First Posted: 2/16/2015
You can feel it the air. The pressure is building. The need to know can be seen on the faces of every man, woman and child in America.
“Who is the best actress?” they scream at the sky. But God is busy and cannot reply.
I, on the other hand, have plenty of free time and, as a public service, I’ll offer my predictions for the winners (and undeserved losers) of one of the most important awards ceremonies.
Will win: Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)
How is Eddie Redmayne an Oscar front-runner? Is the Academy aware the man was recently out-acted by a pointy-eared Channing Tatum in “Jupiter Ascending?” That’s like losing a foot race to Steven Hawking. Granted, Redmayne was the best thing about the neutered, cliché-riddled and simplistic movie, but his performance never amounted to anything beyond a sustained impression. If Redmayne’s performance is Oscar worthy, then Dana Carvey has a Lifetime Achievement Award coming his way.
Should win: Michael Keaton (Birdman)
I can already hear the screams of indignation, “How difficult is it to play a heightened version of yourself?” Not very, but what Keaton is doing is far removed from bad comedies and late-period Simpsons episodes. Surveying the role of a washed-up has-been with questionable abilities, Keaton has never been more alive or lively as his character slowly loses his already tenuous grasp on reality. More than just award-worthy, this is what successful second acts are built on.
Will win: Julianne Moore (Still Alice)
In the wrong hands, “Still Alice” could have devolved into a disposable, disease of the week Lifetime movie. Especially considering the film is shot with all of the artless indifference of the Tori Spelling classic “Co-ed Call Girl.” But Moore’s heartbreaking and admirably unsentimental performance as an overbearing woman, struggling through early on-set Alzheimer’s, not only elevates the film above its cable ready peers but most of its middle-brow competition. On a more cynical note, Hollywood loves diseases and is more than happy to hand out all kinds of globes, statues and SAGs to any actor brave enough to pretend to have it. Clear a corner in your award shed Julianne. Oscar’s found a new home.
Should win: Julianne Moore (Still Alice)
Debatable, considering Marion Cotillard and Rosamund Pike were equally amazing in “Two Days, One Night” and “Gone Girl”, respectively. However, those performances lacked the poignancy and nuance that Moore brought to her almost irredeemable character. Additionally, neither “Gone Girl” nor “Two Days, One Night” contain a scene in which their lead actress pisses herself as she searches for a bathroom. “Still Alice” does. That’s true commitment to craft. Case closed.
Best Supporting Actor
Will win: Ethan Hawke (Boyhood)
I have various issues with “Boyhood,” but right now let’s discuss Hawke. What is so powerful about his performance? Why have the collective jeans of the critical community been so thoroughly and unabashedly creamed in by what he’s doing? How is his character any different than the character he’s played in justifiably unloved movies like “Taking Lives” or “Getaway?” He’s always playing Ethan Hawke. He’s about as unremarkable as an actor can get. Hey Hawke, if you receive the Oscar, do the world a favor and hand it over to the gentleman below you.
Should win: J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
The true antithesis to the Ethan Hawkes of the world. A versatile actor best known for playing Spiderman’s pompous boss and the creepy white supremacist Verne Schillinger on “Oz”, Simmons’ sadistic bandleader could’ve easily become a mustache-twirling caricature in less-sure hands. Instead, his character is hypnotically hideous, but also complicated and recognizably human. At the very least, the recognition Simmons is receiving for the role might finally release him from the professional ghetto that are those M&M commercials he does voiceovers for.
Best Supporting Actress
Will win: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
Unlike Hawke, the attention Arquette is receiving for “Boyhood” is understandable and deserved. After years of watching her waste away on NBC’s “Ghost Whisperer” knock-off “Medium,” it’s shocking she had the chops to believably play her character as well as she does in “Boyhood.” Unfortunately, the attention is a little overblown. When your co-stars are as stiff, amateurish and annoying as Eltar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater and Ethan Hawke, a solid performance can morph into something that only seems ‘revelatory’ or ‘stunning.’
Should win: Laura Dern (Wild)
At one point in “Wild,” the gritty reboot of “Eat, Pray, Love” that nobody asked for or needed, Dern is forced to say, in front of God, her family and Reese Witherspoon, that, “she may be poor, but rich in love.” As written, this cloying Hallmark greeting card ineptly disguised as dialogue should provoke nothing but copious amounts of vomit. But as performed, this unnatural bit of dialogue seems genuine, heartfelt and even touching. Dern was able to wring emotion over something so trite, she not only deserves an Oscar but a written apology from screenwriter Nick Hornby for making those dumb words fall out of her mouth.
Will win: Boyhood
The most infuriating aspect behind “Boyhood” is that it exists in a universe where we already have Michael Apted’s “Up” documentaries. What’s the purpose of having someone stiffly reenact moments from a fictional childhood when we can watch real people live through their own very real and unscripted childhood? “Boyhood” is like a copy of the Eiffel tower recreated out of tooth picks. Sure it probably took twelve years to make but there’s still a perfectly good version people should see instead.
Should win: Birdman
“Birdman” may not have been the best film made this year but, it’s without a doubt, the best film you’ll find in this category. With its magical realism, oddball cast and strange meta-textual gags, “Birdman” may not be Oscar worthy but it has strong cult potential. It’s probably the only Best Picture nominee you’ll remember a year from now (Apart from “American Sniper,” I mean.