First Thoughts on the 87th Oscar Nominations

The 87th Oscar nominations were announced this morning, and I’m excited to finally post about an awards ceremony on All Eyes On Screen. This Washington Post article showed which movies received the most nominations this year:

Birdman/The Grand Budapest Hotel – 9
The Imitation Game – 8
Boyhood – 6
American Sniper – 6
Whiplash – 5
Interstellar – 5
Foxcatcher – 5

Continue reading below to see what got nominated, along with my first thoughts on the nominees.

Best Picture

American Sniper
Birdman
Boyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Selma
The Theory of Everything
Whiplash

First Thoughts: None of the entries on this list surprise me. The only movies I haven’t seen on this list are American Sniper and Selma, both of which I’m planning to see in the next couple weeks. What has me super thrilled is Whiplash making its way onto the Best Picture nominee list. It’s a great films that hasn’t gotten the mainstream attention the majority of the films on this list has.

Actor in a Leading Role

Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton, Birdman
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

First Thoughts: Pleasantly surprised to see Bradley Cooper nominated once again for Best Actor in a Leading Role. I think American Sniper really picked up steam following the Golden Globes. What is surprising is that David Oyelowo’s name missing, who I’ve heard turned in an award-worthy performance in Selma. And while I can’t say I’m surprised, I am disappointed that Jake Gyllenhaal didn’t make the list for his transformative role in Nightcrawler. Also, how crazy is it that from now on, before Steve Carell’s name is mentioned in movies, it will be preceded by the words “Academy Award Nominee”?!

Actress in a Leading Role

Marion Cotillard, Two Days One Night
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon, Wild

First Thoughts: It seems like I completely missed out on Still Alice, because Julianne Moore won the Golden Globe as Best Actress, and now she’s nominated for an Oscar. So that one has just arrived on my radar. The other movie I’m excited to check out is Two Days, One Night. If Moore doesn’t score this, I think Rosamund Pike will take it.

Actor in a Supporting Role

Robert Duvall, The Judge
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Edward Norton, Birdman
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

First Thoughts: I realize that now I have to check out The Judge. I don’t really want to. However, I’m happy for all the other nominations on this list. J.K. Simmons is probably the favorite to win, and I wouldn’t argue that after witnessing him in Whiplash. Although, Ethan Hawke’s performance in Boyhood makes me sentimental . . .

Actress in a Supporting Role

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Laura Dern, Wild
Emma Stone, Birdman
Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

First Thoughts: I think Patricia Arquette is the shoe-in for this award, but I’m happy Laura Dern is getting some credit for her work in Wild. It’s no surprise that Meryl Streep is nominated, although I think she’s far from winning this. I’m very excited to have two of my favorite young actresses get nominated, Emma Stone and Kiera Knightly, although neither will likely win.

Directing

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Birdman
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

First Thoughts: I actually expected Ava DuVernay for Selma to get nominated, not only because of how much Selma has been praised as a film, but also because she’s one of the few incredibly talented female directors working today. From what I’ve read, this is Wes Anderson’s first Oscar nomination, and I think it’s well-deserved. At the end of the day, I imagine the real race is between Inarritu and Linklater, the most notable directors on this list.

Animated Feature Film

Big Hero 6
The Boxtrolls
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Song of the Sea
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

First Thoughts: I’m legitimately shocked and disappointed that The LEGO Movie wasn’t nominated. Has anyone else heard of Song of the Sea?

Cinematography

Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman
Robert D. Yeoman, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lynzewski, Ida
Dick Pope, Mr. Turner
Roger Deakins, Unbroken

First Thoughts: I’m now entering unchartered territory, where I have less I can say because of my limited knowledge. Considering that Interstellar does indeed get a few nominations this year, I’m a little surprised cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema doesn’t make this list. Emmanuel Lubezki has become the “household” name of cinematographers in recent years. Now I have a legitimate excuse to check out Mr. Turner . . .

Costume Design

Milena Canonero, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Mark Bridges, Inherent Vice
Colleen Atwood, Into the Woods
Anna B. Sheppard, Maleficent
Jacqueline Durran, Mr. Turner

First Thoughts: I imagine this is the win for Into the Woods, if there is one. The Grand Budapest Hotel‘s costumes were memorable as well. I almost thought Guardians of the Galaxy would pop up in this category.

Documentary Feature

Citizenfour
Last Days in Vietnam
Virunga
The Salt of the Earth
Finding Vivian Maier

First Thoughts: Am I the only one who was hoping for Life Itself to make this list?

Documentary Short Subject

Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
Joanna
Our Curse
The Reaper
White Earth

First Thoughts: N/A

Film Editing

Joel Cox and Gary Roach, American Sniper
Sandra Adair, Boyhood
Barney Pilling, The Grand Budapest Hotel
William Goldenberg, The Imitation Game
Tom Cross, Whiplash

First ThoughtsBirdman seems to be the one missing from the nominations, but perhaps it will make it up by winning Best Cinematography? I will be rooting for Tom Cross for Whiplash given that Miles Teller appears to do all the drumming in this movie, thanks to Cross’s incredible editing. I could see Sandra Adair winning for piecing together twelve years of filming for Boyhood in a fluid and coherent way.

Foreign Language Film

Ida
Leviathan
Tangerines
Wild Tales
Timbuktu

First Thoughts: Although I haven’t seen any of these, I’m surprised to not see the popular Force Majeure I have read about. Oh, and hey, there’s Ida again!

Makeup and Hairstyling

Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard, Foxcatcher
Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White, Guardians of the Galaxy

First Thoughts: Steve Carell’s prosthetic nose in Foxcatcher might be most memorable, but I’m rooting for Guardians of the Galaxy. Those characters really did look other-worldly.

Music – Original Score

Alexandre Desplat, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Alexandre Desplat, The Imitation Game
Hans Zimmer, Interstellar
Gary Yershon, Mr. Turner
Johann Johannsson, The Theory of Everything

First Thoughts: Double nomination for Alexandre Desplat meeans he has a 40% chance of winning in this category. Hans Zimmer’s score for Interstellar was my favorite. Go, Mr. Zimmer! I wasn’t rooting for it, but I’m shocked to not see Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s score for Gone Girl make this list.

Music – Original Song

“Everything Is Awesome” by Shawn Patterson, The LEGO Movie
“Glory” by Common and John Legend, Selma
“Grateful,” by Diana Warren, Beyond the Lights
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” by Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond, Glenn Campbell: I’ll Be Me
“Lost Stars” by Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois, Begin Again

First Thoughts: “Lost Stars” in Begin Again might be my favorite original song of the year, and it’s certainly the song I’ll be rooting for. Another pleasant surprise is seeing a song from Beyond the Lights make the list. I also love “Everything is Awesome,” and I feel like it would be a step in the right direction if The LEGO Movie won after being left out of the Best Animated Film category. My only disappointment is not seeing “The Last Goodbye” in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies make the list. Question: What is Glenn Campbell: I’ll Be Me?

Production Design

The Grand Budapest Hotel, Production design: Adam Stockhausen, Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
The Imitation Game, Production design: Maria Djurkovic, Set Decoration: Tatiana Macdonald
Interstellar, Production design: Nathan Crowley, Set Decoration: Gary Fettis
Into the Woods, Production design: Dennis Gassner, Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
Mr. Turner, Production design: Suzie Davies, Set Decoration: Charlotte Watts

First Thoughts: Both Into the Woods and The Grand Budapest Hotel had memorable sets and design, so I could see either of these movies taking the prize. But dude, apparently I need to see Mr. Turner, which keeps showing up in the nominations . . .

Short Film – Animated

The Bigger Picture, Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees
The Dam Keeper, Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi
Feast, Patrick Osbirne and Kristina Reed
Me and My Moulton, Torill Kove
A Single Life, Joris Oprins

First Thoughts: N/A

Short Film – Live Action

Aya, Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis
Boogaloo and Graham, Michael Lennox and Ronan Blaney
Butterlamp, Hu Wei and Julien Feret
Parvenah, Talkhon Hamzavi and Stefan Eichenberger
The Phone Call, Mat Kirkby and James Lucas

First Thoughts: N/A

Sound Editing

American Sniper, Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman
Birdman, Martin Hermandez and Aaron Glascock
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Brent Burge and Jason Canovas
Interstellar, Richard King
Unbroken, Becky Sullivan and Andrew Decristofaro

First Thoughts: A lot of people complained about the soundtrack drowning out the actors in Interstellar, yet it’s still getting nominated in this department. I actually had a bigger issue with Trent Reznor’s and Atticus Ross’s score drowning out the actors in Gone Girl. And hey, look, The Hobbit and Unbroken decided to show up to the Oscars.

Sound Mixing

American Sniper, John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin
Birdman, Jon Taylor, Frank A Montano and Thomas Varga
Interstellar, Garry A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker and Mark Weingarten
Unbroken, Jon Taylor, Frank A Montano and David Lee
Whiplash, Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley

First Thoughts: N/A

Visual Effects

Captain America: Winter Soldier, Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill and Dan Sudick
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist
Guardians of the Galaxy, Stephanie Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould
Interstellar, Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher
X-Men: Days of Future Past, Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie and Cameron Waldbauer

First Thoughts: Hello there, every superhero movie from 2014. Either Dawn of the Planet of the Apes for Andy Serkis’s work or X-Men: Days of Future Past  for that scene with Quicksilver should win this category.

Writing – 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

First Thoughts: There’s a big discussion behind why Damien Chazelle’s screenplay for Whiplash is making the Adapted list rather than the Original list, thanks to the oddball rules of the Academy. Regardless, I think it deserves to be nominated for its writing. Compared to the major change in characters and plot in The Imitation Game, I would rather root for Anthony McCarten’s writing for The Theory of Everything for honoring the people he portrayed. I’ve also heard Paul Thomas Anderson’s work in adapting the novel for Inherent Vice was quite good.

Writing – Original Screenplay

Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo, Birdman
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman, Foxcatcher
Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler

First Thoughts: Well, it’s about time to see Nightcrawler show up. I’m a big fan of Dan Gilroy’s script for the creepy thriller, but it’s likely to lose to literally any of the other nominees. I couldn’t argue with any of the nominations in this category: I like them all.

What are your first thoughts on this year’s Oscar nominations? Which ones are you most excited for? Which snubs are you most disappointed about?

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AEOS Review: Whiplash (2014)

Whiplash is a perfect title for this film, because it made me think it was a great example of onomatopoeia, except instead of Whiplash sounding like what it’s describing, the experience of watching Whiplash makes you feel like you’ve underwent whiplash. Then again, you have to appreciate the metaphorical idea the film presents: watching Terrence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) beat students into beating drums at his tempo provides viewers with an emotional whiplash they get to encounter again and again.

The premise is simple: Andrew (Miles Teller) wants to be the greatest jazz drummer who lived, so much so that he’ll preemptively break up with a girl after having struggled to ask her out in the first place; make a point at a family dinner to educate his extended relatives that becoming part of the core group of a prestigious band ruled by a prestigious conductor at a prestigious conservatory is far greater than making third division on a football team; walk away from a car accident where he’s so badly injured, it’s a wonder he’s able to walk, much less drum; and nearly isolate anyone else who fails to understand his passionate loyalty to drumming.

I think director Damie Chazelle would like viewers to consider that Andrew, himself, is the greatest obstacle he must overcome to achieve his dreams. Yet J.K. Simmons’s best performance-to-date as the dictator-like conductor Terrence Fletcher might prove otherwise. Fletcher knows what Andrew wants. Fletcher’s tactics and attitude bleed brutality. Fletcher appears as a monster to people who are not part of the music world, and yet he’s a true character for many who have climbed the ladder of musical performance at arts schools.

As viewers, we’re waiting for that moment where we see Fletcher shed a moment of vulnerability, and there are even times when we’re convinced that he might have a heart. But his methods are born of madness, possibly drawing from his own insecurities. Fletcher is so set on physically and emotionally driving his students to the edge in order to accomplish . . . what, exactly? Fletcher seeks the best out of his students, right? He’s a teacher, a mode of influence who realizes that saying the words “good job” may be the most harmful to a student’s progress, creating a strain that holds them back from achieving their greatest work. And yet as viewers, we don’t really question whether the lines between his coaching and abusing are blurred, because cussing out a student and hurling furniture at his head would fire many a director, manager, coach, etc. Yet Fletcher believes wholly in his methods, justified or not, if it means getting his way.

Aside from the ending, there are two moments I want to discuss, that I’m willing to allot more time on these points than the rest of the film. Both scenes focus on dialogue instead of the music. The first one I alluded to earlier, when Andrew tries to explain his musical aspirations to his extended family. At a family dinner, family members brush over Andrew’s accomplishments, settling on praising those who have accomplished goals they understand, specifically his cousins’s achievements in sports. Moving up the ranks, going up divisions, getting put on first string, being a starter, catching a ball, making a touchdown, or shooting a basket: all of these ideas are so familiar to us, that they couldn’t help but cheer and acknowledge the accomplishments of an athlete. Similarly in business, a certain protocol is observed and understood: move up the food chain, get promoted, receive a raise, give a presentation, make a sale. Yet in arts, subjectivity plays such a greater role; even more so, being the best has never been enough to make it on Broadway, the Lyric Opera, the Boston Pops, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, or to be considered among the greatest musicians and artists in history. Art roles and jobs often don’t pay for college, provide a stable job prospect or salary, or appear as a measurable list of goals that you can check off a list as you climb the rings of the artistic ladder. It’s about attending the best schools, making a big break, talking to all the right people, and offering up all the blood, sweat, and tears possible. And even then, there’s no guarantee one will be successful. So it often confuses those who think in terms of logic and measurable means, because art is not measurable. Liken it to attaining goals in sports or business, and you’ll get a conversation at Andrew’s dinner table. The scene presents the constant misunderstanding between logics and artists, and for Andrew, it acts as only more steam in his heated desire to move forward and prove his desire worthy of Fletcher’s expectations, regardless of his family’s inability to comprehend why being a drummer in the core group of Terrence Fletcher’s band at Shaffer Conservatory is worth praising.

The second moment is especially memorable, because it sums up Fletcher’s character for the entire film. After being let go at the conservatory for his mistreatment of students, Fletcher is playing piano in a small jazz band in a bar. Andrew’s curiosity leads him to the bar, where he fails to avoid eye contact with Fletcher when the song is over. So the two start chatting, and when the conversation leads to Fletcher’s forced exit from Shaffer, Fletcher defends his brutal methods for helping students achieve their goals. Yet Andrew suggests that such actions could actually depress a student, and drive one away from becoming great if a teacher comes down too harsh. Fletcher responds that one determined to succeed would never get depressed and give up. It’s an interesting perspective, to consider that any student would never grow tired, depressed, or frustrated enough to actually give up if a teacher were regularly cussing them out, seeking to emotionally and physically injure them, in an effort to break a student so far down that they could achieve the best. But sometimes breaking a student – a human being – down to that point isn’t as inspirational as most movies make it, and even Fletcher himself believes here. Because for all the realism a movie like Whiplash is staked in, with a hardcore teacher that students across the globe have sat at the heels of, experienced the torture of being made to feel so little in order to accomplish the goals the teacher has set out for them, it is a line like Fletcher’s that reminds us that taking some of the most emotional people in the world (those involved in the arts, for those who haven’t caught on), and expecting them to not emotionally respond, is actually counter to both what he hopes to accomplish by said methods. Artists are not excluded from depression, feelings of failure, or giving up.

*Phew* OK, taking a breath from all of that heavy talk. I know I have to get in a word or two about the ending . . . some loved it, some hated it, some felt indifferent. I thought it was an interesting choice, and honestly, I respect the decision to have an ending like it: you don’t see it coming. That said, I can’t pretend that I didn’t uncomfortably shift in my seat, trying to sort out what exactly was happening, and wondering what would happen next.

Whiplash opens up a lot of discussion about a lot of things, but I think I’d be doing this review a disservice by not mentioning that similarly to the journey Andrew experienced in developing his drumming skills to become one of the greats, Whiplash started off as writer-director Damien Chazelle’s dream project, the script having sat on the 2012 Black List of best “not yet produced” screenplays. Thanks to producers Right of Way Films and Blumhouse Productions, Chazelle was able to translate his motion picture into a 18-minute short film, which garnered enough attention at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival that Bold Films picked up the original screenplay, giving us what is now Whiplash.

Miles Teller

Andrew’s breakthrough into Terrence Fletcher’s band at the fictional, distinguished Shaffer Conservatory truly mirrors Miles Teller’s graduation into raw, adult performances in film. While he has certainly shined in smaller films or YA adaptations that have him playing the villain (Divergent, 2014), or even occasionally playing an interesting role with promise (The Spectacular Now, 2013), it is Teller’s turn in Whiplash that brings him front and center. What’s more fascinating about his role is that he did a lot of his own drumming after attending a drumming boot camp for two months before filming. However, Teller can’t take all the credit, thanks to the already award-winning editing skills of Tom Cross, who convinced viewers Teller was that good of a jazz drummer. (Fun fact: according to this article, it took two full days to shoot the drum solo in Caravan.)

There isn’t much more I can say about J.K. Simmons other than that this is some of the finest acting he’s ever given. Perhaps he just hasn’t been offered such a meaty role before, but I’d be surprised if his performance in Whiplash didn’t attract at least an Oscar nomination.

Whiplash, however, has more than just career-changing performances. With an impressive jazz soundtrack, sharp editing, and beautiful camera work thanks to cinematographer Sharone Meir, I’d recommend Whiplash to anyone who wants to witness what I believe is one of 2014’s best films, even if I don’t want to see Whiplash again any time soon. (It had that 12 Years a Slave (2013) impact on me that assured me of its greatness, but didn’t make me want to watch it over again.)

I give Whiplash 

Eye Art1Eye Art1Eye Art1Eye Art1
EYES ON SCREEN.

 

It’s your turn now. What did you think of Whiplash? Do you think it will receive any Oscar nominations? Please share your thoughts below.