Tag Archives: Bennett Miller

Oscars 2015: Best Director and Best Picture

Birdman cinematographyBest Directoruntitled

Richard Linklater- Boyhood

Alejandro González Iñárritu- Birdman

Bennett Miller- Foxcatcher

Wes Anderson- The Grand Budapest Hotel

Morten Tyldum- The Imitation Game

One of the more controversial categories this year, the Best Director race is traditionally one of the more reliable predictors of the Best Picture Oscar. The Academy’s snub of Ava DuVemay for Selma has put a bit of a damper on things but Linklater and Iñárritu’s inclusion still make for an nteresting race.

Miller and Tyldum are strange nominations. Not only did I find Selma a much better movie than The Imitation Game, it was much more of a director’s showcase. And Miller won’t win. Since I started watching 20 years ago, no director has won for a film that didn’t even earn a Best Picture nomination. As good a job as he did with Foxcatcher, it really is bizarre that the Academy passed over four Best Picture nominees in favour of Milller.

Now for Wes Anderson. I am running out of things to say about him, having praised The Grand Budapest Hotel several times over the last couple of weeks. We love him here at Assholes Watching Movies and are thrilled that the Academy finally got around to giving him his first Best Director nomination.

That leaves Linklater and Iñárritu who have made two of this year’s best movies. How do you compare the ambition of these two projects. Birdman’s self-aware screenplay and dizzying cinematography vs Boyhood’s 12 year commitment. I wouldn’t be disappointed either way but I’m voting Linklater. He made a great film, not just an ambitious one that was filled with beautiful moments filled with truth.

Best PictureBirdman script

American Sniper

Birdman

Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation GamePatricia Arquette

Selma

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

I’ve commented on all eight of these films at length andhave made no secret of my love for boyhood. Experts have declared Boyhood and Birdman as the two frontrunners, leaving me with no idea what is going to happen. Both movies are great so I won’t mind either way. As long as American Sniper doesn’t win as my colleague just predicted.

 

 

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Foxcatcher

I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of Foxcatcher all year. Director Bennett Miller (Capote, Moneyball) is doing what few can do better- a film inspired by a true story. But it was Steve Carell, playing millionaire schizophrenic John du Pont, that I was most excited to see. This isn’t the first time he’s tried to surprise us. I was completely caught off guard by the sincerity of his performance in Little Miss Sunshine and even more so in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. The more risks someone takes, the more I root for them and I knew that pulling off something so dark would be his biggest yet.

On his against-type casting choice, Miller apparently said “I think all comedians are dark”. After the recent passing of Robin Williams, the cliche of the sad clown has been discussed online at length but it’s always been especially on the surface with Carell who, even in some of his most straight-up comedies (The Office and 40 Year-Old Virgin in particular), has never been afraid to let his dark side show. Michael Scott, the boss from hell on The Office, can be obnoxious and selfish but Carell rarely forgets to play the sadness and loneliness that’s behind his less likable traits.

As John du Pont, Steve Carell doesn’t disappoint. I didn’t know much about this story at the start of the film and only knew that all this was supposed to end in tragedy so du Pont’s creepy persona and erratic behaviour unnerved me every time he was on screen. Carell plays him as unpredictable (quite a feat given that his voice rarely raises above a mumble) and nearly impossible to read. It’s a performance that I found impossible to forget as I tried and failed to sleep later that night and I hope Oscar takes as much notice as the Golden Globes have.

As for the film itself, it’s never less than compelling and held my attention long after it was done as I tried to piece it together for the next few hours. Miller uses dialogue only when necessary and seems more interested in telling his story through haunting images and the looks on Channing Tatum and Steve Carell’s faces, resulting in a finished product that is exceptionally well shot and edited and easy to admire. But because both leads (Tatum and Carell) say so little and because Miller keeps his audience at such a distance, there’s not much to get emotionally involved in.