Thursday, February 19, 2015

Oscar Picks 87th Academy Awards 2015

Best Picture

Of all the contenders in this category released this year, Richard Linklater's is indelible.  Twelve years in the making.  The focus may be on one character, but it's really about the whole family, about all of us, and how we manage not only to abide but to evolve.

Best Director
Richard Linklater, Boyhood

I tend to admire directors who are visual stylists (Nic Roeg, Ridley Scott, Michael Mann, Kathryn Bigelow), and was impressed with Alejandro González Iñárritu's bold choice to make Birdman look as though it were filmed in one continuous take.  But I ultimately felt that his brilliant cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki was a kind of co-director as the architect of this vision.  Linklater's unobtrusive style suits the story, resulting in a perfect marriage of form and content.  (Of course, one could say the same of Birdman; its non-stop movement reflects character Riggan's manic train wreck of a project--and himself--winding about, out of control).  But Boyhood represents more of a singular vision (Linklater did not have three other writers, after all).  And Linklater is a far more experimental filmmaker than he's been given credit for.  So I'm giving him the edge over Iñárritu.  For the record, I also think that young Damien Chazelle did an outstanding job of directing in his first feature, Whiplash, which isn't nominated in this category.

Lead Actor
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

All of the actors up for this award were fantastic, but Redmayne really nailed it, IMHO.  Michael Keaton was also very good in Birdman, and it's likely he'll win.

Lead Actress
Julianne Moore, Still Alice

No other actress in this category gave a performance of this caliber. Moore never disappoints, but boy, was she superb in this film, which might otherwise have been MOW fodder. 

Supporting Actor
J. K. Simmons, Whiplash

Simmons' was the performance of a career.  For me, Edward Norton in Birdman came in second, and then Mark Ruffalo in Foxcatcher.

Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Will anyone ever forget her in the scene depicted above?  Ellar Coltrane's Mason may be the lead, but Arquette's character is the heart and soul of the movie.

Adapted Screenplay
Paul Thomas Anderson, Inherent Vice

There's no way PTA will win, but he should.  Adapting Pynchon's novel was a feat (Anderson started the process by typing out ALL of the dialogue from the novel!).  If PTA can't win, I guess my next choice would be Graham Moore for The Imitation Game.

Original Screenplay
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Not as affecting as Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom, for me, but more ambitious in scope and tone.  Reads like a piece of literature.

Animated Feature
I don't do animation (or musicals) and could care less.  But those who do say How to Train Your Dragon 2 deserves to win.

Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski, Ida

Writer-director Paweł Pawlikowski (left) teamed with young Lukasz Zal, who had never DP'd a film before, but took over (he had been camera operator) when Lenczewski left due to illness (and reportedly was not fully on board with Pawlikowski's intent to employ unconventional framing). Lubezki will probably win for Birdman, but he's my second choice.  Every frame of Ida is jaw-droppingly composed and lit.  I have a feeling that this director and DP will be working together again.

Costume Design
Milena Canonero, The Grand Budapest Hotel

It's hard even to imagine Wes Anderson's film without its distinctive colorful costumes.

Documentary Feature

I didn't think much of Laura Poitras' filmmaking here, but Snowden and what he discloses in the film are riveting.  

Sandra Adair, Boyhood

While Tom Cross's editing in Whiplash dazzled me (and the film was cut in just 10 weeks after only 19 days of shooting!), Adair (Linklater's long time editor) is the winner for me, given that she had 12 years of film to cut (the published script came in at 181 pages!).  Linklater has said that she also contributed much to the story through the years.

Foreign Language Feature

Quite simply, Paweł Pawlikowski's minimalist masterpiece.  Really, the best film of the year.

Makeup and Hairstyling
Frances Hannon and Julie Dartnell, The Grand Budapest Hotel

I mean, come on, look at Tilda!  It is possible, though, that Guardians of the Galaxy or even Foxcatcher could win--I thought the make-up for Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo was amazingly good.

Original Song and Original Score
I can't really recall any of these, other than the fact that I really disliked Hans Zimmer's score for Interstellar.  The one I do recall that I liked is Antonio Sanchez's score for Birdman, which wasn't nominated

Production Design
Adam Stockhausen (Set Decoration:  Anna Pinnock)

Meticulous, imaginative, playful.  The design of the film is crucial to Anderson's vision.  I particularly appreciated the sad, stark transformation (or devolution) of the hotel, depicted above in its lobby.

                                                     * * *

As for all of the other categories left--sound editing and mixing, visual effects, shorts, I have no strong opinions and haven't seen any of the shorts.  So I'll go with Birdman for sound (to my lay ear, the editing and mix were excellent), and Interstellar for visual effects.

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