life odds + ends

the 2015 Oscars: my picks

It’s no secret that D and I are kind of obsessed with movies. Especially in the winter, as all of the Oscar buzz starts to swirl and the cheesy summer comedies have left theaters, we start spending a lot of time at the movie theater. (Our favorites here in Houston are Sundance Cinema and River Oaks Theater.)

We’ve seen about 80-90% of the films nominated for Oscars this year (aside from animated films, which neither of us are too crazy about) and things are starting to get very exciting with the Oscars next weekend. Seriously, we look forward to the Oscars for weeks.

Sadly, the Academy Awards are pretty political, and often the film/actor/director/composer/writer/artist most deserving of an award goes home empty-handed. And of course, there’s a few big upsets (or surprises, depending on your perspective) each year. Here are my picks for each category:

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If there ever was a shoe-in, it would be Eddie Redmayne. He was completely brilliant as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. (Side note: I’ve had a crush on Eddie ever since Les Mis. Now he’s finally getting some of the limelight!)

He spent four months preparing for that role, studying the effects of the loss of different neurons, and once the filming began he met with an osteopath to help treat stiffness in his body from long hours of acting. I think his dedication to the role is incredible, and I loved every moment of that film. A plus!

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Julianne Moore, hands down. I haven’t seen Wild or Two Days, One Night, but I don’t think Felicity Jones or Rosamund Pike stood out enough to catapult them to Best Actress.

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Oh man, this is another shoe-in. Have you seen Whiplash? If not, walk – don’t run – to the nearest movie theater and please catch it while it’s still running. It’s one of the most under-rated films of the year, and J.K. Simmons nailed it. Seriously, he’s perfect. I am now a devoted fan.

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I wasn’t really inspired by any of the nominees in this category this year. Normally I love Emma Stone, but she played a pretty minor role in Birdman, and I don’t think she has much of a shot. Keira Knightley played herself in The Imitation Game – no real surprises there. I’m voting for Patricia Arquette as the bad-ass mom in Boyhood, but this one is a pretty weak vote of confidence.

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Now this one’s a tough choice. Every single film in this category was fresh and original and well-deserving of the award (with the exception of Foxcatcher… I really wasn’t too impressed with that one and I’m surprised it got any Oscar buzz). Nightcrawler was clever and very entertaining, Richard Linklater deserves some kudos for his idea of a 12-year saga in Boyhood, and Grand Budapest Hotel was one of my favorite films of the year for myriad reasons. But I’m going with Birdman, the first film I’ve seen by Alejandro Inarritu. It’s quirky, blunt, jarring, depressing, darkly humorous, irritating, and everything in between. Half-way through, I wanted to walk out of the movie, and yet by the end I was dazzled. I’ve never seen anything like it.

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Read my comment above RE: Whiplash. Go see it. It’s fantastic. I think Whiplash, Imitation Game, and Theory of Everything are all great picks for this category, but for me, Theory of Everything was just a little more dazzling than the others. Maybe I’m easily swayed by sweet, nostalgic score and the scenes of Cambridge. I was also a sucker for Stephen and Jane’s love story. But I thought Theory of Everything brought Stephen Hawking’s story to life in a beautiful way that left none of the dark areas uncovered, while not resorting to the cliches or cheesiness that many biopics fall subject to.

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I read George Packer’s profile of the filmmaker Laura Poitras in The New Yorker last October, and I was excited when a local theater began showing her new documentary on Edward Snowden. Citizenfour is a part of American history, as it encapsulates the time when Snowden leaked a trove of National Security Agency files to the press with devastating revelations about American surveillance programs and other national security activities. Poitras was the first person Snowden contacted about the files, and she filmed him releasing the files, then reacting to the aftermath. Artistically, the documentary as well-made, but I think the subject and footage is important enough alone to deserve an Oscar nod.

oscars10The cinematography nominees this interesting are really interesting – none of them are nominated for Best Visual Effects, none of them are computer-animated, and none of them were released in 3-D. (This is pretty refreshing compared to the last few years.) I’m expecting Birdman to pick up this award, because – get this – the editors made the film appear to have been captured in just one continuous take. The camera bobs around everywhere, and I can only imagine how tired the camera crew was at the end of each day of filming. The Guardian published a whole article on the filming techniques in Birdman – read it if you’re curious! Anyways, I’m expecting Birdman to take home the Cinematography bread.

I loved the production design of Grand Budapest Hotel, but I have to give Interstellar some cred in this category. Incredible scenes of space, especially black holes. My mind was blown.

Costume design is one of my favorite categories, and I was totally enamored with the purple bellhop costumes in Grand Budapest. Charming and quirky and memorable.

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Steve Carrell had a crazy schnoz in Foxcatcher, but I’m giving best makeup and hairstyling to Grand Budapest Hotel for Agatha’s Mexico-shaped birthmark and Adrian Brody’s mustache. (Esquire even wrote a feature on the facial hair of that film, so you know it’s on point.)

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At this point, it’s not even fair to pick a favorite. I’ll toss out Foxcatcher because I hated that movie, and Boyhood because I thought it was supremely over-rated. (Sorry to all the Richard Linklater fans I offended… The dialogue was slow, and I didn’t feel anything. I spent 20 minutes reading a Reddit on the many ways in which it didn’t live up to the hype, and the experience was cathartic.)

I’m tossing my hat in for Wes Anderson, because he really deserves an Oscar by now, and he led a great team in delivering an incredible original screenplay. Nothing would make me happier than seeing him taking home an Oscar, especially for this film. Plus, he’s from Houston, and you know, local pride. (Fun fact: Rushmore was filmed at my high school. The ghetto public school next door, not the fancy private school.)

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Don’t make me choose! My favorites in this category were Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Theory of Everything, and Whiplash. Haven’t seen Sniper, thought Boyhood was over-rated (See above), The Imitation Game wasn’t *quite* as good as the others, and Selma didn’t wow me, although it’s definitely a must-see.

Some years, we walk out of the movies and think, “Wow – that is most definitely the best picture of the year.” For me, this year it was The Grand Budapest Hotel. I loved every second of it. Props to Wes Anderson, Ralph Fiennes, and the whole production team for 100 minutes of tragicomedy.

 

 

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