Oscar Primer 2014: Before Oscar

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 “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”, “Dirty Wars”, “Cutie and the Boxer” and “All is Lost”. This time I will be talking about “Lone Ranger”, “Before Midnight”, “Saving Mr. Banks” and “Lone Survivor”.

“The Lone Ranger” was directed by Gore Verbinski, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer Films and was released on July 3rd. The film has two nominations.

–        Best Visual Effects- Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier

–        Best Hair and Makeup- Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua Casny

This film is an adaption of the popular serial from 1930’s that follows an outlaw Texas Ranger named the Lone Ranger who bands with a Native American, Tonto, to fight bad guys. The plot of the movie follows some convoluted origin story where the Lone Ranger must avenge his brother’s death and stop a politician from selling a bunch of silver in order to control the railways. To be honest the film did not have my attention, it was just a poorly made film in almost every aspect. I didn’t even find the special effects to be that stunning either. Sure the fight chorography was fun, but seeing trains chugging along at high speeds is less impressive if you have seen Buster Keaton’s classic “The General” which was clearly an inspiration for this film. There was no single special effect that stood out as original. Take for instance the clouds being blotted out by arrows, seen it in “300” and “Lord of the Rings”.   Thankfully this film seems to have the smallest chance of winning this award.

The hair and makeup for this film is primarily on Johnny Depp, in two different forms. The movie is narrated by old Tonto recounting the story of the Lone Ranger to a young boy, and as such Depp is shirtless and around 80 years old. His whole body is covered in prosthetic wrinkles and long black hair. It is not bad makeup by any means but it didn’t wow me like the beards and makeup in “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”. During the film Depp’s face is painted white with black streaks to look ghostly. He has a ‘spirit-less’ bird affixed to his head that he constantly feeds. “Dallas Buyers Club” has the edge in the Best Hair and Makeup category solely because it has Best Picture support but this film is next in line of the three nominees.

“Before Midnight” was directed by Richard Linklater, produced by Detour Filmproduction and was released on June 14th. The film has one nomination.

–        Best Adapted Screenplay- Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy

It is funny that this film is in the Best Adapted Screenplay award since it is an original work, but under Academy rules, all sequels are automatically considered adapted from the previous works. The series that is billed as ‘The Lowest Grossing Trilogy Ever’ is about an American man, Jesse, who meets a French woman, Celine, and their love affair. “Before Sunrise” came out in 1995 and is about how Jesse and Celine meet on a train in Venice and spend one romantic night together. “Before Sunset” from 2004 sees Jesse on a book tour in France after writing a book about his chance meeting. Jesse is now married and runs into Celine where they catch up after not seeing each other for nine years. Lastly “Before Midnight” sees Jesse and Celine nine years later again, this time together with two children of their own but their relationship is on the rocks.

This script (and all in the series) is a very adult and frank discussion of life, love and expectations. Seeing Jesse and Celine argue about job opportunities and what is best for their family is so natural you can envision having the same argument/discussion with your own partner. The original film’s screenplay while technically only credited to Linklater was co-written by the actors as well, and they continued the trend this time. Linklater comes up with the idea, and then Delpy and Hawke rewrite the dialogue to match the characters. I had never seen any of the “Before” films, so I binge watched them so I can truly appreciate this nominated film. These films are like a Woody Allen script minus the absurdity, just relatable characters you enjoy watching and learning about. Unfortunately this film is behind four Best Picture nominees in the same category with “12 Years a Slave” and “Philomena” leading the way. I hope in nine more years Jesse and Celine return with something like ‘Before Noon’.

“Saving Mr. Banks” was directed by John Lee Hancock, produced by Walt Disney Pictures and was released on December 20th. The film has one nomination.

–        Best Original Score- Thomas Newman

The score itself isn’t bad but it suffers from one of the most annoying traits that occurs in films, it tells you how to feel. When PL Travers realizes Walt Disney is the man to bring her character of Mary Poppins to life after years of being strictly against it, the music swells and you feel euphoric. When Travers is remembering her childhood with her alcoholic father (for she had an unusual amount of love for him) the music was slow and melancholic. Just by listening to the music you could figure it would be something from a Disney movie. The film doesn’t have much of a chance to win, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it won since the Academy loves Disney!

“Lone Survivor” was directed by Peter Berg, produced by eight different companies and was released on January 10th. The film has two nominations.

–        Best Sound Editing- Wylie Stateman

–        Best Sound Mixing-    Andy Koyama, Beau Borders and David Brownlow

“Lone Survivor” tells that true story of a four man Navy Seal team lead by Marcus Luttrell who hike through the mountains in Afghanistan on a mission to kill a Taliban leader. Unfortunately their mission gets compromised and the Taliban find them. They spend the rest of the film fending them off and trying to take as many out as possible, and as the title suggests only one person of the group survives.

The sound in the film was pretty impressive; I like how all the guys wore ear pieces so they can communicate amongst themselves. The sound of them breathing was overdubbed into the film so subtlety it was hard to tell when it was there. All the sound of guns and explosions going off were frighteningly real. Several times depending on how close the camera was to the Seals when an explosion went off, the sound would go muted and seem like the viewer also had tinnitus. There were two frightening scenes of the guys having them throw themselves off large incline slopes and their bodies would bounce off rocks and thud into trees. The scenes were tough to watch because the sound was so realistic. Since they have nominations in both Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing, they stand a chance in both categories, but with “Gravity” and “Captain Phillips” still around they are a long shot. I would have liked “Lone Survivor” to have gotten a Best Cinematography nomination over “Nebraska” as the film was gorgeous to look at.

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.