It's a long sit, I even had to delete some of the categories, but it's still pretty long so: TL;DR at the bottom!!
It's been a great year for the movie industry, pretty amazing actually. From Interstellar to Birdman, and from Boyhood to Whiplash, there are just a ton of top-notch films that came out this year. And most of them have been nominated for Academy Awards. I know the Academy is weird with these awards, but even if I don't agree with a lot of what they do, I still enjoy them. So with the big event coming up this weekend, I thought it was time to share my picks! I am going to try and stay away from snubs (Jake Gyllenhaal, and Nightcrawler in it's entirety) , okay, mostly. Also, disclaimer, this is probably going to be about 50/50 objective/subjective. I am going to take into consideration the quality of the work delivered, the extent to which I enjoyed said work (which is after all a big objective of film-making, and as such defines the quality as well). And I'm going to take a look at a little bit of what the Academy looks for (behind the camera stuff, box office numbers, etc.). One last thing, I am not going to pick a winner for every category, only the ones I believe I can make an educated guess on, seeing as I've only seen most, not everything, and I don't feel like it's my place to say anything about some categories.
WRITING (Original Screenplay)
- Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo
- Boyhood by Richard Linklater
- Foxcatcher by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman
- The Grand Budapest Hotel. Screenplay by Wes Anderson; Story by Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness
- Nightcrawler by Dan Gilroy
Okay, here is a pretty tough decision right out of the gate. I loved Nightcrawler, and this is the only category in which it is nominated, so I'd love for it to receive this one. Truth be told, Nightcrawler has a great script, but it's not the best of the five listed here. Boyhood and Foxcatcher have a great script, but for me it's a close call between Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Both of these movies were really something else, in big part due to the script.
I was going to go with Birdman, but the interesting way of telling the story like The Grand Budapest Hotel puts it just above Birdman. It's extremely funny, while actually quite thrilling. The writer of the screenplay wrote about a writer writing a book about a story he's being told by the owner of a hotel about his youth and his mentor, divvying up the screen-time between the old man telling the story, and the story actually happening. I love it.
WRITING (Adapted Screenplay)
- American Sniper by Jason Hall
- The Imitation Game by Graham Moore
- Inherent Vice by Paul Thomas Anderson
- The Theory of Everything by Anthony McCarten
- Whiplash by Damien Chazelle
There's some controversy here, because of Whiplash. Damien Chazelle talked with some people about making this movie happen and they advised him to make a short and screen it, in order to get some people interested and convince them to make this happen. The truth is, it belongs in the Original Screenplay category. Damien Chazelle came up with the idea, and turned it from an idea into an incredible movie. Although it probably wouldn't have won, it deserved that nomination, and that's why it is going to be my pick for best Adapted Screenplay.
- 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
Interstellar. These movies all have amazing visual effects, and I can see it go to Guardians or Planet of the Apes as well, but Interstellar wins this one for me. Not only are the visual effects insane, but it was just an all-out great movie, and probably behind Nightcrawler on my list of nominees for a spot on the nominees list for Best Picture. And, yes, for a big part because of the visual effects.
MUSIC (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
"I'm Not Gonna Miss You" definitely deserves a shout-out. It's the last song Glen Campbell wrote before being hospitalized for his Alzheimer's, and it's a great song, just not the best. Begin Again was the best music movie this year (apart from Whiplash). I loved Keira Kneightly and Mark Ruffalo in it, and Kneightly sang "Lost Stars" like a pro. It's a beautiful song with a great message, but then there's "Glory". Selma wins this round, listen to the song with shots from the movie down below, and you'll get why. This song, especially combined with the shots, instantly makes you want to watch this movie, and also it just has a beautiful and emotional message. Oh, and it's an awesome song.
MUSIC (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
Apart from all-around great movies, the film industry had some great scores this year. Alexandre Desplat really wants this Oscar it seems, but he's not going to get it! If it's up to me that is. Although both The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Imitation Game have great, thrilling, beautiful scores, I'm just a huge Hans Zimmer fan. Jóhann Jóhannsson created a beautiful classical score for The Theory of Everything, but I said it once, and I'll say it again: Interstellar was amazing, and besides those visual effects, also in a huge deal thanks to the amazing soundtrack. (sidenote: the main theme is only surpassed in beauty combined with simplicity by that of Moon in my opinion.)
- Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). Alejandro G. Iñárritu
- Boyhood. Richard Linklater
- Foxcatcher. Bennett Miller
- The Grand Budapest Hotel. Wes Anderson
- The Imitation Game. Morten Tyldum
This is where it get's really tough... Birdman is, well, Birdman. Boyhood was a 12 year during project. Foxcatcher is dark, gritty, and great. The Grand Budapest Hotel is comedic, thrilling, and a good story. And The Imitation Game is a beautiful, emotional picture, but in my opinion the odd one out. Ava DuVernay from Selma could've taken it's game, but ah well. Let's get to it. My father is a musical director, so I've been experiencing the role it plays in shaping a performance my entire life, but I still have a hard time making a decision here. So, Birdman. I see Richard Linklater getting this one, because of the whole 12 years thing, but the long shots used in Birdman makes it a real challenge. By growing up in the theater I've learned to appreciate the challenges of rehearsing and having to be able to get it spot on every. single. time. This is especially hard for film actors, and it's even hard to do it on film itself, because you have a huge camera pointed at your face, which records every single move you make, and nearly even every thought you think. That's why I hugely appreciate the movie as of a whole, but the directorial skills necessary as well.
- 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. I haven't seen Mr. Turner. But I'm guessing it'd still be a really close call between Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel. In this case the directing and cinematography are really closely related because of how it's shot. For this one I'm going to go with The Grand Budapest Hotel, because although the long shots of Birdman makes shooting it harder, I feel in some way it also makes it simpler. There were a few moments that felt a bit weird, because of how it was shot, because of how it was shot. What I mean with that was the long shots required the film being shot in a way that wasn't perfect (although big shout-out to Lubezki for this feat!). The Grand Budapest Hotel, well, you'll get it when you see it. The shots were just perfect for me.
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
- 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
Let me start by saying that I don't really get what The Boxtrolls is doing here instead of The Lego Movie, but okay. I haven't seen Song of the Sea or The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, but I really want to, and from what I've heard and seen, both of them (mostly The Tale of the Princess Kaguya) could win this one. But for the remaining two, for me, it goes to Big Hero 6. Loved it. Beautiful, sweet, inventive, love it.
ACTRESS (in a Supporting Role)
- Patricia Arquette. Boyhood
- Laura Dern. Wild
- Keira Knightley. The Imitation Game
- Emma Stone. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
- Meryl Streep. Into the Woods
So yeah Meryl Streep is really likely to win this, because, well, she's Meryl Streep. Haven't seen Wild. Here we go. Keira Knightley, great. Emma Stone, excellent. Patricia Arquette, winner. Just amazing.
ACTOR (in a Supporting Role)
- Robert Duvall. The Judge
- Ethan Hawke. Boyhood
- Edward Norton. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
- Mark Ruffalo. Foxcatcher
- J.K. Simmons. Whiplash
J.K. Simmons. Done. Okay, not done. Robert Duvall was really good in The Judge, not Oscar worthy in my opinion. Ethan Hawke was great once again, no Oscar. Edward Norton, really great, possibly a winner, but for me no. Mark Ruffalo, same as Norton, (HULK vs. HULK!). Okay it'd be fun if it was really a face-off between Hulks, but J.K. Simmons was just at a whole different level. Whiplash was wow as a whole, but Simmons' performance alone is enough reason to watch it.
ACTRESS (in a Leading Role)
- Marion Cotillard. Two Days, One Night
- Felicity Jones. The Theory of Everything
- Julianne Moore. Still Alice
- Rosamund Pike. Gone Girl
- Reese Witherspoon. Wild
Another clear shot. Rosamund Pike. Just WOW. Not even going to touch on the other performances, they were great, but Pike was, just like Simmons, at a whole different level. Same as above, go watch it, wow.
ACTOR (in a Leading Role)
- Steve Carell. Foxcatcher
- Bradley Cooper. American Sniper
- Benedict Cumberbatch. The Imitation Game
- Michael Keaton. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
- Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
Oof. These Oscar things are pretty hard. Steve Carell was great, could receive it because of the face, and the behind the scene stuff, but for me, no. Cumberbatch played it beautifully, emotionally, I felt his pain and that's worth a lot. Keaton was just wow. But Redmayne is the winner. When I heard the hype I was like "meh". Then I watched the movie. He really became Stephen Hawking! That's what acting is all about! I loved his performance, and I really appreciate how well he portrayed the increasing physical effects of the disease.
- American Sniper. Clint Eastwood, Robert Lorenz, Andrew Lazar, Bradley Cooper and Peter Morgan
- Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher and James W. Skotchdopole
- Boyhood. Richard Linklater and Cathleen Sutherland
- The Grand Budapest Hotel. Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales and Jeremy Dawson
- The Imitation Game. Nora Grossman, Ido Ostrowsky and Teddy Schwarzman.
- Selma. Christian Colson, Oprah Winfrey, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner
- The Theory of Everything. Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce and Anthony McCarten
- Whiplash. Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook and David Lancaster
This is it! The biggy. And hot damn what a tough one this is. But truth is, I can think and talk about this all I want, for me it comes down to Birdman or Whiplash. I see Boyhood getting it because of the challenge, but truth is, although impressive, not the best for me. The three The's I liked a lot, enjoyed a lot, but were not the best movies of the year for me. Birdman is probably the best, but I'm going to go with Whiplash! I was on the edge of my seat during the entire movie. It felt like I was watching an action movie, the battle between Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons was beautiful, the drumming was intense, and it was a great story overall. Big chance Birdman, or another, is going to win. But Whiplash truly was my favorite.
(this clip could contain spoilers if you haven't seen the movie, but if so they are small, and in my opinion it's worth the risk to see both the performance of J.K. Simmons and the intensity, combined with the beauty of the music, of the entire film!)
Well, that wraps it up! Just a short TL;DR if it was too long for you and you didn't want to read it...
- Writing (Original Screenplay). The Grand Budapest Hotel. Screenplay by Wes Anderson; Story by Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness
- Writing (Adapted Screenplay). Whiplash by Damien Chazelle
- Visual Effects. Interstellar. Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher
- Production Design. The Imitation Game. Maria Djurkovic (Production Design); Tatiana Macdonald (Set Decoration)
- Music (Original Song) "Glory" from Selma. Music and Lyric by John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn
- Music (Original Score) Interstellar. Hans Zimmer
- Makeup and Hairstyling. Guardians of the Galaxy. Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White
- Directing. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). Alejandro G. Iñárritu
- Cinematography. The Grand Budapest Hotel. Robert Yeoman
- Animated Feature Film. Big Hero 6. Don Hall, Chris Williams and Roy Conli
- Actress (in a Supporting Role). Patricia Arquette. Boyhood
- Actor (in a Supporting Role). J.K. Simmons. Whiplash
- Actress (in a Leading Role). Rosamund Pike. Gone Girl
- Actor (in a Leading Role). Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
- Best Picture. Whiplash. Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook and David Lancaster