Friday, February 20, 2015

Image = And the Nominees Are... But Why?

As we approach the final weekend of Awards Season, I want to say a few things about the nominees.  It was an exceptional year for film and many nominees deserve all the praise that has been showered upon them.  Michael Keaton, Eddie Redmayne, JK Simmons and Julianne Moore, to name a few...  However - I feel that many nominations this year are more about hype than substance – and it begins with Boyhood. 

I admire Richard Linklater as a filmmaker and am in awe of the process and ground breaking nature of Boyhood, but I do not like the finished product.  To me, the movie Boyhood is not engaging in any way.  That is really the point of a great film, isn’t it? Boyhood is long & tedious, nothing much actually happens and the acting (especially by Ellar Coltrane & Patricia Arquette) is quite lackluster.  So, why all the acclaim?  And - is Patricia Arquette winning every award as part of the groundswell for Boyhood or because she has been around for close to 30 years and it is a nice acknowledgment of her tenure?  

In this current climate, awards are too much about campaigning.  Some actors go to everything because they are truly proud of the work they have done and truly honored to be acknowledged.  A good example this year is Benedict Cumberbatch.  He must know that his chances to win anything are slim, but he has said over & over how proud he is of The Imitation Game and how important the story of Alan Turing is to history.  Conversely, some actors (who shall remain nameless) go because they are required to by their contracts.     

Nominations and awards really should be about the work and not about politics or campaigning.  Katharine Hepburn won 4 Best Actress Oscars and did not attend one ceremony!  A story broke yesterday about Mo’Nique winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Precious without campaigning and then not landing future roles because she didn’t campaign.  This is ludicrous!  Often an actor’s performance is so head and shoulders above everyone else, there is no real competition.  When I saw Mo’Nique’s performance I said, “There will be riots in the streets if she doesn’t win.”  It is the kind of visceral, raw, daring performance that you never forget.  And that’s what awards should reward.      
In my not so humble opinion - these are some great performances that were entirely overlooked this year...

Best Actress 
Shailene Woodley - The Fault in Our Stars
Jenny Slate - Obvious Child
Best Actor
Ansel Elgort - The Fault in Our Stars
Colin Firth - Magic in the Moonlight
Ralph Fiennes - The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Supporting Actor
Miles Teller - Whiplash
Mark Strong - The Imitation Game
Ben Schnetzer - Pride
Bill Hader - The Skeleton Twins
Best Supporting Actress
Imelda Staunton - Pride
Naomi Watts - St. Vincent
Best Original Screenplay
Woody Allen - Magic in the Moonlight
Zach Braff - Wish I Was Here
Best Adapted Screenplay
Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber -  
The Fault in Our Stars

And - why is Steve Carell in the Best Actor category? Foxcatcher had an ensemble cast shared among 3 actors.  BAFTA nominated Carell as Best Supporting Actor and that is where his performance belongs.

One final thing.  Very occasionally in Academy Awards history there have been ties.  In 1968, Katharine Hepburn (The Lion in Winter) & Barbra Streisand (Funny Girl) shared the award for Best Actress.  The last time I prayed for a tie was in 1999 between Kevin Spacey (who won for American Beauty) and Denzel Washington (The Hurricane).  They were both so great, I couldn't choose but somehow The Academy did.  All season I have said that Eddie Redmayne is THE Best Actor, but on the eve of the Oscars, I am secretly hoping for another tie.  I want them to give awards to both Redmayne and Michael Keaton for his extraordinary job in Birdman - which I am also praying wins Best Picture, as it deserves.