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

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Disney Drops Teensiest Musical Breadcrumbs Hoping to Lure Us Into the Woods

Into the Woods, movie, musical, poster, Meryl Streep, Disney, Sondheim

Back at the beginning of August, when I shared the first trailer for director Rob Marshall’s big screen adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods, I wondered where the music was for this lavish movie musical, and why the producers were keeping it from us.

Well, now there’s a new featurette that lets us know that there will be music, but they’re still not ready to give us the “full Monty”, as it were. (Or the full Meryl for that matter). Streep has a lovely singing voice, but I’m still not convinced she possesses the power and range needed for the role – unless her best songs have been cut. Why the hell aren’t they leading with “Children Will Listen”? (They are, however, using a snippet of “Stay with Me”, another showstopper, but we only get the intro.)

We also get a better look at Johnny Depp as “the Wolf”.

Featurette:

Oh dear. Captain Jack has a brand new bag.

The brilliant minds at HitFix have said all there is to say about our first look at Depp’s latest paycheck grab role. Their ten best reactions are…priceless:

1. “Into the Woods” is going to feel like an Evanescence video directed by Tim Burton.
2. I’m guessing the Wolf’s parents are a Steven Tyler mic stand and a Stevie Nicks yard sale.
3. Can Russell Brand or Keith Richards sue Johnny Depp? Do they have to sue each other first?
4. When did Johnny Depp become an airbrushed Mickey Rourke?
5. I think he’s about to cry.
6. Little Red Riding Hood is looking at us like, “Can you believe I’m supposed to be scared of this freakish art dealer?”
7. Furry sleeves? He looks like Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer dyed turquoise.
8. You know Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter sit around dreading the day they’ll have to play each other.
9. It’s so easy to picture Meryl Streep laughing at this.
10. “Wolf” is code for “Willy Wonka’s sassy aunt.”

What are your thoughts? Do you agree?

INTO THE WOODS is a modern twist on the beloved Brothers Grimm fairy tales, intertwining the plots of a few choice stories and exploring the consequences of the characters’ wishes and quests. This humorous and heartfelt musical follows the classic tales of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Rapunzel—all tied together by an original story involving a baker and his wife, their wish to begin a family and their interaction with the witch who has put a curse on them.

You can find clips of the original Broadway cast of the show, here.

Into the Woods opens in the US on December 25, and 9th January in the UK. The cast includes Streep, Emily Blunt, James “The new Craig Ferguson” Corden, Chris Pine, Anna Kendrick, Mackenzie Mauzy, Daniel Huttlestone, Lilla Crawford, Tracy Ullman, Annette Crosbie, Tammy Blanchard, Lucy Punch, Simon Russell Beale, Billy Magnussen and Christine Baranski.

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?