As the countdown to Hollywood’s most glamorous and illustrious of nights draws steadily to a close, film fans the world over are keenly speculating which of the year’s films and actors will be going home with the ultimate in cinematic accolades. Sadly for myself (and millions of other film fans who find themselves on the wrong side of the Atlantic), I will have to patiently await reading the results in tomorrow’s morning paper- bound to brighten up the Monday morning commute, unless Whiplash wins Best Picture, in which case I would strongly advise everyone avoid contact with me until at least mid day.
So in the spirit of idle speculation, here are my predictions for the main categories in this year’s Academy Awards:
Best Picture (Boyhood, Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance, American Sniper, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash)
Fortunately this category is not solely judged on box office success. Was this the case, Clint Eastwood’s ‘war porn’ feature American Sniper would be the hands down winner of Best Picture having taken a whopping $300 million at the US Box Office- a figure that continues to rise. Sadly, I feel this commercial success speaks more to the stark American brand of patriotism rather than a discerning cinema viewing public. In addition, the film has been widely criticised by many as propagating xenophobic violence against Muslims. Personally, I don’t think this film should be featured in this category at all- but the gun totting masses of the US have undeniably spoken.
The general consensus of most media speculation seems to be pitting Boyhood and Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) against each other in a two horse race as far as this category (and that of Best Director) are concerned. Personally, I would be happy with either walking away with this award, however I feel that Boyhood deserves this win through its sheer unabashed ambition and bravery. The commitment and love dedicated to this 12 year project is ground breaking and marks a pivotal moment in film making. The film manages to simultaneously be about nothing all that extraordinary and yet encapsulate everything that it means to be alive; capturing the human experience in all its mundane splendour and providing a cinematic time capsule of history, documenting the past with the urgency awarded by it being filmed when it was current. It truly is the most deserving film in this category, and at the risk of embarking on a Kanye West-eqsue tirade on the ‘importance of creativity’- this film really has broken the mould of classical film making practice and it would be a huge injustice for it not to be recognised as such.
Best Director (Alejandro G. Iñárritu for Birdman or (The Unexplained Virtue of Ignorance), Richard Linklater for Boyhood, Bennett Miller for Foxcatcher, Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel, Morten Tyldum for The Imitation Game)
Again, the hot contenders in this category seem to be Alejandro G. Iñárritu for his deliriously surreal theatre satire Birdman and Richard Linklater for Boyhood. Again, both directors are enormously deserving of the gong, but in this category I would like to see the award go to Iñárritu. Where Linklater broke the rules of film making in terms of the time line of production itself (the spasmodic creation of the script and the film itself) in Birdman we see Iñárritu play with the conventional narrative structure of cinema, and demonstrate innovative verve and creativity in the seamlessness of the film, appearing to have been shot in one single take. The film is acerbic, electrifying and wholly original- with all the makings of a cult classic; and as such has fostered a dramatic split in opinion. It seems to be somewhat of an acquired taste, whereas Boyhood appears to have profited unanimous praise from critics, peers and viewers alike. Time will tell.
Best Actor (Steve Carrell in Foxcatcher, Bradley Cooper in American Sniper, Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game, Michael Keaton in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything)
While I feel that the British offerings at this year’s Academy Awards may be overlooked in the coveted Best Film and Best Director categories, the Best Actor gong sees fierce competition emerging from across the pond. While it’d be satisfying to see Keaton win the award for his madcap performance in Birdman, I feel this year’s deserving winner surely should be Eddie Redmayne for his outstanding, compassionate and unflinching portrayal of Professor Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. While fellow Brit Benedict Cumberbatch delivered a credible performance in The Imitation Game, Redmayne’s performance is extraordinary in its all consuming physicality as he captures the stages of Hawking’s life with unrivalled realism.
Best Actress ( Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night, Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything, Julianne Moore in Still Alice, Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl, Reese Witherspoon in Wild)
Julianne Moore will undoubtedly go down in Hollywood history as being the actress most repeatedly and inexplicably snubbed for the best actress Oscar. It seems absurd that an actress of such longevity and versatility, and who possesses such discerning judgement when choosing her roles would be passed over time and time again in this category. Perhaps this will finally be her year, as her sympathetic and honest portrayal of a sufferer of early onset Alzheimer’s disease in Still Alice has awarded her universal acclaim, having already received several accolades for her performance including the Golden Globe for Best Actress, a Critic’s Choice Movie Award, a SAG Award and a BAFTA. Moore has stated that she felt she should have won an Oscar already- stating that her role in Far From Heaven (2002) was the performance that should have won her the award as it was a part that was written specifically for her. Well, whatever she claims, winning this most prestigious of acting awards will be a definitive moment for her after all these years of solid and consistent performances. I for one hope she is finally the victor.
Supporting Actor- Sadly Ethan Hawke will undoubtedly miss out on this in favour of J. K Simmons for Whiplash
Supporting Actress- Patricia Arquette Boyhood
Animated Feature Film- Big Hero 6
Cinematography- Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)/ Ida
Documentary Feature- Virunga
Foreign Language Film- Ida