Saturday, 21 February 2015

87th Academy Awards: My Picks (Ranked)

The 87th Academy Award nominations may be considered the most controversial this decade. Expected nominations lacking include The Lego Movie for Best Animated Feature, Nightcrawler for Best Feature and Best Actor, Selma in the Best Actor category and Gone Girl in pretty much every category. The disproportion of nominations for Selma is indeed puzzling and as usual, the Foreign Language Film category being as wide as is, can please no one.  

The ceremony, to be held on the 22nd of February, will mark the conclusion of the awards season. Below are my preferences for each category. 

Note: Unfortunately, a number of nominated documentaries, animated features and foreign films have not yet been released in Australia.  I also failed to see Unbroken, Inherent Vice (released next month) and The Judge. (Although I did suffer through Into the Woods for the stylistic categories)

Best Visual Effects

1. Interstellar (should win and will win)
2. Guardians of the Galaxy
3. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
4. X-Men: Days of Future Past
5. Captain America

The easiest and most obvious choice, Interstellar dazzled us this year with grandeur and stunningly crafted inter-galactic horizons. Guardians of the Galaxy surprised this year with a jarring and distinct presentation of the same landscape. Where Interstellar crafted believable, scientifically based images, Guardians had a lot more artistic liberty which generally comes with a film which includes talking racoons and green aliens. But it was the visual effects of Interstellar which made for the most exhilarating and phenomenal of screening experiences. 

Best Film Editing 

1. Whiplash (should win)
2. American Sniper (will win)
3. Boyhood
4. Grand Budapest Hotel
5. The Imitation Game

The Wild snub here is too great to ignore - a feature which would have been my top nomination. The interception of shots from various sequences of Wild are calamitous, cathartic and epic. But much of the same can be said of Whiplash, which is why it is my pick. American Sniper is frontrunner at the moment and I actually wouldn't mind it taking home that award. The way the film was edited to depict PTSD was beautifully done.

Best Costume Design 

1. The Grand Budapest Hotel (should win and will win)
2. Into the Woods
3. Mr Turner
4. Maleficent

N/A: Inherent Vice

The Grand Budapest Hotel's costume design is simply Wes Anderson's typical standard of unbelievably twee. It's ingenious, almost like costume satire. 

Best Cinematography 

1. Ida (should win)
2. Birdman (will win)
3. Mr Turner
4. The Grand Budapest Hotel 

N/A: Unbroken 

Like I said in my full review, each shot of Ida looks as if it belongs in a gallery but its highly unlikely it will nab the Oscar. The Academy loves grand, sweeping landscapes (and cranes) and Ida's just a bit too understated. The nomination itself was already a surprise. Much of the same can be said of Mr Turner. Emmanuel Lubezski is probably the biggest cinematographer in the game right now. He is Terence Malick, Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro González Iñárritu's go-to-guy. Odds are he'll be going home happy come Sunday night.

Best Production Design 

1. The Grand Budapest Hotel (will win and should win)
2. Interstellar
3. Mr Turner
4. Into the Woods
5. The Imitation Game

There is little to no dispute that Wes Anderson's flick will take home the Oscar for production design. Because if Anderson has anything its style. Interstellar is noted for its production value but most of the sets were created digitally.  

Best Sound Mixing 

1. Whiplash
2. Interstellar
3. American Sniper
4. Birdman

N/A: Unbroken

Before Whiplash had yet hit cinemas, I was convinced nothing could top Interstellar's spectacular, masterful sound-mixing. Contrary to many, I actually appreciated Christopher Nolan's stylistic choice to emphasise the sounds over the dialogue. And yet Whiplash did just that. Being a musical film helped of course but its the flawless way the stop and start and the sharp cuts carried such visual and sound proportion.

Best Original Song

1. "Glory" (John Legend and Common) - Selma (should win and will win)
2. "Lost Stars" (Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois) - Begin Again
3. "I'm Not Gonna Miss You" (Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond) - Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me
4. "Everything Is Awesome" (Shawn Patterson) - The Lego Movie
5. "Grateful" (Diane Warren) - Beyond the Lights

This is possibly the weakest list of nominees in years. I understand the comical value of "Everything Is Awesome" but it was only about as good as Frozen's "In Summer". Beyond the Lights featured a spectacular performance by Gugu Mbatha-Raw but by god is "Grateful" just a terrible song. "Glory" is the clear winner here.

Best Original Music Score

1. Interstellar - Hans Zimmer (hands down Hans Zimmer)
2. Theory of Everything - Johan Johanson 
3. The Imitation Game - Alexandra Desplat (will win)
4. The Grand Budapest Hotel - Alexandra Desplat 
5. Mr Turner - Gary Yerhson 

There's no question about it. Desplat has had a great year but none of his individual works either for The Imitation Game or The Grand Budapest Hotel can match the eerie, distinct atmosphere created for Interstellar. Just listen:

Best Adapted Screenplay

1. Whiplash (should win)
2. American Sniper
3. The Theory of Everything
4. The Imitation Game

N/A: Inherent Vice

Adapted from Damien Chazelle's own short film... Bit of cheat, seeing as it is a very weak category. But man that wordplay.

Best Original Screenplay

1. Birdman (will win and should win)
2. Boyhood
3. Nightcrawler
4. The Grand Budapest Hotel
5. Foxcatcher

I can usually appreciate sparse dialogue but Foxcatcher went too far with the whole silent thing. I know that this is wrestling and they're brutes so not much to be said but by god can these guys stare and glare. There's only so much you can tell through body language. Birdman's electric dialogue and the whole no-shots-broken makes it the best writing in cinema last year.

Best Supporting Actress

1. Patricia Arquette - Boyhood (will win and should win)
2. Emma Stone - Birdman
3. Laura Dern - Wild
4. Kiera Knightley - The Imitation Game
5. Meryl Streep - Into the Woods

There is little to no competition in the supporting performance categories this year. Arquette and Simmons are clear-cut winners. Streep's nomination as per usual is quite unnecessary. As long as she performs once a year she's pretty much guaranteed a nomination. Knightley simply caught a free ride in. Dern on the other hand, although did not have much character material to work with, came through wonderfully. Stone proves she can make no mistake but Arquette was consistently good over 12 years so she wins. 

Best Supporting Actor

1. J.K. Simmons -Whiplash (will win and should win)
2. Edward Norton - Birdman
3. Mark Ruffalo - Foxcatcher
4. Ethan Hawke - Boyhood

N/A: Robert Duhvall 

Not much explanation needed here. Just look at that face. Actually here's a clip. 

Best Foreign Feature

I'm tempted to ignore this category completely. No nomination for three of my four top foreign films of the year, Force Majeure, Two Days, One Night and Charlie's Country. Wild Tales and Leviathan aren't released in Australia until late March and the others simply aren't being released here at all. 

Best Actress

1. Rosamund Pike - Gone Girl (should win)
2. Marion Cottilard, Two Days - One Night (should also win)
3. Reese Witherspoon - Wild
4. Julianne Moore - Still Alice (will win) 
5. Felicity Jones - Theory of Everything 

I'm really loving the Best Actress nominations this year. Marion Cottilard's appearance in the category this year marks the first time the Oscar's have noticed the Dardenne Brothers. Open the flood gates and the slippery slope and all that please. We can all pretty much predict that Julianne Moore will take home the Oscar. Still Alice was some wonderful craftsmanship, carried on the shoulders of a resilient, moving Moore. But Cottilard actually created a real person, Witherspoon mastered human grief and triumph to equal perfection and Pike, well Pike's performance was the best goddamn thing I've seen in years. A princess, a bitch, snob, genius, monster, victim all rolled in one, Pike was a nightmare on steroids.

Best Actor

1. Michael Keaton - Birdman (should win)
2. Eddie Redmayne - The Theory of Everything (will win)
3. Bradley Cooper - American Sniper
4. Steve Carell - Foxcatcher
5. Benedict Cumberbatch - The Imitation Game

Keaton, Redmayne and Cooper are all pretty much equally deserving here. What places Keaton slightly above the rest is that shot of creativity he forwards into his egomaniacal,  neurotic character. Redmayne and Cooper stayed by the audience, always ensuring they're characters were "likeable" whereas Keaton threw up his hands, told the audience to go fuck themselves and just focused on putting on a goddamn spectacular show. Sound familiar?
Best Director

1. Richard Linklater -Boyhood (will win and should win)
2. Alejandro González Iñárritu - Birdman
3. Wes Anderson - The Grand Budapest Hotel
4. Bennet Miller - Foxcatcher
5. Morten Tyldum - The Imitation Game

Both Linklater and Iñárritu took major risks in their work. Linklater invested in a decade long project and managed to recruit cast and crew to come along for the ride too. Iñárritu made a smooth transition from dark drama to black comedy. Linklater's level of dedication and consistency wins out here though. Boyhood is a monster effort. 

Best Picture

1. Boyhood (will win and should win)
2. Birdman (could win)
3. Whiplash
4. Selma
5. American Sniper
6. The Grand Budapest Hotel
7. Theory of Everything
8. The Imitation Game

Boyhood is the only film I saw at the cinemas with my entire family this year. My dad was so taken by nostalgia he couldn't sleep that night. Birdman was electric and spirited, Whiplash technically flawless, Selma moving and true, American Sniper grim and deeply personal, The Grand Budapest Hotel comedically and stylistically superior, Theory of Everything handsome and well-acted and The Imitation Game - a complete waste of time. 


  1. Great to see Keaton and Pike as your wins! Oh I wish it was what happened at the Oscars :/

    1. Easily the most deserving in my eyes. So do I. I wish Keaton didn't have to put his acceptance speech away.