Oscar Primer 2015: The Imitation of Sherlock Holmes

During the lead up to this year’s Oscar’s on February 22nd 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 major film (a best picture nominee) and one or two smaller films in each instalment. I will be going over what the nominees are, and what chances it stands to win. This time I will be talking about “The Imitation Game”, “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”.

“The Imitation Game” was directed by Morten Tyldum, distributed by Black Bear Pictures and was released on December 25th 2014. The film has eight nominations.

  • Best Picture- Nora Grossman, Ido Ostrowsky and Teddy Scharzman
  • Best Actor- Benedict Cumberbatch
  • Best Supporting Actress- Keira Knightley 
  • Best Director- Morten Tyldum
  • Best Original Screenplay- Graham Moore
  • Best Production Design- Marian Djurkovic and Tatiana Macdonald
  • Best Editing- William Goldenberg
  • Best Original Score- Alexandre Desplat

This film has eight nominations, which is in second place behind “Birdman” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” which makes it a contender in everything. Anytime a film has both a Best Picture and a Best Director nomination you have to take its chances very seriously. Unfortunately it is caught in the middle as “Boyhood” is the strongest contender for Best Picture with a potential upset in “Birdman” if the Academy wants to reward a more off the wall film. I wouldn’t completely rule it out as it could be a dark horse as the Academy is a sucker for bio-pics. 

While Benedict put in a great performance, possibly the best of his career so far it seems like it’s just a less arrogant version of his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. He faces an extremely uphill climb facing off against the very trendy Michael Keaton and dark horses of Steve Carell and Eddie Redmayne. Sometimes just playing a historical figure that has ‘something’ (being gay and persecuted) isn’t enough to automatically get votes. Cumberbatch’s more diverse performances seem to be in less critically acclaimed movies, he just needs to be matched up with the right director and he will win another time. Keira Knightley was a bit of a pleasant surprise to show up in the Supporting Actress category and she should just be pleasantly happy to be there as there is nothing stopping the Patricia Arquette train at this point. The only way Arquette doesn’t win is if the Academy loves “Birdman” to the point that even the lesser nominees like Emma Stone end up sweeping.

Norwegian director Tyldum is new to North American audiences, which could put him at a bit of a disadvantage as new comers rarely win Best Director. He doesn’t stand much a chance with the audacious Richard Linklater with his 12 year opus “Boyhood” leading the charge, followed very closely of the saccharine sweet pallet of Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and flamboyant flair of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “Birdman” all ahead of Tyldum. “The Imitation Game”, while well executed doesn’t put a new twist on an old medium like recent winners Alfonso Cuaron, Ang Lee and Michel Hazanavicius all did. 

The category you have to think they have a strong chance in is Best Adapted Screenplay, as the script is very effecting. From feeling the pain of 1940’s homophobia to a shattering moment involving one of the code breaker’s brother in the war it is hard not to have watery eyes at certain moments. “The Theory of Everything” or “Whiplash” could come and win it as a consolation for not winning Best Picture but it is one of the few leads “The Imitation Game” has. 

I could talk about the set of the Enigma room but really you don’t have to even see more than the poster of “The Grand Budapest Hotel” to be drawn into the candy coated world that Wes Anderson created to know it probably has the best sets of the decade so far. The seamless editing across twelve years for “Boyhood” and the gut wrenching intensity of  “Whiplash” and “American Sniper” make “The Imitiation Game” very low on the totem pole. Also they managed to make the entirety of WW2 seem like it was a short walk in the park hurts its chances even more. 

Where the editing failed at making the film seem intense, the score by double nominee Desplat, more than made up in epic intense swells. Normally in bigger categories having a double nominee will cause the person to cannibalize their own votes, but the composing branch of the Academy is better than that. The music branch will probably lean towards this film or “The Theory of Everything” although an interesting Hans Zimmers score from “Interstellar” is a strong dark horse.

“Guardians of the Galaxy” was directed by James Gunn, distributed by Marvel Studios and released on August 1st 2014. The film has two nominations. 

  • Best Makeup and Hairstyling- Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White
  • Best Visual Effects- Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould

Industry experts were worried that Marvel wouldn’t be able to sell a film with no known characters and an unproven Chris Pratt as a heartthrob action hero. Not only were their doubts misplaced in arguably Marvel’s best movie, it was also the top grossing film of the year. The plot, acting and screenplay matter nothing here as only the eye candy does and I’m not referring to Chris Pratt’s rippling abs. There was plenty of makeup on this set; the most being on Dave Bautista who plays a giant green and red alien named Drax followed by all-blue alien Nebula and various other extra planetary creatures. The category usually goes to most obvious makeup and its competition is Steve Carell’s nose and Channing Tatum’s ears in “Foxcatcher” and Tilda Swinton’s old hag look in “The Grand Budapest Hotel”. It seems like a virtual lock for this category since for some reason the final instalment of “The Hobbit” was snubbed.

In an absolutely stacked category of Best Visual Effects, it truly is hard to put a handicap on the films. “Guardians of the Galaxy” had some really exquisite outer space sequences making it a flashy pick. Up against it there is “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” where the debate will be did Andy Serkis and company make the performances and the VFX people just added a layer over them, or did they make the apes even more scary and emotive? Two other superhero films in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past” both put on eye feasts with “X-Men” being more showy with the mutant super powers. Lastly “Interstellar” went about the VFX troubles by making most of the greatness practical effects something that makes it look more real and will help the film age very well. “Interstellar” has the power to sweep all the technical categories but if the Academy goes for a more CGI winner “Guardians” will most likely prevail.  

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” was directed by Matt Reeves, distributed by 20th Century Fox and was released on July 11th 2014. The film has one nomination.

  • Best Visual Effects- Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist.

The sequel to the surprisingly great “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” expanded the ape world even further by showing a colony of sign language and sometimes speaking monkeys. While the showy CGI apes will take up most of the conversation about the VFX nomination, there were several impressive battle scenes and explosions. Every time an impressive motion capture suit performance (usually by Andy Serkis) happens here is an angry debate about how much of the performance is the actor and how much is CGI. Neither team wants to invalidate the other as it really is a team job but it doesn’t stop critics from joining factions. With this debate still raging I doubt this film will have enough support to win it all, although I suspect its supporters will be very vocal and make it seem like there is a real race along with “Interstellar” and “Guardians of the Galaxy”.

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.