Well, the Oscars are going to announce their nominees for 2015 in a couple of weeks, and a few new developments have happened here and there. I may some guesswork on pretty much everything being sight unseen, but we have a better idea on the shape of these movies, thanks to reviews, commercial performance, and precursors.
Precursors are all those awards that certain bodies give out to influence (or possibly counter) the main Oscar prize. The most well-known one is The Golden Globes, which some people prefer to the Academy Awards telecast, because the attendees are more famous and more drunk. However, people kind of don’t take the Globes that seriously as a precursor, and people concentrate on two things: Critics lists and Guilds.
The former is critics from every major city, some which would surprise you by still having newspapers, determining their favorites. It has its own problems, number one that critics don’t always decide by straight-up democracy, but by almost haggling some kind of consensus. Guilds are people the industry unions selecting the best from amongst their colleagues. (Actors for actors, directors for directors, etc) These is sometimes considered the best precursors, because 1) That’s how the Academy nominates films, to a certain degree and 2) There’s an overlap with voting bodies. The Guilds have their own hiccups too, however. Because they’re made up of working professionals, they don’t have time to catch up on everything, for instance it’s believed SAG (the most high profile, and the most represented) snubbed Selma, which is considered a shoe-in for Oscars. Guilds are also unions, which means foreign, or dubiously credited productions don’t qualify. There are other awards too, like the IFC Awards, which once meant something before “indie” became “regular movies except grainy and with Cloud Cult soundtracks, and The People’s Choice Awards, which I think is a plot to undermine the image of democracy. They are not to be paid attention to.
This year’s Oscar race seems to be both very boring and yet over-the-top kray at the same time. On one hand, you way out of left field nominations like Guardians of the Galaxy and Get On Up, (That movie about James Brown that was kind of like the sequel to 42, but not really) which are fun to see pop up in and of themselves, but sort of reinforce the upper echelon of nominees, and keep things from being too competitive. It was kind of like the last scramble for the Republican nominee for president where it was amusing to see the party crashed by such colorful characters as Pizza Guy and Sweater Vest, but you knew it was just going to go to Mitt Romney, and where was the fun in that?
We still have the same five or so movies at the top of the pack–Birdman, Selma, Theory of Everything, and Boyhood, which is the frontrunner in a default-kind-of-way. Not that people don’t like Boyhood, but it feels like a David without a Goliath. If all David did was just going around kicking the asses of old sickly dudes in wheelchairs and hobos in bird costumes, people would be taking Israel a lot less seriously. Imitation Game feels the most conventional winner, and it could upset later on, but it’s still kind of suffering from “I liked it better when it was The King’s Speech, and I didn’t even like The King’s Speech that much.”
Birdman is too dark and weird to really take it all the way home. Selma was hoping for the current racial climate to give it weight, but a lot of audiences are looking at it and saying “Hey, where’s the white man it, so I can understand how this all relates to me?” There’s even controversy over apparently making LBJ a jerk, which, is that really controversial? I mean, that’s like making a movie and everybody getting up in arms because you have William howard Taft eating a sandwich. And Theory of Everything is still going to get lots of nominations, but it’s nobody’s favorite, probably because we all have our own Stephen Hawking movie in our own heads, and I don’t think I’m alone when I say “epic rap battles”.
^We like this version better^
Who’s not going to make it, though? Besides some obvious ones, (If you’re like “What about The Judge?” just go back to watching Investigation Discovery) it’s been a difficult year to count some films completely out. That said, Interstellar seems unlikely to make it to the top ten. While not the “Interflopper” snarky reporters are making out to be, (Man, that’s a really clever pun. Why not “Interstalled-At-The-Box”?) its take was less than Nolan’s Inception and last year’s space movie Gravity. And hell, its critical reviews have been weaker than Guardians of the Galaxy. The movie is pretty much Edith from Downton Abbey–a lot of people pick on it to make themselves feel cool, sure, but does that still mean it has that much going for it? On the subject of England, I’m just not feeling Mr Turner. I can’t seem to care about Mr Turner, and I’m writing about it. It’ll likely get some awards in the costumes and art design departments, maybe screenplay. Foxcatcher might barely eke out a nomination for Steve Carell or Mark Ruffalo, but people just feel like it’s homework right now. Also out is Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, a movie that audiences dislike so much, it’s had future theatrical bookings pulled, and they didn’t even need to blow up Jim Kong II to do it. It seems folks only gravitate towards PTA the further back in time he goes.
Speaking of which, the other Anderson, Wes, is seeing a lot of precursor support for Grand Budapest Hotel, to the point you could reasonably make it a “top five”contender. It seems Wes is following the Quentin Tarantino formula of success; “Put it in a period setting, and they’ll lap it up no matter how kooky or anachronistic”.
For a more conventional piece, there’s Unbroken, and “conventional” may be the key to its success. Typical for Angelina Jolie, there’s more press about Jolie the internationally popular, international family woman than Jolie the artist. However, she did work her ass off to promote it, particularly the faith crowd, and with the super indie line-up this year, it could could serve as a more old-fashioned choice for the older voters. It’s also less politically volatile than American Sniper. The movie has already made millions from four theaters, but movies about the War on Terror are a much tougher sell at awards season, because you’re going to make one side of the aisle mad, or both sides bored. It also has this strange precedence of modern war movies like Blackhawk Down and Lone Survivor where the movies have a run in about two theaters at the end of the year, expand a month later, audiences eat it up, but aren’t big awards contenders. (What is it about January that makes you want to see historical people getting historically blown up?)
Another mainstream hit, Gone Girl, has never disappeared from the race, but seems to never have made a strong showing, and with Unbroken, and Sniper, it doesn’t stand out as the most mainstream Oscarbait. It’ll be interesting to see where this three way battle for “movies for adults” goes. Between WWII or the Iraq War? Between old Christians, or snarky 30 year olds who juggle both dinner parties and X Box tournaments? Generation clashes abound.
It’s kind of only been recent that acting awards tend to tie themselves so much to best picture heat overall, but that does seem to be a trend in full force this year. Expect to see three or four nominations per category for a role from a best picture nominee, with the exception of actress. This is because Hollywood is generally so bad at giving out top main roles for women, never mind good ones, that anything that isn’t a Cameron Diaz vehicle is automatically a contender. This is probably why Best Actress tends to have a lot of out-of-nowhere contenders.
Julianne Moore’s Still Alice only started popping up this fall, and now Jennifer Aniston looks like she could get in for Cake, which will make that Friends re Less lone wolves on the guys’ side, but one interesting spanner in the works is Jake Gylenhaall for Nightcrawler. (Which is, I understand, a movie officially endorsed by the Boston Comedy scene?) When it came out, people were like “It’s good and all, but the character is too slimy and reprehensible to get much awards traction”, but sometimes awards bodies have that whole reverse psychology thing going on. Gyllenhaal would also be another (relatively) young man on the lineup, which means, if I were Michael Keaton, I’d be getting my mantle all ready. I’d also go to everything dressed in the Birdman costume. What are they are gonna do about it?
On another note, I had Whiplash as “original” last time, but it seems most are considering it “adapted”. It’s very hard to predict how they’ll go, since we don’t possesses the keen wisdom of the folks who recognized Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close as one of the top ten movies of the year. It raises questions of what’s truly original, especially since I believe all storytelling is just a variation of the short-lived 90’s TV series The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage.
Grand Budapest Hotel
Theory of Everything
Wes Anderson, Grand Budapest Hotel
Ava DuVernay, Selma
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman
RIchard Linklater, Boyhood
Morten Tydlum, Imitation Game
Benedict Cumberbacth, The Imitation Game
Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler
Michael Keaton, Birdman
Eddie Redmayne, Theory of Everything
David Oyelowo, Selma
Jennifer Aniston, Cake
Felicity Jones, Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon, Wild
Robert DuVall, The Judge
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Ed Norton, Birdman
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year
Keira Knightley, Imitation Game
Emma Stone, Birdman
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods
Theory of Everything
Grand Budapest Hotel