2015 Memo to the Academy

(Re-posted from LimitéMagazine.com)

Dear Academy,

It’s that time of year again. You’ve watched dozens of movies, you’ve seen plenty of “For Your Consideration” ads, and you’ve heard everyone’s reasons why one film or another deserves to win. There’s a lot going through your mind; maybe you’re confused. No worries. Once again, Limité’s Film Team is ready to step up with its picks in some of the most hotly contested categories. Read below, then mark your ballots with confidence.

Your friends,

Dan Quitério, Joy Ganes, Morgan Goldin

 

BEST PICTURE

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

 

What Should Win:

DanBirdman. A lot of attention has been placed (understandably) on Emmanuel Lubezki’s breakthrough and fluid cinematography, butBirdman hits far more than just that one note. Rounded out by a series of stunning performances by a fully capable acting ensemble, as well as a thought-provoking and genuinely funny script, Birdman soars (mind the cliché) above any other film of 2014.

JoySelma. Ava DuVernay’s delicate but masterful direction, and the engaging performances that tend away from pure mimicry, make this the best picture. I am not a fan of biopics, but Selma’s story about a town fighting the people on the wrong side of history—as well as its parallels to present day issues—create a story that represents the past, the present, and all of us. No other film in this category had me up at night thinking about the impact my own life should—or could—make in this world.

MorganBoyhood. A deeply moving and profound experiment in cinema, Boyhood is like a motion picture time capsule, and one of the best works from American auteur Richard Linklater. A masterpiece whose luster will grow with age, the film is a poetic ode to the everyday.

 

What Will Win:

DanBirdman

JoyBoyhood

MorganBirdman

 

BEST DIRECTOR

Nominees: Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman), Richard Linklater (Boyhood), Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher), Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game)

 

Who Should Win:

Dan – Alejandro G. Iñárritu. Long one of my favorite contemporary filmmakers, Iñárritu once again proves his unique, poignant storytelling abilities with Birdman. The filmmaker doesn’t shy away from a challenge, constantly stretching himself with each picture. PerhapsBirdman is his greatest accomplishment to date, taking a risky concept and successfully giving it life in a way that only he could.

Joy – Alejandro G. Iñárritu. Through Birdman, Iñárritu takes us on a wondrously trippy ride. He is bold and brash in his direction. Under a lesser talent, this film would have fallen fast and flat on its face, but Iñárritu manages to take us out of the comfortable film conventions while still entertaining us.

Morgan – Alejandro G. Iñárritu. Overlooking such a spectacle asBirdman is no easy feat, yet Iñárritu keeps the material moving with much aplomb. Delivering a film that is stylistically and thematically different from all his previous work, the film is dazzling entertainment and will be rightfully recognized.

 

Who Will Win:

Dan – Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Joy – Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Morgan – Alejandro G. Iñárritu

 

BEST ACTOR

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

 

Who Should Win:

Dan – Eddie Redmayne. This is a particularly strong category, stacked with four men who in any other year could win for their terrific performances. Unfortunately, those four men are up against Redmayne. The Brit’s been on the rise for the last few years, often taking on significant roles in popular films, yet many viewers didn’t know his name—until The Theory of Everything. Whether able-bodied or physically arrested—or anywhere in between—Redmayne played each stage of Stephen Hawking’s life with believability, with integrity, with grace.

Joy – Michael Keaton. Keaton is Riggan; Riggan is Keaton. I was never sure where one ended and the other began. Does it help that certain elements of the story mirror his own life? Yes. Do we care? No.

Morgan – Michael Keaton. In portraying what some audience members may imagine a quasi-biographical role in Birdman, Keaton provides such tender pathos in his performance of the beleaguered schmuck superstar trying to achieve artistic integrity. Pitiful and pathetic one minute, and vulnerable and maybe mentally unhinged the next, Keaton’s work is a marvel of comic acting.

 

Who Will Win:

Dan – Eddie Redmayne

Joy – Michael Keaton

Morgan – Michael Keaton

 

BEST ACTRESS

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

 

Who Should Win:

Dan – Julianne Moore. Not unlike Eddie Redmayne’s jaw-dropping turn in The Theory of Everything, Moore plays an intelligent, academically minded person who is stricken by a debilitating illness. But while Redmayne’s character’s descent is purely physical, Moore’s is mental, requiring the highest amount of discipline and subtlety. Moore’s oeuvre is full of Oscar-worthy performances (many of which she has been nominated for), but Still Alice is the one that should finally bring her the gold.

Joy – Julianne Moore. Quiet, nuanced, and deftly handled, Moore’s portrayal of a woman descending into dementia was the bright spot in a murky film.

Morgan – Rosamund Pike. As the exaggerated embodiment of every straight male’s fears of womanhood, Pike tears into her role in Gone Girl with relish. Drawing fresh blood in this take on the battle of the sexes, it’s impossible to take your eyes off of her.

 

Who Will Win:

Dan – Julianne Moore

Joy – Julianne Moore

Morgan – Julianne Moore

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

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

 

Who Should Win:

Dan – J.K. Simmons. It took me awhile to recover after seeingWhiplash. Watching Simmons on screen was like watching every teacher and boss who’s ever frightened me, rolled into one. Rest assured, the next time a Farmers Insurance commercial hits the air, I’m buying that insurance, or else…

Joy – J.K. Simmons. Simmons’s character is a monster, but I understood his unwavering quest for greatness and his respect for the music. If he were ever my teacher, I would cry for my life, but I would be certain I’d become the greatest.

Morgan – J.K. Simmons. Electrifying in his role as a sadistic jazz instructor in the psychodrama Whiplash, Simmons is absolutely captivating. Every time he made a fist to signal his students to stop playing, you could feel the air being sucked right out of the room.

 

Who Will Win:

Dan – J.K. Simmons

Joy – J.K. Simmons

Morgan – J.K. Simmons

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

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

 

Who Should Win:

Dan – Patricia Arquette. “Oscar roles” often involve a real-life figure and/or a terrible illness/physical impairment. Arquette’s is perhaps the antithesis of an Oscar role. It’s subtle. It’s understated. It’s real. And perhaps unfair to her fellow nominees, Arquette’s role—and her performance—only got better with age.

Joy – Laura Dern. Dern made me want to call my mother and tell her I loved her. Imperfect, but trying, you understood the impact she had on her daughter’s life and the hole her absence left. Neither evil stepmother nor matronly angel, Dern played one of the truest representations of motherhood seen on film in ages.

Morgan – Patricia Arquette. Providing maybe one of the most honest and realistic portrayals of single motherhood ever in film, Arquette is the secret weapon in Boyhood. Allowing her character’s complications and determination to come to the fore, this performance is one of Arquette’s best.

 

Who Will Win:

Dan – Patricia Arquette

Joy – Patricia Arquette

Morgan – Patricia Arquette

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Nominees: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris Jr. & Armando Bo (Birdman); Richard Linklater (Boyhood); E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman (Foxcatcher); Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness (The Grand Budapest Hotel); Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler)

 

Who Should Win:

Dan – Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness. Birdman and Nightcrawler are two of the best-written films of 2014. But The Grand Budapest Hotel is better. Anderson’s script (formed from a story idea by Anderson and Guinness) is funny and complex with fully baked characters and a strong point of view. The tight script leaves nothing to waste.

Joy – Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness. The Grand Budapest Hotel has it all: friends and foes, romantic love and friend love, adventure, discrimination, and loyalty. Set in a fantastical background, the characters are as rich on the page as they are in Anderson’s film. The story takes all these familiar elements, but mixes them together into an entirely new and engaging manner.

Morgan – Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness. Madcap, antic, and thoroughly original, Wes Anderson has delivered his most Wes Andersony film yet, and one of his richest. Taking place in an alternate history universe, the script twists and complicates itself in some cleverly unexpected ways and provides a very moving experience.

 

Who Will Win:

Dan – Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness

Joy – Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness

Morgan – Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris Jr. & Armando Bo

 

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Nominees: Jason Hall (American Sniper), Graham Moore (The Imitation Game), Paul Thomas Anderson (Inherent Vice), Anthony McCarten (The Theory of Everything), Damien Chazelle (Whiplash)

 

Who Should Win:

Dan – Damien Chazelle. Whiplash has been on Oscar prognosticators’ tongues since the film’s premiere at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, more than a full year ago. The fact that it’s survived the gauntlet of time for so long en route to five Oscar nominations is a feat within itself, and that’s a testament to the film’s memorable characters and passionate story. Chazelle has firmly established himself as a face to watch.

Joy – Damien Chazelle. Whiplash is a battle of wills and the pursuit of perfection through music. The entire idea sounds kooky, but Chazelle’s script is a high-tension tight rope act that had me on the edge of my seat for the entire film—and not one person’s life was in danger.

Morgan – Paul Thomas Anderson. Translating Thomas Pynchon’s tricky prose to the screen would be daunting to most writers, but Anderson proved up to the task in delivering his first adapted material. Providing a very heady film experience, all while staying true to his own unique aesthetic, Inherent Vice is another masterwork for Anderson’s canon.

 

Who Will Win:

Dan – Damien Chazelle

Joy – Anthony McCarten

Morgan – Anthony McCarten

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