Oscars 2015: Nominations Reaction

The 2015 Oscar Nominations have caused quite a stir. One being the sudden upset of the controversial American Sniper garnering several nominations, (and breaking box office records, many screenings have been sold out) Also the twenty actors nominated are all white (for the first time since 1998) causing backlash with the twitter hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. As well as the exclusion of several key female artists. I’m going to take a look at the leading categories, what I personally feel was left out or more deserving of a nomination.

SELMA

Best Picture

Nominated: American Sniper, Birdman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash

American Sniper has caused a lot of political controversy.  Many, mostly conservatives or those in the military, feel that he is an American hero who should be celebrated, while others feel he is a racist psychopath who murdered innocent Islamic people. For me, politics aside, it’s just not even that great of a film. It sits idly on the fence post, refusing to make a statement. It does not go into depth into the lead character’s psyche, leaving you very detached and uncaring about him (or his wife). There were only two scenes, and they were sniper ones, where I was emotionally on the edge of my seat. Like Chris Kyle, the audience is debating what to do. There is a sense of moral ambiguity in the character, one that is not seen in the rest of the film. But the rush from those two scenes dissipates quickly. However, many servicemen have been reacting strongly to the film, so it obviously touches them. But I think it is undeniable that this film doesn’t really touch new ground, or go above and beyond. I don’t think it deserves a Best Picture nomination. (But I will say, I think it’s pretty disgusting that this film outsold Selma on Martin Luther King Jr. weekend) The rest of these films nominated are deserving, though I’d argue to add Nightcrawler onto the list. Though it may have been too much pulp for the Academy.

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Best Actor 

Nominated: Steve Carrell in Foxcatcher, Bradley Cooper in American Sniper, Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game, Michael Keaton in Birdman, and Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything

Now, addressing the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, I’d like to address the fact that I believe you shouldn’t nominate someone just because of race (or gender) but it is downright baffling and a shame that David Olyweo was not nominated for his role in Selma as Martin Luther King Jr. He is astounding. He completely commands the role and, though the film doesn’t completely center around him, he carries it. Also, I would’ve like to see Jake Gyllenhaal nominated for Nightcrawler, his performance of the gaunt and eerie modern-day Travis Bickle was completely committed and transfixing. I did think Steve Carrell was chilling in Foxcatcher, so I understand the nomination. Bradley Cooper also, though I did not love American Sniper, I still felt his performance elevated it. However, I would definitely have swapped Cooper and Carrell for Gyllenhaal and most definitely David Olyweo. Or how lovely would it have been to see Miles Teller get a nomination for Whiplash?

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Best Actress

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

What a great category this year! A snub that shocked many was Jennifer Anniston for Cake, after much campaigning. Many of the other nominees were locks, but Marion Cotillard was the surprise spot. I’m very happy with this, for Marion Cotillard is top-notch and does incredible work. I can’t think of anyone else to add.

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Best Supporting Actress

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

While her “Stay With Me” performance is incredible, Meryl Streep does not deserve a nomination for Into the Woods. She doesn’t deserve one for EVERY SINGLE movie she shows up for! In her place, I would’ve loved to have seen Jessica Chastain in A Most Violent Year instead. Laura Dern for Wild was another surprise, but she was very effective in the film.

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Best Supporting Actor

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

This wasn’t the strongest category this year, no one else I could think of to put in place of these.

INHERENT VICE

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominated: American Sniper, The Imitation Game, Inherent Vice, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash 

The screenplay categories are odd this year, things that are adapted are in original and vice versa. Whiplash is based off a short film, so they’ve counted that as adapted screenplay. Would’ve been better in Original. I’m surprised Inherent Vice was nominated, but I have not read the source material. Many have said Paul Thomas Anderson did a good job echoing the author’s work. (I was just left in the theatre dumbfounded as to what I was watching) The biggest thing missing though is Gillian Flynn for Gone Girl! How on earth was she not nominated??? She would’ve been the first woman to adapt her own material to be nominated for an Oscar. (Or possibly win!) I would’ve also liked to see Wild here. I enjoyed how they intertwined the flashbacks throughout the main narrative.

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Best Original Screenplay

Nominated: Birdman, Boyhood, Foxcatcher, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Nightcrawler

Foxcatcher was based off a book I believe, so I do not understand how it was nominated for Best Original Screenplay? Boyhood‘s nomination also puzzles me, for the film did not really have a “script” throughout shooting, it was more of an organic process that developed throughout the years.

THE IMITATION GAME

Best Director

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

I highly disliked Foxcatcher. It looked beautiful, but was painfully slow. It lost so much momentum and left me uninterested in the story. I do not feel that Bennett Miller deserved a nomination. Ava DuVernay was highly overlooked for Best Director. Her work in Selma was incredible. Her use of slow-motion work during the riot scenes is chilling. She completely deserved that slot in place of Miller. (She also would’ve made history, the first female director of color to be nominated.)

(Also side note, I wish Interstellar was nominated for more…but I’m one of the few who loved it and thought it was genius)

Magic Mike: When Men Bare All

Magic Mike may not be the deepest movie in the world- it’s basically a smorgasbord of hot shirtless muscular men grinding in thongs- but it does raise some questions about male and female sexuality and the depiction of sex work, namely stripping, on film.

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With Magic Mike, released in 2012 to great box office success (mostly gal pals having a fun night out!) and the phenomenon of Fifty Shades of Grey, (With the upcoming film, sure to shatter records) women’s sexual fantasies or desires are being acknowledged in pop culture and normalized. “Women have begun acting like dudes!” many media outlets proclaim. Well, no. Women have just as much sexual desires as men do.

Directed by Steven Soderbergh, Magic Mike is loosely based off of star Channing Tatum’s own experiences as an exotic dancer before hitting it big in Hollywood. Mike is an exotic dancer who has bigger dreams of being a furniture designer. He meets a young guy, nicknamed The Kid, who he takes on as a protege.

Let’s take a look at the differences between films about female strippers, vs. Magic Mike.

Female strippers in film, such as Demi Moore in Striptease or Marisa Tomei in The Wrestler, are often drug addicts or forced into the life to make money for their children, They’re damaged girls, not the kind you would “take home to mom”. They’re only desirable at the club. Mike makes these choices just for himself, he has chosen this life. Mike is not necessarily chastised for his occupation (though he does keep in quiet when he goes to the bank to enquire about a loan.) Whereas women, such as Demi Moore’s character in Striptease, is seen as an incompetent parent and has no custody of her daughter.

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In Magic Mike, the owner of the strip club is a man, Dallas. (Brilliantly played by Matthew McConaughey, almost a tounge-in-cheek poke at himself, he plays the bongos.) The men are all in this together, whereas the female strip club owners are almost always a man. There’s never a whole group of women running the show.

For the strippers in Magic Mike, giving women what they want is a way to prove that they’re real men with impressive sexual skills, unlike the women’s boyfriends or husbands at home. In film, I think it’s rare for a female stripper to be happy about her profession. (Though I believe Nomi in Showgirls wants that life and celebrates her skills, but that movie is really far too ridiculous to consider analyzing.) In film, female exotic dancers are always subject to harassment and assault. This cheapens their sexuality, does not highlight a talent. In Magic Mike, these dances are highly celebrated and happily received by the women. When the women touch the men, it’s never a violation, but consensual and affirming for both parties.

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A lot of criticism that followed Magic Mike was, that for a film that catered so much visually towards women, the story leaves much to be desired for them. Critics hang-ups are mostly centered around Mike and Brooke, The Kid’s sister. Many felt that her character just wants to reform the bad boy, a narrative we have seen countless times for female characters. Mike retires his G-string in the end, by the grace of a good girl’s love. He is ready to be more than eye candy, and she helped him realize that.

I didn’t necessarily see it that way. Brooke didn’t approve of his lifestyle per se, but I never got the impression it was out of any moral qualms. It was more because of the drug use, not the stripping. I appreciated that their relationship started out as friendship, fueled by lots of witty banter and actual conversation. I felt her dialogue was fairly realistic. We did get a bit of a glimpse into her character.Brooke cared about her brother, and we saw that frequently.

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She was not always just a pedestal for Mike to move forward. Mike had his furniture dreams long before he met her, and was probably going to move forward anyway.

But in the end, the film flips the script by having Mike want more from her character, she just wants sex.

Another plus includes male relationships that aren’t just a “bromance”. These are straight guys who are comfortable sharing physical and emotional relationships. This is especially shown in a scene where Matthew McConaughey teaches The Kid to thrust his hips. You don’t often see guys represented being that comfortable with each others bodies and sexualities.

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Magic Mike also raised the questions of holding double standards for men. We see endless sexist depictions of women’s bodies in advertising, film, beauty magazines, etc. This perfect ideal of a woman’s body that is impossible to live up to. But here we also have this in Magic Mike. Guys with the perfect bodies and abs. These images for men can be just as detrimental as for women. Women are used to this objectification, when it finally happens for men of course it riles them.

I think this may come down to whether or not objectification is always bad. We all have our fantasies and this, the film Magic Mike or strip clubs themselves, are fulfillments of that. Is that bad? If there was a Magic Mike female version, what would we be saying? It may also come down to whether or not you feel stripping is feminist or not. Can what is right for one sex be wrong for another?

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I don’t think there’s any clear answer. But Magic Mike certainly raises a lot of questions about objectification and sexuality, male and female.

2015 Golden Globes: Predictions

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Best Motion Picture – Drama

Will Win: Boyhood 

Should Win: Boyhood

I’ve debated a lot about this, because I very much enjoyed The Imitation Game. I thought it had a rousing and enthralling story, led brilliantly by Benedict Cumberbatch. But it is a typical Hollywood triumph story (albeit a well-done one) that we have seen many times before. Boyhood is a filmmaking marvel, on the technical side. It is quite a simple story, the moving moments are a lot smaller. They may not hit you as hard as The Imitation Game, but I think we have to honor that. Selma is another strong front-runner, but it is pretty safe to say Boyhood has a lock.

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Best Actor – Drama

Will Win: Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything

Should Win: Benedict Cumberbatch for The Imitation Game

Eddie Redmayne’s complete physical transformation as Stephen Hawking is stellar. He is able to convey so much through his eyes and facial expressions when words eventually fail him. While I do think that he deserves it and should win, but I also loved Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game. He was perfectly suited for the dishelved and socially awkward Alan Turing. He completely lived his character. But there is also no denying the physical feats that Redmayne went through to accurately portray Stephen Hawking.

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Best Actress – Drama

Will Win: Julianne Moore for Still Alice

Should Win: Julianne Moore for Still Alice

I have not seen all of Still Alice yet, but from what I have seen Julianne Moore yet again brings her immense talent in this heartbreaking story of a woman with early onset Alzheimer’s. This is another tight category, for we also have Rosamund Pike who brilliantly brought to life Amy Dunne in Gone Girl, a complex role that is no easy feat to tackle. There is also Reese Witherspoon in Wild, giving her best performance to date as Cheryl Strayed. However, Julianne Moore deserves this one.

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Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

Will Win: Birdman

Should Win: Birdman

There is no contest in this category. One of the most wholly original films of the year, Birdman is a trippy and intimate journey into the artists’ mind, one that pokes fun at Hollywood and the image of celebrity. Birdman has astounding direction, cinematography, rousing jazz drums score, and outstanding meta-performances from Michael Keaton and Edward Norton, who’s roles poke fun at their own images. I actually didn’t LOVE it at first, there’s so much that you’re hit with. It definitely requires a re-watch, it hits you hard with a lot and there’s so much more to be absorbed from it than on a first watch.

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Best Actor – Musical or Comedy 

Will Win: Michael Keaton for Birdman

Should Win: Michael Keaton for Birdman

Again, there is no contest for this category. Michael Keaton is outstanding and fearless in Birdman. The film s the perfect showcase for his talents, he is able to deftly craft this absurd satirical comedy.

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Best Actress – Musical or Comedy

Will Win: Amy Adams for Big Eyes

Should Win: Amy Adams for Big Eyes

Although this is under comedy, Amy Adams’ performance as Margaret Keane was more dramatic. She plays a quiet woman allows herself to be steamrolled and manipulated by her husband. It’s hard to make someone so passable likable and empathetic. While Emily Blunt is talented in Into the Woods, overall the whole film and performance feels very tepid.

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Best Supporting Actor 

Will Win: J.K. Simmons for Whiplash

Should Win: J.K. Simmons for Whiplash

J.K. Simmons is bone-chilling as this vindictive teacher in Whiplash. There are other strong performances in this category, specifically Edward Norton as the pompous method actor and Ethan Hawke as the absent dad in Boyhood. But J.K. Simmons gives a powerhouse performance that deserves to be recognized.

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Best Supporting Actress 

Will Win: Patricia Arquette for Boyhood 

Should Win: Emma Stone for Birdman 

I have not seen A Most Violent Year yet, for which Jessica Chastain is nominated, so unfortunately I cannot consider that in my choices. Meryl Streep is her usual great self in Into the Woods, particularly during “Stay With Me.” But the rest of the role doesn’t leave much of an impression or reach great heights. Patricia Arquette as the mother in Boyhood is wonderful (especially in the scene where her boy goes off to college) It is no easy feat navigating and maintaing a character for twelve years, especially when you do not know their arc. (Boyhood was written as the years went along, not before shooting) I do feel that she should win the prize, but I also cannot ignore Emma Stone in Birdman. Her temper tantrum monologue in the film is her best work, showing a great range that goes beyond her penchant for sarcasm.

Boyhood-BikeBest Director 

Will Win: Richard Linklater for Boyhood

Should Win: Alejandro González Iñárritu for Birdman 

This is a tough category, for Richard Linklater definitely deserves to be recognized for helming this ambitious project could have easily failed, and it succeeds in tenfold. Boyhood is an impressive work that manages to redefine cinema. But there is also no denying the other talents in this category, specifically Alejandro González Iñárritu for his utterly inventive direction of Birdman and David Fincher for perfectly bringing to life the dark thriller of Gone Girl.

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Best Screenplay 

Will Win: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo for Birdman

Should Win: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo for Birdman

Gillian Flynn does a great adaptation of her novel, but again there is no denying the sheer originality of Birdman‘s creative story.

Scene Sound Off: Thief

Michael Mann, known for his genius storytelling with taut and explosive thrillers such as Heat and Collateral, made his film debut writing and directing Thief. Thief is both a stylish thriller and engaging character study, starring James Caan as Frank, an ex-con who lives by his own existential creed. Frank is beginning a relationship with a waitress, played by Tuesday Weld. She doesn’t know his true profession as a theif first, but he reveals himself in a dark and intense monologue, made flawlessly believeable by James Caan’s masterful acting. According to Caan, it is his favorite scene of his career. Michael Mann has said that this scene makes all the effort in directing all the more worthwhile when he is able to direct a performance as good as Caan in this scene.

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The monologue is a moment of darkly tragic and humorous pure release, where Frank spills his guts about his history in prison, his wants and needs, and everything that led to his current philosophical moral code. Frank went into prison at an early age, and ended up spending many years of his adult life behind bars, isolated from the world. Frank reveals that he only survived the harshness of prison because he achieved the mental attitude of meaning nothing to himself. “I don’t care about me. I don’t care about nothin’ you know?” His state of nihilism is what made him stronger in the end.

Frank then brings out a collage. Since most of his life was spent behind bars, the expectations of his life and what it means to fit into society is dictated from magazine cutouts. Now that he is out of prison, he tries to construct the life he imagines just like the happy people in “Better Homes and Gardens”. He wants Tuesday Weld to marry him. You like a girl, you marry her and have children- no matter what. But this isn’t natural to Frank, so he’s going to put the pieces of his societal ideals together in the most mechanical way possible.

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“Inside, you are on ice from time. Can’t even die right, you know? And here? Here, people grow. They get old. They die. Children come after.” There is life on the outside and Frank wants it, but he fears he is running out of time. He has lost so much of time from his life already.

Michael Mann and James Caan determined that since Frank was a man trying to make up for lost time, he would have a way of speaking slowly and methodically, so he never has to repeat himself. Frank never uses contractions. Through Mann’s writing and Caan’s acting, together they craft a captivating character. Another interesting note is that Michael Mann manipulated the sound effects, mostly of the traffic noises, to give the scene a sense of build.

This isn’t the only famous diner scene in Michael Mann’s repertoire, Heat features an infamous scene where the two great actors Robert De Niro and Al Pacino finally meet.

For Thief, this diner scene is an arresting moment in the fantastic and emotive crime-drama. It is a marvel to see an actor truly living as a character, as James Caan demonstrates in his fine work as Frank. Watch the scene below.