Friday, February 20, 2015

A Lot Of Potentially Innacurate Oscar Predictions

In the universe where I get to nominate movies for an Oscar, I would be talking about Scarlett Johansson’s Under The Skin chances against Tilda Swinton in Only Lovers Left Alive, or David Oyelowo's chances against Ralph Fiennes, or why Selma is a mortal lock to win Best Picture.  But instead, in a universe where the Motion Picture Academy gives Selma a (literally) token Best Picture award, I’m talking about this:
The Beats The Crap Out Of Me’s

Best Original Screenplay 

This could go to Birdman, Boyhood, or Grand Budapest Hotel.  If it goes to one of the first two, it could be an indicator of which movie will get Best Picture.  Me, I think it should go to Grand Budapest, not least because Ralph Fiennes should have been nominated for making the script’s main character come so alive that when you read the words on the page, you hear Fiennes speaking them.

Best Adapted Screenplay 

This could go to Whiplash, Imitation Game, or American Sniper.   The reason Whiplash is here is because it’s based on a short film made a few years ago by the same director.  The reason Imitation Game is here is the reason Imitation Game is everywhere in these awards, because Harvey Weinstein.  Me, I’d give it to American Sniper, because the script sets up both a pro-war and anti-war story at the same time. 

Best Animated Feature Film 

This should be The Lego Movie, but The Lego Movie was not nominated.  The smart money is on How To Train Your Dragon 2 over Big Hero 6. 

Best Foreign Language Film 

Do you give it to the fabulous post-Holocaust film (Ida), the fabulous dark look at local Russian politics (Leviathan) or the fabulous look at military and religious occupation (Timbuktu)?  I’d say Leviathan, but never discount The Holocaust Factor, which could tip it to Ida.

Best Documentary – Feature 

Let’s see—one movie about current politics (CitizenFour), one about ancient history (Last Days Of Vietnam), one about apes (Virunga), one about a forgotten photographer (Finding Vivian Maier) and one about a Brazilian photographer (The Salt of the Earth).  Cocking my ear to hear what Old Hollywood is saying, I pick up a raspy voice whispering “Apes are fun; I’ll go with the apes.”

Best Documentary – Short Subject
Best Live Action Short Film
Best Animated Short Film

Beats me.  And who cares, really, unless you're doing a pool?

Best Original Score 

Alexander Desplat is up for two separate scores.  Want to bet he wins with one of them?

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Any movie with a half-naked wrestler covered in tattoos and a half-naked black woman in greenface should win, so I say Guardians of the Galaxy over Grand Budapest Hotel and Steve Carell’s nose in Foxcatcher. 

The Coin Tosses

Best Sound Editing

I don’t know why Whiplash isn’t up for this and The Hobbit: The Cash Grab With Five Armies is, but there you are.   My gut says American Sniper will win, because the Academy loves to reward shoot-em-ups.  But it also loves to reward movies about Hollywood guys who stick it to New York, so it could go to Birdman.   

Best Visual Effects
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Part of me is betting this will go to Interstellar, part of me is betting that this is the year the Andy Serkis Technique gets rewarded.


Best Costume Design
Mr. Turner has the kind of believable period costumes that get dirty, so that lets them out.  Into the Woods managed to cover up Emily Blunt’s pregnancy, but didn’t ring enough changes on Fairy Tale Couture 101.  Unlike Maleficent, which did.  That’s more of a possibility than Inherent Vice, which is way too current to win this kind of award.  Me, I’d give it to Grand Budapest Hotel, because everybody wore the kind of unbelievable period costumes that never have a speck of dirt on them ever.

Best Film Editing

This could go either way, depending on whether the Academy wants to reward the woman who slogged through twelve years of footage to assemble Richard Linklater’s dream project, or the guy who made jazz drumming look sexier than Rosamund Pike with powdered sugar on her face. 


The Mortal Locks

Best Supporting Actor : J. K. Simmons – Whiplash
Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette – Boyhood
Best Actress: Julianne Moore – Still Alice

The other people in these categories will try to look gracious while they sit there waiting to get smashed at an after-party.  Who would I choose if these three performers had not made movies this year?  Edward Norton for playing himself,  Emma Stone for making Edward Norton and Michael Keaton look human, and Rosamund Pike for making the entire movie of Gone Girl work.


Best Original Song:  "Glory" from Selma

This is the only award Selma is going to win.  Considering it's only nominated in two categories, that's a great percentage.  But considering it's only nominated in two categories, it's also a travesty.

Best Sound Mixing: Whiplash 

If you stop and think about the plot of Whiplash, it makes no logical sense at all, but thanks to the frantic editing and sound mixing, you get so caught up in the moment that all the absurdities don’t hit you till the movie is over.  

Best Production Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel 

Seriously—was there anything more beautiful to look at last year than this film?

Best Cinematography: Birdman

There’s a chance this could go to Mr. Turner for its painterly compositions, or Ida for its black-and-white excellence, but I smell an early win for Birdman.

The Down To The Wires


Best Actor
Michael Keaton – Birdman
Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything
Bradley Cooper – American Sniper 

Keaton and Redmayne have been the front runners from the beginning.  Cooper, like his film, has made a strong post-Christmas finish.  Keaton gets points for pretty much playing himself, and Redmayne and Cooper get points for playing real-life people, but Redmayne gets bonus points for playing a real-life person with a disease.  That usually trumps everything.  Except that Keaton gets bonus points for making the movie that he’s in impossible to imagine with anyone else in the lead.  I wish there was a way to see the post-award voting in this category, because I suspect that votes for Cooper are going to be the deciding factor here.  If they take votes away from Redmayne, Keaton wins; and vice versa.  If there were two categories, one for acting and one for performance, Redmayne and Keaton would both win.  Barring a tie, that’s not going to happen.  Me?  I want Redmayne to win it, but I think Keaton is going to pull it off, mostly because I think votes for Cooper will cut into Redmayne’s totals.

Best Director
Alejandro González Iñárritu – Birdman
Richard Linklater – Boyhood
Two architects of separate but stunning tours-de-force, one of whom uses real-time raw material to tell a story spanning years, and one of whom uses real-time single-takes to tell a story combining fantasy and reality.  This is a hard one to call because they each deserve to win, for pretty much the same reason—the manipulation of time.  And since you could say that Linklater’s editor had more to do with Boyhood’s success, and Iñárritu’s cameraman had more to do with Birdman’s success, even the hedges on your bet are identical.   Figure that if the Academy decides to vote for the film which grabbed them harder, it will go to Iñárritu, and if they vote for the film whose logistics are staggering, they’ll vote for Linklater.  Figure momentum and it goes to  Iñárritu.  Figure direction that draws attention to itself and it goes to Iñárritu.  So I guess figure Iñárritu.  (And yet, those twelve years behind Boyhood . . .) 

Best Picture

The Imitation Game is BBC hokum; The Theory of Everything is Hallmark hokum; and Whiplash is a monster movie populated by clashing cymbals.  Of the remaining nominees, Grand Budapest Hotel is my personal favorite, and the movie I would like to see win, but the Academy likes to vote for movies that make it feel good about itself, and a movie that is tinged with melancholy despite the fact that it goes down like a sweet confection is probably going to confuse the hell out of Academy voters who pick up on the sadness, never mind those who think “sweet” means “slight.” The Academy does not want to be known by a movie that makes it feel slight, it wants a movie that makes it feel important—which is why Selma not only doesn’t have a chance, but why it never had a chance, because how can a bunch of old white guys feel good about a movie in which all the old white guys are taken to school by smart, committed black men and women?  (I’ve been working on a post about Selma and Hollywood for the last two weeks, and it keeps getting angrier and angrier.)  Selma should win, but it won’t, and I hate to think it got roundly snubbed because 12 Years A Slave won last year, but there you are.  

That leaves the Big Three.  Boyhood got out to an early lead, Birdman has been closing in the stretch, and American Sniper came out of nowhere to make it a neck-and-neck-and-neck race. 

Birdman.  Is Birdman pretentious or amazing?  A little of both.  But it’s the acting (yes, I’m going there) that gives this movie its wings.  Edward Norton has never been better, playing a thinly-disguised version of the asshole we’ve all heard he is.  Emma Stone has Keane kid eyes (seriously, they’re bigger than most people’s heads) and balances a hefty chip on her shoulder with screw-you aplomb.  Michael Keaton is only a Beetlejuice rant away from being everything you want to see Michael Keaton embody in a lead role.  But as a close friend of mine remarked, the movie dies or lives on its last moment—you either buy into that or you walk away feeling gypped.  I go back and forth, but the more I think about it, the more I think that last moment is when the movie goes Hollywood by becoming just another oh-wait-look-up-there-he-really DOES-exist Santa Claus movie. 

Boyhood.  The first half of this movie is amazing.  There’s nothing familiar about it, and it has everything going for it.  The second half is when the main character gets old enough to become a Richard Linklater character, and we’re suddenly in what feels like a very familiar movie.  I think that, when people talk about how amazing this film is, they’re talking about the logistics behind it—the mechanics, the way it was produced and shot—the way, if you want to make a war analogy, all the soldiers and equipment were coordinated for a battle which, in the end, isn’t as thrilling as the plan of attack—where the actual fight is something of a letdown.  And it’s the fight that gets the Academy’s votes.  Which brings us to the dark horse:

American Sniper.  Depending on how you look at it, this is an anti-war movie masquerading as hero worship, or hero worship masquerading as an anti-war movie.  In other words, how you see it depends entirely on what you’re looking to see, and the movie is clever enough to play to and support those two opposing visions.  It’s also classically constructed, balancing a kid-with-a-weapon scene at the beginning with a kid-with-a-weapon scene at the end, to chart the difference in Bradley Cooper’s sniper.  Its battle scenes are models of clarity—you always know who’s who and where you are, especially in that sandstorm sequence.  And yes, it has the usual wife-who-is-feeling-distanced female lead, but Sienna Miller (Sienna Miller!) nails it.  Plus the Academy loves Clint Eastwood.  So this could totally sneak in as Best Picture, or—just like voting for Bradley Cooper—cut into the votes for one of the two other favorites.  If that happens, look for those votes to come from Boyhood’s totals. 
In the end, I think Birdman is going to win, thanks in no small part to that final Yes-Emma-Stone-there-IS-a-Birdman moment.  Because if it's anything the Academy wants to believe in, it's Santa Claus.


daniel said...

I and a certain crowd of cohorts have been in it for J.K. from the start because we did a production of Threepenny Opera with him in 1989 in Cleveland and he's a great guy-a real person, and FUNNY. And it's thrilling. I'd be a Birdman guy (however see last sentence). Boyhood is amazing but when I think back on it it has no aftertoad for me. Interesting considering I have a 16 year old boy. American Sniper is a lousy movie except for one extraordinary performance. The Kid and I watched my SAG screener of Birdman and there's no way around it; every time Norton comes on screen the thing just explodes with energy. We kept going WOW. However I'd still go with J.K. But on that subject the critic for the Huffington Post said what nobody has been saying; how is J.K. a supporting role in this? Best Actor. Keaton for me but you know Oscar Bait. It's hard to beat another episode of All That Spaz. BUT-my pick for film of the year was the one that didn't stand a chance. There's creepy and that can win. But there's genuinely creeping the Academy out and it doesn't have a chance. Too bad because Under The Skin is the most extraordinary movie of 2014. I never buy a new movie DVD but I ordered it instantly and as far as the soundtrack? I think I may own 10 tops. As soon as I hit the lobby of the AMC Empire Jiggaplex I bought the score on iTunes right there. It's the most revolutionary score since There Will Be Blood. If the definition of a score that works is how it exists for the movie-well, ding ding ding. I have watched my bluray (has to be for this one) and I don't get bored. It's 2001 hypnotic. I read the novel after and it's rather like reading The Sentinel. You find out what everything is meant to be but can't get over the feeling that Clark and Faber were wrong. As for la Johansson? Can you imagine any other actor of her rank chancing what she chanced? I don't mean the nudity although it's quite easy to see why she dropped her no-nakedness rule for this and she was right to. (Spoiler Alert-look at the title.) Because old Scarlett there-she puts herself on the line both onstage and in film and she doesn't have to. Because old Scarlett doesn't have the shocking surprise of Jennifer Lawrence's every move or the jaw-dropping (when you get over thinking you're over her) craft of Meryl Streep-it's true. And it's true that she's a terrific actress determined to have a real life and be a terrific actress. And total hotness which registers for both boys and girls is not a small thing on camera. In fact it's the thing. Because what she is that almost every other woman in film today is not is a MOVIE STAR. That strange other thing that the camera is helpless in the presence of. The camera films wonderful things that wonderful actors do. But a MOVIE STAR...there's that bizarre combustable meeting of lense and skin and body and energy and the fabric of the screen itself to create-I'm not going to be the fool who tells you why. In Gone With The Wind the camera watches Vivien Leigh on fire with brilliance and energy and sex. Clark Gable actually sets the screen on fire without doing much of anything. Why? Bogart (who only a gazillion people and I think is the greatest film actor of them all) sits there at Cafe Rick's. Is he acting? Well, yeah. In fact he took his work quite seriously. But really-really-is he? When he's alone at that table? You don't watch him in that silence and think 'wow-look how he's so deeply hurt'. Nope. The giant screen itself seems to become an eroticized embodiment of melancholy. The real Mizz Scarlett is somehow caught in the act of eating the camera for lunch while the camera is only to excited to be eaten by her. And all in the service of the strangest most repellent and thrilling movie of the year. It didn't stand a chance.

DidimoChierico said...

I would just add apropos of LEVIATHAN, the "Stick-It-To Comrade Asperger's" factor. I think the Ukraine will trump the Holocaust this year because of anti-Putin sentiment. Too bad Pussy Riot isn't presenting Best Foreign Film... ;-)