image via The Telegraph
I am almost embarrassed to admit how few of the Academy-nominated films we have seen this year. I used to work in the entertainment industry, and thus I have a certain amount of pride about keeping up with the industry even though I’m officially on the outside. When people ask me why I left, I have to admit that working in the industry caused me to become a bit disillusioned. Sure I got to see some of the biggest names in Hollywood up close (I’ll always have that “Hello” from Bruce Willis), but the industry is famously hard on the lower levels. Bad hours, thankless work, and horrendous pay. That was tolerable though, and really it is a right of passage for making it up the chain. It may sound cliche, but the most important thing for me was that movies just lost a bit of that magic. I pictured myself reading dozens and dozens of revisions of a scrip, watching dailies over and over, and edited and re-edited versions of the final film and I just didn’t get excited at the prospect. And so, I decided it was time to move on to something else. Do I miss it? Sure. Not often, but I do on the occasion, and never more so than Academy Awards time. When I see a great movie or performance I can’t help but think how wonderful it would have been to be involved in that production. To be a part of it. So who knows, maybe one day I’ll find my way back there. Or maybe not.
Back to the point of this post though, let’s discuss the 2015 Best Picture Nominations. It used to be that there were only 5 nominees for Best Picture. Then in 2009 they said the more the merrier and bumped that up to 10 nominees. Well, then the Academy realized that if you require 10 nominees you are going to end up with some films being nominated that are far out of their weight-class, and so now we have arrived at the current, which is 5-10 nominees whose nomination depends on a certain percentage of votes.
For the 87th Academy Awards there are 8 films that were deemed worthy enough to make the cut. Jared and I have seen 5 of the 8: Birdman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, and The Theory of Everything. The downside about being in a non-English speaking country means that while we may get the big blockbuster films, we will most likely not get the smaller, independent films. And so for those ones, we must patiently wait until iTunes finally has them available for rent [and doesn’t just tease us with it on iTunes as if it actually IS available for rent when it’s still many weeks away]. So here is my incomplete summary of the films and what I’m hoping will win big.
Birdman – “Best known to the public as Birdman, the superhero he once played in a series of films, Riggan Thomson hopes to reestablish himself as a serious actor by mounting his own dramatic production on Broadway. With his self-doubt hindering the project, Thomson also finds himself threatened by the presence of a high-profile, egotistical movie star in his cast.” This movie is filmed to have the appearance of one continuous shot, which is what Jared liked so much about this film and what put me off of this film. I had a harder time getting into the movie as I felt no pity for the washed up former action star looking to make his comeback, but by the end of the movie I felt a bit more invested and could at least appreciate it. Michael Keaton does give a great performance as does Emma Stone and Edward Norton. I don’t expect this to be a contender for Best Picture winner, but it’ll be interesting to see if Best Actor goes Keaton’s way or Redmayne’s (below).
Boyhood – “Over the course of 12 years, a young boy named Mason experiences the joys and difficulties of childhood. The child of divorced parents, both of whom are facing their own set of challenges, Mason, along with his sister Samantha, learns to navigate through a world in which the strengths and frailties of the adults around him have a profound impact on his own life.” This three-hour movie is something special. I expected it to be boring but was pleasantly surprised. It is a series of vignettes, mini stories if you will, shot over a series of 12 years. This film won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Drama, so it’s heading into tonight with some steam. It’s an ambitious project, and I think this film might have Winner written all over it.
The Grand Budapest Hotel – “As the owner of a once-luxurious Alpine hotel relates its history to a visiting writer, he describes his youth as a lobby boy at the Grand Budapest, where he was the protégé of the hotel’s concierge, Monsieur Gustave. Gustave runs the five-star establishment with panache and an iron fist, while also offering his services as a lover to the older, wealthy women guests.” Wes Anderson’s films are not for everyone – we are fans in this house (just re-watched Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums the other night). This one though, this one is pretty damn awesome. It scored a win at the Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical and could be the one to triumph over Boyhood. If you haven’t seen it yet, please do.
The Imitation Game – “As World War II engulfs Europe, a group of English mathematicians are assembled at Bletchley Park to work in secret on cracking the code of a captured German Enigma encryption machine. With England’s fate hanging in the balance, the group’s leader, the brilliant, eccentric Alan Turing, must hide his homosexuality or risk arrest and persecution by the country he is fighting to save.” Jared and I both love history and being in Europe we have found ourselves drawn to WWI and WWII history. The historical importance of what this film covers is massive, though in the name of Hollywood and bigger box office dollars the true historical accuracy of things here or there have been misrepresented. Above all, this film made the adult me want to ditch the fiction and fluff lit and dive back into some impressive biographies. The curious kid in me immediately went home and downloaded a kindle book on ciphers and codes. This won’t win Best Picture but it had some great performances.
The Theory of Everything – “Stephen Hawking is a brilliant Cambridge graduate student when he learns that he has a progressive motor neuron disease and may die within two years. For Jane Wilde, Stephen’s fellow student and future wife, the prognosis represents not a certainty but a challenge that her faith and Stephen’s passionate determination can overcome.” Everyone knows who Stephen Hawking is, but what they may not be familiar with is the story of how he became who he is today. This is a truly wonderful film – just really beautifully done. Unfortunately it is up against some strong contenders for Best Picture, and I don’t think it’ll ultimate make the cut. It will undoubtedly do well on the acting side though. I sincerely hope that Eddie Redmayne takes the stage tonight for Best Actor – a win well deserved for a truly phenomenal performance.
Since the airtime for the awards show is well past my bedtime, I’ll be eagerly checking the news sites in the morning to find out who was victorious.