My Own Private Oscar reviews and predictions

oscars-2015-nominations

I have seen: The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Birdman, Still Alice, A Theory of Everything, Boyhood, Whiplash,  Ida, Virunga, Finding Vivian Maier, Begin Again, Maleficent, Into the Woods, and How to Train Your Dragon 2 …just so you know my lay of the land, as well as my limitations. I also saw two great documentaries: Regarding Susan Sontag and The Case Against 8, neither of which were nominated, but should have.

The biggest problem with this year’s Best Picture category is that each film is about a man. Where is Girlhood? Superwoman? AND…all white, except for Selma, which doesn’t look like it will win anything. All the women in this category are wives, girlfriends, and daughters.

Of the movies that I have seen, I must say that they are a group of downers: gay computer inventor who stops the Nazis gets punished for homosexuality, early onset Alzheimer’s, the most brilliant scientist in the world falls in love and develops ALS, washed up superhero actor stands on the ledge, over-the-top music teacher bullies his jazz student, young nun orphan finds out she is Jewish in Poland in the early 60s, civil war and big oil killing the only remaining gorillas in the Congo, great photographer’s hidden body of  discovered after she is dead.

The only Oscar film I really enjoyed was The Grand Budapest Hotel, filled with eccentric characters involved in a seemingly endless, but fun, caper ostensibly about finding a stolen painting. Very strange escapist fun…Ralph Fiennes is great, but not nominated.  “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is no less of a grand historical epic than the four historical-drama nominees. It’s inspired by Stefan Zweig’s memoir “The World of Yesterday,” the author’s recollections of Vienna and Austria from his youth to maturity, from the perspective of his loss of that homeland after the Nazi takeover, in 1938, and his exile and wandering, from Great Britain and the United States to Brazil, where he died, in 1942. It won’t win.

Boyhood was amazing in it’s scope, in that it tells the coming-of-age story that took place over 12 years…what a cinematic feat! Excellent filmmaking. It’s not so much what happens to the boy, Mason, but it is more about how the film was made…with actors committing their time for 12 years. I have to say: if you are going tospend 12 years working on a film, it should be better than this. I wish the movie would have been Girlhood.

The Imitation Game  In 1939, newly created British intelligence agency MI6 recruits Cambridge mathematics alumnus Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) to crack Nazi codes, including Enigma — which cryptanalysts had thought unbreakable. Turing’s team  analyze Enigma messages while he builds a machine to decipher them, actually inventing the world’s first computer. Turing and team finally succeed and become heroes, but in 1952, the quiet genius encounters disgrace when authorities reveal he is gay and send him to prison. Cumberbatch plays him both as an awkward, socially detached man as well as an exquisitely sensitive one. That’s why I nominate him for Best Actor. This is the second major gay character Cumberbatch has played so well, the first one being Sherlock on BBC/PBS. The ending is too tragic, and unfortunately, it’s history.

Whiplash is a fascinating portrait of a jazz student/teacher realtionship that is based of the worst kind of bullying that you can imagine. The film is brutal! Excellent acting by JK Simmons, who will win the Oscar, but I cannot recommend that anybody sits through this torture. I am wondering what Simmons will say about his role in his acceptance speech.

Still Alice  Julianne Moore, who plays a 50 year old college professor who gets diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s, will win a long-awaited Oscar for Best Actress. Her’s is a rare condition, but it looks just like ordinary Alzheimer’s in older people. She exquisitely captures the experience that no one wants to think about. The film seemed to collapse the process of the stages of Alzheimers into a realtively brief time.

Ida, now streaming on Netflix, is set in 1962, and feels like a 60’s European film, namely Ingmar Bergman: black and white, stark, very little dialogue, some degree of misery. Fortunately, it is also a bit of a detective story, involving both the Holocaust and Communism.  It is getting rave reviews.

Virunga, also streaming on Netflix, is a ‘searing documentary’ about the killing of the mountain gorillas in the Congo. Hard to watch, but woven into the movie is the relationship between one of the Virunga park rangers and the young orphaned gorillas…beautiful.

Finding Vivian Maier documents the life of a Chicago nanny and social recluse who was discovered to be a world class street photographer only after her death in 2009. Fascinating story of the greatest photographer you have never heard of.

The Theory of Everything is a romanticized portrait of physicist/cosmologist Stephen Hawkings life, focussing falling in love and later his marriage to tireless and saintly Jane, who helped him and loved him through his physical decline due to his motor neuron disease. Both Jane’s and Stephen’s problematic extra-marital relationships are glosssed over in a happy-ever-after kind of way. Playing a physically deteriorating man is not really acting, so, no Eddie Redmayne, you are not the Best Actor.

Birdman Former cinema superhero is mounting an ambitious Broadway production that he hopes will breathe new life into his stagnant career. If Richard Linklater’s 12-year movie Boyhood wins the Oscar because of the time and commmitment it took to make the movie, Alejandro Inarritu’s Birdman is just the opposite: the film moves with such a fierce energy, it looks like it was shot all in one take.  The story, the drama, the people, time and space flow so easily and crazily that you cannot tell reality from fantasy. Michael Keaton is levitating in the opening scene and flying over New York City at the end…he also really shoots his nose off on stage in the play within the movie! Birdman soars.

Predictions:

Best Picture: 1) Birdman, 2)Boyhood

Best Director: 1)Richard Linklater 2) Alejandro Inarritu (See?…I’m just like everyone else; can’t figure out which one will win.)

Best Actor: Benedict Cumberbatch (I will probably be wrong on this one, but I have to go with my Sherlock.)

Best Actress: Julianne Moore

Best Supporting Actor: JK Simmons

Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette

Best Foreign Film: Ida

Best Documentary: Finding Vivian Maier

Best Animated Film: How To Train Your Dragon 2

My Private Oscar Awards:

Best Gay Film: The Imitation Game…minus the ending.

Best Female Character: Angelina Jolie, Maleficient; also, best Animated Film

Best Documentary: Tie: Regarding Susan Sontag & The Case Against 8

Best Witch: Jessica Lange from AHS: Coven (unfortunatley NOT a film) or Meryl

Best Book that was Better Than the Movie: Gone Girl

 

Note: I prefer the small screen to the big screen. Maybe it’s all about the couch.  This year’s small screen shows, namely: Orange is the New Black, Transparent, Shameless, Nurse Jackie, The Blacklist, Sherlock, Masters of Sex,  Orphan Black, The Good Wife, Downton Abbey, Scandal, Homeland, Olive Kittredge, Madmen, and Fargo, were all excellent, perhaps better than most of the movies…and that is a long list! (I have to admit to watching American Horror Story; Coven, with Jessica Lange in her witchy-est role yet….and I HATE horror.)

Also note:  Oscar nominated movies streaming on Netflix now

 

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