We conclude our Oscars week coverage with our analysis of the major awards, and our tips for the big winners on the night! The links will take you to the individual film reviews. Enjoy!
Due to the Academy’s complex system for deciding on the number of nominees for ‘Best Picture’, we’ve ended up with 8 nominees this year. It’s a fairly standard selection of ‘Best Picture’ nominees, with 4 biopics (all showcasing different examples of triumph over adversity) mixing it up with 4 original visions, and it looks likely in this case that the battle will be between two of the originals in ‘Birdman’ and ‘Boyhood’.
For a long period of time, ‘Boyhood’ has been the strong favourite but the past couple of weeks have shown some signs that its star is waning, with ‘Birdman’ picking up a couple of prestigious prizes that are usually seen as pointers towards the Oscars. ‘American Sniper’s’ massive box office and late entry to the race should not be discounted, although it would be a disappointing winner as the weakest of the films in the selection. That criticism can also extend to the three superior biopics, which are all strong films with strong performances, but it would be nice to see a winner that doesn’t tick all the boxes.
For my money, ‘Whiplash’ is the strongest of the nominations and I’d love to see it win, but it seems too much of an underdog at this stage, and I was disappointed to see two of the best releases in the period, ‘Nightcrawler’ and ‘Gone Girl’ both miss out as well. When it comes to the crunch, I think ‘Boyhood’ is still likely to edge ‘Birdman’ to the prize, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if a ‘Crash’ style shock is on the way with one of the outsiders.
Another tough category, with Bennett Miller perhaps the one surprising nomination (deserved in my opinion) given ‘Foxcatcher‘ missed out on a ‘Best Picture’ nod. In the ‘missed out’ category, Damien Chazelle and David Fincher are unfortunate to be overlooked at the expense of Morten Tyldum’s steady but unspectacular work in ‘The Imitation Game’, but the fuss around Ava DuVernay’s work in ‘Selma’ is unwarranted. Her direction is good, but there were stronger candidates this year.
For the third year running, it’s highly possible we could see a split between the ‘Best Picture’ and ‘Best Director’ winners. Usually coming as a pair (even in years when the direction isn’t a strong element of the ‘Best Picture’ winner i.e. ‘The King’s Speech’), the last two years have seen the visual achievements of ‘Life of Pi’ and ‘Gravity’ recognised with the director’s prize, with ‘Argo’ and ’12 Years a Slave’ taking the big one.
This year, the smart money would be on ‘Boyhood’ taking the big prize with Alejandro González Iñárritu’s stylish direction in ‘Birdman’ potentially edging the Director’s prize, but ultimately I think Richard Linklater’s stunning achievement will edge him to the double.
Steve Carell (Foxcatcher)
Bradley Cooper (American Sniper)
Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game)
Michael Keaton (Birdman)
Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)
‘Best Actor’ is always a tough category and this year is no exception, with a raft of exceptional performances missing out. Great performances from the likes of Timothy Spall, Ralph Fiennes, Joaquin Phoenix and Oscar Isaac were never really in the running, and it was disappointing to see Jake Gyllenhaal and David Oyelowo miss out for what I’d consider 2 of the 3 finest performances of the year. The finest performance that did get nominated was Michael Keaton for ‘Birdman’ and I believe he should win the prize, but this is the only acting category where it seems to be incredibly open to all of the nominees.
The buzz around Steve Carell’s turn in ‘Foxcatcher‘ has subsided somewhat and he’d be the biggest surprise, with the winner likely to come from Keaton, Redmayne and Cooper. Out of the three, Bradley Cooper would be the biggest surprise for me, given his performance (whilst good) is easily the weakest of the nominees in the weakest film. Eddie Redmayne could potentially be impacted by his dreadful performance in the recently released ‘Jupiter Ascending’ but the Oscars love someone depicting a disabled person, and Redmayne’s turn as Stephen Hawking more than meets the criteria. For my money, Redmayne and Cooper are both very good, but not as good as Keaton (or indeed Oyelowo or Gyllenhaal), but if I had to place a bet it would be on Eddie Redmayne sneaking the prize.
‘Still Alice’ isn’t released in the UK until March so it’s difficult to judge Julianne Moore’s performance, even though it seems she is the runaway favourite to pick up the prize. In a strong year for female performances, I’d give the edge to Rosamund Pike’s twisted performance in ‘Gone Girl’ ahead of Reese Witherspoon in ‘Wild’ out of the four that I’ve seen. Scarlett Johansson’s mesmerising performance in Jonathan Glazer’s ‘Under The Skin’ was always likely to be too niche for the voters and so it proved, but I’d have loved to have seen her in here.
Best Supporting Actor
Most of the acting awards seem to be locks at this stage, and ‘Best Supporting Actor’ is no different. It’s a strong category overall but no one would grudge victory to character actor J. K. Simmons for his stunning portrayal of acid tongued jazz instructor Terence Fletcher in ‘Whiplash’. It’s a strong group overall, with Riz Ahmed in ‘Nightcrawler’ or Josh Brolin’s pitch perfect performance as a hippie hating cop in ‘Inherent Vice’ potentially the performance that could have sneaked in at Duvall’s expense.
Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
Laura Dern (Wild)
Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game)
Emma Stone (Birdman)
Meryl Streep (Into The Woods)
It’ll be a big surprise if anyone other than Patricia Arquette takes this prize, with Emma Stone perhaps the only real competition for her role in ‘Birdman’. It’s disappointing that Meryl Streep gets her token nomination for ‘Into The Woods’, whilst Rene Russo’s excellent turn in ‘Nightcrawler’ misses out.
Best Original Screenplay
Birdman (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 (Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness)
Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy)
The screenplay awards often seem to go to films that can’t quite crack the biggest prizes on the evening, and I suspect there’s a good chance of this happening again, with ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ my favourite to sneak the prize ahead of ‘Boyhood’ or ‘Birdman’. Personally, I’d love to see the prize go to Dan Gilroy’s warped LA set satire ‘Nightcrawler’.
As discussed under the ‘Adapted Screenplay’ section below, ‘Whiplash’ is in the wrong category.
Best Adapted Screenplay
The late charge from ‘American Sniper’ puts it in pole position for ‘Best Adapted Screenplay’, which would be unfortunate in the face of better competition. Gillian Flynn’s script for ‘Gone Girl’ from her own novel is criminally overlooked in favour of the by the numbers scripts for biopics ‘The Theory of Everything’ and ‘The Imitation Game’, and ‘Whiplash’ is likely to suffer for being placed in the wrong category (the Academy ruled that it was classed as ‘Adapted’ as it comes from director Damien Chazelle’s own short). That leaves ‘Inherent Vice’, a film I found it tough to get along with, but undoubtedly a film that is well adapted by Paul Thomas Anderson from Thomas Pynchon’s ‘unfilmable’ novel, and it would be a worthy winner.
Best Animated Feature Film
Big Hero 6 (Don Hall and Chris Williams)
The Boxtrolls (Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi)
How to Train Your Dragon 2 (Dean DeBlois)
Song of the Sea (Tomm Moore)
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (Isao Takahata)
The ‘Animated Feature Film‘ category contains 2 unreleased films in the UK, and one I’ve yet to see (‘The Boxtrolls‘), which leaves only two. ‘How To Train Your Dragon 2’ edges ‘Big Hero 6’ for me (and for the academy, I suspect) but the obvious winner was incredibly omitted. ‘The Lego Movie’ was the best animated film of not just last year, but of the past few, and it’s one of the biggest snubs of this years awards.
Best Foreign Language Film
There were a couple of surprising omissions in this category, with Palme D’or winner ‘Winter Sleep’, and the Dardenne brothers ‘Two Days, One Night’, starring Marion Cotillard (who is nominated) both missing out. Out of the final list, only two have had UK releases yet and both appear to be the favourites. I suspect the academy will go with ‘Ida’, the beautiful Polish film, but the brash and powerful tale of corruption from Russia that is ‘Leviathan’ is the superior film in my opinion.
Citizenfour (Laura Poitras)
Finding Vivian Maier (John Maloof and Charlie Siskel)
Last Days in Vietnam (Rory Kennedy)
The Salt of the Earth (Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado)
Virunga (Orlando von Einsiedel)
To my shame, I’ve yet to actually see any of the nominated documentaries this year, in large part due to the release dates in the UK falling after that ceremony. ‘Citizenfour’ seems to be the overwhelming favourite, but it’s a shame that Steve James touching tribute to Roger Ebert, ‘Life Itself’ has been missed off the final list
Should Win: –
Will Win: Citizenfour
Should be here: Life Itself