Let’s leave aside, for the moment, who or what will actually win an Oscar on Sunday night when the ceremony airs. If you want to read about which films and actors are favored to bring home the trophy, there are certainly plenty of prognosticators to choose from. Let’s also forget my own lists of favorite movies, favorite actors, and favorite craft and technical achievements from 2014. Here are my choices (unless otherwise noted, all movies are hyperlinked to my own reviews) – my favorites, or what I believe should, rather than will, win – from among the 2015 Oscar nominees:
For me, it’s a toss-up between Birdman and Boyhood. I found each film powerful in its own unique way. Both Alejandro González Iñárritu and Richard Linklater had a clear vision and realized that vision beautifully. Simply because Linklater’s movie required a greater investment of time and purpose, I would perhaps give a slight edge to Boyhood. Part of me would love to give the award to Selma, instead, given the ridiculous controversy surrounding its portrayal of Lyndon Johnson, but I still feel as if both Birdman and Boyhood are better overall movies.
I never understand how a film that wins for Best Director could not also win for Best Director, since the two awards are inextricably linked, for me. Therefore, I would also give this to Linklater, though I will shed no tears should it go to González Iñárritu.
The choice is unequivocal for me: Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night. She does not perform – she inhabits the character, shedding her aura of movie star and demonstrating the brilliance of behavioral acting. She is, simply put, sublime.
This choice is also unequivocal for me: Michael Keaton in Birdman. Amidst a stellar ensemble cast, and through a performance without vanity, he is the glue that holds the entire marvelous enterprise together.
Best Supporting Actress:
Surprisingly – since those who know me know how frequently I have gone on record to disparage Ms. Keira Knightley – I would give this award to her for The Imitation Game. Benedict Cumberbatch does a fine job as Turing, but it is Knightley who gives the film its heart and soul. I would not be unhappy, however, if Emma Stone were to win this award for her fine work in Birdman. I like Patricia Arquette (Boyhood), as well, but I don’t think her performance contributes as much to the film she is in as Knightley’s and Stone’s do to their respective movies.
Best Supporting Actor:
This is one of the toughest categories for me, since I like Edward Norton (Birdman), Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher) and J.K. Simmons (Whiplash). I like Ethan Hawke (Boyhood), too, but I feel the same way about him as I do about Arquette. Of my three favorites, I think Simmons contributes the most to his film: his is a tour-de-force, grab-you-by-your-throat performance that makes the movie.
No question on this one: Dick Pope, for Mr. Turner. I didn’t much care for the film, but Mr. Pope’s work in it is absolutely stunning, and, what’s more, it supports the story (as best as it can, given the shortcomings of the script).
The Grand Budapest Hotel it is. According to my original “best of” list (referenced above), I should give the award to Whiplash (which is a close second), but I just watched this film again, and though I still find it a little annoying in the way that most Wes Anderson films annoy me, I love the cross-cutting between times and places. Barney Pilling deserves the Oscar for demonstrating how well editing can serve the storytelling vision of a director.
Best Production Design:
I would also give this to The Grand Budapest Hotel, which is a marvel of carefully crafted visual detail. Adam Stockhausen and Anna Pinnock have done amazing work to support Anderson crazy construct.
Best Original Screenplay:
I feel the same way about this kind of award as I do for Best Picture and Best Director – they should all be the same – so I would give this to either Birdman or Boyhood.
Best Adapted Screenplay:
I would feel the same way about this award, as well, except that Birdman and Boyhood are up for Best Original Screenplay. Of the nominees in this category, I favor Whiplash. It’s such a powerful story, so well told.
Unfortunately, the only film I have seen from this category is Citizenfour (which I loved), so I am not qualified to weigh on which film should win.
Best Foreign Language Film:
Same goes for this category. Of the two nominees that I have seen – Ida and Leviathan (the film has yet to open in Baltimore, so I have written no official review, yet) – I would be happy to see either one win.
Best Animated Feature:
Of the nominees, I have only seen Big Hero 6, The Boxtrolls (I never wrote a review of my own), and How to Train Your Dragon 2. Of those three, I would reluctantly give the award to Dragon, though I am so deeply sad that The Lego Movie was not nominated.
That’s it! Enjoy the show Sunday night! In a few hours, I’ll be on WYPR’s Midday Show today to discuss these nominees and more. Please tune in!