Have not seen: Whiplash, Into The Woods
*Disclaimer: It has been months since I saw these films, so I’m really basing my thoughts purely on memory. Will not comment of the supporting categories and best picture since I haven’t seen all the nominees yet.
1) Reese Witherspoon in Wild (5/5): I usually cannot stand this actress but over here she’s fantastic. The raw emotions and pain of her character are so fantastically brought to life that I instantly gave her the win. Watching the character gradually letting go of the demons holding her down was one of the most inspiring and moving experiences. The scene in the car where she says that she was going to “walk herself back” to the person her mother wanted her to be was my favourite acted scene of this year.
2) Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night (5/5): Marion Cotillard is a damn fantastic actress, and like Witherspoon, she brings the characters pain and sadness to screen. Her depiction of depression and panic attacks is very realistic, but what works the most is how naturally she shows her character’s way of conquering her fears. The performance complements the realistic tone of the film, and that final “I’m happy” scene really warranted the 5 for me.
Holy crap, she’s beautiful here
3) Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl (4.5/5): I was initially crazy about Gone Girl, but now I realise that the story is pretty ridiculous. Still, when watching the film I instantly felt that the role of Amy was Pike’s to play. Her cold beauty fits the cruel, murderous and manipulative Amy Dunne and I think she added many layers to this character even though the script didn’t necessarily call for it. Even though the bitch is crazy, I actually understood where she was coming from, and I felt sorry for how her marriage turned out.
4) Julianne Moore in Still Alice (4.5/5): In my mind, Julianne Moore should have won Oscars for Far From Heaven, Boogie Nights and The Hours, but I still highly respect her Oscar win for Still Alice. I know many people find this performance underwhelming but there’s this quiet dignity and pride in her performance that I thought was impossible to replicate. The speech was the highlight for me, but as a whole, there’s something very poetic about this performance that I liked, even if it is not the flashiest or “Oscary”.
5) Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything (4/5): She’s the highlight of her underwhelming film, but I kinda wish that there was more power and presence to her part (despite the screentime, it feels a bit supporting). It’s still a very good performance, and I liked how she handled the inner conflicts of her character and her changing feelings towards Hawkings. That “I have loved you. I tried my best” was a 5 star moment for me because of the emotional power, but I kinda wish the rest of the performance was like that too. Still, a good performance.
How my best actress lineup would have been: Essie Davis in The Babadook (5), Reese Witherspoon in Wild (5), Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night (5), Jessica Chastain in The Disapperance of Eleanor Rigby: Her (4.5), Julianne Moore in Map to The Stars (4.5), followed by Pike, Moore and Jones like above
1) Michael Keaton in Birdman (5/5): I’l have to admit that I don’t love this performance as much as people do, but I still think it’s a damn fantastic one. He brings the humour, the heartbreak, the fun and the craziness to his character and makes it all work. The scene where he ran down the streets in his underwear is pure gold, (along with the direction, sound and camerawork). I can’t explain why I just don’t feel that drawn to his work here to declare it the best of the decade so far, but I still think it is original and fascinating.
2) Bradley Cooper in American Sniper (4.5/5): I think he is an overrated actor, but this is probably my favourite performance of his. The silent strength, the tormented eyes, the toughness and the patriotism never feels fake to me. The killing scenes were also pretty chilling at times, and I liked that he added this mysterious angle to the character. I know it is a very quiet part but there is something very heartfelt in his work that made me feel for the character throughout the film.
3) Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game (4/5): I just blogged about this so I won’t say much. He gives a great performance, but it’s a standard great performance that doesn’t really scream amazing or original to me. Still, there were some heartbreaking scenes that were really effective and overall, I liked the performance.
4) Steve Carell in The Foxcatcher (3.5/5): Yeah, I know people bitch about this one a lot but I still liked it to a certain extent. There were certainly miss moments here and there, such as the mannerisms (I was especially disappointed in the scene with Vanessa Redgrave), but for some reason, I found myself interested in the character and his thought processes. There were also some pretty creepy moments scattered here and there, such as the helicopter scene and the one where he fired the gun at the ceiling, and it’s probably moments like this that add to his work.
5) Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything (3/5): I don’t want to sound like I’m belittling an Oscar winner here but I feel like Redmayne’s Oscar win would have made more sense in the 40s better than today. I’ll give him credit: it’s one of the best physical transformation I have seen on camera. Unfortunately, the whole flawless scientific genius thing doesn’t work for me, and I’m someone who appreciates the emotional aspects and nuances of performances more than the physical transformation. The nature of his performance also caused him to be (imo) completely overshadowed by Jones in the second half of the film and I was more interested in her work than his. There’s nothing I can fault with his actual performance, but it just feels too safe to me.
How my best actor lineup would have been: Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler (5 and ROBBED), Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar (5), Michael Keaton in Birdman (5), Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel (5), David Oyelowo in Selma (4.5), followed by Bradley Cooper and the rest
Concluding thoughts: I’m glad that I finally got the categories I’m most interested in over with. I may/may not do the supporting categories in the future since I will most likely watch Streep’s performance next but I’m probably going to focus on other performances I’m interested in. Looking at my ratings, I feel like I may have been too harsh on the 2014 initially, but I still think it’s an underwhelming year, even if it is waay better than 2009/2010. Still, I liked the actress lineup well enough. Ah well.