Sunday, February 1, 2015

Oscar Season 2015

As per usual, I was able to see very few of the best picture Oscar nominees this year. The films I chose to see at the theater, like Edge of Tomorrow and Jersey Boys, were understandably ignored by the Academy. Still, it’s difficult to escape the trailers on television and a healthy awareness of all the nominees is unavoidable. Another unavoidable occurrence is that the later entries tend to get the edge in the minds of voters. Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper is the big player in this regard. But he’s up against some stiff competition for best picture in the form of Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, the film that was twelve years in the making and could be a real contender for the top spot. If there’s a dark horse it would be something like Alejandro Iñárritu’s Birdman, a really innovative film that has an outside chance of being a spoiler. Of the rest of the field, there are some terrific films, especially the biographical The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything, but I don’t see either of them edging out the top three. The Grand Budapest Hotel, as great as it is, is a comedy, while Whiplash is just too eclectic.

The final nominee for best picture is something of a disappointment, not the film itself but the way in which the racism of the Academy shows itself yet again. At last years’ Oscars the Jackie Robinson biopic 42 was not even given a single nomination. This year a token nomination for best picture was thrown to Selma, but it was otherwise snubbed in the rest of the categories. It’s not that I think films about Black history have to be given nominations, as though there needs to be Affirmative Action at the Oscars, but I have a difficult time believing that the film isn’t as good as these other films in at least one area. Other films not in the running for best picture that earned nominations were The Judge, with Robert Duval getting his seventh career nomination, this time for supporting actor. Mark Ruffalo was also nominated in the same category for Foxcatcher. The wonderful French actress Marion Cotillard--the only woman to win best actress in a foreign film--was nominated for best actress in another French film Two Days, One Night, and Rosamund Pike’s chilling performance in Gone Girl was similarly recognized. Finally, Laura Dern received a supporting actress nod for Wild as did its star, Reece Witherspoon, for best actress.

In the screenplay category for adapted is Paul Thomas Anderson for his film Inherent Vice, and in the original category is Nightcrawler by Dan Gilroy. For best cinematography comes the only nomination for Unbroken, another surprising snub for the inspirational World War Two film with Roger Deakins being honored for his work behind the camera. While costume design has a couple of children’s films in Maleficent and Into the Woods, the favorite has to be The Grand Budapest Hotel. Another nomination in this category is Mr. Turner, the biopic of British painter J.M.W. Turner. The last of the films that hasn’t been mentioned is the sci-fi adventure Interstellar getting nominations for Hans Zimmer’s film score and its production design team. The only other surprise is that Clint Eastwood was left off of the best director card, with the Academy voting for directors doing more innovative work rather than the solid work of veterans. The good news, for me anyway, is that there are no real films I hate, which always makes watching the awards ceremony that much more enjoyable. The show will be on ABC on February 22nd and hosted by Neil Patrick Harris--who had a nice role in Gone Girl--and should do a great job.

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