As the Academy Awards inch closer, everyone is full of excitement, already trying to predict who the winners will be. The Oscar statuette still stands out as the greatest acknowledgment for the art of film making since 1929.
Apart from complaints about the complete absence of racial diversity in the nominations, there are quite a few thrilling movies this year which, in terms of art and film-making, make the Oscars as diversified as one can imagine.
Here are the nominations for 2015:
Whiplash had the lowest budget out of all the Oscar nominations. It is an astounding display of the art of acting. The viewer may overlook some major aspects of the movie only because they’re too busy appreciating the brilliant performances. Miles Teller’s prodigious act as a teenage drummer who struggles to perfect an impossible beat called “whiplash” is praiseworthy. On the other hand, JK Simmons puts forth a commendable performance in which he plays a ferocious and callous teacher.
Despite the intensity of Teller’s jaw-dropping performance, him not getting nominated for the Best Actor in a Lead Role left me baffled. Almost entirely devoid of romance, the movie shows the benefits as well as shortcomings of testing the tolerance level of individuals till they reach their breaking point.
Apart from being nominated for Best Picture, and Simmons being nominated as Best Supporting Actor, the movie has also made its mark on three other categories, namely Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing and Best Sound Mixing.
The Theory of Everything
It boasts of a career-defining and methodically meticulous performance by Eddie Redmayne. The movie is a biopic – a genre that has taken over the category of Best Picture in 2015.
Based on the book by Jane Hawking, the movie portrays the life of English Physicist and Cosmologist, Professor Stephen Hawking, who at times has been regarded as the smartest living scientist.
Eddie, rightfully nominated for the Best Actor in a Lead Role category, has been my favourite ever since I watched him perform in Les Misérables and I would personally be stunned if he doesn’t bag the award for such an apt portrayal of an individual who suffered tremendously for more than four decades.
One can’t help drawing comparisons between the great Daniel Day-Lewis’s role as Christy Brown in My Left Foot to Eddie’s acting as Hawking in The Theory of Everything.
“At times, I felt he was me,” remarked Stephen Hawking about Eddie’s performance.
This is something which Eddie should get framed on his wall; it speaks volumes about his brilliance as an actor.
Although the movie only features events up until the publication of his book, A Brief History of Time, a best seller, it would have been an added bonus had the events after the best seller been included as well.
Just like Whiplash, The Theory of Everything has been nominated in five different categories. Apart from Best Picture, Best Actor in a Lead Role and Best Actress in a Lead Role (Felicity Jones as Jane Hawking), the movie also got nominated in the categories of the Best Original Score and Best Adapted Screenplay. I particularly loved the score of the movie by Jóhann Jóhannsson which is enchanting as well as soothing.
The Imitation Game
Yet another biopic nominated this year, the movie is an eye opener. Based on the life of the brilliant British Mathematician, Alan Turing, the movie features his efforts to break the Nazi Enigma Code through a machine which eventually paved the way for modern day computers.
It requires something unimaginable to work out the 159 million million million possible ways to break the Enigma Code, within 18 hours, and save lives, which would otherwise become casualty figures in the World War – and the movie has beautifully captured this.
A dazzling portrayal of a genius played by Benedict Cumberbatch, it’s perhaps one of the best biopics one could watch.
Keira Knightley played her role exceptionally well as Joan Clarke. Her acting precisely depicts how a bright woman might have felt in that era, when sexism was rampant and conservatism required for a woman to stay at home. She was able to portray all the problems that women came across in fields which were largely dominated by men, such as cryptography.
An attractive and powerful screenplay by Graham Moore, it proved to be an incredible delight for the viewers. The following dialogue is my favourite, because of how tremendous and emotional it is. It comes at the end of the movie, when Joan tells Alan:
“Do you know, this morning I was on a train that went through a city that wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for you. I bought a ticket from a man who would likely be dead if it wasn’t for you. I read up, on my work, a whole field of scientific inquiry that only exists because of you. Now, if you wish you could have been normal… I can promise you I do not. The world is an infinitely better place precisely because you weren’t (normal).”
The other, somewhat tabooed side of the movie (at least for Pakistan) is Alan’s homosexuality and the accurate depiction of it by Benedict. His persecution by the British authorities under the Homosexual Act was enormously painful and eventually resulted in his suicide at the age of 41.
The Imitation Game is nominated for eight categories. Besides Cumberbatch being nominated for the Best Actor in a Lead Role, Knightley was nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. The director of the movie, Morten Tyldum, also got nominated for the Best Director category along with Alexandre Desplat getting nominated for the category of Best Original Score (he has been nominated in the same category for The Grand Budapest Hotel as well). Apart from these, the movie also received nominations in the crucial categories of Film Editing, Production Design, and Screenplay Writing.
The overly patriotic theme of the movie has caused somewhat a stir amongst audience – but for many, the movie stands as an inspiration.
Based on the life and book of an American Navy SEAL, Chris Kyle, the movie features some of the most violent depictions of the Iraq war. Kyle, who was considered as the most lethal sniper in US military history, took more than 150 targets including his best shot from the distance of 1.8 kilometres.
The minute I saw Chris Kyle on the screen, I was certain that no one could have played him more accurately than Bradley Cooper. The movie has so far grossed nearly $400 million on the box office, making it one of the highest grossing films of 2014.
American Sniper has also given its director, the legendary Clint Eastwood, a lot to cherish since this movie proved to be the most successful one of his entire directing career, which spans over four decades.
Besides being nominated for the Best Picture category, American Sniper was able to enter five other categories including Best Actor in a Lead Role (for Bradley Cooper, which is well-earned and well-deserved), Best Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
It’s intriguing, full of fun and suspense, and boasts of a brilliant music composition by Alexandre Desplat. The composition earned him his second Oscar nod this year. The movie is, in parts, based on the works of famous Austrian novelist, Stefan Zweig.
Although the movie was not directly based on Stefan’s works, but director Wes Anderson admitted that parts of the movie were inspired from Stefan’s novels Beware of Pity and The Post-Office Girl in the script writing.
The movie features an entrusted in-charge of a hotel, played by Ralph Fiennes, who is trapped in an assassination case and is later on joined by his most commended lobby boy, Zero Mustafa, simply known as Zero, to prove his virtuous character.
For me, the most amusing side of the movie was the exceptional acting by Tony Revolori in the role of Zero Mustafa. The timings of his dialogues plus his delivery with dead straight expressions made the movie more than likeable.
The screenplay of the movie holds dialogues that sound familiar, yet are surprising.
The Grand Budapest Hotel has made its way into nine nominations. Having received the nominations for the Best Picture and Best Original Score, the movie has earned nods in seven other categories, including Best Direction, Cinematography, Costume Designing, Film Editing, Makeup and Hairstyle, Production Design and Original Screenplay.
Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance
Almost entirely shot indoors, the movie features Michael Keaton in the role of Riggan Thomson, who once was a widely celebrated actor in his role as Birdman in a major commercial blockbuster.
Disheartened, Riggan decides to make a comeback in the field he loves the most. He even goes as far as to contemplate refinancing his daughter’s house to make it happen. Inspired by Raymond Carver since childhood, he decides to adapt one of his short stories in a Broadway show to reclaim his rightful place in the art world.
As one of my friends remarks after watching Birdman,
“In 50 years from now, this will be the film; this will be our children’s Citizen Kane, this will be the absolute master piece”.
And I can’t agree more with him.
For me, Birdman has the most intriguing and unpredictable plot out of all the Oscar nominations this year. In an effort to combine fiction with realism, director Alejandro González has successfully put his 21 Grams on number two on my list of his favourites, since I now consider Birdman to be on to top.
The amalgamation of what I would like to call “fictitious realism” into fiction was tried so much that the character of Mike Shiner, played by Edward Norton, had to explain his attempt to rape the character of Lesley, played by Naomi Watts, by saying “he needed to feel real” – this scene was from Riggan’s Broadway adaptation, not from the movie Birdman itself.
Although I’m not a big fan of Emma Stone, her performance in the movie was remarkably laudable.
Apart from that, Norton, Zach Galifianakis and Amy Ryan’s acting in the movie made it come off as sturdier than usual, since they managed to hold the storyline together until the end.
The delivery of written lines and timely framed expressions of actors has made Birdman praise worthy and nine Oscar nominations are proof enough that everyone did a fantastic job on the production.
Birdman along with The Grand Budapest Hotel got the most nominations, which include the Best Picture, the Best Actor for both Keaton and Norton in lead and supporting roles respectively, Emma Stone for the Best Actress in Supporting Role, Best Direction, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing.
On a side note, I think Antonio Sánchez should have received a nod for the score of the movie; the drum beat throughout and the music was alluring.
The movie focuses on the events that took place during the American Civil Rights Movement in Alabama with long marches from a small town located on the banks of Alabama River, Selma, to the state capital, Montgomery, some 54 miles away.
The central role, Martin Luther King Jr played by David Oyelowo, was made to appear as a calm, composed and majestic character by the director Ava DuVernay.
I remember watching videos of Dr King’s speeches, and David Oyelowo’s dialogue delivery and body gestures did more than enough to invigorate all my memories of one of the greatest civil rights activist in human history.
The legendary Oprah Winfrey, as expected, managed to inspire the audience with her role both as a producer and actress in the movie.
Selma, although nominated in only two categories, Best Picture and Best Original Score, should also have been nominated for Best Actor in a Lead Role and for its marvelous direction
The most appealing factor in what can be termed as the lengthiest movie amongst all Oscar nominations – 166 minutes of running time – was the absolute normality of the storyline that came with an astounding shooting time period: 12 years. The movie follows the life of six-year-old Mason, played by Ellar Coltrane, who grows up to be an adult, eventually graduating high school.
The intermittent shooting over the course of 12 long years makes the movie shockingly realistic. The stupendous work of director Richard Linklater has been credited as “a masterpiece in cinematic history” and is perhaps the only kind of movie made in such an audacious and enduring way which has opened gates for adopting a bolder approach with films.
The movie focuses on the effects family squabbles and domestic abuse on children. It also conveys how an individual can come of age and mature before time by witnessing too many emotionally painful events and constantly being on the move.
On the other hand, the relationship of a father and his son is portrayed in an ideal way and the father, Mason Senior, played by Ethan Hawke, is a genuine portrayal of how such a relation should be.
Despite being away from his children, the father stays in touch them and teaches them things that every parent should rightfully teach. For instance, he tells his daughter to use contraceptives and be careful since he knew that she has grown up now.
Boyhood made it into five Oscar categories, including Best Actor and Actress in a Supporting Role, Direction, Film Editing and Original Screenplay.
All the movies nominated for the Academy Awards this year are exceptionally well-directed, no doubt, but if I had to pick my favourite, I would choose The Theory of Everything, for its inspirational acting, passionate storytelling and brilliant narration of the lives of those who inspired millions and enhanced our understanding of the world we live in.
Almost all the nominated pictures this year had a low budget, with a total of only $161.6 million for all eight nominated movies – which is $9 million less than even half of what was spent in the making of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End alone.
Nevertheless, the marvellously artistic people involved in the making of these movies have proved that genuine and inspirational work can be carried out in any way.
Let us all wish the best of luck to these nominees whose work has been a momentous contribution to the art of film making and is a constant force of preserving human culture for the coming generations.
A blogger, poet and short story writer who loves to contribute to activities building peace, social justice and equality and has offered his services in the non-profit sector. He tweets as @iksahir (twitter.com/iksahir)
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.