The 2015 Oscar® Nominations: A Few Thoughts!

Oscar Trophy

Once again, the Oscar® nominations are unveiled and, once, again, there are some moments of controversy. This year, more than most, the concept of a Best Film nominee apparently directing itself will spark a ton of controversy – making the argument that the nominee list for directors should be expanded to match that of Best Film.

Also once again, a lot of the nominees are films that haven’t been seen by anyone outside the academy and residents of Los Angeles and New York City who felt inclined to see them over the holiday crush.

For now, though, here are the nominees and a few thoughts that wandered lonely across my mind as I encountered them for the first time.

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American Sniper

Clint Eastwood, Robert Lorenz, Andrew Lazar, Bradley Cooper and Peter Morgan, Producers

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher and James W. Skotchdopole, Producers

Boyhood

Richard Linklater and Cathleen Sutherland, Producers

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales and Jeremy Dawson, Producers

The Imitation Game

Nora Grossman, Ido Ostrowsky and Teddy Schwarzman, Producers

Selma

Christian Colson, Oprah Winfrey, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, Producers

The Theory of Everything

Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce and Anthony McCarten, Producers

Whiplash

Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook and David Lancaster, Producers

 

With the exception of American Sniper, I’ve seen everything on this list and it’s a good one – four of my year’s favorites are here; a couple more are in the documentary category, and the other three made Honorable Mentions

 

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Steve Carell in Foxcatcher

Bradley Cooper in American Sniper

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game

Michael Keaton in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything

 

The only real surprise here is that David Oyelowo is absent from the list. I might have chosen him over  Steve Carell (who gives an eerily brilliant performance). This is just a case of an overabundance of brilliant lead roles for actors and no way to choose five without pissing off someone.

 

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Robert Duvall in The Judge

Ethan Hawke in Boyhood

Edward Norton in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Mark Ruffalo in Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons in Whiplash

 

Another incredibly strong category. Just because Robert Duvall might be a sentimental favorite to get a nomination doesn’t mean he didn’t do great work (he was the best thing about The Judge).

 

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night

Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything

Julianne Moore in Still Alice

Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon in Wild

 

Who says there was no real competition for this category?

 

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Patricia Arquette in Boyhood

Laura Dern in Wild

Keira Knightley in The Imitation Game

Emma Stone in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Meryl Streep in Into the Woods

 

There are no soft noms here: every one of these performances is deserving.

 

ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTING

Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher

Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

 

Just the fact that Ava DuVernay was no nominated for Selma points out that this category should be expanded to match the number of selections in the Best Film category. Oscar®-nominated films don’t direct themselves, people!

 

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM OF THE YEAR

Big Hero 6

Don Hall, Chris Williams and Roy Conli

The Boxtrolls

Anthony Stacchi, Graham Annable and Travis Knight

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Dean DeBlois and Bonnie Arnold

Song of the Sea

Tomm Moore and Paul Young

The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya

Isao Takahata and Yoshiaki Nishimura

 

The LEGO Movie – on of the best reviewed films of the year (in any category) – didn’t get a nomination? And How To Train Your Dragon 2 (an adequate but not especially brilliant sequel) did? That’s just all kinds of wrong.

 

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM OF THE YEAR

Ida (Poland)

Leviathan (Russia)

Tangerines (Estonia)

Timbuktu (Mauritania)

Wild Tales (Argentina)

 

The only foreign language film I watched (or at least tried, several times, to watch) was Force Majeure. I may not have seen these, but I’m glad Force Majeure didn’t make the cut.

 

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

American Sniper

Written by Jason Hall

The Imitation Game

Written by Graham Moore

Inherent Vice

Written for the screen by Paul Thomas Anderson

The Theory of Everything

Screenplay by Anthony McCarten

Whiplash

Written by Damien Chazelle

 

The two screenplay awards usually go to one of the writer(s) in the Best Film category who didn’t win, which is rather odd. Following that logic, Inherent Vice should be a lock.

 

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Written by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo

Boyhood

Written by Richard Linklater

Foxcatcher

Written by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Screenplay by Wes Anderson; Story by Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness

Nightcrawler

Written by Dan Gilroy

 

Nightcrawler wasn’t nominated for Best film, unlike the other four scripts in this category. Personally, no matter what film gets the big prize, I’d pick it or Wes Anderson’s very specific, very meticulaous The Grand Budapest Hotel here.

 

ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Emmanuel Lubezki

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Robert Yeoman

Ida

Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski

Mr. Turner

Dick Pope

Unbroken

Roger Deakins

 

I haven’t seen Ida or Mr. Turner, but Unbroken is the best-looking of the three I’ve seen; The Grand Budapest is the most innovative (using different scree ratios to represent the periods in the action takes place, and Birdman is the coolest (the use of digital stitching to make the film seem like on continuing shot was pretty spiffy).

 

ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Milena Canonero

Inherent Vice

Mark Bridges

Into The Woods

Colleen Atwood

Maleficent

Anna B. Sheppard and Jane Clive

Mr. Turner

Jacqueline Durran

 

I haven’t seen Mr. Turner, but the other four entries here are all extraordinary efforts. I’d give Milena Canonero the edge because her costumes cover several different periods.

 

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

CitizenFour

Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy and Dirk Wilutzky

Finding Vivian Maier

John Maloof and Charlie Siskel

Last Days in Vietnam

Rory Kennedy and Keven McAlester

The Salt of the Earth

Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado and David Rosier

Virunga

Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara

 

I’m surprised the sentimental favorite (and excellent documentary in its own right) Life Itself didn’t make the cut here. CitizenFour is certainly the most newsworthy choice – and paints a picture of a guy who’s just trying to do the right for the right reasons.

 

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT

Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry

Joanna

Aneta Kopacz

Our Curse

Tomasz Sliwinski and Maciej Slesicki

The Reaper (La Parka)

Gabriel Serra Arguello

White Earth

  1. Christian Jensen

 

I haven’t seen any of these.

 

ACHIEVEMENT IN FILM EDITING

American Sniper

Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach

Boyhood

Sandra Adair

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Barney Pilling

The Imitation Game

William Goldenberg

Whiplash

Tom Cross

 

Again, I haven’t seen American Sniper, but each of the other four nominees is brilliantly edited. I’m leaning toward The Grand Budapest Hotel for its melding of three distinct periods and three distinct scree ratios, making it one of the most difficult tasks in the field.

 

ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

Foxcatcher

Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier

Guardians of the Galaxy

Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White

 

Guardians of the Galaxy. Gotta be.

 

ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC WRITTEN FOR MOTION PICTURES (ORIGINAL SCORE)

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Alexandre Desplat

The Imitation Game

Alexandre Desplat

Interstellar

Hans Zimmer

Mr. Turner

Gary Yershon

The Theory of Everything

Jóhann Jóhannsson

 

Three of the four nominees I’ve seen have amazing scores. Because of the way he captures the drama and the whimsy of Wes Anderson’s story so well, I’m hoping Alexandre Desplat takes this one.

 

ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC WRITTEN FOR MOTION PICTURES (ORIGINAL SONG)

“Everything Is Awesome” from The Lego Movie

Music and Lyric by Shawn Patterson

“Glory” from Selma

Music and Lyric by John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn

“Grateful” from Beyond the Lights

Music and Lyric by Diane Warren

“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me

Music and Lyric by Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond

“Lost Stars” from Begin Again

Music and Lyric by Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois

 

These are all good songs, but I might have chosen Lorde’s Yellow Flicker Beat (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1) over at least a couple of these nominees. I expect Glory will win, though Everything Is Awesome and Grateful are better songs – Glory just suits its movie better.

 

ACHIEVEMENT IN PRODUCTION DESIGN

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock

The Imitation Game

Production Design: Maria Djurkovic; Set Decoration: Tatiana Macdonald

Interstellar

Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Gary Fettis

Into the Woods

Production Design: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock

Mr. Turner

Production Design: Suzie Davies; Set Decoration: Charlotte Watts

 

Tough, tough category. Building a world from scratch is never easy. My preference is for the finicky, precise, detailed worlds of Wes Anderson and the slightly more sprawling world of Into the Woods. I’m glad I don’t have to vote on this one.

 

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM

The Bigger Picture

Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees

The Dam Keeper

Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi

Feast

Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed

Me and My Moulton

Torill Kove

A Single Life

Joris Oprins

 

I’ve only seen the one most of us have seen – Feast – and that was not one of the best Disney’s ever done.

 

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

Aya

Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis

Boogaloo and Graham

Michael Lennox and Ronan Blaney

Butter Lamp (La Lampe Au Beurre De Yak)

Hu Wei and Julien Féret

Parvaneh

Talkhon Hamzavi and Stefan Eichenberger

The Phone Call

Mat Kirkby and James Lucas

I’ve seen none of these.

 

ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND EDITING

American Sniper

Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Martín Hernández and Aaron Glascock

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Brent Burge and Jason Canovas

Interstellar

Richard King

Unbroken

Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro

 

Without seeing American Sniper, I have to say that Birdman or The Hobbit would seem to be the most interesting editing challenges here. Insterstellar, of course, was deliberately mixed like that, but I consider it a failed experiment. That’s just me…

 

ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND MIXING

American Sniper

John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and Thomas Varga

Interstellar

Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker and Mark Weingarten

Unbroken

Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and David Lee

Whiplash

Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley

 

These films must have been huge challenges – especially Birdman with its percussive score on top of everything else, and Whiplash, in which percussion was center stage as a plot point.

 

ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECTS

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill and Dan Sudick

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist

Guardians of the Galaxy

Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould

Interstellar

Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie and Cameron Waldbauer

 

And finally we come to the whiz-bang of visual effects. Every last one of these films deserves to be here. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes did something amazing in taking motion capture out of the studio; Guardians of the Galaxy created new aliens and a whole other section of the galaxy; X-Men: Days of Future Past had that incredible sequence with Qucksilver in the Pentagon kitchens (and that was just one part of its overall tapestry); Interstellar created new worlds, played with time and gave us the niftiest AI since HAL-9000, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier gave us an armada of helicarriers and some of the most spectacular ‘stuff getting blowed up real good’ we’ve ever seen.

Which gets me the most? I AM GROOT! Say n’more…