It’s that time of year again where the men dust off their black and white tuxes and the women wear extravagant gowns desperately hoping that the media will like it and not berate them as soon as they step on to the red carpet; where everyone practices their fake consolatory smile and we all try and forget about Seth McFarlane’s time hosting the ceremony. That’s right, its awards season and they all lead up to the big one that arrives like clockwork in February like the crushing inevitability of another Adam Sandler movie. The Oscars. The nominations have been announced and as per every year there are plenty of mistakes and shocks. Let’s take a look at some of the main categories and see what’s been nominated, what should and probably will win and what has been missed out.
Best Animated Feature:
Big Hero 6
How to Train you Dragon 2
Song of the Sea
The Tale of Princess Kaguya
We’ve got two films here that have yet to be released in the U.K. so they are unknown quantities at the moment. However, rarely does this award to go a film from outside of the U.S, so that tends to rule those two out anyway. It’s nice to see Laika studios, the guys behind Paranorman and Coraline, getting a nomination and it would be nice for them to win their first, especially since Paranorman lost out to the inferior Brave in 2012, but I think this will be a very outside chance. It’s really a pick between Big Hero 6 and How to Train your Dragon 2 and I think perhaps that Dragon may clinch it. The biggest mystery in this category is the lack of nomination for The Lego Movie. It’s caused the biggest outcry this year and seems a very odd exclusion as the film is funny, heart warming, well made, for both adults and children and is also quite clever.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role:
Patricia Arquette – Boyhood
Laura Dern – Wild
Kiera Knightley – The Imitation Game
Emma Stone – Birdman
Meryl Streep – Into the Woods
So we’ve got the usual nomination for Meryl Streep for the Meryl Streep Award for being Meryl Streep in a Movie This Year, which seems quite token especially considering the way that Into the Woods has fared critically and commercially, so I’d say she is out of the running. Kiera Knightley seems an outside choice this year because, although she has received some praise for her role, it doesn’t really feel like it’s had the weight behind it this awards season for a win. Laura Dern has been nominated before, for Best Actress in 1992 for Rambling Rose (no, me neither), but again I don’t think she has the weight behind her to win. Which brings us down to the Emma Stone for Birdman and Patricia Arquette for Boyhood. Emma Stone is strong in Birdman showing plenty of dramatic muscle to go with her proven comedic talents and Birdman has a lot of critical acclaim and other nominations going for it, always helpful, but I don’t think this is to be her year. I think it’s going to go to Patricia Arquette who was so good in Boyhood, and who has already won an award for this role.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role:
Robert Duvall – The Judge
Ethan Hawke – Boyhood
Edward Norton – Birdman
Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons – Whiplash
The strangest nomination here is Robert Duvall in The Judge. The film came out quite a few months ago and sunk. It was set up as a potential big hitter at the Oscars but died through a complete critical shrugging of shoulders. I assume he’s getting the nomination more for being a classic actor, a member of the old guard, so I think we can rule him out. I don’t think Ethan Hawke is going to go the same way as his co-star Patricia Arquette here as I don’t think he got to show off the same dramatic power that she did in Boyhood. Edward Norton is good in Birdman, displaying some fun unhinged comedy but less drama. Mark Ruffalo is also good but quietly so in Foxcatcher his performance not showy enough to get the award. I think you can safely say the Oscar in this category is going to go to J.K. Simmons for his explosive and shocking performance in Whiplash. It’s a very in your face performance but balanced with some very gentle moments of melancholy. He deserves it and will take it.
Best Actress in a Leading Role:
Marion Cotillard – Two Days, One Night
Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore – Still Alice
Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon – Wild
This is a bit of a difficult one as the nomination most being talked up is Julianne Moore in Still Alice, a film that has yet to make its way over here. Apparently, though the film is middling, Moore is brilliant as a woman suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s. Illness is a subject that traditionally the academy loves to give awards out to and Moore has been acting for a long time and with four previous nominations without a win, this is probably her year. Rosamund Pike is a revelation in Gone Girl but it is far too dark a character and film for the academy, hence its lack of nominations in any other category. Marion Cotillard has won the Best Actress award before, for La Vie en Rose, and she is apparently very good in Two Days, One Night but honestly I would be surprised if most of the voters have seen it. I don’t think Felicity Jones will be getting it, first time nominee and really the first time she will have come on the Academy’s radar. Reese Witherspoon is the other big hitter. She has also won before in this category, for Walk the Line, and Wild is certainly her movie, playing as the Academy likes with a lack of vanity, and she carries the film on her shoulders but I think it’s going to be Julianne Moore this year. A notable snub in this category is that of Jennifer Aniston for Cake. Though not out here yet she had been widely talked up and critically praised for her performance as a chronic pain sufferer but she shall have to wait for another year.
Best Actor in a Leading Role:
Steve Carell – Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper – American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton – Birdman
Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything
An odd one this. Carell is undeniably good, and almost unrecognisable, as Jean DuPont in Foxcatcher, a role that has been talked up since it debuted on festival screens, but to my mind it belongs in the Supporting category. Foxcatcher is a three actor film and Carell is definitely not the lead. If anyone is in the movie I’d say it was Channing Tatum, who seems to have been unfairly missed out here, but it is definitely more of a three actor film. As things stand, I don’t think Carell is going to get it anyway, Foxcatcher isn’t nominated for Best Film and it is not a showy performance, everything is subdued and insular, so I think it will be unlikely to go to Carell. Bradley Cooper, his third Oscar nomination, second for Best Actor, I don’t think has enough buzz around him for a win and the backlash has hit American Sniper. To be honest I’ve yet to see him do anything that I feel is deserving of the award. I think Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance as an ill and brilliant British man has been swept under by Eddie Redmayne’s performance as an ill and brilliant British man, so I think, though he was riding high earlier in the year, his momentum has stalled. It is definitely a battle between Redmayne as Steven Hawking and Michael Keaton for Birdman this year. Very difficult to call. Redmayne’s is an extremely physical and transformative performance whereas Keaton’s is a very emotionally bare and raw performance. Whether Keaton’s standing as an older Hollywood star and also something of a comeback performance will tip it for him we shall have to wait and see. It will become a little clearer as the other awards ceremony give out their awards. This year there is a very good argument for this category being longer. Where is the nomination for Jake Gyllenhaal for his brilliant performance in Nightcrawler? Where is David Oyelowo for his performance as Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma? I have already mentioned the lack of Channing Tatum but where is Timothy Spall for Mr Turner? I imagine the film was too small for it to have gained any recognition from the Academy but his is one of the most critically acclaimed performances of the year.
Alejandro G. Inarrito – Birdman
Richard Linklater – Boyhood
Bennett Miller – Foxcatcher
Wes Anderson – The Grand Budapest Hotel
Mortem Tyldum – The Imitation Game
A little easier this one. For starters chances are you won’t win Best Director if your film isn’t also nominated for Best Picture so that’s Bennett Miller out for Foxcatcher. Wes Anderson is probably too quirky for the Academy, though The Grand Budapest Hotel is certainly very carefully crafted and directed. It’s a little bit of a surprise that Mortem Tyldum is in for The Imitation Game and not James Marsh for The Theory of Everything, and as I’ve said before the momentum of The Imitation Game has run low. So we’re down to Richard Linklater and Alejandro G. Inarrito. The boldness and skill of creating a coherent and good movie over a twelve year period should not rule Linklater out, he has made cinema history, but it seems that the little naked gold man will go to Inarrito for Birdman, a film which just screams out ‘look at this direction’ and is all the more thrilling for it. It is a supremely well-crafted movie and it would be a deserving win. The big shock in this category is the lack of a very deserving nomination for Ava Duvernay for Selma, a brilliant film that will surely be one of the best of the year and that was handled brilliantly by her and also denies her the honour of being the first black woman nominated in this category. Less surprising omissions, but I was hopeful none the less, were potential nominations for Christopher Nolan for Interstellar, Dan Gilroy for Nightcrawler, Damien Chazelle for Whiplash and David Fincher for Gone Girl. Also, a little bit surprising is the lack of a nomination for Clint Eastwood for American Sniper as the film has done well in other categories and he really is one of the old Hollywood guard.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything
Finally here is Selma’s very deserving Oscar nomination but it is far too little too late and that leaves it right out in the cold. A strange quirk of the Oscars is that rarely does a film win Best Picture unless it wins Best Editing and even more rare if it isn’t even nominated for that category. That brings things down to five films: American Sniper, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game and Whiplash. They also probably won’t win if they haven’t got a Best Director nomination so that takes out Whiplash and American Sniper. Again, I think The Grand Budapest Hotel is far too quirky and off the wall for the Academy to award this to so that’s out and The Imitation Game hasn’t got enough weight behind it at this time of year to see it through. So that leaves Boyhood, doesn’t it? Well perhaps not. Despite the fact I’ve just told you this almost cast iron rule, Birdman may break it. Birdman doesn’t have any obvious editing, it’s all done in very clever digital stitching, so you can’t really nominate it for Best Editing. As last year it was a fight between 12 Years a Slave and Gravity, this year it is between Birdman and Boyhood. A difficult one to call. Birdman has a lot of weight behind it, the performances, the direction, the cinematography and the critics, but Boyhood is a once in a lifetime movie, a bold cinematic experiment that hasn’t been seen before and one that most importantly works, and it also has plenty of critical positivity and other nominations behind it. Honestly, in my mind it’s too close to call at the moment so again we’ll have to see what the other awards ceremonies do. Now for the snubs. This category can now extend to up to ten films so the fact that it’s down at eight is very odd. No nomination for Foxcatcher despite the acting and directing nominations? Very strange. Also upsetting that Nightcrawler isn’t in there; surely it’s one of this year’s biggest and best surprises and worthy of a place. No love also for Gone Girl, though again it’s way too dark for the Oscars voters. Perhaps also there were quite a few people hoping that Interstellar would be in there, big intelligent science fiction and Nolan films have made the cut before, but the Academy apparently happily settled on a strange eight.
Of course this is all guesswork and I could end up being completely wrong when it comes to the awards, which are on February 22nd, because as we all know, the Oscars are a complete law unto themselves. They gave Forest Gump best picture over Pulp Fiction. David Fincher has never won an Oscar and neither did Stanley Kubrick or Alfred Hitchcock. Anyway, what do you think? Have I missed anything, gotten it completely wrong or are you in agreement? Let us know in the comments.