erik lundegaard

Movies - The Oscars posts

Thursday January 15, 2015

Hurriedly Handicapping Best Picture: Are We Down to 4, 3 or 2?

2015 best picture nominees

The likeliest candidates. But one of these things is not like the others. 

Before the nominations came out, I thought we were down to four candidates for best picture: “Birdman,” “Boyhood,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “The Imitation Game.” So where are we now that the Academy has released the Kraken?

Here are the Academy's eight nominees for best picture, along with nominations in other relevant categories:

Movie Director Editing Screenplay Acting Noms
American Sniper   x x 1 6
Birdman x   x 3 9
Boyhood x x x 2 6
The Grand Budapest Hotel x x x   9
The Imitation Game x x x 2 8
Selma         2
The Theory of Everything     x 2 5
Whiplash   x x 1 5

It's rare when a movie wins best picture without its director being nominated (although it happened two years ago with Ben Affleck and “Argo”), so we do seem down to those four.

However, it's even rarer when a movie wins best picture without its editor being nominated (last time: “Ordinary People” in 1980). So if that's the case, then we're down to three.

Screenplay is a wash. It eliminates nothing save “Selma,” which is nominated nowhere else but song. Acting matters since the Academy is mostly made up of actors, and that favors “Birdman,” with three, over “Grand Budapest” with zero. (Although two films this century, “Slumdog Millionaire” in 2008 and “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” in 2003, won best pic without an acting nomination.)

Let's look at that recent history. These are the nominations for each year's best picture winner this century:

Year Movie Director Edit Scrnply Acting Total noms Most noms?
2013 12 Years a Slave x x x 3 9  
2012 Argo   x x 1 7  
2011 The Artist x x x 2 10  
2010 The King's Speech x x x 3 12 x
2009 The Hurt Locker x x x 1 9 x
2008 Slumdog Millionaire x x x 0 10  
2007 No Country for Old Men x x x 1 8 x
2006 The Departed x x x 1 5  
2005 Crash x x x 1 6  
2004 Million Dollar Baby x x x 3 7  
2003 Lord of the Rings: Return of the King x x x 0 11 x
2002 Chicago x x x 4 13 x
2001 A Beautiful Mind x x x 2 8  
2000 Gladiator x x x 2 12 x

I was surprised that “Most noms” is a meaningless category—just six of 14 this century—but it helps to be at least near the top. Last year, both “Gravity” and “American Hustle” had 10 noms, one more than “12 Years.” “Lincoln” had 12 in 2012 (not a bad slogan, actually), while “The Artist” was only one off of “Hugo”'s total of 11 nominations in 2011.

So what does it all mean? 

Under normal circumstances, the lack of an editing nomination should end “Birdman”'s chances. Except voters may give it a pass since it's essentially one long single shot. It's an actors' movie, almost like a play (hence the three acting nominations), and the Academy's acting body should appreciate that.

“Boyhood” has fewer overall noms, but it's got director, editing, two acting, and, perhaps most importantly, heart.  

“The Imitation Game” has all its nominations in a nice, neat row. It's just not a very good movie. It's also the most conventional among the four. “Grand Budapest” is two-dimensional, Andersony and funny, “Boyhood” is episodic and took 12 years to make, “Birdman” is pungent, attacks Hollywood for giving awards “for cartoons and pornography” and ends with a question mark.

My thought? We're down to three. “Birdman,” “Boyhood” and “Imitation Game.” 

My hope? That 12 years of work, and a lot of heart, give “Boyhood” the win.

My fear? The unconventional voters will split among the American indies, allowing the lesser film, “Imitation Game,” to win. 

We'll find out Feb. 22.

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Posted at 09:44 AM on Jan 15, 2015 in category Movies - The Oscars
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The 2014 Oscar Nominations: Honesty and Popular Don't Go Hand in Hand

2014 oscar nominations

Announcing the actresses: Adams out, Cotillard in. C'mon, Marion/ It's time that we began ...

Just when you thought the Oscars were going populist, they pull themselves back out.

In 2009, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences expanded its best picture category from five to 10 (and soon after, anywhere from five to 10), in part, it was believed, because the broadcast, and thus the award, was losing popularity. Big box office hits weren't getting nominated; people tuned out. Thus the expansion. And immediate paydirt! “Avatar,” the biggest hit of 2009, was nom'ed, as was “Toy Story 3,” the biggest box-office hit of 2010. But was this partly an illusion? Would these movies have been nominated anyway? Was it a last gasp of a melding of critically acclaimed and popular? Because the following year, 2011, the biggest hit among the nominees was “The Help,” which topped out at 13th, and in 2012 it was “Lincoln,” which also topped out at 13th. Last year, yes, “Gravity,” the sixth-biggest box office hit of 2013, was nominated. But this year we're definitely back to square one. 

Among the eight best picture nominees, the one at the top of the box-office chart is “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” which grossed $59 million and isn't even among the 50 most popular movies of the year. (It's 53rd.) That's right, Wes Anderson is most popular—a title I'm sure he never thought he'd ever be able to claim. 

In fact, the total domestic gross of the eight nominees, $203 million, is less than the total domestic grosss of “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” ($208 million), which was only the 10th highest-grossing film of the year. 

So here we are again. Just us cinephiles.

Is it better this way? Could any popular movie have been nominated? “Guardians of the Galaxy” maybe? (Right. Sci-fi.)  “Captain America”? (Right. Superhero.) “Interstellar”? “Gone Girl”? “The LEGO Movie”? Hey, how about this? “LEGO,” the fourth highest-grossing movie of the year, and highly critically acclaimed, didn't even get nominated in Best Animated Feature.


The Academy went white and male, too. That's the spin you'll probably hear about more. “Selma” was shut out except for picture and song. Its director, Ana DuVarney, didn't get nominated, nor did its lead, David Oyelowo. Nothing for Angelina Jolie as director for “Unbroken” nor Gillian Flynn for best adapted screenplay for “Gone Girl.”

But the obvious follow-up: Should they have been nominated?

I admit I wasn't a big fan of “Gone Girl.” I could see either DuVarney or Oyelowo among the nominees, but both are crowded fields. Oyelowo certainly would've gotten my vote.

Here's the good news: the big winners are two of the best movies of the year: “Birdman” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” each got nine nominations. “Imitation Game” wound up with eight (really?) while “Boyhood” got six. 

The surprise winner was “American Sniper,” Clint Eastwood's late entry into the conversation, which tied “Boyood” with six nominations, include picture, actor, adapted screenplay and editing. Oddly, its most prominent figure, director Eastwood, didn't get nominated.

A pattern, AMPAS? Let's look.


  • “American Sniper”
  • “Birdman”
  • “Boyhood”
  • “The Grand Budapest Hotel“
  • ”The Imitation Game“
  • ”Selma“
  • ”The Theory of Everything“
  • ”Whiplash“


  • Wes Anderson ”The Grand Budapest Hotel“ 
  • A.G. Iñárritu ”Birdman“
  • Richard Linklater ”Boyhood“
  • Bennet Miller, ”Foxcatcher“
  • Morten Tyldum ”The Imitation Game“


  • Steve Carell, ”Foxcatcher“
  • Bradley Cooper, ”American Sniper“
  • Benedict Cumberbatch, ”The Imitation Game“
  • Michael Keaton ”Birdman“
  • Eddie Redmayne  ”The Theory of Everything“


  • Marion Cotillard, ”Deux Jours, Une Nuit“
  • Felicity Jones ”The Theory of Everything“
  • Julianne Moore ”Still Alice“
  • Rosamund Pike ”Gone Girl“
  • Reese Witherspoon ”Wild“

MISSING: Golden Globes winner Amy Adams for ”Big Eyes.“ 

Supporting Actress

  • Patricia Arquette ”Boyhood“
  • Laura Dern, ”Wild“
  • Keira Knightley ”The Imitation Game“
  • Emma Stone ”Birdman“
  • Meryl Streep ”Into the Woods“

MISSING: Jessica Chastain for ”A Most Violent Year.“ Which hasn't played anywhere yet. Glad to see Dern there. Knightley? Please.

Supporting Actor

  • Robert Duvall, ”The Judge“
  • Ethan Hawke, ”Boyhood“
  • Edward Norton, ”Birdman“
  • Mark Ruffalo, ”Foxcatcher“
  • JK Simmons, ”Whiplash“

Original screenplay

  • Wes Anderson ”The Grand Budapest Hotel“
  • E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman, ”Foxcatcher“ 
  • Dan Gilroy, ”Nightcrawler“
  • A.G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo, ”Birdman“
  • Richard Linklater, ”Boyhood“

Adapted screenplay

  • Paul Thomas Anderson, ”Inherent Vice“
  • Damien Chazelle, ”Whiplash“
  • Jason Hall, ”American Sniper“
  • Anthony McCarten, ”The Theory of Everything“
  • Graham Moore, ”The Imitation Game“

Still don't understand the lack of Nick Hornby love. That's a tough adaptation. Still don't get the Graham Moore love. ”Imitation Game“ was at best a cookie-cutter biopic. Ditto ”Theory of Everything.“ But I'm happy to see Paul Thomas Anderson in there. Not to mentin Mr. Chazelle. 

Animated Feature 

  • ”Big Hero 6“
  • ”The Boxtrolls“
  • ”How to Train Your Dragon 2“
  • ”Song of the Sea“
  • ”The Tale of the Princess Kaguya“

MISSING: ”The LEGO Movie.“ I've heard ”Song of the Sea“ is beautiful, though. 

Documentary Feature

  • ”Citizenfour“
  • ”Finding Vivian Maier“
  • ”Last Days in Vietnam“
  • ”The Salt of the Earth“
  • ”Virunga“

MISSING: ”Life Itself.“ Thumbs down.


  • Roger Deakins, ”Unbroken“
  • Emmanuel Lubezki, ”Birdman“
  • Dick Pope, ”Mr. Turner“
  • Robert Yeoman, ”The Grand Budapest Hotel“
  • Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski,”Ida“ 

Just when you're finally getting the recognition you deserve, the president of the Academy pronounces your name ”Poop.“ Sorry, Dick Pope. Seriously, Academy presidents, do a run-through or something.

Film Editing

  • ”American Sniper“
  • ”Boyhood“
  • ”The Grand Budapest Hotel“
  • ”The Imitation Game“
  • ”Whiplash“

MISSING: ”Birdman.“ Because of all the single shots? And does this kill its chances for best picture? The last time a film won best picture without being nominated for film editing was in 1980 with ”Ordinary People“: 35 years ago. 

Foreign Language Film 

  • ”Ida“ (Poland)
  • ”Leviathan“ (Russia)
  • ”Tangerines“ (Estonia) 
  • ”Timbuktu“ (Mauritiana)
  • ”Wild Tales“ (Argentina)

MISSING: ”Force Majeure.“

Production Design

  • ”The Grand Budapest Hotel“
  • ”The Imitation Game“
  • ”Interstellar“
  • ”Into the Woods“
  • ”Mr. Turner“

A lot of prognosticators got this way wrong. They were thinking ”Birdman“ and ”Maleficent“ and ”Unbroken.“ But the Academy was not kind to Angelina Jolie this year. Too old, I guess. 

Costume Design

  • ”The Grand Budapest Hotel“ 
  • ”Inherent Vice“
  • ”Into the Woods“
  • ”Maleficent“
  • ”Mr. Turner“

Original Score

  • Alexandre Desplat, ”The Grand Budapest Hotel“
  • Alexandre Desplat, ”The Imitation Game“
  • Jóhann Jóhannsson ”The Theory of Everything“
  • Gary Yershon, ”Mr. Turner“
  • Hans Zimmer ”Interstellar“ 

Original Song

  • ”Everything is Awesome“ (Shawn Patterson, Tegan and Sara, ”The LEGO Movie“) 
  • ”Glory“ (John Legend and Common, ”Selma“) 
  • ”Grateful“ (Diane Warren, ”Beyond the Lights“)
  • ”I'm Not Gonna Miss You“ (Glen Campbell, Julian Raymond, ”Glen Campbell ... I'll Be Me“)
  • ”Lost Stars“ (Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois, ”Begin Again“)

Makeup and Hairstyling

  • ”Foxcatcher“
  • ”The Grand Budapest Hotel“
  • ”Guardians of the Galaxy“

Sound Editing

  • ”American Sniper“
  • ”Birdman“
  • ”The Hobbit“
  • ”Interstellar“
  • ”Unbroken“

Sound Mixing

  • ”American Sniper“
  • ”Birdman“
  • ”Interstellar“
  • ”Unbroken“
  • ”Whiplash“

Visual Effects

  • ”Captain America: The Winter Soldier“
  • ”Dawn of the Planet of the Apes“
  • ”Guardians of the Galaxy“
  • ”Interstellar“
  • ”X-Men: Days of Future Past“

Animated Short

  • “The Bigger Picture”
  • ”The Damn Keeper“
  • ”Feast“
  • ”Me and My Moulton“
  • “A Single Life”

Documentary Short 

  • “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1”
  • “Joanna”
  • “Our Curse”
  • “The Reaper (La Parka)” 
  • “White Earth“

Live Action Short 

  • “Aya”
  • “Boogaloo and Graham”
  • “Butter Lamp”
  • “Parvaneh”
  • “The Phone Call“

Thoughts? I'm sure I'll have more as the day progresses. 


”Birdman“ leads with nine nomations. ”How did we end up here ...?"

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Posted at 07:54 AM on Jan 15, 2015 in category Movies - The Oscars
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Wednesday January 14, 2015

My 2014 Oscar Nominations

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences announces its nominees for the 2014 Oscars tomorrow morning. Here are my choices. These are preferences, not guesses. Guesses are boring, but I give odds after each category. Plus a better resource at the end.


  • “Birdman”
  • “Boyhood”
  • “The Drop”
  • “Fury”
  • “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

The first two are in. “Budapest” maybe. “Drop” and “Fury” have no shot even though up to 10 films can be nominated. 


  • Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
  • Alejandro González Iñárritu, “Birdman”
  • Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”
  • Bennet Miller, “Foxcatcher”
  • Pawel Pawlikowski, “Ida”

The first three were nom'ed for DGAs yesterday, a good harbinger. I'd rather the other DGA noms, Clint Eastwood (“American Sniper”) and Morten Tyldum (“Imitation Game”), didn't make it. Options include: Ruben Östlund (“Force Majeure”) Michael R. Roskam (“The Drop”), David Ayer (“Fury”), Ira Sachs (“Love Is Strange”), Dan Gilroy (“Nightcrawler”), Damien Chazelle (“Whiplash”), Jean-Marc Vallee (“Wild”), Ava DuVernay (“Selma”), and Paul Thomas Anderson (“Inherent Vice”). 


  • Ralph Fiennes, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
  • Tom Hardy, “The Drop”
  • John Lithgow, “Love Is Strange”
  • David Oyelowo, “Selma”
  • Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything”

Tough category. Toughest? I didn't even include Michael Keaton for “Birdman,” the likely winner. Unless it's Redmayne. Of mine, only Redmayne is a sure thing. 


  • Bérénice Bejo, “Le Passé”
  • Marion Cotillard, “Two Days, One Night”
  • Lisa Loven Kongsli, “Force Majeure”
  • Jenny Slate, “Obvious Child”
  • Reese Witherspoon, “Wild” 

I don't know if I'm hearing nothing on “Le Passé” because it's considered a 2013 movie or because nobody liked it as much as I did. I think the former. Of the above, Witherspoon is the no-brainer, while Cotillard would get my vote. Caveat: I haven't seen either of the Julianne Moore movies, but she's the likely winner for a movie no one has seen. 


  • Shia LeBeouf, “Fury”
  • Ed Norton, “Birdman”
  • Mark Ruffalo, “Foxcatcher”
  • J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”
  • Matthias Schoenaerts, “The Drop”

Norton and Simmons are the likely nominees, Simmons the likely winner. It pains me to leave off Ethan Hawke's work for “Boyhood.” LeBeouf and Schoenaerts have gotten *zero* talk. Is it the consecutive vowels in their names? I think the Academy is vowelist. Thus spaketh Lundegaard.


  • Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”
  • Laura Dern, “Wild”
  • Agata Kulesza, “Ida”
  • Rene Russo, “Nightcrawler”
  • Marisa Tomei, “Love Is Strange” 

Arquette, yes, Dern and Russo maybe. Emma Stone will get nom'ed for “Birdman.” Probably Jessica Chastain for “A Most Violent Year.” Did you see her at the Golden Globes? She gets better-looking every year. 


  • Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
  • David Ayer, “Fury”
  • Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo, “Birdman”
  • Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”
  • Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, “The LEGO Movie”

 Would've had “Selma” in here but for the LBJ thing. “Birdman,” “Boyhood,” in. Everything else is up for grabs. 


  • Damien Chazelle, “Whiplash” 
  • James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, “Guardians of the Galaxy”
  • Nick Hornby, “Wild”
  • Dennis Lehane, “The Drop”
  • Gillian Robespierre, “Obvious Child”

“Whiplash” has a shot. Why, by the way, is Hornby getting no love? Talk about a tough adaptation. The book is mostly interior, something books do better than movies, and he made it work. Plus he's Nick Hornby. 


  • “CitizenFour”
  • “Jordorowsky’s Dune”
  • “Life Itself”
  • “The Unknown Known”
  • “Whitey: United States of America v. James G. Bulger”

It appears to be a battle between “CitizenFour” and “LifeItself,” with the former probably winning.

Better predictions can be found via Nathaniel Rogers at Film Experience

A demain.

Tom Hardy in "The Drop"

Tom Hardy in “The Drop”: No love, despite the puppy. 

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Posted at 07:01 AM on Jan 14, 2015 in category Movies - The Oscars
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Sunday December 21, 2014

Best Foreign Language Film Down to Nine Nominees

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (The Oscars) has shortlisted its “best foreign language film” category to nine choices. They are:

  • Accused (The Netherlands)
  • Corn Island (Georgia)
  • Force Majeure (Sweden)
  • Ida (Poland) *
  • Leviathan (Russia)
  • The Liberator (Venezuela)
  • Tangerines (Estonia)
  • Timbuktu (Mauritania)
  • Wild Tales 

* currently streaming on Netflix

As you can see, I've only seen “Ida,” which I think is one of the best movies of the year. Missed “Force Majeure” at SIFF Uptown because it's December and time is crazy. Heard good things on “Leviathan.”

What's missing? “Deux jours, une nuit” from Belgium. I've heard “Winter Sleep” from Turkey is quite good. I assume “Kraftidioten” wasn't even offered up by Norway to the Academy.


“Ida”: The best road movie of the year. 

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Posted at 07:54 AM on Dec 21, 2014 in category Movies - The Oscars
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Tuesday December 02, 2014

Academy Winnows Best Documentary Feature to 15, Including 'CitizenFour' and 'Life Itself'

Life Itself: Our Roger Wins Pulitizer

Our Roger wins best documentary feature?

I don't know if you know, but the Academy's documentary branch always sees fit to winnow the nonfiction possibilities down to 15 before arriving at the five documentary nominees, announced in January, from which they choose, of course, the one: best documentary feature.

Well, today they winnowed to 15:

  • “Art and Craft,” Purple Parrot Films
  • “The Case Against 8,” Day in Court
  • “Citizen Koch,” Elsewhere Films
  • “CitizenFour,” Praxis Films
  • “Finding Vivian Maier,” Ravine Pictures
  • “The Internet’s Own Boy,” Luminant Media
  • “Jodorowsky’s Dune,” City Film
  • “Keep on Keepin’ On,” Absolute Clay Productions
  • “The Kill Team,” f/8 filmworks
  • “Last Days in Vietnam,” Moxie Firecracker Films
  • “Life Itself,” Kartemquin Films and Film Rites
  • “The Overnighters,” Mile End Films West
  • “The Salt of the Earth,” Decia Films
  • “Tales of the Grim Sleeper,” Lafayette Film
  • “Virunga,” Grain Media

I've seen five: the four that are linked to my reviews, and “The Case Against 8,” which, I suppose, could be linked to this interview I did in January—shortly after the doc premiered at Sundance. 

It's not a bad group. What's missing? “The Unknown Known,” Errol Morris' mixed but still powerful doc on Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. 

Among the docs I've seen, I'd probably vote for “Life Itself.” Does it have a shot? Maybe. I don't believe in the make-up vote, but director Steve James was royally reamed when his doc “Hoop Dreams” wasn't even nominated in 1994—a travesty that Roger and Gene (among others) let the world know about. How delicious if Steve's doc on Roger made up for that?

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Posted at 06:05 PM on Dec 02, 2014 in category Movies - The Oscars
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