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2015 nominations

Nightcrawler

Movie: Nightcrawler
What it’s up for: Original Screenplay

What a weird, yet fascinating little film. Weird. Very weird.

Nightcrawler is the term used for freelance videographers who follow police scanners at night, looking for the next breaking stories to sell to the news stations…apparently. Jake Gyllenhaal plays an out-of-work young man in LA who discovers this line of work and begins to make a living off of it. As his career begins to grow, he begins to take more and more risks, creating a dark and twisted story.

This is by far the best character I have ever seen from Jake Gyllenhaal. He is unbelievable in this film. His character, Lou, has some sort of social disorder and from moment to moment, you can’t tell when he’s lying and when he’s being real.

As for the screenplay, it builds and twists and grows into a fascinating, yet awkward, morality tale. The script is one of the most complex scripts I’ve ever witnessed. As a whole, the movie flows somewhat awkwardly. It’s sluggish through the beginning but ramps up fantastically to an explosive third act. Specifically as an original screenplay, it excels. It’s one of the most original story-lines I’ve witnessed in a long time.

A completely unsung hero here is James Newton Howard’s score! I’m a sucker for JNH anyway, but the score really supported and complemented the action going on the film. As standalone musical pieces, they’re beautiful anyway.

Prediction

This is  an amazingly powerful category this year and I think Nightcrawler is the odd man out. There’s no way it’ll win.

Ida

Movie: Ida
What it’s up for: Cinematography, Foreign Language Film

This is an absolutely lovely and unique film. It’s on Netflix, and since almost all of you have Netflix, I highly recommend taking the mere 82 minutes to watch it.

Ida is set in 1960s Poland and follows a young nun as she learns about her family history. She learns that she’s Jewish from her aunt and finds out that her parents were killed during the war. Ida and her aunt go on a journey to find out the truth and what follows is a beautifully shot film highlighting Ida’s internal struggle between her heritage and who she is inside.

The cinematography in this film is so good to watch. It’s shot in black and white and in a 1.37:1 aspect ratio. Most of the time, the actors take up only 1/6th to 1/4th of the screen, allowing for some of the best framing I’ve ever seen. It’s gorgeous and it works so well with the dark themes that underscore the whole film.

Prediction

I think it’s unlikely to win cinematography, but because it was nominated there, I think it probably will win best foreign film.

The Imitation Game

Movie: The Imitation Game
What it’s up for: Best Picture, Leading Actor, Supporting Actress, Director, Film Editing, Score, Production Design, Adapted Screenplay

This movie is not at all what it seems to be in the trailers. It’s not a war movie. It’s not even really a character drama. It’s more like a political statement for the UK.

The Imitation Game follows the true story of mathematics prodigy Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) and a team of geniuses who attempt to break the unbreakable Enigma coding machine of the Nazis during World War II.

I’ve never been a Benedict Cumberbatch fangirl and I’ve never fully understood his mass appeal. However, this is the most nuanced performance I’ve seen him do and I was impressed. Turing’s social inabilities paired with what seems to be OCD create a unique personality that needed to be paired with intentional, abnormal body language. Cumberbatch pulled it off brilliantly.

In contrast, I’ve always been fond of Kiera Knightley, who plays the character of the “unlikely woman” who joins the code-breaking team. I was more fascinated by her character in this movie than any of her previous roles. She tends to be the same person in everything she does (which is still good and enjoyable to watch). In this movie, however, she brings her game to a new level. The hair/makeup folks did a great job with her in particular. Since she wasn’t just one of secretaries, they made sure her appearance was a little more haphazard than the well-put-together typists.

This movie is more about gay rights than anything else. They try to hide it but are so intentional in how they try to hide it, that it makes it seem all the more obvious. Because of that, the plot is too convoluted. You’re left not knowing what exactly you’re supposed to focus on. One moment, you’re fully engrossed in defeating Hitler, and the next you’re thrown back in time to learn more about Turing. If the movie had been solely focused as a character drama and not lauded as a war movie, it would have been less confusing.

In general, the movie is well-constructed. The director in particular did a great job working with different timelines (a trend this year it seems) and many different characters. The screenplay was good but not the best I’ve seen this year. It flowed beautifully but lacked a thorough script. (Example: Not once did they even try to explain how their code-breaking machine worked, even in the vaguest sense.) The production design was typical for a WWII film and I don’t really understand why it was nominated. The film editing was nothing out of the ordinary, but was well done.

Alexandre Desplat was nominated twice for score this year. Once here and once for Budapest. His score for Imitation is good, but it doesn’t connect the plot well enough to be a truly impactful score.

Predictions

I’m just going to keep this simple and say that on a case by case basis, I think it’s unlikely that The Imitation Game will win in any of these categories. However, it also seems unlikely that the Academy would let a movie that Hollywood is championing as a gay rights film to go without an award.

 

The Lego Movie

Movie: The Lego Movie
What it’s up for: Song….and not best animated feature film

Yes, I’m committing an entire blog post to this because I’m still annoyed.

It won the BAFTA, for crying out loud. The Brits love The Lego Movie more than Americans?! I don’t understand.

I think what got it squeezed out by the foreign films is that the first two-thirds of the movie are mostly filled with ridiculous things. HOWEVER, once Will Ferrell shows up, the movie gets brought to a whole new level. Throughout the movie there’s all sorts of significant moments that mean more than your basic, child-oriented animation film.

As for “Everything is Awesome”…you know how it goes. I don’t need to post the video. I would LOVE to see this win. But let’s be real…if Selma doesn’t win something, there will be mass outrage.

The Theory of Everything

Movie: The Theory of Everything
What it’s up for: Best Picture, Leading Actor, Leading Actress, Score, Adapted Screenplay

So, lo and behold, I moved across the country over the last couple weeks, so I am suddenly pressed for time and my last few posts are going to be much shorter than average.

The Theory of Everything is the story of Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and his first wife, Jane (Felicity Jones). The film tells the story of Hawking’s burgeoning career and the onset of his ALS through the lens of this relationship.

This movie is gorgeous from beginning to end. It’s one of the most beautiful screenplays I’ve ever seen. It’s colorful and well-paced. In a story that focuses so much on interpersonal relationships, you might expect it to lull at times. Theory has no such problem. The screenplay works brilliantly with the score which tugs at your heartstrings and helps tell a complicated story that has so many ups and downs.

Eddie Redmayne wins this category for me, hands down. I was rooting hard for Steve Carell but Redmayne IS Stephen Hawking. Hawking himself gave Redmayne only the highest compliments on his performance and gave the crew special permission to use his trademark synthesizer voice. (What surprises me about that is that the entirety of the movie is one tear-jerker scene after another and I did not expect Hawking to be so forthcoming with praise about a movie that accentuates so many of his physical and emotional weaknesses.) I should really start adding GIFs or something to my blog posts because I feel like my awe of Redmayne can only be expressed through gestures.

Felicity Jones is one of my new favorite actresses. She had to go through every possible emotion in this film and did so with aplomb. The movie is based on the real-life Jane Hawking’s autobiography and her character is just as much the main character as Stephan. Jones’ grace and confidence fill the screen. She says more with body language than many actresses do with words.

This movie does a great job of separating its story from the perceived persona and accolades of Stephan Hawking and simply tells a realistic tale about the difficulties of relationships.

Predictions

Best Picture – It may very well win this. I think TheoryBoyhood, and Birdman are the top three in this category.

Leading Actor  – Yes. I really do think he’ll win.

Leading Actress – Unlikely, but well-nominated

Score – Very likely

Adapted Screenplay – Probable, but it’s hard to say. This is a strong category.

Gone Girl

Movie: Gone Girl
What it’s up for: Leading Actress

I cannot remember the last time I was so frustrated throughout the entire extent of a movie. Not that Gone Girl is a bad movie, per se. In fact, I enjoyed the mystery and suspense of most of it. It’s just one of those movies where you SO BADLY want to see a character get justice and things just don’t happen as you expect.

Gone Girl tells the story of a missing woman (Rosamund Pike) from multiple perspectives. Her husband (Ben Affleck) quickly becomes the main suspect and he and his sister try their best to prove his innocence.

I feel like I might be one of the last people to see this movie, so this post will be written with several SPOILERS because that may be the only way to fully discuss Rosamund Pike’s performance.

Before I get to Rosamund, let’s talk about the rest of the movie. The story itself in interesting and keeps you involved. It makes you want to know how the story will end, regardless of the fact that the screenplay itself is not great. It has a weird flow because it has to bounce back and forth between several different timelines. That method has been successfully used in other films but there’s something off here. It could just be that the supporting characters are frustratingly useless. There is a surprise appearance from none other than Boy Meets World’s Minkus (Lee Norris) which I found to be sufficiently distracting from the otherwise shallow performances of the police. It may have been intentional to have the police act  not act but it was incredibly difficult to watch.

Also, I just want to mention the audio: The score (particularly during flashbacks to Nick and Amy’s earlier relationship stages) comes off as unbelievably grating and is accentuated by the fact that the sound mixing is terrible. That kind of thing is unforgivable in my mind. I know I’m no sound mixer, but if you can notice bad sound mixing, something probably could’ve been fixed.

Alright, Rosamund Pike. She definitely deserved this nomination primarily for the present day timeline in the movie. Her flashback timeline was awkward to watch, but that may be due to the bad sound mixing. She just seemed flat and non-expressive. That gets completely put aside though when we get the meat of the mystery of Amy’s disappearance. She becomes this character that you HATE so much because of her manipulation of Nick and the other men from her life. Her character spends a significant amount of time being an actor herself. She goes through multiple different personalities and characters with various people. Once her true self is revealed to the audience, watching her pretend to be this innocent, victimized woman drove me CRAZY! That’s a good sign for a great actor. If not for the TERRIBLE ending, I may actually like this movie solely because of her performance.

Prediction

Doubtful but it is a wide open category this year

Maleficent

Movie: Maleficent
What it’s up for: Costuming

Maleficent had so much potential for greatness. It had the budget. It had the cast. It had a relatively good screenplay. It just seems like somewhere along the line, 30-40 minutes of the plot got cut. Every character besides Maleficent had virtually no character development. The third act of the movie felt rushed. But yes, the costumes were amazing.

Angelina Jolie was amazing as Maleficent. Much to my surprise, she redeemed the whole movie for me. I’m normally not a fan of Ms. Jolie, but this role was perfect for her. My favorite part of the movie was the scene where she curses Aurora – mostly because it was almost identical to the animated version.

I saw Maleficent when it first came out and due to time and lack of interest, I don’t have any more insights on this particular film.

The Judge

Movie: The Judge
What it’s up for: Supporting Actor

When Robert Downey Jr. is the lead in the feel-good movie of the Oscars, you know that it’s a weird year.

The Judge tells the story of a lawyer, Hank, (RDJ) who is estranged from his family but finds himself back in his hometown for his mother’s funeral. His father (Robert Duvall) is the local judge and Hank has a hostile and damaged relationship with him. When the judge is accused of murder, Hank finds himself forced to stay in town and try to keep his aging and ailing father out of jail.

I actually really enjoyed this movie. I thought it had a nicely complex plot and a variety of solid characters. The writers did a great job building up certain events and plot twists. Just when you think you have a firm grasp of what’s going on, they surprise you. With the main descriptions of the movie focusing on the judge’s murder trial, I was expecting something dark and intense but it is far from either. Due in large part to Thomas Newman’s wonderful score, the story plays out more focused on character development rather than on the murder case. It works well for the story and creates an intriguing atmosphere that captivates your attention.

Robert Duvall did an absolutely incredible job as the aged judge. I’ve now seen all the supporting actor nominees and I believe Duvall ranks strongly in second place. He goes from spiteful to pitiful in the blink of an eye. He tangibly brings out the emotions of the movie and accentuates the actions and emotions of the other characters perfectly. As you grow into a part of this dysfunctional family and learn about the stories that have led them to this place, Duvall’s performance remains strongly at the center of everything that happens – regardless of the fact that he’s the “supporting” actor.

I give the movie two thumbs up as a feel-good, character drama.

Prediction

I think it’s possible that Duvall could win but unlikely. JK Simmons should have this in the bag, but with the partiality of the Academy towards artsy movies, this category could go to pretty much anyone.

 

Whiplash

Movie: Whiplash
What it’s up for: Best Picture, Supporting Actor, Film Editing, Sound Mixing, Adapted Screenplay

Going into this movie, all I knew was that it had something to do with drums.

Oh boy, does it have something to do with drums.

The story is about a drummer, Andrew, (Miles Teller) in his first year at a top music conservatory in New York. He gets the opportunity to work with one of the renowned instructors at the school (J.K. Simmons) whose…unique…style of teaching brings challenges to the aspiring musician.

J.K. Simmons is SCARY in this movie. This is not your momma’s Farmers Insurance commercial. His illustrative use of swear words is absolutely necessary to his character but exceeds anything I’ve ever witnessed. He’s a completely irredeemable character but SO good to watch.

Miles Teller also does a such fantastic job. The effort he put into honing his drumming skills should get its own reward. His emotional range reaches all sorts of highs and lows and completely drives the plot.

The remarkable film editing accomplishes so much just by editing a film with so much music. Drumming in particular creates so many beats that need special attention. If you edit a millisecond off of a beat of a drum, it’s noticeable. On top of that, a particular drumming sequence seals this film’s nomination for film editing. *semi-SPOILER ALERT* Andrew tries to prove himself with an extended drumming solo at one point (you’ll know it when you see it). When I say “extended”, I mean EXTENDED. It’s several minutes long and seems like one complete sequence…thanks to the power of film editing! Apparently, they shot the sequence over the course of three days and you cannot tell in the slightest.
*end spoilers*

The sound mixing also plays a crucial role in a movie about music. There’s not a lot of score, but when the score is present, it doesn’t overwhelm the actors and action. Meanwhile, the music that the performers play shouts from the screen and brings life and emotion to the story. The combination of these two elements brings a unique cadence to the flow of the film.

The director (Damien Chazelle) also wrote the screenplay. There’s a little bit of weirdness surrounding the fact that it has been put in the adapted category, but for our purposes, that’s irrelevant. The screenplay feels independent and quirky. It flows differently than most screenplays and doesn’t rely heavily on dialogue. It comes across quite well though and twists and turns in some ways you wouldn’t expect.

I enjoyed watching Whiplash, although it could be a little slow at times. I have a brand new appreciation for drumming, though. When I listen to music in the car, I hear the drumming more clearly. I’d recommend it once it hits Redbox.

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