Oscars 2015

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By Josh Hubbell
Special Correspondent to The Eagle

The 87th Academy Awards are being held Sunday, Feb. 22 and buzz is in the air for almost no one. This is the first year in a while that most people I’ve talked to have not, nor seem to plan on seeing most of these films. But, I loved this year in film. There were about 20 movies I saw this year that I really enjoyed. Outside of most of the films I’m about to cover that were nominated, movies like Inherent Vice, Edge of Tomorrow, The Raid 2 and Nightcrawler all left me thinking about them for the days and even weeks that followed.

The biggest issue I think is that a lot of people outside of New York, L.A. or a few other markets don’t have the opportunity to see most of these films in the theater. So if you do have the opportunity to see some of these movies in the theater please go out and support film, and if you don’t then stream or rent these movies wherever you can.

There is great art being made by some incredible artists right now and they need to be supported. And with that here are my picks for those going home with an Oscar this year.

BEST DIRECTOR

  • Richard Linklater for Boyhood
  • Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for Birdman
  • Bennett Miller for Foxcatcher
  • Morten Tyldum for The Imitation Game
  • Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel

The biggest surprise here is the omission of Ava DuVernay for Selma. DuVernay is an indie director who has never directed anything near the size and scale of Selma, but she pulls it off beautifully and in my opinion deserved a nomination over Tyldum. My personal favorite of this group is Inarritu who just does a perfect job in Birdman. He gets the best performance out of both Michael Keaton and Edward Norton’s careers and his master touch in the long tracking shots that make up this movie is absolutely stunning. However, my pick for who will win the Oscar for Best Director is Richard Linklater for Boyhood.  He wrote and directed a film that was shot over the course of twelve years and the movie turned out great. This film is certainly not as flashy as Birdman, but he gets amazing performances out of Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette and his character study of a boy growing into a young man just makes you feel all warm and happy inside. For these reasons I think you have to give him an Oscar.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  • Mark Ruffalo for Foxcatcher
  • J.K. Simmons for Whiplash
  • Edward Norton for Birdman
  • Ethan Hawke for Boyhood
  • Robert Duvall for The Judge

J.K. Simmons is going to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Go and find Whiplash online or in a theater and you’ll see why.  He is amazing in one of the best films of the year. Just as an aside I would like to mention that in almost any other year Edward Norton and Mark Ruffalo would both have a great chance at winning the Oscar. Norton plays a pompous theater actor with an enthusiasm we haven’t seen from him in a few years and Ruffalo is heartbreakingly good in Foxcatcher. But, yeah J.K. Simmons is going to win this.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  • Patricia Arquette for Boyhood
  • Laura Dern for Wild
  • Keira Knightley for The Imitation Game
  • Emma Stone for Birdman
  • Meryl Streep for Into the Woods

All of these actresses give excellent performances, but two in particular stood out to me. There is a scene in Birdman where Stone loses it on her father (played by Michael Keaton) and before she even finishes screaming at him you can tell in her face how immensely sorry she is. It is a subtle, but incredible piece of acting.  But, my pick for Best Supporting Actress is Patricia Arquette. She’s just really good and she seems like the quintessential mom. Not the Hollywood, make believe mom, but the mom you actually had. Arquette embodies this role perfectly and deserves an Oscar for this performance and I think she’ll get one.

BEST ACTOR

  • Michael Keaton for Birdman
  • Steve Carell for Foxcatcher
  • Benedict Cumberbatch for The Imitation Game
  • Bradley Cooper for American Sniper
  • Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything

None of these performances are bad, but I would say that there are three better male supporting performances than any of these (Simmons, Ruffalo and Norton).  Steve Carell and Eddie Redmayne give good, but largely physical performances.  Take away the makeup, prosthetics, etc. and I don’t think either of these performances stands out in any particular way. Bradley Cooper is a really good actor and he’s fine in American Sniper, but I didn’t fully buy him as the good ol’ boy sniper he was portraying, but I did not like his film at all so that could be why I’m down on his performance. David Oyelowo, who portrayed Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma may have given a better performance than any of these actors, but unfortunately he is not nominated. Cumberbatch and Keaton give the strongest performances of the group. Cumberbatch portrays Alan Turing, who played an enormous role in ending WWII and is considered to be responsible for saving millions of lives, but instead of being rewarded, he was victim to a disgusting and outdated law that altered the course of his life. Cumberbatch is excellent and has a shot to take home the gold, but my pick is Michael Keaton.  Keaton plays a pseudo version of himself in Birdman. But instead of having been Batman in a hugely successful franchise, he is Birdman. He has walked away from the hugely successful franchise and wants to prove that he is truly a great actor and an artist by acting and directing a Broadway play. It is a trippy, funny, awesome movie and without Michael Keaton this movie doesn’t work. And that is why Michael Keaton is my pick to win Best Actor.

BEST ACTRESS

  • Marion Cotillard for Two Days, One Night
  • Rosamund Pike for Gone Girl
  • Felicity Jones for The Theory of Everything
  • Julianne Moore for Still Alice
  • Reese Witherspoon for Wild

Marion Cotillard and Julianne Moore are two of the greatest actors alive and I look forward to seeing them in anything. Either one of them could basically win every year and I would be okay with that. Reese Witherspoon, Rosamund Pike and Felicity Jones give good performances in okay movies, but not Oscar worthy in my opinion. My pick is Julianne Moore mainly because she has never won, which is ridiculous and it was a bit of a surprise that Marion Cotillard was nominated in the first place.

BEST PICTURE

  • American Sniper
  • Whiplash
  • Birdman
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Boyhood
  • Selma
  • The Theory of Everything
  • The Imitation Game

I really liked all of these movies except for American Sniper.  Something about it just felt like a glorified Lifetime T.V. movie. I know I am in the minority on that, but that’s just how it sat with me. The Grand Budapest Hotel is my favorite Wes Anderson movie since The Royal Tenenbaums and I really like Wes Anderson movies. The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game are both very British and very well done. The repertory theater style of acting that is taught in the U.K. routinely churns out some of the greatest actors of a given generation. Selma is really, really good.  For whatever reason I did not have much expectation for it, but it’s a beautiful movie with great performances from David Oyelowo, Tom Wilkinson and Tim Roth in particular. Birdman and Whiplash are my two favorites of the year. The camera work in Birdman is probably the greatest thing that happened in movies this year. It’s just mind blowing. If Emmanuel Lubezki doesn’t win best cinematography for this film then I will be absolutely stunned.   And the behind the scenes look at Hollywood and Broadway was fascinating. It also featured the best ensemble cast outside of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, which unfortunately didn’t get much Oscar love. And Whiplash features a great performance by the up and comer Miles Teller and my favorite performance of the year, J.K. Simmons. Whiplash is one of the most intense films of the year and if you have any interest or appreciation for music than I cannot recommend this film enough. But, finally my pick to win the Academy Award for Best Picture is… Boyhood! It is written and directed by one of the best American filmmakers working today in Richard Linklater and features an all-around great ensemble cast. There were parts of this movie that felt like they were pulled straight out of my life. It helps that it was filmed where I live in Austin.  It is a new and interesting experience to witness actors age over the course of 12 years in a two and a half hour movie. I loved this movie and even though Birdman was my favorite, I would put my money on Boyhood.