Film Awards Season.

Sunday night’s BAFTA film awards ceremony was entertaining, predictable and, at times, a reminder of the emotional capacity that films have. To hear Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette speak of watching Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater literally grow up in front of their eyes as they worked together through the 12 years of making Boyhood, or J.K. Simmons comment on how much he feels like the late blooming newcomer; these moments remind you of why such ceremonies are important to people in the industry. It’s about sentiment, at the end of the day; a special event when you (through the eyes of a celebrity host) can look at the major stars and say “thank you for entertaining us”.

Of course the key terms there are ‘major’ and ‘sentiment’. My two favourite films of last year, The Babadook (Jennifer Kent) and Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy), were neither of those, though that the latter was at least an American movie starring Jake Gyllenhaal in the title role did help it gain some BAFTA/ Oscar recognition – even if it was just to make up the numbers in certain categories. Nonetheless such an edgy piece of work is inevitably overlooked in favour of the more emotionally hard-hitting ‘Best Picture’ nominees: Boyhood, Birdman, American Sniper, Selma and The Theory of Everything all share that feel-good, pat-yourself-on-the-back-for-a-job-well-done theme. Which is not to say they’re bad movies (Boyhood and Birdman would both be in my top 5 for 2014); frankly it just means the ones that receive the big awards are not always technically the ‘best’ in that year when all’s taken into account.

Or perhaps I’m wrong in saying that. It’s all about objective opinion after all, and while numerous great films from 2014 (including not only the aforementioned two but also Pride, Frank, Belle, among others) have been ‘snubbed’ as one would say, maybe the top nominees simply represent the films that appealed to the most people. The Babadook, for example, despite being hands-down my favourite film of 2014, is obviously going to have a more niche audience (as an Australian horror movie, about an unknown monster, by a first time female director and no major stars in tow) than, say, The Theory of Everything and Selma, both biographical films about two of the best known public figures of the past century, with appropriately large budgets to back them up.

It is primarily for this reason that many of us take these big awards ceremonies with a dash of salt. In the end I feel (and this is just my opinion) that this creates predictability for the benefit of everyone who wants to enjoy a good evening out, which in turn creates what really is just a ‘ceremony’ whereby all the major players meet to pat each other on the back, and those not part of that elite group are excluded because they couldn’t get enough people to vote for them.

It may not have the all-round feel good vibes of a mainstream biographical story, but The Babadook was a masterpiece in its own right.
It may not have the all-round feel good vibes of a mainstream biographical story, but The Babadook was a masterpiece in its own right.

But let’s not be bitter, Graeme. The Babadook did, after all, get some just recognition at its own respective national awards (the ‘Aactas’ in Australia; ceremony took place on January 29th), tying with Russell Crowe’s The Water Diviner for Best Film, while Jennifer Kent deservedly took home Best Original Screenplay and Best Director at that event. So this goes some way to appeasing me, and means I can feel slightly better, on this occasion, about actually focusing on those quality films that have been nominated for the upcoming Academy Awards (Oscars) ceremony due to take place in just under two weeks time. Who would I like to win? Who will win? Let’s go through the main categories and see.

Production Design – Nominees: The Grand Budapest Hotel, Imitation Game, Interstellar, Into the Woods, Mr Turner. Quite an open category at first glance; Grand Budapest Hotel is the favourite here, with Interstellar in 2nd place, though Mr Turner was a beautiful film in its own right.

Who’d I like? Mr Turner. Who’ll win? Grand Budapest Hotel.

Costume Design – Nominees: The Grand Budapest Hotel, Inherent Vice, Into the Woods, Maleficent, Mr Turner. Grand Budapest Hotel is standout favourite again, though Into the Woods and Maleficent are 2nd and 3rd placed dark horses. Nice to see Maleficent nominated, if only to see something different getting in on the Oscar action.

Who’d I like? Inherent Vice. Who’ll win? Grand Budapest Hotel.

Make up and Hairstyling – Nominees: Foxcatcher, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Guardians of the Galaxy. A curious category with only 3 films making up the nominations, I’m actually surprised not to see Birdman nominated here due to its apparent roots in the theatre. Foxcatcher and Grand Budapest Hotel are better films overall, but surely Guardians will take this one home.

Who’d I like? Guardians of the Galaxy. Who’ll win? Guardians of the Galaxy!

Sound editing – Nominees: American Sniper, Birdman, Battle of the Five Armies, Interstellar, Unbroken. My personal vote goes to Birdman here, though it’s not a favourite in this category alongside Interstellar and, curiously, The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies. If I had to say which, I’d go Interstellar to win.

Who’d I like? Birdman. Who’ll win? Interstellar.

Sound mixing – Nominees: American Sniper, Birdman, Interstellar, Unbroken, Whiplash. This absolutely, surely has to be Whiplash to win. And yet, Interstellar probably remains the slight favourite to take this home. But I refuse to believe Whiplash will be overlooked here.

Who’d I like? Whiplash. Who’ll win? Whiplash!

Visual effects – Nominees: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Guardians of the Galaxy, Interstellar, X-Men: Days of Future Past. Ah, the typical “Hollywood blockbuster” category. May seem quite open at first glance, though in reality it’s between two: Interstellar and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The former just won the BAFTA and will probably succeed here too. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes deserves it more, for the sheer scale of its detailed motion capture.

Who’d I like? Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Who’ll win? Interstellar.

Best editing – Nominees: American Sniper, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Imitation Game, Whiplash. Boyhood is the favourite for its seamless transition through 12 years in the lives of its main actors. I wouldn’t be entirely shocked to see The Grand Budapest Hotel or Whiplash take this one home though. I’m personally going for Whiplash; if you’re a betting person, place them there as an outside chance.

Who’d I like? Whiplash. Who’ll win? Boyhood/ Whiplash.

Cinematography – Nominees: Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Ida, Mr Turner, Unbroken. Another interesting category that will probably be won by Grand Budapest Hotel, though again I think Mr Turner deserves significant recognition here.

Who’d I like? Mr Turner. Who’ll win? Grand Budapest Hotel.

It had its flaws, but Mr Turner also had some beautiful imagery.
It had its flaws, but Mr Turner also had some beautiful imagery.

Best score – Nominees: The Grand Budapest Hotel, Imitation Game, Interstellar, Mr Turner, The Theory of Everything. Hans Zimmer (Interstellar) has his name written all over this one I think, though I’d like to highlight something: Nightcrawler, for me, had 2014’s best all-round soundtrack and James Newton Howard surely deserved at least a nomination here for his work on that. But I digress.

Who’d I like? Grand Budapest Hotel. Who’ll win? Interstellar.

Animated film – Nominees: Big Hero 6, Boxtrolls, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Song of the Sea, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. Unlike most people, I’m afraid I didn’t much care for the Lego Movie when it came out and don’t so much care that it has been ‘snubbed’ here either. As a result though, it has left this category refreshingly open. Probably between Big Hero 6 and How to Train Your Dragon 2 as the two favourites; while the popular vote may go for the latter, I think Big Hero 6 should (and ultimately will) take it home.

Who’d I like? Big Hero 6. Who’ll win? Big Hero 6.

Best foreign film – Nominees: Ida, Leviathan, Tangerines, Timbuktu, Wild Tales. I’m afraid I’ve only actually seen one of these films, though it was so good that I’d expect it to win here. Basically a two horse race between Russian drama Leviathan and Polish drama Ida. Interesting that 2014 Palme d’Or winner Winter Sleep hasn’t been nominated.

Who’d I like? Leviathan. Who’ll win? Ida/ Leviathan.

Adapted Screenplay – Nominees: American Sniper, Imitation Game, Inherent Vice, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash. Surely has to be Whiplash to win for me. American Sniper and The Theory of Everything are also frontrunners; the latter had BAFTA success in the same category and the former may just appeal enough to that American sense of patriotism to bring home the award.

Who’d I like? Whiplash. Who’ll win? Whiplash/ American Sniper/ Theory of Everything.

Expect Clint Eastwood's very American biographical war drama to pick up an award somewhere.
Expect Clint Eastwood’s very American biographical war drama to pick up an award somewhere.

Original Screenplay – Nominees: Birdman, Boyhood, Foxcatcher, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Nightcrawler. My personal vote goes straight to Nightcrawler here (which Dan Gilroy wrote and directed, in what was his directorial debut), but it’s a clear underdog in such strong company and has little chance, especially next to the big two of Birdman and Boyhood.

Who’d I like? Nightcrawler. Who’ll win? Birdman.

Supporting Actress – Nominees: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood), Laura Dern (Wild), Keira Knightley (Imitation Game), Emma Stone (Birdman), Meryl Streep (Into the Woods). Another category in which there is a glaring absence: where’s Amy Adams for Big Eyes? I would have considered her a dark horse (having just won a Golden Globe for her performance too). No doubt that Patricia Arquette will win though, and I think there’s few who deserve their award more.

Who’d I like? Patricia Arquette. Who’ll win? Patricia Arquette.

Supporting Actor – Nominees: Robert Duvall (The Judge), Ethan Hawke (Boyhood), Edward Norton (Birdman), Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher), J.K. Simmons (Whiplash). Of course if there were any who deserved their respective award more, one could hardly go wrong with an argument for J.K. Simmons here. On paper this should be a tight category, with Edward Norton, Mark Ruffalo and Ethan Hawke more than deserving of a close contest. It won’t be.

Who’d I like? J.K. Simmons. Who’ll win? J.K. Simmons.

Simmons' performance in Whiplash was about a lot more than shouting in people's faces, though he does so on more than one occasion...
Simmons’ performance in Whiplash was about a lot more than shouting in people’s faces, though he does so on more than one occasion…

Best Actress – Nominees: Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night), Felicity Jones (Theory of Everything), Julianne Moore (Still Alice), Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl), Reese Witherspoon (Wild). Another clear favourite here in Julianne Moore, but my vote would go in Rosamund Pike’s direction for her gloriously sadistic portrayal in Gone Girl. Unfortunate that Felicity Jones will be overlooked for what was also an excellent performance alongside Eddie Redmayne in Theory of Everything.

Who’d I like? Rosamund Pike. Who’ll win? Julianne Moore.

Best Actor – Nominees: Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), Bradley Cooper (American Sniper), Benedict Cumberbatch (Imitation Game), Michael Keaton (Birdman), Eddie Redmayne (Theory of Everything). Unlike the other acting categories there isn’t quite a standout favourite in this one, though Michael Keaton has to be whom the smart money’s on. I say that despite him being alongside Redmayne, who easily walked away with the Golden Globe and BAFTA in the same category at those awards. But I have a feeling he’ll fall just short of making it a treble. Steve Carell is a nice addition, albeit just to make up the numbers.

Who’d I like? Eddie Redmayne. Who’ll win? Michael Keaton.

Best Director – Nominees: Wes Anderson (Grand Budapest Hotel), Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Birdman), Richard Linklater (Boyhood), Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher), Morten Tyldum (Imitation Game). I was probably more pleased than most people to see Bennett Miller get a nomination here, especially as Foxcatcher was overlooked in the ‘Best Picture’ category (due no doubt to it having a less sentimental story than, say, The Theory of Everything). Having said that, Damien Chazelle’s exclusion despite his work on Whiplash counterbalances such enthusiasm. An intriguing three horse race (with Wes Anderson a dark horse behind Inarritu and Linklater), I’m almost sure this will ultimately go to the man who deserves it most: Richard Linklater. However, we all know that’s only because the actual best director of 2014 (Jennifer Kent for The Babadook) didn’t get anywhere near a nomination. What’s that? I said I wouldn’t be bitter? Oh, sorry.

Who’d I like? Richard Linklater. Who’ll win? Richard Linklater!

Best Picture – Nominees: American Sniper, Birdman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash. The main event holds quite an interesting two horse race that got even closer with the results of the BAFTA/ DGA awards on Sunday. Here’s why: while Boyhood picked up ‘Best Film’ as expected in the UK, Birdman director Alejandro G. Inarritu was being awarded the prize for ‘outstanding directorial achievement in a feature film’ at the Director’s Guild Awards. Only seven times since 1948 has the film recipient of that award not gone on to win Best Picture at the Oscars, though 2015 is surely a year in which it could happen. While I thoroughly enjoyed Birdman, there’s little doubt for me that Boyhood is the greater achievement and all-round better film – just. Irrespective of that, this category also contains Whiplash, and it deserves a say in this conversation – it may just be the best (and certainly the most powerful) of the three.

Who’d I like? Boyhood/ Whiplash. Who’ll win? Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).

Check back in two weeks for my reaction to the 2015 Academy Awards, due to take place on the 22nd February.



    1. Thank you for your thoughts. I know Birdman hasn’t quite been universally popular with everyone… While I wouldn’t claim it is a masterpiece (more of a case could indeed be made for both Boyhood and Whiplash being that), I think it was still one of the most entertaining films of 2014. What were your issues with it?

      1. My issue was simple; it was over-hyped. I thought Michael Keaton was better in Beetlejuice and Batman than he was in Birdman. It was so overly dramatic and I found the best performance to be from Emma Stone. I absolutely love Edward Norton but didn’t think he was all that great in this role. I went in expecting a fantastic film and ended up with a muddled piece that tried way to hard to be interesting and just ended up being boring.

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