Don’t worry everybody: we are just a few think pieces away from the end of awards season! That means that soon you will have to face the cold, bitter reality that there are some terrible movies actually in theaters right now and also the polar ice caps are melting.
Let’s pretend, for just a brief moment, that I am now and always will be an Oscar voter. The world would be a much better place. Goodfellas would have won Best Picture. Anne Hathaway would never have been in Bride Wars. Monkeys would wear ties to work. Let that soak in. Without much further adieu, here is who I think should win in this year’s top categories:
Best Picture: Whiplash
I know that Whiplash would never in a million years win the big prize. Hell, it isn’t even the underdog this year (I guess that would be Selma or Birdman). But behind every great underdog, is one even further down, and I typically enjoy rooting for that one. It also helps that Whiplash is the best film to come out of an overall great year for film. But the reason that it will never win Best Picture is because it is the anti-Oscar film. It is the story of somebody overcoming adversity to become the best at their craft. However, this triumph comes as a result of being an asshole (dumping your cute Fordham girlfriend) and some dumb luck (your idiot partner forgets his sheet music). Whiplash acknowledges that the path to success doesn’t rely on Hollywood magic or hard work alone. Really, what you need is the insane persistence to keep going long after you were definitely supposed to stop.
Best Director: Richard Linklater
Usually, a director is the CEO of a film. Linklater was more like the father of Boyhood. He had to raise Boyhood for a long, rough 12 years. Nobody spends that much time in the production of a film. I get the feeling that Linklater loved this story unconditionally. Parts of this film feel so real that they might as well have been part of your life. Eventually, Mason’s memories might become entwined with mine. Richard Linklater is the only director out there who can make three listless hours this engaging.
Best Actor: Michael Keaton
Birdman marks Michael Keaton’s big comeback, even though he didn’t really go anywhere. That is the thing about most comebacks: they are usually a marketing stunt. Then again, Oscar voters have a thing for falling head over heels with marketing stunts. But I digress. Keaton deserves to win not just because it would mark a new stage in his career, and not just because his performance was brutally honest and authentic. It is just about somebody wins for amazing comedic timing, rather than their ability to play a real person who suffered adversity.
Best Actress: Rosamund Pike
I’ve got to pull for at least one icy cold yet lovable sociopath in this race. Rosamund Pike made it so much fun to try and find the broken little girl seeking her parents approval beneath all the layers of crazy.
Best Supporting Actor: J.K. Simmons
The best villain of 2014 came from the place you would least expect. Simmons is at his flashiest when he is throwing chairs and making Miles Teller cry. However, there is another layer to this masterful performance that has been overlooked. At one point, Fletcher says, “there are no two words in the English language more harmful than good job.” Great point, Terry. It just sounds wrong coming from him. This one scene, this one line, just adds an extra layer of depth to him. If you want, you can invent your own backstory for him: maybe he once aspired to be the greatest jazz musician in the world and upon realizing his dream wasn’t attainable, decided to instead find somebody else who deserved that title. Beyond the R. Lee Ermy scream and terror, Fletcher is a man who is equal parts bitter and altruistic. He will do anything to save this so-called “dying” art form from a culture of participation ribbons.
Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette
Patricia Arquette’s performance as a single and underappreciated mother is so good that it barely feels like acting; it just feels like she is existing. Her final scene is the most heartbreaking of the year. While it seems like a strange note to leave her character on, it makes sense. While this is a film about Mason, his development as a human would not be possible without Arquette. Maybe with this Oscar win, we will all finally notice.
Best Original Screenplay: Nightcrawler
Nightcrawler makes me miss LA, not because of the palm trees or the beaches or the In-N-Out Burgers, but because it seems to know the city inside and out. There is a scene where Jake Gyllenhaal yells about what route to take, and it doesn’t feel like a Californians sketch. Nightcrawler‘s screenplay is snappy, funny, and outdated in a way that is actually charming. Sure, it seems a little weird that local news is getting this much attention as a serious news forum in 2014. I thought it was just a place where anchors read the newspaper out loud. The satire is much stronger than people give it credit for, and the idea of trying to create a narrative where upper class suburbanites should live in fear sums up my thoughts on CNN. And to top it all off, Dan Gilroy also rewarded us with the incredibly memorable Lou Bloom, who’s ambition is as inspiring as it is terrifying.
Best Adapted Screenplay: Whiplash/Inherent Vice
Thanks to some Academy nitpicking, Whiplash qualifies as an adapted screenplay, even though it is an original one. It should win for all of the reasons I mentioned above, plus its pointed insults, which are as sharp and stinging as barbed wire (I’ve never touched barbed wire but my point is that it probably hurts). But let’s also throw Paul Thomas Anderson a bone here. He is the first person ever to adapt a Pynchon novel to the big screen, which is no easy task. Sure, the film makes very little sense, but the characters are too weird and well-defined to ignore. It is also one of the best comedies of the year, and a film that will likely grown on all of us with each passing year.