Sunday, February 22, 2015

Oscars 2015 (Or the Totally Expected Virtue of Ignorance) Part The Second

AAAAND We're Back

WRITING (Adapted Screenplay)


Adapted is right, if we’re talking about adapting selectively, as with Jason Hall’s American Sniper script. He produced a script that was just perfect for Clint Eastwood: Unquestioning as far as good wars or bad, but primarily concerned with how men survive being men, during and after manly battlefields of man-ness. (Also good at pretending to be evenhanded while not missing a step in portraying most Iraqis we meet as “savages”)

Not sure the academy wants all that much more trouble than it’s already courted this year, so they’ll probably go with either Theory of Everything or Imitation Game, take your pick.  Both are very safe, boring screenplays.

One Academy member is already (anonymously) on record as having turned off Inherent Vice after 15 minutes, so challenging is perhaps out
(IV is possibly my favorite PTA screenplay, and captures the feeling of reading a Pynchon novel almost eerily, which is a feeling of being terribly lost, but laughing insatiably for paragraphs on end)

Whiplash is a tight screenplay, and honestly should be the one to win tonight, but it won’t.

Should Win: Whiplash

Will Win: The Theory of Everything


Winner: Probably Theory of Everything, because everyone likes Stephen Hawking and he never talked about wishing he could have killed Katrina victims.

WRITING (Original Screenplay)


Oh Birdman. You are the living impression of what “regular folks” think Hollywood folks think of themselves. Maybe it’s accurate, in that sense? But this is an incredibly leaden screenplay, borne down by its obsession with GREATNESS. (That only. ACTORS. Are Capable of.)
This is probably why you will win best picture, but come on, the actors and Lubezki’s sweet glide are what give Birdman any life, not this bitter, contempt filled screed against the young, “selling out”, and COMMERCE.

Boyhood is a pretty neat screenplay, and it doesn’t matter if it was fleshed out in improvisation or not (speaking of Mike Leigh), but I don’t think it deserves to win for that.

Foxcatcher is a fine script, but that’s just not what you may immediately think of when walking out of that movie.

I would expect Grand Budapest to win, and it’s a magnificently funny, sweetly elegiac script, one of Wes Anderson’s best.

Shout out to Dan Gilroy’s awesome Nightcrawler script though, a brilliant piece of work, but about incredibly nasty people. Th script feels like a true heir to Chayevsky, but that was a different time, and the level of ugliness it reaches almost guarantees it’s lucky to be nominated.

Should Win: Nightcrawler

Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel


Winner: Should be Nightcrawler; will be Birdman.

ACTOR In a Lead Role


There’s just no place for David Oyelowo’s MLK here.

I mean, we simply HAD to nominate Steve Carell for playing a weirdo (in a Drama. It’s harder.).  Besides, as we (academy voters) all know, Selma’s just not that good of a movie!

Benedict Cumberbatch got to play Asbergers AND Gay, but what we really LOVE is play-acting disability, so Eddie Redmayne, this one’s yours to lose! Either way, white guy geniuses with issues = Hard Tough Honest Acting #HTHA

Unless of course Michael Keaton takes the gold for playing the guy who JUST WANTS TO ART. Hmm. We love that too, conceptually. No icky non-white centered social justice there, either.

Bradley Cooper is honestly quite effective as Chris Kyle, or there’d be no B.O. gross to aid in the controversy. He plays a perfect cipher for all your good or bad Real America feelings, rather than the real Chris Kyle. We can separate our politics from art, which is why American Sniper is good and Selma is not good.

Should Win: Eh.

Will Win: Eddie Redmayne


What a race—a thirsty lizardmonster, Beetlejuice, Michael Scott, the least funny cast member of Wet Hot American Summer, and England’s answer to what I imagine embryonic foxes look like. 

Let’s start with the lizardmonster, who doesn’t seem to understand that having legions of inexplicably devoted Anglophiles doesn’t always translate to Oscar gold. 

Next time, don’t hustle so hard. Beetlejuice, 
I love you, but after seeing Birdman, I actually thought your performance was the weakest of the three leads. 

I expected so much more based on the hype. Michael Scott, 
Jay liked you in Foxcatcher, and that’s good enough for me. 

Cooper, get better or get bent. I’m tired of seeing you half-ass your way through movies where you are the weakest link (where is my ten dollar refund for American Hustle, BITCH…I was NOT JOKING about that last year). 

Eddie Redmayne, I owe you an apology, because right up until the start of The Theory of Everything, I was coming up with vicious fox-based personal attacks to lobby at you. I was wrong. You were great in that movie, and you deserve to beat Keaton…BUT YOU DO NOT DESERVE TO BEAT RALPH FIENNES OR JAKE GYLLENHAAL, both of whom blew everyone else in this category out of the water. Seriously, I’ve never been that impressed by Gyllenhaal, but he is amazing in Nightcrawler.

Winner: Jake Gyllenhaal. OH, WAIT. Eddie Redmayne.

ACTRESS in a Lead Role


Only one nominee in this category is in a Best pic nom, and that’s Felicity Jones, and she’s the best part of a mediocre adversity-based biopic. Without her, Redmayne’s got nothin’.

Wild sounds more tolerable than Into The Wild, but I still have a hard time summoning the will to see a movie about hiking (or rock climbing. Or Naturing at all, really, sans WAR. Either you’re getting eaten by a bear IRL, or pass). Sorry, Reese Witherspoon.

I loved Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl, and nice stab at the zeitgeist, there, Oscars, but does her role in this need to be heralded over Carmen Ejogo’s in Selma? Haha of course it does.

Marion Cotillard is probably deservedly nominated, but it’s been kind of hard to see Two Days, One Night for most people yet, myself included.

Julianne Moore will probably win for Still Alice, which I haven’t seen yet, because it sure sounds fun (and by all accounts doesn’t live up to her work in it).
Still, Julianne Moore winning is great, because Julianne Moore is fucking awesome.

Should Win: Felicity Jones

Will Win: Julianne Moore


Fun fact: there are very few actors that my mom despises, but when she does find fault with one, she will carry her hatred for them until the end of time. It’s one of many things I love about her. Daryl Hannah is one of these women. Julianne Moore is another. Don’t worry, I’ve already prepared her for what will inevitably happen tomorrow night. 

Pity poor Rosamund Pike, who had to act like she enjoyed kissing both Ben Affleck AND Neil Patrick Harris, but only got to bathe in ONE of their gushing blood pools during Gone Girl. 

Reese Witherspoon, Tilda Swinton would like to have a word with you about how you managed to steal her nomination for Snowpiercer. 

Meet her out back by the loading dock. You definitely won’t be turned into a living ice sculpture, it’s fine, YOU’RE AN AMERICAN CITIZEN.

Winner: Julianne Moore



Morten Tyldum has apparently made good films before Imitation Game (Headhunters, starring Jamie Lannister). He is apparently a real person, and not in fact a pseudonym Tom Hooper uses when he wants to be somehow less expressive. I mean, Imitation Game is fine, it’s not bad, it’s just very dull as far as the direction goes.

How in the hell do you watch TIG, and then watch Selma, and decide Ava DuVernay has made a film with “no art to it” as one academy voter anonymously derided it? Just baffling. Selma is not a perfect film, but it is a great film, and is by any fair rubric an example of a fine directorial achievement. But she’s not as good as Morten Tyldum, apparently, who made a perfectly adequate BBC original picture.

Bennett Miller has a great eye for making movies that stand still, and I mean that as a compliment. Capote and Foxcatcher (moreso than Moneyball) are very specifically, glacially paced. Not for everyone, but I appreciated the Miller-gaze.

I am not quite in agreement with a certain critic (who wrote a great review) that Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu is a total hack.  I kind of enjoyed the experience of Birdman, but I’m squarely on the side of it being an empty, narcissistic, myopic little movie. If it’s satirizing its characters’ self-obsession, if it refutes or doesn’t refute the silly little drama critic that tortures poor Birdman, I would not know after a viewing of the movie. That feels less like a rich ambiguity here and more like a lot of cleverly orchestrated punting. That makes this a movie somewhat saved by its presentation, so perhaps that is an achievement in directing after all.

I’d be tempted to give this to Wes Anderson, were I in the position to choose. I’m not a Wes Anderson apologist. I’m a Wes Anderson enthusiast, and GBH is my second favorite of all of his movies. It’s everything he does well, magnified and celebrated, a richly satisfying example of someone running on all his cylinders.  I’m sympathetic with people who say they hate his movies, since his movies have melodies that are instantaneously recognizable as his and his alone. We know if we like the sounds of certain bands or not. But I can’t help but be on his side for the same reason.

But Richard Linklater should be recognized here, not just for the singular and unprecedented artistic achievement of Boyhood (yes very good, you’ve heard of the Up series, but that doesn’t change anything). He should be honored for an amazing, unique, brilliant body of work as well. I was moved by Boyhood in an unexpected, cumulative way. If it isn’t universal in its experiences, it is still immersive in a way I’m not sure any movie has ever pulled off.

Should Win: Richard Linklater

Will Win: Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu


Linklater had to deal with Ethan Hawke for twelve years. That trumps a bunch of frankly self-indulgent and jarring long takes. It also trumps making a human dollhouse, no matter how beautiful that dollhouse is.

Winner: Richard Linklater



Whiplash: Awesome movie, deservedly nominated, not going to win.

The Theory of Everything/The Imitation Game: One of these may well win, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s Theory Of Everything.

American Sniper:  Yeah, they’re not going there. I’m pretty conflicted on this one. It is everything politically you think it is. It’s also every inch a Clint Eastwood movie, and my knee-jerk response is to read it that way first. It’s a relic of a picture, presented to us in a very different political climate than Eastwood films of yore, but its values are no different than any Clint Eastwood films from back in the day. Either he buried them with Unforgiven or he didn’t. In Sniper, There’s no time to think about the causes of war. Just time to think about what it does to Men. It may actually be the most effective and purely compelling film he’s made in years. And it may well be a useful window for liberals into how conservative America views a whole host of things. But Iraq is not Cowboys and Indians, Clint. Sorry.  

Birdman:  This one’s going to win, I can just feel it.

The Grand Budapest Hotel:  My twitter feed is going to be a pretty bitter TL on Monday morning, if this takes the trophy, since I love funny twitter/politics twitter enough that it kind of overshadows film critic twitter sometimes. I love Wes Anderson and am never going to be any sorrier about that than those of you that hate him are about the hatin’.

Boyhood:  Something has changed in the air, and it probably won’t be Boyhood that takes the whole night, but it’s a sweet, wonderful film, and it’s coming from the guy who made Slacker and Bernie. Wouldn’t that be a great win?

Selma: It’s almost as if, instead of making a white-savior centered narrative, POC got together and made a movie about the hard work of building a successful activist movement to fight back against White Supremacy.
And then the same academy that anointed Crash a best picture winner, declaring racism “something everybody is a little, regardless of race”, was unmoved. None of this has been at all surprising. 

When the producers of Birdman or Theory of Everything take the stage tomorrow night, you will have seen everything you already know about the Academy Awards manifest itself unsurprisingly, and it’s beneath us all at this point to even bother going to bed angry.


The Academy should be disgusted with itself for throwing a Best Picture nomination at Selma while ignoring it in all other major categories. I’m not sure how it’s possible to insult a movie by nominating it for Best Picture, but they found a way. Selma deserved so much more than this. 

If I wanted to watch a jingoistic, logically flawed mess with infuriating characters, The Newsroom is available on demand, so get lost, American Sniper. 

I went in to Birdman prepared to despise it, but I actually enjoyed watching it because of the quality of the performances. That being said, it is NOT Best Picture material, and if it wins, it’s because they want to make themselves feel better about taking Michael Keaton’s Oscar away from him. Also, it has one of the five worst endings I’ve ever seen. 

Boyhood will probably win, and it’s a good movie, although I don’t think people are still going to be talking about it in ten years. 

The Theory of Everything is a movie about two things: Eddie Redmayne and varying shades of mint for the costume design. Great performance, but not Best Picture. 

If I had a vote—and one day, after they finally accept my Harry Potter/Land Before Time crossover screenplay, I will—I would cast it for Grand Budapest Hotel, which is the best thing Anderson has ever done.

Winner: Boyhood

AND that's a wrap, thanks, Livia, and thanks to all who've read this far.  Happy Awards Event Show Everyone!

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