Peter: Because I care about you, my reader, I’ve managed to see each of the eight films nominated for Best Picture this year. You’re welcome. I have missed the odd film in the other categories because I live in a rural part of the country, and because I am a middle-aged dotard, which means I have a natural aversion to streaming films online for fear of starting a fire. But that doesn’t matter, because you’re kidding yourself if you think the Academy voters have seen all the films in a category they’re voting on, and that doesn’t seem to stop them. Also, I feel confident voicing an opinion based on a lack of evidence because… America.
The Knucklehead: I’m in a similar boat as Papa Knucks here, but I have missed Boyhood and Theory of Everything in the best picture category along with a few others. But anyway, here goes.
Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Knucks: I have missed Into the Woods so I can’t comment on Meryl Streep here. There is little doubt that she is one of the greatest actresses of all time, but I’ll give someone else a shot (also, how difficult is it to play a witch, anyway?). And again, I missed Boyhood (I know, I know), but I’m sure Patricia Arquette was terrific and the Oscar will probably go to her. Emma Stone, Laura Dern, and Keira Knightly were all decent, but they never jumped out at me. Thus, Arquette will probably take home the baldie as she probably deserves it as well.
Peter: “Take home the baldie”?
KH: Yeah, got a problem with that?
Peter: *Sigh* I missed one performance in this category, and that was Meryl Streep’s role in Into the Woods, but it doesn’t matter because she’s not winning this year, even though she probably deserves it. The Academy hates giving her so many Oscars precisely because she deserves them, and since this role was not a “serious” one, they can feel free to disregard her. As shall I. Keira Knightly and Emma Stone were excellent, but I think the race is really going to come down to the exceptional work done by Laura Dern in Wild and Patricia Arquette in Boyhood. I think The Academy will lean toward Dern because they like her and they like her dad. I thought she was astonishing – I saw more out of her performance than I thought she had in her – but I can say the same thing about Arquette, and I lean to her because of the DoD (Degree of Difficulty) factor. Sustaining a character like that over twelve years truly shows an actor’s devotion to her work.
Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Peter: The only one I missed here was Robert Duvall in The Judge. But he won’t win anyway, because his film committed the sin of coming out over the summer, which is like, a thousand years ago in the mind of the Hollywood voters. But that doesn’t make the decision any easier, because the remaining performances were brilliant. I’m going to rule out Mark Ruffalo because he didn’t yell once in the film, and you usually have to yell at least once in a movie to get an Oscar. J.K. Simmons yelled a lot in Whiplash, and I think that will be enough to get him the Oscar over Edward Norton, who I’ve heard can be difficult to work with, and they don’t like that. But my pick is Ethan Hawke in Boyhood. Like Arquette, he has the DoD factor going for him, but I also think his was the performance that most resembled a fully-formed human being. I’ve rarely seen such depth in a performance.
KH: I’d just like to say that Channing Tatum and Josh Brolin could have replaced Duvall in this category. Even though I’ve missed The Judge and that Duvall has had a remarkable career, he probably shouldn’t have been nominated in the first place (although I agree with Papa Knucks about the summer release). Mark Ruffalo was exceedingly convincing, but J.K. Simmons kept me guessing throughout Whiplash, something the character deserved. I’m sure Ethan Hawke was good, but for me Simmons reigns supreme.
Peter: I always admired his work in the insurance commercials.
KH: His performance as J. Jonah Jameson was immaculate in my book
Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
KH: Bradley Cooper was decent, but he deserves to be replaced. He never seemed overly convincing as, to me, he played a stereotypical cowboy who happened to find a talent in killing people. He touched on the character’s PTSD, but seemed to be cured by…shooting things with other veterans (?!). Jake Gyllenhaal was better in Nightcrawler as was Joaquin Phoenix in Inherent Vice and possibly even Chris Evans in Snowpiercer (which was majorly snubbed this year, possibly due to its limited release). Anyway, Cooper shouldn’t win, nor will he. I love Benedict Cumberbatch, but he never really did it for me in The Imitation Game. I can’t explain it, but I didn’t think he was that convincing. I’m sure Eddie Redmayne was fine but, of what I saw, he seemed pretty transparent. He’ll probably end up winning which is a shame since the last two guys on the list were teriffic. Michael Keaton was excellent as you could tell that he brought his Batman frustration on screen, but Steve Carell deserves this one in my book. He’s a phenomenal comedian and going in I worried about seeing Brick Tamlin or the Steve Carell on The Daily Show, but I only saw this psychopath on screen. Even though Redmayne will probably take this, Carell creeped his way into deserving this one.
Peter: Hmm, interesting. I’d forgotten about the PTSD in American Sniper because I din’t think Cooper or the script sold it that well. Good point.
I’d like to second your outrage that Jake Gyllenhaal was robbed for his astonishing work in Nightcrawler, as was Joaquin Phoenix in Inherent Vice, and I don’t even like Phoenix because he gives me the creeps. Either of them could have taken Bradley Cooper’s place, who took quite a few steps down from his work in American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook. Benedict Cumberbatch and Eddie Redmayne both played tortured British historical geniuses, and I think The Academy will give the Oscar to Redmayne for The Theory of Everything. And good for him, he deserves it, although I think it should be pointed out that even though he gave a masterful performance, that’s not why he’ll get the win. He’ll get it because his performance looks the most like “acting.” I would love to see Michael Keaton get the Oscar (and I’m not entirely sure he won’t) but I keep thinking of Steve Carell in Foxcatcher. His performance was at once restrained and expressive, and all I could think about watching that film was how easy it would have been to screw that up. I just can’t imagine that role being played in any other way, and the thought of Carell bringing that performance from the page to the screen awes me. I’m going with Carell. I feel confident The Academy won’t.
KH: FiveThirtyEight predicts that Redmayne will win easily while Carell takes fourth. Sigh.
Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Peter: I didn’t see Two days, One Night, so, sorry Marion Cotillard. Call me. I saw the others, and the Academy and I are hands down giving the award to Julianne Moore for Still Alice. I almost walked out of Still Alice twice, it was that good. It, and Moore, were so good I wish I’d never seen it. It was a brutal experience. I was in tears at one point, and there was an older gentleman who was crying noticeably at a couple spots in the film as well. As I left, I put my hand on his shoulder just because I wanted him to know he wasn’t alone, and I couldn’t just walk by him like that. How often has that happened to you in a mall theater? Damn you, Julianne Moore.
KH: In this category I have only seen Wild and Gone Girl, so I can’t really say that much. But I will anyway. Both Witherspoon and Pike were OK, but I think they could be replaced by different actresses and the performances would have been similar. But based off of Papa’s love for Moore, I find it hard not to give her a baldie. Her work in the past has been mesmerizing and I hope she doesn’t get snubbed again.
Peter: I’m now becoming concerned that “giving someone a baldie” is some sort of college slang for something… unseemly.
KH: American Sniper: No. Just had to get that out of the way. The Imitation Game was OK, but it seemed generic. Whiplash was fascinating and I’m sure The Theory of Everything was as well (as it will probably win), but my undying man-crush for Paul Thomas Anderson is too much. He’s been churning out phenomenal screenplays ever since Hard Eight and I’m sure he’ll win something someday. But The Theory of Everything will probably take this one because it was more heartfelt. That being said, all hail Anderson.
Peter: The Academy is going to give this one to The Theory of Everything, partially because it really was a good script on a difficult topic, but also because I have a feeling The Academy is just going to eat this film up with a spoon. I mean, people can feel goddamned noble voting for this movie, which Academy voters will like because that’s easier than actually being noble, which is a lot of work. But I’m going with Inherent Vice. That script was just an absolute hoot, and by the way, have I mentioned DoD? It is impossible to make a film out of a Thomas Pynchon novel. Can’t be done. Except, apparently, by Paul Thomas Anderson, who is insane and makes movies I will always want to see, even the one he did with Adam Sandler of all people a few years ago.
KH: All hail Anderson.
Peter: Indeed. Our Family Values.
Peter: I can’t see The Academy giving this to any of the films but Birdman, and that’s where I’m going to go, too. With all due respect to the script challenges posed by Boyhood, I think the Birdman script struck me as the most literate of the scripts nominated. That script had more meat on its bones than any I’ve seen in a long time. The actors must have been licking their chops when they got an eyeful of the Birdman script.
KH: Foxcatcher‘s screenplay was fine, but its real beauty lies in the acting and directing. I’m sure Boyhood was good but I think others were better. Nightcrawler‘s script helped bring Jake Gyllenhaal’s creepiness to life and was terrifically uncomfortable. Yet the Oscar should go to either Birdman or The Grand Budapest Hotel. I’d prefer if it went to Birdman since it brought so much to the table, but Wes Anderson’s script was one of the funniest I’ve ever seen. But since The Academy is racist against comedies, Birdman will hopefully take this one. Which is fine because it deserves it, but they’re still racist.
Achievement in Directing
KH: For starters, Paul Thomas Anderson should have been nominated ahead of The Imitation Game. Yes Morten Tyldum was fair, but we’re talking about PT Anderson here. Also Ava DuVernay could have gotten the nod for her work in Selma. The Oscar will most likely go to Richard Linklater who seemed good, but I think a lot of people are caught up in the 12-years-to-film madness. Yes that is impressive, but I’d rather not get caught up in the hysteria. To me the Oscar belongs to, without a doubt, Alejandro Inarritu. His career is incredible and I highly recommend checking out his other films. But creating a movie that appears to be done in one continuous shot (and that was rehearsed and filmed in only two months) is remarkable. Pulling it off beautifully is another thing entirely. The only other film that has attempted this is Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope. And if anyone is compared to the master of suspense, then they’re doing something right. Thus, the Mexican director fully deserves this even though it’ll end up going to Linklater.
Peter: Since you bring up Inarritu, is there a particular film of his you’d recommend to our dear reader?
KH: Why yes Papa. Both Amorres Perros and Biutiful were fascinating and each included the same amount of depth found in Birdman. They’re each in Spanish but are well worth a viewing. He’ll also come out with The Revnant later this year. Him, DiCaprio and Tom Hardy? Yes please.
Peter: Thanks, kid. I also think The Academy is going to give this to Alejandro G. Inarritu for Birdman. There’s nothing else in this category as intricate or original as this. Even as I write this, I’m wavering between Birdman and Richard Linklater for Boyhood (remember the DoD thing?), but in the end, I think I’m going with Inarrito as well. To make a script as complicated as Birdman look seamless, well, that was literally an Achievement in Directing.
Best Motion Picture of the Year
Peter: I’m going to rule out American Sniper right off the bat. It lacked the technical or artistic merit to earn a place on the list, and frankly, it also lacked the finesse we’ve come to expect from Eastwood. I’m going to rule out Boyhood for The Academy because it’s a little too “art film” for them. To me, to be honest, it was more interesting than it was entertaining. I appreciated the tremendous effort, but I kept looking at my watch during the film. The Grand Budapest Hotel I’m ruling out for The Academy because it was too “Wes Anderson-ey.” Though I loved this movie, I’m giving it a miss because I enjoyed it less as an entrée than as a fine confection. The Imitation Game loses out because if it wins the Oscar, then you might as well give it to The Theory of Everything. Selma gets a pass from me, as much as I enjoyed and respected it, because it felt too rote. I didn’t feel like anything new was being said. The Academy will give it a pass because it doesn’t have enough buzz to piss people off if they neglect it (alas, my cynicism is showing). That leaves us with Birdman, The Theory of Everything, and Whiplash. The Academy’s battle is going to be between Birdman and The Theory of Everything, and I think they’re going to pick Birdman, and I’m fine with that. Partially because they want to recognize Keaton, but will have already given the statue to Redmayne for acting. My battle is going to be between Birdman and Whiplash. My emotional response to Whiplash still hasn’t passed since I saw it weeks ago. Taken as a movie-going experience, Whiplash went straight to my limbic system. I want to say Birdman was a better movie, and probably it was. But Whiplash is the one I’m going to remember sitting in the theater watching. Ten minutes from now I’ll probably come to my senses, but at this writing, Whiplash is my pick.
KH: Politics aside (which is difficult), American Sniper should not be on this list. Eastwood has proven himself to be an excellent director, but he was way off of his game on this one. It should have been replaced by Inherent Vice, Snowpiercer, Gone Girl, or even Interstellar. But since ‘Murica, the movie has somehow made its way onto the list. The Grand Budapest Hotel was terrific, but it lacked substance and The Academy hates fun so we can check that off. Both The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything are too similar and if one gets it, then you’d have to wonder why the other didn’t. Besides, neither seemed outstanding as compared to others in the category. Selma was decent, but it was inhibited by being a tad generic and inconsistent throughout. Which is a shame because it was great besides that. This leaves us with Boyhood, Birdman, and Whiplash. Like Papa said, Whiplash was exhilarating and beautiful, but it is too independent for the Oscars. No that doesn’t make sense, but neither does The Academy. I loved Whiplash, but Birdman was just better. For a film that dealt with so much, it was immaculately fluent. Birdman is my pick, but I think The Academy will struggle between that and Boyhood. I’m sure Linklater’s project was incredible, but it’s no Birdman.
Peter: This was fun. We should do this again some time.
KH: Absolutely. And remember kids: All hail PT Anderson.