Oscar Primer 2014: Blue Jasmine is the Warmest Colour

During the lead up to this year’s Oscar’s on March 2nd I will be covering a lot of the nominees for the upcoming Academy Awards. This will not be your usual Oscar primer, but in fact more of a “catching up to speed” series. I will be dissecting a few films in each installment. I will be going over what the nominees are, and what chances it stands to win. In the last installment HERE I covered “Nebraska”, “The Square” and “Iron Man 3”. This time I will be talking about “Blue Jasmine”, “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa”, “The Act of Killing” and “The Hunt”.

“Blue Jasmine” was directed by Woody Allen, produced by Perdido Productions and was released on August 23rd. The film has three nominations.

–        Best Actress- Cate Blanchett

–        Best Supporting Actress- Sally Hawkins

–        Best Original Screenplay- Woody Allen

“Blue Jasmine” continues the recent hot streak for Woody Allen these last few years, hitting new artistic peaks with “Midnight in Paris” and “Vicky Christina Barcelona”. Though when going into this film it is best to not think of it as a ‘Woody Allen’ film, as there is next to no humour in it. Do you know the hilarious Mel Brooks produced “The Elephant Man”? Well he took his name off the credits as most people would confuse it for a slap stick comedy. This film is all about Cate Blanchette. We watch her character Jasmine experience the aftermath of a mental breakdown, and it being triggered again and again, to go with flashbacks to fill in the gaps. We watch as Jasmine is blissfully naive of her husband’s Ponzi scheme work while she throws money away lavishly on parties and bags. What is so special about this performance isn’t just the way she spoke her lines, but every mannerism was perfect. When she would start to have a breakdown, her voice would change pitches, her eyes would glaze and she would stare into space. Her body would twitch at random intervals and she looked devastated. The final scene where Jasmine runs out of her sister’s apartment after showering and sits on a bench and starts to ramble to herself sealed her performance as an Oscar worthy one. She did what is unthinkable to other Hollywood actors, she made herself ugly. Her brain had turned against her, and people in that situation don’t care if their hair is perfect. Cate was robbed of an Oscar for her performance in “I’m Not There” by Tilda Swinton, but she will most likely reign supreme here. Amy Adams and Sandra Bullock are probably the next closest, but they don’t stand much a shot regardless of controversy about Woody Allen or not.

Sally Hawkins still a mostly unknown actress from England, played the part of Jasmine’s put upon sister, Ginger. While Hawkins performance was really good, her role wasn’t fully fleshed out, but she did have some showy scenes. Her breakup with Louis CK’s character Al was painful to watch, here she thought she was done dating ‘losers’ and it turns out this guy has a wife. Her fights with on-again/off-again boyfriend Chili were probably the funniest parts of the movie. Ginger’s purpose in the film is to be a surrogate for viewers so they can see what Jasmine is going through. Unfortunately Hawkins is behind Jennifer Lawrence and Lupita Nyong’O as favourites to win with a potential dark horse in June Squibb, hopefully her gaining exposure is enough of a win.

What’s been said about Woody Allen’s writing abilities that haven’t been said before? The man has made at least one movie a year since 1982 (seriously that is 31 straight years!), and while some of them are duds, some are absolute classics and the rest are forgettable (do you remember “Melinda and Melinda” starring Will Farrell? I don’t either). It seems that every few years the Academy just gives him a nomination for his, always original screenplays. The way he plays with flashbacks and rawness of mental health will make this film go down as one of his finest, next to “Annie Hall”, “Manhattan” and “Midnight in Paris”. The film is painful to watch at some points, and at others you feel like minor victories are huge because you can’t help but root for Jasmine to turn her life around. Who knows what the inspiration for “Blue Jasmine” was, but he nailed every nuance of how a mental illness can wreak havoc on not only your own life, but everyone’s around you too. With four Best Picture nominees in the same category, calling this film’s chances slim, are a bit of an understatement. This assumes the fact that the controversy surrounding Allen won’t affect his stock anyways. Assuming all things are equal, Allen suffers from the Streep complex, where seemingly being nominated almost every year, even without winning, makes voters think you have had your turn in the sun, regardless if you have the best work or not. “her” and “American Hustle” are the most likely to come out on top in the Best Original Screenplay category.

“Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa” was directed by Jeff Tremaine, was produced by Dickhouse Productions and was released on October 25th. The film has one nomination.

–        Best Hair and Makeup- Steve Prouty

Hands up if you thought anything with the title ‘Jackass’ or involving Johnny Knoxville would ever receive an Oscar nomination? No one? Well there is one category that will not discriminate against how bad a film is, and Best Hair and Makeup is it!  Previous nominees include “Norbit”, “Click” and “Austin Powers: The Spy That Shagged Me”. This film, in the same vein as “Borat”, follows Knoxville in prosthetic makeup with a young child, while they improvise grotesque scenarios to see how shocked people will get. Normally if you see Hollywood makeup in person it can look fake and too over-the-top, but on camera it looks perfect and believable. The challenge with “Bad Grandpa” is that it had to look convincing in person. If you know what Johnny Knoxville looks like coupled with knowing that he’s trying to fake out real people, it is easy to spot that he is wearing makeup. Everyone he encounters believes he really is an old man, take for instance the scene where he is in a male strip club and he is trying to do a sexy dance, the whole crowd runs away scared. The forced scenes of the grandpa and his grandson Billy alone in their car are a painful exercise to watch in bad acting, but that doesn’t matter in this context. Since there is a Best Picture nominee in “Dallas Buyers Club” in the category “Bad Grandpa” doesn’t stand much of a chance, also there is no way the Academy is awarding a film with the word ‘Jackass’ in the  title.

“The Act of Killing” was directed by Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn and Anonymous, it was produced by Final Cut for Real and was not released widely. The film has one nomination.

–        Best Documentary Feature- Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sorensen

In my last write-up, I mentioned how you rarely see a film that completely changes the medium like “The Square”, this year there was another in “The Act of Killing”. The film recounts the horror stories of a group of government paid ‘Gangsters’ to exterminate all communists in Indonesia in the 1960’s. The film interviews the same killers in the places they killed people. That may not sound too original, except the filmmakers asked if they would re-enact the killings and they do! The killers decide to do it in the fashion of their favourite genres of movies, including a musical, crime drama and western. The main antagonist (I use that because I refuse to call them protagonists), Anwar Congo, takes the crew to his old office where he demonstrated how he killed hundreds of communists and the ground would flood with blood. They interview a leading newspaper owner and he told stories about interviewing communists that were rounded up and just publish stories that would make them look unsympathetic regardless of what they said. These men are revered by politicians for rooting out all the evil communists. As the film goes on you learn that these Chinese communists and communist sympathizers were no real threat to anyone. The men discuss how they were the cruel ones and they were just doing their jobs, happily so though. At rallies and interviews with high ranking military and political officials they claim ‘Gangster’ means free man and it is something all citizens should strive for, except no etymology of the word means ‘free man’, all connotations are bad. At the end of the film Congo, after presumably reflecting more than he ever has on his past, goes back to his old office and dry heaves to the point of almost passing out. Maybe the realization of being responsible for thousands of people’s deaths got to him, or maybe he was finally processing his guilt for the first time in forever, either way this is not a moment to pity him, but to feel an ever so slight victory.

At almost three hours this film is intensely hard to sit through, and I doubt if there will be anything like this made again. The reason why one of the directors is listed as Anonymous, is because the person is an Indonesian living in the country and fears they will be killed because of the film. There aren’t really any graphic scenes, other than the killers laughing about how they killed entire families, or waited until the men left for work to kill the women and children, which is graphic in content. While I think this is the most original film and probably deserves to win, it might be too heavy of a subject matter to come out on top. At the moment “20 Feet from Stardom” and “The Square” seem to be the films to beat.

“The Hunt” was directed by Thomas Vinterberg, was produced by Zentropa Productions and was released on July 19th. The film has one nomination.

–        Best Foreign Language Film- Denmark

For the second year in a row, Denmark has scored a Best Foreign Language Film nomination. Last year “A Royal Affair” made the cut that also stared Mads Mikkelsen as the lead. “The Hunt” is a film similar to “Atonement”, where Mikkelsen’s character Lucas, works at a kindergarten and is accused of a false crime. Lucas is struggling to gain custody of his son and as such is very unhappy. He seems to have a great rapport with the kids at his work who love to play and wrestle with him. His best friends’ daughter, Klara, is in the class that Lucas works at. Lucas scolds her when she kisses him, saying that kissing is for adults only, Klara then tells another teacher that Lucas molested her. Even though Lucas is eventually proven innocent by a judge, his community still believes he is a predator and treats him thusly.

This film is an excellent game of ‘what would you do in this situation?’ You instantly feel terrible for Lucas, as he clearly loves teaching children, and seems to be a positive impact on their lives. He loves his son that he is trying to get custody for as well. Being able to see why and where Klara’s lie comes from you wish to shake her and explain that a story like hers can destroy lives. On the other hand, if you were a parent you would want to be safe rather than sorry and if there is a shred of truth that your child was assaulted, you would want the person locked up too. From the parents prospective knowing that the abuser may have been someone very close to you hurts all the more. The scenes are delicate and very intense with Mikkelsen alternating between stoicism and bursting with anger over the false accusations. It is a shame that in English cinema he is typecast as a villain due to his steely face and hard European accent, as he is a marvel to watch with plenty of nuanced abilities. “The Hunt” is the only film of the five nominees with a ‘star lead’, but it seems to be behind “The Great Beauty” from Italy and “The Broken Circle Breakdown” from Belgium. Either way this gorgeously shot film that takes place in a secluded Danish town is one to watch and watch out for.

About author

Music Editor at Live in Limbo and Host of Contra Zoom podcast. Dakota is a graduate of Humber College's Acting for Film and Television. He now specializes in knowing all random trivia. He writes about music, sports and film. Dakota's life goal is visit all baseball stadiums, he's at 7.