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2015 Academy Awards
Well, it’s officially that time of the year again - awards season. On February 22, 2015, the 87th Academy Awards will air, and audiences everywhere will see what and who will go down in the history books. Even if you haven’t had the chance to see all that has been nominated, DVD Talk writers Jeff Nelson and Jamie S. Rich are casting their votes for all to see. Without further ado, here are the results.

Best Picture

The Nominations: “American Sniper,” “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance),” “Boyhood,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “The Imitation Game,” “Selma,” “The Theory of Everything,” “Whiplash.”

Jeff Nelson’s Vote: Whiplash. There were a few gems that came out in 2014, but it was ultimately a disappointing year. As soon as I saw Damien Chazelle’s “Whiplash,” I knew that it was destined to be one of the best films of the year, but the remainder of the year simply didn’t provide much competition. This is a massively effective piece of cinema that left me in a state of awe. I’m rarely speechless when leaving the cinema, but Mr. Chazelle and his spectacular cast managed to do just that.

Jamie S. Rich’s Vote: As much as I’d love to give a trophy to Richard Linklater for pulling off his ambitious experiment in such a compelling fashion, I have to vote for The Grand Budapest Hotel. No one else could have made this movie, it’s so singularly Wes Anderson. It’s fun and clever, artfully composed and daring in its flaunting of filmic conventions. The Russian nesting doll structure proves an apt metaphor: fans will be unpacking this wonderful puzzle for years to come.

Best Actor in a Leading Role:

The Nominations: Steve Carell, “Foxcatcher”; Bradley Cooper, “American Sniper”; Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Imitation Game”; Michael Keaton, “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”; Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything.”

Jeff Nelson’s Vote: Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything. Bringing iconic non-fictional characters to the big screen can be difficult, yet Redmayne displays a masterful performance in the role of the great Stephen Hawking. If you’re like me, and didn’t find yourself caring much for his contribution to “Les Misérables,” this biopic is sure to change your mind about him. He simply outshines each of his fellow nominees in every way.

Jamie S. Rich’s Vote: This is a tough one as I’m not that much of a fan of any of the movies the performances were culled from. Gun to head, pen to paper, though, I’d lean toward Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game. Michael Keaton maybe matched him for honesty, but there was deeper emotion in Cumberbatch’s portrayal of tragic computer pioneer Alan Turing. And without the showy physical contortions or grotesque make-up that Eddie Redmayne and Steve Carell (respectively) resorted to.

Best Actress in a Leading Role:

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

Jeff Nelson’s Vote: Reese Witherspoon in Wild. The “Best Actress” category is definitely more impressive than its “Best Actor” one this year. However, Witherspoon hits every emotional note to perfection. If this performance doesn’t give you the “feels,” then absolutely nothing will. This is a strong category this year, especially with Marion Cotillard and Rosamund Pike, although Witherspoon struck a much stronger chord that resonated with me for a bit longr.

Jamie S. Rich’s Vote: If I stuck with my rewarding of more quiet, earnest portrayals, as I did with the male actors, Marion Cotillard would win hands down for Two Days, One Night, but screw it, I’m throwing caution to the wind and rewarding Rosamund Pike for doing the same in Gone Girl. I love a good villain, and Pike redefined the femme fatale for the 21st Century.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role:

The Nominations: Robert Duvall, “The Judge”; Ethan Hawke, “Boyhood”; Edward Norton, “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”; Mark Ruffalo, “Foxcatcher”; J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash.”

Jeff Nelson’s Vote: J.K. Simmons in Whiplash. He has been getting all of the attention for this category from one awards ceremony to the next, but it’s certainly deserved. This is a performance that just oozes with intensity. It’s absolutely guaranteed to have you sitting at the edge of your seat, and feeling a ton of anxiety. He’s absolutely bonkers as this harsh instructor, and hopefully he wins the Oscar gold for it.

Jamie S. Rich’s Vote: Mark Ruffalo. His turn in Foxcatcher has such a weird power. He says little, but he’s a presence on screen that is impossible to ignore. At the same time, he doesn’t draw attention away from his leads.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role:

The Nominations: Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”; Laura Dern, “Wild”; Keira Knightley, “The Imitation Game”; Emma Stone, “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance); Meryl Streep, “Into the Woods.”

Jeff Nelson’s Vote: Patricia Arquette in Boyhood. Most moviegoers are sure to be discussing Mason’s journey to young adulthood, but it’s just as much his mother’s story as it is his. Arquette absolutely steals the show in this magnificent performance that feels so incredibly personal. There’s a level of depth here that feels unreal.

Jamie S. Rich’s Vote: Patricia Arquette in Boyhood kept the movie centered, playing the one character who stayed constant and reliable, and who then somehow broke our hearts when life moved on.

Best Animated Feature Film:

The Nominations: “Big Hero 6,” “The Boxtrolls,” How to Train Your Dragon 2,” “Song of the Sea,” “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya.”

Jeff Nelson’s Vote: Song of the Sea. After “The Lego Movie” was left in the cold by the Academy, moviegoers around the world were outraged, especially given how poor the majority of this year’s animated films have been. However, seeing “Song of the Sea” completely proved me wrong. This is an absolute gem that audiences of all ages are sure to fall in love with. The animation is stunningly unique, and the the storytelling is absolutely beautiful. If this one went under your radar, you should drop everything and take your family to see writer/director Tomm Moore’s film.

Achievement in Cinematography:

The Nominations: “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance),” “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “Ida,” “Mr. Turner,” “Unbroken.”

Jeff Nelson’s Vote: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). Out of its outrageous number of Oscar nominations, it’s only worthy for the Academy Award for cinematography. The overall look and feel makes it feel like a Broadway play on its own. Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography heavily utilizes its long shots in order to deliver something disorienting in the best way possible.

Jamie S. Rich’s Vote: Robert Yeomen had a real juggling act with The Grand Budapest Hotel, alternating aspect ratios and working with an unreal environment that was also more practical in execution than your average effects-laden feature. The look of this film is one to study and admire.

Achievement in Costume Design:

The Nominations: “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “Inherent Vice,” “Into the Woods,” “Maleficient,” “Mr. Turner.”

Jeff Nelson’s Vote: The Grand Budapest Hotel. Milena Canonero’s costume design is completely cohesive with every element to be found in the film. Much like the production design and the cinematography, the costumes are quirky and playful. The character progressions are wonderfully expressed via the different designs utilized throughout the picture’s duration.

Jamie S. Rich’s Vote: The Grand Budapest Hotel again. Milena Canonero outfitted an entire world, building it up from scratch, and keeping it consistent through the various eras the story depicted.

Achievement in Directing:

The Nominations: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance); Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”; Bennett Miller, “Foxcatcher”; Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”; Morten Tyldum, “The Imitation Game.”

Jeff Nelson’s Vote: Richard Linklater for Boyhood. Spending over a decade on one film requires a great deal of patience and organization. This film is an accomplishment to behold by a director who should have won an Oscar a long time ago.

Jamie S. Rich’s Vote: Here’s where I toss Richard Linklater his honors. The realization of the extended project is one thing, but the fact that Boyhood is also so involving and emotionally satisfying makes it more than just a formalistic exercise: it’s a genuine achievement in motion picture storytelling, and all guided by this man’s hand.

Achievement in Film Editing:

The Nominations: “American Sniper,” “Boyhood,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “The Imitation Game,” “Whiplash.”

Jeff Nelson’s Vote: Boyhood. A lot of challenges come with filming a single feature over the course of a decade, and editing is certainly one of the major ones. Even so, the film is so incredibly consistent, and a lot of thought clearly went into creating many of the cuts that are there. The movement from one year in Mason’s life to another is incredibly smooth, when it could have easily been jarring and loud. Rather, editor Sandra Adair utilized a more subtle transition. It’s filmed very much like a time capsule should, and that alone is beyond impressive.

Jamie S. Rich’s Vote: Sandra Adair for Boyhood. Culling twelve years of footage could not have been easy, but she flows from one year to the next with a seamless ease. Her technique is so good, it’s basically invisible.

Best Foreign Language Film:

The Nominations: Poland, “Ida”; Russia, “Leviathan”; Estonia, “Tangerines”; Mauritania, “Timbuktu”; Argentina, “Wild Tales.”

Jeff Nelson’s Vote: Wild Tales. Argentina’s submission can best be described as a ridiculously over-the-top anthology that I simply couldn’t get enough of. This is some of the most fun that I had at the cinemas in 2014. Writer/director Damián Szifron’s “Wild Tales” is a outrageously fascinating and clever anthology that proves to be absolutely bonkers.

Jamie S. Rich’s Vote: I’ve only seen three of the nominees, having not gotten an opportunity to view Wild Tales and Tangerines, but of the other three very worthy rivals, Timbuktu intrigued me the most and would be the first to demand a second viewing, edging out Leviathan by a hair. Hailing from the African nation of Mauritania, Timbuktu is a layered portrayal of life in a village that has been taken over by Islamic extremists. Abderrahmane Sissako shows all aspects of local life and how they interact, and he engages with vital and important issues in a way that is honest and enlightening.

Achievement in Makeup & Hairstyling:

The Nominations: “Foxcatcher,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Jeff Nelson’s Vote: Guardians of the Galaxy. There are a lot of different styles of makeup and hairstyling here, and Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White bring these characters to the screen with style. They took comic book characters from the Marvel universe, and brought them to life with undeniable success. Every character has their own style, yet they all come together with cohesion that feels easy and natural. Unlike “Foxcatcher,” makeup and prosthetics look real, and not like makeup and prosthetics.

Jamie S. Rich’s Vote: The Grand Budapest Hotel, for the same reason as I gave it the costume nod.

Best Original Score:

The Nominations: Alexandre Desplat, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”; Alexandre Desplat, “The Imitation Game”; Hans Zimmer, “Interstellar”; Gary Yershon, “Mr. Turner”; Jóhann Jóhannsson, “The Theory of Everything.”

Jeff Nelson’s Vote: Hans Zimmer for Interstellar. There are some impressive scores that have come to the forefront over the course of 2014, but Hans Zimmer has more than earned himself that second Oscar win. “Interstellar” features a massively epic sounding score that incorporates various layers of genius. It perfectly fits the tone and goal of Christopher Nolan’s motion picture.

Jamie S. Rich’s Vote: Another for The Grand Budapest Hotel. Alexandre Desplat really captures the feel and intent of Wes Anderson’s quirky little movie. Though, I find myself more apt to listen to Johann Johannsson’s music for The Theory of Everything, it’s really about how the music works with the images, not about what makes the best record.

Best Original Song:

The Nominations: “Everything Is Awesome” from “The Lego Movie,” Shawn Patterson; “Glory” from “Selma,” John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn; “Grateful” from “Beyond the Lights,” Diane Warren; “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from “Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me,” Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond; “Lost Stars” from “Begin Again,” Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois.

Jeff Nelson’s Vote: “Glory” by John Stephens (John Legend) and Lonnie Lynn (Common) for Selma. Both the film and the song deliver a message that was essential to the civil rights movement, and continues to be just as critical today. The lyrics are well-written and it’s performed with a passion that cannot be denied. Selma was criminally snubbed by the Academy is many of the other categories, so at the very least, it deserves the Oscar gold for John Legend and Common’s marvelous contribution to a marvelous piece of cinema.

Jamie S. Rich’s Vote: I can’t remember the last time this category was populated with more than one or two songs that actually deserved any kind of honor, and this year is no exception. (If you think “Everything is Awesome” is a good tune, then we should never talk music; then again, that means you probably liked The Lego Movie and have questionable taste in general. *wink*) By default, Glen Campbell walks away with it for his ode to old age, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” which I managed to track down on Spotify. It’s from his documentary Glen Campbell...I’ll Be Me. But I’ll be fine if “Glory” from Selma pulls of the win, which is likely. I just find it a little too on the nose, and felt the movie maybe needed something less contemporary sounding to match the tone of the drama.

Achievement in Production Design:

The Nominations: “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “The Imitation Game,” “Interstellar,” “Into the Woods,” “Mr. Turner.”

Jeff Nelson’s Vote: The Grand Budapest Hotel. Wes Anderson’s quirky adventure is brought to life with breathtaking production design created by designer Adam Stockhausen and set decoration by Anna Pinnock. The hotel and the various sets found along M. Gustave’s journey seem so real, it feels as if the audience is in the environments along with the characters. The atmosphere is so wonderfully detailed and beautiful, that it’s nearly impossible not to become entirely immersed in it. Whether or not you enjoyed the film itself, I think that we can all agree that the production design is absolute perfection.

Jamie S. Rich’s Vote: I’m going to break from my pattern here and actually hand this one to Interstellar. All those different worlds, and that insane climax--every frame a knock-out. Best Animated Short Film:

The Nominations: “The Bigger Picture,” “The Dam Keeper,” “Feast,” “Me and My Moulton,” “A Single Life.”

Jamie S. Rich’s Vote: As much as I loved “Feast,” the unique storybook-style art and meaningful storyline makes “The Dam Keeper” by Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi this year’s most unforgettable and touching nominee. They create a unique world, complete with its own inner-workings, and use the drawings as their primary mode of expression, earning a powerful emotional response.

Best Live Action Short Film

The Nominations: “Aya,” “Boogaloo and Graham,” “Butter Lamp (La Lampe au Beurre de Yak),” “Parvaneh,” “The Phone Call.”

Jamie S. Rich’s Vote: “The Phone Call” from Great Britain, directed by Mat Kirkby and James Lucas. Sally Hawkins plays a woman volunteering at a suicide hotline trying to talk a man out of taking his own life. Jim Broadbent is never seen, he’s only a voice on the other end of the phone, but the rapport between these two wonderful actors causes “The Phone Call” to really hit home.

Achievement in Sound Editing:

The Nominations: “American Sniper,” “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance),” “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” “Interstellar,” “Unbroken.”

Jeff Nelson’s Vote: Interstellar. Richard King has created a track that feels subtle, yet complex at the same time. There are a lot of sounds created for this production, yet they sound as if it was all captured on set. Some audiences complained about the ability to hear clusters of the dialogue, but when it comes to the sound effects created via sound editing, “Interstellar” is a audio-visual piece of art.

Jamie S. Rich’s Vote: Boy, talk about a section I never really feel qualified to handicap. I know the statue always goes to big effects movies, but I’m going to go with Birdman in both categories for how the team expertly balanced dialogue, ambient noise, and the percussive score.

Achievement in Sound Mixing:

The Nominations: “American Sniper,” “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance),” “Interstellar,” “Unbroken,” “Whiplash.”

Jeff Nelson’s Vote: Whiplash. Sound mixers Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins, and Thomas Curley had a lot to mix here in an extremely small amount of time. If you’ve seen “Whiplash,” then you know how intense the drumming can become. The drum set is a living, breathing character, and the music being played is its dialogue. Every element of the sound mixing is impressive, especially when one looks at how short the deadline was.

Jamie S. Rich’s Vote: Look above at the response for “Sound Editing.”

Achievement in Visual Effects:

The Nominations: “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Interstellar,” “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”

Jeff Nelson’s Vote: Interstellar. Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter, and Scott Fisher had a long journey of their own ahead of them when taking on this film. There’s a lot about space that we still don’t know, which makes “Interstellar” an undeniably daunting task, but they managed to deliver a beautiful set of visual effects. From the rocket ship sequence to the time spent in space, “Interstellar” is a complete motion picture that pulls its audience in with its magnificent use of visuals.

Jamie S. Rich’s Vote: Interstellar, for that world beyond the black hole alone, not to mention everything else.

Best Adapted Screenplay:

The Nominations: Jason Hall, “American Sniper”; Graham Moore, “The Imitation Game”; Paul Thomas Anderson, “Inherent Vice”; Anthony McCarten, “The Theory of Everything”; Damien Chazelle, “Whiplash.”

Jeff Nelson’s Vote: Damien Chazelle for Whiplash. The fact that “Gone Girl” has gone unnoticed is saddening, although Chazelle has created something special with “Whiplash.” The film’s phenomenal sense of character and smooth pacing can be attributed to Chazelle’s intriguing screenplay that only continues to become more fascinating as the running time continues.

Jamie S. Rich’s Vote: Inherent Vice. Paul Thomas Anderson distilled Thomas Pynchon into a loopy remodel of the private detective genre that also served as a cultural critique of the end of 1960s idealism and the birth of modern cynicism. Plus, lots of great dialogue, equally funny and sad.

Best Original Screenplay:

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

Jeff Nelson’s Vote: Richard Linklater for Boyhood. While it might not be absolute perfection, Linklater’s screenplay tells a story that many of us can relate to. He took such a simple concept, and made it so convincingly complex. There aren’t many writer/directors out there who can write dialogue quite like Linklater.

Jamie S. Rich’s Vote: It’s weird to look at the Boyhood script in a traditional manner, as it feels more like a movie that was sculpted than written, so I think I’ll give this one to Wes Anderson, too. The Grand Budapest Hotel wasn’t my favorite movie of the year, but it’s easily my favorite of the ones that got nominated for the Oscars. (And Under the Skin would have been an adapted screenplay anyhow.)


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