Oscar nominees announced amid criticism
The Academy announced this year’s nominees on Jan. 15, instantly provoking a slew of criticism. Some of it was the usual complaints about snubs — I, personally, think that The Lego Movie deserved a nomination for Best Animated Feature Film — but most focused on the fact that the nominees are dramatically whitewashed.
All of the nominees for Best Actor are white, including Bradley Cooper (American Sniper), Steve Carrell (Foxcatcher), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game), Michael Keaton (Birdman), and Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything). All of the nominated directors, with the exception of Birdman’s Alejandro G. Iñárritu, who is a native Mexican, are white males, leaving out Angelina Jolie (Unbroken) and Ava DuVernay (Selma), who would’ve made history as the first African-American woman nominated for Directing. A year after 12 Years a Slave won Best Picture and right after Selma, a movie about Martin Luther King, Jr., was released, it’s disheartening to see such a lack of diversity.
While I can’t write about every movie, here, in order, are my top three picks for Best Picture:
Boyhood was notable right off the bat for its unique filming technique: director Richard Linklater, instead of using different actors for the same character at different ages, filmed Boyhood over the course of 12 years, following the life of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from age 5 to 18. Boyhood was rightfully nominated for Directing, as well as Film Editing (Sandra Adair), Original Screenplay (Richard Linklater), Best Supporting Actor (Ethan Hawke), and Best Supporting Actress (Patricia Arquette). Although the film’s star, Coltrane, wasn’t nominated for Best Actor, Arquette’s and Hawke’s nominations were well-deserved. Arquette played Mason’s mother, tough and loving through a string of broken, alcohol-soaked marriages. Boyhood’s long-term filming is more than a gimmick — the movie is real in a way that movies rarely are.
The Imitation Game
The Imitation Game is about Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), a closeted genius who cracks the Germans’ enigma code during World War II and helps turn the tide in favor of the Allies. The film secured an impressive list of nominations, including those for Directing (Morten Tyldum), Best Actor (Benedict Cumberbatch), Best Supporting Actress (Keira Knightley), Film Editing (William Goldenberg), Original Score (Alexandre Desplat), Adapted Screenplay (Graham Moore) and Production Design (Maria Djurkovic and Tatiana Macdonald). Although doubtlessly some of the history is smudged — would we expect any less of Hollywood? — The Imitation Game tells an important and emotional story, carrying the weight of Turing’s chemical castration and subsequent suicide when his homosexuality was discovered after the war. Benedict Cumberbatch was a good choice for Turing; he’s used to playing the aloof genius after his role in BBC’s Sherlock. In The Imitation Game Cumberbatch is more human than ever, although the film’s Oscar-bait central quote (“Sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine”) felt a little heavy-handed.
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Innocence)
Birdman is just about as meta as it gets. In the movie, Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton) plays a washed up actor famous for his role as Birdman (Keaton himself played Batman in 1989). Thompson tries to make himself relevant by writing, directing, and starring in a Broadway play based on Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk about Love, fighting against an egocentric lead actor (Edward Norton), his daughter (Emma Stone), and his own mind. Birdman is one long camera shot, earning it a nomination for Cinematography (Emmanuel Lubezki), which it will surely win. Birdman was also nominated for Best Actor (Michael Keaton), Best Supporting Actor (Edward Norton), Best Supporting Actress (Emma Stone), Best Director (Alejandro G. Iñárritu), Best Sound Editing (Martin Hernández and Aaron Glascock), Best Sound Mixing (Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and Thomas Varga), and Best Original Screenplay (Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo). Birdman offers a sobering commentary on show business and Hollywood alike, highlighted by Keaton and Stone’s standout performances.