Well, it’s that time of year again. It’s the Oscars, when the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (better known as Hollywood) congratulate themselves on their collective body of work, recognizing the best the industry has to offer. True movie lovers eagerly await the event each year, much as baseball fans look forward to the World Series. This Sunday evening, February 22nd, at 8:30 p.m. on ABC, the silver screen elite will meet to award the coveted Oscars for the best cinematic work of 2014.
As we have done for the last 34 years, my wife, Becky, and I will snuggle up in front of our 47″ widescreen TV with surround sound (for our initial go ’round it was probably more like a 21″ model) for the big event. We’ll munch popcorn, sip an adult beverage, and mark our ballots as the winners are announced. Over the years we have made every effort to see as many of the nominated films as possible. This year, however, we were only able to see three of the six contenders for Best Picture: American Sniper, The Imitation Game, and Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). The other three nominees are: The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Theory of Everything, and Boyhood. I’ve already printed out my individual “score sheet,” and I’m ready to let you in on my picks for the major awards. Remember, I’m selecting who I think will win, which does not necessarily reflect my preferences or favorites. As usual, it’s a crapshoot, especially when I haven’t seen all the nominated films. But here goes:
- Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role: Edward Norton. Why? This chameleon-like actor has been passed over several times when he could have won. His performance in Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), while impressive, may well not be his all-time best (I thought his work in Primal Fear was far more outstanding), but Oscar loves to reward a body of work, and it’s Norton’s collection of performances that will be honored.
- Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role: Keira Knightley. Why? She began doing serious work early in her career (Pride and Prejudice, Atonement, Anna Karenina), but then underwhelmed us in a series of Pirates of the Caribbean movies. However, she’s got “the chops,” as they say, and certainly proved it with her performance in The Imitation Game. She’ll be justly rewarded.
- Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role: Eddie Redmayne. Why? His portrayal of physicist Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything was, by all accounts, remarkable. It was especially difficult for the physical demands it placed upon the actor, who was required to morph from a healthy young Hawking into one ravaged by ALS (Lou Gherigh’s Disease). His star began to shine with his ascent in Les Miserables (a film that was robbed of the Best Picture honor it deserved IMHO).
- Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role: Marion Cottilard. Why? Raw talent, pure and simple. This incredibly gifted actress could be the new Meryl Streep. She’s already collected one Best Actress Oscar for her performance as Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose (2007), and should capture this one for Two Days, One Night, to complete her set of golden bookends.
- Achievement in Directing: Alejandro González Iñárritu. Why? His ability to oversee and manipulate actors and action in Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) was unmatched. However, if he wins, much of the credit belongs to his crew. The film appears to have been shot all in one take (which it wasn’t) and that is due to the fine work of cinematographer Emmanuel Dubezki and editors Douglas Crise and Stephen Mirrone, as well as the colorists, all of whom should pick up gold.
AND FINALLY, DRUM ROLL, PLEASE!
- Best Motion Picture of the Year: American Sniper. Why? Because of its political nature (which probably cost director Clint Eastwood a nomination in this category), the pressure-packed film was extremely controversial. Hollywood wants to show its patriotism, however, and will wave the red, white, and blue high as it gives the nod to the overwhelming box office smash that seemingly everyone in America wanted to see.
Unfortunately, most of us never get to see the “little films,” those documentaries, shorts, and animated films that serve as launch vehicles for most of the directors and technicians in the industry. But in their own way, they are just as important as the features. Now, however, with the advent of streaming video through Netflix, Amazon Prime, and other vehicles, it is possible to see much of this work. I urge you to do so.