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)

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.

Top 10: 2014 Movies

These are my personal choices for the best movies of 2014. It’s been a wonderful year for film!

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1. Interstellar

Interstellar was my absolute favorite of the year. While I was a bit disappointed with parts of the ending and some lack of character development, that does not overshadow my love for this film. It’s an incredible balance of thrills, visual spectacle, top-notch acting, and thought-provoking ideas. The visuals are a remarkable achievement in filmmaking, it’s one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen, especially one depicting space. Matthew McConaughey is nothing short of outstanding, especially his scene where he watches the videos of his child growing up before his eyes. It shoots through the heart and will leave you aching. As will many other moving moments. The scientific and time-travel elements will blow your mind. (Even if you don’t fully understand them) I consider it to be, and I believe it should be held up as a modern classic. See more of my review here.

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2. Whiplash

 Whiplash is majorly intense, thanks to the squaring off of Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons as clashing jazz music teacher and student. The film explores how far you are willing to go for your talent, how far you’re willing to go for your art. The drumming in this is insanely amazing, (and looks very painful…) and apparently Miles Teller actually did it. You cannot look away, it is be brutal and horrific yet compelling. J.K. Simmons, who is known as Juno’s loving dad or J. Jonah Jameson from Spider-Man, is chilling and terrifying. It never fails to shock the lengths that student Andrew will go to vie for a starring spot in his teacher’s eye. The finale packs a powerful punch and will leave you on the edge of your seat.

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3. Nightcrawler

Nightcrawler really makes an impression, and that’s all due to Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance. His Lou Bloom echoes Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver. Lou is success-hungry and sociopathic, he will stop at nothing do advance further in his career. He is completely committed to achieving success as a news cameraman, who films crashes, accidents that take place at night. Lou has no qualms about crossing moral lines. Although it is not just Lou who lacks morality, for Nightcrawler also gives a scathing look at the news and modern media. The newscasters who work in tandem with Lou will also stop at nothing to get that perfect shot and story, so who cares about the people it happened to? The more tragic the event, the better the news. Nightcrawler is an incredible thriller that really leaves a stamp in your mind thanks to Jake Gyllenhaal’s star performance.

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4. Gone Girl

Based on the bestselling book, Gone Girl was a highly-anticipated adaptation. Helmed by the brilliant David Fincher and a screenplay penned by the illustrious author herself, Gillian Flynn. Together, they create a fantastic adaptation that lives up to the book’s twisted tale. Gone Girl will go down in history as one of the smarter thrillers that depict a heated battle of the sexes.(i.e. the 90s hits Basic Instinct, Body Heat) With sleek visuals and a chilling performance by Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl is an intelligent and engrossing thriller that will be talked about for a very long time. To see my full review, go here.

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5. The Immigrant

The Immigrant is an elegant and haunting gem, telling the story of early 1920s America. The visuals are outstanding, shot with a gorgeous sepia tone or muted colors that perfectly capture the period. Marion Cotillard shines, as she so often does, as the Polish immigrant. Her performance is powerful, quietly yet deftly capturing Eva’s emotional turmoil. Joaquin Phoenix is on equal footing as the flawed hustler. Together, they craft engrossing characters that are intertwined for better or worse. The Immigrant is a somber piece but exiusite film. Marion Cotillard enraptures the audience, making you completely engrossed in Ewa’s long and hard journey. I wrote more about The Immigrant here.

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6. Boyhood

Richard Linklater’s Boyhood obviously achieves a technological feat with it’s innovative use of telling a story over 12 years, you watch the cast grow up before your very eyes. And it is a marvel. But what could have been a gimmick ends up being a resounding realistic portrait of life. What’s so beautiful about Boyhood is it’s simplicity. It’s not just a story that hits all the typical beats of adolescence, like “here’s the PROM scene” or “here’s the FIRST KISS scene.” Instead it is compromised of the little things. How life’s little moments, heartbreaking and joyful, can so quickly accumulate, and before we know it it’s years later. Boyhood comes as close to life as a documentary, it is an experimental film that more than paid off, one that redefined cinema.

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7. The Babadook

The Babadook is a game-changing horror film that is like nothing you’ve ever seen before, twisting familiar horror film elements to create something completely original. The Babadook is filled with artful visuals, long shadows and an elegant grayscale wash. It makes the house they live in look exactly like the charcoal Babadook book. There’s strange camera angles and an astounding and eerie silent film montage. The relationship and story of mother and son is genuinely moving, and Essie Davis gives a phenomenal performance. You never know quite where the story is going. Is it another story of a possessed mother? Is it truly a monster? Or is it just psychological, all in their heads? The Babadook is a blur between reality and metaphor, one that never quite gives you all the answers but takes you on a heart-wrenching and terrifying ride.

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8. Wild

Reese Witherspoon gives the best performance of her career in Wild. She is a flawed and complicated heroine, one who must go on a 1,000 mile walk to cleanse her soul from demons past. Several powerfully moving scenes have been stuck in my head long after seeing it. Director Jean-Marc Vallée, who previously helmed Dallas Buyers Club, does stunning work here. The flashbacks brilliantly intertwine with her present-day scenes. Wild is both painful and uplifting. It enraptures the audience in the complicated her conquest every step of the way.

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9. The Skeleton Twins

The Skeleton Twins is a rare family drama that deftly navigates both the highest of highs and lowest of lows. It’s a rare film that can effectively mine both laughter and tears. Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig are the perfect pair, demonstrating their well-known comedic chops but also bringing fantastic dramatic performances as well. The Skeleton Twins is an emotionally engaging dramedy. It also gives us a hilarious “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” lip-synching scene.

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10. Pride

Pride is pure uplifting fun. Set in the 1980s England coal miner’s strike and the LGBT community that helps support them. It’s an earnest story of overcoming prejudice without being too schmaltzy. The combination of being emotionally resonant while remaining fairly light-hearted keeps it from being preachy. Pride is a joyous and heartfelt crow-pleaser with a great 80s soundtrack. Also, the ending scene (pictured above) has some really beautiful London visuals, with a great score too!