The Return of the King

Alas, I have returned for the momentous and not at all overrated Academy Awards in celebration of two years and very few posts of this very blog. Although, I have managed to anger a lot of the previously mentioned die-hard Kubrick fanatics (see “Always in motion is the future” below), which is something to show for my progress. Anyway, stand by for my Oscar preview and predictions as well as a few poorly crafted jokes along the way…

Best Supporting Actor

This is the most strongly contested award this year, with the outrageous performances from J. K. Simmons and Edward Norton, in Whiplash and Birdman respectively, pitted up against Ethan Hawke’s strong performance in Boyhood, Robert Duvall’s judge in The Judge and Mark Ruffalo in Foxcatcher. Ruffalo continues his malleability in successfully adapting to each role he is given and his success shows in Foxcatcher, though his character is perhaps not developed upon enough to merit the award. I loved Hawke in the character-strong Boyhood, but think he is pipped by Norton’s overly-convincing obnoxious character in Birdman. Simmons trumps them all though as the terrifying, explosive conductor of the jazz band in Whiplash. No writing, especially mine as you can guess, can do this performance justice.

Who I hope will win:     J. K. Simmons

Who I predict will win: J. K. Simmons

Best Supporting Actress

Obviously we couldn’t go any more years without nominating Meryl Streep for an Oscar, regardless of whether Into the Woods should get any recognition whatsoever (it should not). I made the mistake of reading about Keira Knightley’s performance in The Imitation Game beforehand so was expecting something very special, but was left disappointed when it was her playing a well-spoken British lady. Patricia Arquette plays the exasperated ‘mom’ well in Boyhood and earned recognition at the Golden Globes, however I think Emma Stone’s character in Sam Thomson, though almost overly-dramatic, ought to be a winner, but would be a bit of a left field choice from the Academy.

Who I hope will win:     Emma Stone

Who I predict will win: Patricia Arquette

Best Original Screenplay

Hands down The Grand Budapest Hotel. Or Birdman. Or Nightcrawler, Boyhood or Foxcatcher. I think to deprive either Budapest Hotel or Birdman of this Oscar would be a travesty, so I’m proposing they share. That’ll go down well.

Who I hope will win:     The Grand Budapest Hotel & Birdman casts to join hands and break bread together on stage

Who I predict will win: Birdman. Or The Grand Budapest Hotel. I just don’t know.

Best Director

Not that I’m much of a betting man (…) I would put a lot of money on Richard Linklater (of Boyhood) to win the Oscar for Best Director. Though not an unprecedented idea filming over such a long period of time, it is a remarkable achievement to manage this and produce a very watchable film, never mind a watchable 165 minutes. Shot only over 45 days between May 2002 and August 2013, Linklater does very well to still make the film flow and does his directorial career justice (watch the Before… trilogy!). Also I loved the soundtrack and the landscaping of the film, which all tie in beautifully. I think Birdman will suffer due to its perceived arrogance, which is a shame as it is a special film, and original and extraordinary in the way it is filmed. As for Foxcatcher and The Imitation Game, I’m not so sure how the director’s got nominated for making films with such potential seem a bit dull and plain (although that was Foxcatcher’s ‘thing’, it just made it not very watchable). Wes Anderson for Grand Budapest also runs Linklater close, but I think it is a done thing.

boyhood
Boyhood landscaping
A sullen looking Steve Carell in Foxcatcher

Who I hope will win:     Richard Linklater

Who I predict will win: Richard Linklater

Best Actor

I don’t agree that this award suffers for its lack of diversity as presumably Selma was the film for which everyone wanted black people nominated, but I don’t really think Oyelowo was outstanding nor even as good as he could’ve been playing Martin Luther King Jr.. Anyway, I’ve said since about July/August last year that Benedict Cumberbatch would win Best Actor, simply as Hollywood, and in fact the whole world, loves him. He is the definition of omnipresent. Also, playing a gay person with some learning difficulties (I think that’s the PC term for the next few months) convincingly must’ve helped. However, Eddie Redmayne simply has will win it for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking. Unsurprisingly he fit in very well with the Oxbridge-type student stereotype, but this great acting transformation perfects Hawking’s mannerisms, expressions and contortions. A career-defining performance from Redmayne almost out of thin air. I don’t think Steve Carell or Bradley Cooper (as much as I love him) come close. I don’t want to draw similarities between Du Pont (Carell’s character in Foxcatcher) and Michael Scott (his character in The Office U.S.) but there are definitely similarities to be drawn. I enjoyed Michael Keaton’s performance, but his character does not have as much as Cumberbatch’s or Redmayne so his achievements are limited.

Who I hope will win:     Benedict Cumberbatch

Who I predict will win:  Eddie Redmayne

Best Actress

A tricky category this year, with Jennifer Aniston finally playing a serious role attempting to appeal to the Academy Awards before she loses her looks (that’s me attempting to satirise the sexist agendas of those high-up in Hollywood, cutting-edge yeah?). Reese Witherspoon continues to show the world her true acting talent as Cheryl Strayed in Wild, though doesn’t quite match up to her performance as June Carter Cash in 2005’s Walk the Line. I think this is a two-horse race, however with Felicity Jones’ role in The Theory of Everything rightfully being placed alongside Julianne Moore’s Alice Howland in Still Alice … for now. Felicity Jones manages not to be dwarfed by Eddie Redmayne (ironic right) which proves how incredible her performance is. However, I think Julianne Moore edges this one, playing someone with Alzheimer’s probably helped.

Who I hope will win:     Felicity Jones

Who I predict will win: Julianne Moore

Best Picture

The big’un. I toiled my way through the nominated films for Best Picture, however unappealing they were (Whiplash and Boyhood were least appealing to me). I do think it’s clear this year’s selection is remarkably weaker than the previous few years or maybe I’m becoming more cynical with my exposure to life. I personally enjoyed Grand Budapest Hotel the most for its originality and modesty to some degree. It’s always nice to see cameos from loveable actors too, such as Bill Murray and Edward Norton. Though the second half of the film trailed off a bit it was still a pleasure to watch the measly 100 minutes, for its acting performances, score and cinematography – all of which I think were excellent and elegantly done. I was also pleasantly surprised by Boyhood, as I didn’t expect to like it, but, due to its focus on character development (obviously) you become engrossed in the ordinary but extraordinary lives of this family – not just the boy, Mason. I love a good soundtrack too so that helped. I think Theory of Everything edges this category though, a well crafted film about someone overcoming their obstacles to achieve something huge (see also: Selma, The Imitation Game and Birdman as well as countless previous Oscar winners).

What I hope will win:    Grand Budapest Hotel

What I predict will:         Theory of Everything

I will return once again for an aftermath of the Oscars, and to revel in the successes of my predictions…

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