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AND THE OSCAR GOES TO…

February 22, 2015

AwardsFilm + Entertainment | by Francesco Cerniglia


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It is finally here! Oscar Sunday is well and truly upon us and with it awards season finally comes to an end. Over the past few months it’s been near-impossible to go online without seeing discussion about 2014’s winners and nominees. As always, it’s a divisive list, with snubs and surprises aplenty that have left fans across the world both delighted and outraged. Let’s take a look at what’s in store for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards.

The cinematography category suffers from a distinct lack of Robert Elswit (Nightcrawler and Inherent Vice), but at least Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski are nominated for their stunning work in Ida. Shockingly, there’s nothing for Hoyte van Hoytema (Interstellar) whom I was convinced would win before Emmanuel Lubezki (Birdman) emerged as frontrunner for the second consecutive year. I’d like to see Interstellar’s composer Hans Zimmer win the Oscar he should have won four years ago for Inception, in a category that sadly neglected Under the Skin’s Mica Levi.

I was ecstatic when I saw Paul Thomas Anderson’s Best Adapted Screenplay nomination for neo-noir Inherent Vice. Bafflingly, Anderson has yet to win an Oscar and won’t do so this year either. But if he has to lose out, I’d rather it was to Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) than to either of the ‘troubled British genius’ biopics or – God forbid – American Sniper

Best Original Screenplay is seemingly being fought out by Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel, but it’s hard to call. With Boyhood likely to receive the top prize and Iñárritu in with a strong chance of taking Best Director, it’s understandable that Wes Anderson would be rewarded here. Alternatively, Iñárritu et al. might win as a consolation prize. Either way, it’s disappointing that Jeremy Saulnier’s Kickstarter-funded thriller Blue Ruin was ignored.

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Mark Ruffalo and Edward Norton’s vastly different performances in Foxcatcher and Birdman, respectively, might have won Best Supporting Actor in any other year, but long-overlooked JK Simmons will undoubtedly triumph for his searing performance in Whiplash. Michael Fassbender (Frank) and Josh Brolin (Inherent Vice) proved themselves comically adept, both combining big laughs with touching pathos. But like Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel), they have received no appreciation from the Academy for their comedic efforts.

Few will complain when Patricia Arquette wins Best Supporting Actress for her moving turn as the mother in 12 years in-the-making Boyhood. However, it irks me that more challenging performances were sidelined in favour of The Imitation Game’s Keira Knightley; Katherine Waterston’s nuanced turn as the ethereal Shasta Fay Hepworth (on whose shoulders Inherent Vice heavily rests) will hopefully open many doors for her career. As for A Most Violent Year’s Jessica Chastain, I feel confident that her belated recognition will come soon enough.

Bradley Cooper received his third consecutive nomination for Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, a surprise if only because it’s a pretty poor performance. Leading the pack are Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne for Birdman and The Theory of Everything, respectively, with Redmayne favourite to win. But more interesting, less predictable choices could be picked from the actors who weren’t nominated: Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler), Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner), Miles Teller (Whiplash) – to name a few. What’s worse is the Academy has failed to acknowledge Oscar Isaac’s existence yet again, despite him having delivered one of the year’s best performances. He has been outrageously snubbed for A Most Violent Year, for which cinematographer Bradford Young and writer-director JC Chandor also missed out.

One of the main talking points this year is Selma’s absence from many of the major categories. Recent news events have shown that Ava DuVernay’s film is incredibly timely, but David Oyelowo was particularly unlucky to miss out on a Best Actor nod for his towering performance as Martin Luther King, elevating material that could otherwise have felt rather ordinary. In terms of female directors, I think Jennifer Kent was more deserving for her chillingly inventive work on The Babadook, for which lead actress Essie Davis should also have been noticed.

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I was delighted by Marion Cotillard’s unexpected Best Actress nomination for her beautifully subtle portrayal of a mother with depression trying to keep her job in Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s Two Days, One Night. Not only is it my favourite film of 2014, but Cotillard’s performance is one of the most convincing I’ve ever seen. Her mention was such a shock to me that I’m still not certain it actually happened, and it more than makes up for Belgium’s exclusion from Best Foreign Language Film. Annoyingly, we won’t see Still Alice here until after the Oscars, at which Julianne Moore will certainly triumph (and fair enough, it’s long-overdue). But as far as I’m concerned, this is Cotillard’s to win.

It’s nice to see Foxcatcher’s Bennett Miller nominated for Best Director following his win at Cannes, but I’m unable to get properly enthusiastic about this category. The presence of The Imitation Game’s Morten Tyldum is slightly irritating, particularly when considering who could have been nominated. Christopher Nolan and Damien Chazelle, for example, did breathtaking work in their respective films – Interstellar and Whiplash. Most egregiously, the Academy continues to fail Paul Thomas Anderson (Inherent Vice) despite his wonderful job of transferring Thomas Pynchon’s complex novel to the screen.

The Best Picture contenders are a strange combination for several reasons. Firstly, Foxcatcher isn’t nominated despite Miller’s Best Director nod, an unexpected occurrence since the Academy expanded the category 7 years ago. Secondly, despite being considered a serious awards contender merely two months ago, Selma has only managed Best Picture and Song nominations, calling into question the Academy’s diversity. Thirdly, Boyhood and The Grand Budapest Hotel were released in America 7 and 11 months ago, respectively, proving that a late-year release isn’t necessarily an effective method of awards campaigning. Lastly, Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper has been included, a film I hated less for its questionable politics than its awful filmmaking.

Amid all the controversy, one thing that can be taken away from these nominees is that this year has been a triumph for independent cinema, and the Academy is finally starting to reward it properly. Boyhood, for example, took only $44m worldwide compared to American Sniper’s $392m (sigh…) and has virtually no plot. And yet, what’s likely to win Best Picture come Sunday night? So although we can always complain about the Oscar nominations, at least we can feel positive about the future of independent filmmaking.

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Predictions/Preferences/Oversights

Best Picture
Prediction: Boyhood
Preference: Whiplash
Oversight: Two Days, One Night

Best Director
Prediction: Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Preference: Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Oversight: Paul Thomas Anderson, Inherent Vice

Best Actor in a Leading Role
Prediction: Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
Preference: Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
Oversight: Oscar Isaac, A Most Violent Year

Best Actress in a Leading Role
Prediction: Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Preference: Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night
Oversight: Agata Trzebuchowska, Ida

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Prediction: JK Simmons, Whiplash
Preference: JK Simmons, Whiplash
Oversight: Michael Fassbender, Frank

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Prediction: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Preference: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Oversight: Agata Kulesza, Ida

Best Original Screenplay
Prediction: Alejandro G. Iñárritu et al., Birdman
Preference: Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler
Oversight: JC Chandor, A Most Violent Year

Best Adapted Screenplay
Prediction: Damien Chazelle, Whiplash
Preference: Paul Thomas Anderson, Inherent Vice
Oversight: Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan, Frank

The 87th Academy Awards take place at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles, On Sunday February 22nd at 5:30PM PST – 1:30AM – GMT

Logan Jones