The Oscars 2015

I suppose I should feel like I have more of a shouting interest this year’s Oscars. After all, my no. one and no. two films of the year — The Grand Budapest Hotel and Birdman — are up for Best Picture. And, yes, I will be over the moon if Grand Budapest wins (improbable as that is). For that matter, I will be pretty darn happy if Birdman takes the big prize. The trick is that Grand Budapest is a comedy — one with a deep undercurrent of sadness, but still it is a comedy, and that’s generally not a plus with the Academy. Technically, Birdman is kind of a comedy, but a very…well, odd one. Even its admirers are divided, it seems, as to what is good about it and what isn’t. (Personally, I don’t think there is anything about it that isn’t good — even great, though I hesitate to use that word on a movie I’ve known for less than a year.)




Then there are six other titles under consideration here — and most of them are, by and large, much safer choices. Even the supposedly daring Boyhood is relatively safe. Strip it of its 12-years-in-the-making “real life” gimmick and what do you have? An adequately made — but hardly inspired — very long dysfunctional family drama with mostly marginal performances. At bottom, it’s as safe as the almost painfully safe Theory of Everything — a romantic biopic that might have been made just about the same way by MGM in 1940. Equally safe, but a much better film, is The Imitation Game. It might have been this year’s The King’s Speech (2010), but the fact that it ends with a kind of slap in the face may play against it. If it wins, though, I’ll just shrug it off with, “Forget it, Jake, it’s Oscartown.” Flawed though it is, I’d rather see Selma win, but I think that’s a long-shot.




Even more of a long-shot is the somewhat mystifying presence of Whiplash on this list. I’ve heard it called “the annual nod to the indies.” Maybe so, but if you want to get technical about it, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Birdman, Boyhood, The Theory of Everything, Selma, and even The Imitation Game can be called indies. That leaves American Sniper as the only full-blown mainstream candidate. It is also the one that will put me in “take a hostage” mode if it wins — less because I find it morally dubious (though I do) than because I think it is a very mediocre film — and that’s at the best of times.




The rest of the categories…well, giving Best Director to anyone other than Wes Anderson or Alejandro González Iñárritu strikes me as absurdity. Of course, it’s not like the Oscars are unknown for their absurdities. It looks like Julianne Moore is all but a bet certain to win for Best Actress. Now, if that happens and Bradley Cooper wins Best Actor (I sincerely hope not), it will offer a new clue to Things Oscar Voters Like. (More on that after the awards are over.) We already know they like fake noses, which might be the very thing that pushes Steve Carell into Best Actor award, even though his at first creepy performance in Foxcatcher seems more zomboid as the film wears on.




This year, I’m going to try something a little different. Rather than doing a late night/early morning post mortem (you have to be as tired of reading those as I am of writing them), I’m going to use the Comments function to remark on the wins as they occur in something like real time. (I hope.) This, of course, means that readers can weigh in throughout the festivities, too. We’ll see how this works out.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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34 thoughts on “The Oscars 2015

  1. Xanadon't

    The common consensus puts Birdman and Boyhood in a two picture race. Can Birdman win without an Editing nomination? I sure hope so. Insanely, Sniper DID get nominated for best editing in front of Birdman but I refuse to entertain the idea for even a second that this gives it any kind of shot at an upset.

    • Ken Hanke

      I read where the “Twitterverse” has said it should go to The Theory of Everything. The mere fact that there is something called the “Twitterverse” makes me slightly unwell.

  2. Xanadon't

    The bulk of my familiarity with tweets or Twitter actually came in the form of last year’s Carolina cinema Oscar party live tweet thing that Justin put on. I’m inclined to believe however that far darker and inane dealings comprise this larger Twitterverse.

    • Ken Hanke

      I can assure you — though only from reportage — that it does. When Twatter was first presented to me, my response was, “So this is how the world ends — not with a bang, but a Twitter.” I have seen nothing to alter that view, though Justin says it’s useful for “self-promotion and dick jokes.” I should note that I do have an account, but it was set up as a gag by Brent Brown and has never been used.

      • Edwin Arnaudin

        I have preferred Twitter to Facebook for a few years now. The 140 character limit keeps comments nice and pithy and it’s easy to add to and edit who you follow to streamline what kinds of info you get (try doing that on FB…).

          • Edwin Arnaudin

            It’s not like we were worse off before they were invented.

          • Ken Hanke

            No, I think we were better off. Certainly I think there was more actual human interaction.

  3. Steven

    It’s looking like Birdman is going to be the one to take home the big prize. That wouldn’t be my personal choice (I think Boyhood is much better than you give it credit for.) I just hope they repeat last year by splitting the Director and Picture categories.

      • N

        I think this will be the third year in a row in which Picture and Director does split with “Birdman” winning Picture and “Boyhood” winning Director. I think the former resonates more with the voting members — especially actors — while the latter gets points for the 12 year cycle. Their hearts are with “Birdman,” their heads are with “Boyhood.” This way they get to vote both.

        Meanwhile I am in full agreement with Mr. Hanke about “American Sniper” but I have one absolute, ironclad guarantee. Should it not win BP the perpetual outrage machine led by Fox “News” will be in full gear Monday morning whining about how “liberal Hollywood hates America” but robbing AS of its rightful BP win in favor of “an artsy fartsy movie nobody has seen or even heard of” and how AS’ big box office numbers prove their point.

        It’s coming. You just know it is.

        • Ken Hanke

          I suspect you’re right about the split vote, though not perhaps for the same reasons exactly.

          The point about the furor over American Sniper not winning is well-taken. It won’t trouble the audience at whom it will be directed, but it’s hard to paint the Academy as solely populated by screaming liberals — not at 93% white, 76% male, and with an average age of 63. Not that there aren’t any white, male AARP members who qualify as liberals. My God, I’ve described myself! But the Academy has a long tradition of being pretty darn conservative and slow to accept new styles and thoughts.

          • N

            Oh, agreed, totally. But let’s face it — the Fox “News” crowd has their minds made up so don’t confuse them with the facts! Why let reality get in the way of some good, manufactured outrage?

          • Ken Hanke

            Especially when you can use it to manufacture some more.

          • N

            “Especially when you can use it to manufacture some more.”

            Exactly! That’s one of the few things we still make in the USA!

    • Ken Hanke

      I think Boyhood is much better than you give it credit for.

      A lot of people seem to. I just don’t see it. It may help if you’re presold on Linklater and I’m not, though I’ve liked everything from Me and Orson Welles forward (Boyhood only partly counts).

    • Ken Hanke

      You’re a better man than I. There’s no way I’m spending another three hours with those characters.

      • Edwin Arnaudin

        I thought it held up just fine, warts (i.e. Patricia Arquette’s performance) and all.

        • Me

          Warts? That final scene before he goes to college is one of the best in the movie and one of the best of the year.

          • Edwin Arnaudin

            I think that is such an obvious scene and that she does very little with it.

          • sally sefton

            As a mother who recently took her child to college, I thought the scene was very honest. Arquette was so authentic in her portrayal of this emotionally bonecrushing experience that it took me some time to recover from it. I think great films or great moments in theater allow you to experience something painful from a distance and witness another finding their way out of it. I am looking through the lens of a mother and a theater director. It worked for me.

          • Steven

            Yeah, I don’t agree with this, either. That scene in particular felt like the emotional beat the film had been gradually building towards.

            Whatever complaints I have don’t really seem substantial when I look at it for what it is.

          • Ken Hanke

            Of course, I just think the whole movie is way overrated.

  4. Mr.Orpheus

    I’ll admit that I’ve nursed an ever growing (and possibly unfair) distaste for BOYHOOD ever since I watched it, and mostly for the reasons stated here. Ignore its gimmick (and I’m not using that term disparagingly, but I don’t see how its formulation could be considered anything other than a gimmick) and it’s a fairly uninteresting movie about excessively uninteresting people; I’m not sure I’ve just simply not understood the near-universal adoration of a movie to the degree that I don’t with this one, but then I don’t suppose I’m trying very hard to anyway.

    • Ken Hanke

      You and I are in complete agreement on this. I will add that people constantly telling me how wonderful it is and how it’s a major work of art that will go down as one of the great achievements of cinema have only made it that much more off-putting.

  5. DrSerizawa

    I’m going to take a long shot on Selma. And for reasons other than the worth of the film. For that matter I think American Sniper has no chance. Not that I want it to. I have no desire to see it.

    • Ken Hanke

      Selma strikes me as a very long shot. It’s a little too much an “outsider” work. That usually works against movies as far as Academy members are concerned. I wouldn’t mind seeing it win — at least I would mind it less than I would mind five others — but I don’t think it’s all that brilliantly made. Call me nuts, but I have the idea that the “Best Picture” should represent profoundly good filmmaking, not just average.

  6. Ken Hanke

    Since this has already generated so much comment, I’m going to open a new piece just for the discussion of the wins as they happen.

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