Saturday, January 10, 2015

Predicting the Unpredictable: 2015 Golden Globes

Much like last year, there are a number of films/performances in the Comedy categories that will be in the Oscar conversation. That's not the case every year. But that also means that the Globes will be even less of a precursor for the Oscars than normal. So why write about the Globes? Because they're interesting, they're unpredictable, they're fun. And, c'mon, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are pretty great hosts. (As much as I like NPH, I'm a little dubious on his hosting capabilities.) So, fresh off seeing the last two important multiple nominees I hadn't seen (Selma and The Theory of Everything), let's make some nearly baseless, barely researched predictions, shall we?

* = a film or performance I haven't seen
bold = my prediction

Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year*
Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
Emma Stone, Birdman
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

Logic: The Oscar seems to be Arquette's to lose at this point—not that that necessarily means anything in this race. I don't think Chastain or Knightley have much of a shot here—Chastain's movie has barely been released, and Knightley's seems to have lost a bit of critical traction. You can never count Streep out, and her movie did get 3 nominations, but I just don't see it happenening against two vastly superior performances—Arquette's and Stone's. Stone was great and is a potential spoiler both here and come Oscar time, but hers was maybe the 3rd- or 4th-best performance in her movie. That leaves Arquette, who has been racking up film critic society awards and figures to make the Globe the first of many Oscar precursors. She's well deserving as a resilient bundle of frayed nerves in the year's best film.

Spoiler: Stone
My Vote: Arquette
Snubbed: Carrie Coon, Gone Girl

Best Supporting Actor
Robert Duvall, The Judge*
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Edward Norton, Birdman
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Logic: After I saw Boyhood, I didn't think I'd see a supporting performance better than Ethan Hawke's. Then I saw two... in the same day. I did a Birdman/Whiplash double feature and left the theater floored by Norton and Simmons. There are not two better performances—lead or supporting, male or female—in any film this year. Choosing between them will be difficult for critics and voters alike. No disrespect to Hawke (very, very good) and Ruffalo (the best part of a deeply flawed film), but the choice is clearly between Norton and Simmons. In Birdman, Norton showed us that he still has the natural ability that made everyone think he was a once-in-a-generation talent when he burst onto the scene—let's hope he keeps choosing roles that let him shine. But my vote (and, I believe, the Globe) goes to Simmons, who was simultaneously demonic and magnetic in a career-best performance from one of the best character actors around. Never was I more rapt this year then when watching him work. (Oh, and I have no idea what Robert Duvall is doing here.)

Spoiler: Norton
My Vote: Simmons
Snubbed: Riz Ahmed, Nightcrawler

Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical
Amy Adams, Big Eyes
Emily Blunt, Into the Woods
Helen Mirren, The Hundred-Foot Journey*
Julianne Moore, Maps to the Stars*
Quvenzhané Wallis, Annie*

Logic: Remember when I said that there were "a number of films/performances in the Comedy categories that will be in the Oscar conversation"? (Buckley) (Yes, I just cited myself.) Well, I wasn't talking about this category. Maaaybe Amy Adams has a chance, but that's it. And she doesn't figure to win here—Big Eyes, while a solid film, was little-seen and has pretty much zero critical buzz. I wouldn't count her out because she's Amy Adams, and who doesn't like Amy Adams, but couldn't you say the same thing about Emily Blunt? She's as lovely as ever in Into the Woods, which has a much higher profile than Adams's film, and Adams just won last year, so voters might want to spread the wealth. An Adams win wouldn't surprise me though. (Haven't seen any of the other performances, but I'd be *shocked* if any of them won.)

Spoiler: Adams
My Vote: Adams
Snubbed: Jenny Slate, Obvious Child

Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical
Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Michael Keaton, Birdman
Bill Murray, St. Vincent
Joaquin Phoenix, Inherent Vice*
Christoph Waltz, Big Eyes

Logic: Michael Keaton is perhaps the Oscar front-runner at this point—a rarity for a potential winner here. It basically happens once a decade, and the last was three years ago (Jean Dujardin for The Artist). He's definitely got a challenger here though in Fiennes. As for the rest, Murray was as good as he's been in years in St. Vincent, but it's a pretty minor movie. Two-time Oscar winner (!) Waltz is just filler here (he's fine in the movie), and I have't seen Phoenix's movie (I can't wait though—he's one of my favorite working actors). But back to the contenders. Budapest has made quite a surge of late for an early-year release, and Fiennes gives it his all as a profane, libidinous, corageous conceirge in the best performance in a Wes Anderson movie since, well, Bill Murray in Rushmore. I just don't think he's on the same level as Keaton. It's a comeback, it's meta, and it's really damned fine acting. Just like Mickey Rourke in 2009. (Who won the Globe but lost the Oscar...)

Spoiler: Fiennes
My Vote: Keaton
Snubbed: Michael Fassbender, Frank

Best Actress in a Drama
Jennifer Aniston, Cake*
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore, Still Alice*
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon, Wild

Logic: This one's purely based on critical consensus. This seems to be "the year" for Julianne Moore. She's one of the best actresses around and somehow still doesn't have an Oscar. That figures to change this year, and it starts with her (likely) picking up a Golden Globe on Sunday. (She already has one of those, but it's for a miniseries playing, believe it or not, Sarah Palin.) I haven't seen Aniston's film, but supposedly she's in the mix for an Oscar nomination as well, making her the (potential) answer to the future trivia question, "Who is the only Friends alum to be nominated for an Oscar?" (There's still time, Matt LeBlanc!) The other three performances range from solid (Jones) to very good (Witherspoon), with the most interesting being Pike's. I walked out of the theater thinking she was the weak link of the film, but reflection has me thinking she was one of the best parts. And dat scene with NPH doe. Should make for some interesting jokes should she get nominated for an Oscar...

Spoiler: Witherspoon
My Vote: Witherspoon
Snubbed: Scarlett Johannson, Under the Skin

Best Actor in a Drama
Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler
David Oyelowo, Selma
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Logic: Sometimes it can be a mistake to assume that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association will automatically go for the non-American (especially British) option (see last year with McConaughey over Ejiofor or 2010 for The Social Network over The King's Speech). That could leave the door open for Oyelowo's fiery yet refined performance as MLK, Jr. in Selma (just saw it today—a really great film). But I think the Cumberbatch/Redmayne duo will be too tempting. Of the two, Redmayne had the harder job (i.e., more showy), and I think the HFPA will take the bait. Cumberbatch is a definite contender, but he basically just plays Sherlock, and he hasn't won a Globe for that show yet. My favorite performance of the bunch (not best—that would be Oyelowo's) is Gyllenhaal's as a nouveau Travis Bickle in a movie that I can't wait to watch again. (And Carell... stunt casting at its finest. All I have to say.)

Spoiler: Oyelowo or Cumberbatch
My Vote: Oyelowo
Snubbed: Macon Blair, Blue Ruin

Best Screenplay
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo, Birdman
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Graham Moore, The Imitation Game

Logic: This is a tough one—Budapest, Boyhood, and Birdman are all contenders. Moore is just filler for his neutered screenplay, while Flynn's effective adaptation is a bit out of its depth here. I think Birdman's technical and acting achievements are greater than those of its writing (and it may be a bit too clever and cynical for its own good—not that I'm complaining). Between Anderson and Linklater, I think the improvisational vibe of Boyhood works against it, while Anderson's witty, baroque script for Budapest is more obviously "written." I think it'll pick up the win but, like I said, this one is difficult to forecast.

Spoiler: Linklater
My Vote: Iñárritu, et al.
Snubbed: Damien Chazelle, Whiplash

Best Director:
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Ava DuVernay, Selma
David Fincher, Gone Girl
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman
Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Logic: This is a strong field. As (almost) always, David Fincher elevates the material, bringing out a career-best performance from Ben Affleck and creating a chilly atmosphere that keeps audiences questioning everything. DuVerney imbues what could have been another hagiographic biopic with a full moral palette and emotional vocabulary. I've said it about Wes Anderson before—he's a one-trick pony, but it's a pretty good trick. I can only imagine what he could do if he ever learned a new one. Speaking of new tricks, Iñárritu emptied his old bag and learned a whole set of audacious new ones (still not sure what to think about that ending though). That leaves Linklater, whose film might not be as technically adroit as Iñárritu's, but he more than makes up for it in emotional deftness and reimagining the scope of what a film can do. If that isn't award-worthy, I don't know what is.

Spoiler: Iñárritu
My Vote: Linklater
Snubbed: Bong Joon-ho, Snowpiercer

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Into the Woods
St. Vincent

Logic: This one is between Birdman and Budapest. Into the Woods is okay, I guess, for a musical (Chris Pine steals the show), St. Vincent is just charming enough to make up for the maudlin third act, and I'm not sure what a Pride is, so I won't say anything about it. Between the two contenders, neither of them really seem to be the kind of film the HFPA usually goes for, but there wasn't a musician biopic to miscategorize or an actually prestigious musical, so we're left between a metatextual superhero movie and zany, twee crime caper. Of the two, Birdman would seem to have the upper hand, both critically speaking and timing-wise. It's also an insider movie—which might, incidentally, hurt it with the HFPA. If it does, Budapest would benefit. This will be one of the most interesting races of the night.

Spoiler: The Grand Budapest Hotel
My Vote: Birdman
Snubbed: Frank

Best Motion Picture – Drama
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything

Logic: This category features three pretenders (Foxcatcher, Imitation, Theory), one very good runner-up (Selma), and one clear-cut winner. First, the pretenders. There are 1-2 movies every year that fall in the "dislike, but respect" category (Tree of Life is one obvious example), and this year's is Foxcatcher. It's emotionally and visually sterile, awkwardly staged, and poorly paced. But the absolute strangeness of it all is somehow captivating. Imitation and Theory are pretty much the same movie—take a complicated, fascinating individual, remove said traits, add simplistic plots, and voila: awards bait. (Imitation is the superior of the two.) Selma is powerful, prescient, and complex—it puts movies like Lincoln to shame and is vital given the current events in places like Ferguson. But, this is the year of Boyhood. I'll have more to say about it in my best movies and Oscars posts, but it's the year's best film and should have no trouble winning a Golden Globe.

Spoiler: Selma
My Vote: Boyhood
Snubbed: Whiplash

TV Notes: Shows I'll be rooting for include Game of Fucking Thrones, Orange Is the New Black, Silicon Valley, Louie, and my favorite show of the year, True Detective.

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