Thursday, January 15, 2015

Oscar Nomination Reactions

Nothing is more boring to me than the "Wikipedia entry" sort of biopic that just rotely portrays every key event of a real figure's life with all the wit and charm of a fourth-grader's book report.  Occasionally a movie like this can be forgiven if it's carried by a really exceptional lead performance, yet sometimes, even a good performance can't save a movie's overwhelming blandness.

I bring this up because, you guessed it, The Theory Of Everything and The Imitation Game were both nominated for Best Picture, and TIG has a decent chance of winning.  It was nominated in all the key categories (Picture, Director, Editing, Screenplay), it has a well-liked star in Benedict Cumberbatch, and it has the Harvey Weinstein Oscar campaign machine behind it, ranking out info folder after info folder about what a great person Alan Turing was about how unfair it was that he was so persecuted for his homosexuality.

Two points about this.  Firstly, it is absolutely true that Turing got a raw deal and he should absolutely be celebrated as a hero.  Secondly, this also has nothing to do with Imitation Game's quality as a movie, which is telling about how the studio feels about the actual quality of its big Best Picture hopeful.  Essentially the campaign is "vote for our movie because Alan Turing was a great man," as if a Oscar would help right this shameful moment in British history.

Amusingly, Imitation Game's campaign has seemingly taken the wind out of the sails of TOE, whose own "vote for this story about a great man" campaign is about a person better known to the average person in 2014, Stephen Hawking.  On the one hand, Eddie Redmayne's performance as Hawking is better than Cumberbatch's as Turing --- Redmayne has a higher degree of difficulty given how he literally can barely move as the character, and Cumberbatch's Turing frankly comes off as a poor man's version of his Sherlock Holmes.  On the other hand, Imitation Game is a decent if unspectacular film as a whole, whereas Theory Of Everything is just totally mediocre.  Redmayne and Felicity Jones are both very good in their thankless roles but they have absolutely nothing to work with.

My point is that these two films are basically the definition of the "Oscar Movie" stereotype and so while I shouldn't be surprised to see them in the Best Picture field, it's disappointing that they made it in while literally dozens of better movies were left out.  This could all be a moot point since Boyhood is the heavy favourite to actually win Best Picture and that would be a great choice, yet if Imitation Game's campaign succeeds in winning over the always-bland Academy voters, then we'll have our first outright mediocre Best Picture* since A Beautiful Mind in 2001….another generic, by-the-numbers look at a major historical figure.

* = I'm one of the few who actually thought Crash was a pretty good movie, yet obviously it had no business getting nominated, let alone winning the award over Brokeback Mountain.

More observations and mostly complaints about the Oscar nominations….

* I simply do not get by The Grand Budapest Hotel, of all Wes Anderson movies, is suddenly the one that resonated with the Academy.  It's not markedly different in tone or presentation than any of his other films, and frankly, I thought the movie was pretty average --- wouldn't even crack my top five or six Wes Anderson films.  Maybe I have to go back and watch it again to figure it out; it's possible my original review was tainted by the environment of a super-crowded theatre and the annoying guy next to me who kept rustling in his seat the entire time.  It's hard to fully enjoy a movie when you're in a passive-aggressive turf war over a theatre chair armrest.

* Can you place bets in Las Vegas over just how many Oscar nominations Meryl Streep will end up with?  She's up to 19, already far and away the record, and at age 65, you have to figure she has at least another 10 years of work in her.  I think 25 nominations seems like an easy threshold to reach, and if she continues to work into her 80's, hitting the 30-nomination mark doesn't seem out of the question.

* Birdman wasn't nominated for Best Editing, since y'know, editing an entire movie together to look like one continuous shot isn't THAT impressive.  *forehead slap*  This particular snub more or less dooms Birdman's shot as a Best Picture upset since every BP winner since 1980 has also been at least nominated for the editing Oscar.

* Two Days One Night is at the top of my must-see list since my beloved Marion Cotillard finally scored a long-overdue second nomination!  Cotillard has been a Markademy Award staple for the past several years, yet she hadn't received another Oscar nomination since her win in 2007.  Fun fact: I recently met my friend Dan's girlfriend, who hails from France, and our conversation turned to the movies.  I mentioned how I adored Cotillard, and she kind of wrinkled her nose in surprise.  Apparently over in France, they're somewhat confused by how Cotillard, of all actresses, is the one who broke through in North America.  The general consensus over there is that she's fine and everything but…[Michael Bluth voice] her?

* The Lego Movie not getting nominated for Best Animated Film is beyond a travesty.  It was such a snub that I didn't even notice it --- I was texting a friend with joy about "Everything Is Awesome" being nominated for Best Song, and she shot back with "Uh, the movie got snubbed, bro."  And then I was all like "Shwaaaah?  No way!"  And then she was all like, "Way!"  Then I was all, "No way!"  And she retorted with, like, "Way!"  This went on for two hours until both of our smartphone batteries died.

* Speaking of travesties, no Force Majeure for Best Foreign Film?

* Now that Emma Stone has scored a nomination, every one of the four principles in Zombieland (Stone, Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Abigail Breslin) can call themselves Oscar nominees.  Counting Bill Murray's cameo, that's five from that movie.

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