Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Look at this Year's Surprising Academy Award Nominations

Scene from Boyhood
After months of prognostication and other awards shows, the Academy Awards have finally announced all of their contenders for this year's ceremony. For the first time ever, there were two installments in which all 24 categories were presented to the press. In traditional fashion, there were plenty of surprises that made my hopes seem greatly miscalculated. Without further ado, here's the nominees as well as personal thoughts on each major category.

Best Picture

PRO: Considering that my predictions were embarrassingly off, I am happy to say that the results turned out a lot stronger than I could hope. While I don't care about The Imitation Game, the remaining nominees are all very strong and I'm mostly surprised to see American Sniper on here after missing out on most of the awards season. Also, great to see Whiplash on here.

CON: Not a big one, but I don't think that The Imitation Game is worthy of being on this list.

MY BET: Boyhood

Best Director

Alejandro González Iñárritu - Birdman
Richard Linklater - Boyhood
Bennett Miller - Foxcatcher
Wes Anderson - The Grand Budapest Hotel
Morten Tyldum - The Imitation Game

PRO: The two front runners of the category, Richard Linklater and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, ended up making the cut. It is also great to see Wes Anderson on here more multiple reasons. Of course, it's just a breath of fresh air to see The  Grand Budapest Hotel rack up so many nominations.

CON: The Selma fan base is likely upset to find out that the film is rather absent from this point onward. It is also a little disappointing to not see Ava Duvernay on this list, suggesting that things may not be as much of a lock as one would think. Also, why did Bennett Miller get a Best Director nomination, but Foxcatcher failed to make Best Picture? It's an interesting twist, but I don't know how to feel about this.

MY BET: Richard Linklater - Boyhood

Best Actor

Steve Carell - Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper - American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch - The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton - Birdman
Eddie Redmayne - The Theory of Everything

PRO: In keeping with the race, Eddie Remayne and Michael Keaton are present. Despite Foxcatcher becoming a spotty presence, it is nice to see Steve Carell on this list. 

CON: David Oyelowo in Selma is a noticeable absence here and one that almost seemed like a guaranteed lock for this category. It is say to see him absent from here. While I do expect great things from American Sniper, we must all accept that this is Bradley Cooper's third Oscar nomination in a row and is growing a little suspicious.

MY BET: Eddie Redmayne - The Theory of Everything

Best Actress

Marion Cotillard - Two Days, One Night
Felicity Jones - The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore - Still Alice
Rosamund Pike - Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon - Wild

PRO: The four that everyone expected to be nominated ended up making the cut. For better or worse, the line-up has been locked for quite some time. It is great to see that despite Gone Girl being shut out everywhere else that Rosamund Pike ended up getting a nomination. Also, I am very excited to see Marion Cotillard on this list. I felt like her performance was going to be ignored, as has been an unfortunate pattern with her in the past few years.

CON: While I am not entirely offended, the absence of Amy Adams for Big Eyes is noticeable. Her performance was fine and while the enthusiasm for the film has diminished since initial speculation, it still remains one of the lesser ones. Also, no Carmen Ejogo for Selma, which almost seemed like a sure thing not too long ago.

MY BET: Julianne Moore - Still Alice

Best Supporting Actor

Robert Duvall - The Judge
Ethan Hawke - Boyhood
Edward Norton - Birdman
Mark Ruffalo - Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons - Whiplash

PRO: The five that everyone expected to make the final rounds actually made the final rounds. There isn't all that much in the way of interesting or odd to really go on about.

CON: No big surprises. Not sure if that's a con, but it definitely makes it the least interesting category among the major ones.

MY BET: J.K. Simmons - Whiplash

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette - Boyhood
Laura Dern - Wild
Keira Knightley - The Imitation Game
Emma Stone - Birdman
Meryl Streep - Into the Woods

PRO: It is great to see Patricia Arquette and Emma Stone on this list. Both gave noteworthy performances that have been recognized all awards season and will continue to go neck and neck until the very end. It is also great to see Laura Dern make the cut, even if Wild isn't too popular in too many other categories.

CON: I don't know what to say. Of all people we could nominate from Into the Woods, why did it have to be Meryl Streep? This makes absolutely no sense, considering how strong the rest of the competition actually was.

MY BET: Patricia Arquette - Boyhood

Best Adapted Screenplay

American Sniper
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything

PRO: I can honestly say that I had no expectations of Inherent Vice showing up at this year's Oscars. I love the film, but it felt too much of an outlier to actually make a difference. I am also glad to see Whiplash make the cut after a controversial last minute switch from Best Original Screenplay nomination to Best Adapted Screenplay nomination last week. 

CON: Did I mention that I am not a fan of The Imitation Game?

MY BET: The Theory of Everything

Best Original Screenplay

The Grand Budapest Hotel

PRO: It's overall a very strong mix of candidates, including The Grand Budapest Hotel. It is a tough call, but all of them are different in their interesting and greatness. It's also nice to see Nightcrawler get into the mix of nominees.

CON: I don't hate it, but does anyone have high hopes for Foxcatcher at this point? Seems like an odd selection when you think about it. 

MY BET: Birdman

Best Cinematography

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Mr. Turner

PRO: I am very glad to see Ida make the cut, as it remains one of the most beautiful films of 2014. It is also great to see The Grand Budapest Hotel on the list considering that it is also very nice to look at. While I don't love it, I also think that Unbroken is another nice touch.

CON: I don't get why I should care about Birdman's cinematography as much as awards season seems to want me to do, but it keeps showing up anyways.

MY BET: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Costume Design

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Inherent Vice
Into the Woods
Mr. Turner

PRO: It is nice to see The Grand Budapest Hotel on the list, if just because it is the best looking film of the ones nominated. The more baffling thing is that Inherent Vice made the cut. How that happened, I will never really know.

CON: I cannot really complain about the other films on this list. Plenty of period pieces and wacky outfits. Not too much to complain about, though I guess that I need to look closer into Mr. Turner to see why that one is on here.

MY BET: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Film Editing

American Sniper
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game

PRO: Overall a strong line-up that features my favorite use of editing this year in Whiplash, which manages to make a very powerful closing 15 minutes. It is also nice not to see Birdman on here, if just because it seemed antithetical to what the film was supposed to be achieving. Overall, a very strong list.

CON: I cannot think of too many. Even if I don't like The Imitation Game, the editing was adequate enough to make its place on this list.

MY BET: Boyhood

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Guardians of the Galaxy

PRO: Those films are fine choices for films that used makeup and hairstyling. I think it's interesting the differing quality between all three of them. I still think it's very one sided when all is said and done.

CON: Is anyone really that optimistic about Foxcatcher? What makeup and hairstyling was there really?

MY BET: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Original Score

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

PRO: Alexandre Desplat produced two of my favorite scores (The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game) and both were nominated. I am mostly glad to see them on here. Also, I really like the work on Interstellar and feel that it is Hans Zimmer at his best in years. I will have to hear Mr. Turner, if just to see if that is any good. I don't exactly miss Gone Girl being on this list.

CON: Not a bad thing, but I don't get the appeal of the music for The Theory of Everything. It works to add a dreamlike landscape to the film, but it also has a very conventional and uninteresting sound compared to other films that missed the cut.

MY BET: Interstellar

Best Original Song

"Lost Stars" - Begin Again
"I'm Not Gonna Miss You" - Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me
"Everything is Awesome" - The LEGO Movie
"Glory" - Selma
"Grateful" - Beyond the Lights

PRO: These are songs and I guess they're okay. I haven't really listened to most of them and the ones I have aren't necessarily that interesting to me.

CON: Any way of not giving "Everything is Awesome" the award is going to be my personal goal of this awards season.

MY BET: "Glory" - Selma

Best Production Design

The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Into the Woods
Mr. Turner

PRO: I like the variety of nominees in this category. There's so much variety and all represent a great variety of production designs. It is once again a hard category to really call. However, it is especially great to see The Grand Budapest Hotel make the cut in major ways. It may be the upset for Into the Woods yet.

CON: I am beginning to realize that I need to see Mr. Turner to understand why it has shown up so prominently on this list.

MY BET: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Sound Editing

American Sniper
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

MY BET: Interstellar
Best Sound Mixing

American Sniper

MY BET: Interstellar

Best Visual Effects

Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Guardians of the Galaxy
X-Men: Days of Future Past

MY BET: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Best Animated Feature Film

Big Hero 6
Song of the Sea
The Tale of Princess Kaguya

PRO: There is no The LEGO Movie on this list, thus leaving room for more qualified films. This is actually one of the most pleasant surprises on the list. Overall a pretty strong list.

CON: None

MY BET: How to Train Your Dragon 2

Best Foreign Language Film

Wild Tales


Best Documentary Feature

Finding Vivian Maer
Last Days in Vietnam
The Salt of the Earth

MY BET: Citizenfour

Best Documentary (Short Subject)

Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
Our Curse
The Reaper
White Earth

Best Short Film (Animated)

The Bigger Picture
The Dam Keeper
Me and My Moulton
A Single Life

Best Short Film (Live Action)

Boogaloo and Graham
Butter Lamp
The Phone Call

Overall Thoughts:

Considering that my predictions were in many ways way, way off, I am glad to see how things inevitably turned out. I am surprised to see Inherent Vice nominated and Selma practically missing. While I am a fan of Clint Eastwood, I am curious to see why American Sniper makes the cut despite missing out on the entire awards season so far. Otherwise, there are pleasant surprises (Marion Cotillard, Wes Anderson for Best Director) that I hope mean that there are some in store. However, there's a long way to go and it's still a race between Birdman and Boyhood. We'll have to see how things go.

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