Joyce Glasser reviews the Oscar Nominations 2015 and tips the winners

Is anyone ever happy with the Oscar Nominations? The Golden Globes are easier to swallow as they have more awards thanks to a division between drama and comedy/musical.  They also tend to be a tad edgier and less predictable.

The Oscar nominations have become less fraught since the introduction of 10 rather than five nominees for Best Film and Director.

For some reason, however, this year the Academy has given us 8 nominations, leaving out Into the Woods, a musical, and Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin, a low budget feature that probably never stood a chance of winning, but was surely one of the most skilfully directed and enjoyable films of the year.

The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game are mediocre films elevated by their central performances, although how Keira Knightley joined the best supporting actress list is impossible to explain.

Saulnier’s lead actor Macon Blair, was clearly never going to be rewarded for a stellar performance in Blue Ruin, nor was Jenny Slate for her superb comic performance in The Obvious Child.

More surprising was the omission of David Oyelowo for his thoughtful, restrained but powerful portrayal of Martin Luther King in Selma.

Another unfair omission from the Best Actor slot was Viggo Mortensen for his subtle, nuanced and quite brilliant (how many actors can really play an alcoholic convincingly?) performance in The Two Faces of January, another terrific independent film. The Academy Awards do not reward nuance.

This might lead many to ask why Timothy Spall was not nominated for Best Actor in Mr Turner, a showy performance that seemed targeted at awards and did win the Best Actor award at Cannes.

The performance was showy, but conspicuously simplistic and superficial. Not aided by the script, Spall failed to capture the essence of Turner or take us on a journey.

At least Blue Ruin’s Saulnier is in good company, as black, female Director Ava DuVernay was also omitted from the Best Director nominations for Selma.  This is all the more of a snub since her film, Selma, is nominated as Best Picture.

If the sole deserving woman (Unbroken, Angelina Jolie’s film was never a contender), was snubbed, so, too, were older directors.  Clint Eastwood’s (84) American Sniper made the Best Film list, but he was not on the Best Director list. Frederick Wiseman’s (84) National Gallery was not on the Best Documentary List either.

Claude Lanzmann’s magnificent documentary, The Last of the Unjust, released here last week, but much earlier in the USA, was snubbed at last year’s Academy Awards

The undeniable fact that the Academy Awards are skewed toward larger budget films, or films with a larger publicity budget, is why they do not measure cinematic talent or accomplishments any more than do the Bafta’s.

Both ceremonies are broadcast around the world and depend on the films nominated having been seen around the world.  There are, of course, happy coincidences or exceptions such as Boyhood.

Boyhood, without a doubt the best film of the year, is nominated in Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress (although Patricia Arquette was, in fact the lead actress).

The most puzzling categories are the Foreign Film and Documentary Categories.   In the Documentary category, where is National Gallery, Of Horses and Men or Dinosaur 13?  There could be date or qualification reasons for those omissions which the Bafta’s might address.

The Foreign language film category looks silly without Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Winter Sleep, which won the Palme D’Or at Cannes.  Winter Sleep was the Turkish entry for the category but was somehow not nominated. Camille Claudel 1915 was another shameful omission. Fortunately, the excellent Leviathan made the grade.

So of those nominated, who should win?

In the Best Director category, it has to be Richard Linklater for Boyhood, although Wes Anderson might surprise for the popular The Grand Budapest Hotel. In my view, Anderson should have won for his previous film, Moonrise Kingdom.

As Best Actor in a Leading Role, Steve Carell in Foxcatcher is as good as Eddy Redmayne in The Theory of Everything, even over Michael Keaton for the double come-back movie, Birdman.

Although I have not seen the film, it is easy to imagine from the trailers that Julianne Moore will triumph in Still Alice for Best Actress.  As Best Supporting Actor, Ethan Hawke in Boyhood has the edge over the ever-underrated Edward Norton for Birdman. That said, the oldest actor on the list after Robert Duvall in The Judge,  J.K. Simmons, might well repeat his Golden Gold win for Whiplash.

In the Best Supporting Actress Category (was she not the lead actress) Patricia Arquette should be the clear winner for Boyhood, even over impressive performances from Meryl Streep for Into the Woods and Laura Dern for Wild.

If Boyhood wins for Best Film, which is must, we can forget our outrage over the nominations until next year.

by Joyce Glasser, Mature Times film reviewer

Please do let us know which film you would tip to win the Oscar and which actor and actress. Ed