It’s almost time to wack out the champagne and red carpet, as this Sunday the Oscars descend upon us once more. It’s the most glamorous night in show business; the 87th Academy Awards; the crème de le crème of the film world. And yet despite most people knowing that the winners, losers, and snubbed, are usually determined by political manoeuvring, campaigning and other unsavoury elements, everyone still pays attention. Everyone still wants to know who won.
This year’s nominations are an interesting bunch, the diversity of which is hopefully a sign that audiences are responding to a more creative and dynamic style of film making. Diversity has of course been an issue in the run up to this year’s awards, with Selma being the most notable of snubbed films. Hollywood racism or a cock-up on behalf of Selma’s campaign promoters, decide what you like: either way the road has been far from straight forward, particularly in the race for Best Picture.
So predictions: before we get started it’s worth pointing out I haven’t seen every film nominated, but I’ll try to do this properly.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
I’ve never been that keen on Ethan Hawke; there appears to be a consensus that Robert Duvall is nominated out of nostalgia; and whilst Mark Ruffalo and Edward Norton both give strong performances, it appears to be a runaway victory for JK Simmons in Whiplash. No one else seems to be arguing over that one, so I won’t bother either.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Meryl Streep has been in a film this year, so she has been nominated. I’ve never seen her do wrong (though thankfully I haven’t seen Mama Mia) but she won’t win. While I really liked Keira Knightly in The Imitation Game and think she is underrated as an actress, this year she doesn’t quite cut the mustard. And Emma Stone is brilliant as the ex-drug addled, delinquent daughter of Michael Keaton’s Birdman, and would perhaps have won another year, if it hadn’t have been for Patricia Arquette. The Boyhood actress is sweeping all before her and bar a significant shock: she’s got this one in the bag.
Best Actor in a Leading Role
The inclusion of Bradley Cooper for his role in American Sniper over David Oyelowo in Selma will always baffle me, and is certainly a worthy reason to bang the conspiracy drum. I like Bradley Cooper, but he is an undeserving nominee in a disappointing film, and he won’t win. Benedict Cumberbatch receives his first acting nominee for The Imitation Game and though he delivers the goods, the Sherlock actor will come up short to another Brit. As will Michael Keaton.
I have never really understood the back story to the Michael Keaton craze: he was Batman in what is now a very forgettable and dated set of films; but people think this is his time. He’s very good in Birdman, but I don’t buy into the rest: he’s a popular actor yes, but a great one? Not convinced. Eddie Redmayne is outstanding in The Theory of Everything: he will win, and deservedly so.
Best Actress in a Leading Role
The Theory of Everything is the only film to receive both a nod for Best Picture and Best Actress; and Felicity Jones’ performance is the only one I’ve seen in the category. At face value it would seem not enough strong female roles are being written into the “biggest” films; but that hasn’t stopped a recent array of quality female roles and performances. Just look at The Help and August: Osage County. This year is no different, and hopefully it will not be long before this category is full of contenders from heavyweight films and below. But for now, it looks certain that Julian Moore will take the top prize for Still Alice.
A two-horse race between Birdman and Boyhood: and perhaps the only major category which is difficult to call. Whoever comes out second best will rue that the winner came out the same year. Birdman is filmed to appear as if shot in a single-take, whilst Boyhood was famously shot across a 12 year period: both are innovative and daring, but there can only be one winner. At first it seemed that Richard Linklater would take the prize for Boyhood, but now after recent success at the coveted Director’s Guild of America awards, it looks like Alejandro González Iñárritu, will be flying off with the prize. And based upon that, I’m going with the Birdman.
Also a two-horse race between Birdman and Boyhood, this one will most likely be decided by the impact of Boyhood which manages to stay with you long after you’ve finished watching (or so I’ve heard). A feat mirrored by the longevity of its awards push, having been released back in the summer of 2014. I liked Birdman, but I would be surprised if it got Best Picture, it’s a very good and unusual film, but good enough for the win? I would be surprised.
For once however, I would like the Oscars to stop taking themselves so bloody seriously, and recognise the power of entertainment. My favourite film of the year remains The Grand Budapest Hotel and it has everything going for it: the acting is impeccable, it’s artistic and visually brilliant, the script is fabulously original, and the directing, though not revolutionary, is still spot on. It ticks virtually all the Oscar and audience boxes, and is an extremely enjoyable film to watch. But it still won’t win.
Everyone likes the Oscars and they obviously are important, but they are not the be-all-and-end-all of film. This year The Lego Movie was inexplicably snubbed, despite the fact it really is awesome. Leo is yet to win, and Al Pacino has the same number of Oscars as Nicholas Cage. They are not truly representative.
So while other more “important” and landmark films such as Birdman and Boyhood, battle it out for Best Picture, just ask yourself which would you choose to watch again and again? For me it would be The Grand Budapest Hotel: you tell me which is “best”.