It seems like the biggest stories of this year’s Oscars have been those films and people not nominated, rather than those who were. Much has been made of the fact that not a single nominee in the Best Director or either Screenplay categories are either female or African-American, despite the presence of presumed contenders Ava DuVernay, who directed Selma or Gillian Flynn, who adapted her own novel Gone Girl from page to screen. Add to this the fact that the Academy also nominated 20 white actors in its acting categories, one almost gets the feeling if it could nominate 10 old men for the Best Actress categories it would, if only the rules would allow it.
Moving on from these and other snubs, though (LEGO Movie, anyone?!), the race for Best Picture seems to have come down to two very different films: Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, which has the backing of most critics, and Alejandro Gonzalez-Iñárritu’s Birdman, which seems to have the majority of industry support. The criticism has been leveled at both that they are merely gimmicks, in Boyhood‘s case that it was filmed over 12 years and in Birdman‘s that it is made to look like one single continuous take from beginning to end. But both are brilliant, unique films that completely deserve their nominations. So which is going to take home the big prize?
Right now, the smart money is on Birdman. It is this year’s most-nominated film (tied with The Grand Budapest Hotel with 9 apiece) and all the recent momentum seems to have swung its way. It also seems likely to take home awards for Director, Original Screenplay and Cinematography. Of course Boyhood is certainly in with a shout and if it manages an upset in Picture it will almost certainly take Best Director too, but at the moment it looks like a solitary win for Patricia Arquette’s magnificent performance in Best Supporting Actress for the one-time frontrunner.
Birdman is a film of the moment, edgy and fast-paced and it’s about ‘the business’, precisely the sort of back-patting ego-inflater the Academy loves (I mean, it also happens to be an excellent film which helps, at least). But one can’t help the feeling that if it isn’t Boyhood‘s name called on the night, it may just be the latest in Oscar’s long-running tradition of should-have-won films that we look back on in years to come with hands on heads. Boyhood is sure to go down in history as a great piece of American cinema from Richard Linklater, some would say his generation’s greatest American director – but is it what the Academy likes?
The only major award Birdman seems likely to lose is Best Actor, which is surprising considering Michael Keaton’s mammoth performance. But in a tight race it looks like it’s Eddie Redmayne’s to lose. Redmayne has surged late in the running with his remarkable work as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. The Academy loves a true story and a physical transformation, and Redmayne nails both with aplomb. Although Bradley Cooper scores his third consecutive nomination for his flag-waving work in American Sniper, he and fellow nominees Benedict Cumberbatch and Steve Carell will all just be happy to be there.
What a pity that far and away the year’s best performance, from David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, jr. in Selma has been ignored. I wonder why. I mean, the Academy did nominate Laurence Olivier for playing Othello in blackface…but that’s none of my business.
The other acting categories are all but sewn up. Julianne Moore will get her long overdue statue for her work in Still Alice, while JK Simmons (Whiplash) and Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) will complete this year’s line-up with deserved wins. In another year without Moore perhaps Reese Witherspoon (Wild) or Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night) might have challenged but both already have Oscars of their own and the Academy’s old white men- I’m so sorry, old wise men have decided its ‘time’ to honour one of the best actresses working for the last 20 years.
There are still a few unpredictable races scattered throughout, like Best Foreign Language Film. Despite many predicting Pawel Pawlikowski’s majestic Ida, this category has seen many upsets in recent years, so don’t be surprised to hear Argentina’s Wild Tales called out and that’s what I’m predicting to win. There’s even an outside chance of Russia’s searingly powerful Leviathan taking home the award, but in the past US foreign relations have played a bigger role than they maybe should have in determining this one and so it seem unlikely we shall see a Russian winner. On the documentary front it would seem that Edward Snowden doc Citizenfour is going to be the one to beat, though keep an eye out for the wonderful Finding Vivian Maier, an in-store favourite, although it’s unlikely to be an upset this year.
Things to Keep an Eye Out For:
- Neil Patrick Harris is the latest brave soul to take on the task of hosting the ceremony. Can he revitalize the world’s most popular roomful of old white millionaires?
- Best Cinematography sees veteran Dick Pope finally nominated for Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner. Can either he or equally overdue legend Roger Deakins (Unbroken) claim a statuette or will we see Birdman’s Emmanuel Lubezki win for a second consecutive year (he took it home last year for Gravity)?
- Just how much support will dark horses Grand Budapest Hotel and American Sniper have? Both could easily come away with 3 or 4 statues of their own. If any films are going to sneakily prove popular choices, it’s these two. Expect Sniper to challenge for both Sound categories, Editing and perhaps even Adapted Screenplay. Expect Grand Budapest to be up for it in Costume, Production Design, Hair and Make-Up, Cinematography and maybe even Original Screenplay if it’s really loved.
- With no Gone Girl in Best Adapted Screenplay, it could go anywhere. Expect it to be one of the Brit biopics. Either further love for Theory of Everything (along with Best Actor and potentially Score) or a consolation for The Imitation Game.
- Animated Film frontrunner The LEGO Movie was a shock omission, so will the completely wonderful Boxtrolls get it’s due or will we be learning How to Train Your Dragon?
- The one nomination LEGO did get was for it’s hit theme song “Everything is Awesome”, expect song to come down to this versus Selma’s “Glory”, which might end up being the ‘sorry-we-were-racist’ prize for 2015.
And finally, will it be Inarritu and Birdman or Linklater and Boyhood that come out on top? While some are predicting a split between Best Director and Best Picture, this is rare (ignore the fact that it’s happened in both the last 2 years, it’s RARE I tell you!) and whichever man wins is likely to see his film win too.
Fingers crossed on this end for Boyhood (or, in a perfect world, Selma – but that’s so unlikely it’s actually past the point of parody) but regardless of which film wins, either would be one of the most artistically daring projects the Academy has ever gone for, so good luck to all!
Posted by David.