The 87th annual Academy Awards are fast approaching—they air this Sunday, Feb. 22nd. The nominations have been causing quite a stir in the media since their announcement. Many people claim the nominations are “whitewashed,” and lack racial and gender diversity. I can’t help but agree that the nomination lists are lacking certain diversity, but regardless of the racial politics of the Academy, several standout films are being recognized this year. If I had it my way, I would see films like “Selma” nominated in more categories, and a list that included “Unbroken” and “Dear White People.” But the year was marked by remarkable filmmaking regardless, ranging from a cinematic masterpiece, “Boyhood,” which spanned twelve years, to the chilling psychological thriller and immensely popular “Gone Girl.”
Best Actress in a Supporting Role:
- Patricia Arquette in “Boyhood”
- Laura Dern in “Wild”
- Keira Knightley in “The Imitation Game”
- Emma Stone in “Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
- Meryl Streep in “Into the Woods”
Who should win: Emma Stone in “Birdman.” Her character—Sam—is absolutely electrifying in her role as the daughter of Michael Keaton’s character, Riggan, and a recovering drug addict. It doesn’t hurt that the script and characters are so well-written and dynamic in a film like this, but Stone truly brings Sam to life in the movie. There’s a scene in the movie where Sam and Riggan are fighting about the play at the center of the plot. She gives it her all–her facial expressions, hand gestures and her tone of voice–when she tells Riggan off for wanting to feel “relevant” and “important” again. At the end of her tirade against her dad, you can immediately see the regret on her character’s face, like any daughter would have after fighting with her father like that. The scene definitely reminded me of fights I’ve had with my own parents at one time or another, when I said hurtful things that I didn’t necessarily mean. Overall in this category, Stone’s performance stood out as the best.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role:
- Robert Duvall in “The Judge”
- Ethan Hawke in “Boyhood”
- Edward Norton in “Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
- Mark Ruffalo in “Foxcatcher”
- J.K. Simmons in “Whiplash”
Who should win: Robert Duvall for his role in “The Judge.” Now, I know that Mark Ruffalo’s turn in “Fox Catcher” is the crowd favorite to win, but I was much more compelled by Duvall’s acting beside Robert Downey Jr. in “The Judge.” He plays the character of an ill and proud old judge extremely well. He handles his character’s ever changing and violent moods with ease, and not even once did I find his performance anything less than spectacular. I was entranced and interested by his character throughout the entire film; he stole every scene that he was a part of.
Best Original Screenplay:
- “Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Written by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo
- “Boyhood” Written by Richard Linklater
- “Foxcatcher” Written by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman
- “The Grand Budapest Hotel” Screenplay by Wes Anderson; Story by Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness
- “Nightcrawler” Written by Dan Gilroy
Who should win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel” screenplay by Wes Anderson. Never once has a Wes Anderson film failed to charm and amuse me. “Grand Budapest Hotel” is no exception. Anderson has outdone himself with the witty banter and fast-paced dialog in his latest film. Above and beyond the others nominated in this category, I believe that Anderson has earned this Academy win for best original screenplay, which would be his first academy win.
Best Original Song:
- “Everything Is Awesome” from “The Lego Movie”
Music and Lyric by Shawn Patterson
- “Glory” from “Selma”
Music and Lyric by John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn
- “Grateful” from “Beyond the Lights”
Music and Lyric by Diane Warren
- “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from “Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me”
Music and Lyric by Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond
- “Lost Stars” from “Begin Again”
Music and Lyric by Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois
Who should win: I think it’s a no-brainer that Selma’s “Glory” has earned this win. Despite the fact that this movie should probably be nominated in even more categories, John Legend and Common’s song far outranks any other nominated. “Glory” captures the vibrance of the racial movement in the 1960s, while also reminding audiences of its relevance today. As shown by the fact that a song written in 2014 can encompass Dr. Martin Luther King’s message and combine both Rosa Parks and Ferguson into one song. As the song proclaims, “Selma” is now.
Best Animated Feature Film:
- “Big Hero 6” Don Hall, Chris Williams and Roy Conli
- “The Boxtrolls” Anthony Stacchi, Graham Annable and Travis Knight
- “How to Train Your Dragon 2” Dean DeBlois and Bonnie Arnold
- “Song of the Sea” Tomm Moore and Paul Young
- “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya” Isao Takahata and Yoshiaki Nishimura
Who should win: Honestly, this category was the hardest for me to make up my mind about. But if I had to opportunity to give out a win I’d give it to Disney’s “Big Hero 6.” While “How to Train Your Dragon 2” was a beautiful film, the overall quality and diversity of characters and themes in “Big Hero 6” won me over in the end. The characters in that movie are incredibly interesting, and almost everyone can agree that Baymax is one of the cutest animated characters to grace our screens in a long time. His awkward movements and marshmallow appearance are far superior in cuteness to many other Disney sidekicks (I’m looking at you, Olaf). The fact that this film features five people of color in main roles is extremely impressive, and it’s this kind of racial inclusion and representation that needs to be awarded, especially in children’s films.
- “Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Alejandro G. Iñárritu
- “Boyhood” Richard Linklater
- “Foxcatcher” Bennett Miller
- “The Grand Budapest Hotel” Wes Anderson
- “The Imitation Game” Morten Tyldum
Who should win: To me the winner in this category is obviously Alejandro G. Iñárritu for his film “Birdman.” That movie is a true work of art at its soul, and it is Iñárritu’s vision and passion that steered the film to such heights. The camera-work, the casting, the acting, all of it has a mark of Iñárritu’s true passion for this project. It is a truly inspired film that tells a comeback story of human nature, and for that Iñárritu deserves to be awarded for his artistic work here. His stamp is on everything from the screenplay to the cinematography and it was well worth the hard work.
- Marion Cotillard in “Two Days, One Night”
- Felicity Jones in “The Theory of Everything”
- Julianne Moore in “Still Alice”
- Rosamund Pike in “Gone Girl”
- Reese Witherspoon in “Wild”
Who should win: Rosamund Pike for her role as Amy Dunne in “Gone Girl.” This was the film that had everyone talking all year, and for good reason. Pike plays the captivating but violent housewife with just enough charm for her character to be truly disturbing. Even though she has many issues, you almost can’t help but root for her during the movie. I have not seen a more thrilling movie all year. Without her, this movie would not be half as compelling or interesting, and because of this she deserves an Oscar win.
- Steve Carell in “Foxcatcher”
- Bradley Cooper in “American Sniper”
- Benedict Cumberbatch in “The Imitation Game”
- Michael Keaton in “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
- Eddie Redmayne in “The Theory of Everything”
Who should win: Eddie Redmayne for his role in The Theory of Everything. Playing a role of a well-known and living scientist can’t be easy, but Redmayne manages to pull off an extremely convincing portrayal of Stephen Hawking as he is diagnosed with ALS and his relationship with his first wife. I adored the movie, and Redmayne was absolutely the right choice for the role. It’s a challenge, playing a character as they lose control of their body functions, but somehow Redmayne manages to pack a ton of personality and life into Hawking, even when he can’t move and speaks with a voice that’s not his own. His challenging role and success in performing it is what would earn him the award in my book.
- “American Sniper” Clint Eastwood, Robert Lorenz, Andrew Lazar, Bradley Cooper and Peter Morgan
- “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher and James W. Skotchdopole
- “Boyhood” Richard Linklater and Cathleen Sutherland
- “The Grand Budapest Hotel” Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales and Jeremy Dawson
- “The Imitation Game” Nora Grossman, Ido Ostrowsky and Teddy Schwarzman,
- “Selma” Christian Colson, Oprah Winfrey, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, Producers
- “The Theory of Everything” Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce and Anthony McCarten
- “Whiplash” Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook and David Lancaster
Who should win: Boyhood directed by Richard Linklater. This film accomplishes a feat in cinemas that make me believe in the magic of movies again. Shooting the same cast over twelve years makes this film truly one of a kind. The imagination and patience used in filming this movie is awe-inspiring. It explores a true coming-of-age tale that we experience as the actors themselves are experiencing. It’s originality and creativity earn this film the top award in the Academy Awards this year.
Photo courtesy of the Academy Awards