(Honoring the films of 2014)

Rant by Paul Preston

I hope all those of you who were clamoring for something new at the movies cheered as loudly as you should have in 2014. This year’s offering of the year’s best films represent either a fresh take on a theme or, more often than not, a completely original adventure. Best Picture is one of multiple categories at the Oscars suffering from an embarrassment of riches, with little room for anything dull. Get your ass to the movies, your timing will reward you.

SELMA movie poster10. SELMA – Ava DuVernay’s chronicle of the civil rights march in Selma, Alabama brings with it prestige and power. Pulling off this story automatically puts the movie in a high class for the year, and Duvernay does that with authentic re-creation of place and time and a powerful performance by David Oyelowo, stepping out of the supporting role to run this film as Martin Luther King, Jr. The events in Alabama enraged me as all movies about chowderhead racists do, but some of the best scenes take place between MLK and President Lyndon Johnson, played by Tom Wilkinson. King’s demand for social change over politics rings very true today in a world where self-congratulation and money worship definitely supercede what’s right in Washington. We need King again today.

Locke9.LOCKE – Few have seen this experimental film that nails its one big risk – essentially having one actor on screen the entire film. But it’s different than “Cast Away” or “Moon” in that there is also really only one location. Other characters appear as phone calls coming into the car of Ivan Locke, our main character, whose life is unraveling through a series of crumbling secrets on the verge of a million dollar construction job that his personal life could jeopardize. If you’re going to have one on-camera actor your entire film, casting is key, especially if they have to make an impending construction job interesting, but Tom Hardy does just that, displaying a frailty as he struggles to hold everything together. It’s a special feat for him, as he often plays tough guys in films like “Warrior” and “The Dark Knight Rises”, but you’d be hard pressed to believe he can pull of a mannered Brit on the verge of collapse, but he does. And Oscar-nominated writer/director Steven Knight pulls off this whole film when everything’s going against it.

Foxcatcher-Carell8. FOXCATCHER – Bennett Miller has become, quite quickly, a very calculated director, deliberate and confident in style. His film “Moneyball” was a wonder in that it made not baseball, but TALKING about baseball interesting. A script by Aaron Sorkin doesn’t hurt. With “Foxcatcher”, the odds of not liking this film are certainly greater – somber tone, unlikable characters and let’s face it, wrestling is no America’s pastime. Yet “Foxcatcher” is imbued with a spell that doesn’t let you go. Long after the end credits, the film still works on you. The story concerns Jon DuPont, idle millionaire who decides to back a group of Olympic wrestlers mostly to impress his mother. It’s a fascinating look at the danger and trouble that can come from the shiftless, direction-less elite, which is to say…it doesn’t go well. All three leads are excellent – Steve Carell in a performance that elevates his prestige in Hollywood, Channing Tatum in a surprising performance of depth and pain and Mark Ruffalo. Now, remind me that I love him, OK? When I talk about my favorite actors working today, I need to mention him. If I leave him out, hit me, he’s one of the finest, most nuanced film actors going.

Edge of Tomorrow7. EDGE OF TOMORROW – The rumors of Tom Cruise’s death have been greatly exaggerated. In what is certainly Doug Liman’s most FUN film, “Edge of Tomorrow” is about a soldier who gains the alien-power ability of re-living the same day until he can win a war to save humanity against an alien invasion. There’s been talk about this movie for over eight months now, and I’d like to single out the film’s special effects. There is tons of great entertainment to be gotten out of Cruise’s time travel exploits, but that would never play as smoothly as it does without the expert creation of a future and alien beings that put the viewer in the middle of total chaos. Cruise brings everything in his tool belt to the role – charm, humor, RUNNING – and adds something new as he plays a dweeb at the top of the film, a military media stooge with no real training. It’s through his re-living of the same day that he slowly becomes the Tom Cruise we LOVE in the movies with tremendous payoff, and Emily Blunt holds her own alongside him. Certainly one of the summer’s best films, I saw it twice.

Gone Girl6. GONE GIRL – With “Fight Club” and “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”, David Fincher has established himself as one of the best directors out there when it comes to translating book to screen. “Gone Girl”, slickly adapted by author Gillian Flynn herself, comes to the screen with guns blazing, delivering a fiery, unflinching story of marriage gone horribly, dangerously sour. The film plays out as the did-he-or-didn’t-he story of Nick Dunne, accused of murdering his wife Amy. This is all you need to know going in, but the film has a LOT more in store for the viewer. This is one of those movies that wears its story as it’s most prized special effect. I watched the majority of the second half of the film with my mouth open, gaping at the audacity that each scene brought, upping the stakes and further (and brilliantly) complicating situations for the characters. This film sublimely pulls off the feat of being one of the most uncomfortable, feel-bad movies of the year, and one of the most entertaining.

nightcrawler5. NIGHTCRAWLER – These Gilroys are no joke. After Tony Gilroy wrote and directed the can’t-find-ANYTHING-wrong-with-it thriller “Michael Clayton” (as well as writing the best parts of the “Bourne” series) and brother John Gilroy edited great films like “Warrior” and “Narc”, here comes Dan Gilroy, the third ridiculously talented brother, with his directorial debut, which feels as polished as anything Tony Gilroy or Tony Scott, for that matter, may put together. “Nightcrawler” is what I call the perfect companion piece to “Foxcatcher”. Both show what happens to idle, unsatisfied people as they drift into frustration and IT NEVER GOES WELL. “Nightcrawler”’s Lou Bloom is poor, as opposed to Jon DuPont’s rich, but neither character should be left alone and wanting. Bloom is hungry for work and starts up a news videography business, hungry to get the big story on tape to sell to the networks, so hungry that he eventually manipulates the news-making events to his own needs. Gyllenhaal has never been better (and he was pretty damn good in “Brokeback Mountain” and “Jarhead”). A controlled, specific performance that ends up one of those that is so detailed it’s bound to be imitated alongside the likes of Hannibal Lecter for years to come. Even more so than Oscar winner “Crash” (and more like “Training Day”), “Nightcrawler” delivers an genuine seedy underbelly of Los Angeles, lit and shot like the classic ‘70s L.A. movies and the film wins by offering a close-up look at the seediest section of Tinseltown – the nightly news. So let’s recap – fascinating character study, great Gyllenhaal performance, media send-up, Rene Russo’s juiciest role in years – you should’ve seen this by now.

The Grand Budapest Hotel4. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL – Finally Wes Anderson is really, really having fun. His films have felt childlike, funny and ironic, but “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is the first of his films I’ve found to embrace outright LUNACY, and the results are a ton of fun. I mean, Ralph Fiennes is having fun! The movie’s just a joy. The mystery of a famous painting leads a huge ensemble of unique characters through various misadventures on the eve of World War. There’s romance, jail breaks, shootouts, and most importantly, a cast right out of the Big Book of Who Do You Want to See Most in a Movie? – Dafoe, Goldblum, Murray, Kietel and more pop up in this film that feels like another animated effort from Anderson, and leaves you breathless.

Wild3. WILD – This Reese Witherspoon effort struck a chord with me. In a year of wildly experimental films, for some reason this more traditional story just hit me in the heart. That being said, the time jumps (from present to the past and back again to establish character) do mark the best possible way to tell this story. “Wild” has been getting much praise for Reese Witherspoon’s performance, and deservedly so, she’s on-the-mark with her portrayal of out-of-control Cheryl Strayed, longing to take control of her life by taking a 1,100 mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail. But that story is given a quality treatment at the hands of Jean-Marc Valée and the whole film deserves attention. I found it more engaging than “Dallas Buyers Club”. One notable thing about the film is that it’s not just about a woman going on a journey of self-discovery because a man done her wrong. SHE screwed up her marriage and fell into drugs and that, coupled with the death of her mother (a heartfelt performance by Laura Dern) puts the choice on her to right her life. I found that story something I could invest in more than, say, “Eat Pray Love” or “Under the Tuscan Sun”. Lastly, this isn’t a one-woman show, plenty of other characters fill the story and “Wild” NAILS its portrayal of men. EVERY man Cheryl comes across in her travels is a threat, even if they’re not. And the film leaves the impression that that’s how women walk around all the time, constantly in fear of what man may next come along to threaten, intimidate or hurt her. It’s an unpleasant, but I have to believe accurate representation, and as Cheryl faces each one of them, she heals, and it’s a hell of a trip to take with her.

The Lego movie2. THE LEGO MOVIE – From on-the-nose to deep reference, there is no type of joke left behind at the end of “The Lego Movie”, a hilarious, smart and impressively animated film from Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who are proving to be an unpredictable and consistently entertaining Hollywood duo. The story revolves around Emmet, a regular builder-type Lego man in a big world run by President Business (that’d be one of the on-the-nose social comments). He realizes he’s actually been tapped for something bigger and gets involved in a plan to pry The LEGO universe out from under the thumb of President Business and the Kragl!! In this framework, the jokes come at a million miles an hour. Never has blink-and-you-miss-something been more accurate, you really could miss a fly-by visual or one liner if you stop to pick up something from the movie theater floor that might’ve fallen out of your pocket. And with a hilarity rate this high, it comes as even bigger good news that the film finds its heart as it goes along, not just with Emmet realizing he’s (the) “special”, but with a whole masterstroke of a turn the film takes in its third act. There is no movie like this one this year, or perhaps any year.

Whiplash poster1. WHIPLASH – How is this film not a bigger hit? It’s wickedly involving and all its great messages and fascinating themes are delivered in the context of an ENTERTAINING AS HELL movie, full of suspense, drama and humor. Miles Teller plays Andrew, a young drummer at a conservatory in New York City who vies for a spot in the jazz ensemble. The Jazz ensemble conductor becomes a mentor to Andrew and the two of them butt heads the whole film. Themes of how much your willing to risk to be perfect, to be the best (and whether that journey is worth the reward) are explored through every surprising scene and every line of sharp-as-a-tack dialogue. I couldn’t have really given a damn about Miles Teller up until now. Most of his roles have come in films like “That Awkward Moment” and “Divergent”, but he’s a solid anchor to this film, going toe to toe with J.K. Simmons as the band conductor. The bevy of awards raining down on Simmons are no fluke, this is a career-defining performance of awesome control and power. He commands your attention, as does this film, the best of the year.

BEGIN AGAIN – Yep, that’s the same Mark Ruffalo from “Foxcatcher” in this fun film from the director of “Once”. Harvey Weinstein was so sure people would like this film he gave away free tickets on Labor Day weekend. I bit, he was right.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY & CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER – These Marvel movies are just that: a marvel. Considering how many they release (three in the last year), the films have a remarkable consistency in quality (increasing, too!) and a commitment to off-the-wall casting and director choices that have yet to miss the mark. Plus, they maintain a high level of production value every film, there’s never a Marvel movie thrown away, and our entertainment dollar is better for it.
X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST – Anything involving the “First Class” cast is just awesome right now, and Bryan Singer’s return to the director’s chair was quite welcome as he wrangled a LOT of material into an adventure that was not only coherent, but exciting and fun.
BOYHOOD & BIRDMAN: This year’s Oscar nominees did impress me. If they involved me more, if I was more emotionally spent after them, I’d put ‘em in my Top 10, but where they lacked drawing me in, they made up in audacious directing. You could throw a Directing Oscar in the air and whoever comes down with it, I’m good.

INHERENT VICE: Incoherent mess (see what I did there?). There’s a lot going on here that I’m sure is really exciting for fans of the book, or the author. I was lost and not caring so much that I was.
JIMI: ALL IS BY MY SIDE: Another musical biopic that proves your favorite artist was actually a huge asshole. Jimi Hendrix is portrayed as so passive here, you lose care for him at the same rate he seems to stop caring about the loved ones around him.
TAMMY: Unfortunate turn for Melissa McCarthy that I don’t think will hurt her status as a hot comedy item right now, but nothing works here, except Kathy Bates, who works in everything.
A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST: I’ve always said I don’t laugh so much at “Family Guy”, but when I see Seth MacFarlane on a talk show or hosting The Oscars, I laugh a lot. That changed here. This film promises a good premise, but fails in the delivery.
DRAFT DAY: I love Kevin Costner, but this movie is horribly flawed. There are major issues with the script that just don’t add up. Characters talk one game, but do things that don’t fall in line with their talk, it’s very strange. My friend and I hung around during the credits, as we often do, but we looked at every name that went by – really, nobody said anything about how bad this was going to be? People need work that bad, I suppose…
THE MONUMENTS MEN: Imagine “Ocean’s Eleven”, but no fun. That pretty much leaves nothing behind. That’s “The Monuments Men”.

(Haven’t seen – “Cake”, “A Most Violent Year”, “Still Alice”, “Calvary”, “Mr. Turner”, “Love is Strange”, “Chef” and more, as noted.)

Before we get too far into The Academy Awards, I want to give out The SNUBBIES! I could make a list of Oscar winners that I’d have no problem with seeing, except for the fact that none of them were nominated. Imagine if you woke up Monday, and here were your Oscar winners:

PICTURE: “Gone Girl”
ACTOR: David Oyelowo, “Selma”
ACTRESS: Shailene Woodley, “The Fault In Our Stars”
SUPP. ACTOR: Channing Tatum, “Foxcatcher”
SUPP. ACTRESS: Rene Russo, “Nightcrawler”
DIRECTOR: Damien Chazelle, “Whiplash”
ORIGINAL SCRIPT: Steven Knight, “Locke”
ADAPTED SCRIPT: Gillian Flynn, “Gone Girl”
ANIMATED FILM: “The Lego Movie”

Etc., etc., I could go on, and I STILL left off Swank, Brolin, Wilkinson, Kim Dickens, Hardy, Fiennes, DuVernay, Bill Murray and more. Again, and last time I’ll say it – an embarrassment of riches. GO TO THE MOVIES.

Whiplash posterBEST PICTURE
“American Sniper”
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
“The Imitation Game”
“The Theory of Everything”

Glaring Omission: If you look back at my Oscar Rants of years past, I’m often down on what a bad year it was. This year was a very good year, so why not two more nominees? If there was ever a year to easily nominate ten films, 2014 was it! So where is “Gone Girl” and “Nightcrawler”, movies I loved that got critical praise on the road to the Oscars? Even more so, critically, “Foxcatcher”. Seemed like a prestige pic that would clean up, plus that stupid thing happened again where director Bennett Miller was nominated, yet the film he directed was not. Dumb.
Runners-up: Here you can just look at my Top 10 for answers. Not only will I GO OFF on the Academy later in this rant when I discuss “The Lego Movie”’s omission from the nominees, but I’d like to go off now and say that that film is SO original and SO well-executed, that it deserves a Best Picture nomination, too. It’s the best subversive comedy of its kind since “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut”.
Great Inclusion: “Whiplash”, my choice for best film of the year, was by no means a shoe-in. In the end, it was almost too ‘indie’ to rank among these other polished epics, but I’m thankful it weaseled a space.
Will Win: There’s strong competition from “Birdman” (whose pre-Oscar win count rivals the front-runner) and “American Sniper” (which has huge box office in its corner as part of an 11th-hour surge), but I think “Boyhood” hangs on, despite what I found to be a surprising lack of sentimentality in the film (that’s a good thing for us, usually bad for love from The Academy). It otherwise has too much that The Academy likes.
Should Win: “Whiplash”

birdman-movieBEST ACTOR
Steve Carell, “Foxcatcher”
Bradley Cooper, “American Sniper”
Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Imitation Game”
Michael Keaton, “Birdman”
Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything”

Glaring Omission: David Oyelowo’s towering performance as Martin Luther King, Jr. is one straight from the heart, not a showy, Oscar-bait piece, and deserved strong consideration. But what do you remove to include it? Carell is a study in creepy power and little-boy pain, but perhaps his screen time in what is ultimately Tatum’s story should push him to the supporting category.
Runners-up: Jake Gyllenhaal. Again, Paul Preston from 2004 is wondering why I’m so excited by Jake Gyllenhaal. But he has transitioned from an actor I simply hear is great all the time, but never see it, to an actor I don’t want to miss in anything he does. Tom Hardy, for holding court all by himself, always kind of a cheat, but he pulled it off better than Redford in “All is Lost”.
Great Inclusion: Cumberbatch. How long has this guy been great in the fringe projects geeks could go on about for days? This welcome’s him to the big leagues and hopefully more prestige projects await – or even better, Dr. Strange.
Will Win: This is just as tough a category as Best Picture. Redmayne seems to be pulling ahead with the Guild Awards, but he and Keaton split the Globes. I’m still sticking by Keaton ‘cause Hollywood loves him and it’s not like he doesn’t deserve it here.
Should Win: Plus I like him, having to do more than reflect the disease of the week. And yes, I’m an actor, so I get where Riggan was coming from. Give it to Keaton.

still aliceBEST ACTRESS
Marion Cotillard, “Two Days, One Night”
Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything”
Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”
Rosamund Pike, “Gone Girl”
Reese Witherspoon, “Wild”

Glaring Omission: Jennifer Aniston is a Hollywood princess (she actually is the daughter of a TV actor, so nepotism is at play), so I thought they’d want to get her into the mix if for no other reason to make the red carpet sexier. She had multiple nominations leading to The Oscars but couldn’t pull out a nod in the end, which surprised me.
Runners-up: Aformentioned Shailene Woodley, who finds her great performance in “The Fault in Our Stars” unfortunately stuck in “The Fault in Our Stars”, which is a slightly trite teen drama with way too much music telling me how to feel. I don’t need the music, I feel Woodley, she was guiding me and truthfully living Hazel’s pain. She was great, and once these dopey “Divergent” movies are done, will be back in the awards talk again.
Great Inclusion: Rosamund Pike! The general viewer, of which I was one, is not ready for the flying haymaker coming their way in the middle of “Gone Girl”. It took a savvy actress to pull of the Amazing Amy’s behavior and have you buy it. Pike did just that.
Will Win: Julianne Moore is sweeping the pre-Oscar Awards, and that won’t stop on Oscar night.
Should Win: TOUGH. CALL. I just haven’t brought myself to see Moore’s performance yet. It’s not like she’s going to cure Alzheimer’s Disease. I have to want to see her character disappear and lose everything and watch her family grow more upset and sad and also lose everything. I’m sorry, but I went to see “The Duff” instead tonight. So that leaves Pike and Witherspoon to where I could give it to either. I can’t come up with a factoid or asset that’s gonna put one over the top, so let me get shallow. Witherspoon’s already won, so let me go with Pike.

Robert Duvall, “The Judge”
Ethan Hawke, “Boyhood”
Edward Norton, “Birdman”
Mark Ruffalo, “Foxcatcher”
J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”

Glaring Omission: Nothing glaring, but I thought we might see Tom Wilkinson or Josh Brolin here. Maybe Miyavi from “Unbroken” with a WAY outside shot.
Runners-up: Channing Tatum. Hell of a year, pulling out a major box office hit (“22 Jump Street”) AND a prestige pic (“Foxcatcher”), where he could be considered the lead actor and delivers at least as well as Wahlberg when he’s asked to man up for a big part, and Marky Mark’s got a nod for “The Departed”. So, why not Tatum? Here’s another guy who started in “Step Up” movies and February romances and suddenly he’s GOOD in “Foxcatcher”? Not everyone can do that. I mean, we’re still waiting on Josh Lucas and Josh Duhamel to do that.
Great Inclusion: Robert Duvall. When is this guy not great? Glad he was recognized yet again.
Will Win: J.K. Simmons
Should Win: J.K. Simmons – your lock of the night, and deservedly so.

Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”
Laura Dern, “Wild”
Emma Stone, “Birdman”
Keira Knightley, “The Imitation Game”
Meryl Streep, “Into the Woods”

Glaring Omission: Jessica Chastain. Again, I didn’t see “A Most Violent Year”, I saw “The Interview” instead. As much as I like Oscar Isaac and Chastain, I feared I’d be bored more by J.C. Chandor, as I was in “Margin Call” and “All Is Lost”. Someone tell me if “A Most Violent Year” is exciting… In the meantime, she got some pre-Oscar award nods, so I thought she’d show up here, especially coupled with a role in “Interstellar” that gave her two chances.
Runners-up: Emily Blunt in “Edge of Tomorrow” maybe? Different role for her (I mean, you didn’t expect her to play anyone like Rita Vrataski when she was in “The Devil Wears Prada”, did you? She’s good. But I’d most likely include Kim Dickens here, over any number of actresses here – Stone, Knightley. Her turn in “Gone Girl” is what total scene ownage looks like. Not my movie, you say? The movie belongs to Affleck and Pike, you say? Not till I’m done. She’s great.
Great Inclusion: Streep. We should watch everything she does all the time until we’ve all passed on. She is Shakespeare, Picasso, truly one of the all-time greats and if you share the Earth with her, you should see what she’s doing. And in “Into the Woods”, she livens that character up with her own personal touch and brings the funny and the odd.
Will Win: Arquette
Should Win: Arquette, carrying that film on her back. “Boyhood” meanders a lot, but it keeps coming back to Arquette and she keeps delivering…for twelve years.

birdman-movieBEST DIRECTOR
Alejandro González Iñárritu, “Birdman”
Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”
Bennett Miller, “Foxcatcher”
Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Morten Tyldum, “The Imitation Game”

Glaring Omission: Eastwood, DuVernay, Marsh and Chazelle. As ever, the directors of the Best Picture nominees not listed here. That’s just a stupid thing to let happen. Directors should get an Oscar when the film wins Best Picture.
Runners-up: Damien Chazelle. This guy directed the SHIT out of “Whiplash”. It moves like an Amtrak train for a long time, then sits in spells of sparse dialogue and connects each and every time. I’d swap out Tyldum for him.
Great Inclusion: Wes Anderson, delivering nothing like we’ve ever seen.
Will Win: This is ANOTHER tough call. I like Movie Guy Adam Witt’s assertion that “Birdman” is the MOST directed film. The best? Tough to say. “Birdman” and “Boyhood” are products of “pulling it off”, but the pre-Oscar buzz (and DGA award) goes to Iñárritu, so I will, too.
Should Win: I can’t deny I was impressed. Iñárritu, just edging out Anderson because while they both played with style, Iñárritu had to also deliver more realistic performances from his actors.

big-hero-6-movie-posterBEST ANIMATED FEATURE
“Big Hero 6”
“The Boxtrolls”
“How to Train Your Dragon 2”
“Song of the Sea”
“The Tale of the Princess Kaguya”

Glaring Omission: “THE LEGO MOVIE”. OK, how can this film be denied?!?!?! It’s SO good, so popular and so different from the other nominees, I just don’t get the snub. Except…..I have a feeling most of the Academy members of this branch are OLD. There is traditional value in “Big Hero 6” and “How to Train Your Dragon 2”, value that’s blown to smithereens by the rebellious forces at work in “The Lego Movie”. “How to Train Your Dragon 2” is NO FUN. It’s as if The Oscars took a cue from The NFL (The No Fun League) and only prized tradition. Shame, ‘cause they could’ve led with a “Lego Movie” nomination. Now they’re following. Following tradition and breaking no new ground in the process. Lame, Academy, LAAAAAAAAME. You are lame. The end.
Runners-up: “The Lego Movie”. Eat a shit, Academy.
Great Inclusion: “Big Hero 6”. The overall animation at Disney has improved since Lasseter took over and this deserves a place here.
Will Win: “How to Train Your Dragon 2”, which won the Annie Award. So many bad things happen to the characters of this movie, it’s more drama than anything else. Heavy, no fun, lame-o, stupid drama with nothing fun or fun. No fun. You suck. I’m pissed.
Should Win: “The Lego Movie”. Bite me.

Emmanuel Lubezki, “Birdman”
Robert D. Yeoman, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lynzewski, “Ida”
Dick Pope, “Mr. Turner”
Roger Deakins, “Unbroken”

Glaring Omission: “Interstellar”, perhaps? Whatever Christopher Nolan’s up to usually warrants a nomination for his DP.
Runners-up: “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” – that movie looked bad-ass. Also Janusz Kaminski made “The Judge” look like the most gorgeous small-town legal drama of all time.
Great Inclusion: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”. Yeoman and Anderson have worked together on many films and by now have a very, very distinct style that deserves reward for their consistency within the film and creativity.
Will Win: “Birdman”
Should Win: Although it kills me to bypass ten or twelve (I’ve lost track)-time nominee Deakins yet again, I’m going with Yeoman. The long shot thing is impressive, but perhaps the traditional building and execution of hundreds of off-the-wall-wild shots should get it.

The Grand Budapest HotelBEST COSTUME DESIGN
Milena Canonero, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Mark Bridges, “Inherent Vice”
Colleen Atwood, “Into the Woods”
Anna B. Sheppard, “Maleficent”
Jacqueline Durran, “Mr. Turner”

Glaring Omission: “Selma”, maybe? Accurate historical look there, I believe. Can something like “American Sniper” get nominated here? Here’s a category where modern dress NEVER gets nominated. Why not the soldiers and Iraqis of “Sniper”? Looked pretty authentic to me.
Runners-up: You gotta nominate “Boyhood”, right? For maintaining the look of the time for TWELVE YEARS. Quite a feat when you think that there have to be plenty of scenes the designer can’t even think about until the shoot gets closer and the style of the moment presents itself. “Guardians of the Galaxy” was also a feast of interplanetary outfits.
Great Inclusion: “Maleficent”’s strongest asset was it’s wonderful creation of the fairy tale world. Effects were part of that, so were costumes. Whereas, “Into the Woods” is a bad nomination ‘cause they made Johnny Depp look like he was going to a swing dance, instead of making him look like a wolf. That might work on stage, but in a representative film where you have actual giants and actual birds, a stage costume that presents the character wolf didn’t work at all.
Will Win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel” won the Costumers Guild Award and The Academy has a penchant for period piece over fantasy (with wins by “Gatsby”, “The Artist”, “Anna Karenina”, etc.)
Should Win: I can get behind that – “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Here are your nominees for Best Documentary, Best Documentary Short, Best Foreign Language Film and Best Short Film – Live Action and Animated. I didn’t see any of these, or even some that were snubbed, like “Life Itself”. But I did see “I Am Santa Claus”, and that documentary was excellent. Oh, and I saw “Transformers: Age of Extinction”. So, I have no opinion here, but here are the nominees, and send complaints to Paul@TheMovieGuys.net.
And for thoughts on “Transformers: Age of Extinction”, watch THIS:

“Last Days in Vietnam”
“The Salt of the Earth”
“Finding Vivian Maier”

“Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1”
“Our Curse”
“The Reaper”
“White Earth”

“Wild Tales”

“The Bigger Picture,” Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees
“The Dam Keeper,” Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi
“Feast,” Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed
“Me and My Moulton,” Torill Kove
“A Single Life,” Joris Oprins

“Aya,” Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis
“Boogaloo and Graham,” Michael Lennox and Ronan Blaney
“Butter lamp,” Hu Wei and Julien Féret
“Parvaneh,” Talkhon Hamzavi and Stefan Eichenberger
“The Phone Call,” Mat Kirkby and James Lucas

Whiplash posterBEST FILM EDITING
Joel Cox and Gary Roach, “American Sniper”
Sandra Adair, “Boyhood”
Barney Pilling, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
William Goldenberg, “The Imitation Game”
Tom Cross, “Whiplash”

Glaring Omission: They pretty much nailed this category, no? Unless something like “The Hobbit: Battle of The Five Armies” is a chore to put together. I mean, it looks it, but the story doesn’t benefit quite the way “Whiplash” does from it’s stellar editing.
Runners-up: “Locke” – yeah, why not? Try and make one location interesting, it’s gonna mean a load of work for your DP and editor.
Great Inclusion: “Boyhood”. I mean, can you even storyboard that movie?
Will Win: “Boyhood”. Hey, here’s twelve years of footage – GO.
Should Win: “Whiplash”, because it’s fiery when it needs to be and it’s routine when it needs to be, always, always, always serving story.

Guardians of the Galaxy posterBEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard, “Foxcatcher”
Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White, “Guardians of the Galaxy”

Glaring Omission: It continues to make me nuts that they just won’t have a full category of five nominees for Makeup and Hairstyling. Ever. What’s the big deal, category? Why are you so special? I always think there’s more room for fantasy films here – “X:Men – Days of Future Past” maybe? “Maleficent”?
Runners-up: The grimy nominees – “Fury” and “American Sniper” for covering poor, unfortunate bastards in filth. Same filth they had in “Lone Survivor”, which was also not nominated. There’s no pride in filth, I guess.
Great Inclusion: “Foxcatcher”. I mean, Carell acted nose-first that whole movie.
Will Win: Probably that, “Foxcatcher”
Should Win: “Guardians of the Galaxy”. How great will it be to say, “Academy Award-winning film ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’”?

The Grand Budapest HotelBEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Alexandre Desplat, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Alexandre Desplat, “The Imitation Game”
Hans Zimmer, “Interstellar”
Gary Yershon, “Mr Turner”
Jóhann Jóhannsson, “The Theory of Everything”

Glaring Omission: “Birdman”, eliminated from competition due to the drumming being described by the Academy as too incidental, instead of acting more like a traditional score. Again, tradition screwing things up.
Runners-up: We’re in the “no themes” era of movie music, so nothing’s standing out to me. I remember “Guardians” and “Captain America 2” having bombastic scores. A re-listen would probably have me nominate one of those.
Great Inclusion: “The Theory of Everything”. This simple love story was the last place I thought I’d enjoy the score, but it’s lively where necessary and mostly gorgeous throughout.
Will Win: “Interstellar”, although I couldn’t really make out the score amongst all the goddamn noise of that sound mix.
Should Win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, and Oscar may make a last-minute step that film’s way in the 11th hour, don’t be surprised if it beats the bigger score out.

“Everything Is Awesome” by Shawn Patterson, “The LEGO Movie”
“Glory” by Common and John Legend, “Selma”
“Grateful” by Diane Warren, “Beyond the Lights”
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” by Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond, “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me”
“Lost Stars” by Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois, “Begin Again”

Glaring Omission: “Mercy Is” by Patti Smith from “Noah”. There was a lot of talk about this song leading up to the nominations, and considering it’s an old artist, I thought it had a shot.
Runners-up: Any other song from “Begin Again”. There aren’t many others to nominate. There’s been a plague of horrible end credit songs lately. “The Equalizer” will end with a certain tone and then BAM, here comes this loud-ass, over-produced pop song. This happens too often, I think it even happened at the end of “Exodus: Gods and Kings”. Calm down, movies, and just let the end credits play out the way the film ends. Guide us back to our car, don’t jolt us out of your story…unless it sucks, then thank you.
Great Inclusion: “Lost Stars”, which will be a great Oscar night live performance.
Will Win: “Glory”
Should Win: “Everything is Awesome”. I’m always a hard advocate for songs winning that actually have a presence IN the film. “Glory” is another one of those end credits-only songs and it shows up completely out of time and place, knocking us out of the ‘60s and into modern day with lyrics about Ferguson and whatnot. “Everything is Awesome” is the PULSE of “The Lego Movie”. It’s crucial to the theme and inner workings of the movie as well as being catchy as hell. There’s your winner.

“The Grand Budapest Hotel,” Production design: Adam Stockhausen, Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
“The Imitation Game,” Production design: Maria Djurkovic, Set Decoration: Tatiana Macdonald
“Interstellar,” Production design: Nathan Crowley, Set Decoration: Gary Fettis
“Into the Woods,” Production design: Dennis Gassner, Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
“Mr. Turner,” Production design: Suzie Davies, Set Decoration: Charlotte Watts

Glaring Omission: “Birdman”, which won a Art Designers Guild award, and rightfully so. The scouting and layout of the complicated shots of that film had to involve creative production design.
Runners-up: “Selma”. It shot on the actual bridge of the original civil rights march and riots and coupled those real locations seamlessly with sets for believable place and time.
Great Inclusion: “The Imitation Game”, as there aren’t a lot of nominees here I like. “Interstellar”’s design is mostly effects, not as impressive as other, practical designs, in my opinion, and “Into the Woods” had too many elements that resembled sets as opposed to actual woods. “The Imitation Game” was pretty authentic, and it had to have been fun to design Turing’s apartment.
Will Win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, in what I’m predicting will be a run on tech awards for the film.
Should Win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

“American Sniper,” Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman
“Birdman,” Martín Hernández and Aaron Glascock
“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” Brent Burge and Jason Canovas
“Interstellar,” Richard King
“Unbroken,” Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro

Glaring Omission: Animated films. I’m always amazed that more of them aren’t nominated in a category that rewards sourcing, creating and capturing sound effects, plus any more “The Lego Movie” nominations are welcome.
Runners-up: “Fury”, perhaps? Although “American Sniper” would steal the prestige out from under any “Fury” nomination.
Great Inclusion: “American Sniper” – Clint’s tech team is always top-notch
Will Win: “Unbroken” could sneak in a win here. Even though it underperformed nomination-wise, it could be an Academy Award-winning film.
Should Win: I’d go “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” for bringing many characters and places to life with sound that weren’t there!

Whiplash posterBEST SOUND MIXING
“American Sniper,” John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin
“Birdman,” Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and Thomas Varga
“Interstellar,” Garry A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker and Mark Weingarten
“Unbroken,” Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and David Lee
”Whiplash,” Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley

Glaring Omission: More action movies. Only the prestigious ones got mentioned, but no “Transformers” or “Guardians”? I’d think they’d be in here for demanding more of their team.
Runners-up: Definitely “Transformers” and “Guardians”!
Great Inclusion: “Whiplash”, the music is a character in this film and is blended seamlessly with the dialogue and takes over for it in the film’s finale.
Will Win: “Whiplash”, it’s got a shot for a second award
Should Win: “Whiplash”. There’s no justice if “Interstellar” wins for its NOISY design.

Guardians of the Galaxy posterBEST VISUAL EFFECTS
“Captain America: Winter Soldier,” Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill and Dan Sudick
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist
“Guardians of the Galaxy,” Stephanie Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould
“Interstellar,” Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher
“X-Men: Days of Future Past,” Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie and Cameron Waldbauer

Glaring Omission: An, here’s where the fun movies are, and the now the prestige pics are taking a seat. Kinda surprising “Birdman” isn’t here, which had to erase the camera team out of so many mirrors it had to get tiring…!
Runners-up: “Edge of Tomorrow”, which was unassumingly grand in their ambition.
Great Inclusion: “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, which deserved an Oscar nomination of some kind.
Will Win: “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”
Should Win: “Guardians of the Galaxy”, for Groot and Rocket

Jason Hall, “American Sniper”
Graham Moore, “The Imitation Game”
Paul Thomas Anderson, “Inherent Vice”
Anthony McCarten, “The Theory of Everything”
Damien Chazelle, “Whiplash”

Glaring Omission: Gillian Flynn for “Gone Girl”! Such a good adaptation in that the book is written in chapters narrated by different characters and she boiled it down to make it a more straight narrative and never lost a step of tension and humor.
Runners-up: “Wild”, which time jumps but never loses a step on the 1,100 journey of its main character.
Great Inclusion: “Whiplash”, which pockets themes that’ll knock you over after you’re drawn in by the engaging dialogue. It’s the jab and right hook effect.
Will Win: “The Imitation Game”, and if it does, I think we’ll have a record where every movie nominated for Best Picture wins at least one award!
Should Win: “Whiplash”

Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo, “Birdman”
Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”
E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman, “Foxcatcher”
Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Dan Gilroy, “Nightcrawler”

Glaring Omission: Nothing glaring, but I thought an indie might peek through here like “Snowpiercer” or “Locke”.
Runners-up: These are great nominees, I don’t know what you would pull to replace, but if you could add a nominee, maybe “St. Vincent”?
Great Inclusion: “Nightcrawler”, which hopefully you watched since you started reading this.
Will Win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, then Wes Anderson will have an Oscar and I think The Academy and pretty much everyone will be happy. But this is a stacked category, if “Birdman” or “Boyhood” sneak in there, don’t be surprised.
Should Win: Can’t argue with “The Grand Budapest Hotel”.

That’s it! (and that’s plenty) The Oscars are Sunday night, Feb. 22.


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