Friday, January 9, 2015

A Look at 2015's BAFTA Nominations

Scene from The Grand Budapest Hotel
With majority of the awards nominations currently out, it is time to prepare for the big leagues. With next week's announcement of the Academy Award nominations, it is time to recognize the British counterpart known as the BAFTAS. For many years, it has been the strongest representation of what the Oscars may look like, including various overlapping winners. With that in mind, there's a lot of pleasant surprises and a couple disparaging results mixed in. Even then, the race has continued to remain unpredictable in the best ways possible, leaving some hope for one of the most exciting Oscar years in quite some time.

Scene from The Imitation Game
Best Film

The Imitation Game

Overall Thoughts: For the most part, it is a predictable bunch of films and the same sorts that have already appeared at the SAG and Golden Globe nominations. However, what's more interesting is the presence of The Grand Budapest Hotel. Along with Boyhood, it was a film that many loved but predicted would disappear from conversation during awards time. More than Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel seemed less likely to make any sort of a dent considering the higher caliber competition that didn't make the cut. Let's not forget about Selma or Unbroken, which almost seemed more predictive of this category a few months ago. Still, none stand a chance as this is a race between Birdman and Boyhood, which have remained neck and neck for quite some time.

Scene from Paddington
Outstanding British Film

The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything

Overall Thoughts: It could just be that it hasn't come out in America, but the love for Paddington makes no sense. Was it just a slow year? Why are we bombarded with this clumsy CG bear film? On the plus side, it is nice to see some love for Pride and more specifically Under the Skin. The latter was a sci-fi film that was critically acclaimed but has been absent from awards season for its weird nature. Still, unlike the Best Film category, this is just a little too kooky to be taken seriously, unless Paddington really is aces ahead of most other family film competitions.

Scene from Pride
Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer

Northern Soul - Elaine Constantine (Writer/Director)
71 - Gregory Burke (Writer), Yann Demange (Director)
Lilting - Hong Khaou (Writer/Director)
Kajaki: The True Story - Paul Katis (Director/Producer), Andrew de Lotbinere (Producer)
Pride - Stephen Beresford (Writer), David Livingstone (Producer)

Overall Thoughts: I'll admit that I know very little about the BAFTAS and haven't seen any of these films. However, I find it admirable that they would recognize British talent that made their debut. Maybe it's just because of the Golden Globe nomination and other acclaim, but Pride feels like a film that is quickly making itself known and is demanding some attention. I get the impression that it might seep into the actual Oscars if we're not astute.

Scene from Two Days, One Night
Film Not in the English Language

The Lunchbox

Overall Thoughts: I have seen Ida and Two Days One Night and really recommend both. I do think that this is Ida's race to lose, as it has become one of the most noteworthy foreign films of 2014. Also, it's funny to see Trash somehow sneak into this race considering Stephen Daldry's placement as the quintessential Oscar bait director. A decent line-up, but considering the love for Mommy and Force Majeure, it is hard to overlook the "better" foreign films that missed the cut.

Scene from Finding Vivian Maier

20 Feet from Stardom
20,000 Days on Earth
Finding Vivian Maier

Overall Thoughts: Citizenfour continues to ride the glory train by being a relevant film that has popped up on all of these lists. It is interesting to see more experimental stuff like 20,000 Days on Earth on here. I cannot claim to have seen any of these, though it is funny to note that 20 Feet from Stardom already won Best Documentary at the Oscars last year. This award is definitely running on a different time schedule than the Oscars.

Scene from Big Hero 6
Animated Film

Big Hero 6

Overall Thoughts: You already know my thoughts on excising How to Train Your Dragon 2. You also know how I don't think that The LEGO Movie is all that great. The one caveat is that I am glad to see The Boxtrolls on here. I guess LAIKA is more reliable than usual on getting that final slot in any animation category.

Scene from The Theory of Everything

Birdman - Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu
Boyhood - Richard Linklater
The Grand Budapest Hotel - Wes Anderson
The Theory of Everything - James Marsh
Whiplash - Damien Chazelle

Overall Thoughts: For starters, I am all for recognizing Whiplash after recently seeing it and being blown away by it. The direction is definitely a strong suit. In fact, the entire race is pretty strong and I am glad to see Wes Anderson yet again on this list. However, I do think that among the "flashier" direction that could likely get the win, it has to be Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu. I may like Richard Linklater more, but the novelty of doing a one take is a gimmick that lead Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity to victory last year and could easily do the same here.

Scene from Whiplash
Original Screenplay

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Overall Thoughts: While Whiplash is going to have some trouble for the Oscars now that it is ruled an adapted screenplay, it is nice to see it on here. However, the overall quality of these nominees feels a little disconcerting. Sure, Boyhood is a miracle of film making, but I don't think it's because of the script. Nightcrawler has some insight into modern journalism, but also works more because of atmosphere. At best, Birdman is a film that tries to do subversive and interesting things with its story that may make it the front runner, even if nothing quite matches the endearing eloquence of The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Scene from American Sniper
Adapted Screenplay

The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything

Overall Thoughts: The only standout one on here to me is Gone Girl. It could just be that the film hinges on a very twisted second act that manages to work in perverse ways. However, I am curious to see American Sniper not being totally excised from awards season. As a Clint Eastwood fan, I have been curious to see the film and to see what it says about modern culture. As much as I liked The Theory of Everything, I felt it hinged more on performance than script at well. As for Paddington, can someone explain this to me? Why has it gotten so much more attention than something like Selma or Unbroken?

Scene from Nightcrawler
Leading Actor

The Imitation Game - Benedict Cumbertbatch
The Grand Budapest Hotel - Ralph Fiennes
Nightcrawler - Jake Gyllenhaal
Birdman - Michael Keaton
The Theory of Everything  - Eddie Redmayne

Overall Thoughts: For the most part, it features the head honchos in the final Oscar race with Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne almost certainly being guarantees. I will admit that I didn't expect Jake Gyllenhaal to get any love for his role in Nightcrawler, which seemed like some kitschy cult favorite that would fall under the radar. However, here is again popping up for nominations. Part of me wonders if now's a good time to admit that my initial dismay of him getting an Oscar nomination can actually happen. It's an exciting idea.

Scene from Big Eyes
Leading Actress

Big Eyes - Amy Adams
The Theory of Everything  - Felicity Jones
Still Alice - Julianne Moore
Gone Girl - Rosamund Pike
Wild - Reese Witherspoon

Overall Thoughts: We already know that Julianne Moore is going to win it because her performance is gut wrenching and tragic in ways that are deserving of recognition. Other than that, this is almost as finite of a line-up as I would expect of the Best Actress category at the Oscars. No way around it.

Scene from Boyhood
Supporting Actor

Foxcatcher - Steve Carrell
Birdman - Edward Norton
Boyhood - Ethan Hawke
Foxcatcher - Mark Ruffalo
Whiplash - J.K. Simmons

Overall Thoughts: First controversial move is putting Steve Carrell from lead in almost every other awards category to supporting. I agree with this placement, though I feel like it is an attempt to interfere with more viable candidates. It is great to see Ethan Hawke in the race, though I don't get why Ellar Coltrane hasn't gotten one nomination all season. I don't entirely get why Mark Ruffalo is getting any credit while Channing Tatum turns in the best performance of the movie and walks away with nothing. Still, this is J.K. Simmons' award without much question, save for possibly Edward Norton which even then seems unlikely.

Scene from Birdman
Supporting Actress

Birdman - Emma Stone
Pride - Imelda Staunton
The Imitation Game - Keira Knightley
Boyhood - Patricia Arquette
Nightcrawler - Rene Russo

Overall Thoughts: This is pretty much going to be Patricia Arquette's race to lose. She turned in one of the best performances of the year and with Boyhood becoming more of a phenomenon each month, it seems impossible that things will change too drastically. On the bright side, it is nice to see Rene Russo on this list and it's also interesting to see Imelda Staunton as well. Still, these two don't seem like too much of a threat for the bigger Oscar season that is about to come.

Scene from Under the Skin
Original Music

Birdman - Antonio Sanchez
The Grand Budapest - Alexandre Desplat
Interstellar - Hans Zimmer
The Theory of Everything  - Johann Johannson
Under the Skin - Mica Levi

Overall Thoughts: I think that it is interesting that of all Alexandre Desplat scores that they went with The Grand Budapest Hotel. It is my personal favorite, though The Imitation Game has racked up a lot of worthy nominations as well. With Birdman being disqualified from the Oscars and Under the Skin being too creepy, the only two potential candidates on this list are Interstellar and The Theory of Everything. Of the two, I am a huge admirer of Interstellar's score and is the one award that I hope it gets.

Scene from Mr. Turner

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Mr. Turner

Overall Thoughts: I have not for one second understood why Birdman's cinematography has been so praised. It looks good, but compared to a lot of other films out there, it doesn't seem like anything special. On a separate note, I find the rest of this list to be absolutely perfect and feel fine with any of them winning. In fact, I cannot figure out who the front runner could be, though I like to think that Ida is a logical candidate because it is in fact a great looking movie unlike everything else on the list.

Scene from The Theory of Everything

The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything

Overall Thoughts: I still think that Birdman getting an Editing nomination is laughable because it is supposed to be a film all about a single take. At best, it could look edited together, but considering the excessively random look of The Grand Budapest Hotel, there's far more applicable films to give the award to. Still, I am very excited to see Whiplash on this list because it is in fact the best edited film of the year. Look at the final 15 minutes of the film, which reaffirms how editing can get you wrapped up in a very simple moment so intensely.

Scene from Interstellar
Production Design

Big Eyes
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Mr. Turner

Overall Thoughts: A rather solid bunch and it is great to see the king of production design of 2014, The Grand Budapest Hotel, on this list. No film openly embraces design as much as that film which seems to use almost every technique imaginable. I also liked Big Eyes and Interstellar to this respects, though I cannot see them beating The Grand Budapest Hotel if the award is given fairly. If it is done on popularity, maybe Interstellar can be an upset, which isn't too problematic given its beautiful look.

Scene from Into the Woods
Costume Design

The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Mr. Turner
The Theory of Everything

Overall Thoughts: These all look good and I have trouble finding a more infectiously unique look as The Grand Budapest Hotel. However, if asked to think more logically, I would have to go with Into the Woods. It is an elaborate musical with a grand look and a lot of weird costuming choices that more than make it a shoe in for this award.

Scene from Guardians of the Galaxy
Make-Up and Hair

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Guardians of the Galaxy
Into the Woods
Mr. Turner
The Theory of Everything

Overall Thoughts: Another lock for Into the Woods, though I would like to think that The Grand Budapest Hotel stands at least some iota of a chance. I guess I am fine with Guardians of the Galaxy making the list, if just because it does have an adequate excuse. I think the other films are fine and all look good, but they don't compare to the grand, lush look of Into the Woods and its inevitable victory.

Scene from Whiplash

American Sniper
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game

Overall Thoughts: Another really solid category that's hard to argue against. I do want to know what American Sniper "sounds" like before making any judgment. I don't entirely get the Birdman nod here, but it is great to see Whiplash on here. Love it or hate it, there's a lot that goes into synchronizing that much drumming with a plausible visual pallet. 

Scene from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Special Visual Effects

Guardians of the Galaxy
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
X-Men: Days of Future Past

Overall Thoughts: Yes, these films all look rather nice. I have a bias towards Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, though Interstellar definitely benefited from visual effects accompaniment. Still, I guess we'll never get to see Bird People stand a chance ever in this category despite having visual effects that feel more special than most of the ones on here.

Final Thoughts

I don't get the Paddington love. I do think that we have underestimated the potential of The Grand Budapest Hotel, which seems likely to now be a strong contender at the Oscars, though not necessarily a front runner. It is also great to see Whiplash showing up strong in a lot of categories, which I hope it gets Oscar nominations for. Still, I think the biggest takeaway is that we may be looking at Pride being that Best Picture underdog nominee if we're not too careful here. The Academy likes their message movies, and clearly the BAFTAS have given them a worthy one to consider.

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