It’s here! The 87th Academy Awards will be dished out on Sunday at LA’s Dolby Theatre. Hollywood’s great and good will be hoping to take home a statue, but one thing is certain: there’ll be no awards for acting, writing or directing given out to black people. That’s right: the Academy, in its wisdom, failed to nominate a single person of colour for any of the major awards. Selma made the longlist for Best Picture (although it won’t be in contention), and the song ‘Glory’ has an outside chance. However, apparently zero black actors put in an award-worthy performance this year. With Ava DuVernay and Selma, the Academy passed on the opportunity to do something it has never done in its 87-year history: nominate a black woman in the Best Director category. Did I mention that the average Academy voter nowadays is a 63-year-old white man?
Best Picture Nominees:
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything
Should win: Boyhood
Will win: Birdman
A strange bunch this year: challenging disability, race and sexuality biopics look like obvious front-runners but none of them have the momentum. The nomination of The Grand Budapest Hotel is pleasantly surprising in that the Academy tends to have a goldfish-like memory and the film was released last March. Whiplash was my favourite but in Academy terms, Boyhood is surely the best picture, a wonderful, touching concept, beautifully executed. However I’ve a horrible feeling that the 63-year-old white male actors who pick the winners will choose the film about a 63-year-old white male actor, and give Birdman the nod. I live in hope.
Best Director Nominees:
Alejandro Iñárritu (Birdman)
Richard Linklater (Boyhood)
Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher)
Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game)
Should win: Richard Linklater
Will win: Richard Linklater
Despite having put out one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year, most people still don’t seem to know who Morten Tyldum is, so he’s out. Wes Anderson’s film was relentlessly joyful, in contrast to Bennett Miller’s, but this one is a shoot-out between the Bird and the Boy. The Academy split Best Picture and Director last year and I’ve got a feeling the same will happen this year, and it’s the least Linklater deserves for his time-lapse love letter to coming of age. Birdman was great fun, but answer me this: did it stay with you?
Best Actor Nominees:
Steve Carell (Foxcatcher)
Bradley Cooper (American Sniper)
Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game)
Michael Keaton (Birdman)
Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)
Should win: Steve Carell
Will win: Eddie Redmayne (stalked by Michael Keaton)
I don’t want to encourage readers to gamble, but a man can learn a lot by keeping one eye on the bookmakers. In this case, how out of step I am with popular opinion: I would pick Carell in a heartbeat for this, and yet he’s the longest shot by far if the bookies are to be believed. It’s a terrifically strong category yet again – mainly because Hollywood’s progressive financing model requires films to be built around men – and consider the performances that didn’t even get a nomination: David Oleyowo as MLK in Selma, Jake Gyllenhaal’s Louis Bloom in Nightcrawler, Miles Teller’s sweaty Neiman in Whiplash, Ralph Fiennes’ Gustave H in Budapest, Timothy Spall as Mr Turner. Eddie Redmayne is tremendous as Stephen Hawking, of course, and will in all likelihood follow Daniel Day-Lewis, Jamie Foxx and so many others down the well-trodden path to an Oscar via disability – that’s if the outpouring of affection for Michael Keaton doesn’t torpedo his chances. It just all feels a bit … safe?
Best Actress Nominees:
Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night)
Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything)
Julianne Moore (Still Alice)
Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)
Reese Witherspoon (Wild)
Should win: Julianne Moore
Will win: Julianne Moore
Am I alone in secretly wanting Rosamund Pike to win for the insane, highbrow trash that was Gone Girl? What clips would they show on the news?! Marion Cotillard, a previous winner, was perhaps a surprise nominee though she gave a strong performance in the Dardenne brothers’ latest. However any gamblers should probably forget about this category because there’s no way on this planet or any other that anyone but Julianne Moore is walking away with this one, for her turn as a linguistics professor succumbing to early-onset Alzheimer’s. A richly deserved win and it goes some way towards atoning for being in Maps to the Stars, which was risible.
Best Supporting Actor Nominees:
Robert Duvall (The Judge)
Ethan Hawke (Boyhood)
Edward Norton (Birdman)
Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher)
JK Simmons (Whiplash)
Should win: JK Simmons
Will win: JK Simmons
Ethan Hawke was a perfect bad dad in Boyhood and must be delighting in the plaudits earned through working on the same film for 12 years. Edward Norton was wonderful in Birdman, poking truckloads of fun at himself and the conceited bubble that envelops his ilk. Mark Ruffalo can do anything, it seems, and was utterly convincing as a spry, charismatic Olympic wrestler. However to all of these, JK Simmons can say NOT QUITE MY F***ING TEMPO as he’s a certainty to win for his portrayal of the chair-flinging jazz Hitler that is Terence Fletcher, in Damien Chazelle’s superlative Whiplash. A thoroughly deserved win for an actor that’s been consistently excellent throughout a fine and lengthy career.
Best Supporting Actress Nominees:
Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
Laura Dern (Wild)
Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game)
Emma Stone (Birdman)
Meryl Streep (Into the Woods)
Should win: Patricia Arquette
Will win: Patricia Arquette
Lots of stories in this category: Keira Knightly picking up her second Oscar nod; Meryl Streep picking up her umpteenth for flouncing around the forest in a hat; Laura Dern reminding everyone she’s still out there and she’s still wonderful. Emma Stone’s nomination roughly corresponds to Jennifer Lawrence’s for American Hustle last year – funny scene, she did a great job, but an Oscar? Really? This category does give me a warm glow though, because even if Birdman sneaks off with the biggest gongs, Best Supporting Actress guarantees Boyhood an award. Patricia Arquette has this locked down tightly and was magnificent in the film, lending it such authenticity. She will not leave the Dolby empty-handed.
Best of the Rest
Critics and the public alike were quick to establish a cliché and point out that everything certainly was not awesome when The Lego Movie, a gigantic commercial and critical success, was snubbed entirely in the Best Animated Feature Film category. It might find succour with a Best Original Song gong, as long as ‘Glory’ from Selma doesn’t sneak in there. American Sniper’s rush of nominations was something of a mystery to me – although again, see the demographics of the voters – and if it misses out in the big categories, its reward might come with Best Adapted Screenplay. Clint Eastwood toned down the character somewhat from the source material, in which sniper Chris Kyle admits that he enjoyed killing on an industrial scale – he called it ‘fun’. Whiplash would be my pick in this category, but I’m a cheerleader.
Best Original Screenplay might see Wes Anderson rewarded for his slow-burn smash hit curio, The Grand Budapest Hotel. This was the only category in which Nightcrawler mustered a nomination, and it’d be nice for Dan Gilroy to get an Oscar, if only to play Awards top trumps with his Pulitzer-winning playwright brother, Frank. Birdman might get a sniff though, and it’ll get much more than a sniff in cinematography. Emmanuel Lubezki won last year for Gravity, and only a fool would bet against a successful defence of his title for the technical wizardry that gave Birdman its intoxicating one-take aesthetic. This is another tremendously strong category – Budapest, Ida and Mr Turner in particular were sumptuous to look at. Boyhood will walk the editing category – the whole film is an exercise in editing, after all. Ida is the front-runner for Best Foreign Language Film, although Leviathan was a weighty piece of work.
The documentary award should go to Edward Snowden doc Citizenfour, though if the Academy is feeling nervous about angering the NSA then Finding Vivian Maier, about an eccentric street photographer largely unknown in her own lifetime, would be a worthy winner. In sound mixing, it should be a drum-off between Whiplash and Birdman, and surely the former will triumph this time, although American Sniper clearly has friends in the Academy. Alexandre Desplat has to be feeling confident about Best Original Score – he wrote two of the five scores nominated – but the bookies are tipping Jóhan Jóhannsson for The Theory of Everything. I enjoyed the chaotic Zimmer bombast of Interstellar, personally.
If nothing else, Budapest should pick up some style awards – makeup and hairstyling, costume design, production design, and so forth. Finally it’s worth checking out the Visual Effects category, dominated by the summer blockbuster films. It looks like Interstellar will sneak it, but these franchises should grab awards in technical categories while they can. Next year, the force awakens – Star Wars is coming.
The 87th Academy Awards is held on Sunday 22nd February 2015. For more information, visit the website.