Best Picture?
Best Picture?

As promised, here are my predictions for the winners in the major categories of the 2015 Academy Awards.  I should humbly remind you that I have correctly picked the best picture for the past three years–The Artist, Argo, and 12 Years A Slave.  I am right more often than wrong in the other categories as well.  In case you want to skip straight to best picture first, it is at the end of the post.

Actress in a Supporting Role

The nominees are Patricia Arquette, Laura Dern, Keira Knightley, Emma Stone, and Meryl Streep.

The only major movie I’ve not seen is Wild, so I didn’t see Dern’s performance.  That doesn’t keep me from making an educated prediction, though.  I didn’t think much of either Stone or Streep’s performance, so that leaves it to Knightley and Arquette.  Knightley did a great job in The Imitation Game, but I think it is Arquette who will win.  Oscar will pretend to identify with the single mother trying to raise two kids.

Actor in a Supporting Role

The nominees are Robert Duvall, Ethan Hawke, Edward Norton, Mark Ruffalo, and J. K. Simmons.

All of these guys put out amazing performances, even Norton who was stuck in a terrible movie.  Robert Duvall could win.  His portrayal in The Judge was just about perfect.  Mark Ruffalo was the best actor in Foxcatcher, but he will not win.  J. K. Simmons will win.  His performance in Whiplash is iconic.  It’s the kind of role people will still be talking about in a decade.

Actress in a Leading Role

The nominees are Marion Cotillard, Felicity Jones, Julianne Moore, Rosamund Pike, and Reese Witherspoon.

Okay, this is my weakest category in selecting.  As I said earlier I have not seen Wild (Witherspoon) nor have I seen Two Days, One Night or Still Alice because those just arrived this week in our area.  It is very frustrating for Oscar to nominate movies that can’t be seen!   However, this will not stop me from making a prediction.

I did not like Gone Girl, and did not understand why Rosamund Pike was nominated.  Felicity Jones was really good in The Theory of Everything, but she will not win for a role that reminds me a lot of Jennifer Connelly in A Beautiful Mind.  I think Julianne Moore will win.  I base this simply on the buzz of her movie and the powerful topic.

Actor in a Leading Role

The nominees are Steve Carrell, Bradley Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Keaton, and Eddie Redmayne.

All of these, with the exception of Michael Keaton, are worthy candidates.  I could see either Cumberbatch or Cooper winning in an upset.  However, Eddie Redmayne’s performance as Stephen Hawking is the winner.  There just doesn’t seem to be any other way.  It is a shame that the competition has to be so fierce because I really loved Cooper and Cumberbatch.


The nominees are Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Richard Linklater, Bennette Miller, Wes Anderson, and Morten Tyldum.

It is curious that Clint Eastwood was left off this list for American Sniper.  Certainly his direction of that film was far superior to either Anderson or the miserable slop Iñárritu gave us.  It wouldn’t matter though.  The clear winner here is Linklater.  Making that film over a twelve year period of time, plus the style in which it was filmed, put him head and shoulders above everyone else.

Best Picture

The nominees are American Sniper, Birdman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, and Whiplash.

Birdman, Budapest,and Selma have no chance.  The only gemstone in Selma is David Oyelowo.  Aside form that it is only sentiment.  Whiplash has a punchers chance, but it is carried by the acting and I don’t think it will win.  Theory has plot holes and dialogue problems.

It really comes down to Sniper, Boyhood, and ImitationBoyhood is the favorite, having won so many previous awards.  However, I don’t think Boyhood will win.  It is a great groundbreaking film, but the story doesn’t compel the way the others do.  Sniper should win.  You heard me right, it should win.  Put the politics aside and you will see a great movie about a heroically flawed man attempting to do the best he knew how to do.

However, because of the politics, Sniper will not win.  I just don’t think Oscar will do that.

Therefore, my selection is The Imitation Game.  Oscar loves a good story about a social injustice.  By selecting The Imitation Game The Academy can feel good about itself, and that is exactly what they will do.

image from movy.com.au


Yesterday I blogged my overview of the best picture nominations, and you can CLICK HERE to read those.  Here are some thoughts I have about the nominations as a group.

best-pic_3166072kThought One:  This is the year of the troubled genius.  The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything both feature brilliant scientists.  Alan Turing (brilliantly portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch in Imitation) and Stephen Hawking (equally brilliantly portrayed by Eddie Redmayne in Theory) both are super-duper-smart but also have troubles.  Hawking’s trouble is the motor-neuron disease while Turing’s is his antisocial, asperger-like behavior.

These are the obvious ones, but not the only ones.  Chris Kyle, the main character in American Sniper, is in the same category.  He is the ‘best’ sniper in American history, but he also suffers from guilt, PTSD, and a very exaggerated sense of duty.  Martin Luther King is the genius orator and leader of the Civil Rights movement in Selma, but his marriage and personal life is in tatters.  Andrew Neiman is a brilliant drummer in Whiplash, but he is unable to live any kind of meaningful life other than to consistently take the verbal whipping of his abusive music teacher.  The actors in each of these roles, Bradley Cooper, David Oyelowo, and Miles Teller do wonderful work tapping into that complexity.

Thought Two:  Words.  None of these, really, are wordy films.  Budapest and Selma are the wordiest, but Sniper, Imitation, Theory, and Whiplash amaze me with how much they communicate without words.  This is also true of Foxcatcher, which should have been listed instead of Birdman.  I hated Birdman.  I bet the entire screenplay for Foxcatcher is only about five pages single spaced.

Thought Three Boyhood and American Sniper have more in common than you might think.  These two films are about as different as night and day in terms of what you see, but they both cover the same period of time and they are both anchored in the Texas experience.  Kyle grew up in Texas and it was a tough, Texas childhood and early adolescence that lead him to join the military.  It was a unique Texas testosterone that fueled his view of duty, guns, violence, and family.

In Boyhood we see Mason grow up in a different Texas.  He is led by his mother (Patricia Arquette) and father (Ethan Hawke) to go on a voyage of self-discovery and self-obsession.  He plants yard signs for Obama in Houston with his dad, slackers around Austin, and becomes an artist in San Marcos.

Of special interest in this comparison, remember when Mason’s grandfather gives him the shotgun for his birthday?  Maybe Mason’s grandparents hung out with Chris Kyle’s parents?

Their lives are so different, but it is altogether possible that if these were real tellings, Mason might have been at Pedernales Falls State Park with his father when maybe Chris Kyle was there with his wife and kids.  More pointedly, it might not be too much of a stretch to think that Kyle, when he was a rodeo professional, might have been a possible love interest for Mason’s mom.

Seriously.  These two movies overlap in so many ways, but they portray two different Americas, two different kinds of Texas.

Thought Four:  Thankfully, the nominations this year are not as sex-laden as last year.  I wonder if Hollywood has realized that they went too far last year with The Wolf of Wall Street, American Hustle, Her, and Dallas Buyers Club.  You can read last years reviews to see how I felt about those, but for now it is proper to acknowledge how ‘unsexual’ the 2015 movies are.  The only one that comes close to anything graphic is The Grand Budapest Hotel, and that is more ‘yuck’ factor than anything else.

Why is that? It could be that the last three winners have been The Artist, Argo, and 12 Years A Slave.  None of those were overtly sexual.  Sure, 12 Years has nudity, but it is not sexual.  It portrays the ugly exploitation of slavery.

Thought Five:  Not much to say except, this years Oscars is about as male-centric lily white as one can imagine.  Diversity has been kicked to the curb.  Consider this piece (Click Here) from the L. A. Times.

I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on the films.  Tomorrow, if time allows me, I will blog my predictions as to who will win the major awards.

image from telegraph.co.uk


As is my custom, I watch all of the films that are nominated for best picture.  It is a good practice for me, because I enjoy movies and sometimes I see great films that I otherwise would have never known about.  A good example is last year’s Nebraska.  This blog post is a quick review for each.  I will make some predictions for winners in the major categories in a separate blog later this week, as well as a blog about some of the themes and key concepts I noticed with Oscar’s nomination.oscars-2014-logo-slice

I’ll go ahead and say now that none of these are child safe films, but Selma, Imitation, and The Theory of Everything are safe for teens.  The Grand Budapest Hotel has a lot of crassness in it.  American Sniper is profane, violent and disturbing.  Whiplash and Birdman are vulgar.  In general, however, the movies this year are decidedly less explicit than were last year.

So here we go with the overview, in alphabetical order.

American Sniper

So much has been written about the politics of this movie that it is hard to separate it as a film, as art, apart from the politics.  I actually feeling like the director, Clint Eastwood, was making an anti-war film with this as the main character becomes less of a person and more of a machine the longer he is involved in the war.  The movie seems to me, in a very real way, to be an attempt to portray the horrible situation of the war for the soldiers we ask to serve, for the people in the countries we operate, and for the families of loved ones back home.

As a film, American Sniper is outstanding.  It stands toe to toe with the rich tradition of Hollywood war movies, and this is indeed a war movie.  Eastwood does a masterful job of telling the story through visuals, and also through what is not said.  Bradley Cooper proves with this film that he deserves to be ranked among the best actors in Hollywood.  I liked this movie, and see why it was nominated.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

I hated this movie.  There is not a single character in this movie I liked.  I can’t understand why Michael Keaton is nominated for best actor, and I can’t see why Emma Stone is nominated for best supporting actress.  Just about any college sophomore could portray Emma’s entitled, self-absorbed, and loathsome daughter and Keaton looks like something from community theater.  Seriously.  Ed Norton is a good actor, but he is stuck in a horrible film.  The only reason this movie was nominated was because it is about actors, directors, Hollywood and New York, and Oscar loves movies about movies and actors. There is no way Birdman can win.  No way.  If it does, I will write a strongly worded letter to someone.


I have a problem with Boyhood.  I like the movie, and it tugs at my heartstrings because it was practically filmed in my backyard, but there is such a strong line of fatalism in the movie that it is hard to really get behind.  Linklater is truly one of the greatest directors this side of Spielberg, and I admire what they did with the twelve year vision for the movie.  The problem is that the movie lacks the elements necessary for a great story, in other words, there is really no plot.  The aforementioned fatalism, combined with a nearly three hour length, and I just don’t think it can, or should, win best picture.

The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game is very good.  Cumberbatch is outstanding, and so is Knightley and the supporting cast.  At times the dialogue, for me, though, doesn’t match the level of the acting or the plot, yet that is not enough to ruin it.  I highly recommend the film as both a bit of history–wartime history and social history–and as a look at actors excelling in their craft.


What is great about Selma is the living history of many of those involved in the events, as well as the acting of David Oyelowo.  I cannot believe he didn’t get nominated for best actor–seriously, that was the greatest snub of the year.  By the end of the film Oyelowo had me convinced that he was Martin Luther King, Jr. There are two great flaws, though, with Selma.

One, the rest of the acting doesn’t measure up.  Whoever played Coretta Scott King needed some acting lessons.  It was sad, truly sad, to watch her alongside Oyelowo, with him in all his glory and then her lost as a goose.  Even Oprah Winfrey, as wonderful as she is in her small part, can’t keep this movie from drowning in a sea of under performers.

The other problem with Selma is the direction of the movie.  It doesn’t know if it wants to be, as its name tells us, a biopic of the events of Selma during the struggle for civil rights or if it wants to be a biography of Martin Luther King, Jr.  Because of this, it divides its time in uneven ways that takes away from a complete picture of either. Because of these inconsistencies, I just don’t think it should win, although I understand why it was nominated.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

If Birdman is the worst movie in this list, The Grand Budapest Hotel is just a notch better. Let me rephrase that.  It is not that the Grand Budapest is a horrible film, it is that it simply doesn’t belong in the same breath with these other wonderful films.  The only saving grace of Budapest is that the acting is top notch, and the dialogue is crisply written.  The problem here is the convoluted, twisted, and contrived plot.  The movie just makes no sense, even as a satire.

The Theory of Everything

Theory is really a love story.  If you look closely in the credits you will learn it is based off the memoir of Hawking’s ex-wife, Jane.  As a love story, it falls short of reaching the heights it needs to in order to capture the viewers heart.  When the credits roll I think less of Stephen and Jane than I did when the movie began, and feel that they both behaved rather selfishly, as it pertains to love and affection.  I probably shouldn’t feel this way, but that is where the movie leaves me.

In addition to that, the movie is difficult to follow chronologically.  If one did not pay attention to the cars, hairstyles, and clothing it is easy to fall under the misconception that the entire first hour and half of the movie are supposed to happen in 1963, which they don’t, but there is no way of knowing that, really.  I don’t know if it is a side effect of the same problem, or if it is a different one, but it was also hard to follow the significance of Hawking’s academic career, ideas, theories, and such.  It very much felt like those making the movie only knew Hawking was a brilliant physicist who didn’t believe in God, but they didn’t really know what it was he actually postulated.  In fact, the most lucid explanation of his work comes not from him, but from Jane at dinner in a weird, and mocking, usage of peas and potatoes.

Now, these issues aside, the cinematography was amazing.  The uses of color in different moods produces a vivid viewing experience that is beautiful to behold.  And the acting!  Oh dear, Redmayne is unparalleled in his portrayal of Hawking, and Felicity Jones is every bit his equal as Jane Wilde.

Overall, I really liked the film and highly recommend it.


This is probably the best movie that has no shot at winning.  Yeah, think about that statement for a moment.  Whiplash is a very good movie, with superior acting–Miles Teller and J. K. Simmons are fantastic on screen together, and I love how the movie moves along with very little dialogue.  It is sad, but I don’t think this movie can win because of its art house feel, yet it deserves a fair hearing. The great thing about Whiplash is that everyone can relate, in someway, to the plot of the story–the kid who gets pushed really hard, and that pushing almost breaks him apart, and in the process he has to choose what kind of person he is going to become.  Whiplash captures this essence of growing up in a way most coming of age stories miss altogether.

Plus, the music is great.  If they’d had CD’s of the soundtrack in the theater lobby, I would have bought one right there.

oscar image from collider.com