Countdown to the Oscars: Thoughts on Boyhood, Birdman, Wild and LEGOS

The Academy released their official nominations for the 2015 Oscars this morning for what will be their 87th ceremony, airing February 22nd on ABC. If you want a full list of who’s in line to maybe grab some gold, click here. Rather than go down the list and commenting like every other asshole on the Internet (LEGO MOVIE SNUB. THE HORROR.), I thought I’d tackle the latest trio of moviefilms I saw and discuss their potential to win the big prizes. Let’s start with the most least nominated of the three (they always say, put your least important foot forward, right?) – Wild.

Reese Witherspoon in Wild

Wild was a fantastic movie, which is why I’m somewhat surprised to see it not included in the Best Picture category (not that it would’ve had a chance in hell at the win). The movie’s about a recovering heroin addict, Cheryl, (Reese Witherspoon) who decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail in order to clean up her life and find herself. The movie serves up tasty, heartbreaking flashbacks of the woman’s former struggles, mixed in her various adventures and hardships on the trail. (Sidenote: That looked like some extreme, hiking man. I wouldn’t touch that shit with a 1,000 mile pole.)

The word on the street was that Wild was Witherspoon’s most important work since Walk the Line, which she won a Best Actress trophy for in 2005 – and the street word was rightaroo. Witherspoon’s performance sucks you into this woman’s life in a very powerful way. Supporting actress Laura Dern (Cheryl’s mom) filled the screen with such a positive energy that really gave the film wings, setting the stage for Cheryl’s literal and metaphorical fork-in-the-road moments. I loved Witherspoon in this movie, but thought Dern was just as sparkling.

In sum, Wild was an emotionally powerful movie that really made you feel all the feels. Dern and Witherspoon are both worthy of a win, though for Lead, I’d guess that Julianne Moore (Still Alice) is the one to beat. (Moore just took home the Golden Globe, which is often, but not necessarily, an indicator for which way the vote may sway.) For Dern – she’s gonna have a helluva time trying to best Emma Stone and Patricia Arquette. Speaking of…

birdman_still_3

Birdman was also a very strong movie, but for very different reasons. It was funny, multi-layered, edgy, and gorgeously shot. Michael Keaton plays Riggan Thomson, a washed-up Hollywood actor famous for playing a superhero named Birdman. Riggan hopes to revive his career by writing, directing and starring in a new Broadway adaptation, but he is constantly haunted and criticized by the voice of his former life: the Birdman.

Even before his Golden Globes win, I think it was fairly obvious that this is Keaton’s year to win. The Academy loves this shit – actor has a lifelong career in the biz, he steadily rises and rises until a longish hiatus, followed by BAM – a comeback movie. The Batman parallel gives you something to chew on, too, but beyond that, Birdman was a huge movie for Keaton and he should have no problem taking home the Oscar.

Other notables here: Emma Stone, as Riggan’s junkie daughter. She was fiery and unpredictable, and I loved seeing Stone’s dark side. Also, the movie was manipulated to appear as if it is one long, continuous take, which was so fucking pretty to look at and really kept the pacing going, as well. It really adds to the appeal for the Academy to toss Birdman a vote – it was an all-around success that’s enjoyable on a surface level, but that could (and should) be dug deep into to really get to the chewy philosophical center.

boyhood

If Birdman should be celebrated for its cinematic strengths, then Boyhood should also get some serious cred for raising the stakes this year. Richard Linklater’s ambitious film took 12 years to make, filming annually to provide the audience with a big picture story of a boy’s journey from boyhood to young adulthood, all while investigating the inner workings of his relationships with his Mom, multiple step-dads, and biological father. Think about it. The dedication of everyone involved – from Linklater, to the cast, to every member of the crew – to work on such a project for over a decade of their lives. It’s really astonishing.

Acting wise, Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke, and Patricia Arquette were all good, but Arquette was really the standout. In terms of story, I found it refreshing that Boyhood never ventured into melodrama. The movie felt very real. Even during its nearly three hour run, it didn’t need the typical Oscar bait storylines – major deaths, tragedy, etc. It was nice to sit back and enjoy the movie for what it was: an epic piece of storytelling that forces the audience to look inward and contemplate the various times of their lives.

Great art should be a reflection of society that compels us to really think about the human experience. All of these movies accomplished this and they’re all very worthy of your time. (And if you’re still super butthurt over the Lego thing, check this out.)

Wild: A-
Birdman: A-
Boyhood: A

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