Saturday, February 14, 2015

Quickie Saracastic Oscar Preview

Feels like the Academy is going to reward some stinkers again.  The nominations already have several issues, the worst of which is the bizarre decision to not include The Lego Movie in the Best Animated Feature category.

But rather than have an extended diatribe about the process, I'll just do a quickie scatter-gun preview.

OK, let's start with

Best Picture  

  • American Sniper - haven't seen it, think it works great as propaganda.  I strongly dislike the trend of praising soldiers while ignoring the reasons said war is happening.  
  • Birdman - apparently a front runner.  Yet another movie about an actor who's been terrible at relationships, but is still good at heart.  Or something like that.  The navel-gazing of Hollywood gets tiresome.  But hey - it's been a whole two years since the Best Picture was awarded to a movie about the industry.
  • Boyhood - movies aren't like wine.  Letting them age for 12 years doesn't necessarily make a better product.  There are good parts to this one, esp. in the parts dealing with the struggle of a single mother.  But the kid is too generic to be interesting.  Given that he's the main character, that's a bit of a problem.
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel - my fav of the bunch.  Wes Anderson goes with a historical fantasy, and it's delightful.  It has story!  It has acting!  It has a plot!  
  • The Imitation Game - Benedict Cumberbatch (name of the year) does a good job as Alan Turing.  Film could have been better, I suppose.  Feels a bit dumbed down.  And I'm still irritated Keira Knightley mispronounces "Euler" and nobody involved with the film thought that was unacceptable.  (Hint: mathematicians at Turing's level know how to pronounce "Euler" - it's oiler, not yoo-ler.)
  • Selma - haven't seen it.  Think the "historical contreversy" is bizarre: apparently the movie doesn't kiss LBJ's ring.  Look - LBJ did some good stuff, but he wasn't perfect.  
  • The Theory of Everything - if/when I see a movie about Hawking, I don't want it to be sold as a love story.  Esp. when it extols how much he was in love with his first wife. More on this below.
  • Whiplash - want to see this.  My high school had a very high achieving jazz band, and the previews remind me of my band director.  
  • missing - A Most Wanted Man, Calvary, Gone Girl, Interstellar, Inherent Vice, Snowpiercer
My preference would be Grand Budapest Hotel.  Of the others listed, the gossip says it's down to Boyhood and Birdman.  It's hard for me to see Linklater winning the Best Picture award.  Of the two I prefer Birdman, even though it's hardly a movie for the ages.  At least it's better than The King's Speech.

Best Actor

  • Steve Carrell, Foxcatcher - I find the nose distracting.  I'm also offended that comedians have to do "serious" roles to get Oscar attention, when they are (a) much better at doing comedies, and (b) doing a good comedy is not easy.  
  • Bradley Cooper, American Sniper.  Um, no.
  • Benedict Cumberbatch, Imitation Game.  Does a solid job, though I think his portrayal of a mathematician is a bit odd.  Did Turing have Asperger's?  Was he incapable of understanding an invitation to lunch? Was he a complete social outcast?  Ultimately this Turing seems like a stereotype more than anything else.  Cumberbatch does a good job, but I'd prefer to see some movies about mathematicians that don't rely so heavily on stereotyping.  
  • Michael Keaton, Birdman.  Let's trace Keaton's career.  In the 1980s, he was a breakthrough comedian, giving us great movies like Beetlejuice and The Dream Team.  And then he was cast as Batman, which was considered a bit of a reach.  But Keaton did a great job.  Sadly, this led him to think of himself as a leading man, and the 90s featured him doing some forgettable work. And then he kind of dropped off the map.  
Aside: Keaton was really good as the Captain Gene Mauch in The Other Guys...
  • Anyway, Keaton is really good in Birdman.  Sure, the plot's a bit shallow, but he takes what he has and runs with it.  Great career redemption.
  • Eddie Redmayne in Theory of Everything.  Well, Daniel Day-Lewis did the play a famous guy with muscular issues to win an Oscar before.  Apparently Redmayne nails that aspect of the story.  Not interested.
  • Missing - Philip Seymour Hoffman in A Most Wanted Man.  Great job as the old hand spy trying to do old school work in a modern world where self-interest has taken over the intelligence services.  Also Joaquin Phoenix in Inherent Vice and Brendan Gleeson in Calvary.  I would have all three nominated and lose Cooper and Carrell.   Oh and of course Ralph Fiennes from The Grand Budapest Hotel should have been included in this category.  Just a dismal job by the Academy here.

Best Actress

  • Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night.  Haven't seen it.
  • Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything.  Haven't seen it.
  • Julianne Moore, Still Alice.  Haven't seen it, though it looks like it could be good.
  • Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl.  Very good.  Thought she'd be a front-runner when I saw it.
  • Reese Witherspoon, Wild.  Haven't seen it.  
  • Missing...???
Well, gee, I only saw one of these.  Rosamund Pike was very good in Gone Girl.  I wouldn't be upset if she got it.  From what I've heard of the other films, it would be a good time for Julianne Moore to earn her for-this-year-but-really-a-career-recognition Oscar for Still Alice. Sometimes that seems to be how the Best Actor and Best Actress categories work.  (Paul Newman's sole Best Actor award was for The Color of Money, which might be one of his top ten performances.)

Best Supporting Actor

  • Robert Duvall, The Judge.  Nope.
  • Ethan Hawke, Boyhood. Wait, was he acting in this film?  
  • Edward Norton, Birdman.  Norton was very good essentially playing a caricature of himself.
  • Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher.  Haven't seen it, but generally a fan of Ruffalo.
  • JK Simmons, Whiplash.  Want to see it.
  • Missing - Vin Diesel, Guardians of the Galaxy.  :)
I'm pretty sure Duvall won't win.  Hawke certainly shouldn't.  Norton wouldn't be a bad choice.  
Again, Grand Budapest Hotel was slighted here.  I'd have included Tony Revelori as Zero.  Incidentally, he's buried in the cast list because so many big-name actors had small roles in the film.  But Revelori's Zero is certainly the 2nd most important character in the film.

Best Supporting Actress

  • Patricia Arquette, Boyhood.  Best thing about the film.  And she's not playing a prostitute!
  • Laura Dern, Wild.  Haven't seen.
  • Keira Knightley, the Imitation Game.  She's done better.  
  • Emma Stone, Birdman.  She's getting rave reviews, but I don't really understand why.
  • Meryl Streep, Into the Woods.  Adding to her insane pile of nominations.  Into the Woods is a great ensemble film.  I'm not sure Streep is the best, but that's partly because I'm sweet on Anna Kendrick.  
  • Missing - Robin Wright, A Most Wanted Man; Tilda Swinton, Snowpiercer; Carrie Coon, Gone Girl.
My understanding is that Arquette is the favorite, and I'm fine with that.  Stone is the only nominee seen as a threat, and seriously, I thought she was good, but not better than she was as Witchita in Zombieland.

Best Director

  • Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman
  • Richard Linklater, Boyhood
  • Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher
  • Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game
Kind of doubles down on the Best Picture category, at least that's how it works most years.  I'd prefer Anderson.  I think Iñárritu will win.  

Best Original Screenplay

  • Birdman - meh
  • Boyhood - surely a joke.  
  • Foxcatcher - who knows?
  • Grand Budapest Hotel - really should win this one
  • Nightcrawler - I'd have been more interested if this had been about the X-man.
So many good original screenplays overlooked, esp. Snowpiercer and Calvary.  Oscar voting really gets brainless sometimes.  "We like Boyhood and Birdman so we must reward the screenplays" even though neither film has a particularly good screenplay.  Boyhood's screenplay is particularly weak. Of the five listed, GBH is the only one that has a coherent, imaginative screenplay.  

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • American Sniper (eyeroll)
  • The Imitation Game (ugh)
  • Inherent Vice (!!!)
  • The Theory of Everything (???)
  • Whiplash - an interesting story because this was an adaptation of the screenplay of the short version of the film, even though it was always intended to be a feature-length film.  Hardly a real adaptation.
My favorite here has no chance of winning.  I would also have nominated A Most Wanted Man and Gone Girl.

On the whole, I'm again irritated with the selection of nominees, esp. since it seems like the voters are really lazy.  They just think "Oh, we're going with film X" and include film X in a  bunch of different categories without thinking whether it's really the best for all of the categories.

And now it's time for a pre-emptive strike against Boyhood.  Look, I like Richard Linklater films.  Dazed and Confused is the best movie about high school in the 1970s, bar none.  Before Sunrise is a great date movie.  And Boyhood is an interesting experiment.  It works to some extent, but it's not a great movie.  Should it win recognition solely because it followed the main character from the age of 6 to the age of 18?  The screenplay is considered nomination-worthy...why?  The movie feels more like a mini-series than a coherent story.  Every year there's a different story.  And the underlying purpose of the movie seems to be to push the emotional buttons of parents.  And how did Ethan Hawke get a nomination?

Anyway, I guess it's time to cross my fingers and hope it's not too embarrassing.

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