Likely Winners and Regretful Absences at the 2015 Oscars - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
16Feb/150

Likely Winners and Regretful Absences at the 2015 Oscars

Boyhood

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Returning from last year, Andrew, Kyle, and Ryan all take turns talking about what the likely winners for the big categories will be, and who should be at the awards.  Check out the full list of nominations here, then read on as we make our picks for the major categories and who should be attending the ceremony as a nominee.  Our votes in each category are in bold.

Best PictureBoyhood's takin' it home

AndrewCommentaryBannerWhat will happen at the awards - The bar for this year’s Oscar race is low in each category and Best Picture is the best of a poor lot.  There is the potential for another upset à la 2014 with Selma taking home the top prize, but considering the way it rubs soft-skinned liberals the wrong way by daring to present LBJ as anything other than a saint its chances are slim.  Whiplash, Birdman, and The Grand Budapest Hotel add some edge to the blander selections The Imitiation Game and The Theory of Everything.  But the former picks are too daring, and the latter more designed to win acting and design awards than the big prize.  American Sniper has so much controversy surrounding it now that it would be a difficult pick even with its less than stellar scenes.

The last film, and my pick, is Boyhood.  I liked the movie a lot, but its history leading up to the premier is tailor-made to future highlight reels explaining why each Best Picture belonged in Oscar History.  It doesn’t court controversy, doesn’t challenge the notion of cinema too much, and is a pleasant experience.  All things perfect for a Best Picture considering the current climate.

What should have happened - Considering the tumultuous relationship America had with most media outlets in 2014, it’s a damn surprise that Nightcrawler isn’t up here.  I understand why, as Dan Gilroy’s film doesn’t have the built-in historical reflection of The Imitation Game or The Theory of Everything, but damn if it couldn’t have hummed with a vitality all its own on that list.  The closest comparison point is Whiplash, itself an anomaly on the list, and a worthy winner among the safer selections.  But understanding does not transcend into forgiveness for me, and Nightcrawler would have been a buzzworthy selection if not necessarily a frontrunner.Ryan COMMENTARY w/ RatingWhat will happen at the awards - I feel like this year’s crop of movies (at least the ones I have seen) are a good selection of B+ movies.  They are well done but nothing that made me sit in awe at the screen.  The Grand Budapest Hotel was very fun but not near my favorite Wes Anderson film, The Imitation Game was well made but was lacking any extra oomf and American Sniper was a very well made film that doesn’t have the huge love and support a movie needs to win the big prize.  I think it is going to come down between Boyhood and Birdman with Boyhood squeaking out a victory.  It was a movie that played well to everyone and had a great story behind the making that some people found more interesting than the film itself.  Both films were made with so much skill and directors doing what they do best but Boyhood is the bigger story of the year.

What should have happened - There isn’t a movie out there that I thought got robbed.  A lot of the best movies of the year were nominated, it was just this year that I was not blown away by anything.  Of the movies I saw this year, Boyhood should win the Oscar.  Taking away the story behind the making of the film, it still really touched me on an emotional level.  I remember growing pains like the main character Mason had (minus the divorced parents and drunken step fathers), I can picture myself in many of his situations growing up.  With me being in my mid 30’s with a child about Mason’s age at the start of the film, I also see myself in a lot of the dad’s interactions with the kids.  I might not be divorced and I live with them every day but trying to learn about their days and trying your best to get them to tell you ANYTHING or walking that fine line between helping the kid do something the “right way” and letting them pick their own path are things I do every day.  Finally, I hope that I don’t end up like the mom near the end of the movie, with very little to look forward to after my children move away.  The truly heartbreaking scene is when Patricia Arquette as the mom just breaks down and says “I thought there would be more” it is sad and tragic and I wanted to come through the screen to give her a hug.  Boyhood is a movie that was almost 3 hours but didn’t feel nearly that long and a movie that has stuck with me since I saw it 6 months ago.  For those reasons, I think it should win Best Picture this year.Kyle Commentary BannerWhat will happen at the awards - Boyhood seems like a lock here for many of the reasons Andrew already stated—its ambition wouldn't be quite enough to get the award all on its own if the initial reception had been mediocre, but since the worst thing you can say about the movie is that it didn't completely blow audiences away uniformly, I think it has things in the bag. Recent nominations for technical-spectacle films like last year's Gravity show that Oscar voters want to recognize bold craft on display when they see it—like the virtuoso simulated one-take of Birdman—just not enough to give these movies (which often lack the substance to match their ambitious style) the top award.

What should have happened - None of my choices for best film of the year even stood a chance of being nominated, but in a more adventurous, alternate Academy Under the Skin deserved to be up for at least 3 of the total Best Picture spots. From the real-world nominees, I would be pleasantly surprised if The Grand Budapest Hotel took home the win—it's probably Anderson's best film, even if I am still partial to the silliness of The Life Aquatic and the general meanness of The Royal Tennenbaums.

Best DirectorLinklater's long-game

Newer Andrew cutout commentaryWhat will happen at the awards - I didn’t like Foxcatcher at all, and a lot of that had to do with the heavy-handed way Miller directed the film.  It won for best director at Cannes but since then buzz has lacked, so I don’t see Miller winning this one.  Tyldum’s approach to The Imitation Game wasn’t hampered by such bluntness, but there is nothing remarkable about the film and if anything it should be more criticized for reducing the painful end of Turing’s life to some onscreen text.  The remaining choices, ouch.  Either we’ve got the dizzying embrace of artifice and grand emotion from Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel, the blurring of that artifice in a stunning vision from Iñárritu's Birdman, or the more naturalistic approach with just a hint of poeticism from Linklater's Boyhood.  All three of them could get the award and I would not be surprised.  But I think Linklater’s humanism for Boyhood will triumph over the technical flash of the other two.

What should have happened - Seeing true spirituality projected on the big screen is becoming a rarer occurrence when dry, arty atheism (Ida) or self-satisfied philosophizing (Wish I Was Here) is the default expression of many directors.  That Calvary made it to the big screen is one surprise – that John Michael McDonagh’s blended performances, visuals, soundtrack, and a heavily spiritual in such a transcendent package is another.  There is not a single scene in Calvary that does not contribute to Father James’ fight for the soul of an unknown abused man who pledges to kill the innocent Father.  Part of great direction is creating the best film by selecting ingredients that will complement one another.  Under McDonagh’s eye, Calvary never steps wrong, and creates a nearly perfect expression of faith that’s never in doubt but questions what actions are needed to be in service to that faith.

Newer Ryan cutout commentaryWhat will happen at the awards - Iñárritu had the flashiest movie, Tyldum was a great general for The Imitation Game but was lacking anything new that countless other biopics hadn’t done countless times in the past and Wes Anderson made a Wes Anderson film.  I wouldn’t be surprised if any of them win but I think the emotion, time and planning that Linklater accomplished in his film will put it over the top.

What should have happened - Linklater made me feel and Iñárritu accomplished his tight rope feat with Birdman.  I think either of them winning would be the right way to go.  I wish that David Fincher’s handling of a truly bonkers 3rd act in Gone Girl would have gotten him into the conversation.  I am his number one fan but I can’t imagine anyone else being able to make that movie as engrossing and bleakly funny as he made it. Finally, if there was a breakthrough directing award, I would give it wholeheartedly to writer/director Jennifer Kent for The Babadook. She is a talent to keep me eyes on in the future.

Tiny Kyle CommentaryWhat will happen at the awards - I think Linklater has it. If Emmanuel Lubezki wasn't a relatively strong lock for Birdman's cinematography—and he may not be considering his win last year—I'd say Iñárritu stands a strong chance of taking home a win as a kind of consolation for losing Best Picture. That said, when it comes to the cinematography category, Ida has a strangely strong following (and presents a chance to honor a black-and-white film), The Grand Budapest Hotel could also pick up a consolation win, and Roger Deakins has been nominated 12-goddamn-times without ever winning. I still think Lubezki will get the cinematography award, considering that his camerawork is the obvious entry point into praising Birdman—but if he doesn't, I wouldn't rule out Iñárritu picking up the award in the director category.

What should have happened - Ava DuVernay deserved a nomination for Selma, and should have stood a fair chance. Jennifer Kent deserved a nomination for The Babadook, though, sadly, probably didn't stand much of a chance.  This is also a category where I'm slightly more surprised Jonathan Glazer didn't get at least acknowledged with a safe, there's-no-way-you'll-win-this nomination for Under the Skin. I would also have liked (but never expected) to see Denis Villeneuve get a nod for the sustained bizarre dream that was Enemy.

Best ActorMichael Keaton as Riggan Thomas

Newer Andrew cutout commentaryWhat will happen at the awards - Cumberbatch is fine in The Imitation Game, but there were many times it seemed like he was slipping into a prickish Patrick Stewart impersonation than embodying Alan Turing.  I was not nearly as enamored with Carell in Foxcatcher, which relied so heavily on the prosthetic nose and pushing his wheezing up on the soundtrack the design awards feel more appropriate.  I would be totally fine with Cooper or Keaton, even if I’m not excited about the prospect of either of them winning.  Cooper is a menacing force of barely restrained murderous impulses in American Sniper, and having Keaton as his counterpart is fitting considering his one-man war on high art (another interesting comparison considering American Sniper’s surprise success). However, I doubt any of these gents will end up with the prize because The Theory of Everything is constructed precisely to show how charming Eddie Redmayne can be before locking him down for an hour or so.  It’s an ingenious construction and one that may not have resulted in a good movie but sure makes for great highlight reels.

What should have happened - Lop off Redmayne and Cumberbatch and toss on Jake Gyllenhaal for Nightcrawler and David Oyelowo for Selma.  Like Cooper and Keaton, Gyllenhaal and Oyelowo would introduce and intriguing duality to the nominations.  Both are struggling and dedicated to a specific idea of the American Dream.  Oyelowo doesn’t go for mimicry of Dr. King and yields a performance that is more in the spirit of his speeches than a full representation of them.  Gyllenhaal’s performance is the dark mirror, and shamelessly features the naked ambition needed of men who aspire to greatness.  Maybe the Academy thought that they had the “destructive naked ambition” guy on lock in Supporting Actor, or maybe Gyllenhaal’s inclusion would show just how sterile the other nominees are.  In either case, it’s a shame we aren’t going to see them up during the eventual highlights.

Newer Ryan cutout commentaryWhat will happen at the awards - Actors love a good comeback special, actors love rewarding someone that is “due”, actor’s love rewarding movies about themselves.  Michael Keaton checks all three of these boxes with his performance in Birdman and I think he will take the price.  The fact that he was outstanding in the movie and you could see every bit of energy he put in on-screen shows that the Oscar’s might be right.

What should have happened - I loved Keaton, I thought Cumberbatch was great even if he was doing a more nuanced version of his Sherlock character but after thinking about it for a while, I think Cooper deserves in the most.  The role he had wasn’t showy and it wasn’t the typical awards bait type role.  He didn’t put on a fake nose (not a dig at Carell), he didn’t have a showy breakdown scene and he played a character that a vocal minority of the country really doesn’t like.  Yet, he made the character come to life more than all the other true life characters I saw this year.  He was able to convey such pain in his eyes, tell so much with little body language and even less inflection in his voice.  Eddie Redmayne was an actor “playing” Hawking, Cumberbatch was a rising star “playing” Turing but when I was watching Cooper, I didn’t see an actor, I saw the character.

Tiny Kyle CommentaryWhat will happen at the awards - This is Keaton's to lose. Birdman plays with audiences' desire to see their perceptions of actors skewered just enough so we can all go home patting ourselves on the back that we “get it” and that we're not depressingly, helplessly beholden to a media culture in which media creates culture as it pleases. Keaton's performance is both genuinely kind of great in how he teeters on the boundary of self-induced insanity and safely self-referential, and Oscar voters will eat that shit up.

What should have happened - Gyllenhaal and Ralph Fiennes should both be in here, and Gyllenhaal should win. Period.

Supporting ActorSadism

Newer Andrew cutout commentaryWhat will happen at the awards - This is my pick for the worst category of the Oscars this year.  With one exception, and even that exception is slight, all of the performers are playing tweaked versions of established personas.  This isn’t to say that’s a bad thing as I’ve loved listening to Hawke elaborate on Linklater’s ideas for years.  But when we’re getting to Norton basically bringing his behind-the-camera persona to life and Ruffalo just doing this thing it’s not that inspiring.

Which is why, barring a huge upset, J.K. Simmons is going to walk away with the statue.  He’s a character actor who’s done his time and found a role that pushed his skills in all the right ways.  His performance really is the best supporting work of the year, and the indignant fury he reigns down on Miles Teller was an uncomfortably potent pleasure for me throughout Whiplash.

What should have happened - I know he’s not exactly “in” with a lot of people right now be they the average moviegoer or the passionate cineastes, but Shia LaBeouf’s work in Fury has lingered with me.  Many war movies have characters who justify their actions in some way, but LaBeouf managed to simultaneously showcase how artificial yet necessary a belief system is to get through war.  He always seems to be at the verge of tears but sputters out passionate proclamations that nervously give him guidance through to his end.  His work in both volumes of Nymphomaniac was great, but his Fury performance shows that his rocky growth period may yield even more substantial results in the long-term.

Newer Ryan cutout commentaryWhat will happen at the awards - It’s going to be J.K. Simmons in a landslide.

What should have happened - This is a hard one for me because life came up and I never got to see Whiplash when it was playing near me.  Everything I have heard and seen leads me to believe that Simmons deserves it.  This is a field where it is weak this year, Duvall has done much better through most of his career, Ethan Hawke was good but was playing Ethan Hawke in a Linklater film which he has done many times before so Edward Norton wins by default for me by embracing his asshole tendencies and letting everyone see.

Tiny Kyle CommentaryWhat will happen at the awards - As much as I want to keep a straight face while launching into a spirited argument for Robert Duvall in That-Robert-Duvall-and-Robert-Downey-Jr.-Movie, I'm with Ryan—this is J.K. Simmons'.

What should have happened - Bill Hader went unfairly under the radar with his performance in The Skeleton Twins, and while I'd still go with Simmons for the win, Hader deserved to be on the list over some of the others.

Best ActressMoore's award

Newer Andrew cutout commentaryWhat will happen at the awards - Jones’ performance is so unremarkable that I want to know exactly what scenes they’ll take from The Theory of Everything to make her highlight reel.  I’m less perplexed by Pike’s nomination, but considering her performance in Gone Girl owes a significant debt to Nicole Kidman’s previous work I doubt that Pike will take the prize when Kidman doing Kidman couldn’t.  I rarely embrace my cynicism, but Cotillard won’t win for Two Days, One Night because it’s a foreign role that isn’t in a biopic and Witherspoon probably isn’t gritty enough.  That leaves Moore, who the Academy has flirted with four times previously but never awarded, in a role not too dissimilar to Redmayne’s.  I’ll be less conflicted about a Moore win than a Redmayne, and think that she’ll take home the prize.

What should have happened - I knew from the opening frames to the conclusion of the credits that the best lead female performance of the year would be barely recognized in the usual outlets.  Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s performance in Beyond the Lights is absolutely perfect.  We sneer and scoff at celebrity troubles but she brings truth and pain to the reality that they are people ripped apart in every direction for our collective amusement.  Her transformation over the course of the film owes to the great warmth she allows her character to feel again, and when she finally gets to sing her music at the end it’s as uplifting and powerful an image as cinema saw last year.

Newer Ryan cutout commentaryWhat will happen at the awards - I have seen a whopping one of these movies but like I said before, Oscar’s love giving actors “their due”.  In a weak year, signs point to Julianne Moore, one of our best actresses working today, winning the Academy Award.

What should have happened - The Babadook was one of the most surprising films of the year for me.  A horror movie that not only made my skin crawl and have me fighting the urge to turn away but one that had something deeper to say.  It was a very powerful film that was anchored by Essie Davis as the grieving and stressed out mom Amelia.  Her haggard look of lack of sleep, too much stress and way too much loss was wonderful and to go to the places she has to go in this movie would take their toll on anyone. If you didn’t see this mom’s condition, if you didn’t believe where she was both mentally and physically, the movie wouldn’t work but thankfully you do.  I think this was the most powerful performance by a female in a movie in 2014 by a wide margin and deserving of more recognition.

Tiny Kyle CommentaryWhat will happen at the awards - I haven't seen a lot of these movies yet, but Julianne Moore seems due, and considering the buzz created around the otherwise apparently underwhelming Maps to the Stars, I think she's going to be the one to beat.

What should have happened - Ryan has this one spot on—Essie Davis should have been on the list (and maybe should have won altogether).

Supporting ActressInsecurity through the years

Newer Andrew cutout commentaryWhat will happen at the awards - Streep’s nomination is more useless than normal and stems from two things, 1) She’s Streep.  Whether the performance deserved the nomination (it didn’t) or not is irrelevant to her Streepness.  2) She wore a lot of makeup and kind of looked like Helena Bonham Carter so won’t it be fun when the nominations are announced and people are kinda confused?  I’m much less harsh to Knightley’s nomination but she’s still a great performer turning in a decent performance in an ok flick.  I’m so split on the rest of the nominations that it really may be a crapshoot.  Dern is still doing amazing work and is one of those performers on the perimeter of Hollywood that the Academy likes to award sometimes.  Stone’s performance in Birdman was both consistently great and has multiple highlight-friendly moments.  However, I think it’s Arquette’s year, and considering the painful loneliness she taps into in Boyhood, it would be well deserved.

What should have happened - Rene Russo went from anger, indignation, and weary resignation during one of the least flattering scenes of 2014 in Nightcrawler.  She spent the rest of the film attempting to navigate a world that was not receptive to her sex or strength in the slightest.  Russo modulated a role which could have been pathetically one-note to something that comments on the nature of media as much as the rest of Gilroy’s film.  Her presence will be missed on Sunday.

Newer Ryan cutout commentaryWhat will happen at the awards - Andrew, I am giving you a standing ovation on what you said about Streep.  I agree with you on all points 110%.  Can we please stop nominating her for everything?  I would love to see her do Transformers 6 on a dare and then get nominated for it.  Arquette will thankfully win here.

What should have happened - Like I stated earlier, the point in Boyhood that got to me the most was a scene with Arquette and she deserves it.

Tiny Kyle CommentaryWhat will happen at the awards - Patricia Arquette seems like a pretty-sure thing here. I wouldn't put it out of the question, based on the few things I've seen and read, for Laura Dern to pull out an upset—since the few things I've seen and read will likely be my only exposure to Wild ever, I'll have to wait and see in February.

What should have happened - Arquette deserves it for bringing over a subtly expanding weariness to each new year in Boyhood.

What do you think?  Feel free to comment below!

Posted by Andrew

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