Monday, January 26, 2015

2015 Academy Awards Looks Like A Two-Category Race

This is one of the poster designs that were unveiled in the Academy Awards Tumblr site, with the statue covered by categories and show biz jargon.
Anyway, the first stage of the award season is done, and it looks like the Academy Awards on February 22nd will be a two-category race...Best Picture and Best Actor.

There's nothing more boring than an Oscars show where all the big nominations, the ones even casual fans care about, are already decided. That's the case for the supporting categories and Best Actress. We'll get to that later, but first...the undecided categories:

Thanks to wins from the Screen Actors Guild and Producers Guild, Birdman is being considered as a firm choice for Best Picture when the Oscars are given out on February 22nd. It's a pretty way-out look at an actor trying to shed the super hero that made him famous, and actually become a real actor. It's a great comeback for Michael Keaton, and a great story told and directed by Alejandro Gonzalez IƱarritu. Boyhood still has momentum from the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards, and may gain a bit when the Directors Guild and Writers Guild give out their awards in February. Those awards, and the BAFTAs on February 8th, will decide who will have the edge in the final days before the big event.

That'll also be the case for Best Actor, which is now down to Keaton and Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything. Both got Golden Globes, while Redmayne won at the SAG awards. It's likely Redmayne may get the edge at the BAFTAs, but might lose votes to Ralph Fiennes and Benedict Cumberbatch, giving Keaton the win.  If the BAFTAs choose Cumberbatch (and it would make sense if you've seen The Imitation Game already) or Fiennes, it's anyone's race.

Now for the races already settled:

When Whiplash was released, and people got a chance to see J.K. Simmons as the cruel music teacher, Fletcher, talk of him getting an Academy Award started. It's also surprising, since it's more likely you'll see him sell Farmers Insurance than creating a shocking movie performance. Then again, he was also Spider-Man's least favorite newspaper publisher and Juno's dad. The movie just arrived in one theater in Reno, as if it was hiding from more popular movies like American Sniper and The Wedding Ringer and Oscar contenders like Selma, Wild and The Imitation Game. Whiplash should have a more extensive release than just one screen, but at least Simmons will get notice when he hosts Saturday Night Live this weekend.

Boyhood is readily available, thanks to streaming sites and Redbox. Before that, it's been getting positive reviews in theaters, as the story of a boy growing up that was literally 12 years in the making. Patricia Arquette as the mom, Olivia, has been praised as a woman who has evolved as her children have grown, then is worried that now that they're gone, her life is done. The son, Mason, disagrees, and maybe a mini-sequel should be made to show he's right. Anyway, Arquette has been picking up awards, including a Screen Actors Guild Award last night, and the only complaint people have is that she can't memorize an acceptance speech. Maybe by the time she arrives at the Dolby Theater, she will...not that it matters.

The third decided race is Best Actress, most likely to be won by Julianne Moore for Still Alice. This movie is practically unknown outside major cities, which is a crime. Her portrayal as a woman in her 50's dealing with the early stages of Alzheimer's is wonderful. It would be better if more people didn't have to wait until the night before the Oscars to see it.
It is in 38 screens, much less than Wild, with Reese Witherspoon, which is in more than 500 screens. The film's website says it will go into "wide release" (including Reno) on February 13th, which is a bad date because it's the same day as 50 Shades of Grey and Kingsman: The Secret Service. It would have been better if it was the week before, where its competition would be Seventh Son and Jupiter Ascending. Moore will get the public's attention and admiration for Still Alice, but it should be a lot sooner.

While casual fans care about acting and Best Picture, film buffs care about other big categories, like Best Director. Richard Linklater still looks like the top choice, but that won't be certain until the  Director's Guild Awards February 7th, then the BAFTAs on the 8th. If Birdman takes either of those awards that weekend, the race gets more interesting.
As for writing, Adapted Screenplay still looks like a battle royal. The BAFTAs and WGAs should bring in more focus. For now, The Imitation Game, American Sniper and Gone Girl seem to be leading in Adapted Screenplay, while Boyhood and Birdman are favored in Original Screenplay. However, the WGAs  only have Boyhood in Original Screenplay against movies like Whiplash and Foxcatcher, while Adapted Screenplay has Guardians of the Galaxy in the final mix. That's mainly due to eligibility rules, but it would be amazing if GoG got it. It's more likely Imitation Game will could get it.

The BAFTAs should also be great if The Lego Movie, which isn't in the Oscars because the voters thought Legos were too high-tech for them (as was the movie), won for Best Animated Film. However, there could be the chance of an upset with The Boxtrolls. Birdman is also up for Best Score, and a win there would be a sign to the Oscars to fix its rules on what could be eligible for that category.

Oscar season will really get tense as we head into February. At least we can relax by looking at more frivolous events, like Super Bowl XLIX.

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