Oscar nominations come out this Thursday.
On Sunday night, 20 million American’s tuned into what the Hollywood Foreign Press Association wants you to think is Hollywood’s biggest party. The Golden Globes, hosted by the always-delightful Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, poked fun at an egotistical and male-skewed industry, civil rights and Wes Anderson (“Wes arrived on a bicycle made of antique tuba parts”). Audiences watched celebrities booze and mingle and I pretended like I had opinions about women’s fashion. (Jessica Chastain, yes; Keira Knightley, no.) And, most importantly, 25 awards were distributed to (mostly) deserving TV and movie stars.
A word to the wise: The Golden Globes have absolutely no impact on Oscar nominations (Oscar nominations were due three days before Sunday’s ceremony) and very little on the Oscars themselves. There is one common member in both the HFPA and the Academy. A review in USA Today sums up most of my thoughts about the Golden Globes:“Somehow, thanks to NBC and a celebrity-hungry culture, their Globes have become a TV event second only to the Oscars — almost in inverse proportion to the worth of the awards themselves. … The winners all seemed very happy with their victories, some almost ecstatically so. But that’s merely a natural byproduct of a Hollywood-fueled desire for promotion and affirmation, and the universal urge to win a prize if a prize is offered, valuable or not. Joy may abound Monday morning, but look at any star’s bio, and you’ll see how quickly that Globe tumbles down the credits list when an actual award — an Emmy, Tony, Grammy or Oscar — is available to replace it. That leaves you with a pokey, mostly performance-free broadcast devoted to showing clips, reading off names, revealing cleavage, and airing acceptance speeches. In the end, what can one say about an event that was less a TV show than a glorified home movie?”
To be fair, the awards are not completely meaningless. To some extent, they shape the exposure that films are getting, making smaller winners (like Julianne Moore’s Still Alice) more likely to be seen by Oscar voters (though, I’d argue, they’d watch it anyway). Increased exposure also means a greater chance for high profits for Oscar contenders, and small films that make a mint at the box office are well regarded by the Academy.
More importantly, I think, is momentum. The Golden Globes is the first of a slew of January and early February awards shows (followed soon by the Critics Choice, SAG, DGAs, PGAs and BAFTAs), and its choices will get the ball rolling. There is still enough time for it to change direction, but many of Sunday’s winners will see an Oscar on their mantelpiece by the end of the season. (As a caveat, the snarky USA Today reviewer remarks that, “Movie writers are trapped by the old bromide that the Globes affect the Oscars, even though it’s more likely Globe voters are influenced by what they think Oscar voters will do than that Oscar voters are influenced by what Globe voters did.”) The Golden Globes are reasonably consistent predictors of Oscar wins (Nate Silver gives it a 48% success rate). Over the past 25 years, 16 Best Picture winners (12 for Drama, 4 for Musical or Comedy), 17 Best Actor winners (14 for Drama, 3 for Musical or Comedy), 21 Best Actress winners (15 for Drama, 6 for Musical or Comedy), 17 Best Supporting Actor winners, 14 Best Supporting Actress winners and 15 Best Direct winners won the corresponding Golden Globe.
The most important film awards on Sunday were as follows:
Best Drama: Boyhood
Best Musical or Comedy: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Director: Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Best Actress (Drama): Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Best Actor (Drama): Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
Best Actress (Musical or Comedy): Amy Adams, Big Eyes
Best Actor (Musical or Comedy): Michael Keaton, Birdman
Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Best Supporting Actor: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
The main takeaways were the support that Boyhood, Moore, Arquette and Simmons have at this point and the likelihood that this momentum may continue until the Oscars. Interestingly, The Grand Budapest Hotel won Best Musical or Comedy over the expected winner Birdman. Then again, the HFPA likes movies that take place in Europe, so don’t read too much into it.
Less flashily but perhaps more importantly, a number of guild nominations and nominations for the British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards (BAFTAs) were announced over the last week.
BAFTAs: BAFTA nominations were released on Jan. 8, and, according to Sasha Stone, proved that “the films that were already popular in this year’s race are still popular.” The Grand Budapest Hotel nabbed 11 nominations,Birdman and The Theory of Everything each took 10 and The Imitation Game had nine noms. Those four films (andBoyhood) were nominated for Best Picture. The nominations announcement was good news for Whiplash (which earned nominations for director, screenplay, supporting actor, editing and sound) and Nightcrawler (which earned nominations for screenplay, actor, supporting actress and editing) and bad news for Selma (no nominations),Unbroken (no nominations) and Foxcatcher (only nominations for Steve Carrell and Mark Ruffalo as supporting actors). Surprise nominee Rene Russo for Nightcrawler said, “I’d rather have BAFTA [recognition] over an Academy Award any day. Because it’s just cool. Right?!” (Wrong.) Regardless, Russo is an Oscars longshot, so she may not get the chance to compare.
WGA: The Writers Guild of America nominated Boyhood, Foxcatcher, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Nightcrawler andWhiplash for Original Screenplay and American Sniper, Gone Girl, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Imitation Gameand Wild for Adapted Screenplay. Save for the inclusion of Guardians, nothing was too surprising. Most Oscar favorites not on the list (like Selma, Birdman, The Theory of Everything and Mr. Turner) were not eligible for the award. Interestingly, the Academy is considering Whiplash as an Adapted Screenplay “since [director Damien] Chazelle first turned a portion of his screenplay into a short film that played the Sundance Film Festival a year before his full version of Whiplash debuted.” (That seems a bit ridiculous to me.)
USC Scripter: The other major adapted screenwriting award nominations went to Gone Girl, The Imitation Game,Inherent Vice, The Theory of Everything and Wild. The only one eligible for a WGA nom that missed it was Inherent Vice. According to the Hollywood Reporter, “Over the 26 years in which the Scripter has been awarded, 10 films that won the Scripter went on to win the best adapted screenplay Oscar, including each of the last four.”
ASC: The American Society of Cinematographers nominated Unbroken, The Imitation Game, Birdman, Mr. Turnerand The Grand Budapest Hotel. Of the five, Mr. Turner seems the most out-of-place at first glance, but I think a big scene was filmed on a boat in a storm so maybe that was impressive.
Costume Designers: Was it a movie this year? Then it was probably nominated for excellence in costume design. Three categories (contemporary, period and fantasy) assure 15 films something mildly interesting to list on their Wikipedia pages.
People’s Choice: Do not pay attention to these awards. Maleficent won Best Picture, Robert Downey Jr. won Favorite Movie Actor and Jennifer Lawrence won Favorite Movie Actress. Drawing any Oscar-related conclusions from this would be as misguided as choosing Adam Sandler for Favorite Comedic Movie Actor.
Locks: Boyhood, Birdman, The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Likelies: Selma, Whiplash, Nightcrawler, American Sniper
Don’t be surprised if: Gone Girl, Foxcatcher, Unbroken, A Most Violent Year
Locks: Richard Linklater for Boyhood, Alejandro G. Inarritu for Birdman
Likelies: Ava DuVernay for Selma, Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel, Morten Tyldum for The Imitation Game
Don’t be surprised if: Damien Chazelle for Whiplash, Clint Eastwood for American Sniper, David Fincher for Gone Girl, James Marsh for The Theory of Everything
Locks: Michael Keaton in Birdman, Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything, Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game
Likelies (2/3): Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler, Steve Carrell in Foxcatcher, David Oyelowo in Selma
Don’t be surprised if: Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel
Locks: Julianne Moore in Still Alice, Reese Witherspoon in Wild, Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl, Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything
Likelies: Jennifer Aniston in Cake
Don’t be surprised if: Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night, Amy Adams in Big Eyes
Best Supporting Actor
Locks: J.K. Simmons in Whiplash, Edward Norton in Birdman, Ethan Hawke in Boyhood, Mark Ruffalo in Foxcatcher
Likelies: Robert Duvall in The Judge
Be surprised if anyone else pops up
Best Supporting Actress
Locks: Patricia Arquette in Boyhood, Emma Stone in Birdman, Kiera Knightley in The Imitation Game
Likelies: Meryl Streep in Into the Woods, Jessica Chastain in A Most Violent Year
Don’t be surprised if: Rene Russo in Nightcrawler, Laura Dern in Wild, Tilda Swinton in Snowpiercer
There are always surprises. That’s what makes it exciting.
Spotlight on Tom Hardy
Tom Hardy, or Bane from The Dark Knight Rises (“Your punishment must be more severe!”), has gained some Oscar buzz for his performance in Locke. Most notably, the British actor also known for his role in Bronson andWarrior took home the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor. From what I understand, Hardy is the only on-screen character in Locke and spends the film talking on his phone while driving his car. (This sounds like an average day in the life of my mother.) Despite his sinking Oscar chances, Hardy has gained a fan — apparently Brad Pitt hosted a screening of the film over the holidays and called Hardy’s performance “master class.”
Spotlight on Fury
Fury has a 78% on Rotten Tomatoes and grossed over $200 million worldwide (compared to its budget of just under $70 million). It stars Hollywood star Brad Pitt and is about WWII. Yet after its October release, it was quickly dropped off the list of Oscar prospects. While any major support for the film is unlikely at this point, I think it’s a 2014 film worth remembering. I especially was impressed by Logan Lerman, who took on the role of a new recruit into Pitt’s tank, handling the part with enough “Shit-I’m-in-World-War-II” to let the audience imagine itself in his shoes.
Spotlight on Boyhood producers
Late last night, the Academy announced that it would not credit John Sloss and Jonathan Sehring as producers ofBoyhood. (The PGA made a similar choice just over a week ago.) Richard Linklater and Cathleen Sutherland are the only two eligible to accept the award onstage in February should the film win Best Picture. The New York Timescovered the controversy, questioning if consistent creative and producing work over the course of 12 years of filming (and the indispensability of their support) should award Sloss and Sehring more credit from the Academy. Linklater was cautious in his statement, saying the two “were integral to the making of ‘Boyhood’ over the last 12 years and I was happy to share producer credit with them.”
- The Weinstein Co.: The Hollywood Reporter wrote an interesting article on the strategy behind the Oscar push for Best Director for The Imitation Game. It sounds fairly straightforward — create buzz for the film, promote the filmmaker as someone deserving respect, emphasize the filmmaker’s past experience (even when minimal) and develop clear talking points for all on-camera interaction — but no one can execute on it as successfully as Harvey Weinstein can.
- Desplat: French composer Alexandre Desplat has “five horses in the Oscar race” this year, writing the scores for The Grand Budapest Hotel, Unbroken, Godzilla, The Monuments Men and The Imitation Game. His Academy Awards prowess is almost unreal. He has six nominations (but no wins) and has written the score for at least one Best Picture nominee since 2010 (The King’s Speech in 2010, The Tree of Lifeand Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close in 2011, Argo and Zero Dark Thirty in 2012 and Philomena in 2013).
- Jennifer Aniston: The Hollywood Reporter predicts that Aniston may win the SAG Best Actress award over favorite Julianne Moore because “the demographics of SAG-AFTRA — many members work primarily in TV and stunts, hail from Los Angeles and make more populist choices than Oscar voters — could play to the advantage of the former ‘Friends’ star.”
AARP: AARP The Magazine selected The Theory of Everything as the Best Picture of the year. If you thought they were going to choose something young and hip like Whiplash, then you don’t know “aarp.”
- Gay Talese: Latest to weigh in on the Selma historical veracity controversy is Gay Talese, the legendary profile writer, pioneer of new journalism and speaker at the 2013 Yale Daily News banquet. He wrote in theNew York Times that “I have seen Ava DuVernay’s new film, “Selma,” and I was also part of this newspaper’s team that covered the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. In my opinion, there is nothing in Ms. DuVernay’s film that significantly distorts this historic event or the leadership role played by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” Later, he added, “I was on the Pettus Bridge and I watched the mayhem, the madness of Sheriff Clark. She got it. I was there. I saw it. She wasn’t there, but she got it. When I was seeing the film, I was seeing what I remembered, truly remembered.”
- Publicity: Angelina Jolie screened Unbroken for the Pope. You cannot beat that.
To end (because this clearly needed to be longer), here’s an excerpt from one of my favorite things I read this week: “The most important bad movie of the year” by Darren Franich in Entertainment Weekly:
The Interview is terrible, and you should see it right now…
The movies of 2014 ran like mad from the world. We expect this from escapist blockbusters, but now even our finest filmmakers are staging a collective retreat.
Remember the indie revolution? A fleet of young directors – Darren Aronofsky, Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, and Paul Thomas Anderson – captured our time and place. Now Aronofsky’s gone biblical. Nolan’s lost in space. Anderson has stoner California before personal computers, and Tarantino’s borne back ceaselessly into the West.
We are living in the golden age of mass-market allegories. The latest Hunger Games and Captain America were “political” movies, to the extent that it’s become “political” to argue that fascism really isn’t cool, bro. And some of the best movies of the year tackled reality through fantasy’s prism…
You get the sense that nobody attached to The Interview actually has anything to say about North Korea. But at least they’re saying it loudly. At least they gave 2014 a movie about 2014.