I loathe the way people say movies get “snubbed” by the Oscars. Yes, the Academy messes up a lot, arguably more than they get right. The issue is when people ignore the amount of nominees in a category, stating three our four actresses, directors or the like were overlooked without naming who ought to get the boot. I don’t need my favorite to win every, or hell, any category. I just want the winner to be great. Thus, when people get up in arms because they’re favorite two great things were nominated but not their third, it seems silly.
Which is not to say I don’t enjoy the moaning about the stodginess of the Academy. I just prefer to do it in my own way where simply kicking one film to the curb doesn’t alleviate all of the issues. There will always be the one, sometimes more, movie that others love and you don’t.
This is why I concocted the Oscar Replacement Game, which I’ve been doing for years. If you want a Supporting Actor to be selected that missed a nod, you must also declare who is getting the old heave-ho. To make things harder, you can’t just declare that The Theory of Everything shouldn’t be in any category. You can sub a film in only once, you can sub a film out only once. It’s unreasonable to think our personal favorites ought to be recognized across the board.
I like to run this along ten categories to get some deep, quality cuts. Feel free to play along at home. Let the game begin.
In – Under the Skin
Out –American Sniper
Under the Skin was never getting this nod. If director Jonathan Glazer had a deeper following, something that is now growing, perhaps there could’ve been extra traction. Either way, the film is an all-timer that is a smart, unique wonder that has already developed its own cult. American Sniper is a solid piece of wood, honed well by Clint Eastwood and unable to quite hit the landing. It’s a more nuanced work than the political in-fighting implies, even if there are critiques along those lines which are legit. It’s clearly a crowd-pleaser. It isn’t great though and it assuredly isn’t an all-timer.
In – Ralph Fiennes for The Grand Budapest Hotel
Out – Steve Carell for Foxcatcher
As a fan of Carell’s previous dramatic efforts or more serious moments in comedic ones, I stand taken aback by how one-note and over-the-top his performance is in Foxcatcher. Perhaps his portrayal of noted oddball John du Pont is perfect, but movies live in their own world and a balance is required. He is so affected it distracts throughout. On the other hand is Fiennes as M. Gustave, the stupendous creation that emits from the veteran Shakespearan actor and Texan Wes Anderson. Gustave is vulgarity smothered in manners, prone to commenting on how to be polite to the rich in one moment, declaring his passion for sex with the elderly the next. Fiennes makes this dual nature emerge from a singular presence of mannered refinement.
In – Keira Knightley for Begin Again
Out – Felicity Jones for The Theory of Everything
My favorite female turn of 2014 was by Luminita Gheorghiu as the conflicted, manipulative mother of Child’s Pose, but two foreign noms in a category like this is nearly unheard of and I’m not even positive this one didn’t qualify under 2013 due to weird qualifying runs. So, why not throw love to Knightley and her continued sensational run, which for my money, peaked with her loosest, warmest turn in John Carney’s Once follow-up Begin Again. She belts out hummable tunes like the best of them and charms with seeming effortlessness. As for Jones in The Theory of Everything, she is definitely strong playing Stephen Hawking’s wife Jane. The problem is in the writing, which is a little too much Hawking’s wife and not enough Jane. It’s a good performance that doesn’t have enough material to be better.
In – Melanie Lynskey for Happy Christmas
Out – Meryl Streep for Into the Woods
I love Streep. Streep gives good Sondheim as The Witch for Disney’s Into the Woods. Melanie Lynskey in Joe Swanberg’s excellent – if little seen – Happy Christmas is remarkable though. As the concerned wife whose sister-in-law moves in and messes up the balance of her home, Lynskey’s part in the wrong hands could come off as shrewish or just plain generic. Swanberg’s script, however, gives Lynskey the opportunity to dig into the depths of a woman that is much more human and relatable than this type of character usually gets. She transitions from almost an antagonist to the lead as the film progresses, Lynskey presenting her as hesitant, yet kind and open.
In – Ava DuVernay for Selma
Out – Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for Birdman
I don’t love Birdman, a minority, though not that uncommon opinion. It features a tone that kind of wears out its welcome, with barbs so shallow and old that they are barely skin-deep. Its faux one-shot endeavor is technically impressive and nothing new. Now Ava DuVernay’s Selma is another matter, nimbly sliding from profound historical retelling to heart-wrenching drama to slyly comic and everything in between. DuVernay makes Martin Luther King’s efforts to achieve equality voting standards for minorities feel potent, where often thus tales are stodgy. That old notion of history coming alive occurs here, DuVernary achieving an intimacy that is a sight-to-see.
In – Ruben Ostlund for Force Majeure
Out – Dan Gilroy for Nightcrawler
Force Majeure’s script is elegant. It’s a tricky set of traps laid down by Ostlund for his various cast members to pick through as the harsh truths and insecurities that come with relationships, love and modern masculinity come to fruition. It’s damn funny too in a wonderfully uncomfortable sort of way. Dan Gilroy’s screenplay for Nightcrawler is a solid one, including a number of great scenes. As a whole though, it doesn’t always excel, held together more by Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance and Gilroy’s own nihilistic direction.
In – Gillian Flynn for Gone Girl
Out – Damien Chazelle for Whiplash
Again, this is a case where a director’s writing side lets his directing side down. The tautness of Whiplash is due no small part to the tenor Chazelle crafts and the performances at the heart of things. Flynn’s adaptation of her own best-selling work never lets up, balancing tension and devilish wit in equal measures, nary a scrap of fat on the thing.
In – Bradford Young for A Most Violent Year
Out – Roger Deakins for Unbroken
Roger Deakins is the casual cinephile’s favorite cinematographer. He’s also probably the only one they know. Deakins has yet to win an Oscar, a shame that has come from difficult competition and lackluster Academy selections. His eye in Unbroken isn’t a bad one, with a few stupendous visuals that still resonate; they are but a few though. Bradford Young’s efforts are another matter, one masterful image after another that is somehow more than the sum of its already stunning parts.
In – Wild
Once more for the confusing-ness of Sound Mixing versus Sound Editing; this is the one about the creation of the overall sound of a picture and not about its effects. One thing even Interstellar’s fans agreed upon was that the dialogue was hard to hear over the clashing and clanking. I SAID IT WAS HARD TO HEAR OVER THE CLASHING AND CLANKING! Wild’s mixing matched its visual editing, with Cheryl Strayed’s mental flitttering letting sounds of the past, be it her deceased mother, the scream of her ex-husband or the cry of a wolf dart in and out of things.
In – Leslie Jones for Inherent Vice
Out – William Goldenberg for The Imitation Game
The Imitation Game isn’t a mess; the editing can be though. Blame is always prevalent when a picture’s time-jumping hinders things, with the script and editing usually getting the brunt of the finger-pointing. Inherent Vice on the other hand is an enjoyable romp of stoned hijinks that knows when to let a scene simmer for dramatic effect or quickly cut to accent the physical comedy.