This week was one of the most important weeks in my whole life. It started with the Golden Globes, the official kick-off to awards season, and then on Thursday, the 2014 Oscar nominees were announced. I don’t think I need to spend any time qualifying just how important the Oscars are. It’s like saying, “Hey, George Washington was an important dude.”
But of course, the announcement of Oscar nominees is never a simple process. No matter what, there’s going to be backlash – anger that a certain film was nominated, shock that a certain actor was snubbed, etc. It’s impossible to please everybody, no matter how many great films get nominated. So when I enlisted my frenemy Chelsea to once again help me out with this post, that’s the approach we tried to take – not looking at these lists in terms of what’s not on them, but focusing on what made it here, and how these nominees speak to the year in film overall.
CHELSEA: I’m trying this new thing this year where I don’t get pissed off because something was snubbed and just cheer for the great things that are being honored, because there are so many great things to honor this year and they got a lot of it right. Ain’t about a hostile awards season. Not worth it.
JAIME: I feel the same. Overall I’m really happy with the nominees, and I think most of the big snubs people are complaining about are things that just couldn’t squeeze in because almost every category is already so packed. And there’s really one category where someone I was sure had the Oscar locked down wound up not even getting a nomination – otherwise, I think there’s a clear, deserving winner in every category. It’s still gonna be an exciting awards season – it’s just that I think the races this year are a lot more clear than they’ve been in recent years, and that makes people think there are more egregious snubs than there actually are.
CHELSEA: Agreed. I went crazy and did the math, and this year there are more projects being recognized than last year and more of the acting nominees aren’t coming from Best Picture nominees than last year. Only four nominees last year came from films that weren’t nominated for Best Picture (Blanchett and Hawkins from Blue Jasmine, Streep and Roberts from August: Osage County). This year we have nine actors nominated from films that aren’t up for Best Picture (Carell and Ruffalo for Foxcatcher, Cotillard for Two Days, One Night, Moore for Still Alice, Pike for Gone Girl, Witherspoon and Dern for Wild, Duvall for The Judge, and Streep for Into the Woods). I like that they’re looking outside the norm for the nominees and slowly starting to differentiate between Best Picture and Best Acting.
JAIME: I think that’s going to be the only way to spread Oscar love out to multiple films, not just the go-to favorites going into each season. Especially since the films up for Best Picture always get multiple technical awards, directing, screenplay, etc., and that’s just not something the average person pays attention to. Having a difference between Best Picture and Best Acting makes it easier to separate the performances from a film’s technical aspect, and makes it more possible to accurately judge a film on its overall merit, rather than the most audience-appealing aspect.
Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything
JAIME: I literally just realized while writing this that Whiplash was nominated. That’s so great, oh my god. Okay, anyway, focusing. Overall, I’m not too surprised – I figured American Sniper would sneak in here, even though it didn’t get any nominations at the Globes. And of course Grand Budapest Hotel is nominated, here and in eight other categories. Its win at the Globes means it’s a much bigger contender than I thought, which I am absolutely thrilled about.
CHELSEA: I’m pretty happy with the nominations overall because it felt like there weren’t as many in contention this year. Things like Interstellar, Gone Girl and Into the Woods would make this bunch so much more interesting and breakup this biopic madness but those are commercial successes that just weren’t gonna be nominated. Gone Girl was too dark and too female for the Academy and Into the Woods is too happy. We can’t have our female leads be too dark in a Best Picture film, it just wouldn’t be right. Gone Girl will just have to sit on the bench with the U.S. version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Dark and complex women are just too much for Academy voters.
I do love how independent films dominated this year. Along with being the upset this morning, American Sniper is the only big budget film in the pack. Would not have minded seeing Interstellar on here. I still think it was one of the best and most ambitious blockbusters of the year.
JAIME: I don’t know, to me, Into the Woods and Gone Girl just weren’t on the same scale, technically speaking, as the films nominated here. I just think there was more focus on making them look great while still maintaining relevance to the widest possible audience – which is not in any way a bad thing, just, to me, not worthy of best picture.
Totally agree about the rise of independent films – of course, The Imitation Game is The Weinstein Company, who, like, can no longer not be considered a major studio, if you ask me, because Harvey Weinstein is going to control Hollywood one day soon. And obviously indies have always gotten a large amount of representation at the Oscars, but it’s seemed like more of a force within the last few years. And I think that’s a big reason for the divide between what gets nominated and what people actually see, which is a huge complaint people always have about Oscar nominees. I think we’ve gotten to a point where the general consensus is that independent studios are creating better, more artistic films (which, obviously is not a hard and fast rule), and that’s where the Academy is turning their attention.
CHELSEA: Since I’ve seen American Sniper, I can say that I’m not surprised or really angry it’s on here. It’s a pretty good film and pretty well made on most levels. Is it my favorite of the year, no but I’m not angry. Bradley Cooper does amazing work as this soldier that keeps giving and giving to his country and bottling up all this pain from the war and the things he has to do to keep the men around him alive. And as much as I hate to admit it, they portray the behavior of the soldiers and their attitudes so well and the mindset of America during the Bush era in Iraq. I live in a military family in the midwest and see these kinds of guys every single day. I saw this with my teenage cousin who wants to do exactly what Cooper does in the film for a living. Eastwood gets so much right in this film and Cooper really does a great job conveying this character. Yes it is a pro-America, conservative Oscar voters dream film but it is also a realistic and good film. I won’t be mad or shocked because of its nominations even though I don’t think it deserves to win anything.
I do think it says a lot about Academy voters though that they are able to honor all these war films from The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty, and now American Sniper. The war in the Middle East feels like a thing of the recent past even though it’s still happening, it’s just not as fear mongering in the news as it was back then and there seems to be some distance between the major events that occurred there and now. Selma’s events may have taken place decades ago but 2014 was all about race with Ferguson, Eric Garner, and the protests that ensued. The parallels between the two were just too much for these old white Academy voters that don’t want to admit that there is a problem within society and themselves. Just wait and they will honor a person of color in the next couple years to appease the people just like they let Kathryn Bigelow win to appease the women. They think things like this will make it better but until some of these voters die off the problems will remain.
Steve Carell – Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper – American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton – Birdman
Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything
JAIME: The biggest surprise here is Bradley Cooper taking the spot that many (myself included) assumed would go to David Oyelowo. I’m still surprised he wasn’t nominated, but the Academy loves Bradley Cooper. I still think the race is locked between Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne, so I guess it doesn’t matter too much, but it’s still strange. Especially since this was the year of the biopic – how do you overlook Martin Luther King, Jr.?
CHELSEA: He got caught up in all the ridiculous Selma backlash it seems like. It’s easy to toss him out because he’s not the one of the four white guys in a biopic. This fact is what gives Keaton the edge to match Redmayne. Both are frontrunners in this category and it’ll be a tight race to see who wins. SAG will be the determining factor I think.
JAIME: Agreed. Eddie’s clearly winning the BAFTA, so I don’t think that’ll be as helpful as it usually is. Michael Keaton’s also the only nominee from the Comedy category at the Globes to make it in here, which I think just speaks to how tight and obvious this race has been from the beginning. The other nominees in his category at the Globes were obviously all deserving and gave great performances, but I think anyone who’s been following the chatter this season has known for months that this category would wind up being Carell, Cumberbatch, Keaton, and Redmayne.
CHELSEA: Yeah, those four have been a lock for sometime. Having seen Cooper’s performance, he’s just as good as everyone else in their biopics. I’m just really starting to go into biopic exhaustion this season. Can we like calm down on all these real people stories?
JAIME: Right, like, shit, if I wanted to know about old dead people, I would take a history class.
Marion Cotillard – Two Days, One Night
Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore – Stil Alice
Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon – Wild
JAIME: Again, not too many surprises here, except for the sudden emergence of Marion Cotillard. I’ve only heard great things about Two Days, One Night, but I haven’t really heard her name being tossed around in the Oscar race. Otherwise, the other nominees are the same group as the Best Actress in a Drama category at the Golden Globes, which doesn’t surprise me.
CHELSEA: Cotillard had some heat in the Critics Awards. If Moore wasn’t taking them then it was her. She failed to show up in SAG and Globes. I thought her Globes snub took her out of the race but she’s the Emmanuelle Riva of this year. Riva pulled the same feat a couple years ago, knocking out Cotillard in the process. The rest are the usual suspects from the Critics, Globes, and SAG. Sad to see Aniston left out of the race. I just watched Cake recently and she gives such a great performance. I hope to see more of her in these types of roles.
JAIME: I think it just goes to show that this race hasn’t been as competitive as Best Actor. Only one of the nominees here is actually in a film nominated for Best Picture. Which, again, spreading out the love for films is always great, but I think it just represents the scarcity of great female leading roles. Maybe “scarcity” is the wrong word because every nominee here has, by all accounts, given incredibly powerful performances, but it says a lot when every film nominated for Best Picture (save one) don’t even have a female lead role to be considered in the Actress race. It says a lot when the Academy has to kind of pick and choose based solely on the performance aspect, rather than the film as a whole.
CHELSEA: It is quite sad especially when there were great female films this year. And I will say that there is a scarcity in great female roles. Most films are written by men and films written by women usually have more female characters. It’s just another flaw in the system. Reese Witherspoon had to create opportunities for herself so she did Wild but she also created Rosamund Pike’s opportunity in Gone Girl. Aniston did the same for herself and Cake. I like that these women are no longer playing by the traditional man’s world rules and starting to create these roles for themselves. The Academy is going to have to catch up and start honoring the films they make. Wild could have easily been in the Best Picture race. It’s a step up from the director’s previous film Dallas Buyer’s Club in terms of craft and the story is just so much better, and I liked Dallas Buyers Club. If we had to have all the biopics this year in Best Picture then why couldn’t we have at least one solely about a woman? Thank god for Jane Hawking and Felicity Jones this year or else I’d go completely mad.
JAIME: And I think part of why the films ultimately don’t get as much attention when it’s a woman creating the opportunities for herself or other actresses is often because, in cases like with Reese Witherspoon, you don’t have a ton of actresses producing. Whereas now, you don’t bat an eye when you see that Brad Pitt is producing a film, or that George Clooney is directing. And I don’t think it’s necessarily inherently sexist for a Brad Pitt-produced film to get more attention than a Reese Witherspoon-produced film – he’s established himself in that area, he’s made it clear that this is something he’s passionate about and has proven that his films are usually incredibly strong. The sexism comes in when the women who create their own opportunities have to work harder and have a higher output to get on the same level as men who do the same thing. But so, going back to my original point, these films just aren’t standing out in the same ways as movies produced by men, and I think there are a ton of different factors that play into that, but ultimately, women in this industry who want to improve women’s place in the industry are forced to work so much harder to rise up in the eyes of groups like the Academy and audiences.
Robert Duvall – The Judge
Ethan Hawke – Boyhood
Edward Norton – Birdman
Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher
JK Simmons – Whiplash
JAIME: Exactly the same as the Globes. I’m literally not surprised, though I think Robert Duvall was maybe nominated moreso on the basis of being Robert Duvall, because did anyone even see The Judge?
CHELSEA: Nobody saw The Judge. This category is so thin this year that they are defaulting to a great older actor in a dull film. Most boring category when you have to resort to that not once but twice in the same category. Sorry Ruffalo.
JAIME: I love Mark Ruffalo. I will go to my grave loving Mark Ruffalo. But again – why him over Channing Tatum? I hated Foxcatcher, but Channing Tatum’s performance was one of the best of the year. Sure, Ruffalo’s role was narratively important, but to go with him over Tatum (not that it’s a trade-off, but you know) just doesn’t make sense to me.
CHELSEA: Ruffalo is the safer choice since Tatum is still seen as a pretty boy and Ruffalo is a more respected actor and past nominee. I think Tatum has been delivering great work for several years now. The overall sad part of this category is is that I cannot think of who I would add. I guess cause most films have men in the leading roles that there’s less opportunities to see them in a meaty supporting role. Like when I was thinking of who was snubbed in this category I had to stretch and think “well Chris Pine was good in Into the Woods” but I wouldn’t give it an Oscar. Ansel Elgort in TFIOS? Like who could replace one of these guys?
JAIME: Yeah, that’s a good point. Channing Tatum has been my go-to when discussing this category because I do think he’s worthy, but also because I can’t really think of anyone else. Looking at the films nominated for Best Picture, the only person I can think of is Tony Revolori from Grand Budapest Hotel. Or maybe John Hurt in Snowpiercer. And it’s funny, too, because I don’t think there are a ton of people that I think could also have been nominated for Lead Actor. And it always kind of works out that way: there’s a small pool of men who are obviously in the race, and then a smaller group of them get chosen. So even though just about every movie made is starring a dude, the possibilities of who could get nominated for an Oscar is actually a really, really tiny pool. Especially for this category – there are always a few supporting performances that stand out every year, and each awards show in a given year always basically nominates the same group.
Patricia Arquette – Boyhood
Laura Dern – Wild
Keira Knightley – The Imitation Game
Emma Stone – Birdman
Meryl Streep – Into the Woods
JAIME: Once again, except for Laura Dern, exactly the same as the Globes. That pattern is making me think the Oscars are going to play out very, very similarly to the Globes – there are no real surprises in any of the nominees here, and only a few change-ups in these big categories. We’re going to hold off on making official predictions until closer to the Oscars, but I really can’t see different outcomes for most of these categories.
CHELSEA: This category had so much competition. I’m sad to see Chastain left out but Dern had a lot going for her this year. TFIOS put her on the radar early this year and Wild was that critical darling that gave her more of a chance to shine. A Most Violent Year didn’t register at all with the Academy sadly.
JAIME: I am happy with her nomination, because all you really heard about was Reese Witherspoon’s performance in Wild. It always makes me happy when someone gets nominated not based on their reputation or prior achievements, but solely based on their performance and work alone. It doesn’t happen much at the Oscars, especially for women. I think it goes back to the Riva/Cotillard thing you talked about earlier, and actually, it’s probably a big part of why whenever there’s a change-up in the female categories between award shows, it seems so surprising. Because, again, with men, it’s almost always a given who’s going to be nominated. There will be maybe eight or nine men, and you know that some combination of five within that group are going to be nominated. But women? You’re going to hear about Reese Witherspoon’s new film, and Jennifer Lawrence’s new film, and know months before their release that they’re going to be nominated for everything. So it’s so much more surprising, on such a different level, when there’s a surprise nominee, someone you couldn’t expect, who quietly comes up and proves that they deserve to be there.
CHELSEA: Exactly. Like I knew in last summer when I first heard about Wild hitting the awards circuit that Reese was going to be nominated and was going to be a frontrunner. If there were more of these bigger roles for women then we would have less of a sure thing at this point in the season. One of the reasons I liked the year that Jennifer Lawrence won was because there was more of a fight for those spots.
BEST ANIMATED FILM:
Big Hero 6
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Song of the Sea
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
JAIME: No Lego Movie, so therefore, completely invalid. That’s all I have to say.
CHELSEA: I’m so glad Lego Movie was left out. DRAGONS!!!
JAIME: No one asked for your opinion, Chelsea.
CHELSEA: I am literally doing a hundred of these posts because you all wanted my opinion.
Emmanuel Lubezki – Birdman
Robert Yeoman – Grand Budapest Hotel
Łukasz Żal – Ida
Dick Pope – Mr. Turner
Roger Deakins – Unbroken
JAIME: I’m glad that Ida, a nominee for Foreign Language Film, made it in here. I can think of some other worthy nominees, but I can’t complain, having only seen two of the nominees.
CHELSEA: Like Grandmaster last year, it’s such a pleasant surprise when things like Ida make it in. Everyone else is to be expected. Roger Deakins for Unbroken is always the bridesmaid but never the bride. Better luck next time bro.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN:
Milena Canonero – Grand Budapest Hotel
Mark Bridges – Inherent Vice
Colleen Atwood – Into the Woods
Anna B. Sheppard and Jane Clive – Maleficent
Jacqueline Durran – Mr. Turner
CHELSEA: I loved the costumes in Maleficent and Into the Woods. Lovely design and the work that went into making that much of a variety of costumes, especially for Into the Woods where each character was so distinct.
JAIME: Grand Budapest’s were great, too. They were all so specific to each character, while invoking the time period each respective character was representing. And the fact that almost everyone was wearing a uniform the whole time, yet those uniforms still said something about the character.
Alejandro González Iñárritu – Birdman
Richard Linklater – Boyhood
Bennett Miller – Foxcatcher
Wes Anderson – Grand Budapest Hotel
Morten Tyldum – The Imitation Game
JAIME: I’m kind of surprised by the additions of Bennett Miller and Morten Tyldum – not because I think they don’t deserve to be here, but they’re maybe not who I would have assumed would have been nominated. Like, Ava DuVernay, for example, is someone I would have assumed would have been nominated. Just a thought.
CHELSEA: I’m very surprised by their inclusions, especially Miller since Foxcatcher isn’t up for Best Picture. I thought Tyldum had a small shot at this since he got a Globe and DGA but I thought he’d fall out in the end so we could have Fincher and DuVernay. We can’t even have one woman this year? DuVernay and Jolie were our shots but dang, nothing.
JAIME: I’ve heard mixed things about Unbroken so I’m not surprised or upset that Angelina Jolie isn’t here, but no Ava DuVernay? Really? She’s continuously been listed as one of the best directors this year. Ultimately, this is Richard Linklater’s to lose, but reeeeeeally, Academy?
CHELSEA: I’ve heard mixed things too but just before Christmas when the voting started, she was still a threat. I guess they liked the other war movie of the year more. Speaking of that movie, if I had to choose between the films about heroic white men, directed by white men, I would take Eastwood over Miller this year. Foxcatcher was disappointing for sure.
JAIME: But was she still a threat because of the actual work, or because of her name? And I totally don’t think Bennett Miller should be here. Every reason Foxcatcher was disappointing seemed to stem back to directing choices. I’m surprised Clint Eastwood didn’t make it in, even just by virtue of being Clint Eastwood.
CHELSEA: Partly by name, partly because of the scale of the story and what it is based on. You never know how it’ll perform until audiences see it. Older audiences love it but the young critics thought it was a drag and too saccharine. Whatever, I’ll be crying like a baby when Richard Linklater wins.
Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach – American Sniper
Sandra Adair – Boyhood
Barney Pilling – Grand Budapest Hotel
William Goldenberg – The Imitation Game
Tom Cross – Whiplash
JAIME: I cannot for the life of me understand how Birdman was snubbed here.
CHELSEA: Like, how even did they snub Birdman here? The editing worked hand in hand with the cinematography to tell the story. You can’t have one without the other in this film. Like what.
JAIME: It should be swapped with The Imitation Game. I’m sure the editing is what created suspense in American Sniper, it DEFINITELY created suspense in Whiplash, so they deserve to be here along with Boyhood and Grand Budapest Hotel (which are obvious choices). But The Imitation Game? Editing? Come on.
CHELSEA: The editing did create a good amount of suspense in American Sniper and it did help create the geography of the scenes. You didn’t feel lost in the action. I’m seeing Imitation Game on Monday and can judge it more by then but I can see it being the run of the mill editing.
JAIME: Yeah, and I did like The Imitation Game a lot, but its strengths were in its acting and how it presented the story overall. It was a really well-made film, but it wasn’t necessarily a uniquely made film.
BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING:
Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard – Foxcatcher
Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier – Grand Budapest Hotel
Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White – Guardians of the Galaxy
CHELSEA: Grand Budapest is where it’s at. The makeup was impeccable and unique and helped bring personality to these eccentric characters.
JAIME: The makeup in Foxcatcher was really interesting and subtly done, but I agree with you, Grand Budapest is the clear winner here, even just for Tilda Swinton’s appearance.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE:
Alexandre Desplat – Grand Budapest Hotel
Alexandre Desplat – The Imitation Game
Hans Zimmer – Interstellar
Gary Yershon – Mr. Turner
Jóhann Jóhannsson – The Theory of Everything
CHELSEA: It took me all day to realize Gone Girl was not nominated. Odd considering Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have won this award twice already. The Academy really did not pay attention to Gone Girl this year. Birdman was disqualified so I was ready for that but it’s still disappointing.
JAIME: HOLY SHIT GONE GIRL WASN’T NOMINATED
CHELSEA: It’s so weird that Gone Girl was the bigger Fincher film commercially but it didn’t perform as well at the awards than the more divisive Dragon Tattoo (which I adore). Dragon Tattoo got a slew of technical noms but the Academy is so cold on Fincher this year. I think it goes back to what we said after we both saw Gone Girl. It’s a great film but not a great Fincher film.
JAIME: I think the issue of commerciality is at the heart of it. Dragon Tattoo was divisive, but it had to embrace its strangeness to make it as good as possible. It was much more of an artistic endeavor. But Gone Girl was a blockbuster masquerading as an art film. It had semblances of personal style and artistic vision, but ultimately, its goal was to reach as wide an audience as possible. Honestly, for as much as I love Fincher, I would have been upset if Gone Girl had gotten any technical nominations (besides score), because it’s just not on par with the other films this year. Still, I did think it would get a nomination for score, given Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ two wins in, what, four years? (Also, I totally paused briefly while writing this and put on Hand Covers Bruise from the Social Network score, because hello, talk about a great score.)
CHELSEA: I can agree with all those comparison points. Overall, it’s a really great set of nominees. I really loved the score to Theory of Everything and expect it to win the Oscar. It’s just so much more hopeful than the rest. I would love if Alexandre Desplat takes it for either Imitation Game or Grand Budapest Hotel. Both were remarkably different and contributed so much to the tone of the film. I distinctly remember the score from Budapest and how it brought so much comedy to the situations.
JAIME: I agree completely about Theory of Everything. Normally, I don’t notice score a lot when I’m watching a movie – it kind of blends into the background for me, and helps create an overall reaction, rather than standing out to me as its own individual element. But I kept stopping during Theory of Everything and listening to the score. It just stood out so much, in only good ways.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG:
“Everything is Awesome” – The Lego Movie
“Glory” – Selma
“Grateful” – Beyond the Lights
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” – Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me
“Lost Stars” – Begin Again
JAIME: “Lost Stars” being nominated might be the nomination I’m most excited about. I’m so glad this wrong was righted from the Golden Globes.
CHELSEA: Starting my campaign now for Tegan & Sara with Lonely Island to perform at the ceremony. WE NEED THIS DORKY BUNCH ON STAGE!
JAIME: There’s no way they’re not performing. Especially since The Lonely Island are co-credited – I’m pretty sure they have to feature every credited performer, right? They’re totally performing. I can already say with total confidence that it will be the best part of the ceremony.
CHELSEA: Get ready for me to lose my fucking shit when it happens. Like, it will be the single most fun and delightful moment of the show.
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN:
Adam Stockhausen and Anna Pinnock – Grand Budapest Hotel
Maria Djurkovic and Tatiana Macdonald – The Imitation Game
Nathan Crowley and Gary Fettis – Interstellar
Dennis Gassner and Anna Pinnock – Into the Woods
Suzie Davies and Charlotte Watts – Mr. Turner
CHELSEA: I think Grand Budapest is going to sweep these technical awards. Into the Woods might give it some competition here but overall, Grand Budapest had so many different locations and types of places to create that I think it’ll be hard to deny it these awards.
JAIME: I totally agree. And the scope of Into the Woods’ production design was truly great, but the scope of Grand Budapest was just so unique and grand in ways that I don’t think any of the other nominees can touch. The differences in the hotel between each time period were so subtle yet still so representative of the year, and the creation of this fictional city that’s lost its vibrancy was just so beautifully rendered.
BEST SOUND EDITING:
Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman – American Sniper
Martin Hernández and Aaron Glascock – Birdman
Brent Burge and Jason Canovas – The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Richard King – Interstellar
Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro – Unbroken
CHELSEA: I feel like I need to explain sound editing v. sound mixing just so people have a basic idea of what the Academy is looking at. Sound Editing is the process by which sounds are created, sourced, and captured. If you need the sound effect of a gunshot or dragon for the film then it’s the process of getting that particular sound. Sound Mixing, on the other hand, is the process of putting all those sounds together and layering them on the track. That sound of the dragon plus the yelling of the dwarves with the score and the wind blowing and a raging fire. Combining all the elements so that nothing, but especially the dialogue, don’t get lost.
This award usually goes to the most blockbuster-esque type of film because there is usually so many different types of sounds though. This might be where American Sniper takes an award because the sound is good in it and it’s “more honorable” to give it to it than something less prestigious as The Hobbit part 3583257 but also because creating all those war sounds in a realistic manner is difficult.
BEST SOUND MIXING:
John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff, and Walt Martin – American Sniper
Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, and Thomas Varga – Birdman
Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker, and Mark Weingarten – Interstellar
Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, and David Lee – Unbroken
Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins, and Thomas Curley – Whiplash
CHELSEA: I feel like Whiplash has the edge here because it’s balancing all these different instrumental tracks but you can’t count out American Sniper. There’s a particular scene that comes to mind when they are under fire during a sandstorm and the men are yelling. Nothing gets lost in the shuffle. I would actually get mad if Interstellar won this because so much of the dialogue got lost in the mix and they did it on purpose. It was an experiment that I really don’t think succeeded. I’ll be pulling for Whiplash on this.
JAIME: Like with score, sound editing and mixing usually doesn’t stand out on its own to me unless it’’s really, really distinctive somehow (part of this, unlike score, is at least in part due to the fact that of all the technical elements of a film, sound is the one I’m least familiar with). But the Birdman and Whiplash completely jumped out to me. That drum score throughout Birdman that built in intensity while still keeping in balance with dialogue, or background noise, was just absolutely brilliant. And Whiplash, holy shit. The way the sound layered over everything was absolutely what made the movie.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS:
Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill, and Dan Sudick – Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett, and Erik Winquist – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Stephane Ceretti, Nicholas Aithadi, Johnathan Fawkner, and Paul Corbould – Guardians of the Galaxy
Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter, and Scott Fisher – Interstellar
Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie, and Cameron Waldbauer – X-Men: Days of Future Past
CHELSEA: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes will probably get this because of the motion capture. I would love if Days of Future Past or Winter Soldier snagged it though. They both looked really slick without being overly cheesy, which Guardians was at so many points. Interstellar would be a great film to honor because of all the practical effects that went into making the film. From the sandstorm on Earth to the tidal wave on the first planet they visited. So much of that was practical effects that were later enhanced digitally. I really like this particular set of nominees. Lots of interesting variety when you look closely.
JAIME: I think X-Men was nominated just for that sequence of Quicksilver rerouting the bullet, and I for one am not mad about it. I wonder if the winners of this award over the past couple years show a pattern for a preference between practical effects vs. strictly digital. We all know the Academy is stuck in the past, but at the same time, they love new technology.
CHELSEA: Just looking at the past five years, they have been favoring heavily on digitally lead films. Avatar, Inception, Hugo, Life of Pi, & Gravity are all really big effects driven films that all won for cinematography as well. It’s interesting that none of these nominees are up for cinematography this year. This represents a shift also seen in Best Picture from the blockbuster films. If they want the winner to be something on the same scale as these then I can see it being Interstellar. I won’t mind since all the nominees are really good and this particular film really balanced the practical and digital as well as any I could think of lately.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:
Jason Hall – American Sniper
Graham Moore – The Imitation Game
Paul Thomas Anderson – Inherent Vice
Anthony McCarten – The Theory of Everything
Damien Chazelle – Whiplash
JAIME: I’m really surprised Gillian Flynn wasn’t nominated for Gone Girl – I assumed she’d be a lock to win. But I can’t be mad at a category that includes Whiplash, and overall, it’s a pretty strong category.
CHELSEA: I’m gonna take comfort in the fact that she just won the Critics Choice Award and is still up for Writer’s Guild. I really thought she would be nominated and would win. But there are no women nominated in any of the writing categories so I see how it is Academy.
JAIME: Do you know how many films this year were written by women? Gillian Flynn’s the only one I can think of off the top of my head who people were talking about and putting in awards contention.
CHELSEA: I can actually think of several films written by women this year but I go out of my way to find these films that are written, directed, and/or produced by women. Gillian Flynn is the only female in contention because Gone Girl was a bestselling novel and David Fincher managed to take her wonderful script and make it a compelling film that was a huge commercial success. Damn shame she’s not here or any of the other wonderful women of 2014. If people took superhero films seriously perhaps Nicole Perlman would be recognized for Guardians of the Galaxy. Different kind of diversity but I would’ve loved for Dean DeBlois to be recognized for How to Train Your Dragon 2. Talk about making a sequel that doesn’t disappoint. Toothless may be the best character of 2014. Easily most adorable.
JAIME: Yeah, Nicole Perlman was the only other one that I could think of right away. Obviously that’s not to say there were no other women, I just couldn’t think of any and I was curious to look at it in terms of how many women wrote critically acclaimed films this year, just to be shut out here. Because honestly, a lot of the time, I don’t really have patience for the “the Academy is racist/sexist” arguments people like to make. The problem isn’t necessarily with the Academy itself; it’s with Hollywood, that continuously makes male-led films with male writers/directors, and it’s with audiences who constantly flock to these movies and give them money and perpetuate the idea that these films are in high demand. So then, when you have, say, one truly Oscar-worthy film that’s written by a woman, or one truly Oscar-worthy film whose main character is a POC, that’s one film out of twenty. The odds of that one film getting into a five-slot category are incredibly slim. And then when you have factors like the Academy loving repeat nominees and the reputations behind the people nominated, it just makes the chances of that one particular film getting nominated even smaller. Now, obviously there’s more than one film released a year with a non-white non-male lead, or written and/or directed by a woman, but my point is, it’s still not anywhere close to being the majority. When the majority of films released every year are starring white men and made by white men, even when that pool gets narrowed down just to films that have a feasible chance at getting an Oscar nomination, of course a sample size of five is probably going to feature all white men. So to me, it just seems sort of ignorant of the way the Oscars and the film industry works to say that the Academy is racist or sexist, as proven by what winds up getting nominations. There’s a larger issue at work that limits what the Academy can do. And really, the heart of that issue lies with the average moviegoer. The average person isn’t seeing Selma, or Birdman; they’re seeing superhero movies and the newest Transformer. These films are made for the lowest common denominator in their viewers, and the lowest common denominator? Is often a white dude, who have a leading interest in seeing other white dudes on screen because all they’ve ever done is see white dudes on screen. So the average film, one that’s meant to appeal to the widest audience possible, one that the studio wants to make a shitload of money, is almost always going to be made with the intention of appealing to men. That’s their audience. And it’s fucked up and not something that’s going to be easy to change, but I don’t think it’s impossible. I think more and more people are speaking out when they see progress, and creating more of a demand for it. And that’s when we’ll see better representation at the Oscars.
Anyway. All of this is simply to say: Gillian Flynn was snubbed.
CHELSEA: What she said.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr., and Armando Bo – Birdman
Richard Linklater – Boyhood
E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman – Foxcatcher
Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness – Grand Budapest Hotel
Dan Gilroy – Nightcrawler
JAIME: I have zero surprise over this category, really. I’m glad Nightcrawler made the cut, but the real excitement is obviously Wes Anderson.
CHELSEA: Pretty much everything you could expect but it’s a pretty good set of expected nominees. Glad Nightcrawler made the cut. Would’ve been nice to see a few other smaller films nominated but I didn’t have high hopes beyond these films.
JAIME: And all of these films did truly have strong screenplays (though I’m not sure about Foxcatcher, because holy shit that movie was boring, but I think the screenplay might have been strong). That’s something that’s really exciting about this year – usually, when you have the same small group of films being nominated for everything at the Oscars, it’s kind of like, okay, of course the most talked about film is being nominated for directing and editing and cinematography and screenplay. But this year, all of these films truly deserve to be here. Are there other deserving films? Absolutely. But with categories like this, I can’t really point to any film and say it doesn’t belong here.
What do you all think of this year’s group of Oscar nominees? Let us know in the comments what you think – I think it’s pretty obvious that Chelsea and I love discussing film, so we’d love to know your thoughts, and whether or not you agree with our assessments. We’ll be back sometime before the Oscars to officially make our predictions, so check back for lots more film discussion in a few weeks!
Chelsea is a recent graduate of Missouri State University, where she earned a degree in Media Production and helped produce various student-created projects, including a documentary and reality competition show. She is also my arch nemesis, and the fact that I even invited her to work on this post with me shows my grace and strength of character.