Grand Budapest Hotel -

So far this year, few films have captured as much attention for their craft as these two films from veteran indie directors that continue to push their craft into new and interesting locations. These two films already top many people's Best Of lists and provided that the Academy feels keen on recognizing films from way early in the year, these two stand a great chance. They are most reflective on stylistic ambition and progress in the medium as a whole.

Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel

- Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel) -
- Chadwick Boseman (Get on Up) -

It has been awhile since The Academy has had to deal with Ralph Fiennes. After doing phenomenal work in the 90's in Best Picture winners Schindler's List and The English Patient (as well as the underrated Quiz Show), he turns in an impressive performance that is borderline camp, but is so full of wit and life that it is impossible not to find a lot to admire about his performance. It may be the most eccentric and delightful performance of the year. Nothing has topped it. Meanwhile, Chadwick Boseman's work in Get on Up was really good and did James Brown justice. The only issue is the film around it wasn't as rich.

Marion Cotillard in The Immigrant
- Marion Cotillard (The Immigrant) -

On the flip side, there hasn't been too many standout performances by female actresses this year yet (that I have seen, anyways). Even then, Marion Cotillard does an excellent job of portraying the immigrant experience in 1920's America as something of profound inner turmoil. There's plenty to admire about the film, and Cotillard's performance is one of the bigger aspects. She is magnetic and brings a tenderness to her role that makes it one of the best performances from the first half of the year. (NOTE: I would love to include Scarlett Johansson on this list for Under the Skin, but it seems highly unlikely).

Patricia Arquette in Boyhood
- Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) -

While the story itself hinges on Ellar Coltrane's existence, I feel like the secret weapon was Patricia Arquette as the mother. She had to deal with a lot of things throughout the course of the film that added an endearing, vulnerable level of tragedy and life to the film. She made it feel real and sincere in ways that elevated the film whenever she was on screen. While I worry that the 12 years of filming may backfire on the film's chances, I do feel like she gave it her all and is very deserving of some attention come awards season.

- How to Train Your Dragon 2 -

It is my favorite film of 2014 so far. There's a lot that I have already said about its sweeping beauty, complicated story beats, and overall feeling of making something of CGI animation that has grown lazy and dull. I love this film and its the best animated film since 2012. This better get nominated.

Jude Law in The Grand Budapest Hotel
- Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel) -
- Richard Linklater (Boyhood) -

I have already said plenty on these two films and I could go on and on. Both of these films reflect opposite ends of the spectrum of how directing can be used to enhance a story. With Anderson going AWOL with his most distinguished film to date, he tries anything and everything in awe-inspiring ways. Linklater's film seems more likely to get nominated, provided that the Boyhood prestige continues to last and his novelty of filming 12 years of someone's life remains appealing come awards season. His work is definitely the touchstone on making a cohesive body of work.

Left to right: Joaquin Phoenix and Cotillard in The Immigrant
- The Immigrant -
- The Grand Budapest Hotel -

I have already gone on record as saying that The Immigrant is the most beautiful film of the year so far. I stand by it, as I feel that it manages to convey 1920's New York is such a captivating way. Each shot is a photograph that could be hung on the wall. It is the film that I will likely campaign hard for to get a nomination. Meanwhile, The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of the most peculiarly interesting films and is shot is such a fascinating way that I can see it getting a nomination based on pure novelty. With this award going to effects-heavy films for the past few years, it does seem likely that it will stand a chance.

Left to right: Tilda Swinton and Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel
- The Immigrant -
- The Grand Budapest Hotel -

While I don't feel like the costume work on The Immigrant is going to be flashy enough to win, it is a period piece and it does look lush enough to stand a chance. Meanwhile, The Grand Budapest Hotel plays around with visual design and costumes so effectively that it may as well get nominated just for how it manages to turn every colorful piece of scenery into something beautiful yet kooky to look at.

Scene from Maidentrip
- Maidentrip -
- Life Itself -
- Jodorowsky's Dune -

Of these three great documentaries, I would argue that Life Itself stands the best chance at getting nominated. Its portrayal of Roger Ebert is rather effective and adds a certain weigh to the traditional biographical documentary. Meanwhile, I am charmed by Maidentrip's story of a young girl sailing around the world that I would like to see it got nominated for its ingenuity. It is like Cutie and the Boxer, but with actual feeling and poignancy. I really recommend checking it out and hopefully I will be talking about it more in the future. I don't know that Jodorowsky's Dune stands a chance, but I really liked that one as well and with its messages about film making and passion, I do think it could be an outside contender if the Academy gives into the optimistic side of documentary film making for yet another year.

Scene from We Are the Best!
- We are The Best! -

There is a fault with me not seeing that many foreign films yet in this year. However, I was really charmed by this film that follows three young girls as they form a punk band and try to write ONE song. It is all about the passions of being young, naive, and trying to follow your dreams. You may not be the most acclaimed, but as long as you think that you're the best, there's plenty of reasons to celebrate. I would love to see this film make the final cut, but chances are that its subject matter is too light for this category.

Scene from The Grand Budapest Hotel
- Alexandre Desplat (The Grand Budapest Hotel) -

There hasn't been a better score this year than the eclectic number by Alexandre Desplat, whose instrumentation alone is a fascinating mix of harpsichord, brushes, and upright basses. There's personality and melancholy in every beat. I love it and I do hope that more than any other category, that Desplat lands in this category. He has been nominated before, so it isn't entirely far fetched. 

Scene from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes -

This is a film that I adore so much for its ability to make thought provoking narrative with cutting edge effects. Very few films feel as revolutionary this year as this one. Watching the apes march through civilization and onto war is one of the most breathtaking sights of the year. Much like its predecessor, it better get a nomination in this category or else the rest of this year is going to be something amazing.

Scene from Godzilla
- Godzilla -

Do yourselves a favor. Find the biggest surround sound system that you can find. Put Godzilla on and sit in the middle of the room. As the titular character roars, just feel the vibrations all around you and notice that it is actually an art form to make that sound work as effectively as it does. It pierces through the ether and becomes something greater. Beyond the visuals lies a brilliant piece of sound that reflects sound mixing at its best. If this gets ignored, then there is something wrong with the voters' sound systems.

What are some of your predictions? Did I miss someone important? Will Boyhood or The Grand Budapest Hotel stand ANY chance at the Oscars?

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