Oscar Nominations 2015

It’s that time of the year again when the film world waits with bated breath to find out who has been deemed worthy of an Oscar. As the culmination of both the nomination announcements and the Awards season you go into the announcement with a fairly good idea as to who and what will be included. This year was no different.

As expected Boyhood (Richard Linklater), Birdman (Alejandro G. Inarritu) and The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson) came out on top in terms of nominations. I was surprised that The Lego Movie (Phil Lord & Christopher Miller) was not nominated in the Best Animated Feature Film category – I thought that would be a shoo-in, not only for a nomination but the win too.

There’s a respectable British presence in the acting categories with Keira Knightley, Felicity Jones and Rosamund Pike nominated for Best Supporting Actress and Best Actress respectfully. And then of course you have Eddie Redmayne and Benedict Cumberbatch vying for Best Actor. I’ve been saying that Redmayne’s portrayal of Stephen Hawking was an Oscar contender from the moment I first saw the trailer (and I haven’t even seen the entire film yet) I would love either of them to win (and I think one of them will take home the BAFTA certainly!) but I have a feeling that Michael Keaton will swoop in and take it … no pun intended. Rosamund Pike’s performance in Gone Girl (David Fincher) is one of the most unnerving things I have seen this year and the fact that the film isn’t eve a horror film makes it all the more disturbing.

I’m once again disappointed, but by no means surprised, that The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies (Peter Jackson) has only garnered one nomination, and then in a more technical category like Sound Editing. I’ve never understood the Academy’s reluctance to acknowledge fantasy films. Harry Potter (various) didn’t win any of its 12 nominations and again all of those were in the more technical categories, overlooking some splendid performances. The same happened with the majority of the Middle Earth saga. The one time that the Academy actually nominated one of the films in anything other than the technical categories it resulted in a clean sweep as The Return of the King (Peter Jackson) walked away with 13 Oscars!! And Billy Boyd should have been nominated for his beautiful song “The Last Goodbye”.

Some of my favorite films to come out of last year are represented in the Visual Effects category, especially X-Men Days of Future Past (Bryan Singer). That sequence with Quicksilver in the Pentagon is outstanding – the moment I saw it I was sure it would be nominated at least (if it wasn’t then it would confirm the fact that sometimes the Academy can be idiots) However despite the incredible work on display in not only X-Men Days of Future Past but Captain America Winter Soldier (Russo brothers), Guardians of the Galaxy (James Gunn) and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Matt Reeves) I think Interstellar (Christopher Nolan) will win.

I’m not overly enamored of the films in the running for, what is arguably the most prestigious awards going in the film industry, this year. I was discussing this with my mum (as I always do seeing as she is the only one who will actually listen to me when I go all filmy) and she made an excellent point that there are two modes of thinking when it comes to the Oscars. There are the films that people, and by people I mean the general public – you know the actual cinema goers, actually like and then there are the films that the critics praise and ultimately do well in the Oscars. Rarely, if ever, do these two trains of thought align. And it’s demonstrated once again this year. The popular films (in terms of bums on seats) are relegated to things like Special Visual Effects, Hair and Make-up, Sound Editing and the like while the films that the critics made a fuss over are right up there with the big hitters (Boyhood, Birdman, and The Grand Budapest Hotel – top 3 in terms of total nominations) and are very likely to win.

I fail to see why The Grand Budapest Hotel is nominated at all and I’m astounded that it’s got 9! It’s a self-indulgent pretentious film that makes far more of itself then it actually is. Which is a rambling, confusing and jumbled mess of a film that tries to present itself as a comedy – I didn’t laugh once. The same goes for Boyhood.

I know you should go into films with an open mind (which is why I avoid all reviews) but I really don’t anticipate enjoying this film. I tend not to like either Richard Linklater or Ethan Hawke’s work and they have an unfortunate habit of working together which is just a double whammy of disinterest on my side. I think it’s going to be overblown and far too long for a film where actually noting happens. Also if you were going to make a mostly improvised film about growing up then why the need to hire well-known and established Hollywood actors in the role of parents? I have a feeling that it really would have worked better being a documentary shot over the same period of time. The entire concept of the film irritates me which from past experience means it’s a shoo-in to win multiple awards (and has already picked up a number at other Award ceremonies this season so far)

After all if there is one thing the Academy loves doing its rewarding self-pretentious, over indulgent films rather than any actual talent. But who knows? Maybe this year they’ll prove me and my cynical thinking wrong.

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West Side Story

Director: Robert Wise & Jerome Robbins

1961

West Side StoryWhat an overblown unnecessarily long film West Side Story is – especially when you consider it was made long before 3 hour films became so commonplace. I mean it even had an intermission for goodness sake – something that I was expecting and resulted in me thinking either my DVD player or TV (or quite possibly both) had broken … the most exciting part of the film. As you may have guessed I’m not exactly rushing out telling everyone that they simply must watch West Side Story as soon as (and as often as) possible. In short the entire film dragged making its 2 and a half hour run feel more like five hours!

The singing is a tad iffy at times and it’s not one of the many musicals that I routinely sing or even listen to. The most famous song, “America” is at times unintelligible to me due to the very affected Puerto Rican accents a number of the company are sporting. The only thing less believably Puerto Rican than the accents is Maria herself played by Natalie Wood. She looks nothing like her female companions and is much too pure and innocent. Her naivety winds me up no end which doesn’t help with my enjoyment of the film.

West Side Story stumbles by casting charisma-free Richard Beymer in the lead (the Colonel wouldn’t let Elvis play Tony) and can’t exactly pass the winning Natalie Wood off as Puerto Rican.” (384, Kim Newman, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die) Tony has absolutely no charisma what-so-ever which again is to the detriment of the film. He’s a drippy, soft character and I cannot understand how he was once the leader of the Jets.West Side Story Sharks

The only feature that held any of my attention was the Shakespearean element. Even at a young age it was obvious that West Side Story was Romeo and Juliet set to music. Now I see more of the Romeo and Juliet characteristics – although many of them have been altered. “An early instance of the Shakespearean approach to teen drama, getting in on the act decades before it was trendy, this Oscar-winning filming of the Broadway musical hit relocates the story of Romeo and Juliet among New York street gangs, with the Capulets and Montagues morphed into the Puerto Rican Sharks and the Polish Jets.” (384) Tony and Maria are clearly meant to be the tragic star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet although in reality Tony is more like the Mercutio character, whose death is the trigger for the events of the original play. The Sharks and the Jets replace the Capulets and Montagues. The one key difference is that Maria survives the film. The idea of transplanting two warring Italian families into an urban setting as two rival street gangs is an interesting one, that sadly has not been realized to its full potential here but one that I think Baz Luhrmann improved on in Romeo + Juliet (1996)

I was not very taken with West Side Story. it was much too long and far too dramatic for my liking. And for all the drama there is little tension or real jeopardy to the entire film. There isn’t even really much humor to lighten the mood. I can’t see myself watching West Side Story by choice again.