Ok, some more picks for the Oscars. Previous entry here.
Best Foreign Language Film
Will win – Leviathan
In recent weeks, I feel like there’s some momentum behind Leviathan, a movie I haven’t seen but which certainly seems like a downer. On the other hand, it castigates Putin’s Russia (Academy +1), it is by all accounts very accomplished, and this one dude liked the poster, so there’s that.
Should win – Ida
Ida is not just my pick for this category – it’s my #2 film of 2014. It’s a complicated coming of age story which takes place under the shadow of atrocity, with resonant questions of faith and desire. I mean, c’mon.
Not nominated – Wetlands
I enthusiastically reviewed Wetlands some time ago, and then referenced it again in my review of the Disney/Kotex production The Story of Menstruation some time later. And here we are again. Apparently, it’s the kind of movie that refuses to leave.
It’s also, incidentally, a fantastic character study animated by a winning performance, a punk rock rejection of politeness, and something like a bomb left under the table with a smile. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Will win – The Theory of Everything
Again, I didn’t see this film, due to my biopic-allergy (it’s a real thing!), but the kudos it’s received makes me think it’s the sort of pleasant, inspiring, safe thing voters like.
Should win – Inherent Vice
This is a no-brainer. It’s the only nominee for which I read the source material and saw the film, and it makes me wonder to what degree actual voters have done the same with any or all of the titles listed. Is it higher than 0%? Maybe, who knows! In any case, I can firmly state that PTA’s Inherent Vice is a smart, intuitive translation of the novel to the screen; whole sections are taken from the book verbatim, which gives the film its particularly Pynchonian timbre and flow, but it’s not mindlessly respectful of the material, taking care to wed the literary shenanigans to the needs of cinema. I know reaction was mixed, but this is a film that will grow and find an audience, as much for its screenplay as its Lebowski-esque tomfoolery and gorgeous visuals.
Not nominated – We Are The Best!
Coco Moodysson’s punk rock graphic novel provided the template for her husband Lukas’ jubilant coming-of-age film, set in Stockholm and focused on three (rad) teenage girls. The film is enormously winning, and a lot of that comes from the noticeably graphic novel-like plotting, framing, and scenes. The fun, sometimes painful narratives of growth through punk rock and friendship, particularly those of the two central characters, made We Are The Best! one of the sharpest, most casually brilliant, and most unabashedly feminist films in years.
Best Original Screenplay
Will win – Nightcrawler
Nightcrawler needs to win something, and this is its only spot. So there you go.
Should win – The Grand Budapest Hotel
For eminently understandable reasons, Wes Anderson gets associated with his meticulous production design, twee affectations, and consistently awesome soundtracks. The Grand Budapest Hotel is no different in that regard, but the intricacies of the screenplay are what really define it. In an almost impossible Wes Anderson-like fashion, the film is a Russian nesting doll of whimsy, melancholy, and farce.
Not nominated – Calvary
Screenwriter/playwright John Michael McDonagh’s script is taut, tense, and bitterly cynical, and Calvary is one of 2014’s most overlooked films. Brendan Gleeson, patron saint of filmic Irishness, is a doomed priest in a small town, surrounded by the most talkative sinners around. The language is flowery and stage-like, sure, but it’s also brilliant, and everything builds to an unbearable pitch before the climax, which is brutal and entirely appropriate. It’s a story about faith, grace, and sin told by someone who has thought a lot about these things, and has the mysterious ability to put them into words.
Best Animated Feature
Will win – Big Hero 6
I saw exactly one of these, so I’m a very unreliable narrator at this point.
Should win – Song of the Sea and/or The Tale of Princess Kaguya
Unlike the Academy voter bewildered and angry that such “Chinese” nonsense like these, respectively, Irish and Japanese films could edge out his beloved Lego Movie, I’d love to see either win. I haven’t seen either yet, but Song of the Sea director Tomm Moore’s previous film The Secret of Kells is a favorite of mine, and Princess Kaguya looks like a lovely Studio Ghibli project, with all the care and beauty that implies. I mostly just don’t want How To Train Your Dragon 2 to win, the only nominee I saw. It is the kind of videogame-inspired, by-the-numbers cash grab that makes people avoid animated movies.
Not nominated – The LEGO Movie
For good reasons, a lot of attention was focused on Selma’s perceived snub, nominated only twice and not for Director or Actor. Down-ticket, the exclusion of The LEGO Movie is almost more bewildering, given the field of nominees. This was an enormously successful, critically welcomed movie that bucked every expectation – instead of a mercenary tie-in to a commercial product, it presented a fully lived-in world organized around the boxy, geometric nature of those toys, and populated it with memorable, funny characters. That’s exactly what this kind of movie should do. And on top of everything, its final reveal is charming and affirms the power of imagination and play. It’s sure as shit better than How To Train Your Dragon 2, which mainly reaffirms how important it is to domesticate dragons.
Best Film Editing
Will win – Boyhood
Even given the stellar performances and affectionate time-capsule aspects of Boyhood, it lives and dies on how well it flows together – not just as a film but as a slice of life (the first time I’ve used that expression and noticed it wasn’t a cliché in context). Sandra Adair and her team knock it out of the park. There are few signposts in Boyhood alerting us to the passage of time – no title cards or, Harry Potter book release aside (maybe), easy gimmicks. It’s all done through the construction of the film. And the film’s sense of this particular childhood, with its quiet rises and falls, is magic. That can be credited to Linklaters Richard and Lorelei for sure, and Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke, and Patricia Arquette. But a huge amount of the credit should go Adair’s way. In some ways, Boyhood is about the assemblage of small details and how they fit together. That’s an editor’s job.
Should win – Boyhood
Not nominated– The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears
Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s arthouse giallo is an imperfect film, but its editing showcases what it does best. In the great slasher tradition of Bay of Blood, Fulci, Argento, and the rest, it teases reveals throughout its running time, and builds tension through the juxtaposition of images and mounting dread. Both leads are terrific but, in a picture built around film references and movie logic, it’s the images and their force that stay with you.
Best Production Design
Will win – Into The Woods
I don’t know. I didn’t see this thing, but I’m picking it primarily because Meryl Streep always wins something or other.
Should win – The Grand Budapest Hotel
In a just world, Wes Anderson’s films would win every year for production design. Even if they weren’t released that year. I’d be perfectly content if, say, Rushmore took the prize this time, despite being released some time ago. As it happens, there’s actually a Wes Anderson movie to vote for, and holy shit is it a Wes Anderson movie. It’s like the Platonic ideal of Wes Andersonism, with all that entails. And one thing it definitely entails is elaborate dollhouse staging and meticulous-verging-on-maybe-insane production design. The film is his career best, and its look and feel are a big part of it.
Not nominated – Inherent Vice
I will stop championing Inherent Vice soon (never!), but in this category it deserves mention. P.T. Anderson loves Southern California, loves the Valley and the beaches, and it always shows. Adapting Pynchon’s melancholy love letter to better days, he perfectly paints a moment in time, in this weird particular place, down to the smallest details, while also allowing that particularly Pynchonian sense of wackiness to run rampant. It should’ve been nominated for the office scene, if nothing else. It’s a beautiful and wistful and sad vision that wouldn’t work if its look was off. Its look is never off, not for a moment.