2015 Academy Awards Preview


Coleman Gray
Arts & Entertainment Editor

Joanne Rhee

Kristie Chairil

Best Picture

American Sniper
The Imitation Game
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Theory of Everything

Who Should Win: Birdman. In this great crop of movies, Birdman stands out as the best. It is a brilliant piece of filmmaking; an incredible story, incredibly acted, directed, and shot. While, Iñárritu might not win for Best Director, Keaton for Best Actor, or Stone for Best Supporting Actress, this is the best movie of the year. Boyhood is an absolute triumph, Whiplash is just as good, and Grand Budapest might be my favorite movie from one of my favorite directors, but Birdman is probably a slightly better film than all of them. While, it is technically an art film (and is awfully artsy), this film is truly a work of art.

Who Will Win: Birdman. American Sniper is incredibly controversial, and frankly was never seen as the type of Oscar frontrunner to match the amount of press and ticket sales it garnered. The Imitation Game is very good, but the “Honor the man. Honor the film” motto (in reference to protagonist Alan Turing) that has been seen on advertisements for it is obnoxious pandering and disrespectful, and is out of line, even in Hollywood. The Grand Budapest Hotel is wonderful, but does not have the subject matter or seriousness of most Best Picture-winners. The surprising snubs of Selma in every other major category (its only other nomination is for Best Original Song) does not bode well for its chances come Sunday. The Theory of Everything is a very well-done biopic about a man and a woman who face incredibly difficult challenges in their lives, but I don’t think it’s even the best biographical film about a British genius in the twentieth century nominated this year.

Whiplash is outstanding, but this category again comes down to Birdman and Boyhood. These two movies are so radically different that they are barely the same medium, and in any other year Boyhood would win Best Picture, but I think Birdman will come out on top. As much as Academy voters love coming-of-age stories, they love films that self-congratulate the cinema even more. Birdman will play to the voters’ egos, as it lauds the true “artists” of the world. Boyhood is a great story about growing up that speaks to everyone who has grown up, but I suspect Academy voters are too far removed from adolescence for the film to be as impactful for them as it was for me.

Birdman and Boyhood are two movies we may never see anything like again. That being said, I would be fine with either winning. I guess we’ll find out on Sunday. (Gray)

Best Director

Boyhood – Richard Linklater
– Alejandro González Iñárritu
Foxcatcher – Bennett Miller
The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson
The Imitation Game – Morten Tyldum

With Boyhood, Richard Linklater embarked on one of the most astounding and illogical film journeys in the history of cinema. This seemingly simple coming-of-age story about average boy Mason Evans Jr. was shot intermittently over a 12-year period from 2002 to 2014. To write, scout locations, film, and cut one film is an incredibly daunting task; what Linklater and his crew did was the equivalent of doing this 12 times over. This logistical labor of love would be impressive and memorable in its own right, but besides being an organizational accomplishment, Boyhood is masterfully directed.

The plot may be small, suburban, and simple, but it is perfectly done. Boyhood captures what it means to grow up; nothing spectacular, nothing out-of-this-world, but exceptional. As our own IV Beat Reporter Kelsey Knorp said in her initial review for TBL, “it seeks to pay homage to the ordinary.” Linklater gets incredible performances out of all his actors, including the children who are untrained actors, and gets these incredible performances out of everyday situations. The timing throughout the film is also spot on. Despite spanning 12 years, and following a child from first grade to college, the pacing is perfect; Linklater manages to deal with the chronological jumps in plot with ease, demonstrating true mastery over the craft. The plot never drags, nor seems to move too quickly. I was enthralled from start to finish. And, even though the film’s runtime is nearly three hours, it flew by, and left me wanting more.

Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman is another logistical and cinematic masterpiece, and a directorial effort that is beyond reproach. Birdman, which was also written by Iñárritu, tells the story of a former member of the Hollywood A-list who, in an attempt to revitalize his wayward career, writes, directs, produces, and stars in a Broadway play. However, that is not even the half of this entirely unique film.

Filmed as if it were one long, continuous take, the directing job is remarkable; there can be almost no wasted movement, scenes, and shots in order to complete this seemingly insurmountable artistic task. But that is not the only artistic uniquity of Birdman. Because of its theatrical storyline and its dedication and celebration of the theatre, Iñárritu decided to employ more expressive, theatrical acting and staging, creating a very different aesthetic than your usual film. In total, much like Boyhood, the direction in this film is a triumph; artistically and technically innovative, Iñárritu’s direction is inspiring.

Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher is a bit of a forgotten film. It premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May, and at the time was thought of as an early frontrunner for Best Picture, but was perhaps forgotten about in the following months and ended up not even nominated. In fact, Miller is the only Best Director nominee whose film was also not nominated for Best Picture. This obviously works against his chances at winning. Also working against him is the opinion that Foxcatcher is slow and methodical. Compared to the other films nominated, Foxcatcher is definitely the most methodical, but that is not to say it was poorly directed; it is just a different story. Additionally, Miller has received his share of praise for his directing job, and won the Best Director award at Cannes.

Wes Anderson’s style is entirely his own. It is whimsical, recognizable, and may be able to be imitated, but never with the same success. And, with The Grand Budapest Hotel, Anderson is at his very best. With his unique aesthetic and storytelling style, Anderson is often overlooked come Oscar season, but this one has been rightfully rewarded. His storybook style lends itself perfectly to this film of nostalgia, passion, intrigue, and love. At times, Anderson’s films can feel cold, and while they may be humorous, they have a tendency toward aloofness. Still, Grand Budapest is a joy to watch and experience. Its story is both heartwarming and tragic, and it demonstrates that Anderson is much more than his patented quirky zooms and framing.

The world of The Imitation Game is a difficult one to capture, but Morten Tyldum did so exceptionally. With a complicated story about a complicated code and a complicated man, Tyldum managed to convey nearly all portions of it effectively and succinctly. Biopics are inherently difficult to direct as it is nearly impossible to condense an entire life into two hours of movie, but Tyldum’s work in The Imitation Game prove it can be done. By interweaving multiple defining points in Alan Turing’s life, Tyldum made this mythical man accessible and relatable. However, I cannot help but think that Harvey Weinstein’s ever-working hands made their way into this film, as it sometimes seemed like important scenes were cut out in order to get the runtime under two hours. And, while I hate to hold that against Tyldum, it is definitely a strike against his directing. It’s a minor one, but one nonetheless.

Who Should Win: Alejandro González Iñárritu OR Richard Linklater. In nearly any other year, any of these directors could win Best Director, and unfortunately for Morten Tyldum, Bennett Miller, and Wes Anderson (one of my personal favorites), this competition comes down to Linklater and Iñárritu. I simply can’t decide between the two. I know it’s a copout, and I don’t care. They both set out to create something brilliant that has never been done before, and they both accomplished it. Two possible logistical and stylistic nightmares were so effortlessly completed that afterwards one might even question why all movies aren’t done the same way, but not all movies are directed by these two masters of their craft.

Who Will Win: Richard Linklater. I think Linklater will win. I’m not sure, but it’s just a gut feeling I have. I think the voters might respect and reward the 12-year long odyssey of filmmaking that Linklater undertook. If Iñárritu wins, I would not be surprised, and would be equally pleased. Between these two, the Academy can’t go wrong. (Gray)

Best Actor

Steve Carell for Foxcatcher: Carell is praised for his performance as schizophrenic millionaire, John E. du Pont, who murders an Olympic wrestler in 1996. Unlike his usual comedic career, Carell transforms, physically and mentally, into a dark, serious character for his role.

Bradley Cooper for American Sniper: Bradley Cooper gained 40 pounds for his role as Navy SEAL Sniper Chris Kyle. Cooper does a great job at capturing the physical and psychological demands of being a Navy SEAL in the midst of the Iraq war.

Benedict Cumberbatch for The Imitation Game: Benedict Cumberbatch is nominated for his role as Alan Turing, a genius who cracked the German Enigma code amidst the second World War. He successfully demonstrates the persecution faced by homosexuals in a time where such behavior was criminalized.

Michael Keaton for Birdman: Birdman was a blockbuster superhero once played by Keaton’s Riggan Thomson. Now, Riggan is a washed-up actor who decides to put on a Broadway show in order to revive his career, while negotiating his neurotic, cocky, and self-defeating tendencies.

Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything: Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking, a real life cosmologist who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Redmayne combines the charm, spirit, and determination of Stephen as his ALS affects him and everyone around him. He continues to work on his theory of the universe.

Who Should Win: Eddie Redmayne. The physical changes Redmayne went through in order to portray the ALS-afflicted Hawking was astounding. Redmayne was praised by the real Stephen Hawking himself, who believed he was watching himself at times. He crafted a character that, while being physically challenged, showed great strength, giving an entirely convincing and real look at a terrible disease and a tremendous man.

Who Will Win: Redmayne. He won the award for the Best Actor in a (Drama) Motion Picture at the 2015 Golden Globe awards. The two top contenders for this award come down to Keaton and Redmayne, but the latter will pull through to snag the honor. Academy voters love biopic roles (as evident by the nominees), and tend to hold grand physical transformation, particularly those of handicapped individual, in high regard. (Rhee)

Best Actress

Marion Cotillard for Two Days, One Night: After losing her job, Sandra (played by Cotillard) has to convince her former coworkers to give up their bonuses in order for her to get her job back and provide for her young child. Already a Best Actress winner for 2007’s La Vie en Rose, Cotillard’s performance has earned her tremendous praise, and she has further established herself as one of cinema’s greatest actresses.

Felicity Jones for The Theory of Everything: Felicity Jones stars as Jane, wife of Stephen Hawking in the biopic The Theory of Everything, a tear-jerking film but with more Oscar buzz—and rightly so—around her co-star Eddie Redmayne’s role as Stephen Hawking.

Julianne Moore for Still Alice: Moore plays a collegiate professor who is suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. This raw performance has earned her consistent praise since the film’s premiere.

Rosamund Pike for Gone Girl: Rosamund Pike gives a brilliant and terrifying performance as the sociopathic Amy Dunne in this David Fincher-directed thriller. Portraying a thoroughly detestable character is difficult, but Pike is ‘amazing’ in this role.

Reese Witherspoon for Wild: Witherspoon plays Cheryl, a woman who goes on a 1,100 mile solo hike in order to get her life back on track. In a film that is almost entirely focused on her character, Witherspoon delivers a remarkable performance.

Who Should Win: Julianne Moore. Moore’s performance is a poignant and accurate portrayal of actual victims afflicted with this disease today. She perfectly captured the struggle of this woman, and shows why all the critics have tagged her as the favorite for this award since day one.

Who Will Win: Moore. If this year’s Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award wins—and just general consensus—are anything to go by, Moore is very likely to take home the Academy Award as well. However, Reese Witherspoon gives an admirably raw and physically demanding performance in Wild, which makes her a close second in many eyes. Rosamund Pike is exceptional in Gone Girl, as is Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night, but their performances don’t hold a candle to Moore’s Alice, whose progression from the picture of mental healthiness to blank speechlessness—largely filmed out of chronological order—Moore pulls off beautifully and masterfully. It would be a major upset if Moore doesn’t take home her first Academy Award this Sunday. (Chairil)

Best Supporting Actor

Robert Duvall for The Judge: Robert Duvall plays the role of Judge Joseph Palmer, father of Hank Palmer. Palmer is taken to court on the suspicion of manslaughter.

Ethan Hawke for Boyhood: Ethan Hawke brings to life Mason Evans Sr., father of Mason Evans Jr. Mason Sr. is a loving father who supports his children over the span of the 12 years that the movie covers.

Edward Norton for Birdman: Norton plays Mike Shiner, an acclaimed Broadway actor who joins the play that Riggan hopes to re-boot his career with.

Mark Ruffalo for Foxcatcher: The Olympic gold-medal winning wrestler Dave Schultz is played by Mark Ruffalo. He is the brother of Mark Schultz and joins the Foxcatcher wrestling team.

J.K Simmons for Whiplash: Simmons assumes the role of Terence Fletcher, an abusive band director who pushes his students further than one should in an attempt to achieve greatness.

Who Should Win: J.K Simmons. His acting was nothing less than convincing, captivating, and compelling. His performance of a torturous, sadistic band director was terrifying and totally realistic.

Who Will Win: Simmons. There is not much to speak of here. He is the choice of critics and voters alike, having swept nearly every Best Supporting Actor award given out this year, including the Golden Globe, BAFTA, and Screen Actors Guild awards, which usually line up with the Academy Awards. Simmons is the overwhelming favorite, with only Ed Norton as his only competition, but even he seems like a distant second. Trust me, if you watch Whiplash, you’ll understand why he is so heavily favored. (Rhee)

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette for Boyhood: In a demanding, and time-consuming role that took 12 years to complete, Arquette plays Olivia, the mother of Mason Jr., whose growth from boyhood to adolescence with divorced parents is the film’s focus.

Laura Dern for Wild: Dern plays Bobbi, Cheryl’s deceased mother in Wild. In a role that is mostly told through flashbacks, Dern reveals her own struggles as she herself has to survive an abusive marriage, and was forced to raise her two children as a single mother. However, many believed this movie could not support two nominated roles, especially as Dern’s part is so overshadowed by Witherspoon’s.

Keira Knightley for The Imitation Game: Keira Knightley plays Joan Clarke, a brilliant codebreaker for Britain in World War II. Fighting to gain acceptance in a “man’s war,” and serving as confidant to the enigmatic Alan Turing, Knightley is charmingly bright and uplifting, and proves that she is far more than just a pretty face.

Emma Stone for Birdman: As recovering drug addict, and daughter to Riggin Thomson, Emma Stone has to deal with her own issues, while also keeping it together enough to reconcile with and help her father put on his play.

Meryl Streep for Into the Woods: Based on the Stephen Sondheim Tony Award-winning musical, Streep plays the Witch in this novel amalgamation of all the fairytales we know and love.

Who Should Win: Emma Stone. Stone’s groundbreaking performance as Sam has totally changed everyone’s opinion of her. Previously known for films like Superbad, Zombieland, and Easy A, in Birdman Stone takes a dramatic turn, and it’s most definitely a turn for the best. While her past roles highlighting the sheer difference of this role is an easy talking point, her versatility is really something to marvel at. Stone is completely deserving of the Oscar buzz surrounding her work in Birdman.

Who Will Win: Patricia Arquette is the favorite; she won this corresponding award from Golden Globes, BAFTA, and Screen Actors Guild, and delivers a remarkable and relatable performance. However, Arquette has real competition lined up for her, most notably from Stone. Keira Knightley is brilliant in The Imitation Game, but not particularly unique compared to her fellow nominees, as well as to other roles she’s done. Three-time Oscar-winner Meryl Streep, though deliciously malicious in Into the Woods, should not win this year merely due to her body of work. The Academy should reward the actresses, like Arquette and Stone, whose roles explore vast mental and emotional territory. That being said, I believe Arquette will still leave with the Oscar with Stone finishing a very close second. (Chairil)

Best Adapted Screenplay

American Sniper
The Imitation Game
Inherent Vice
The Theory of Everything

Who Should Win: Whiplash. Its portrayal of genius, and the abuse of it, has not been seen before. Despite being the smallest and shortest script, it manages to say the most of all those nominated. It is a brilliant piece about obsession, talent, abuse, and greatness.

Who will win: This race is wide open. Many critics feel that it will be between The Imitation Game and Whiplash. The Imitation Game has Harvey Weinstein backing it, so it will most likely win one of the major awards, and Best Screenplay does often serve as a consolation prize for those films that miss out on the Best Picture win. Whiplash could be in the Best Original Screenplay category, as it is based on a short film previously made by the writer/director, but, despite this film’s numerous accolades, the script has consistently played bridesmaid throughout awards season. Some pundits even predict that American Sniper or The Theory of Everything may surprisingly come out on top. However, the content and controversy of American Sniper might dissuade voters from picking it (or may persuade, you never really know with them). And The Theory of Everything was a very well-told biopic, but it might not even be the best one of its kind in this list. Inherent Vice was a mess, and its nomination is a real head-scratcher. (Rhee)

Best Original Screenplay

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Who should win: The Grand Budapest Hotel. This is a thoughtful, unconventional, and unique film that integrates comedy and sadness into a delightful 100 minutes. One of Wes Anderson’s very best, this film shows more heart than many of his past works, and is beautifully whimsical.

Who will win: Birdman. The film de-romanticizes the glamorized Hollywood Industry lifestyle most people have craved at one point or another, but does so in a way that celebrates the theatre and artistic achievement. The Academy loves showing appreciation to its theatrical roots, and this film that rejects the glory of blockbuster American movies and celebrates true art has “Academy darling” written all over it. Grand Budapest, Boyhood, and Nightcrawler will offer stiff competition, as they are incredibly unique, beautiful, and tragic scripts, but expect a big night for those involved with Birdman. (Rhee)