Sunday, February 8, 2015

Thoughts on Oscar Nominations

It's been nearly a month since the Oscar nominations were announced and there were still many exclusions (and inclusions) that truly shocked me. That said after a few weeks with these films and performances, I've generally made my peace with them all. I am happy that I've seen the majority of films nominated (excluding short films) seeing 30 out of the 45 films. Better yet, out of 106 nominations (again excluding the short films), I've seen 88 which is a respectable 83%.

So with Oscar voting currently underway and the ceremony in exactly two weeks, my quick thoughts on the nominations...

  • American Sniper (6 nominations)
  • Birdman (9 nominations)
  • Boyhood (6 nominations)
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel (9 nominations)
  • The Imitation Game (8 nominations)
  • Selma (2 nominations)
  • The Theory of Everything (5 nominations)
  • Whiplash (5 nominations)

Though it's one of the frontrunners to win Best Picture, Boyhood actually picked up just 6 nods, less than three other nominees and tied with "surprise" inclusion American Sniper. Of course, it's no surprise at all since this is hardly the first or even second Clint Eastwood late-breaking film to make an Oscar dent. Plus the film has now made more money at the box office than all of the other films combined. Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel, the other co-frontrunners, both lead with 9 nominations each. Selma sneaks in, but only gets a sole Best Song nod to go along with its BP nomination. I'd have to think that if this field was expanded to 9 or 10, Foxcatcher and Gone Girl/Nightcrawler would've been included.

  • Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman
  • Richard Linklater, Boyhood
  • Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher
  • Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

For the first time since the Best Picture field has expanded to more than five nominees, we have our lone Director without a corresponding BP nod with Miller. He beat out DGA nominated Clint Eastwood, BAFTA nominees Damien Chazelle and James Marsh, and Golden Globe nominees Ava Duvernay and David Fincher. This is shockingly Anderson's first nomination. Of course it's all moot because it's really a two-horse race between Linklater and Iñárritu. Precursors and critics have lined up for Linklater, but Iñárritu currently has all the momentum and industry support including winning the DGA last night.

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

This super, super competitive category saw the likes of Gyllenhaal (SAG nom), Oyelowo (Golden Globes nom), and Fiennes (BAFTA nom) not get nominated so while some may have reservations with a couple of nominees here and there, this was hard-fought for all involved. Certainly Redmayne, Keaton and Cumberbatch have been in the conversation since the beginning and the first two seem like the likely winners. In fact, this is the only acting category that's somewhat competitive with Keaton seemingly having the leg up until Redmayne unexpectedly won the SAG.

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

Leading up to nomination morning, everyone was already talking about Jennifer Aniston's first Oscar nomination or Amy Adams' sixth nomination in less than a decade. Neither panned out of course with the Academy instead sticking with the SAG nominees (minus Aniston) and adding critics favorite Cotillard. Though I haven't seen her film, I'm happy for her to finally get her second nomination. The front-runner and likely winner is Moore of course and I don't think anything will derail her deserved coronation. If anything, Witherspoon and Pike needed to have had their films more loved by the Academy (and if they were men they probably would have been but neither here or there) to have challenged Moore.

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

The four performances I've seen (all but Duvall's), I've loved so I'm glad they're all nominated, but this was the category all awards season long that has been the absolute most boring to follow not only for Simmons winning almost every single award, but because these same men kept getting nominated for everything. Tyler Perry got one lone critic win while Josh Brolin was nominated by the BFCA (along with the five men here) and... that's it. So the Oscar nominations was pretty anticlimactic overall. That said, there are two actors who have played the Hulk and yet it's J. Jonah Jameson who will win it all. I find that funny.

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

This is a fantastic line-up led by likely winner Arquette. I've pretty much loved all of these actresses at one point or another. Arquette and Stone get their first nods, Knightley and Dern FINALLY get their second nods and Meryl Streep gets her 19th (!!!) Oscar nomination. She's not going to win, but her Oscar regularity is beyond commendable. NBR-winning Jessica Chastain probably just missed along with SAG nominee Naomi Watts and BFCA nominee Tilda Swinton. The latter would've really made this category fun.

  • Boyhood
  • Birdman
  • Foxcatcher
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Nightcrawler

With WGA-nominated Whiplash deemed Adapted, it was obvious that WGA-ineligible Birdman would take its place since the other WGA nominees expectantly made the Oscar shortlist. Selma was an outside possibility, but for all sort of factors it just didn't make a dent with the Academy. Would've been funny if the NBR-winning screenplay for The Lego Movie made it in though. As for the likely winner? Slight edge to Birdman, but I can see Wes Anderson winning this as well.

  • American Sniper
  • The Imitation Game
  • Inherent Vice
  • The Theory of Everything
  • Whiplash

This is a fine line-up, but I'm a little sad that the THREE films nominated by the WGA that had women writers didn't make it into the Oscar shortlist. Granted I never expected Guardians of the Galaxy to make it in, but Wild surely and Gone Girl definitely. Gone Girl was actually the frontrunner before its exclusion so now what? Inherent Vice won the NBR, but it's up against four Best Picture nominees, all of which can win. I think it's between Imitation Game and American Sniper.

  • Ida (Poland)
  • Leviathan (Russia)
  • Tangerines (Estonia)
  • Timbuktu (Mauritania)
  • Wild Tales (Argentina)

The exclusion of the Cannes-winning film Force Majeure was the big surprise here as it was seen by a lot of people to be the front-runner. Without it in the field, it makes this category all the more unpredictable. Ida won more critic awards and is nominated elsewhere (for its cinematography), Leviathan won the Golden Globes, and Wild Tales won NBR. If I had to pick, Ida is probably the slight favorite.

  • Big Hero 6
  • The Boxtrolls
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2
  • Song of the Sea
  • The Tale of Princess Kaguya

Gone Girl not being nominated for Screenplay and Force Majuere not being nominated for Foreign Film... fine. But for The Lego Movie to not make the Animated Film shortlist was really shocking. I still can't really comprehend its snub and really in this case, it really does feel like a snub. Was it because it wasn't a traditionally hand-drawn film? Was it just too cheeky and sarcastic for voters? In any case, this gives How to Train Your Dragon 2 the clear victory, which is good since its first film would've won its year up against any other film than Toy Story 3 and it also should've made WAY more money at the box office.


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

Surprisingly enough, The Grand Budapest Hotel is Wes Anderson's FIRST film to get nominated for the Oscar in this category even though his films are ALL ABOUT its specific and usually breathtakingly wonderful production designs. Look for it to win here as well as some of the other technical awards below it's been nominated in give or take a Birdman award or two.

  • Birdman
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Ida
  • Mr. Turner
  • Unbroken

This is Birdman's award to lose especially since its cinematography is right front and center with every frame of the film. It's bravado work and when it wins, Emmanuel Lubezki would have won it two years in a row (last year he won for Gravity). I haven't seen Mr. Turner (though others can't stop talking about how beautiful it is), but the others seem right on. I am surprised that Unbroken made it in over BP nominees Imitation Game and Selma as well as early season favorite Interstellar and Nightcrawler, but its nomination gives perennial loser Roger Deakins his 11th nomination.

  • American Sniper
  • Boyhood
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • The Imitation Game
  • Whiplash

It is curious that what I thought of as the frontrunner, Birdman, didn't make the shortlist, but here we are. So this seems like Boyhood's award for the taking. American Sniper might surprise, but I don't think they'll pass up a chance to award a film that managed to put together footage spanning 12 years into one cohesive film.

  • “Lost Stars,” Begin Again
  • “Grateful,” Beyond the Lights
  • “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me
  • “Everything is Awesome,” The Lego Movie
  • “Glory,” Selma

Some great choices here, but it also feels like a make-up award for a lot of the films. Sorry for only giving you two Oscar nominations, Selma. Sorry for snubbing you in Animated Film, Lego Movie. Sorry for the severe lack of awardage especially in the Comedy/Musical categories at the Golden Globes, Begin Again and Beyond the Lights. Sorry for the Alzheimers, Glem Campbell. Okay, I sound way too jaded for this actually fun category. I'll just say I AM looking forward to the performances on Oscar night.

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

When Birdman's hypnotic and unique drum score was deemed ineligible, the race become a free for all. Alexandre Desplat is twice nominated for his work in Grand Budapest Hotel and Imitation Game giving him his 7th and 8th nomination with no wins. I think they'll finally give it to him for scoring two Best Picture nominees and the only question is for which film. And while I'm not rooting against Desplat, I am rooting for first time nominee Jóhann Jóhannsson for his beautiful work in Theory of Everything.


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

As the only BP nominee, Grand Budapest surely has a leg up here, but I don't think it REALLY matters in this situation. What will matter is how vibrant and noticeable the costuming is for that film so if it wins, it'll be because of that. That said the period details of Inherent Vice and Mr. Turner and the fantastic elements of Into the Woods and Maleficent are not to be denied.

  • American Sniper
  • Birdman
  • The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
  • Interstellar
  • Unbroken

Weirdly I think American Sniper is the favorite for this award as well as Sound Mixing, but of course I can also see why the other films could win as well.

  • American Sniper
  • Birdman
  • Interstellar
  • Unbroken
  • Whiplash

Same as the previous sound award except The Hobbit (which the Academy really ignored this year for Peter Jackson's last hurrah) being replaced by Whiplash. I do think this year both sound awards will go to the same film.

  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Interstellar
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past

So about them completely ignoring the final Hobbit film, yeah, this speaks volumes. Instead they gave the X-Men series its first Oscar nom ever, doubled up on the Marvel Studios love, and rightly honored two visual effects heavy films in Apes and Interstellar who I think are battling for the win with Guardians of the Galaxy the likely spoiler.

  • Foxcatcher
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Guardians of the Galaxy

I'm rooting for Guardians of the Galaxy here, but up against two films with way more nominations love and it's not likely. I am surprised to see Into the Woods and Theory of Everything missing the cut here.

  • Citizenfour
  • Finding Vivian Maier
  • Last Days in Vietnam
  • Salt of the Earth
  • Virunga

With Roger Ebert's touching documentary Life, Itself missing the shortlist (which was a surprise to me), this is an easy win for Citizenfour which has won virtually every prize for this category this season. It's biggest competition was Life, Itself so there you go. I haven't seen it and most of the films here so I can't say much. I did see Virunga and thought it was quite affecting (and informative).

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

Ah short films. I usually know nothing about these so I pick the movie to root for with the funniest title. Sadly, all of these films' titles are a bit dry so maybe Our Curse?

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

I've seen Feast as most have, and I thought it was super cute. With the whole Academy voting for this, it's probably your likely winner since it will be the most viewed. That said, Me and My Moulton has the best name.

  • Aya
  • Boogaloo and Graham
  • Butter Lamp
  • Paraveneh
  • The Phone Call

Surprise, I've seen all of these! If I had to predict the winner, it would be The Phone Call because Famous British Actors! and Old People Dying! But my pick would be Butter Lamp. Plot-wise it's the least formed of all the films, but it's also the only one that I wished could've lasted three more hours truthfully. Paraveneh would be a second pick and would also like it expanded as a feature film.

As I said above, Oscar voting is currently underway and it'll end on the 17th with the ceremony in exactly two weeks from today. See you all on the flip side!

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