Now that it’s actually the last day of the year, it’s a good moment to predict the nominees for the Best Motion Picture Oscar, and maybe even which one will actually take home the golden boy. As the Gazette’s resident movie critic for a decade now, I feel like I’ve finally gotten a grasp on the kinds of films that get nominated, although my track record for actually predicting the winner is a spotty one indeed.
Keep in mind that I haven’t actually seen all of these but if you pay enough attention to other critics’ lists then you start to see a pattern, with names emerging as common denominators between them.
The 88th Academy Awards ceremony takes place on Sunday, Feb. 22.
Director Bennett Miller has been to the Oscars before, only to come home empty-handed for Capote and Moneyball. His look into the weird world of American billionaire John Du Pont has been much ballyhooed not only for its compelling story into an all American story that led to drugs, insanity and murder, but also because it features some stellar acting by Mark Ruffalo, Channing Tatum and Steve Carell.
At the very least it’s notable for squeezing some critically appreciated dramatic, heavily nuanced performances out of Tatum and Carell, two actors known for goofball comedies.
Michael Keaton has been long overlooked by the Academy and Alejandro González Iñárritu has too. The first seldom appears in a movie that I don’t like and if I don’t then it’s rarely because of his work. The second is a director renowned for his technical and artistic proficiency with such movies as Babel, 21 Grams, Biutiful and Amores Perros. He knows innovative story structure. He knows film history. He knows how to tell stories with pictures.
Birdman sounds like it has a wonderful meta quality as it seemingly reflects aspects of Keaton’s own life and career with fictionalized elements to make it more dramatic and cinematic: an aging superhero action film star looks to make a comeback by showing his acting chops on stage. The past haunts him though in this film (seemingly) seamlessly shot in one take. Ed Norton and Naomi Watts co-star.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The colours… the centered framing … the deadpan … they can only mean one thing. Wes Anderson has made a new movie and it’s as clever, nostalgic and endearing as ever.
Here, he focuses his muted sensibilities on a palatial hotel located in a fictional eastern European country during a tenuous period in world war history. The characters are vibrant and charming, especially Monsieur Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), the hilarious yet ultra-efficient concierge who offers the ultimate in personal services to his guests, especially the older female ones. New lobby boy Zero (Tony Revolori) only has to keep up, a challenge considering the interesting events that transpire. There’s a host of name actors in bit parts to keep the convoluted plot well populated as it goes on its merry way.
This movie title sounds like the archrival nemesis to the title of superhero Birdman, but it’s not. Jake Gyllenhaal is Lou Bloom, a creepy creeper who finagles his way into the world of crime journalism except that he seems to become more of the star of his documentary broadcasts than the people he’s reporting on. Rene Russo is the news anchor who has no choice but to follow his lead.
Nightcrawler is probably kind of a long shot for Best Picture except that Gyllenhaal’s performance still has so many people talking. Also, the story sounds dark, like a train crash that you can’t help but stare at.
Here’s my bet for the prizewinner: director Richard Linklater’s epic story of one boy’s life. That’s about it for the concept but the execution is brilliant.
Shot in brief periods annually for a period of more than a decade, the film follows Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from the age of five to when he turns 18. We see the world through his eyes as he experiences his childhood days and we understand and feel his joys and hurts as the child of divorced parents (Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette).
Linklater has always been a master of freeform storytelling, often to the point where sometimes no discernible plot was available (see Dazed and Confused for the exemplar). His trilogy of Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight helped him to hone his now excellent skills. There hasn’t been a big Hollywood movie told in this manner and that’s something that deserves merit. It’s also high time that an experimental yet highly proficient storyteller like Linklater got a golden boy.