The 87th Academy Awards will take place on Feb. 22, 18 days from today. 

ACE Eddie and the coming week

This week, there was a bit of a lull in the awards race. After last week’s Birdman surprise, not much happened to alter the Oscar standings.

The most important award of the week was the ACE Eddie, which is awarded to one dramatic and one comedy/musical film for excellence in editing. As previously described in a Kroll Reel, this seems like a nothing award until you realize that (according to the Hollywood Reporter), “for seven of the past 12 Eddie Awards shows, the film that won either the dramatic or comedy/musical ACE categories went on to win the Academy Award for best picture. No film has won best picture at the Oscars without also having received at least a best editing nomination from ACE since Ordinary People in 1981.”On Friday, Boyhood and The Grand Budapest Hotel emerged victorious. Though many questioned why Birdman didn’t win, let’s remember that Birdman didn’t even score a Best Editing nomination at the Oscars. If the American Cinema Editors were to grant their highest award to a film not nominated for that Oscar, it would be for the first time in their history. Drawing larger conclusions from this is probably not wise, though it’s always nice to see a Boyhood win.

In lesser news, the USC Scripter Award for Best Adapted Screenplay went to The Imitation Game (much to the disappointment of Gone Girl fans) and Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Guardians of the Galaxy won the Art Directors Guild award in their respective categories. 
In the next week, there are two big-deal awards.First, the DGAs will take place on Saturday. This is Richard Linklater and Boyhood’s chance to regain momentum and take back the lead. I will have some statistics for you next week, but the DGA is a very important predictor of Best Picture and Best Director at the Oscars.Second, the BAFTAs will be held on Sunday. The awards show leans British but gives a good sense of what the Academy Awards will look like two weeks from then. The BAFTAs may also shake up the acting race; apparently, “only 3 times in the past 25 years have the same four acting champions from BAFTA duplicated their success at the Oscars. (Those years were 2011, 2007, and 2006.)” Sasha Stone thinks that this means that favorite Julianne Moore may be set aside for rising Brit Rosamund Pike, but I think that’s just because she loves Gone Girl.

Spotlight on J.K. Simmons

J.K. Simmons (or as Amy-Poehler-as-Matthew-McConaughey says, “Just Keep Simmons”) is on a roll this year. The character actor, whose awards and nominations mostly consisted of Best Ensemble noms for Up in the Air, The Closer and Juno, has won pretty much every award he has encountered for his role as jazz conductor Terrence Fletcher in Whiplash. Odds are very high that he will repeat as Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards. (Odds are about 1/20 according to has handled his launch to Red Carpet Regular with grace. During the SAG awards in mid-January, he was incredibly thankful of the dozens of other actors who worked on the film. “I feel like all of actors are supporting actors,” Simmons said while accepting the award. “Each of us is essential, completely crucial to the story.” During the 2015 Academy Awards luncheon, he said that the Sundance premiere of Whiplash was “the most gratifying first viewing of a film that I’d ever seen” and that “the response in Cannes was crazy…[It was] both the sort of visceral standing ovation and the genuineness of the French cinephiles appreciating the movie.” Most importantly, he knows how to make fun of himself. He hosted SNL this week and, in the promos, recreated the dragging/rushing scene with Kenan Thompson. He certainly has my vote.

Spotlight on How to Train Your Dragon 2

While prognosticators were shocked when presumed favorite The Lego Movie did not make the cut for an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature, it seems a new film has taken over frontrunner status. And though The Lego Movie has continued to nab a number of awards, including the PGA and Critics Choice awards, How to Train Your Dragon 2 emerged dominant at the 42nd annual Annie Awards, which honor film and TV animation. On Saturday, the film won six Annies, including Best Animated Film and Directing in a Feature Production. Big Hero 6 and the weird remaining animated films have a large hurdle to jump to win the Oscar.

Spotlight on the Shorts
The New York Times devoted a good deal of space over the past week to pore over the nominated short films. The categories of Animated Short, Live Action Short and Documentary Short are often considered an “afterthought” (they are tiebreakers in the Kroll Poll), as “office-pool hustlers will hope for a lucky break or an inside line (Is there a Pixar cartoon? Something with cute kids? A Holocaust theme?), while more casual observers will brace themselves for disproportionately long, achingly sincere speeches from filmmakers nobody has ever heard of.” Here is a good link to read about the nominees and here is a video montage of the animated shorts (“If you want to see where the state of the art is right now, you can look at these five movies and really get a very strong sense of that.”)…I have not seen any of them.

Other News

  • Selma Controversy Continued: Snubbed lead actor David Oyelowo criticizes the Academy for giving African American Oscars “more for when we are subservient, when we are not being leaders or kings or being at the center of our own narrative.” Whether or not the claim is accurate (and I have some qualms), I do not feel that this was a classy move.
  • #Humblebrag: Eddie Redmayne flew out from LAX after the Golden Globes. “I was taking my Golden Globe through the X-ray machine and I went through and I saw the bag going through and I saw the woman stop the thing and go close up and say, ‘I think it’s an award or something.’ I was praying they would make me open it up and they did!
  • Let It Go: Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, who wrote the music and lyrics to Frozen last year, have been tapped by Oscar host Neil Patrick Harris to write a song for the ceremony. They are geeking out about it.
  • 72: Apparently, during the production of Boyhood, star Ellar Coltrane received 72 haircuts. This and other mildly interesting facts can be found in this infographic.
  • Meryl Streep: All actors and actresses nominated for an Oscar this year are within three cinematic degrees of separation from Meryl Streep. Furthest away, perhaps, is British actress Rosamund Pike, who was nominated this year for Gone Girl. According to the caption, “Streep was in The River Wild with Kevin Bacon, who was in A Few Good Men with Tom Cruise, who starred in Jack Reacher with Rosamund Pike.”
  • Intelligence: A Grantland article discusses how difficult it is to portray genius on screen and how actors often resort to amping up the crazy. In The Imitation Game, the article argues, “every blinkblinkblink-pause-head-tilt, every normal-social-interaction-whooshing-past, every eureka-lightbulb beat — they were all in there, practically alphabetized. The movie is surprisingly funny for a tale about tragic mathematicians in wartime, and I think this is partly because the tropes are so shopworn that all the friction has been polished out of them. It’s The Big Bang Theory, only perched on the ledge of the apocalypse.” Though on the other hand, it acknowledges that playing it too straight could wind up looking like this:
    THE PRESIDENT [Clenching fist.]
    Doctor, the omega virus is killing a million people an hour. If you can’t find a cure, the United States government will fall within the week.

    [Stares straight ahead.] 

    OK, solved it. 

  • Fire Safety: One of my favorite Boyhood stories was mentioned at the 2015 Academy Awards luncheon. At one point, money for the film was looking increasingly unlikely. In a meeting with the cast, director Richard Linklater said, “Luckily my house burned down, I have an insurance check, we’re good.”

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