Thursday, April 25, 2024

Oscars Update: “Imitation Game” Opens, Pieces of Puzzle Fall into Place


The really great film “The Imitation Game” opens today, and now all Ognosticators are scrambling around with predictions and poses. This week we had the Independent Spirit Awards nominees. On Monday we get the Gotham Awards and the New York Film Critics Circle announcements. Soon after we’ll get the less reliable Golden Globe and National Board of Whatever nominees, awards, citations, and accolades based on a lot of things that have nothing to do with movies.

So where do we stand? No one, except some people in Australia, have seen Angelina Jolie’s “Unbroken.” That will also come on Monday. But for today, we’ll put that aside.

I do think the movies in the running for Best Picture stack up like this: Selma, Imitation Game, and Boyhood would be my top three choices. After that, you get Foxcatcher (which I just rewatched, and it’s even better than I remembered), The Grand Budapest Hotel, Into the Woods, Whiplash and The Theory of Everything. That’s 8. Birdman has a big following, but I’m not sure how it’s doing or if people outside of showbiz really care about it. American Sniper is a really well made movie, with a resounding performance by Bradley Cooper. So that’s where we are.

Best Actor– Four candidates are solid– Benedict Cumberbatch, Eddie Redmayne, David Oyelowo, and Steve Carell. After that, we’ve got two comic actors– Michael Keaton and Bill Murray. I’m a huge fan of Al Pacino in The Humbling. (All voters should get this DVD from Millennium.) Then there’s Bradley Cooper. And not to be missed is Oscar Isaac’s work in A Most Violent Year. Don’t count him out. Floating in the ether is Jack O’Connell in Unbroken. But he is really brand new to the game, and to movies. The line in front of him is long.

Best Actress– Everyone bemoans this category this year. But I have Julianne Moore up front in Still Alice; Emily Blunt knocked me out in Into the Woods. Felicity Jones is superb in Theory of Everything. Reese Witherspoon has a lot of support for Wild even if the movie is lacking. I am still hopeful that Patricia Arquette will jump to lead for Boyhood. And Gugu Mbatha-Raw is exceptional in Belle.

Best Supporting Actress– Arquette, if she stays here, leads the pack. Keira Knightley is a no-brainer for Imitation Game. Laura Dern is the heart and soul of Wild. Jessica Chastain– pick between Interstellar, and A Most Violent Year. She just has to be in the pack. Carmen Ejogo is just fine in “Selma.” And Meryl Streep looms over this crowd in Into the Woods. I mean, she needs her own category. By the way, The Humbling has Greta Gerwig and Nina Arianda, equally good.

Best Supporting Actor– Ethan Hawke in Boyhood is understated and charming. Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo are essential to Foxcatcher, but I think Ruffalo is more supporting and Tatum has a hard fight among the lead actors. James Corden is the engine in Into the Woods. Edward Norton will not go unnoticed in Birdman. JK Simmons would be an “overnight sensation” for Whiplash. Tim Roth and Tom Wilkinson are tremendous in “Selma” but maybe too good. This was the problem with James Woods in “Mississippi Burning.” You feel like you’re rewarding evil. Oh– special citation to Matt Damon in “Interstellar.” There, it’s ok to reward evil.

Best Director– Bennett Miller for Foxcatcher. Ava DuVernay for Selma. James Marsh for Theory. Morten Tyldum for Imitation Game. Richard Linklater for Boyhood. And we leave room for Angie.

One last thing about Interstellar — at the Sundance screening of Memento, I thought the Nolans were the future. Was that 14 years ago? They’ve never disappointed as far as making fascinating, lasting movies. I actually had an experience not unlike Jessica Chastain and Matthew McConaughey in the bookcase recently. I guess it can happen. I feel like Christopher Nolan is so close to victory– but in something smaller or more focused. See Spielberg, as in ‘we loved ET but had to wait for Schindler’s List.’

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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