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22 February 2015

Oscars 2015: "And the Winner is..." (My Choices)

[Updated Feb 23, 2015] Choosing the recipients in this year’s Oscars is quite easy. The possible honorees are predictable because most of them have consistently won major awards in the United States and United Kingdom.  Since 2012, my choice for best picture has always been different and this is not intentional. But then again, my opinion does not matter so all is fair in love and movies. (Inset laughter here).  

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Most Likely to Win: “Boyhood”
My Choice: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Eventual Winner: "Birdman"

“Boyhood” will most likely win for obvious reasons. It is great filmmaking and pure storytelling stripped to the core. Director Richard Linklater’s dedication to his craft is admirable and films like “Boyhood” are not usually honored in Hollywood. He deserves to receive the best director award as well.

However, in terms of innovative filmmaking and storytelling, Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is my choice. Anderson creates uniquely stylistic films in terms of production design, editing, dialogues and performance.  His films pay homage to the styles of silent cinema but he made the style his own as well.  Anderson is known for his rectilinear and symmetrical approaches. This is also evident in the acting style of his performers. Unlike other films, actors still “act” in a naturalistic way. In Anderson’s films, the acting style has to match the overall design of the film. Even the movements of the actors follow a straight path. The acting is purposely mannered. They stand at specific points to maintain symmetry. The actors also move the way that cartoon characters move instead of the way that real people move.  The delivery of lines is fast pace and unnatural.  It is as if you were reading a storybook but instead of reading it yourself, the characters tell you the story directly from the page. The characters are not supposed to simulate reality but instead, they are written and performed to represent fictional characters because the movie is about "storytelling," at least that is one of the themes. 

In a Wes Anderson film, the art and complicated nature of story telling is the end goal, the other elements has to follow.  He successfully made this point in “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Other viewers may not relate to the story and characters of the film, but that is not really the point in my opinion. You do not have to relate to the people in Picasso’s and Da Vinci’s paintings because it is the overall style that makes the painting remarkable. The style changes the story and our take on it.

Most Likely to Win: Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”
My Choice: Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”
Eventual Winner: Alejandro Iñárritu, "Birdman"

Most Likely to Win: Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
My Choice: Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Eventual Winner: "Birdman"

Most Likely to Win: Graham Moore, “Imitation Game”
My Choice: Graham Moore, “Imitation Game”
Eventual Winner: "Imitation Game"

BEST MALE ACTOR (Leading Role)
Most Likely to Win: Eddie Redmayne, “Theory of Everything”
My Choice: Benedict Cumberbatch, “Imitation Game”
Eventual Winner: Eddie Redmayne

Playing Stephen Hawkins is physically and emotionally demanding, and Eddie Redmayne accomplished this feat remarkably. Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Alan Turing is equally compelling but his performance demands more emotional investment. Accurately conveying Turing’s internal turmoil is quite a challenge because the audience needs to anchor their sympathy on the character’s internal struggles. There is no physical disability or disease that Cumberbatch can use to make his performance compelling. In a way, I think Redmayne is more like Meryl Streep and Cumberbatch is Jessica Lange. Streep is all about meticulousness to create a powerful performance. Like Streep, Redmayne can also sing. Lange is raw body and soul. Throw yourself to the character and explode or implode.

Most Likely to Win: Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”
My Choice: Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”
Eventual Winner: Juliane Moore

It is Julianne Moore or nothing. With great performances in “Map of the Stars” and “Still Alice,” Moore is the safest bet. Marion Cottilard is amazing in “Two Nights, One Day” and “The Immigrant” but Moore’s Oscar is long overdue.

BEST MALE ACTOR (Supporting Role)
Most Likely to Win: J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”
My Choice: J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”
Eventual Winner: J.K. Simmons

“Whiplash” works because J.K. Simmons convinced us that his character was right. Weed out the wannabes from the real artists. His character is the teacher that we are terrified to have but, deep down, if we really want excellence, we need him. Outstanding! I think it is time to honor a great underrated actor.

Most Likely to Win: Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”
My Choice: Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”
Eventual Winner: Patricia Arquette

At some point, “Boyhood” seems like a movie about the parents than the boy.  I know some people were more interested in discovering what will happen to the parents than the boy, and Patricia Arquette is the most interesting character in the film. In the end of the movie, I actually share her character’s sentiments, “I thought there’ll be more” because I want to know more about Arquette’s character. However, even with limited screen time, Arquette dominated the film.

Most Likely to Win: “Ida,” Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski (Poland)
My Choice: “Leviathan,” Directed Andrey Zvyagintsev (Russia)
Eventual Winner: "Ida"

“Ida” is great. It is the darker version of “The Sound of Music” without the songs if you know want I mean. However, “Leviathan” is artistically, philosophically, politically and socially grand.  Personally, I prefer Xavier Dolan’s “Mommy” but his film is not even nominated.

Ever since I became hooked watching the Oscars in 1992, I have made it a point to choose my own “best picture.” As time went on, I realized that my choices often do not match Oscar voters. So far, only four of my choices actually won best picture; they are "American Beauty" (1999), "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" (2003), "Million Dollar Baby" (2004), and "No Country for Old Men" (2007). That is four out of 22. I am happy to fail.


1992: Howards End (James Ivory, director)
1993: The Piano (Jane Campion, director)
1994: Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, director)
1995: Sense and Sensibility (Ang Lee, director)
1996: Fargo (Joel Coen, director)
1997: L.A. Confidential (Curtis Hanson, director)
1998: Elizabeth (Shekhar Kapur, director)
1999: American Beauty* (Sam Mendes, director)
2000: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee, director)
2001: The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Peter Jackson, director)
2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Peter Jackson, director)
2003: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King* (Peter Jackson, director)
2004: Million Dollar Baby* (Clint Eastwood, director)
2005: Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, director)
2006: Babel (Alejandro González Iñárritu, director)
2007: No Country for Old Men* (Joel Coen, director)
2008: Milk (Gus Van Sant, director)
2009: Up (Pete Docter, director)
2010: Inception (Christopher Nolan, director)
2011: The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, director)
2012: Amour (Michael Haneke, director)
2013: Her (Spike Jonze, director)
2014: The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson, director)

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