87th Academy Awards Nominations, Initial Reactions

The nominees for the 87th Academy Awards, honoring the best in film in 2014, were announced today. First of all, I’m going to check the Awards Circuit predictions for the Best Picture nominees against the actual nominees. Here are the predicted nominees; the actual nominees are bolded, and the ones I’ve seen as of January 15 2015 are underlined (so the actual nominees that I’ve seen are bolded and underlined).

Boyhood

Birdman

The Imitation Game

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Theory of Everything

Selma

American Sniper

Whiplash

Nightcrawler

Foxcatcher

So right off the bat I’ve seen four of the eight nominees: Boyhood, Birdman, The Theory of Everything, and Whiplash.

Foxcatcher was a “in case there are ten” prediction; the Awards Circuit prediction was for nine movies. So their real miss was Nightcrawler, and I always thought that was a long shot anyway. I’m surprised to see American Sniper having re-surged; it’d been left for dead in the Oscar sweepstakes for awhile, only to suddenly catch fire in the last few weeks before voting closed.

I’ll do one of those “what will win/what should win” things for each of the categories, with the major caveat that I haven’t seen all of the nominated movies for most of the categories, and I’ll indicate which of the nominated movies I’ve seen for each category. The only category for which I’ve seen all the nominees is Best Supporting Actor. I’ll point out when my “what should win” does not match the “what will win” and I have not seen the “what will win”. I’ll also add my own comments on the nominations.

Best Picture

What I’ve seen: Birdman, Boyhood, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash

What will win: Boyhood

What should win: Birdman

I’m on Team Birdman here. Birdman >>>>> Boyhood. Boyhood is fine but really overrated. As I wrote yesterday, Birdman (or should I say, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)) is edgy, innovative, and thought-provoking, and I think it pushes the boundaries on storytelling. Many movies can only focus on either plot or character development, but Birdman manages to do both. I’m not saying it’s the best movie ever, but certainly more deserving than the other three I’ve seen so far. (Of the four I’ve seen, my second choice would be Whiplash, followed by The Theory of Everything.)

Again, I’m surprised to see American Sniper come back from the dead. Not so surprised that Foxcatcher didn’t make it and really not surprised that Nightcrawler, which was never in serious contention, didn’t make it either.

Not surprised, but still annoyed that Interstellar didn’t get nominated. It’s a damn good movie. Certainly better than some of the movies that did get nominated. I agree with this op-ed about Interstellar not being nominated.

Best Director

Who I’ve seen: Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman), Richard Linklater (Boyhood), Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher)

Who will win: Richard Linklater (Boyhood)

Who should win: Probably Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman)

I’m surprised Bennett Miller was nominated for Foxcatcher. Linklater will probably win for Boyhood, on the strength of the 12-year filming schedule for his film. I’m torn on this. On one hand, the 12-year thing is unusual and I think many people feel like Linklater needs to be acknowledged for that, and this award is the best way to do it (I can’t think of another Oscar that would address that kind of casting and filming decision). On the other hand, it’s becoming less and less impressive the more I think about it, to the point where it’s almost like a gimmick. Birdman has impressive cinematography and is just a much better put-together movie overall, which is why I lean in Iñárritu’s direction. That said, I might be okay with Linklater winning Best Director and Birdman winning in the Best Cinematography category.

Was Chris Nolan nominated? Oh, of course not.

Best Actor

Who I’ve seen: Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), Michael Keaton (Birdman), Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)

Who will win: Michael Keaton (Birdman)

Who should win: Michael Keaton (Birdman)

The Force is with Michael Keaton this time, and I think he turned in a fantastic and captivating performance. He’s the strong favorite to win. Eddie Redmayne was on point in his very physically demanding role of Stephen Hawking, but Keaton’s performance feels a little more well-rounded. Carell did a great job too, but I’m exasperated at how he ended up in the Lead Actor category instead of Supporting (the lead role in Foxcatcher was with Channing Tatum, who did a great job as well and was certainly Oscar nomination-worthy). Oh, and Bradley Cooper, where did you come from, and what are you doing in David Oyelowo’s seat?

Best Actress

Who I’ve seen: Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything), Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl), Reese Witherspoon (Wild)

Who will win: Julianne Moore (Still Alice)

Who should win: Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything) (though I haven’t seen Still Alice)

The field feels rather weak this year, which might be why Marion Cotillard came out of nowhere and grabbed a spot that was slated for Jennifer Aniston. All three performances I’ve seen are at least good, if not on par with some of their male counterparts. I picked Jones because she had the most unexpectedly subtle but gripping performance of the three I’ve seen, though I’ll confess that I also find her physically attractive and that might be biasing my judgment. Supposedly, Moore already has this award locked up and the contest is a formality at this point.

Best Supporting Actor

Who I’ve seen: Robert Duvall (The Judge), Ethan Hawke (Boyhood), Edward Norton (Birdman), Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher), J.K. Simmons (Whiplash) (I’ve seen all of them!)

Who will win: J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)

Who should win: J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)

Simmons has this one locked up. I’ve actually seen all five nominated performances, and the funny thing is that I think all of them besides Simmons and Duvall are really overrated. This is actually a pretty weak field. I would’ve put Steve Carell in this category for Foxcatcher (yes, he’s in a supporting role). If Simmons wasn’t competing this year, I could give his slot, and the award itself, to Carell. But as it is, Simmons was easily the best of the five.

Best Supporting Actress

Who I’ve seen: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood), Laura Dern (Wild), Emma Stone (Birdman)

Who will win: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)

Who should win: No one I’ve seen. Anyone but Meryl Streep.

Why are all these acting fields, besides Best Actor, so weak this year???!!! The three nominated performances I’ve seen are all hugely overrated and I feel like those characters are to some extent one-dimensional stereotypes anyway. And you know it’s a weak field when, once again, freakin Meryl Streep has to get yet another Oscar nomination. I don’t want her to win any more Oscars, so I’m going Anyone But Streep on this one.

Best Original Screenplay

What I’ve seen: Birdman, Boyhood, Foxcatcher

What will win: Tossup between Birdman and Boyhood

What should win: Birdman

This is a fairly strong year for Best Original Screenplay, and Nightcrawler got a consolation prize. I’m hoping Birdman wins the award. Boyhood had lots of pointless, long-winded, pseudo-intellectual discourse (including the memorable line “Moments are like, always… right now.”). A good chunk of Foxcatcher’s script consisted of John Du Pont telling other people how great he was.

Best Adapted Screenplay

What I’ve seen: The Theory of Everything, Whiplash

What will win: I don’t know

What should win: Whiplash

This field seems unusually weak for Adapted Screenplay, probably because many of the heavy hitters were Original this year (a good thing, I think). There was some smart dialog in Whiplash, which of course was supposed to be in the Original Screenplay category to begin with, but this might be a happy accident that will result in both Whiplash and Birdman taking home Screenplay prizes this year. I haven’t seen Inherent Vice, but it was written by Paul Thomas Anderson so I assume it’s crap.

Best Animated Feature

What I’ve seen: None

What will win: Big Hero 6?

What should win: No opinion

Many were surprised that The Lego Movie didn’t get nominated. I thought it was overrated anyway.

Best Production Design

What I’ve seen: Interstellar

What will win: I don’t know

What should win: No opinion

I’m not even sure what this category is for. Is it like for the set design? Interstellar had a very good set, I suppose…

Best Cinematography

What I’ve seen: Birdman

What will win: I don’t know

What should win: Birdman

I can’t speak for the other movies, but Birdman had amazing cinematography, with nearly the entire movie edited to look like one long take. It should be recognized for that.

Best Costume Design

What I’ve seen: None

What will win: I don’t know

What should win: No opinion

Best Film Editing

What I’ve seen: Boyhood, Whiplash

What will win: I don’t know

What should win: Whiplash

I think there’s a reason why Birdman wasn’t nominated here despite having awe-inspiring editing, but I can’t remember what it is. Anyway, that makes a win in Cinematography all the more imperative. Between the two I’ve seen I give it to Whiplash, easily. That movie had some crazy ass editing.

Best Makeup

What I’ve seen: Foxcatcher, Guardians of the Galaxy

What will win: I don’t know (maybe Foxcatcher?)

What should win: Guardians of the Galaxy

I have a feeling Foxcatcher is going to be rewarded for Steve Carell’s gigantic nose, but clearly it should be GotG.

Best Sound Mixing

What I’ve seen: Birdman, Interstellar, Whiplash

What will win: I don’t know

What should win: Any of Birdman, Interstellar, or Whiplash

All three of the movies I’ve seen have great sound, but I don’t know what’s the difference between sound mixing and sound editing.

Best Sound Editing

What I’ve seen: Birdman, Interstellar

What will win: I don’t know

What should win: Birdman or Interstellar (whichever one doesn’t win Sound Mixing)

Best Visual Effects

What I’ve seen: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Interstellar, X-Men: Days of Future Past

What will win: I don’t know (I’m guessing Interstellar)

What should win: Interstellar

Why is Captain America even on here? Interstellar needs to win for Visual Effects. You can’t produce the first (?) big-screen portrayal of a wormhole and not win an Oscar for it. Pretty much all the other nominees pale in comparison to Interstellar’s technical achievement. GotG is the only one that even comes close.

Best Original Score

What I’ve seen: Interstellar, The Theory of Everything

What will win: I don’t know

What should win: Interstellar

Give this one to Interstellar. That score was awesome.

Best Original Song

What I’ve heard: “Everything Is Awesome” (The Lego Movie)

What will win: I don’t know (maybe “Glory” (Selma))

What should win: No opinion

“Everything Is Awesome” was okay, not that awesome. Did “Boom Clap” (The Fault in Our Stars) qualify? It should’ve been nominated at least… or maybe that’s just having it stuck in my head from too much radio play talking.

Best Foreign Language

What I’ve seen: None

What will win: I don’t know

What should win: No opinion

What, no Blue is the Warmest Color? Aarggh!!!!

Best Documentary Feature

What I’ve seen: None

What will win: Probably Citizenfour

What should win: No opinion

Based off the subject matter, it’d be nice for Citizenfour to win, but I can’t offer a substantive opinion here.

Best Live Action Short

What I’ve seen: None

What will win: I don’t know

What should win: No opinion

Best Animated Short

What I’ve seen: None

What will win: I don’t know

What should win: No opinion

Best Documentary Short

What I’ve seen: None

What will win: I don’t know

What should win: No opinion

87th Academy Awards Preliminary Outlook

The nominees for the 87th Academy Awards, honoring the best in film in 2014, are to be announced tomorrow. I’ve been tracking predictions for the nominees on two websites: HitFix and Awards Circuit. I just rechecked the predictions for the first time in at least a month or so, and for the first time since I started checking both sites a few months ago, the two sites agree on every single one of the top ten most likely nominees, though they have them listed in different orders. I’m just going to go with Awards Circuit’s ranking, from most likely to least likely to be nominated. Ones I’ve already seen as of January 14 2015 are in bold.

Boyhood

Birdman

The Imitation Game

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Theory of Everything

Selma

American Sniper

Whiplash

Nightcrawler

Foxcatcher

I’ll write reviews for the ones I’ve seen in due time, but for now, some comments.

Many of these have been on the list since forever, but I’m surprised that The Grand Budapest Hotel and Nightcrawler have managed to make it up there. For the longest time they were stuck in the second tier (Nightcrawler especially). Whiplash and Foxcatcher have always been sorta hovering between the second and first tier, bouncing back and forth depending on the week.

Here’s my preliminary ranking of the five predicted nominees I’ve seen, from best to worst:

Birdman

Whiplash

The Theory of Everything

Boyhood

Foxcatcher

Birdman (actually, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)) is among one of the best new movies I’ve seen in recent years. It’s edgy, innovative, and thought-provoking, and I think it pushes the boundaries on storytelling. Whiplash is also edgy and provocative, though in a rather depressing package. The Theory of Everything is more conventional but it has a laser-like focus on the relationship between the two main characters. That said, in a year with entries such as Birdman, Whiplash, and Boyhood, The Theory of Everything seems rather old hat by comparison.

Boyhood is a decent movie but it’s incredibly overrated and is nowhere near Best Picture material. (For the record, I thought the same thing of Argo, except I’d say it’s even worse than Boyhood.) I’m pretty sure that if it hadn’t been for the 12-year filming schedule, the movie wouldn’t be considered for an Oscar nomination, let alone cleaning up at all the other awards. I can understand if Richard Linklater gets Best Director for what he did, but Boyhood should NOT get Best Picture.

Foxcatcher makes a contribution in the intense acting from the three leads, but is otherwise slow and dull, and pales in comparison to the other four contenders I’ve seen.

For Best Director, to me it comes down to Richard Linklater (Boyhood) versus Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman). Linklater will probably get rewarded for the 12-year filming schedule, though really, it’s starting to feel more like a gimmick at this point. Iñárritu’s work is actually the more technically impressive.

For Best Actor, it’s Michael Keaton (Birdman) versus Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything), but Keaton’s performance feels more well-rounded. Redmayne did a great job, especially when it came to capturing the physicality of his subject, but Keaton’s performance was just more convincing. I feel like Miles Teller (Whiplash) is being overlooked in this category. For Best Actress, Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl), Reese Witherspoon (Wild), and Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything) were all impressive. For now, I lean towards Jones because I went in expecting the least out of her.

For Best Supporting Actor, J. K. Simmons (Whiplash) should win hands-down. I would stick Steve Carell (Foxcatcher) in this category (and give a nomination to Channing Tatum in the Lead Actor category). This is one category where I’ve actually seen all five predicted nominees, the others being Edward Norton (Birdman), Ethan Hawke (Boyhood), and Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher), and they were all fine but not outstanding. For Best Supporting Actress, Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) is incredibly overrated, though the only other contender I’ve seen is Emma Stone (Birdman) who’s… also incredibly overrated. This category seems rather weak this year, which is probably why Meryl Streep is able to slip in again.

This is a fairly strong year for Best Original Screenplay, and I’m hoping Birdman wins the award. Boyhood had lots of pointless, long-winded, pseudo-intellectual discourse (including the memorable line “Moments are like, always… right now.”). A good chunk of Foxcatcher’s script consisted of John Du Pont telling other people how great he was. Best Adapted Screenplay is a bit weaker, but there was some smart dialog in Whiplash and Gone Girl.

I’m hoping Birdman wins for Cinematography. Interstellar needs to win for Visual Effects. You can’t produce the first (?) big-screen portrayal of a wormhole and not win an Oscar for it. Speaking of Interstellar, I think it should get at least a nomination for Best Picture (and Chris Nolan for Best Director), but what do I know?