Birdman. Boyhood. The Grand Budapest Hotel...
Before you, dear reader, go over my choices for nominations in the major categories, do be warned that this is an exercise in fanhood and optimism, not one of soothsaying.
This is not an attempt to try and say which films and performers will be singled out by the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences later this evening when they announce their nominations.
No, these are merely the films and performers who, I believe, deserve all the applause that comes their way.
Here’s my list, and if any films appear unfamiliar to you, go seek them out and I promise they’ll be worth it. (Better than The Imitation Game and Foxcatcher, at any rate.)
Nominees are ranked in descending order of preference.
Best Original Screenplay
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Note: Babadook almost made it to this list because of the sheer originality and vigour it brought to the horror genre. The films listed above, though, are stronger in terms of storytelling and dialogue.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Guardians Of The Galaxy
Note: I am yet to see Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice. But he should make this cut based not just on former track record but on the sheer foolhardiness needed to adapt a Thomas Pynchon novel to the screen.
Best Original Score
Alexandre Desplat (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
Antonio Sanchez (Birdman)
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (Gone Girl)
Hans Zimmer (Interstellar)
Jonny Greenwood (Inherent Vice)
Note: I was tremendously tempted to include Josef van Wissem for his gorgeous work in Only Lovers Left Alive but the sexy songs on the soundtrack eventually end up dwarfing the delicate score.
Julianne Moore (Still Alice)
Tilda Swinton (Only Lovers Left Alive)
Scarlett Johannson (Under The Skin)
Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)
Lisa Loven Kongsli (Force Majeure)
Note: Foreign-language actors are considered rarely in the primary categories, but Lisa Loven Kongsli gives a haunting performance in the Swedish film Force Majeure, as a woman overwhelmed by doubt and disgust, trying to make sense of her life while on a ski holiday.
Best Supporting Actress
Emma Stone (Birdman)
Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
Rene Russo (Nightcrawler)
Laura Dern (Wild)
Vanessa Redgrave (Foxcatcher)
Note: By all reckoning this is Arquette’s prize to win, and one can’t grudge the actress such a uniquely special role, one where she ages 12 years and stays true to the character. But Emma Stone -- fiery, electric, astonishing -- is better still, shining even though she won’t win.
Michael Keaton (Birdman)
Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler)
Tom Hardy (Locke)
Tom Hiddleston (Only Lovers Left Alive)
Note: The ones who almost made it in this category were Channing Tatum (Foxcatcher) who -- for my money -- was better than Steve Carrell in the same film, and John Lithgow (Love Is Strange), who gave a beautifully brittle performance.
Best Supporting Actor
Edward Norton (Birdman)
JK Simmons (Whiplash)
Ethan Hawke (Boyhood)
Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher)
Tyler Perry (Gone Girl)
Note: Riz Ahmed was super in Nightcrawler, as was Tim Roth in Selma.
Richard Linklater (Boyhood)
Alejandro G Inarritu (Birdman)
Ruben Ostlund (Force Majeure)
Christopher Nolan (Interstellar)
Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
Note: Why, you might wonder, am I favouring Linklater for the Best Director prize even while clearly siding with Birdman as a film? Because Linklater deserves it. Because he’s been making quiet (yet revolutionary and brilliant) movies for years and this dozen-year affair is his unquestioned opus. Boyhood is Linklater’s legacy, and it is a remarkable film.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Love Is Strange
Only Lovers Left Alive
Under The Skin
Note: For all of Boyhood’s brilliance, Birdman is this year’s standout. It is a film that will influence generations of filmmakers -- and, indeed, actors -- to come. A film that uses visual effects in the most surreally mind-melting way, scrubbing the cynicism from our overexposed eyes and once again making us believe -- through sight and story -- that anything is possible when cinema flies high.