And the Oscar Goes To….
For the first time in several years, this Sunday night’s 87th Academy Awards show on ABC has some much-needed suspense. No less than a handful of films are considered “frontrunners” to dominate the 8.5-pound golden statuette collection.
After two years of hosting, Ellen DeGeneres has stepped aside and been replaced by first-time Academy Award host Neil Patrick Harris. Last year’s Academy Award-winning songwriting team from “Frozen”, provide the night’s opening number to be performed by Harris.
Oscar Night performers will include Anna Kendrick, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Hudson, Tim McGraw, Adam Levine and Jack Black. Presenters will be Cate Blanchett, Jared Leto, Matthew McConaughey, Lupita Nyong’o, Benedict Cumberbatch, Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon and Oprah Winfrey.
These are a few of the names I’m writing inside the white envelope to honor the highest achievements in filmmaking for 2014:
Actress in a Supporting Role
We all know “Boyhood” is going to do very well on Oscar Night. But how many categories will this childhood story actually win? Hard to tell. Patricia Arquette has a slightly better chance than her “Boyhood” costar, Ethan Hawke (Best Supporting Actor), to take home the Oscar.
“Birdman” Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu gallantly captures the long, maze-like hallways containing the brisk-paced walk of Michael Keaton and others in single, continuous shots. Viewers became transfixed on the theater set itself; both the happenings in front of the stage and behind it–never missing a step with the characters. The film holds a shot an extra few seconds for effect and audience reflection. It’s that unique showcase of the film’s storyline on camera, combined with brilliant leading and supporting acting, which makes “Birdman” one of the best films in 2014.
Christopher Nolan knows visual effects like Brian Williams knows combat action. Wait, disregard. Chris Nolan, the most successful director in the past 10 years, sold the notion of loneliness in outer space to grounded theater ticket buyers—and that’s one of the most difficult challenges to accomplish. And it’s only possible with fabulous visual effects.
Not an easy call by any means. However, I’m predicting a good night for “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and it all starts right here.
Makeup and Hairstyling
The selling point in “Foxcatcher” is the creeper performance by Steve Carell. That’s not possible without these two capes. I’d love to see “Guardians of the Galaxy” earn an Oscar on Sunday night—if that’s the case, this will be the upset where it does it with the help of a talking raccoon.
“Birdman” and “Interstellar” will be fighting for the win in these next two categories. The retired superhero story should soar to victory.
Despite “Interstellar” receiving complaints from audiences as the loudest movie on record, the Christopher Nolan film later earned other film industry awards for its sound (among other achievements). Closing in the space adventure is “Birdman”—which will be gearing up for a big night.
Actor in a Supporting Role
J.K. Simmons’ performance as an over-the-top jazz instructor to a school ensemble, preying on his students using his….how should I put this…hmmm. OK, got it. Using his poor people skills, makes Simmons a sure-bet to win Oscar gold.
Director Richard Linklater and his team should win here, hands down. Since “American Sniper” came into the Oscar race later than others, it’s difficult to judge how much excitement Academy voters had for Clint Eastwood’s best film of his acting/directing career without them seeing its magical performance at the box office—which could end up as the highest grossing movie of 2014. My guess is that Hollywood didn’t expect, or foresee, America’s overwhelmingly positive reaction to the Chris Kyle story coming.
A great night for “The Grand Budapest Hotel” could continue in this category, as it builds up more steam rolling into the bigger prizes.
If “The Grand Budapest Hotel” has the sort of night some predict, they’ll clean house here too. Outliers remain “Interstellar” and “The Theory of Everything”, which either could snatch victory.
Despite getting stiffed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for nominations in the Best Animation and Best Picture categories, look for the plastic playset to win here. Everything is awesome right? If not, expect a complete meltdown by all LEGO figurines watching on TV.
Snubbed: Kate Upton in “The Other Woman”. No Oscar nominations.
Clint Eastwood’s ability to take the late U.S. Navy SEAL’s autobiography and turn it, and his life, into a film that celebrates, honors and shocks audiences deserves an Oscar. It’s one of the best military tributes ever on the big screen, portraying Chris Kyle–the husband, father, son, teammate and patriotic American. With Academy Award votes cast well before the country stood up, took notice of “American Sniper” and broke nearly all January and military movie records, this film’s win (for writer Jason Hall) is not guaranteed.
The story of a young boy, an apprentice really, learning from the master concierge at a ritzy hotel nestled in the picturesque mountains of Europe in 1932 has been the topic of Oscar buzz since last spring. The strong ensemble and audience reception gives it an edge over all other contenders.
The unique and unusual filming of “Boyhood” over a 12-year time period sets it apart from other big-screen motion pictures. “Boyhood” and director Linklater were the benefactors of splendid, Oscar-nominated work from both Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke. Those performances, combined with the demanding 12-year filming and production, move Linklater ahead of Inarritu and “Birdman” by a feather. The dark horse remains Wes Anderson, who could still emerge on top with a fantastic Oscar Night for “The Grand Budapest Hotel”.
Actress in a Leading Role
This category is my surprise winner of the night. 5-time Academy Award nominee Julianne Moore is the heavy favorite to finally take home the Oscar for her exceptional performance as true-life Dr. Alice Howland in “Still Alice”. However, Pike’s character Amy Dunne carried “Gone Girl”, and to this day, still haunts audience members who watched this roller coaster ride. Pike’s brilliant portrayal spun this remarkable tale into a believable narrative yarn.
Actor in a Leading Role
Although, my vote would go to Eddie Redmayne for his superb job as Stephen Hawking in the “Theory of Everything”, Keaton’s enthralling performance completely dominates “Birdman” from start to finish. As the character Riggan Thomson, Keaton’s return to Hollywood’s A-list makes him and this performance an Oscar feel-good story that can’t be denied. Keaton is as close to a lock for a Best Actor Oscar win as it gets.
The exceptional ensemble of Oscar nominees Michael Keaton, Edward Norton and Emma Stone put this film in my Top 3. Add in the wonderful cinematography, and “Birdman” takes the big prize on Sunday night.
ABC’s LIVE OSCAR SUNDAY begins on February 22 at 7 Eastern/4 Pacific.
(Patrick King is a resident of Oro Valley and writer for the REEL BRIEF movie blog at www.reelbrief.com. You may email him at email@example.com).
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