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The Bookie

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Nominations are out later this week, so in an effort to unclutter the movie rating thread I thought I'd make this.

Personally I can't stand the ceremony itself, yet still find the whole process useful to find movies that would otherwise pass me by. Actually even more so than the nominations, it's in the debate leading up to them that I find a lot of hidden gems being tossed around.

I mentioned Mark Harris a few times in the other thread - he does a series of articles dissecting the major categories every year on Grantland. First two are out:

Oscar Nomination Predictions, Part 1: Screenplay and Adapted Screenplay

SONY PICTURES CLASSICSharris-screenplay-e1420824518476.jpg?w=7

Ladies and gentlemen, the weirdest week of the Oscar campaign season has begun. Yesterday, balloting for the Academy Award nominations ended; next Thursday morning, we’ll know the results. For Oscar voters, there’s little left to do but sift through the pile of screeners and feel vaguely guilty about that night they spent watching the season premiere ofDownton Abbey when they should have sucked it up and put on Mr. Turner. And for prospective nominees, there’s nothing to do for the next seven days but wait and, on Sunday, get dressed up so they can sit at the Golden Globe Awards dinner for several hours, drinking and eating their feelings while trying their best to pretend that a Golden Globe is an end in itself.

More Awards Season All of our Oscar coverage! Can you blame them for being tired? It’s a long haul of glad-handing and doing earnest interviews and explaining your “journey” and posing on step stools with your competitors for four hours while trying to look happy to be there and trudging around collecting Lucite and crystal and brushed-metal things that all scream “I am merely the seat-filler for the object you actually want!” Richard Linklater did not spend 12 years making Boyhood so that he could schlep out to Palm Springs and accept something called “the Sonny Bono Visionary Award,” or so that someone could dismiss his film as “Oscar bait” or gripe that it’s “boring” to have one movie win so many awards. But the miasma of ill feeling in which the nomination season has drawn to a close now seems to be a semipermanent feature of the landscape: historians complaining that historical fiction contains fiction as well as history, film critics wearily caviling that the Oscars shouldn’t “matter” (which never really translates to more than “Listen to me instead”), and a whole lot of blahblahblah about how there’s way too much blahblahblah and not nearly enough blahblahblah.

Agreed! So let’s get to something far more important: guessing who’ll be nominated. Starting today and wrapping up next Wednesday, I’ll be predicting the top eight categories; next Thursday, I’ll be back to see how I did and fill up and pour out beakers of my own humiliation. Since in my Oscar cosmology the last (in industry esteem) shall be first, I’ll start today with the writers.

Best Original Screenplay

This is the “good” category in this year’s contest, although it got less good when, as I discovered on Monday, the Academy decided to boot Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash, classifying it as adapted instead.1 This decision, though correct by the letter of the law, is dunderheaded, since whatWhiplash is purportedly adapted from is Chazelle’s short film Whiplash, which was in turn adapted from the same full-length feature script forWhiplash that resulted in the movie that is being considered. (The preceding sentence, and the logic behind it, was brought to you by Möbius.) The distinction between originals and adaptations in the screenplay categories exists because of a widespread and fair presumption among writers that the challenge of working from preexisting material and/or characters stands apart from the challenge of creating a story from scratch. Whiplash was created from scratch; even the Writers Guild of America, which gets a lot wrong, recognized that, which is why on Wednesday it nominated the film as an original screenplay.

But even without Whiplash, this field is strong. So strong, in fact, that you could make a pretty creditable lineup out of the hard-punching theological meditation Calvary, the devastating foreign-language film contender Ida, the sharp, meta-frisky cartoon The Lego Movie, the precise and heartbreaking autumnal-gay–New York drama Love Is Strange, and, I don’t know, throw in a Chris — Nolan, for Interstellar, or Rock, for Top Five. And yet none of those films is likely to finish in the money; in this category, they’re the B team.

The five nominees are, instead, likely to be drawn from a pool of eight contenders. Boyhood, still the closest thing we have to an overall front-runner, is not going to get a ton of nominations — its shaggy, homespun aesthetic means it’s almost surely out of the running for things like costumes, production design, and sound. But writers seem very likely to honor Richard Linklater (who received screenplay nominations for bothBefore Sunset and Before Midnight) for coming up with a script that, against long odds, manages to feel both free-flowing and structured. And the Academy’s fondness for movies about showbiz should allow Birdmanto score here. Its writers, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, and Armando Bo, constitute a larger roster than the branch usually likes to nominate, but that won’t matter; when you vote, all you see is the movie’s title, not its authors. (Which is weird and not true for directors, but that’s a kvetch for another day.)

The writers’ branch seems to like Wes Anderson more than the directors (who have never nominated him) do; his scripts for The Royal Tenenbaums and Moonrise Kingdom were both recognized, and The Grand Budapest Hotel (which he wrote from a story he conceived with Hugo Guinness) is the biggest hit of his career. After that, it gets murky.Foxcatcher was, in the last week, the victim of a massive, hotheaded, all-caps Twitter fit by Mark Schultz (the wrestler Channing Tatum plays), who, after supporting the movie for months, vowed to destroy director Bennett Miller for making a film that might make some viewers think he had a sexual relationship with John du Pont; eventually, he backed about halfway down. He didn’t aim his wrath at credited writers E. Max Frye and Daniel Futterman (who worked on the script during different phases of its creation), but the brouhaha didn’t help the chances of the already polarizing movie, which will need plenty of champions in the branch to make the cut. A Most Violent Year won admiring reviews for its writer/director J.C. Chandor, and its small distributor, A24, did a good job of getting screeners in the mail, but opening a little film on the very last day of Oscar eligibility (December 31) is probably a tactical mistake, especially for a film that can only benefit as the conversation about it builds. Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner, another late-December opener, may also have trouble gaining traction here. But writers admire Leigh tremendously — he’s a five-time nominee in this category, most recently for Another Year (which opened just as late), and he cannot be counted out.

That’s already six, and I haven’t even gotten to two very big complicating factors. The first is Dan Gilroy’s neo-noir black-comedy thrillerNightcrawler, which has bootstrapped its way into the contest by sheer word-of-mouth enthusiasm. I think the term “Oscar bait” is glib, meaningless, and not in sync with how or why movies are made, but I get what people mean when they use it as shorthand, and what they mean is the opposite of Nightcrawler. I wouldn’t be shocked to see it end up with three or four major nominations next Thursday (it has already been recognized by the WGA, the Producers Guild, and SAG) — or with none. And then there’s Ava DuVernay’s Selma. A couple of weeks ago, I would have said the civil-rights drama was a sure bet in this category. But, beginning with an irate op-ed in the Washington Post, it has come in for severe criticism for perceived inaccuracies in its depiction of Lyndon Johnson. (More on this next week.) One of the disadvantages of a late-December opening is that it leaves very little time for a movie to outlive a controversy, and it hasn’t helped that the film’s credited screenwriter, Paul Webb, has not offered a response. Perhaps he’s miffed at the public suggestion that he insisted on sole credit for a movie that DuVernay largely rewrote, a flap that also doesn’t help the film’s chances in this branch.

Long Shots

The Lego Movie
Love Is Strange

Right on the Edge

A Most Violent Year
Mr. Turner

Final Predictions

Foxcatcher [holding on for dear life]
The Grand Budapest Hotel

gone_girl_smile-e1415202324142.jpg?w=694TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX

Best Adapted Screenplay

When news broke that, to the surprise of everyone, including Sony Pictures Classics, Whiplash had ended up in this category, many of the film’s partisans said, great — it’s got much better odds in this much weaker field. They aren’t wrong. Best Adapted Screenplay is largely undistinguished terrain this year. So undistinguished that the WGA had to reach all the way out to American Sniper (a script that dodges and avoids many of the troubling complexities of Chris Kyle’s story) and Guardians of the Galaxy, a deft and funny piece of genre work that, in a typical year, wouldn’t have stood a chance. (If writers were wandering into left field, I wish they had wandered toward the provocative and well-written Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, or to the biting, unpredictable, mournful WesternThe Homesman, a movie that deserved much more attention, from both audiences and awarders, than it got this fall.)

For the Oscars, those choices are likely to remain long shots (although theSniper script, by Jason Hall, is coming on fast). Let’s start by assuming a few almost-sure things: Gillian Flynn’s screenplay for Gone Girl may not have pleased every reader of the book, but it’s no easy feat to take a novel so widely read that half of America seemed to know the big twist and turn it into a big, buzzy movie that ignites the conversation all over again. She’s in, and so, I imagine, are two midrange British prestige dramas that have managed to autopilot their way through the entire season, The Imitation Game (by Graham Moore) and The Theory of Everything (by Anthony McCarten).

Let me pause here to introduce a theme that will recur several times over the next week as these movies keep coming up (and they will keep coming up): I don’t get it. I mean, I really do not get it. Both films are very nice performance pieces for their leading men. But The Imitation Gamemanages to cocoon a potentially fascinating story in layers of sanctimony about how sometimes special people are insufficiently appreciated in their own time; say what you will about Selma, but it’s a movie that uses the past to force its audience to engage with present realities, not to keep viewers at a smug distance from anything that might ruffle them by telling them what to feel at every turn. As for The Theory of Everything, if you think the two most interesting things about Stephen Hawking are that he has a terrible disease and an eye for the ladies, it’s all yours. In any case, nobody’s complaints about these two films have added up to a pebble in their paths, so … moving on.

That leaves one open slot — or two, if category glitchiness costs Whiplash a well-deserved nomination. A pair of big recent moneymakers, Into the Woods and Unbroken, have shots here. But Into the Woods’s James Lapine is fighting half a century of bad Oscar history (no writer has been nominated for adapting the book of his own Broadway musical since Alan Jay Lerner for My Fair Lady in 1964). And although the credits of the too-many-cooks screenplay for Unbroken seem to cover half the writers’ branch — Joel and Ethan Coen, Richard LaGravenese, and William Nicholson all have their names on it — the results feel like so much less than the sum of their particular talents that it would take more overall awards momentum than this movie has to power through to a nomination in this category.

That leaves a very limited number of viable options. One of them, Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland’s Alzheimer’s drama/Julianne Moore showpiece Still Alice, definitely got watched by the actors’ branch, but it’s not clear if the DVD made it to the top of the pile for writers. But two strong candidates remain: Nick Hornby’s adroit and thoughtful adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild (writers may especially appreciate how elegantly Hornby found a way to capture the book’s seamless voyage through memories, flashbacks, meditations, brief encounters, and scenes of endurance), and Paul Thomas Anderson’s take on the Thomas Pynchon novel Inherent Vice. Finding a way to bring Pynchon’s voice to the screen is a massive accomplishment, and writers like PTA (they’ve nominated him three times). But considering they left him out for The Master, a nomination for this lighter, spoofier work may be a reach.

Long Shots

American Sniper
Guardians of the Galaxy
The Homesman
Into the Woods
Still Alice

Right on the Edge

Inherent Vice

Final Predictions

Gone Girl
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything

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Oscar Nomination Predictions, Part 2: Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress

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One of the worst things that can befall an Oscar nomination race is premature consensus. If the lineup in a particular category seems to crystallize sometime around (or as a result of) the Toronto or Telluride film festivals in early September, a kind of arthritis can set in. Bloggers and predictors, who are not, as a rule, fond of being outliers, become attached to their guesses and uneasy about breaking from the pack. Studio and publicity campaign teams — which spend more time than they should eyeballing those early guesses — start to invest in them, to refer to various choices as “locks” or “long shots,” and to move resources away from possibilities outside the consensus before the season even plays out. Immense collective will is soon required to recapture the elasticity that allows a new name to enter the race. Too soon, everything calcifies.

Best Actress

That’s largely what’s happened in this year’s Best Actress contest. When Iwrote about the field in early December, I complained that it already felt cast in stone, and I was right — at least, 80 percent right. One month later,Julianne Moore remains the perceived front-runner for her role as a victim of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in the indie drama Still Alice, a movie that will not begin its actual commercial run until Friday, when it clearly hopes to draft off a nomination for its star. Actual merit plus a sense of accruing debt (this would mark the fifth nomination for Moore, who has never won) is a potent combo, which is why virtually nobody is arguing against her. Moore will likely be joined by Reese Witherspoon;Wild, in which Witherspoon takes a potentially showy role and gives it the kind of understated reading that only a confident actor can, has not been a huge hit, but at $30 million, it’s done well enough. Witherspoon was a ubiquitous presence this fall; she also produced Gone Girl and will likely be joined in the category by Rosamund Pike, who played the role once earmarked for her producer. (I’d love to have seen Witherspoon’s Amazing Amy — she can work wonders with parts that let her reveal appetite and ambition — but Pike brought her own forbidding steeliness to the part, and a blockbuster hit built around a female character is too rare to be ignored.) I’m still somewhat bewildered by the collective certainty thatFelicity Jones is a done deal for her fine, basically supporting performance as a fine, basically supportive person in The Theory of Everything, but general goodwill toward a movie can beget clusters of nominations, so she seems a likely candidate.

2015 Oscar Nomination Predictions Last month, I wondered why more people weren’t looking at Marion Cotillard for her now hugely acclaimed performance in the Dardenne brothers’ Two Days, One Night. Since then, she’s taken a slew of best-actress prizes from critics’ groups (which also recognized her for James Gray’s The Immigrant); I’ll root for her to take a slot not just because of the quality of her work, but also because she’s been off the campaign circuit so completely that a nomination would be a finger in the eye of people who (grotesquely, I think) insist you should have to hustle to get one. Amy Adams, a five-time nominee, has worked for it; she made the rounds for Tim Burton’s Big Eyes, but the movie hasn’t kindled with critics or the public in a way that makes this nomination feel essential or likely. AndHilary Swank is wonderfully tough, vulnerable, and sad in Tommy Lee Jones’s The Homesman, but the movie was not a hit, and in the Oscar race, unsuccessful is worse than unseen.

There are many ways this contest could have gone, but what it became was a sort of job interview in which the HR department of the Academy sought a deserving applicant to sit alongside Moore, Jones, Pike, and Witherspoon in the final five. The likely hiree turns out to be Jennifer Aniston, who plays a well-off Los Angeleno suffering from chronic pain and 310 anomie in Cake, an indie that, like Still Alice, is waiting for the nominations to happen before it begins its run. Aniston is excellent inCake; she submits to the whole looking-like-crap thing that is a required demonstration of serious intent without abandoning the flawless, acidly comic line delivery she has honed for 20 years. She’s always been underappreciated, and that in itself constitutes a viable and appealing Oscar-season narrative for a potential first-time nominee. Like the four women she seeks to join, Aniston has already been recognized for this performance with nominations from the Golden Globes, SAG, and the Broadcast Film Critics Association. That’s not a guarantee of an Oscar nomination, but at this point, anyone else would be a surprise.

Long Shots

Emily Blunt, Into the Woods

Jessica Chastain, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

Right on the Edge

Amy Adams, Big Eyes

Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night

Hilary Swank, The Homesman

Final Predictions

Jennifer Aniston, Cake

Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything

Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon, Wild

emma-stone.jpg?w=694FOX SEARCHLIGHT

Best Supporting Actress

Best Supporting Actress has been a rangier conversation, but only slightly, since one performance has been so dominant in early handicapping and critics’ awards that nobody — at least, not right now — is calling this a horse race. Boyhood’s Patricia Arquette ticks off every Oscar box: She’s superb in the movie, she has a ton to do in it, including a spectacularly emotional set of scenes near the end, and she allowed herself — in fact, given the nature of the production, was forced to allow herself — to age naturally onscreen. Since so much of Richard Linklater’s film is about the parents — specifically, what softens and what coarsens as one moves deeper into middle age — she seems in ideal dialogue with her role. The Los Angeles Film Critics Association threatened to muddy her path by awarding her Best Actress, but not even the threat of category confusion can impede her.

Arquette’s competition is likely to include Emma Stone; Best Supporting Actress nominations are often votes for the career still to come, and Stone has already done several years of good work. The impact of the scene inBirdman in which she rips into Michael Keaton as a vain failure is probably enough to secure her a slot; and despite a certain amount of chatter about how stars hurt themselves when they don’t (or can’t) show up for every event, the fact that she’s currently giving a well-reviewed performance in Cabaret on Broadway is, on balance, more help than hindrance — it cements the case for her credibility. If Meryl Streep is honored for her work as the Witch in Into the Woods, it will be her 19th nomination, an acting record unlikely ever to be broken, except by Streep herself. Given that she’s got a couple of the movie’s richest songs and sings and acts the hell out of them (it turns out to be a good thing when a singer actually thinks about what the lyrics mean), she earned this one fair and square. Keira Knightley is certainly plucky and determined in The Imitation Game. You know every beat she’s going to hit, but it’s not her fault she’s been given nothing to do but the equivalent of figure-skating compulsories, and I’ll admit there’s a degree of pleasure in watching her knock them off with polish.

More Awards Season All of our Oscar coverage! If I ran the circus, we’d be talking about the funny, shocking, completely original work of Jillian Bell in 22 Jump Street. (Clearly, I don’t run the circus.) Laura Dernis touching as Cheryl Strayed’s mother in Wild; she does everything she can do with the role without pushing, but it’s hard to build a character entirely in flashback. Two-time nominee Naomi Watts scored a surprise SAG nomination for her broad, brassy turn as a pregnant Russian stripper in St. Vincent, but the nod didn’t spark the surge of attention it needed to. Vanessa Redgrave is indelible in Foxcatcher, but her role is barely more than a cameo; likewise,Carmen Ejogo sketches a beautiful version of Coretta Scott King in Selma, but has to make her mark with very few brushstrokes. Tilda Swinton — a yak-haired vampire in Only Lovers Left Alive, a lusty Downton-ish dowager in The Grand Budapest Hotel, and a monstrous dystopian dictatrix inSnowpiercer — had a great run this year, and if Internet-based film critics ruled the world, she’d be our next president, but appreciation of her didn’t quite coalesce into a focused nomination push this year. Rene Russo’s work as a tough, wary, grasping local newswoman in Nightcrawler is sterling, and the movie clearly has momentum within the industry; we’ll know just how much come Thursday. Appreciation for Into the Woodsdoesn’t feel quite keen enough to tug Anna Kendrick’s sweetly human-scale Cinderella into the race alongside Streep, and Aniston’s coattails probably aren’t long enough to carry Babel nominee Adriana Barraza, who plays her forebearing caregiver in Cake. That leaves Jessica Chastain, working a Brooklyn accent and a hard-shell coat of makeup in A Most Violent Year with such brittle, unsentimental authority that, assuming enough people see the late-arriving movie, she could be looking at her third nomination in four years.

Long Shots

Adriana Barraza, Cake

Carmen Ejogo, Selma

Anna Kendrick, Into the Woods

Vanessa Redgrave, Foxcatcher

Tilda Swinton, Snowpiercer

Right on the Edge

Laura Dern, Wild

Rene Russo, Nightcrawler

Final Predictions

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year

Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game

Emma Stone, Birdman

Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

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(for my prediction, I think it's basically between Boyhood and Birdman, and they'll split the directing/best pic categories like 12 Years a Slave and Gravity last year)

Agreed. I think Birdman takes director and original screenplay. Hell, even Michael Keaton for best actor.

Full predictions:

Best Picture:


Best Original Screenplay:


Best Adapted Screenplay:

Gone Girl w/ Imitation Game being the dark horse

Leading Actor:

Michael Keaton w/ Cumberbatch right on his tail. Could be the other way around.

Leading Actress:

Toss up

Supporting Actor:

J.K. Simmonds. Obvious winner.

Supporting Actress:

Again, it's a toss up.




Hoping for The Lego Movie, but I think the Academy will give it to How to Train Your Dragon


Life Itself

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Oscar Nomination Predictions, Part 3: Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor

FOX SEARCHLIGHTmichael-keaton1.jpg?w=750

In the last couple of columns, I complained that many of this year’s Oscar-nomination races are too pat, too predictable, prematurely entrenched, and lacking in depth. Well, that’s all over. We’re up to Best Actor, and we finally have a complicated and messy race, one in which six real contenders are vying for five slots, and a bunch of other guys who in most years would be in the thick of it are left angrily banging at the door. The names are great, the quality level is high, and, come Thursday, the blood on the floor will be bright red.

Best Actor

Here’s how it breaks down: The six men at the front of the pack fall into three groups. The first — actually, it’s not really a group, it’s just him — isMichael Keaton for Birdman. When I interviewed Keaton in September before the movie opened, I noted that his refusal to debase himself by claiming that the character he plays — aging, humiliated, desperate for a comeback — was autobiographical ran the risk of ruining a perfect, glib Oscar-season narrative. I was joking, mostly, although some have since suggested that the 63-year-old actor’s disinclination to appear sufficiently needy might actually damage his chances. If campaign-related nonsense is really that meaningful, let’s just pack this whole thing in, because the quality of Keaton’s performance —not to mention that he has probably worked with half the members of the actors’ branch over the last 35 years — should guarantee him a slot.

The second group — Good Actors Playing Great Men — includes Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan “Sherlock” Turing in The Imitation Game, Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, and David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma. It’s slightly irritating that, in a strong and vital year for screen acting, voters seem to be settling on impersonation to the exclusion of many other types of performances. In my least favorite awards-baiting flourish of the season, the Weinstein Company has mounted a vigorous print campaign stuffed with testimonials to Turing’s importance from gay-rights group leaders and tech-company CEOs. This is gross, pushy, and, with its air of stentorian special pleading, more than a little insulting to Cumberbatch and to the movie. Should Paramount be lining up civil rights titans to explain the significance of Dr. King? Is it too late for Focus to enlist Neil deGrasse Tyson to sing the praises of Hawking? (Actually, done!) Or might everybody just shut up and see the movies? There’s a legitimate discussion to be had about the nature of each of these performances, specifically about how successfully these three talented and resourceful actors manage to suggest dimension and ambiguity in the men they play, even at points when the scripts don’t demand or permit it — but not if the Best Actor race is (as Janet Maslin memorably put it in the New York Times the yearGandhi won Best Picture) suddenly mistaken for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The third group — one I’m really fond of — is nutcases, specifically the two played by Steve Carell in Foxcatcher and Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler. Conventional wisdom seems to have it that there can be room for only one — even the movies’ titles seem like they belong next to each other in a bracket— and that appreciation for the gleaming, avid, self-help-manual-spouting sociopath that Gyllenhaal brilliantly plays in Nightcrawler is rising at the same rate as admiration for the terrifyingly abstracted, slack, blank-eyed, self-absorbed lunatic that Carell just as brilliantly plays inFoxcatcher is waning. I don’t know whether that’s a real thing or just pundits bouncing a piece of noise off one another until we convince ourselves that it’s objective reality. (We do that, you know; remember last year when there was all that noise about how Robert Redford was going to win the Oscar and he didn’t even get nominated? That was us.)

It’s almost impossible to discern a trend from the awards announced so far. The Broadcast Film Critics Association, which has six Best Actor slots, nominated five of these guys. The Screen Actors Guild left out Oyelowo — but there was some question about how many of their nominators sawSelma. The Globes nominated all six, solving the overcrowding problem by moving Keaton over from Drama to Comedy/Musical (which has its own Best Actor category). And BAFTA bumped Carell down to Supporting Actor and omitted Oyelowo altogether as part of a larger shrug-off ofSelma.

There are other top-notch candidates this year. Ralph Fiennes, not an actor I associate with a million laughs, gave The Grand Budapest Hotel a confident and completely original comic center; it’s hard to imagine another actor doing what he did. Bradley Cooper, an apparent Academy favorite who’s going for his third nomination in as many years, not only bulked up but did everything he could do to give the underimagined role of Chris Kyle complexity in American Sniper. Oscar Isaac brought young-Pacino smoldering restraint to A Most Violent Year; Miles Teller, nuanced, vulnerable, and deeply committed, was every bit as responsible for the success of Whiplash as his more acclaimed costar; Tom Hardy, who had nothing to play off of but a steering wheel in Locke, was good enough to beat every one of these guys for Best Actor from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association; and Timothy Spall took the same honors from the New York Film Critics Circle for Mr. Turner. But all of these gentlemen face the same hurdle: To get a Best Actor Oscar nomination, they have to knock off not just one of the top six, but two.

So who’s out? If Gyllenhaal misses, it will be because the old-guard portion of the Academy electorate didn’t feel that the raw and rancid Nightcrawlerwas sufficiently Oscar-friendly. If Carell’s out, blame anti-TV snobbery.Same issue with Jennifer Aniston — the “he’s not really one of us” factor. And if it’s Oyelowo, it would mean only the second all-white set of 20 acting nominations in the last decade. The SAG and BAFTA omissions suggest he’s vulnerable. Blame Selma’s late start, and the fact that King, as written, lacks some of the interiority that can let an actor fully go to town; we see him strategizing and struggling but rarely just living. And blame a bunch of other stuff as well, which I’ll go into on Thursday, if necessary.

Long Shots:

Bradley Cooper, American Sniper

Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Tom Hardy, Locke

Oscar Isaac, A Most Violent Year

Timothy Spall, Mr. Turner

Right on the Edge:

Steve Carell, Foxcatcher

Final Predictions:

Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game

Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler

Michael Keaton, Birdman

David Oyelowo, Selma

Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything


Best Supporting Actor

Over the weekend, Kevin B. Lee, a film critic doing research for his annual series of Fandor video essays, pointed out on Twitter that in Foxcatcher, Carell has the same percentage of screen time that J.K. Simmons does as the sadistic drillmaster musician in Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash. So why is Carell, who plays one point in a complicated triangle, up for Best Actor, and Simmons, who’s essentially half of a two-hander, the front-runner for Best Supporting Actor? I don’t know, but I don’t think category fraud is in play here. Definitions of “supporting” often reside in intangibles — whose story is the movie telling, how large is the cast, how central is the character? And given that the standards are elastic enough so that Anthony Hopkins can win Best Actor for 16 minutes of work in The Silence of the Lambs and Ethan Hawke can get nominated for Best Supporting Actor for what was absolutely a co-lead in Training Day, I’ll allow that 42 to 43 percent of a movie’s running time — where, by Lee’s calculation, both Carell and Simmons land — falls safely into the realm of “could go either way.” In any case, Simmons, a 60-year-old veteran of movies and TV who had the kind of breakthrough part of which character actors dream, is a well-deserved all-but-certain nomination here.

His competition will probably include three men whose performances were good bets from the minute their movies were first seen. Ethan Hawke should score his second nomination for acting (and fourth overall — he’s got two for screenwriting) for his generous, intelligent, beautifully paced work as a so-so American dad in Boyhood (like Patricia Arquette, he gets credit not only for a truly worthy performance but for 12 years of commitment and for the essential patience and focus it took to work with an untrained kid). Edward Norton is in line for a third nomination — and a first for being riotously funny — for his high-energy, ruthless, slightly self-spoofing take on a Committed Thespian in Birdman; to my eyes, this is the best “impossible actor” performance since Dustin Hoffman inTootsie. And even people who don’t like Foxcatcher have expressed admiration for Mark Ruffalo’s incarnation of determination and decency as Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz.

If Team Foxcatcher had decided to campaign Carell in this category, he’d probably take the fifth slot (that is, in fact, the exact BAFTA lineup). However, the Globes, SAG, and the Broadcast Film Critics Association, honoring the decision to keep Carell in Best Actor, all went another way, nominating Robert Duvall for his performance as the aging, declining title character in The Judge, a big, sentimental slab of American cheese that has no business being anywhere near an awards race. Which is a pointless complaint, since the Academy actors’ branch is, among other things, something of a big, sentimental slab itself, and honoring a respected veteran is one of its most reliable traditions. Duvall turned 84 on January 5; if he receives what would be his seventh nomination (42 years after receiving his first, in this category, for The Godfather), he will become the oldest man ever to be nominated for acting.1

Best Supporting Actor is usually loaded with contenders but, perhaps because there’s been so little debate about the first four choices, contention for that fifth slot has been surprisingly muted. The actor seen as the likeliest choice to deny Duvall a slot is Tom Wilkinson, vying for his third nomination as Selma’s LBJ. But the fact that quarrels about the movie have landed squarely on his character doesn’t help, and the performance isn’t the kind of full-on transformation that actors often like to reward. There are many other worthy candidates — including Wilkinson’s costar Tim Roth, who etches a sharp George Wallace without overdoing it — but none of them got much of a toehold this year. The sixth BFCA slot went to Josh Brolin for his work as Inherent Vice’s bellicose flattop; it’s the kind of big, bold, GIF-able performance that makes Internet dudes swoon, but if all the blog love in the world couldn’t getAlbert Brooks a nomination for Drive, Brolin has an uphill climb. (Likewise, Brooks himself might have a hard time edging in for flawless work in a too-small role in A Most Violent Year.) Before Unbroken opened, there was a lot of buzz about the sadistic prison-camp guard played by the Japanese pop star Miyavi, but it seemed to dissipate once people saw the movie.

Could there be a big surprise here — Johnny Depp or Chris Pine for Into the Woods, or Tony Revolori, the stoic lobby boy of The Grand Budapest Hotel, or Gone Girl’s going-for-it Tyler Perry, or Academy favoriteChristoph Waltz (whose placement here rather than in Best Actor for Big Eyes is actually category fraud), or Andy Serkis, finally making the motion-capture performance case for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes? Yes. For what it’s worth, the surprise I’d be happiest about would beNightcrawler’s Riz Ahmed (a.k.a. Riz MC), whose work as Jake Gyllenhaal’s hapless, gullible assistant is as good as any performance in this race. But these are all stretches in a category that, for whatever reason, did not seem to compel anybody to go searching in left field this year.

Long Shots:

Riz Ahmed, Nightcrawler

Miyavi, Unbroken

Tyler Perry, Gone Girl

Tony Revolori, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Tim Roth, Selma

Right on the Edge:

Josh Brolin, Inherent Vice

Tom Wilkinson, Selma

Final Predictions:

Robert Duvall, The Judge

Ethan Hawke, Boyhood

Edward Norton, Birdman

Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

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Final 2015 Oscar Nomination Predictions: Best Director, Best Picture, and Lingering Last Calls


Going into Tuesday’s announcement of the Directors Guild of America nominations, the Best Director Oscar race was a mess — five slots and a dozen contenders, all but two of them toting some serious baggage in their struggle to push their way toward what is, if not the front, then at least the middle of the pack. The status of that race after the DGA choices were revealed: still a mess, but a mess of a slightly different shape. As expected, the man now perceived as the front-runner, Boyhood’s Richard Linklater, was nominated, as was the man now seen as one of his toughest competitors, Birdman’s Alejandro G. Iñárritu. The remaining three slots went to Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel, Clint Eastwood forAmerican Sniper, and Morten Tyldum, the Norwegian director who made his English-language debut with The Imitation Game.

2015 Oscar Nomination Predictions There are many reasons to believe that this will not line up five-for-five with the Academy Awards. It rarely does, partly because the DGA’s voting membership is something like 30 times as large as the Academy’s directing branch — the DGA is more mainstream, more ’Murican, more TV-oriented, and blander. It’s conceivable, for instance, that the worldly, elite, more-international-than-you-might-expect directors’ branch of the Academy could nominate someone like Ida’s Pawel Pawlikowski. For the directors’ branch, it would be a long shot; for the DGA, it would be pretty much an impossibility.

Sometimes, the Academy goes its own way entirely, as it did two years ago when it omitted three of the DGA’s five selections, giving rise to the Affleck Snub (and indirectly helping along the subsequent Argo win). Who would benefit from that? Probably Selma’s Ava DuVernay, whose movie has been warmly embraced by critics and audiences but pretty much shut out by the guilds. Selma may be falling victim to a late release date, a slow-to-arrive Academy screener, and a controversy about historical accuracy that there wasn’t enough time for the movie’s campaign team to counter. But there’s also support for Whiplash wunderkind Damien Chazelle(essentially, he’d get the nomination that Benh Zeitlin got two years ago for Beasts of the Southern Wild) and for Gone Girl’s David Fincher, a two-time nominee, albeit never for genre work, which is a hard sell in this category. The last time a director cracked the category for adapting a best-selling mystery was Clint Eastwood for Mystic River.

More Awards Season All of our Oscar coverage! Speaking of Eastwood and mysteries, no, I don’t really know what he’s doing on that DGA list, and I suspect he may be the most vulnerable of the five nominees. At this point, he could probably film a brick wall for two hours and I can name half a dozen critics who’d find a way to call it a sobering and formally innovative critique of American masculinity. The Academy loves him (he’s a 10-time nominee in various categories), and the movie has done massive business on four screens for the last three weeks. But as formidable a contender as Eastwood is, this branch doesn’t rubber-stamp anyone. Tyldum may be on surer footing since his movie plays so well on TV that (cough) it almost looks like it belonged there all along. And the fact that as down-the-middle a group as the DGA would give Wes Anderson a backslap might mean he’s finally going to get his first Oscar nomination for directing. If anything,Budapest, auteur- and Euro-friendly, is more an Oscar movie than it is a DGA movie.

Possible spoilers here, other than The Theory of Everything’s James Marsh, fall into two groups: directors who made big, mainstream hits that couldn’t quite rise into the first tier (Angelina Jolie for Unbroken, Rob Marshall for Into the Woods, Christopher Nolan for Interstellar) and directors who did great jobs with dark, dank, underbelly-of-America material (J.C. Chandor for A Most Violent Year, Dan Gilroy forNightcrawler, Bennett Miller for Foxcatcher). Each group faces the same problem: They’re groups — and it’s hard to break away when you’re in a cluster of filmmakers whose movies appeal to the exact same subset of Academy voters as yours does.

Long Shots:

David Fincher, Gone Girl

Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler

James Marsh, The Theory of Everything

Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher

Pawel Pawlikowski, Ida

Right on the Edge:

Damien Chazelle, Whiplash

Clint Eastwood, American Sniper

Final Predictions:

Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Ava DuVernay, Selma

Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman

Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

boyhood-still-hp-e1421189816446.gif?w=69IFC FILMS

Best Picture

Here’s what we know: There will be no fewer than five but no more than 10 Best Picture nominees. Here’s what we don’t know: Does the fact that, for the three years this rule has been in place, the magic number has been nine mean that the preferential tabulation system naturally favors a higher number? Or are we due for a correction? When AMPAS made this rule change, it revealed that it had retabulated the votes from previous years and discovered that the years it examined would variously have yielded five, six, seven, eight, and nine nominees. What makes the difference is not the overall quality of the field but the degree of consensus; a movie needs to get at least 5 percent of the Academy membership’s first-place votes to get a nomination, so a year in which two or three movies dominate the no. 1 slots is going to yield fewer overall nominations. This doesn’t feel like a consensus year to me. But I’ll do what I always do, which is count down the nominees in descending order of probability. Feel free to draw that dotted line anywhere after fifth place. I’m drawing it after eighth.

1. Boyhood

When I wrote about the Oscar chances of Richard Linklater’s movie in early October, I noted that in order for it to become the front-runner, it wouldn’t “just have to beat every other film [but] withstand them — and if it does, it then has to withstand complaints from people who will be bored by how long it’s been the front-runner.” Done, done, and done. The fact that a film by a never-nominated director1 that took 12 years to make and was financed for a pittance by an indie company with little experience running an Oscar campaign can now be considered the front-runner for the Best Picture Academy Award is everything I love about the Oscars. The fact that anyone could dismiss such a choice as “safe” or “boring” is everything I dislike about the noise around them. There is a Boyhoodbacklash — the gripes that Linklater had 12 whole years to make his movie so the playing field isn’t level may be the cheapest shot I’ve heard this season — but forget those whiners: In the immortal words of The Interview, they hate us ’cause they anus! Boyhood has clicked with critics, audiences, and the guilds. None of that means it’s going to win, but it has earned the honor of pole position.

2. Birdman

I don’t see any way that the Academy, which has in recent years gazed lovingly at the movie industry in The Artist, Hugo, and Argo, is not going to give a slot to this sardonic, broody, swoopy piece of skywriting about the state of the movie biz and the nature of an artist’s ego careering toward vanity and folly while trying for something great. That attitude is not just Academy-friendly; it is the Academy. And yes, some people really dislike it, but in this phase, all that matters is whether there’s an ardent, concentrated constituency of admirers. For Birdman, there is.

3. The Imitation Game

When people talk about the Academy’s traditionalist wing, they are, increasingly, talking about two different groups. The first — known as the “Steak Eaters,” a term popularized five years ago by Indiewire’s Anne Thompson — are the older, almost exclusively male producers and executives and sound guys who believe the Academy’s primary mission is to reward big, mainstream studio pictures where the money is all up on the screen and the ambition is spelled out in bright, easy-to-read capital letters. The size of that group is, at this point, overestimated — not to be morbid, but a handful of them are dying off every year, as are those movies. At the same time, a group I would call the neo-traditionalists is rising in power: They’re more female-friendly, they don’t care about a movie’s cost or spectacle, they see indies as part of the Academy’s mission, they’re mostly politically left of center, and they want a movie to be “thought-provoking” (but only in a mild, not aesthetically threatening way, and it should also look good and have a nice score). My sense is that The Imitation Game, with its sober big themes and its courteous, touristic relationship to homosexuality, is their horse this year. At $41 million, it has already gone further at the box office than I would have guessed; I expect to hear its name read many times on Thursday morning.

4. Selma

It says something about the jaggedness of this year’s Oscar race that I can’t even get this far down the list without feeling jittery about my choices.Selma is the season’s big unknown. When you throw together recent headlines about Ferguson and New York, the ideological leanings and sentiments of an aging-white-liberal constituency, and a movie by an African American woman, what happens? Did Academy voters watch the DVD? Did they like the DVD? Did the flap over the accuracy of the film’s depiction of LBJ do damage to its chances? Did Paramount make a big mistake in not getting it delivered aggressively to every member of every guild? (Yes to that last one; “I don’t know” to everything else.) A “snub” narrative seems to be building, but Selma doesn’t need a huge number of passionate advocates in the Academy to get into the race. My hunch is that it has the first-place votes it needs; I’ll be a little surprised and more than a little saddened if it doesn’t.

5. The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson movies have never been deeply embraced by the Academy, but this one, out for almost a year, combines sumptuous studio-style visuals with a whiff of history, an undercurrent of tragedy, and the director’s signature exactitude. It’s had a great run with guild nominations, and I can see it pulling together an unlikely coalition of voters — directors, writers, New Yorkers, Europeans, costume people — and making the cut. If it does so, the movie, which opened way back onMarch 7, will be the earliest-in-the-year opener to vie for Best Picture since The Silence of the Lambs 23 years ago. At the beginning of the season, I wrote that it would take “a great run of luck and a series of unexpected cave-ins” to make that happen; a little of both took place, but Budapest’s presence in the conversation is primarily a tribute to a patient, steady, unpanicky campaign by Fox Searchlight and to higher regard for the film than I recognized.

6. The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything is the perfect movie for voters who wish there were another movie exactly like The Imitation Game. Same vibe, same mood, same voter base, but a bit less enthusiasm. One caveat: It’s hard to call a movie a lock for a Best Picture nomination when its director is barely in the discussion. The worst-case scenario for this movie is that voters see it as primarily a performance piece, reward the actors, and shrug the rest of it off.

7. Whiplash

Surely something has to break up what will otherwise be one of the most benignly humanist rosters ever put forth by the Academy, right? The likeliest candidate feels like Chazelle’s lean, mean, all-American Sundance champ. As I noted above, there’s definitely an Academy constituency that will go darker, stranger, and freakier than many handicappers imagine: When we sift through the results tomorrow and tally the collective nominations for Whiplash, Foxcatcher, and Nightcrawler, we’ll know just how big, or at least how focused, that constituency was this year.

8. American Sniper

“ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THIS?!?”—Me, to my sad reflection in the mirror. No, I am not kidding me with this. I am perplexed by the admiration and sudden surge for what feels to me like a by-the-numbers, indifferently shot rendition of an unexamined story, but mine is not to reason why (until tomorrow); mine is simply to inform you that American Sniper got PGA, DGA, and WGA nominations. That is not a guaranteed path to a nomination (a few years ago, The Girl With the Dragon Tattooalso hit all those marks only to be denied at the finish line), but it’s not a bad one, either. I don’t see a lot of actors voting for this, but among the aforementioned steak eaters? It’s got a very good shot. Where, when it’s needed most, is the vaunted “liberal Hollywood” that the right loves to bash? Apparently it’s sitting in a Barcalounger in Bel-Air, happily watching Bradley Cooper shoot people.

9. Foxcatcher

10. Nightcrawler

I’m rooting for both. I’m feeling optimistic about neither. I’d love to be wrong.

And before tomorrow’s nominations, a few awards:

  • Movie I most toyed with placing on the list: Gone Girl. Lingering Academy snobbery about mysteries and thrillers, a sense that the film was amply rewarded at the box office, and my own inability to imagine a few hundred voters saying not just, “That was a good movie,” but, “That was the year’s best movie,” kept it out of my top 10.
  • Greatest victim of advance Oscar-prognosticator hype: Unbroken. Woe to any movie that sits on predictor lists for months before it has been screened; that never helps.
  • The “In Any Other Year It Would’ve Been A Contender” Award: not given. Sorry, it wasn’t that kind of year.
  • The Bronze Medal: To me, for getting eight of the 43 predictions I’ve shared with you over the last week wrong. Or more! Or fewer. Check in tomorrow for some post-nomination analysis, preening, and atonement.

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nominations out:

Best Picture
“American Sniper”
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
“The Imitation Game”
“The Theory of Everything”

Actor in a Leading Role
Steve Carell, “Foxcatcher”
Bradley Cooper, “American Sniper”
Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Imitation Game”
Michael Keaton, “Birdman”
Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything”

Actress in a Leading Role
Marion Cotillard, “Two Days, One Night”
Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything”
Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”
Rosamund Pike, “Gone Girl”
Reese Witherspoon, “Wild”

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

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

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

Animated Feature Film
“Big Hero 6”
“The Boxtrolls”
“How to Train Your Dragon 2”
“Song of the Sea”
“The Tale of the Princess Kaguya”

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

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”

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

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”

Foreign Language Film
“Wild Tales”

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

Writing – Original Screenplay
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”

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From the article Bookie posted:

on Boyhood:

"The fact that a film by a never-nominated director1 that took 12 years to make and was financed for a pittance by an indie company with little experience running an Oscar campaign can now be considered the front-runner for the Best Picture Academy Award is everything I love about the Oscars. The fact that anyone could dismiss such a choice as “safe” or “boring” is everything I dislike about the noise around them."

not only do I think this movie is wonderful, but the bolded is a really important point to me as a fan of the entire industry. If you follow the "movie world" much, you know there is always alarmist material about how the industry is not welcoming new talent into the mainstream, or that pirating has made "Hollywood" afraid of risk -- if Boyhood, or even Birdman for that matter, can win, I think it's a big sign of encouragement for (very talented) independent filmmakers everywhere. Of course these movies aren't exactly obscure or outside of the mainstream, but who cares. Baby steps.

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How did Keira Knightley get a nomination for Imitation Game. She wasn't anything special, I've seen way better performances in other movies by other actresses (Anne Hathaway for example). I feel like they didn't even watch the movie and just picked her out of a hat or something.

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