It’s Here, It’s Here! It’s Finally #Oscars Day (And My Predictions Are Finally Finished!)

Osczars, Academy Awards, predictions, movies

Okay, I’m attempting to get my predictions in, just at the wire, which is par for my course, so here are my thoughts on the subject:

First, I think that this year, there will be no one film that runs away with all of the awards for which it has been nominated and the love will be spread around quite a bit. I like this idea. Considering all of the many movies made and how few are recognized at the big dance, a nomination should be its own reward. As someone (J.K. Simmons perhaps) said at an awards show earlier this year, if you’re in the room, you’re already a winner.

Of my favorite films this year (which are many, I can’t limit myself to just 10, and in no particular order):
Frank
The Drop
Locke
The Grand Budapest Hotel
A Most Violent Year
Boyhood
Birdman
Guardians of the Galaxy
Only Lovers Left Alive
Snowpiercer
Gone Girl
Nightcrawler
Mr. Turner
HTTYD2
Inherent Vice
The Trip to Italy

I’m amazed that so many of them are still in the Oscar mix and of course, just as surprised that so many of them are not.

Remember when Gone Girl was released and it automatically became the front-runner for Best Picture? That didn’t last long. It doesn’t take away my enjoyment of the movie though. And it will probably be remembered a lot longer than some of those films that were recognized. (Does anyone believe that The Theory of Everything bears repeat viewings?) Guardians of the Galaxy was just too popular and made too much money for anyone to “take seriously”.  It has been in the mix for a handful of technical awards, but let’s be honest. All of the technology, makeup and CGI would not have made that film what it was without the performances of Chris Pratt and company.

Snowpiercer was another film that was declared an instant classic with film scribes all over the interwebz begging for some awards recognition for the “best film of the year”.  Sorry, too “niche-y”, too sci-fi, too dystopian, too grimy, too…foreign.

Tilda Swinton, however, should have been recognized. Her part was originally written for a man. Even though it was adapted slightly for her, she spent two hours every day in the makeup chair.  How is it possible that this extraordinary talent has only been nominated for one Oscar (that she won – for Michael Clayton)?  If no one could get past her gargantuan teeth in Snowpiercer, what about for her haunting, languidly sexy vampire in Only Lovers Left Alive? How was that movie missed by so many? It is perfection.  (Full disclosure, I adore this woman. I can’t wait to see her in Judd Apatow‘s Train Wreck.)

Coulda, shoulda, woulda. In the Best Actor category, neither of the two actors who should win were even nominated. My first choice would have been Tom Hardy for Locke, a virtuoso performance in a singular film, but I’d have been happy with Jake Gyllenhaal for Nightcrawler. That said, of those actors who did manage to snag a nomination, Eddie Redmayne has the momentum after his SAG and BAFTA wins, although admittedly the latter award was given in his own backyard and it would have been a surprise if he hadn’t won. I’d much prefer, however, that Michael Keaton get the prize for what is a career defining (not to mention rejuvenating) role in Birdman. I’m against giving Oscars as career achievement awards (unless they are actually called that), but. unlike Redmayne and even Benedict Cumberbatch, journeyman Keaton created a character from scratch and made us care about him, and that’s what it’s all about.

What’s really exciting is that it’s now Oscar Day and we’re still debating these things. This is an exciting year, in my humble opinion, precisely because there are still a few question marks regarding the evening’s festivities, which means that there may yet be some surprises to be found and

Aside from the speeches, (and I won’t go into some of the wacky and unexpected examples of those, because once a name has been read, all bets are off. Whatever anyone says or does, they can’t take the statue away from you, so have it with your one-armed pushups like Jack Palance or just whoop for ten minutes like Cuba Gooding, Jr.) it seems like it’s been quite a while since any of us who pay attention to these things, was actually surprised.

But surprises can happen. There have been quite a few unexpected wins in (what seems like) the recent past. For example, Adrien Brody for The Pianist in 2002 over the likes of Jack Nicholson, Michael Caine, Nicholas Cage, and Daniel Day Lewis. Deserving or not, and I happen to think he was, no one saw that coming. Then Brody’s director Roman Polanski, upset DGA winner Rob Marshall (Chicago). this is an aberration on the order of 1999’s Shakespeare in Love win over Saving Private Ryan (what?!), not to mention perhaps the most infamous examples, Marisa Tomei in 1992 over Judy Davis, Joan Plowright, Miranda Richardson and Vanessa Redgrave (!!) and then 2004’s Crash over Brokeback Mountain. So anything is possible.

While most of us on the outside looking in this year have Best Actor down to a battle between Redmayne and Keaton, it is definitely within the realm of possibility for Bradley Cooper to sneak in and snatch it out from under them. This is Cooper’s third nomination in three years and he did the whole body transformation thing – packing on 50 pounds of muscle to play Navy Seal Chris Kyle – which the Academy loves. The one actor who appears to be out of the running completely is Cumberbatch. This after months of assumptions that he was the front-runner for The Imitation Game, which has also all but dropped out of the race. Cumberbatch has been covered in the dust of Redmayne and Keaton. I have no doubt, though, that he’ll be back for future races. Sorry Steve Carell. You are the proverbial luckless snowball.

Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actor are all pretty much done deals. Despite the four other names announced in each of those categories, only one has been cleaning up at all of the under-card races. Julianne Moore (Still Alice), Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) and J.K. Simmons (Whiplash), respectively, are virtual locks to win the big one. All that’s left are those speeches. I don’t expect any of them to pull a Roberto Benigni. Too bad.

I believe it’s entirely possible that the Best Director and Best Picture races will be split, just like at BAFTA where Director was given to Alejandro Iñárritu and Pic to Boyhood, and yesterday at the Independent Spirit Awards where the opposite was true and Richard Linklater walked away with Director and Birdman, Best Picture. I’ve often said it’s illogical to nominate a film without its director, but it’s almost the norm this year: Selma without Ava Duvernay, The Theory of Everything but no James Marsh, American Sniper without Clint Eastwood– this is what happens when you expand Best Picture to as many as 12 but don’t expand the other categories! Insanity! (How then to explain Bennett Miller but no Foxcatcher?) Anyway, in the case of Boyhood’s Linklater and Birdman’s Iñárritu, if the Academy splits, it may just be a case of wanting to recognize two of the best films of the year without playing Solomon exactly, but without actually choosing.

That said, I make the call for Birdman a. because it’s a movie about actors (and they comprise the largest Academy voting bloc) and b. it has a slight edge in the guild awards. But, no matter who takes home the hardware, when it comes to these two films, fans of well-written, well-acted, well-directed, just plain well-made (and yes okay, independent) movies are the winners. Here’s hoping their success heralds a new wave of quirky, inventive, intelligent, cinematic square pegs.

On with the show:

BEST PICTURE
American Sniper
*Birdman
Boyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Selma
The Theory of Everything
Whiplash

BEST DIRECTOR
*Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Morton Tyldum, The Imitation Game
Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher

I have to go with Iñárritu, because of his DGA win. It is extremely rare that the winner of the Director’s Guild Award does not win the Academy Award. BUT – see above. Linklater could pull it out.

Best Actor
Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
**Michael Keaton, Birdman
*Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

BAFTA was icing, but Redmayne won the Screen Actors Guild award. See above re: voting bloc. Academy voting actors are SAG voting actors.

Best Actress
Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
*Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon, Wild

Best Supporting Actress
*Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Laura Dern, Wild
Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
Emma Stone, Birdman
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

Best Supporting Actor
Robert Duvall, The Judge
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Edward Norton, Birdman
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
*J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Best Original Screenplay
Birdman, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo
Boyhood, Richard Linklater
Foxcatcher, E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman
*The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson and Hugo Guiness
Nightcrawler, Dan Gilroy

Grand Budapest will get this award not only as a consolation prize for best picture (it did after all score a great many other nominations as well), but because it’s a truly wonderful story. Wes Anderson is a very literary filmmaker. The WGA win is a harbinger unless it won only because the guild’s first choice, Boyhood, was ineligible. But I don’t think so. Nightcrawler won the Independent Spirit Award and I would not be unhappy if the Academy recognized Dan Gilroy (in place of Jake Gyllenhaal).

Best Adapted Screenplay
American Sniper, Jason Hall
*The Imitation Game, Graham Moore
Inherent Vice, Paul Thomas Anderson
The Theory of Everything, Anthony McCarten
Whiplash, Damien Chazelle

Another consolation prize since The Imitation Game scored eight noms but won’t win any other major category. And again, Graham Moore took home the WGA.award, but his closest Academy competition (The Theory of Everything) wasn’t eligible, so Anthony McCarten could steal.

Best Documentary Feature
*CITIZENFOUR
Finding Vivian Maier
Last Days in Vietnam
The Salt of the Earth
Virunga

Thanks to HBO and Netflix, I’ve seen four of the five and on the merits, this is a hard choice to make. I’m going with CITIZENFOUR because it’s a juggernaut.

Best Costume Design
*The Grand Budapest Hotel, Milena Canonero
Inherent Vice, Mark Bridges
Into the Woods, Colleen Atwood
Mr. Turner, Jacqueline Durran
Maleficent, Anna B. Sheppard

Grand Budapest, Birdman and Into the Woods all won Costume Guild awards, because they have several categories. The Academy lumps them all together. Canonero is an Academy favorite (with 3 previous wins), although so is Atwood, who also has three. I think Grand Budapest will win. Canonero’s costumes for this film re-imagined a real period in history, one that has been put on screen many times, and made them seem fresh and new.

Best Cinematography
*Birdman, Emmanuel Lubezki
The Grand Budapest Hotel, Robert D. Yeoman
Ida, Ryszard Lenczweski and Lukasz Zal
Mr. Turner, Dick Pope
Unbroken, Roger Deakins

If I were voting, I’d have to go with Dick Pope‘s gorgeous Turner-like landscapes in Mr. Turner or sentimental favorite Roger Deakins, who is nominated for his 12th Oscar. Last year’s winner, Emmaneul Lubezki, for whom this is his seventh nomination, will win again because the camera work in Birdman is still a major talking point, even among lay-people.

Best Hair & Makeup
Foxcatcher, Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard
*The Grand Budapest Hotel, Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier
Guardians of the Galaxy, Eliazabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White

Guardians could pull out an upset, but for me, this category was decided the minute I saw Tilda Swinton in The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Best Editing
American Sniper, Joel Cox and Gary Roach
*Boyhood, Sandra Adair
The Grand Budapest Hotel, Barney Pilling
The Imitation Game, William Goldenberg
Whiplash, Tom Cross

Why Boyhood? Twelve YEARS of footage. Now, I have to hand it to the editor of Whiplash as well. Miles Teller may have taught himself to play the drums for the role, but the tight editing made it fascinating, especially the finale, but still….twelve YEARS of footage. And it wasn’t just a cobbled together Frankenfilm. The result was lyrical and beautiful.

BEST SOUND EDITING
*American Sniper, Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman
Birdman, Martin Hernandez and Aaron Glascock
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Brent Burge and Jason Canovas
Interstellar, Richard King

Unbroken, Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro

This category is about creating an aural picture, that coincides with and reinforces the visual one. All of the nominees in this category are worthy. And for this reason Richard King, who created sound in the vacuum of space in Interstellar could upset, but think about what you heard when you saw American Sniper. Think about the juxtaposition of the horrors of war with what was happening at home. That is sound editing.

BEST SOUND MIXING
American Sniper, John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin
Birdman, Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and Thomas Varga
Interstellar, Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker and Mark Weingarten
Unbroken, Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and David Lee
*Whiplash, Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley

Sound MIXING is creating a balanced blend,of the sounds that the sound editor has created. So doesn’t that mean that the film which wins that category should automatically win for mixing? Not necessarily. While Sniper could win, in this particular instance, it’s important that Whiplash be recognized, particularly for a sound category, especially when that aforementioned final sequence won’t have been. The sound mix is everything to this movie. That said, I could see Birdman’s jazz percussion soundscape sneaking in a win, But we’ll go with Whiplash.

Best Visual Effects
Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill and Dan Sudick
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist
Guardians of the Galaxy, Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould
*Interstellar, Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher
X-Men: Days of Future Past, Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie and Cameron Waldbauer

Some pundits are going with the team from Apes, both for its incredible effects (and their ability to make us care about the motion capture apes as well as all of their CGI tricks), and for the fact that this same team was nominated for Rise of the Planet of the Apes and didn’t win. That could also be a mark in Interstellar‘s favor. Interstellar should win on its own merits though. Whatever else you liked or didn’t like about Christopher Nolan‘s megafilm, it was visually stunning.

Best Foreign Film
Wild Tales, Damián Szifrón; Argentina
Tangerines, Zaza Urushadze; Estonia
Timbuktu, Abderrahmane Sissako; Mauritania
*Ida, Pawel Pawlikowski; Poland
Leviathan, Andrey Zvyagintsev; Russia

Ida is probably the film in this category that most people have seen. It’s been available on Netflix since December and has already won quite a few awards, including yesterday’s Independent Spirit Award. It’s also good enough to have been nominated for its stunning black and white cinematography and was in the conversation, at one time, for Best Picture.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
*The Grand Budapest Hotel, Alexandre Desplat
The Imitation Game, Alexandre Desplat
Interstellar, Hans Zimmer
Mr. Turner, Gary Yershon
The Theory of Everything, Jóhann Jóhannsson

Alexandre Desplat has been another Academy bridesmaid in recent years. Eight nominations since 2007, but without a win. He works on prestige films that get Academy recognition, but he’s also just that good. That he is nominated twice this year alone is testament to both of those facts. I do think he’ll finally win, but it gets trickier when one has to choose for which film. My personal choice is The Grand Budapest Hotel. As I’ve already said, I loved the score (as I did Desplat’s work on Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. Both quirky, toe-tapping and memorable). I can’t remember the score for any of the other films, although I remember enjoying them at the time. It is possible that because Desplat is competing against himself, that he might split the vote, leaving the door open for someone else. If that’s the case, it will probably be Jóhann Jóhannsson, who won the BAFTA.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“Lost Stars” from Begin Again, Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me, Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond
“Everything is Awesome” from The LEGO Movie, Shawn Patterson
*“Glory” from Selma, John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn
“Grateful” from Beyond the Lights, Diane Warren

This is another virtual lock. It not only evokes the film, but it’s a good song in its own right.

Best Animated Film
Big Hero 6
The Boxtrolls
*How to Train Your Dragon 2
Song of the Sea
The Tale of Princess Kaguya

I don’t know why The Lego Movie was not nominated. Even if it had been, I’d have been rooting for HTTYD2, for sentimental reasons and because it’s a great movie. It won the Annie, as did its predecessor, but this year it will also win Best Animated Feature since it doesn’t have a Pixar entry to beat. So yay! (Although I’m still bummed about John Powell‘s score snub that year and this.)

Best Short Film – Animated
**The Bigger Picture
The Dam Keeper
*Feast
Me and My Moulton
A Single Life

I loved them all and while my personal favorite might be The Bigger Picture, which was just so damn clever, I think Feast will win because, much like last year’s Paperman, it was the most seen. It’s also very sweet and deceptively simple.

Best Short Film -Live Action
Aya
Boogaloo and Graham
Butter Lamp
Parvaneh
*The Phone Call

Boogaloo and Graham pulled out a BAFTA win, and if that seemed like a hometown favorite (about two boys and their baby chicks), I’m equally as surprised that The Phone Call didn’t win there. It stars Sally Hawkins as a mental health worker at a suicide hotline and Jim Broadbent as her caller, both actors familiar to Academy voters, plus it’s the fictional companion to Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1. (See below) For those reasons I’m going with The Phone Call, even though some are touting the virtues of Parvaneh, from Switzerland, about an Afghan immigrant who travels to Zurich.
Best Short Film – Documentary
*Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

Our Curse
The Reaper
White Earth

I’ve seen the shorts programs. (Hey, if you want to prognosticate with any accuracy, you have to) and Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 is both gut-wrenching and topical. We all say we hate the war but love the warrior. We need to do a better job of proving it.

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
*The Grand Budapest Hotel, Adam Stockhausen and Anna Pinnock
The Imitation Game, Maria Djurkovic and Tatiana Macdonald
Interstellar, Nathan Crowley, Gary Fettis and Paul Healy
Into the Woods, Dennis Gassner and Anna Pinnock
Mr. Turner, Suzie Davies and Charlotte Watts

Anna Pinnock is another dual nominee, but her collaboration with Adam Stockhausen on Grand Budapest should win her the award. Despite the Academy’s proclivity to give this award to a musical if one is available, the highly stylized look of Wes Anderson‘s film is its core.

There you have it, my predictions for the 2015 Academy Awards. Got ’em in, with a nanosecond to spare, but I got ’em in. So what else is new? Want to start making predictions for next year?

UPDATE: I went 21 for 24 – same as last year. I’m always surprised, not by the fact that I missed a few, but the ones that I miss. 

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Oscar Nominations 2015: The Fallout

Oscars, nominations, Academy Awards, AMPAS, poster, Neil Patrick Harris

This morning, Thursday January 15, 2015, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs (along with a somnambulant Chris Pine, J.J. Abrams, and Alfonso Cuarón) stood on a mountain top (okay a stage) to hand down that august body’s nominations for the 87th annual Academy Awards. Given the complete hodge-podge and mishmash of this year’s list of nominees, seemingly culled together by blind monkeys banging away at keyboards, I can understand why they do it at the arse-crack of dawn (at least for those on the West Coast). They’re hiding under the cover of darkness.

I have to say I’m not really all that shocked by who was nominated, but rather surprised, puzzled and, yes, a little pissed-off, by who wasn’t.

One step forward and two steps back: last year I fantasized about more than one person of color being nominated for Best Actor. This pipe-dream was unfullfilled, but at least one black actor not named Denzel managed to slip past the color barrier (Chiwetel Ejiorfor), even if they did ultimately hand the prize to the middle-aged white guy. I was left with the thought that perhaps a corner had been turned and that in subsequent years we would begin to see nominees more reflective of the culture. This year is not one of those years.

Despite a mesmorizing performance by David Oyelowo as the man known as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (rather than a two-dimensional bold-faced type legend) in Selma, for which he received nothing but glowing reviews, the actor did not receive an Academy Award nomination. Neither did the film’s director Ava DuVernay, who until a week ago when the Director’s Guild also snubbed her, had been favorited to become the first African-American female director nominated.

Back when I began ruminating on the subject, I had thought that Oyelowo might just snatch the Oscar most were then already giving to Benedict Cumberbatch, the way I so desperately wanted Ejiofor to get the Oscar he so richly deserved, instead of the anointed Matthew McConaughey. (Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of both Ben and Matty, as you well know, but the award is for Best Performance, not body of work or for being an all-around brilliant actor/charming human.) Now of course, Oyelowo was ignored and Cumberbatch will almost certainly lose to either Eddie Redmayne or (more likely in this arena) Michael Keaton.

If Oyelowo was too dark for them or they couldn’t pronounce his name (O-yellow-o, and he’s been around long enough for people to get it right), the Academy could have opted for the equally deserving Guatemalan/Cuban actor, Oscar Isaac. When are they going to recognize this man? Bradley Cooper has been nominated three years in a row! After the egregious omission of Isaac’s name on last year’s list for Inside Llewyn Davis, I should have been prepared. A Most Violent Year (which incidentally included David Oyelowo in a fantastic supporting performance) probably wasn’t seen by enough voting members. I know the National Board of Review doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, but the film’s win should at least have put it on the radar. Maybe Isaac is just too good…like his costar Jessica Chastain (also denied after a year that also included The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, Miss Julie and Interstellar). When we expect greatness, perhaps it’s not as likely to be rewarded? No, that can’t be right. Otherwise how the hell does one explain Meryl Streep? She made a movie? BAM! here’s a nomination!

Even if the Academy can only see white, I’m puzzled by the representatives it chose. As I mentioned on Facebook, I am a fan of both Steve Carrell and Bradley Cooper, but fake noses and weight gain/loss need to stop being reasons for nominations, let alone wins (Nicole Kidman and Matty again, respectively). I love you both, I do, but neither of you were better than Oyelowo or Isaac or Ralph Fiennes or Tom Hardy or Timothy Spall or Jake Gyllenhaal, all of whom are more deserving. JMHO.

So, moving on to Best Actress, the race boils down to Julianne Moore and four other white women. Doesn’t matter which ones. Moore, an exceptionally talented actress who has never won, has already been chosen for her role in Still Alice, a film 99.9% of the country has not had a chance to see yet. Another weird and mystical Oscar phenomenon, this one has plucked Moore’s name from the magic hat, while leaving two other actresses, Jennifer Aniston and Jessica Chastain, both in similar situations, in the lurch.  (Cake, like Still Alice has not opened yet here in Boston, a city which is usually on the 2nd rollout tier right behind NY & LA. A Most Violent Year, which I was lucky enough to see last summer, opens this weekend) Then there’s Golden Globe winner Amy Adams. Adams was, up until this morning, thought to be in a horserace with Moore. Like Moore she’s been nominated many times before, but has never won. Not even nominated. Some pundits are putting it down to the fact that reviews for Tim Burton‘s Big Eyes were decidedly mixed, even while Adams was praised, and that “it wouldn’t be worth nominating her again if she wasn’t going to take the prize”*.  Adams might disagree.

It is nice that Rosamund Pike got a nod for Gone Girl, though she’s apparently meant to carry the banner for the entire film which failed to get recognition for director David Fincher, screenwriter Gillian Flynn, or costar Ben Affleck. (Hell, I thought they’d at least nominate the Oscars’ telecast host, Neil Patrick Harris for Best Supporting Actor. He was worthy and that would have made good tv.) I adore Marion Cotillard, but her nomination was a surprise, especially for a French film that while it’s received a lot of critical praise, no one not on a list for Academy screeners has seen. However, she could have been nominated for The Immigrant and I’d have been happy, so I won’t quibble here. The category is rounded out by Reese Witherspoon and Felicity Jones, to absolutely no one’s surprise.

Best Supporting Actor does happen to include some truly great performances, including Edward Norton in Birdman and J.K. Simmons in Whiplash, but as much as I love Mark Ruffalo, I think Channing Tatum gave the better supporting performance in Foxcatcher. And anyone who knows me, knows that it is no small thing for me to praise Tatum-tot.  And don’t get me started on Robert Duvall. Another nomination for longevity.

On the distaff side, Laura Dern came out of left field to pick up her first nomination since 1992 (for Rambling Rose), after being forgotten by the Golden Globes and SAG. Keira Knightley, Emma Stone and Meryl Streep were all Globe nominated, as was Patricia Arquette, the Globe winner receiving her first Academy nomination for a film in which she gets to age twelve years on camera. Nice choices, but what a nice surprise it would have been if Tilda Swinton‘s name had been called this morning for Snowpiercer. (Although why her performance in Only Lovers Left Alive has not been part of the conversation is beyond me. Same reason Tom Hardy hasn’t been, I guess.)

There is so much head-scratching to be done over today’s announcement that I’m making myself dizzy.  Where’s JC Chandor for Best Screenplay, let alone director or Best Picture? And where’s Christopher Nolan? Remember when the interwebz declared the race over before it had even begun and Interstellar would be the winner? I don’t care what the science means and whether or not it’s realistic, it wasn’t nearly as confusing as Inception and it had the heart missing from most cold and earnest sci-fi extravaganzas.

For some odd reason, there are only eight Best Picture nods this year, when there can be as many as ten. As you can probably guess, I’m very pleasantly surprised that The Grand Budapest Hotel is among them, but the question is begged, how then, did Selma wind up as one of them?“ It’s only the fourth movie to be so nominated without first having been nominated by any of the major guilds:  the Producers Guild, the Writers Guild (for which it was ineligible), the Directors Guild and the Screen Actors Guild. The only other bone the film received was Best Original Song, a surprise to no one. This is a film that not only directed itself (like fellow Best Pic nominee American Sniper), but it also wrote itself and was acted by holograms. And then there’s Bennett Miller, who got a Director nomination, but what does that mean if his film, Foxcatcher, did not? What, exactly, is his achievement other than directing Carrell and Ruffalo to nominations of their own?

Ironically, I’m watching as I type this, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the writer/directors of The Lego Movie, accept the Critics Choice Award for Best Animated Feature. It’s ironic because while this movie has been hailed audiences and critics alike and was widely expected to take the Oscar, was not even nominated for one! (Admittedly, I will root for How to Train Your Dragon 2 for sentimental reasons as well as the fact that it’s a damn fine film.)

Another bit of irony, the above mentioned group just handed the aforementioned un-nominated Jessica Chastain its first ever “MVP Award” because of the four extraordinary performances she gave this year.  She is the epitome of class and grace, something the Academy could use some more of.

Of course, none of the above grousing means I won’t be eagerly awaiting my high holy day and preparing by watching with bated breath the SAG and BAFTA awards shows.  I’ll be back before February 22 with my predictions. (I went 23 for 24 last year, so I have a lot to live up to, even if only in my own mind LOL) We all need time to see all of those live action and animated shorts.

Here’s the complete list of nominees:

BEST PICTURE

American Sniper

Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Selma

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

BEST DIRECTOR

Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher

Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

BEST ACTOR

Steve Carell, Foxcatcher

Bradley Cooper, American Sniper

Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game

Michael Keaton, Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

BEST ACTRESS

Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night

Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything

Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon, Wild

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Robert Duvall, The Judge

Ethan Hawke, Boyhood

Edward Norton, Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Laura Dern, Wild

Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game

Emma Stone, Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

American Sniper, Jason Hall

The Imitation Game, Graham Moore

Inherent Vice, Paul Thomas Anderson

The Theory of Everything, Anthony McCarten

Whiplash, Damien Chazelle

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. and Armando Bo

Boyhood, Richard Linklater

Foxcatcher, E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman

The Grand Budapest Hotel, Screenplay by Wes Anderson; Story by Wes Anderson & Hugo Guiness

Nightcrawler, Dan Gilroy

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Birdman (The Unexpected Virute of Ignorance), Emmanuel Lubezki

The Grand Budapest Hotel, Robert D. Yeoman

Ida, (Ryszard Lenczweski and Lukasz Zal

Mr. Turner, Dick Pope

Unbroken, Roger Deakins

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

The Grand Budapest Hotel, Milena Canonero

Inherent Vice, Mark Bridges

Into the Woods, Colleen Atwood

Mr. Turner, Jacqueline Durran

Maleficent, Anna B. Sheppard

BEST FILM EDITING

American Sniper, Joel Cox and Gary Roach

Boyhood, Sandra Adair

The Grand Budapest Hotel, Barney Pilling

The Imitation Game, William Goldenberg

Whiplash, Tom Cross

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

Foxcatcher

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Guardians of the Galaxy

BEST MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE

The Grand Budapest Hotel (Alexandre Desplat)

The Imitation Game (Alexandre Desplat)

Interstellar (Hans Zimmer)

Mr. Turner (Gary Yershon)

The Theory of Everything (Jóhann Jóhannsson)

BEST MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)

“Lost Stars” from Begin Again

“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me

“Everything is Awesome” from The Lego Movie

“Glory” from Selma

“Grateful” from Beyond the Lights

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

The Grand Budapest Hotel (Adam Stockhausen; Anna Pinnock)

The Imitation Game (Maria Djurkovic; Tatiana Macdonald)

Interstellar (Nathan Crowley; Gary Fettis, Paul Healy)

Into the Woods (Dennis Gassner; Anna Pinnock)

Mr. Turner (Suzie Davies; Charlotte Watts)

BEST SOUND EDITING

American Sniper

Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Interstellar

Unbroken

BEST SOUND MIXING

American Sniper

Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Interstellar

Unbroken

Whiplash

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Guardians of the Galaxy

Interstellar

X-Men: Days of Future Past

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

Big Hero 6

The Boxtrolls

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Song of the Sea

The Tale of Princess Kaguya

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Wild Tales (Damián Szifrón; Argentina)

Tangerines (Zaza Urushadze; Estonia)

Timbuktu (Abderrahmane Sissako; Mauritania)

Ida (Pawel Pawlikowski; Poland)

Leviathan (Andrey Zvyagintsev; Russia)

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE FILM

CITIZENFOUR

Finding Vivian Maier

Last Days in Vietnam

The Salt of the Earth

Virunga

BEST DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT)

Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

Joanna

Our Curse

The Reaper

White Earth

BEST SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)

The Bigger Picture

The Dam Keeper

Feast

Me and My Moulton

A Single Life

BEST SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)

Aya

Boogaloo and Graham

Butter Lamp

Parvaneh

The Phone Call

* Variety’s Ramin Setoodeh

Watch Bradley Cooper Grapple with a Tough Choice in 1st Trailer for Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper

Clint Eastwood, American Sniper, Bradley Cooper, movie, photo, trailer

Just yesterday I posted the first two pics of a beefed-up Bradley Cooper in Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper. (Over on Facebook) Warner Bros. has now released the first trailer for Eastwood‘s much-anticipated war drama. Based on a true story, Cooper plays decorated Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, who is credited with the most sniper kills in U.S. military history.

Sienna Miller plays as Kyle’s wife Taya Renae, while Cory Hardrict, Jake McDorman, Luke Grimes and Kyle Gallner play his comrades along with several real-life Navy SEALs, including Kyle’s actual friend Kevin “Dauber” Lacz.

Eastwood directs from a script by Jason Hall (Paranoia), based on Kyle’s book. Eastwood produced along with Cooper, Robert Lorenz, Andrew Lazar and Peter Morgan. (If Morgan had written it, I’d be even more excited.)

Take a look. The tension in just this 1:45 bit of film is palpable.

This is actually the UK version of the trailer. I wonder what the US version will be like.

American Sniper, which also stars Eric Close, and Owain Yeoman, is the second Eastwood film we’re getting in the same year (after Jersey Boys. Yeah, I nearly forgot, too). There are, of course, rumblings that this will be a major player come awards season. Cooper could end up with his third nomination. The movie will get a limited, awards-qualifying release on December 25 before going wide on January 16, 2015.

Eastwood has proven that knows his way around a battlefield. The subject matter of American Sniper might not be to everyone’s liking and might still be too raw, but I’ve no doubt the execution, based on this trailer alone will be masterful. What do you think? Are you in or are you out?

Final Trailer for Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar Teases Epic Space Odyssey Epically

Interstellar, Christopher Nolan, Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, poster, movie, trailer

Warner Brothers has just released the final, mind-blowing, trailer for Christopher Nolan‘s Interstellar. Kudos go to the team that has cut these three teasers, because while we do get a sense of the epic scale of the film, I’ll be damned if I really know what the hell it’s about. (Other than that the Earth is dying and a group of scientists, including Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway embark on a deep space mission to find us all a new home.) That is the way Nolan wants it, for now. But I want to know, and that’s the most important thing. I can’t wait to hand over my money for a ticket to this giant ride.

We’ve already learned that Interstellar will be nearly three hours long, so if the footage we’ve seen didn’t give us a clue, we can tell by this fact that it’s the “biggest” film Nolan has yet produced. While bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better, if this movie is half as good as he and Warner Brothers would like us to think it is, and that these trailers would indicate, then, JMHO, for the second time in two years, we’re looking at a guaranteed awards contender set in space.
Now, I don’t yet know about the technical aspects of Interstellar, in terms of whether or not they are more dazzling than Alfonso Cuarón‘s Gravity (or if they even come close), and let’s face it, that is a bar set about as high as K12, but what Gravity was really missing, was a pulse. Sure it had George Clooney sacrificing himself for Sandra Bullock, who was left alone in that capsule to hallucinate and remember her daughter etc etc. But, to paraphrase Rick Blaine*, “the problems of {two} little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this world”. and what kept it from winning anything other than technical prizes (aside from the fact that it was up against 12 Years a Slave) was heart.

Interstellar, on the other hand, would seem to have that in spades. Oscar winners McConaughey and Hathaway will trump Oscar winners Clooney and Bullock because not only is it about the fate of all mankind, but also on a more personal level, it’s about a father trying to save the world…for his children. Children that, unless I miss my guess, will grow up to be Jessica Chastain and Casey Affleck, carrying on the good fight back on Earth will Dad spends most of their lives trying to get back to them.

So, sight unseen, on the basis of three trailers (a total of less than 10 minutes of footage from a three hour movie), I’m making a completely subjective, non-scientific prediction: along with also sight-unseen flicks Birdman, Unbreakable, The Imitation Game, and Wild, Interstellar will be on the short lists for all of the major year-end prizes (along with Boyhood, Foxcatcher and A Most Violent Year, which I have seen). This list is, of course, subject to change. It is, after all, only October 1. Enjoy the trailer.

Interstellar, written and directed by Christopher Nolan, co-written by Jonathan Nolan, starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, Elyes Gabel, Wes Bentley, Topher Grace, Mackenzie Foy, Ellen Burstyn, John Lithgow, David Oyelowo, William Devane, and Michael Caine (plus an uncredited Matt Damon – perhaps to do his Matty impression?), opens in the US and the UK on November 7. (Actually it pretty much opens everywhere on the planet with a movie theater between November 5 and November 7 – you won’t be able to miss it, but why would you want to try?)

*Casablanca (1942) Humphrey Bogart to Ingrid Bergman

Into the Words with Meryl Streep and Anna Kendrick

Into the Woods, movie, musical, Rob Marshall, Meryl Streep, Stephen Sondheim, photo

Meryl Streep as the Witch in Rob Marshall’s version of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods

 

No, that isn’t a typo.

We have the first trailer for Into the Woods, the latest film version of a Broadway musical from Chicago’s Rob Marshall. It’s based on the award-winning show by Stephen Sondheim, who is a legendary wordsmith, and James Lapine.

I spent quite a few years working part time at the box-office for a production of “Forbidden Broadway”. When “Into the Woods” was new, the parody version was called “Into the Words”. That I use that title now, is apropos because this trailer barely has a soundtrack, let alone a song.

While it makes sure to let us know who the stars are, including Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Chris Pine, Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp (He’s not playing the Giant, despite the fact that the trailer makes it seem so. Supposedly he’s The Wolf and Frances de la Tour is credited as the Giant), not a one of them sings a peep. They all…”wish”. (“I wish to go to the FESTival”.)

Are Disney and the producers hedging their bets? Do they not want anyone to know that Into the Woods is a musical? Only fans of the show will recognize the film’s logo as the one used on the show’s Playbill. It is the fans of the show, which opened on Broadway in 1987, that have been clamoring for a film version ever since. I don’t think anyone else will care.

Then again, this is but the first teaser.

“Into the Woods” was the first show I saw on Broadway, so I have a special place for it in my heart, but I can’t say that I’m eagerly awaiting this movie. In fact, I distinctly remember groaning “WHY?!” when I heard that this was in the works and when Ms. Streep was announced to star. Catherine Zeta-Jones, Michelle Pfeiffer, Idina Menzel, Penelope Cruz, Donna Murphy, Miranda Richardson, Kate Winslet, and Nicole Kidman were also considered. Wonderful actresses all. (Murphy played the role in a summer revival in Central Park. Menzel probably turned it down. Who wants to be typecast as a witch?), but to me, the role belonged to Bernadette Peters; which is yet another reason I have to wonder who this movie is for. Fans of Broadway musicals would pay to see her in a role she created and aren’t going to pay to see this movie version just because Streep is a bigger name.

For those unfamiliar, Into the Woods is a sort of compilation of the characters from the stories of the Brothers Grimm. There is a childless baker (Corden. Blunt plays his wife) who attempts to lift a family curse by journeying “into the woods” to confront the witch (Streep). Is she evil or just misunderstood? In the show she definitely gets the best song. Along the way he encounters Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy), Cinderella (Kendrick), Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) and his Beanstalk and Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) among others. And the witch is there to teach them all important lessons.

Marshall’s film, with a screen adaptation by Lapine is fairly close to the original stage musical, with the exception of the Narrator, who was dropped in favor of using the Baker for voiceover narration. Another noticeable change is the cut of the Mysterious Man. The role played by Streep is a combination the Witch with some of the Mysterious Man thrown in.

Into the Woods opens in the US on Christmas Day, (just in time to lock up that Musical/Comedy Golden Globe nomination and probable win. And if you think that’s not a consideration, why else were so many of the show’s songs cut so that Sondheim could fit in two just for the movie, if not to win Best Original Song?) and 9th January in the UK. (Doesn’t that make it BAFTA ineligible?). The rest of the cast includes, Tracy Ullman, Annette Crosbie, Tammy Blanchard, Lucy Punch, Simon Russell Beale, Billy Magnussen and Christine Baranski.

More will follow. What are your first impressions?

New Interstellar Trailer is Epic In Its Awesomeness

Interstellar, movie, poster, trailer, Matthew McConaughey, Christopher Nolan

“Why the hyperbole,” you ask? Because, it requires superlatives, but all of the others have already been used. At last weekend’s San Diego Comic Con, the star of Christopher Nolan’s first post-Batman film, Matthew McConaughey, told the audience that this is “by far” Nolan’s most “ambitious”. The Bat Cycle aside, Nolan likes to push, not only the envelope, but also his audiences to think, so I can only imagine, based on this newest trailer, that that statement is true.

What I think I can be virtually certain of, is that Interstellar has the warmth and the heart that Alfonso Cuarón‘s technically brilliant Gravity lacked. While I have no doubt that this, too, will be a technical marvel, it is ultimately about love and family. But that is also, obviously a distillation. McConaughey plays a former pilot who wants to fly again, and gets his chance as part of the greatest rescue mission in the history of mankind. There is a lot going on here.

“A group of explorers make use of a newly discovered wormhole to surpass the limitations on human space travel and conquer the vast distances involved in an interstellar voyage.”

Nolan has cited 2001: A Space Odyssey as the single greatest inspiration for the film. And considering that forty five years after its release, that film is not only still relevant, but the benchmark for movies about space exploration, I think that’s a good choice.

Along with McConaughey, Interstellar has a phenomenal cast, including Anne Hathaway (who appears to be playing a real adult person here, not a princess or a waif or a victim. We’ll see.) Jessica Chastain as Mackenzie Foy’s “Murphy”, all grown up, Wes Bentley, Casey Affleck, Topher Grace, Ellen Burstyn, William Devane, David Oyelowo, John Lithgow, and Nolan staple, Michael Caine.

The movie arrives to kick-start awards season on November 7 in the US and the UK. I’d start saving my pennies for IMAX if I were you.  Shot on an IMAX camera with an ambitious sound mix, Nolan claims to want to”give audiences an incredible immersive experience. The technical aspects are going to be more important than any film I’ve made before.”  I can’t wait.

More will surely follow.

Benedict Cumberbatch & Co. Work to Win the War in 1st Trailer for The Imitation Game

Benedict Cumberbatch, Alan Turing, movie, photo, The Imitation Game

Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game – photo via KinoGallery

Undoubtedly, one of this year’s most anticipated films (and no, not just by me) is The Imitation Game in which Benedict Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing, the genius mathematician who helped devise the Nazi-code breaking Enigma Machine.

We finally have a first trailer, coming just as it is announced that the film will open the BFI London Film Festival in October. Appropriate to be sure, since judging from this trailer alone, the film will be a British acting master class.

While the trailer obviously focuses on the Enigma project and his team of crack code-breakers, it is no spoiler if I tell you that Turing’s “secret” is that he is homosexual, a “crime” for which he is persecuted (and prosecuted) by the laws and society he helped to save.

Based on the real life story of legendary cryptanalyst Alan Turing, the film portrays the nail-biting race against time by Turing and his brilliant team of code-breakers at Britain’s top-secret Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, during the darkest days of World War II.

The Imitation Game also stars Mark Strong, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Steven Waddington, Tuppence Middleton and Charles Dance. Graham Moore‘s screenplay topped the annual Black List (the list of the best un-produced Hollywood scripts) in 2011. Directed by Morten Tyldum (Headhunters), making his English-language debut,  Harvey and The Weinstein Company will release the film in the UK 14th November and in the US one week later on November 21, and it is already being given awards consideration.