Friday, February 20, 2015

Oscar Thoughts and Predictions

It's the weekend before the Oscars and time for my annual predictions. I always try to see as many of the nominated pictures as possible and this year I haven't done too badly, catching all of the Best Picture nominees and all but a few of the acting nominees. I have seen most of the nominated short films and only need to catch two more of the documentary short subjects. It makes me feel like a part of the evening if I've seen everything nominated. Some year, I will do it and get to all the Foreign and Animated feature films as well.

Unlike most years, there is no frontrunner for Best Picture. It's between Boyhood and Birdman. Neither is a typical, big-subject, historical epic. I think the voters will split the difference and give Boyhood Best Picture and Birdman Best Director.

American Sniper is a possible spoiler since it has made so much money, but I think it will be bypassed. Conservatives will grouse that a biopic about a true American hero has been overlooked by evil liberal Hollywood, but the film is not a complete picture of the subject and Clint Eastwood and his screenwriter have oversimplified many of the issues about our involvement in the Middle East, reducing it to questions of good and evil. Yes, you can say ISIS is evil, but what about the fact that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction? The film ends with Chris Kyle about to go to a shooting range with the anguished fellow veteran who will later shoot and kill him. The killer and his reasons are an interesting story that remains untold. (The murderer is now on trial in Texas.) Eastwood probably did not want to piss off the NRA by showing a weapon being used by someone with reported mental problems.

I was more moved by the nominated Documentary Short Crisis Hotline: Veteran Press 1 which I hope wins. In 40 mins,, the documentary follows a typical day in a national call-in center where counselors try to prevent veterans suffering from PTSD from committing suicide. It was frighteningly real as the counsellors spoke with vets, spouses, and parents, calming them down and coordinating with police and paramedics. That's a more accurate picture of the price of war than Eastwood's.

Whiplash is another film that disturbed me. JK Simmons will definitely win supporting actor. He's a journeyman actor who's done everything from Guys and Dolls on Broadway to recurring roles on Law and Order to the father in Juno to J. Jonah Jameson in Spider-Man to those Farmers' Insurance commercials. But this melodramatic coming-of-age movie seems to advocate sadistic behavior, physical abuse, and verbal harassment from teachers if it's done to motivate students to greatness. Simmons' character is a real bastard and he plays it excellently, but I don't believe you need to slap a drumming student four times to get him to count the beat correctly. The kid is practically in tears and Simmons is screaming at him after having whacked him a few times, "WHY ARE YOU UPSET???" Any normal human being would have screamed back "CAUSE YOU JUST SLAPPED ME FOUR TIMES, YOU ASSHOLE!" If that had been me, there would have a lawsuit so fast it would have made Judge Judy's head swim. Yes, great artists are sometimes pricks (Picasso for example), but you don't have to be one to teach them.

So here are my predictions for Sunday's awards.

Picture: Boyhood

Actor: Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything (Hoping Michael Keaton wins instead, but I'm going with the British guy with a disease.)

Actress: Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Supporting Actor: JK Simmons, Whiplash

Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Director: Alexandro G. Inarritu, Birdman

Original Screenplay: Birdman

Adapted Screenplay: The Imitation Game

Cinematography: Birdman

Production Design, Costume Design, Makeup/Hairstyling: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Editing, Sound Mixing: Whiplash

Sound Editing: American Sniper

Visual Effects: Interstellar

Original Score: The Theory of Everything

Song: "Glory" from Selma

Foreign Language Film: Leviathan

Animated Feature: How to Train Your Dragon 2

Animated Short: Feast (The cute Disney film)

Live-Action Short: The Phone Call (big high-profile British names like Sally Hawkins and Oscar winner Jim Broadbent)

Documentary Short: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

Documentary Feature: Citizen Four (May go the one about the African game preserve so it doesn't look like they are making a hero out of Edward Snowden since they are going to snub American Sniper.)


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