87th Annual Academy Awards

It’s that time of year again….awards season.  Like last year, I will take you on an adventure through 2014’s best films as I make my selections for each Academy Award.  I will first list the movies that were nominated by the Academy, and then mark the ones that I feel didn’t deserve nomination as well as the ones that got snubbed.  I will then select the film that I feel should win the given award.  I reiterate a point that I made last year: these are not predictions!  They are selections.  You may even find that some of the movies that I select weren’t even nominated by the Academy for a given category.  If that is the case, I will let you know.

Just like last year, I will list the Academy’s nominees, then I will put an asterisk by the names that I don’t feel deserved a given nomination.  In a subcategory labeled “Snubbed”, I will put the film or individual who should have been nominated, in my opinion. I will put my pick for the winner in the given category in boldface.  This year, I will add a little bonus detail: I will also select a runner-up for each category, which will also be in boldface.

My general observations for this year’s crop: the movies this year weren’t as good as they were last year.  But that’s okay, there will still some certifiable masterpieces in my opinion.  Among them stands one supreme: Richard Linklater’s Boyhood.  Don’t be surprised to see it mentioned a lot in the coming lines.

Anyway, enjoy!

Best Picture

  1. Boyhood—winner
  2. Birdman—runner-up
  3. Whiplash
  4. The Grand Budapest Hotel
  5. American Sniper
  6. Selma*
  7. The Imitation Game*
  8. The Theory of Everything*
  9. Snubbed: The Babadook, Mr. Turner, Leviathan, A Most Violent Year, Ida
  10. Notes: I think a lot of people this year saw American Sniper and Selma on the in-production lists and figured that they were dealing with movies comparable to 2013’s Lone Survivor and 12 Years a Slave, the first of which wasn’t as good as was hyped and the second of which ended up winning the top award in practically every major forum.  That prediction, it seems, was wrong.  Instead, American Sniper was far better than its 2013 “War on Terror” counterpart, and Selma wasn’t nearly as good as its 2013 “Civil Rights” counterpart.  Perhaps that is why so many on the left are so upset about Sniper squeezing into the Best Picture race (and knocking Selma out of the Acting race [see below]), despite the fact that a lot of them—Al Sharpton included—likely never saw half or more of the candidates on the list.
  11. Notes #2: What really gets me is that so many just assumed Selma would be great because 12 Years a Slave was great last year.  But I have a message for all those casual movie-goers out there: other than the fact that they both deal with racial intolerance and have some good acting performances, THERE IS NO SIMILARITY BETWEEN SELMA AND 12 YEARS A SLAVE.  To just group them together because they’re both about black people does a disservice to the real purpose behind the Academy, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the Cannes Jury, and all those other groups that give awards to these films.  Even more so, it does a disservice to the survival of art in an increasingly political world.  And, above all, it does a disservice to African-Americans.  Selma was a good.  12 Years a Slave was a masterpiece.
  12. Notes#3: You’ve likely noticed that my list does not include such Oscar favorites as Foxcatcher, The Imitation Game, Unbroken, Selma, and The Theory of Everything.  All of these movies fall into one of two predominant categories of film that arose during the course of 2014.  The first category (the one into which these movies fall) consists of movies that tell important, powerful and true stories about human nature.  The movies in this category were all very good, and everyone should see them if only to learn the stories they tell.  But the second category is the category that dominated my selections for Best Picture.  This category featured movies that were pure movies.  The spoke the language of cinema fluently and provided us true slices of cake from the minds and hearts of their makers.  They featured great stories, to be sure, but they were movies first and moral tales or commentaries second.
  13. Notes #4: Like last year, I decided that, despite whatever reason the Academy had for having less than ten candidates in the category, I would include ten in my list.  That is why there are two more snubs than there are asterisked titles.
  14. Notes #5: The Academy Awards are an American production, with a primarily ethnocentric focus.  I respect the tradition, and therefore will limit my foreign language selections to two.  In all reality, I would probably only have these two in my top ten anyway.

Best Actor in a Leading Role

  1. Michael Keaton—Birdman—winner
  2. Benedict Cumberbatch—The Imitation Game*
  3. Steve Carrell–-Foxcatcher
  4. Bradley Cooper—American Sniper*
  5. Eddie Redmayne—The Theory of Everything*
  6. Snubbed: Ralph Fiennes—The Grand Budapest HotelTimothy SpallMr. Turnerrunner-up, Jake Gyllenhaal—Nightcrawler
  7. Notes: So far, we have seen that, according to the illustrious Film Sage, the Academy got it pretty wrong in the first two major categories (Best Picture and Best Actor).  While they made sure not to skip the person who most deserved the victory in either category, they snubbed quite a few deserving candidates.  In this case, the most deserving candidate who ended up being snubbed was Timothy Spall.
  8. Notes #2: I’m sorry for being such a killjoy, but I don’t think that a performance based on a real-life character is as much as its cracked up to be.  The two late night Jimmys may get a kick out of a good Martin Luther King or Stephen Hawking impression, but I don’t think its as great to pretend to be Dr. Hawking as it is to create a truly great, conflicted, fictional character.  “Wait!” you exclaim, “you said that Timothy Spall was the biggest snub of the category.  Wasn’t his J.M.W. Turner based on a real character?”  Yes, you are right.  But when it comes to the real-life characters this year, you have Bradley Cooper, Eddie Redmayne, Steve Carrell, Channing Tatum, David Oyelowo, Benedict Cumberbatch and Timothy Spall.  Of those, three people based their performances on real-life characters of relative obscurity and/or interpreted a real-life character in a new way.  Those people are Carrell, Cumberbatch and Spall.  The problem with Cumberbatch is that I don’t necessarily like the way that he interpreted the great Alan Turing.  That means that three of the candidates are out.  After adding Spall, we have room for two more: Gyllenhall and Fiennes.
  9. Notes #3: Redmayne’s success at the Golden Globes and SAGs this year may prove to result in success at the big show.  I still stand by my previous point in Notes #2.

Best Actress in a Leading Role

  1. Julianne Moore—Still Alice—winner
  2. Reese Witherspoon—Wild
  3. Felicity Jones—The Theory of Everything
  4. Marion Cottilard—Two Days, One Night
  5. Rosamund Pike—Gone Girl*
  6. Snubbed: Essie Davis—The Babadook—runner-up
  7. Notes: This is the second time you’ve seen the strange title of “Babadook”.  Well, Australia’s The Babadook was the scariest and finest horror film of the last year, and may be the best scary movie since Alien in 1979.  It’s The Exorcist meets The Shining in the monster movie to end all monster movies.  And Essie Davis plays a composite of Jack Torrance and Linda Blair.  She is fantastic.
  8. Notes #2: Roger Ebert used to have a personal soapbox, as it were, about Ingrid Bergman’s face.  For him, it was the perfect face for movies, glorified and exalted by the camera that filmed it.  As an actor, an object in the frame, her acting was always good, if only by virtue of her perfect face.  I have decided I feel much the same way about Agata Trzebuchowska.  I have decided not to include her in my selection of snubs, though, for her role in Ida, but I stand by the following opinion: she deserves recognition alongside the aforementioned performances.
  9. Notes #3: The Theory of Everything doesn’t exactly look like a favorite for a lot of awards, despite the fact that it was nominated for so many.  But, it won two Golden Globes, one for its music and the other for Mr. Redmayne’s acting.  But, in the opinion of this blogger, neither of these should win the award.  But, the unsung hero of the movie, the player who had the truly main part, and the player on whom the entire action of the film hinged, was Felicity Jones.  Definitely deserving of the nomination.
  10. Notes #4: Really cool that Marion Cottilard got a nomination for her role in a foreign film.  Two Days, One Night was one of the ten best foreign-language films of the year (technically, Mr. Turner and The Babadook are also foreign films because they’re not US productions, but the Academy separates foreign productions from foreign-language films).  That means that Two Days, One Night stands alongside only Ida for the two foreign language films to get nominated in categories other than the Foreign Language Film category.
  11. Notes #5: A lot of people were surprised that Jennifer Aniston didn’t get nominated for her role in Cake.  I wasn’t.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

  1. J.K. Simmons—Whiplash—winner
  2. Ethan Hawke—Boyhood—runner-up
  3. Edward Norton—Birdman
  4. Mark Ruffalo—Foxcatcher
  5. Robert Duvall—The Judge
  6. Snubbed: None.
  7. Notes: I kind of wish there was room for six.  Zach Galifianakis was to this year as Jonah Hill was to last year with his role in Wolf of Wall Street.  But, since there’s only room for five, the Academy got this one right.
  8. Notes #2: Any other year, Ethan Hawke would have won this one.  Not in 2014, though.  J.K. Simmons couldn’t be beat.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

  1. Patricia Arquette—Boyhood—winner
  2. Emma Stone—Birdman—runner-up
  3. Keira Knightley—The Imitation Game*
  4. Laura Dern—Wild*
  5. Meryl Streep—Into the Woods*
  6. Snubbed: Oprah Winfrey—SelmaAgata Kulesza—Ida, Jessica Chastain—A Most Violent Year
  7. Notes: For the second year in a row, Oprah Winfrey has impressed me.  Perhaps it is because she was a day-time talk show host, perhaps it is because of her abundant riches, but I, for some reason, always think that her name in a cast list is just for publicity.  And then I watch her in Lee Daniel’s The Butler and Selma and realize that there’s a real reason why she’s put in these supporting roles.  She can act.  One of the greatest flaws of Selma this year was that the movie only gave her two real scenes of any substance.  But, in that five to six minutes, she stole the show.
  8. Notes #2: Very interesting that Laura Dern got nominated for her small role as Reese Witherspoon’s mother in Wild.  Because of how her role is played out solely in flashbacks, I think there was a slight disconnect between her character and the audience, so some people, therefore, didn’t notice just how good she was in her role.  With that being said, I can’t see how she did a better job than Agata Kulesza did in Ida, the Polish film that has sneaked in an additional nomination with the Academy for its fantastic cinematography.  Really, her performance was the most dominant in the film, as Ida herself (played by Agata Trzebuchowska) doesn’t say much; but nobody says much in the movie, and Kulesza’s Wanda was certainly a supporting role.

Animated Feature Film

  1. Song of the Sea
  2. The Tale of Princess Kaguya—runner-up
  3. Big Hero 6
  4. How to Train Your Dragon 2
  5. The Boxtrolls*
  6. Snubbed: The LEGO Movie—winner
  7. Notes:  The snub to end all snubs.  The LEGO Movie had absolute and unending critical praise and was one of the highest-grossing films of 2014.  While Song of the Sea and Tale of Princess Kaguya were fantastic, to have the other three edge out The LEGO Movie is absurd.  The Boxtrolls and Big Hero 6 weren’t even any good!

Cinematography

  1. Emmanuel Lubezki—Birdman—winner
  2. Robert Yeoman—The Grand Budapest Hotel*
  3. Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski—Ida—runner-up
  4. Dick Pope—Mr. Turner
  5. Roger Deakins—Unbroken*
  6. Snubbed: Hoyte Van Hoytema—Interstellar, Darius Khondji—Magic in the Moonlight
  7. Notes: Sometimes I wonder if the Academy even knows what film editing and cinematography are.  But, no matter.  The truly controversial selection here is my vote for Darius Khondji’s work in Magic in the Moonlight, an underrated Woody Allen work starring Emma Stone and Colin Firth.  I just had to give this one the credit it deserves: it’s the best-photographed Woody Allen film since Manhattan.  Good job, Academy, on nominating Ida, though.  Beautifully framed and beautiful photographed.  Just as good as Birdman was (better even), only lacking the novelty to pull out a win.
  8. Notes #2: The truth of the matter is, Boyhood (a very well-represented film in this year’s ceremony) probably deserves the nomination over a lot of these films.  It is incredible just how beautifully filmed some of the vistas in this film are.  This movie gets a lot of credit for its acting, its story, and its film editing.  It is underrated for its superb cinematography.  I am tempted to add it as a snub, replacing, probably, my unconventional pick of Magic in the Moonlight.  But, I won’t, because it pays to go against the grind.

Costume Design

  1. Colleen Atwood—Into the Woods
  2. Mark Bridges—Inherent Vice
  3. Jacqueline Durran—Mr. Turner—runner-up
  4. Milena Canonero—The Grand Budapest Hotel–-winner
  5. Anna Biedrzycka-Sheppard, Jane Clive—Maleficent*
  6. Snubbed: Bob Buck, Ann Maskrey, Lesley Burkes-Harding—The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
  7. Notes: The Lord of the Rings team has succeeded in providing cinema the best-constructed, most detailed world-building in cinematic history.  D.W. Griffith, Cecil B. DeMille, and Ridley Scott don’t match the work that Peter Jackson has overseen since The Lord of the Rings began production 18 years ago.  The final installment of The Hobbit at least deserves some recognition, even if the costumes were, for the most part, already in the first two movies.  This is especially the case since Maleficent had only one good costume in the whole movie and that costume had already been designed in 1959.
  8. Notes #2: The novelty of costumes in Wes Anderson movies like The Grand Budapest Hotel is not necessarily new.  He often deals with such pastel color schemes to match the deadpan of his script.  But, for the first time, an Anderson film is finally getting the respect it deserves (though his Moonrise Kingdom was even better), and for the first time, he may get a nod—along with his costume designer Milena Canonero—of appreciation for his signature style.

Directing

  1. Richard Linklater—Boyhood—winner
  2. Alejandro González Iñárritu—Birdman—runner-up
  3. Bennett Miller—Foxcatcher*
  4. Morton Tyldum—The Imitation Game*
  5. Wes Anderson—The Grand Budapest Hotel
  6. Snubbed: Jennifer Kent—The Babadook, Damien Chazelle—Whiplash
  7. Notes: This is the most important award of the night, behind Best Picture.  And Linklater couldn’t deserve it more.
  8. Notes #2: There is a serious problem in modern Hollywood, and it is best manifest in the works of Bennett Miller and Morton Tyldum (as well as Ava DuVernay, whose lack of a nomination in this category for her work in Selma has caused quite a stir).  There seems to be this new trend to use a lighting scheme in their movies that feels like they put their films through an Instagram filter.  Why the tendency to not film using better light?  One might as well film in the far superior black and white (like this year’s Ida and Jealousy).  Can you imagine how well Selma would have looked and felt and meant if it was filmed in black and white?  Instead, they are all in sepia.
  9. Notes #3:  There were several first- or second-timers in this year’s pool of potential nominees.  At the beginning of the year, it looked like Angelina Jolie would be the one to merit the most praise.  But, her Unbroken suffered from the same “Instagram” disorder that Foxcatcher, Selma, and The Imitation Game had. Instead, Jennifer Kent and Damien Chazelle are the ones that shone.
  10. Notes #4:  Like in the Supporting Actor category, I wish there was room for six.  Clint Eastwood outdid himself in American Sniper.  There just isn’t room to squeeze him in to my selections, as much as I wish I could.

Documentary Feature

  1. CitizenFour—runner-up
  2. Finding Vivian Maier
  3. Last Days in Vietnam*
  4. The Salt of the Earth—winner
  5. Virunga
  6. Snubbed: Life Itself, The Overnighters
  7. Notes: I find it quite shocking that the Academy’s darling, Roger Ebert, didn’t get in with the documentary about his life, particularly following his untimely death in 2012.  But, hey, that’s life itself.  The truest misfortune about this snub is that it is not only a snub for Ebert, but also for Steve James, who was snubbed decades ago for his masterpiece, Hoop Dreams.
  8. Notes #2: It’s interesting, but I was helped to find the two snubs in this category by the maker of the favorite-to-win, CitizenFour, Laura Poitras.  According to her, the two biggest snubs were The Overnighters and Life Itself.  I already knew that Life Itself was a huge snub, but had never heard of the other film.  Thank you, Ms. Poitras.  The Overnighters is exactly what makes documentaries great, documentaries like The Square from last year: it follows as events unfold, the film itself gets surprised at what is occurring.  This is very different from movies like Last Days in Vietnam, where the events have already unfolded, and things have to get researched and then uncovered.
  9. Notes #3: My pick in this case goes to one of the most beautiful documentaries I’ve ever seen.  The Salt of the Earth is a cinematographic journey into photography (like Finding Vivian Maier), exploring the nature of film and its telling eye into humanity.  The fact that Wim Wenders, who has made such masterpieces as Wings of Desire and Paris, Texas, was behind this journey into humanity through the photographs of the film’s other maker, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, hugely helps the ambience of this beautiful film with some of the most spectacular images I’ve ever seen.

Documentary Short Subject

  1. Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
  2. Joanna
  3. Our Curse
  4. The Reaper (La Parka)
  5. White Earth
  6. Snubbed: None
  7. Notes: I’m not too up to speed on the documentary short subjects of 2014.  I doubt anyone on the Academy is either.

Film Editing

  1. Tom Cross—Whiplash—winner
  2. Joel Cox, Gary Roach—American Sniper—runner-up
  3. Sandra Adair—Boyhood
  4. Barney Pilling—The Grand Budapest Hotel*
  5. William Goldenburg—The Imitation Game*
  6. Snubbed: Kirk Baxter—Gone Girl, Simon Njoo—The Babadook
  7. Notes: The third “if-only-there-was-room-for-six” category in this race, I wish I could squeeze in Lee Smith’s work for Interstellar.  The problem is, Interstellar had so much special effects work that it is difficult for it to qualify.  The same issue went for Gravity last year.  Film editing is what it sounds like it is: the ability to edit film, to juxtapose images in such a way that the film speaks to its viewers.  When to use (and when not to use) montage, and what images to feature in juxtaposition is the essence of good film editing.  When there is too much special effects work, it gets difficult for the work to qualify as good film editing.
  8. Notes #2: Will someone please tell me how The Imitation Game got in here?*
  9. Notes #3:  Good horror in cinema hinges on the editing of the images.  The Babadook is a film that doesn’t rely on cheap jumps, but rather pure cinematic conventions to invoke its horror.  It deserves a nod.  As does Gone Girl, a movie that uses montage to overcome the constrains of space and time to tell an intricate and deathly disturbing mystery story.
  10. Notes #4:  When it comes to the other candidates on this list, the likely winner will be Boyhood.  This because compiling 12 year’s worth of footage into a coming-of-age epic is quite the project in film editing.  But, after watching American Sniper and Whiplash, it’s hard not to say that they are my top picks.  If you haven’t seen Whiplash, you really, really, really need to.  It’s fantastic.  The cuts in the film are almost in rhythm with the beat of the drummer on whom the film’s plot is focused.  The footage of his drumming is intense.  Watch the blood, sweat, and tears as they hit his cymbals.  Watch his face.  Watch how it is juxtaposed with the face of his tyrannical conductor.  The clear winner here.
  11. Notes #5: Refer to the asterisk(*) in notes #2: I know why The Imitation Game is on here.  It’s the same reason why it’s been nominated in a lot of categories.  It’s because it’s the Harvey Weinstein film of the year.  He always gets his automatic in.  It’s a little corrupt if you ask me.

Best Foreign Language Film

  1. Timbuktu (Mauritania)*
  2. Leviathan (Russia)—runner-up 
  3. Ida (Poland)—winner
  4. Wild Tales (Argentina)*
  5. Tangerines (Estonia)*
  6. Snubbed: Force Majeure (Sweden); Norte, the End of History (The Philippines); Winter Sleep (Turkey)
  7. Notes: The Academy Awards are mostly ethnocentric.  The elitist needs to just recognize this and learn to move on.  With that being said, I do feel like the candidates in this category stand up punch for punch with the Best Picture candidates.  As a matter of fact, I’ve included two of the candidates in my selections for the big award.  Ultimately, this was a good year for foreign films, which have been comparatively weak since their demise in the 1980s.  With French films like Jealousy invoking the New Wave of the 1960s and The Strange Little Cat (from Germany) making us think a little more of the 1970s Eastern European classics like Jeanne Dielmann, we may be seeing a return to the virtue of the past in Europe and maybe the resurrection of art-house popularity stateside. However, neither of those films were nominated for the award.  Of those that were, though, there stands Ida, which invokes the peaceful intensity of the Polish legacy that was built by Kieslowski in the 1990s.  The dramatic resurrection of Buñuel’s surrealist Viridiana, it is the most beautifully photographed film of the year, with an interesting approach to filming faces on the bottom half of the frame.  Its slow pace is much like the Hungarian classic, Sátántangó, and tells a powerful story of the lasting impact of fascism on religious thought in Eastern Europe.
  8. Notes #2: If there are ten nominees for Best Picture, shouldn’t there be ten nominees for Best Foreign Language film?  Just sayin’.  With that being said, my indulgence needs to be limited.  With that in mind, the truest snubs in this category (limiting it to only five), are Winter Sleep and Norte, the End of History.  I would also replace Timbuktu with Force Majeure, a very funny yet very hard-to-watch film from this year.  But, if you let me have ten nominees, then Timbuktu stays, as do Tangerines and Wild Tales.  I would throw in The Strange Little Cat and the French-Brazilian documentary, The Salt of the Earth (see the Best Documentary category).  
  9. Notes #3: The Academy allows for one entry per country of origin.  I tried to include that factor when I decided on my snubs.

Makeup and Hairstyling

  1. Bill Corso, Dennis Liddiard—Foxcatcher–-runner-up
  2. Frances Hannon, Mark Coulier—The Grand Budapest Hotel
  3. Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White—Guardians of the Galaxy
  4. Snubbed: Peter Swords King, J. Roy Helland, Matthew Smith—Into the Woods—winner; Ryk Fortuna, Rick Findlater—The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
  5. Notes: I still don’t know why the Academy only nominates three for this category.  So, my two snubs aren’t replacing any movies here.  They are only adding themselves into the race.  And, just like last year (with American Hustle), my selection for best makeup and hairstyling (Into the Woods) didn’t even get nominated.

Music – Original Score

  1. Johann Johannson—The Theory of Everything*
  2. Alexander Desplat—The Imitation Game*
  3. Gary Yershon—Mr. Turner
  4. Hans Zimmer—Interstellar—runner-up
  5. Alexander Desplat—The Grand Budapest Hotel—winner
  6. Snubbed: Alexander Desplat—Unbroken, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross—Gone Girl
  7. Notes: Alexander Desplat walked in to this awards season with the best year of his career.  Three of his movies were heavy favorites for the nomination.  I prefer his work in Unbroken to that of The Imitation Game, which means that even with my intrusion, he still gets only two nominations out of his possible three.  Along with The Theory of Everything, The Imitation Game is a good example of the recent trend in movie score compositions: they are decidedly Minimalist, providing an ambience or peripheral mood-setter for the score that is largely dependent on repeating arpeggios.  The other films on this list still fall victim to that sort of ambient curse that I think takes away from a composer’s true creative potential, but to a far lesser degree: they actually incorporate specific themes for certain characters, invoke melodic motifs for certain ideas and plot elements and actually end up with a score that translated to a dynamic and non-repetitive soundtrack from beginning to end.
  8. Notes #2: Unfortunately, the score from Birdman, unique and innovative, played entirely on drums, was not eligible this year because of its incorporation of classical themes. With that being said, I am still not listing it as a snubbed nominee, because I like the list as it stands.  Unlike the scores in recent years, which feature synthesizers and electronic tones and fall more under the category of alternative music, this year has a field that is entirely focused on the traditional, orchestral movie score.  I’d like to keep it that way.

Music – Original Song

  1. Shawn Patterson—“Everything is Awesome” from The LEGO Movie
  2. John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn—“Glory” from Selma—winner
  3. Diane Warren—“Grateful” from Beyond the Lights*
  4. Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond—“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me—runner-up
  5. Gregg Alexander and Danielle Breisbois—“Lost Stars” from Begin Again*
  6. Snubbed: Jeremiah Fraites, Wesley Schultz, Suzanne Collins—“The Hanging Tree” from The Hunger Games—Mockingjay, Part 1; Lorde and Joel Little—“Yellow Flicker Beat” from The Hunger Games—Mockingjay, Part 1
  7. Notes: The significance of the candidates from The LEGO Movie and Begin Again lies in the fact that they are integral parts of their respective movie’s plots.  But, with “Everything is Awesome”you have a unique, funny element of one of the most popular plots of the year, while with “Lost Stars”, you have a typical Adam Levine acoustic song that forms the backbone of a relatively overlooked and unknown film.
  8. Notes #2:  My selections to replace the less-deserving “Grateful” and “Lost Stars” are from the same film.  What Lorde (one of the most promising alternative pop artists of today) did by curating the entirety of the Hunger Games album was very impressive.  The Hunger Games franchise has developed a reputation for putting out great alternative rock tracks ever since Arcade Fire and Taylor Swift added their contributions to the first film.  Lorde’s “Yellow Flicker Beat” was the headliner of the film’s non-instrumental soundtrack.  But, one song that was released post-production (and is included only in the soundtrack’s digital re-release) is also really cool and really fun: Jennifer Lawrence’s performance alongside James Newton Howard for “The Hanging Tree.”  I like that she did a song for the movie in which she stars, and I really like that now I have an excuse to include her in my Academy Award selections.  The whole ceremony seemed a little naked without her.  I have remedied that now.
  9. Notes #3: Ultimately, the winner will be decided by a battle between two incredibly deserving candidates: Glen Campbell’s “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” and Common/John Legend’s “Glory”.  “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” is Glen Campbell’s rough equivalent of Johnny Cash’s “Hurt”, but it’s not quite as good.  “Glory” could do without that reference to Ferguson (my wife ingeniously pointed out that including that line caused the song to lose whatever potential it had to be timeless), but, ultimately, was a pretty perfect rap song.  It has some of the best lines Common has recited since his classic “I Used to Love H.E.R.” and is certainly deserving of the win.

Production Design

  1. Suzie Davies, Charlotte Watts—Mr. Turner—runner-up
  2. Nathan Crowley, Gary Fettis—Interstellar—winner
  3. Dennis Gasner, Anna Pinnock—Into the Woods
  4. Adam Stockhause, Anna Pinnock—The Grand Budapest Hotel
  5. Maria Djurkovic, Tatiana Macdonald—The Imitation Game*
  6. Snubbed: Kevin Thompson, George DeTitta, Jr.—Birdman
  7. Notes: To make a film that is designed to appear as if it is all in one take, a la Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope, but to have that film cover an entire theater and metropolitan skyline (not just a simple high-rise apartment) requires incredible dexterity with set construction.  To snub Birdman for the inferior The Imitation Game, is wrong.  With that being said, the two most impressive set creations for the year were in Mr. Turner, a period piece, and Interstellar, a sci-fi epic.

Animated Short Film

  1. The Bigger Picture
  2. The Dam Keeper
  3. Feast
  4. Me and My Moulton
  5. A Single Life
  6. Snubbed: None
  7. Notes: See Documentary Short Film.

Live Action Short Film

  1. Aya
  2. Boogaloo and Graham
  3. Butter Lamp
  4. Parvaneh
  5. The Phone Call
  6. Snubbed: None.
  7. Notes: See Documentary Short Film.

Sound Editing

  1. Alan Robert Murray, Bub Asman—American Sniper
  2. Martin Hernández, Aaron Glascock—Birdman*
  3. Brent Burge, Jason Canovas—The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies—runner-up
  4. Richard King—Interstellar—winner
  5. Becky Sullivan, Andrew DeCristofaro—Unbroken*
  6. Snubbed: Shannon Mills, Daniel Laurie—Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Erik Aadahl—Godzilla
  7. Notes: The category of “Sound Editing” is all about creation.  Creation of new sounds, new mixes of vibrations from new sources to touch the ear as it never has been touched before.  There was little of that in Birdman or Unbroken, particularly when in comparison with the sounds of the jets in Captain America or the roar of Godzilla.

Sound Mixing

  1. John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff, Walt Martin—American Sniper—runner-up
  2. Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Thomas Varga—Birdman
  3. Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker, Mark Weingarten—Interstellar*
  4. Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, David Lee—Unbroken
  5. Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins, Thomas Curley—Whiplash—winner
  6. Snubbed: Tom Johnson, Juan Peralta, Petur Hliddal—Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  7. Notes: The biggest criticism against Interstellar over the last few months has been its mismanagement of sound.  Few, though, felt like it would actually be excluded from the sound categories in this year’s Oscars.  I, though, have to say that while Interstellar is incredibly deserving of the Sound Editing award, it did mismanage the sounds in terms of their respective volumes.  Perhaps this will be remedied in the DVD/Blu-Ray release?
  8. Notes #2: I was very pleased to see Whiplash and Birdman in this list.  They are spectacular examples of how the conglomerate of sound elements can play harmoniously with the images on the screen.  In both of these films, the drums pulse the filmic elements forward.

Visual Effects

  1. Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter, Scott Fisher—Interstellar—winner
  2. Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie, Cameron Waldbauer—X-Men: Days of Future Past*
  3. Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner, Paul Corbould—Guardians of the Galaxy*
  4. Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett, Erik Winquist—Dawn of the Planet of the Apes—runner-up
  5. Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill, Dan Sudick—Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  6. Snubbed: Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and Eric Reynolds—The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Adam Avery, Tom Becker, Andrew CadeyGodzilla
  7. Notes: I have replaced the visual effects teams from X-Men and Guardians of the Galaxy with those of The Hobbit and Godzilla.  Why?  Well, they looked better.  There is something about the visual/special effects of those films that, despite how spectacular the viewing experience, still look like they’re animated.  The scenes with the Sentinels and all those sequences with infinity stones don’t actually look real.  Godzilla, though, looked pretty good.

Best Adapted Screenplay

  1. Damien Chazelle—Whiplash—runner-up
  2. Jason Hall—American Sniper—winner
  3. Paul Thomas Anderson—Inherent Vice
  4. Anthony McCarten–-The Theory of Everything*
  5. Graham Moore—The Imitation Game*
  6. Snubbed: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Richard LaGravenese, William Nicholson—Unbroken, Gillian Flynn-Gone Girl
  7. Notes: Once again, the overrated biopics, The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything, have shown up again.  These movies were picked over the more deserving adaptations of Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.  Both of the nominees struggled from the same disorder, a disorder found in their script: they are about mathematical geniuses who seem completely incapable of social interaction.  Is there any smart, helpful person in the movies who is actually warm, cordial, and not found on the autism spectrum?  The predictability of these texts makes their screenplays quite problematic in an awards race.

Best Original Screenplay

  1. Richard Linklater—Boyhood–-winner
  2. Alejandro González Iñárritu, Armando Bo, Alexander Dinelaris, Nicolás Giacobone—Birdman—runner-up
  3. Wes Anderson, Hugo Guinness—The Grand Budapest Hotel
  4. Dan Futterman, E. Max Frye—Foxcatcher*
  5. Dan Gilroy—Nightcrawler*
  6. Snubbed: Paul WebbSelma, J.C. Chandor—A Most Violent Year 
  7. Notes: This is a tough category to find a good answer for.  Who will win?  I have no idea.  Who should win?  I have no idea.  Is it the fantastic coming-of-age epic filled with comedy, tragedy, melodrama, repartee, and dreams?  Or could it be the endearingly clever, witty, raw, and poignant commentary of human nature that plays out like a theater production?  This is tough.  But my decision is made.  Boyhood.
  8. Notes #2: Since this is the very last category, I’ll go ahead and make it my last “if only there were room for 6” category.  I really really really wanted to figure out a way to squeeze in the screenplay for The LEGO Movie, but it wasn’t going to work.  In order to do that, I would have to butt out J.C. Chardon’s work in A Most Violent Year, and I just wasn’t able to do that.
  9. Notes #2: If Selma had anything going for it, it was three-fold: 1) there were some great songs (see the Original Song category), 2) there were some great acting performances (see the Lead Actor and Supporting Actress categories),and 3) there is one scene that I will never forget.  82-year-old Cager Lee is standing in sun-drenched lobby, broken-hearted and grieving at the death of his grandson, Jimmie Lee Jackson, who was gunned down in a restaurant by a state trooper after a peaceful demonstration.  Up to Mr. Lee walks the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., who places his hand on Lee’s shoulder to console him.  “I don’t have words that will console you,” he says, in essence.  “But I am certain of one thing: God was the first to cry.”  That is good writing.

Okay, so there you have it: the victors have been decided.  As you can see, I have foregone commentary on the short film categories, because I was not able to see any of them and do not have even an elemental grasp of how to decide them. With that being said, here is my obligatory statistical wrap-up:

The overall winner of the night is Boyhood with 4 awards, including two of the idiomatic “Big Four”: Best Picture and Best Director.  Whiplash and Interstellar come in a tie for second place with 3 apiece; Interstellar winning in technical categories and Whiplash in a vast array, from technical (Sound Mixing), to cinematic (Film Editing), to acting (Supporting Actor).  Birdman rounds out the list as the only other film to win multiple awards, winning for Best Actor and Best Cinematography.

The two popular political-point picks for the year (I love alliterations), American Sniper and Selma, each won one apiece; Sniper won for its adapted screenplay and Selma for its original song.  Of the two, though, Sniper walks away with the most nominations (snubs taken into account), winning the count 5-3, which includes its nomination for Best Picture (a nomination I took away from Selma).

One last thought: Boyhood was the best movie made since Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life in 2011.  And the fact that I only picked it as the winner for 4 of these awards goes to show all you casual movie-goers out there that there is a lot of unimportant fluff (like music, sound, visual effects, even acting) in movies.  Look for the gems that a movie can give you.  In Boyhood, those gems are easy to find.

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2 thoughts on “87th Annual Academy Awards

  1. Pingback: 88th Annual Academy Awards | A Slice of Cake

  2. Pingback: The Academy Award Archives | A Slice of Cake

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