Is it cheating to give Oscar opinions after the ceremony? Maybe. Still, the Academy deserves some love (and a bit of hate) for its choices this year.
Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki took home the Oscar last year for “Gravity”, and I defy anyone to question his win this year. His cinematography in “Birdman” was staggering and exhilarating, the reason you leaned forward in your theater seat, punching the arm of the person next you in excitement as you realized that the camera was not going to cut, would never cut, but would instead continue its endless slink through the backstage of a theater and through an actor’s struggle with ego and ability. An absolute no-brainer on the Academy’s part.
After watching “Citizenfour”, I left the theater so shaken and full of paranoia that I spent the walk home debating whether to throw my cell phone in the gutter. Laura Poitras’ doc was the scariest movie I’ve seen in a long time, a thrilling account of how Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the U.S. government and why he entrusted a team of journalists to bring the story to the public eye. Regardless of your thoughts about Snowden and his actions, “Citizenfour” was the clear winner here, a documentary propelled by strong storytelling and an even stronger moral compass.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE:
The Academy has been overlooking Alexandre Desplat’s ear-wormy scores for the past eight years, but with two nominations this year, for “The Imitation Game” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, he was bound to win this time around. The score for “Grand Budapest”, like much of Desplat’s work for Wes Anderson, was both whimsical and melancholy, a collection of pieces that perfectly complemented the film’s baroque wit.
BEST FILM EDITING:
I found myself gasping after watching “Whiplash”, as if I had been Miles Teller, doling out drum fills under J.K. Simmons’ terrifying watch. This film was an adrenaline-fueled, jazz-flushed nightmare, and was edited so tightly, so precisely, and with such clarity that you couldn’t help but get wrapped up in the madness. The final drum solo on “Caravan” was incredible, a furious montage of clashing cymbals, popping snare, and dripping sweat that knocked the wind out of me.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG:
If one song this year perfectly embodied its film’s spirit, it had to be “Everything Is Awesome” from “The Lego Movie.” Do I feel guilty for choosing the sugary pop nugget over John Legend and Common’s empowering “Glory”? Not at all, especially when the song in question is a laugh-out-loud, satirical riot, that uses it’s irresistible hooks to question conformity and features The Lonely Island trading rhymes about chocolate frosting.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:
I don’t want to downplay how great “Birdman” was (its Best Picture honor was well-earned). But in terms of pure, untarnished, unrestrained creativity, Wes Anderson should have had this in the bag. Anderson’s “Grand Budapest Hotel” was the year’s most original film, a film whose genius lies in the smallest of details: a bottle of perfume, a birthmark in the shape of Mexico, a conveyor belt in a prison. That it tackled big ideas about civilization and cultured society within its candy-coated world only further speaks to Anderson’s skill as a writer and filmmaker.
Best Director was really a contest of ambition this year: Alejandro G. Inarritu’s breathtaking two hour long-shot facing off against Richard Linklater’s intimate 12-year time capsule. Both director’s pushed themselves past the point of common sense, but I have to give Linklater the edge here: he took what seemed like a gimmick, to make a movie over 12 years, and used it to create “Boyhood”, one of the most poignant films I’ve ever seen about the winding path from childhood to adulthood. I won’t begrudge Inarritu his trophy, but Linklater is just as good a filmmaker, and his work should’ve garnered more attention from the Academy.
I’d hate to be accused of reopening old wounds (and I maintain that the acting was the only good thing in the curdlingly sappy “Theory Of Everything”), but I must be honest: David Oyelowo deserved a nomination, if not an actual Oscar, for his work in “Selma”. His portrayal of Martin Luther King Jr. was as much of a revelation as Daniel Day-Lewis’ similarly enlightening performance in “Lincoln”; Oyelowo’s MLK wrestled with politics, infidelity, and insecurity as much as any man, and Oyelowo carefully conveyed this while holding up King as the hero many of us know him to be. I understand, snubs are inescapable during Oscar season, but this one seemed particularly unfair.
Read the latest “Rips&Seams” column on female empowerment at The Academy Awards.