Oscar Primer 2015: Boyhood into Oscarhood

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 few films in each instalment. I will be going over what the nominees are, and what chances it stands to win. In the last instalment HERE I covered “Birdman”, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past”. This time I will be talking about “Boyhood”, “Gone Girl” and “Inherent Vice”.

“Boyhood” was directed by Richard Linklater, released on August 15th and distributed by IFC Productions. The film has six nominations.

  • Best Picture- Richard Linklater and Cathleen Surtherland
  • Best Director- Richard Linklater
  • Best Supporting Actor- Ethan Hawke
  • Best Supporting Actress- Patricia Arquette
  • Best Original Screenplay- Richard Linklater
  • Best Editing- Sandra Adair

What to say about this film that hasn’t already been said? Everyone should know by now that Linklater shot this film over twelve years, using the same actors and making a film just about life and the passing of time. Nothing overly exciting happens that wouldn’t happen in your life or mine, but the honesty shown on screen was some of the best ever showcased in this medium. This film works because it is intimate and quiet. While not everyone can relate to having absent dads and abusive stepfathers, everyone can relate to growing up. That could be remembering what it was like to have things tough in school with bullies and homework, or if you have kids of your own knowing that twelve years can pass by in a flash before you know it your little babies are all grown up and moved out. The sheer originality and scope that Linklater achieved has him a near lock to win both Best Picture and his first Best Director. The mainstream are finally paying attention to what this director has been doing for years, making films that touch you in the heart. It would be a huge shock and travesty if he doesn’t win both.

Ethan Hawke has always had an up and down career, from the highs of the “Before” trilogy (also directed by Linklater) and “Training Day” to the lows of some of the campy horror and thrillers films. That said his performance was something we knew he had in him and boy was it a doozy. From a terrible and absentee father to one who finally grows up and becomes the role model he wishes he could have been all along. If this were another year Hawke would be a frontrunner to win, and if he had more scenes he might have even been able to sneak into the Best Actor category, unfortunately he is going against juggernaut performances by JK Simmons and Edward Norton so unless “Boyhood” sweeps everything he will be left in the cold. Patricia Arqutte on the other hand who is in practically every scene of the film somehow gets bumped down to a very weak Best Supporting Actress race, one that she has been in the leaderboard ever since the film came out. Arquette is mostly known for the terribly popular show “Medium” but her experiences as a mother of two and as someone who has gone through two divorces as well gave her great source material to work with. She is natural and it if effortlessly easy to understand her motives in every scene. If she does more work like this it is not difficult to imagine more nominations in her future. Emma Stone and Keira Knightley are the only actors who might even stand a chance at her almost assured victory. 

The thing that Linklater specializes in the most is having a solid script grounded in reality. Even though he had a rough structure in his head, every year when the cast got together, he would mine his actors for information to add to the world. Stuff that happened to Mason or the parents actually happened to Ellar Coltrane, Hawke and Arquette. With real moments being included in the script it made everything seem even more natural. Discussions of life, love, mortality, roles and relationships all feature heavily into the spoken words making the film very real. The winners of the screenplay categories normally are consolation prizes to films that don’t win Best Picture but with three Best Picture nominated films in the category it could be tough. “Birdman” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” both might be too quirky to win Best Picture but have excellent scripts and seem to be the frontrunners. “Boyhood” is the underdog here and I don’t know if there’s enough momentum to sweep all the categories. 

One thing that could have derailed the film was the fact that it was shot over twelve years, and with the ever-changing technology of the film medium, who knows how the film could have looked. Instead we are treated to a flawlessly edited film that makes each scene blend into the other you don’t even know a year has passed. Sometimes it takes for a scene to be almost over before you realize that it was a year later. At almost three hours long the film doesn’t even seem to be slow moving. The pace is excellent and it lingers for just the right amount of time for you to collect your thoughts and have a year’s opinion with bits of silence. The non-flashy editing may result with a win, but with a music and war film in the same category it’s a bit of a three-man race (“Whiplash” and “American Sniper”). If “Boyhood” doesn’t win Best Editing early in the night it most likely won’t win Best Picture either.

“Gone Girl” was directed by David Fincher, released on October 3rd and distributed by Twentieth Century Fox. The film has one nomination.

  • Best Actress- Rosamund Pike

Somehow Fincher’s tightest thriller adapted from the best selling novel of the same name by the author herself wasn’t enough to garner the film more nominations, even if it was deserving. Though the film had some flaws and wasn’t universally loved by critics who don’t have good taste one thing was for sure and that was Pike who put on one hell of a show. Although she has toiled in the industry for well over a decade she was never a household name. Her performance of an cheated upon wife who may have been murdered later turns out to be a sadistic femme fatale able to mess with everyone’s mind to gain power was spellbinding. Pike managed to hit every note from frightened to angry to conniving to bitchy. This performance has everything, from showy emotional scenes to quiet intimate ones yet unfortunately it won’t be enough to upset Julianne Moore the leading candidate. If The Academy announced runner-ups Pike would still be fighting he universally loved Reese Witherspoon for the silver medal. All in all this year’s Best Actress race is the strongest category of the year and probably the best all around year for women in film in a long time. 

“Inherent Vice” was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, released on January 9th, and distributed by Warner Bros. The film has two nominations.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay- Paul Thomas Anderson
  • Best Costume Design- Mark Bridges

Where to start with the plot of this film? Even though the film was nominated for a Best Adapted Screenplay it is not because the film makes much sense. Instead what happened was a marriage of great dialogue, wonderfully over the top acting and Paul Thomas Anderson’s astute directing. It seems like every new scene there was a new case for Joaquin Phoenix’s Doc to investigate and every scene after that drops a previous case or lead. If you are trying to keep score of who has done what and new information, you will be sorely behind. Instead what the film does is show how the counter culture excitement of the 60’s lead into the disillusionment and paranoia of the 70’s due to the Vietnam war among other things. Everything is an angle and no one can be trusted. Even the narrator can’t be trusted as she pops in and out of scenes physically and sometimes is only voice over. We get to experience it all through Doc’s glassy eyes and wide-open heart. Unfortunately since the plot is too convoluted and doesn’t wrap up nicely it is far behind on the depth chart with “Whiplash” or “The Imitation Game” being frontrunners.  

Where the script fails at being cohesive the look and the feel makes it all stand out. There is a little bit of everything to look at in the costume department. It all works around Doc and his lazy bohemian dress wear and he is contrasted around every corner. With straight laced police officers in period appropriate suits, to ‘geisha girl’ style sexual masseuses to cult members/mental patients in flowing white robes and more. Every scene introduces a new niche of society and they all look fully in place, even if seeing a tough guy enforcer in a mesh tank top looks a little silly. Unfortunately with two fairy tale epic’s in the mix with “Maleficent” and “Into The Woods” along with the candy coated “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and even older period piece “Mr. Turner” it is hard to believe the film that takes place closest to present day has a chance of winning.    

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.