Old-timers vs newcomers in thrilling Oscar race
Will Julianne Moore finally take home an Oscar on Feb. 22 (morning of Feb. 23, Monday, in Manila)? She has been nominated four times since 1998, but the actress has yet to win Hollywood’s prized golden statuette.
This time, she’s nominated for her passionate but never coercive characterization of a woman diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, in “Still Alice.” (Last year was a banner year for the 54-year-old Oscar frontrunner, who also won at Cannes for David Cronenberg’s “Maps to the Stars.”)
For her part, Marion Cotillard’s riveting turn in the Dardenne brothers’ “Two Days, One Night”—as a laid-off factory worker who must convince each of her 16 colleagues to help her get her job back and do away with their hefty 1,000-euro bonus—propels the film’s thematic conceit and tightens its storytelling traction.
When we polled more than 40 of Tinseltown’s award-giving bodies (Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild, etc.), including 33 groups on the critics’ grid (New York, LA, Critics Choice, etc.), Moore (13 wins) had only three more awards than Rosamund Pike (10, for “Gone Girl”) and six over Cotillard.
Moore has gained a psychological advantage over other contenders, especially after chalking up crucial wins at the Globes, SAG, Bafta, National Board of Review and the Critics’ Choice. Besides, Cotillard has an Oscar already (for 2007’s “La Vie en Rose”), as does “Wild’s” Reese Witherspoon (five). Felicity Jones, who plays Stephen Hawking’s wife in “Theory of Everything,” rounds out the list.
Will experienced old-timers trump dynamic newcomers this year? This is what makes the best actor derby exciting: Michael Keaton (“Birdman”) is a sentimental favorite (19 wins) over Eddie Redmayne, for his crackerjack portrayal of a washed-up and aging movie star who refuses to be put out to pasture.
By directing and acting in a Broadway play, Keaton’s character yearns for a career reversal and resurgence. Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu’s dark satire is a delicious humdinger that provides Keaton with an ingenious canvas to capture a thespic feat of great complexity and soul-baring gravitas.
Jake Gyllenhaal (seven for “Nightcrawler”) could have given Keaton a good fight—but, the actor inexplicably didn’t muster enough votes from the Academy’s voters.
Keaton’s biggest hurdle for Oscar glory is Redmayne (four, for “Theory of Everything”), who might pull off an upset, because he has gained a lot of momentum after winning over Keaton at the SAG and Baftas. Both also won Golden Globes, in the comedy and drama categories.
Their conominees, Steve Carell and Bradley Cooper, are likewise outstanding in “Foxcatcher” and “American Sniper,” respectively—but, so are Gyllenhaal, Bill Murray (in “St. Vincent”), Oscar Isaac (“A Most Violent Year”), David Oyelowo (“Selma”) and Cannes winner Timothy Spall (“Mr. Turner”), who also deserve to be on the Academy’s distinguished list!
JK Simmons, the runaway winner among supporting actors, has enough wins (31 nods for “Whiplash”) to end up on top. Edward Norton (11 for “Birdman”), Ethan Hawke (“Boyhood”) and Mark Ruffalo (“Foxcatcher”) are previous Oscar nominees, while Robert Duvall (“The Judge”) took home an Oscar for 1983’s “Tender Mercies.”
Patricia Arquette (25 nods for “Boyhood”) is also a sure bet in the supporting-actress category—her closest competitors aren’t even nominated: Jessica Chastain for “A Most Violent Year” and Tilda Swinton in “Snowpiercer,” with four wins each.
However, we must say that neither Arquette nor her fellow nominees, Emma Stone (“Birdman”), Laura Dern (“Wild”) or Keira Knightley (“The Imitation Game”), comes close to Meryl Streep’s thespic high-wire act in “Into The Woods”—but, ironically, Streep’s 19 astonishing nominations are weighing down her chances for a fourth Oscar trophy!
“Boyhood,” Richard Linklater’s groundbreaking, 12-year exploration of childhood, is expected to romp off with the best picture (19 wins) and director (28) honors—but, Iñárritu’s “Birdman” (10 nods) is also a cinematic tour-de-force that will be “deconstructed” by film and theater buffs for years to come.
Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper,” Morten Tyldum’s “The Imitation Game,” James Marsh’s “The Theory of Everything,” Damien Chazelle’s “Whiplash” and Ava DuVernay’s “Selma” complete the category’s eight-way duel.
We would have been glad to see Lav Diaz’s “Norte” in the foreign-language finals—just the same, the striking entries that did make the final cut are nothing to scoff at.
Our favorite is the entry from Estonia, “Tangerines”—because its gripping story reminds us of the heartbreaking strife and unceasing conflict in Mindanao, where we were born and raised.
At the heart of Zaza Urushadze’s metaphorical tale is a deeply provocative antiwar fable about old Ivo (Lembit Ulfsak), who chose to stay behind to harvest his ripe oranges in his war-torn Estonian village, caught in the crossfire of the armed conflict between Chechnya and Georgia.
After a deadly skirmish, Ivo and his friend, Margus, are forced to take in two heavily wounded soldiers from opposing camps, temperamental Chechen Ahmed (Georgi Nakashidze), a Muslim, and brooding Georgian Niko (Misha Meskhi), a Christian—who grudgingly agree not to kill each other until they’ve fully recuperated! Can they respect each other’s differences and learn to compromise?