Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.
OK, not much to say leading into the 87th Academy Award nominations. We know the implications and the excitement that has been building since the world forgot about the Golden Globes 12:01 Monday morning.
This is the first year that every category has been announced during the live broadcast, which I suppose is a novel concept.
Leading the race are the films BIRDMAN and THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, which scored nine nominations a piece. This year the announcement was made my Alfonso Cuarón (who won Best Director last year for GRAVITY), J.J. Abrams (STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS), some really handsome guy in a suit named Chris Pine (INTO THE WOODS), and Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the active president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
There are always some snubs and surprises, which will be talking about here until the ceremony, airing February 22.
- AMERICAN SNIPER
- THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
- THE IMITATION GAME
- THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
Immediate Reaction: Ah, remember the days when getting a Best Picture nod meant something? Five nominees and typically five films that were ACTUAL contenders. This year, there isn’t much filler except for the two films that I believe are pretty interchangeable THE IMITATION GAME and THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING. Other than that the six films remaining couldn’t be anything further from typical, each possesses a unique style that eclipses the Oscar bait trappings.
- Alejandro González Iñárritu, BIRDMAN
- Richard Linklater, BOYHOOD
- Bennett Miller, FOXCATCHER
- Wes Anderson, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
- Morten Tyldum, THE IMITATION GAME
Immediate Reaction: Actors are the most important cog in the wheel of filmmaking and the Academy gave a lot of credit this year to those directors who created incredibly captivating characters. But once again, there was a controversial snub for Ava DuVernay’s SELMA, who was presumably replaced with Morten Tydum, an unworthy contender in my eyes.
- Steve Carell, FOXCATCHER
- Bradley Cooper, AMERICAN SNIPER
- Benedict Cumberbatch, THE IMITATION GAME
- Michael Keaton, BIRDMAN
- Eddie Redmayne, THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
Immediate Reaction: Obviously, this is a crowded category year after year, but this go-round is pretty bland. It’s easy to read between the lines and see that Eddie Redmayne will take home the statue, as he fits perfectly into the blueprint required. Tokenism should have no effect on the nominee selection, but it seems a bit suspicious that Benedict Cumberbatch got the nod over David Oyelowo in SELMA. Swap the two out and we ourselves a hell of a race.
- Marion Cotillard, TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT
- Felicity Jones, THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
- Julianne Moore, STILL ALICE
- Rosamund Pike, GONE GIRL
- Reese Witherspoon, WILD
Immediate Reaction: The only reason this category could go to any one of the actresses nominated is because Meryl Streep didn’t have a leading role in 2014 (We’ll get to her in a bit). It would be remarkable if relatively unknown Rosamund Pike took home the gold for her harrowing turn in GONE GIRL. However, we’re quite happy to see Marion Cotillard got some Oscar love for her terrific turn in TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT.
Actor in a Supporting Role:
- Robert Duvall, THE JUDGE
- Ethan Hawke, BOYHOOD
- Edward Norton, BIRDMAN
- Mark Ruffalo, FOXCATCHER
- J.K. Simmons, WHIPLASH
Immediate Reaction: Hands down my personal favorite category and always the first Oscar to be given out each year. Four great performances here (notice I said four) because I suspect that Robert Duvall got the nod just due to his prestige. This one comes down to Edward Norton and the great J.K. Simmons.
Actress in a Supporting Role:
- Patricia Arquette, BOYHOOD
- Laura Dern, WILD
- Emma Stone, BIRDMAN
- Keira Knightley, THE IMITATION GAME
- Meryl Streep, INTO THE WOODS
Immediate Reaction: How do the Academy manage to shoehorn Meryl Streep in every, single, year. It’s pretty grating that they don’t want to give somebody else a shot, like Jessica Chastain for her gangster-wife role in A MOST VIOLENT YEAR (and where are the other nominations for that movie?). But, overall decent noms, even though Kiera Knightley could have been redacted from the bill. Patricia Arquette may have a nice piece to put on the mantle come February 22nd.
BIG HERO 6
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2
SONG OF THE SEA
THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA
Immediate Reaction: No love for THE LEGO MOVIE? I suspect President Business had something to do with this atrocity. Some diverse films in the running here, but seriously THE BOXTROLLS?
- Emmanuel Lubezki, BIRDMAN
- Robert D. Yeoman, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
- Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lynzewski, IDA
- Dick Pope, MR. TURNER
Roger Deakins, UNBROKEN
Immediate Reaction: Let’s give all of these films a nice soft golf clap for their contribution to cinema this year. Really and truly a tough category to pin down a frontrunner. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL for its Russian nesting doll type layers, BIRDMAN for it’s mystery and illusion, IDA for the beautiful the nostalgic, and living legend Roger Deakins for UNBROKEN. Finally, to Dick Pope (or Dick Poop, if you watched the live announcement), sorry mate, I didn’t see your film.
Foreign Language Film:
- WILD TALES
Immediate Reaction: Hey, where’s FORCE MAJEURE?
- LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM
- THE SALT OF THE EARTH
- FINDING VIVIAN MAIER
Immediate Reaction: Glad to see CITIZENFOUR made it in there, since it’s about the only one we saw of the nominees.
- Joel Cox and Gary Roach, AMERICAN SNIPER
- Sandra Adair, BOYHOOD
- Barney Pilling, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
- William Goldenberg, THE IMITATION GAME
- Tom Cross, WHIPLASH
Immediate Reaction: It’ll really come down to WHIPLASH and BOYHOOD. BUDAPEST could pull off a win, mainly because it very neatly plays with different aspect ratios. But I believe it is WHIPLASH that we need to watch.
- Milena Canonero, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
- Mark Bridges, INHERENT VICE
- Colleen Atwood, INTO THE WOODS
- Anna B. Sheppard, MALEFICENT
- Jacqueline Durran, MR. TURNER
Immediate Reaction: Frankly, I am tired of costumes always going to the movie with the most royal, period peace (I’m talking before the 1900s look). So, honestly, I would be happy if THE GRAND BUDAPEST took the lead on this.
- Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard, FOXCATCHER
- Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
- Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
Immediate Reaction: [Twirls mustache] Hmm. Will it be Steve Carell’s prosthetic nose in FOXCATCHER or Tilda Swinton under an aged face in THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL? But then, there’s Dave Bautista’s green and red muscles in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.
Music – Original Score:
- Alexandre Desplat, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
- Alexandre Desplat, THE IMITATION GAME
- Hans Zimmer, INTERSTERLLAR
- Gary Yershon, MR. TURNER
- Jóhann Jóhannsson, THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
Immediate Reaction: Lots of love for Alexandre Desplat, obviously. I’m surprised he didn’t get a nod for UNBROKEN, too, while they’re at it. Jóhann Jóhannsson won the Globe on Sunday for his work on THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, but Hans Zimmer still has a shot for his memorable score in INTERSTELLAR. But I’m bummed about MR. TURNER making it in over Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ GONE GIRL score.
Music – Original Song:
- “Everything Is Awesome” by Shawn Patterson, THE LEGO MOVIE
- “Glory” by Common and John Legend, SELMA
- “Grateful” by Diane Warren, BEYOND THE LIGHTS
- “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” by Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond, GLEN CAMPBELL: I’LL BE ME
- “Lost Stars” by Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois, BEGIN AGAIN
Immediate Reaction: Well, since this is only one of the two nominations for the snubbed SELMA, the Academy needs to make up for that fact. So, expect it to be SELMA. However, damn glad to see THE LEGO MOVIE made it in with “Everything is Awesome” I’m pretty sure we all sang that track last year almost as much as we did “Let It Go.” Also, can’t forget BEGIN AGAIN– a very catchy tune as well.
- THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, Production design: Adam Stockhausen, Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
- THE IMITATION GAME, Production design: Maria Djurkovic, Set Decoration: Tatiana Macdonald
- INTERSTELLAR, Production design: Nathan Crowley, Set Decoration: Gary Fettis
- INTO THE WOODS, Production design: Dennis Gassner, Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
- MR. TURNER, Production design: Suzie Davies, Set Decoration: Charlotte Watts
Immediate Reaction: BUDAPEST!
For the full list of nominees, visit http://oscar.go.com/. And be sure to check back later next month, where we will provide our predictions.