By ALISON THOET
This year’s batch of best picture Oscar nominees are an interesting compilation of both the dramatic and the comedic. It is an unusual mix with perhaps the most comedic nominees ever, with “Birdman” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” scoring best picture nominations. However, more importantly, this year’s nominees reflect the theme of 2014: heroes.
I don’t mean superheroes (though “Birdman” may touch on that account); rather, I am talking about the people forgotten by history or whose stories are ignored. These are the heroes of history and society, the people who spent their lives fighting for something meaningful.
“American Sniper” provides the story of what it is like to be a soldier in war, a story society often tries to look away from. “The Imitation Game” sheds light on Alan Turing, a man who saved thousands of lives in World War II by cracking the German Enigma Code but was later persecuted for homosexuality. “Selma” forces us to look at the injustices of racism and the difficulty of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s fight against a world that did not accept him.
“The Theory of Everything” tells the story of a man whose name we have all heard, but whose life struggle we could not begin to understand. The film gives insight into the life of Steven Hawking, a genius trapped inside his own body. “Boyhood” and “Whiplash” share the stories of everyday boys growing up, something we can all relate to, but still difficult in its own right.
These movies all present the stories of incredible people, but it is the presentation of those characters by the actors that really make the films. Steve Carell transforms from his typical funny guy into a mean millionaire in “Foxcatcher.”
Benedict Cumberbatch went so far as to imitate a speech impediment for his portrayal of Alan Turing in “The Imitation Game,” and Eddie Redmayne delved even further into the life of Steven Hawking by undergoing physical therapy to convincingly contort his body in displaying Hawking’s transformation with ALS.
This year, many women also stretched the bounds of characters and delivered powerful performances. Marion Cotillard starred as a Belgian working woman wracked with guilt at keeping her job at the expense of her coworkers’ bonuses in “Two Days, One Night,” while Rosamund Pike disappears in the popular-novel-turned-film “Gone Girl.” Reese Witherspoon ventures on her own in “Wild,” Julianne Moore defines the struggle of losing oneself to Alzheimer’s in “Still Alice” and Felicity Jones lights up the life of a brilliant scientist in “The Theory of Everything.”
The men seem to be in line with the biggest films of the year, while the women are pulling a new focus to independent films. There is no telling the favorite for best picture yet, but “Boyhood,” filmed over the course of 12 years, took home the Golden Globe. Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette were both nominated for the film, and Arquette already has a Golden Globe and SAG award for her performance.
“Birdman” also has a large cast of nominees, with Edward Norton and Emma Stone in supporting roles of Keaton. Both leads in “The Theory of Everything” were nominated, with Eddie Redmayne already winning both the Golden Globe and SAG award for best lead actor this year.
“The Imitation Game” has no wins thus far, and the much acclaimed “Selma” only has one Golden Globe for best original song. Wes Anderson’s newest quirky film, “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” won the Golden Globe for best comedy.
No matter who gets to take home a little gold statue, however, this year brought films that turned the spotlight on everyday people struggling with disease, injustice, growing up and life in general. It is important to recognize what films can do not only for entertainment value, but for starting a conversation on something that has long been ignored or passed over.
Click through to see our predictions for each category:
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
“The Imitation Game”
“The Theory of Everything”
Actor-in a Leading Role:
Steve Carell – “Foxcatcher”
Bradley Cooper – “American Sniper”
Bendict Cumberbatch – “The Imitation Game”
Michael Keaton – “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Eddie Redmayne – “The Theory of Everything”
Actress-in a Leading Role:
Marion Cotillard – “Two Days, One Night”
Felicity Jones – “The Theory of Everything”
Julianne Moore – “Still Alice”
Rosamund Pike – “Gone Girl”
Reese Witherspoon – “Wild”
Actor-in a Supporting Role:
Robert Duvall – “The Judge”
Ethan Hawke – “Boyhood”
Edward Norton – “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Mark Ruffalo – “Foxcatcher”
J.K. Simmons – “Whiplash”
Actress-in a Supporting Role:
Patricia Arquette – “Boyhood”
Laura Dern – “Wild”
Keira Knightley – “The Imitation Game”
Emma Stone – “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Meryl Streep – “Into the Woods”