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)

The Immigrant: The Ambiguous American Dream

Directed by James Gray, The Immigrant tells the story of Ewa (played by Marion Cotillard) and her sister who are traveling from Poland to Ellis Island. Upon their arrival, the sister gets sick and must be left behind on the island to be quarantined. Alone and scared, Ewa is approached by Bruno (Joaquin Phoenix) a charming but deceitful man who takes her under his wing. He offers her food and shelter and job to earn money for Bruno to get her sister out early. But it all comes with a price. Ewa’s job at his theatre soon turns into a job of prostitution. Ewa also gets tied up with Bruno’s cousin, an equally charming magician.

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What is so compelling about The Immigrant is that the characters are all ambiguous, you both like and dislike them. In Gray’s story, pure evil does not exist.

At the center of the film, as the title suggests, is Marion Cotillard as Ewa. Although she is quiet and timid, she is full of perseverance (although desperate) to help her sister. We eventually learn of Ewa’s tortured past, which not only includes seeing her parents beheaded in front of her but also being raped on the boat ride to Ellis Island. Even though she is amidst such terrible circumstances for most of her life, she is not portrayed as a naïve victim. Ewa schemes and steals just as much as anyone- she is also equally under suspicion. Ewa has been far from innocent far longer than anyone can imagine, it is not only Bruno who contributed to her perceived moral downfall. Marion Cottilard brings a layered vulnerability that can only be contributed to her talent.

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In any other film, Bruno would be the indisputable villain. After all, he picked up this young girl in a strange new world, ready to claim an American dream for herself, and then turned that dream into a nightmare by making her a prostitute. His disposition is both charming with a hint of wickedness and predatory. But Bruno, in his own flawed way, cares for Ewa. Their relationship is far more than predator vs. prey.

Jeremy Renner’s character, Orlando, is a magician both on the stage and off. He is enchanting and lively, but underneath it all is an undercurrent of a hidden agenda. Ewa is smitten with his talent and way with words. Again, another film would have chosen to set up a more concrete love triangle. But it is not love that is between the three characters. They are all seeking something from each other, whether it be an escape, help, or someone to hear their troubles.

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The setting and visuals of this film is gorgeous, echoing Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Part 2. Shot in a soft-focus palette of golden hues and browns, the film’s visuals are dark and rich.

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There is only one exception to The Immigrant’s gloomy atmosphere, during which Ewa has a quasi-dream-flashback shot in a vivid white bright. Ewa looks back at the life she left with her sister, the life in the Old World, before all this. The dream ends right before a moment of terror, where we see a solider. Possibly the one who killed her parents.

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The film ends with a brilliant final shot of mirrors and windows. Bruno has managed to get Ewa’s sister out early, Ewa tears from him and returns to her sister and they leave on a small boat. Bruno is left behind alone to walk away. This ending split screen shows in perfect harmony Ewa’s old American life walking away, as the boat sails on to a journey to her new American life with her sister.

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The film not only questions the ambiguity of morality, but also of the American Dream. Orlando says in his magic act, “Don’t give up the faith, don’t give up the hope. The American Dream is waiting for you!” Ewa’s American dream has been doomed from the start, the cruelty of what happened to her on the boat up to arriving in America only to become something that wracks her with guilt.

The Immigrant presents the American dream as something that is not necessarily an illusion, but it is not a reality either. Just as the film’s characters are not wholly good, and not wholly evil. America was a wonderful and new place for immigrants, but it was also a grim place. The journey didn’t end when the immigrants got off the boat. Although it was good to be able to escape their country (whether it be from oppression or poverty) there was nothing in America waiting to be handed to them. Stepping on America’s soil meant more opportunity, but it wasn’t there right away. It was a long process and sometimes a terrifying and arduous journey to get where they wanted to be.

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The Immigrant is a haunting and epic melodrama with psychological complex characters and look at the American dream. It is a shame that this film wasn’t so widely seen. Luckily, it is now available on Netflix!