As we speak the red carpet is being rolled out and the tall gold statues are being buffed up – or some slightly misled individuals are digging around in garbage bins looking for grumpy dudes named Oscar 😉 Lucky then that I managed to get my Oscar film watching complete this week – or what kind of ad hoc amateur film reviewer would I be?? But done it is, so here is my final review and then my picks for who should, and will most likely, win the big awards come Monday afternoon our time.
So I took my sweet time getting around to seeing this Alan Turing biopic, which was one of the first Oscar films to open here this year. It didn’t immediately appeal, despite the stellar cast, but after rave after rave after rave from both critics and friends, I finally made it last night. And I am very glad indeed that I did.
For those unfamiliar, this is the story of Turing, one of the lead mathematicians working at Bletchley Park during WW2 to break the German ‘Enigma’ codes – which they sent all of their messages in. Breaking the code meant getting incredible intel on German plans and troop movements. But it was no easy feat. The code was changed daily, so the maths geniuses had just 24 hours to try and crack the code before having to start all over again. Although this is the main focus of the film – and a fascinating focus it is too – the film also uses a wider lens to look at Turing’s life, with flashbacks to his boarding school days, as well as flash forwards to his eventual arrest for indecency (because, in the 1960s, being gay was still a crime. I knew this going in, but even so it was still the most shocking thing about this film).
Much has been said of Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance is Turing – and he was indeed excellent. A stellar supporting cast also – nice to see the chauffeur from Downton getting something different to do, and Mark Strong put in as an always fantastic (and sartorially impressive) performance as an MI6 agent (FYI – thanks to this film and Kingsman, Strong is now top of my ‘guys over 50 I would canoodle with’ list). But the biggest surprise here was the normally annoying Keira Knightley. As my friend remarked at the end of the film ‘Keira wasn’t even that annoying!’. Despite looking and sounding like she normally does, I liked her character so much that I kind of forgot it was her. So well done Keira, keep up the not being annoying. Back to Cumberbatch though – I am not a crazy fan girl (I don’t even understand how people find him attractive, but never mind) but he was incredible here. There was one scene later in the film that felt a bit too like ‘this is the scene they will use to show my Oscar worthy performance’, but other than that he put in a note perfect performance, so well done to the man with the funniest name in Oscar history.
The script was the thing that surprised me the most here – with it being far funnier than you would expect a film about a homosexual cracking Nazi codes to be. And the director made great use of actual war footage as well as shots of the impact of the war to convey the time pressure that these guys were under. The flashbacks and forwards were easy to follow and kept the film moving at a rollicking pace. And – despite the scene referred to above – nothing seemed melodramatic or forced. It was an all round excellent film about incredible – and shocking – events. Highly recommend it and hand it 4 and a half M&Ms. But how will it fare at the Oscars? Let’s see what I think anyway…
My Oscar Predictions
Sorry to all your costume designers and sound mixers out there, but I only do the ‘big’ categories. I apologise for the quite obvious discrimination.
Best Film: this is very much a two horse race, despite there being great films – like Theory of Everything and the Imitation Game that are very Oscar baity indeed. But, given the current buzz and the fact that Hollywood LOVES films about Hollywood…Will win: Birdman. Should win: Boyhood. I won’t be ranty if Birdman wins, as it was an innovative and exciting watch, but Boyhood was simply fantastic cinema, with real heart.
Actor in a Leading Role: just a brief rant here if I may about the fact that David Oyelewo’s fantastic turn as Dr Martin Luther King in Selma didn’t even get a nod here – but much has already been said by smarter people than I about the lack of diversity at these particular Oscars. So, with him not in contention, it really comes down to Michael Keaton for Birdman and Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything. Both performances were excellent, but…Will win: Eddie Redmayne. Should win: Eddie Redmayne. As someone said the other day – the Academy love physical transformations, and no one did it better this year than Redmayne’s portrayal of a rapidly declining (physically, definitely not mentally) Stephen Hawking. He’s a lock here I think.
Actress in a Leading Role: I haven’t even seen this film – Still Alice (as apparently it is very average, despite the main performance being amazing) so can’t testify to whether this is the right choice, but she is generally awesome in everything so I will go with – probably. Will win: Julianne Moore. Should win: Julianne Moore, based on the hype. If it were up to me though, both Reese Witherspoon in Wild and Felicity Jones in Theory were INCREDIBLE so would be worthy winners here too.
Actor in a Supporting Role: If there is justice in this world, and there seldom is when it comes to the Oscars, then Whiplash – which was a SUPERB film through and through, deserves some Oscar loving. And this is where it should get some. JK Simmon’s performance as the control freak band leader was intense, scary, scene stealing and completely changed the way people look at him as an actor. He the man. So, Will win: JK Simmons. Should win: JK Simmons. Again, I think this one is a lock.
Actress in a Supporting Role: Normally, anyone up against Meryl Streep in an acting contest wouldn’t even bother writing a speech. This year though, thanks to Into the Woods being decidedly average despite Streep’s decent performance, they should put pen to paper. Though probably only one needs to bother. Will win: Patricia Arquette for Boyhood. Should win: Patricia Arquette for Boyhood. Emma Stone was excellent in Birdman, but Arquette was simply amazing over this 12 year marathon of a film. And as Tina Fey quipped at the Golden Globes: ‘Boyhood proves there are still great roles for women if you are over 40, as long as you get hired when you’re under 40’.
Best Director: Ah, here is the real toughie. Traditionally the winner of best film also wins best director, but I wonder whether the Academy will seek to reward both Boyhood and Birdman by splitting the vote here. So here is my – likely to be wrong, pick. Will Win: Richard Linklater for Boyhood. Should win: Richard Linklater for Boyhood. Especially if Birdman takes out the big prize, I think the Academy would be crazy not to reward Linklater for his incredible 12 year long passion project – not to mention his massive body of exceptional work preceding that (Dazed and Confused, Before Sunset trilogy, even School of Rock!). So I think, and hope, Linklater gets the gold man here.
I am intentionally boycotting the Best Animated Film category this year since WITHOUT QUESTION THE BEST ANIMATED FILM OF THE YEAR THE LEGO MOVIE DIDN’T EVEN GET NOMINATED! (Yes, those caps were intentional. I am right het up about this!). So that’s all my picks for this year. If you haven’t seen all the Best Picture nominees here is a handy place to find all the trailers – in case you want to do some research before you make your picks for your work sweepstake 😉 Also, over on Flicks there is a brilliant, scary and at times hilarious analysis of how many of this years Oscar films would pass the Bechdel test for how well they portray females. Let’s just say diversity is not a buzz word of the Academy, that’s for sure.
For those interested, I will for once (technology allowing) be watching the Oscars live this year and will tweet my reactions and general witty insights 😉 My twitter handle is @pihajess. Roll on Monday! (and for all you blog readers who don’t care about movies so much a) what’s wrong with you? and b) I promise to be less movie focused in weeks to come ;-)).