Sunday, February 22, 2015

Final Thoughts Before the Oscars

What I loved about this year's Oscar race is that the two top films vying for Best Picture are both not Oscar-y films at all really. Both Birdman and Boyhood seem at once too small, too experimental, too personal, too weird/mundane (respectively). And yet here we are with both films (which many have together dubbed as Boyman) as the frontrunner to win the big prize. Certainly both had an "easy" hook with critics and audiences alike at the onset with praise-worthy technical achievements--Birdman's one-shot cinematography and Boyhood's twelve-year span--but I like to believe that fans of either films loved it for more than those. I certainly did. As for which film will actually come out on top, well that IS the big question. Boyhood was an overwhelming favorite early on with the critics, also winning at the BFCA, and picked up major awards from the Golden Globes and BAFTA. But it's Birdman which post-Oscar nominations had really shown the momentum and industry support one expect of a Best Picture winner winning PGA, DGA, SAG ensemble, and many other guilds.

The Birdman-Boyhood battle extends to Best Director as well with many thinking that early favorite Richard Linklater can hold off Birdman's Alejandro González Iñárritu. It's true that Iñárritu won the all-important DGA Award, but apart from that loss, Linklater has maintained his frontrunner status as the clear critics favorites and winning director prizes from all of the other major awards organizations. Yesterday's Spirit Awards may become the bellwether for Oscars with Birdman winning Picture and Linklater winning Director. It would certainly be fitting for the Academy to do this as well to honor both great films and the man who helmed them.

With regards to the acting categories, it's cut-and-dried for the most part with Julianne Moore, J.K. Simmons, and Patricia Arquette expected to pick up their first Oscar trophies after dominating all season long with critics, BFCA, Golden Globes, BAFTA, SAG, and even Spirit Awards all going their way. All fine and all, but I repeat this fact again Julianne Moore will FINALLY win her first Academy Awards tonight. YES, PLEASE. Now, the only category up in the air is Best Actor with a two-man race between Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne. The latter seems to be poised for a win especially considering the Academy's penchant for a) British actors, b) actors in biopics, and c) actors who dramatically change their looks. Redmayne also won the trio of Golden Globes, SAG, and BAFTA. But Keaton is a Hollywood veteran who has worked with plenty of Academy members and is the undeniable star of a film more people preferred. He also was the critics' favorites (and BFCA winner), won the Globes as well, won at the Spirits, and technically won a SAG. It's going to be a nail-biter.

But enough about Birdman and Boyhood since it's actually more likely that neither one will walk home with the most Oscars tonight. That film seems to be The Grand Budapest Hotel which shares the most Oscar nominations this year with 9 nods (along with Birdman). The Grand Budapest Hotel is a favorite to win many of the technical awards including Best Production Design, which would be a shocking first for a Wes Anderson film. It's also the unlikely favorite for the Original Screenplay facing off against Boyhood *and* Birdman. Elsewhere fellow Best Picture nominees Whiplash, Imitation Game, and even American Sniper might win an award or two. The latter of which hit the zeitgeist post-Oscar nominations easily becoming not only the biggest film of this year's crop, but close to becoming the highest-grossing film of last year. Its ubiquity in the media during the voting period and surprise support from the Academy makes it one of the films prime to play spoiler to the Boyman show. Then there's Selma. With only two nominations (Picture and Song), it doesn't look likely to upset and yet the uproar over its director Ava DuVernay not receiving a director nod rivaled the reaction over Affleck's snub the year Argo won. Plus Selma has also tapped into the spirit of the time with many questioning the lack of diversity, #OscarsSoWhite, etc.

Like every year at this point, I'm relieved the end is near. Awards season is almost always exhausting with its usual drama and building predictability. The show should be fun this year though especially with host extraordinaire Neil Patrick Harris doing his thing. It actually looks like it going to be a music--heavy show with NPH no doubt doing a number or two plus full performances of the Best Song nominees, AND Anna Kendrick, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Hudson (and more?) set to perform something as well. As outlined above, some of the major categories are still up-in-the-air to make the ceremony more nerve-wracking for some. It's true of some of the smaller ones as well especially after early favorites like Gone Girl's screenplay, The LEGO Movie for Animated Film, Force Majeure for Foreign Film, Life Itself for Documentary, Birdman's editing inexplicably snubbed. That Gone Girl snub actually still hurts and for a year where Oscars seemed to fully embraced the out-of-the-norm, they missed out on honoring one of the year's best.

Related links:
Click here to see my official predictions.
Click here to see my own personal ballot.
Click here to see my initial thoughts on the Oscar nominations.
Click here to see all my posts on "Awards Season."

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