Oscar Primer 2015: A Brief History of Oscar Winners

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 “Selma”, “Interstellar” and “The Boxtrolls”. This time I will be talking about “The Theory of Everything”, “Foxcatcher” and “The Lego Movie”.

“The Theory of Everything” was directed by James Marsh, released on November 26th and produced by Working Title Films. The film has five nominations.

  • Best Picture- Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce and Anthony McCarten
  • Best Actor- Eddie Redmayne
  • Best Actress- Felicity Jones
  • Best Adapted Screenplay- Anthony McCarten
  • Best Original Score- Johann Johannsson

This film while being about Stephen Hawking does not really concern the audience much about the theory behind his work. In fact his science is barely mentioned. In the first act of the film he discusses some of the work he goes on to figure out, and a few choice lecture scenes and then bam all of a sudden the game changing book A Brief History of Time is on the shelves not even informing the audience until the end that it has sold more than ten million copies. Instead the film focuses squarely on his relationship with his first wife Jane and the struggles families face when trying to care for someone who does not have the ability to take care of themselves and how love overcomes all. Sounds cheesy doesn’t it? It had the ability to be such a thing, but thankfully the direction, acting and writing save it from itself. In moments when it could have been melodramatic and exposition heavy, it is replaced by quiet moments of the characters watching and listening. The film has an outside chance of being a spoiler to win Best Picture as it isn’t as weird as “Birdman” or “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and isn’t as predictable as “The Imitation Game”. The shot it needs is if the Academy doesn’t love “Boyhood” as much as critics did which could cause an opening that “The Theory of Everything” could be ripe to take advantage of. To be realistic it has probably the third or fourth best chances of winning, which isn’t hopeful. 

What made the film really stand out and help viewers get past the far too many montages are the performances. In particular Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking puts on a clinic for disappearing into a role, something that is a thing of beauty to watch. Going from a full abled bodied person to someone who slowly loses more and more ability to control his body is a marvel to watch. His stillness while being confined to a wheelchair is both haunting and beautiful. He is a young actor who is so good at what he does he will most undoubtedly get many more nominations in his future. The Best Actor race seems to be coming down to a two man race of Redmayne and Michael Keaton. If they go for sheer amount of transformation then Eddie will win his first Oscar at the tender age of 33. What is standing in his way is the great comeback of Keaton who very well could also walk out with his first win on his first nomination.  Acting opposite of Redmayne is the equally talented Felicity Jones whose unconditional love and support for Stephen even in times of trouble are admirable. While she clearly loves her husband, seeing him disintegrate while she is a young mother trying to raise a family and be a nurse all while not having her own needs met is a test of patience. She is mostly quiet and reserved but it suits the character. The great thing about this year’s Oscar’s is I have never seen such a strong lineup of female nominees one through five. All of them deserve to win. That said Jones and everyone else happen to put on the performance of a lifetime against Julianne Moore who notched it up even higher ensuring the most lopsided victory of all time. There is no scenario where Moore doesn’t win, or that Jones could overtake Reese Witherspoon even for second place.   

The script for the film is a bit plodding at times with years passing by and not much action going on. The extended use of montages really hurt the film as it glosses over many key details in the lives on the Hawking’s. The fantastic performances not the dialogue or story telling saves this film. “The Imitation Game” seems like the front-runner with its ability to tug on the watchers heartstrings with the intensity of “Whiplash” another possible contender. The film doesn’t have enough broad support to pull off an upset victory. 

Outside of a potential Eddie Redmayne victory the category this film stands the best chance of winning is Best Original score. The music is plucky and inspiring, without it being shoved down your throat. Mozart plays a big role as Stephen’s favourite composer; as such the music has a nice classical flavor to it expertly ebbing and flowing. While “The Theory of Everything” is the front-runner it is too soon to rule out the also excellent scores from the other four nominees.

“Foxcatcher” was directed by Bennett Miller, released on November 28th and produced by Annapurna Pictures. The film has five nominations.

  • Best Actor- Steve Carell
  • Best Supporting Actor- Mark Ruffalo
  • Best Director- Bennett Miller
  • Best Original Screenplay- E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman
  • Best Makeup and Hairstyling- Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard

This film had so much potential, everyone was excited to see Steve Carell in his first real serious role, Bennett Miller doing his follow up to the amazing “Capote” and “Moneyball” and the steadily improving Channing Tatum. In most of his scenes Steve Carell was amazing, the right about of stern fatherly looks and crazy man bent on living vicariously through his wrestlers lives. Unfortunately some scenes just go over the top and you are confused and befuddled at his motivations as a character. All that said, no one will doubt Steve Carell if he does more dramatic roles like the late great Robin Williams starting doing in the 90’s and 00’s. It is odd seeing Carell in the Best Actor category as Tatum was more of the lead, but since he is there he is in the thick of the race. If “Birdman” is too weird, and “The Theory of Everything” loses its magic, then Carell will be there to win based on changing the Academy’s expectations on what this normally very funny guy can do. Ruffalo played the only truly likeable person in the film, something he has had years of practice doing. This time however we saw him in a new light, with the ability to throw Tatum around and pin him to the ground. While he has played a super hero in “The Avengers” he was not the toughest guy in the room, something he is in “Foxcatcher”. If it weren’t for the great J.K. Simmons, or the previous Hulk Edward Norton, or nakedly honest Ethan Hawke, Ruffalo would stand a chance. However this year he should just enjoy his critical success before going back to counting his large stacks of money from the Marvel Films.  

Only twice in the history of the Oscar’s has a film won Best Director without a Best Picture nomination, the last time being in 1929, so don’t expect a repeat any time soon. In fact the last time a director even got a nomination without the Best Picture companion was in 2007 for “United 93” director Paul Greengrass. To compound all the bad omens against the film is the fact that parts of it just fall flat. If all the scenes were as great as the wrestling ones Miller would be a frontrunner to win, unfortunately with Richard Linklatter’s masterpiece followed up with Alejandro González Iñárritu and Wes Anderson’s huge risks means Miller will be left out in the cold snowy night. 

The script for the first three quarters of the film are pretty good allowing for silence when needed and coked up rambling speeches in another, the wheels unfortunately fall off at the end when out of the blue Carell’s character drives to Ruffalo’s house and kills him. Then he goes back home and promptly gets arrested then the credits roll. It’s rushed and shows no real aftermath of the actions. I’m unsure how Foxcatcher even got nominated when there were several other more worthy candidates like “Mr. Turner” for example. 

Most of the attention on the film focused on Steve Carell’s big, ugly prosthetic nose where people made jokes wondering who was really doing all the acting Carell or the nose. In reality if you look up pictures of John du Pont, the makeup team did an amazing job with the likeness. In addition to the nose the team gave cauliflower ears to all the wrestlers most notably on Tatum and Ruffalo who looked like seasoned athletes because of it. The award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling usually goes to most obvious hair and makeup, which in this case is “Guardians of the Galaxy” but “Foxcatcher” or “The Grand Budapest Hotel” could win on merit too. 

  “The Lego Movie” was directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, released on February 7th 2014 and produced by Warner Bros. The film shockingly has one nomination.

  • Best Original Song- Shawn Patterson

Everything was assumed to be going to plan, “The Lego Movie” would get nominated for Best Animated Feature and easily win it, one of the few no brainers of the night. Unfortunately it somehow got snubbed to the confusion of everyone, but got nominated for a very repetitive song called Everything is Awesome. Sung by Tegan and Sara, The Lonely Island and music by Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh the song is infectious and subtly inspiring. The chorus hits you over your head but the dub step inspired beat stays there for days on end. If “Selma” doesn’t win for it’s inspiring song the Academy could do worse than a song that will probably be stuck in your head until next year’s Oscar’s. 

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.