The Academy Awards are upon us! Have you made your predictions? As is our annual tradition, we at Verily picked our favorites before the big day on February 22.
BEST PICTURE // The Grand Budapest Hotel
This year’s Oscar nominations have some stiff competition. Between American Sniper’s complexities, Birdman’s charm, and Boyhood’s ingenuity, it’s hard to know where to start—not to mention Whiplash’s thrill factor and Selma’s importance. Oh, and the excellent acting in Theory of Everything and TheImitation Game. With so much distinction to choose between, I’ve decided to base my decision for Best Picture on what film I’d choose to watch again. By that standard, my pick goes to The Grand Budapest Hotel. Wes Anderson has mastered the craft of capturing the sweet among the bitter both in story and picture, and I’ll gladly have another helping. Underdog or not, The Grand Budapest Hotel has my vote.
—Mary Rose Somarriba
BEST DIRECTOR // Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Richard Linklater deserves the statue for his 12-year epic, Boyhood. The film was shot in two-week increments, with the same cast and crew, over the course of 12 years. That also meant Linklater and his team edited the takes on 12 separate occasions. The result is a remarkably seamless and touching tribute to what it's like growing up as a young boy in America. The film has its critics ("It's three hours! It's boring! It's cliché!"), but I for one disagree. I had the chance to see Boyhood at a special New York screening and listen as Linklater answered questions afterward. With all the other films out there focusing on graphic violence or sex or all of the above, Boyhood makes a splash without that. Nothing feels gratuitous—it all comes across as very normal and relatable. Linklater has pioneered a new film genre entirely. While I don't expect to see a lot of other decade-spanning movies given the immense business constraints, I'm so glad we have this one to start us off. (Oh, and the soundtrack? Absolute perfection.)
BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE // Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
I’ve always enjoyed comedians exploring their dark side, and Steve Carell’s performance as John du Pont doesn't disappoint. Unrecognizable from the beloved bumbler we know in the The Office, Carell’s physical transformation for the film is only the manifestation of the darkness he brings to his character at every turn. His deadened voice supplies Foxcatcher with all sorts of delicious tension. This is code for "he gave me the creeps." In the best possible way, of course.
BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE // Robert Duvall, The Judge
In The Judge, Robert Duvall, plays an aging father to an obnoxious lawyer son (Robert Downey, Jr.). For the family-of-origin drama that it is, The Judge definitely needed a powerful actor in the role of papa bear. Duvall delivers such a good performance it almost overshadows the story altogether; Downey almost looks like a schoolboy in comparison. Capturing the complexities and sensitivities of an aging patriarch at the end of his days, including the humiliating yet human realities of a body being shut down by cancer, Duvall has the Oscar in the bag, in my book.
—Mary Rose Somarriba
BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE // Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Holy, Gone Girl. This film is definitely not for the faint of heart (and certainly not for your kids!). But as a huge fan of the Gillian Flynn book, I was excited to see the film on opening weekend. I don't imagine anyone else could have filled the role of Amazing Amy the way Rosamund Pike did. The under-the-radar British actress has reached global stardom—and an Oscar would solidify that status. Pike plays a sociopath—she's intriguing, disturbing, and downright terrifying. And as hard as you might try, you simply can't turn away.
BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE // Meryl Streep, Into the Woods
Meryl Streep works her magic to embody the Witch in Into the Woods. The role demands versatility, and Streep delivers. As an old hag, she stoops and sneers, making her every movement eerie. When the Witch regains her original beauty, Streep abandons the stoop for a tall, glamorous posture and an overall sense of elegance. Yet Streep makes this drastic physical change without compromising the emotions and attitudes of the Witch. Streep brings the Witch's complexity to life with more magic than beans can muster.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE // Big Hero 6
With all the heart and humor audiences expect from Walt Disney Animation Studios, Big Hero 6 is a comedy-adventure about robotics, loyalty, and friendship. Entertaining and brilliantly animated, it is briskly paced, action-packed, and often touching—perfect for kids and adults alike. Fans are betting on How to Train Your Dragon 2, which I’ll admit is beautifully animated. But take it from a diehard Disney fan: BH6 has a fair chance at snagging this year's award for Best Animated Feature. Even if not, you'll still find me watching it over and over again.
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY // Unbroken
Cinematography is defined as “the making of motion pictures,” and in my book the best achievement in this category belongs to Unbroken. Directed and produced by Angelina Jolie, and based on a book written by Laura Hillenbrand, this stunning and true story of a man overcoming battles both internal and external is what good cinematography is all about. Remarkable vistas of World War II-era Europe meet bleak horizons of ocean and an even bleaker setting of Japanese containment; these are the backdrops where Louis Zamperini learned a timeless lesson as simple as it is profound. If you ask me, the message "Love thy enemies" may never have been filmed with better cinematography than this.
—Mary Rose Somarriba
BEST COSTUME DESIGN // The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson's iconic, incredibly rich and stark visual aesthetic shines through the costume design of The Grand Budapest Hotel. The story, set in the period between the 1930s and 1960s, follows the adventure of a legendary concierge and his lobby boy, among a slew of other colorful characters. It features period clothing pieces throughout that crown and completes each character's quintessence. The design is bold, bright, historically accurate, and perfectly delightful.
BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING // Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy seems like the obvious choice here. Actors Zoe Saldana and David Bauista, for example, are unrecognizable thanks to makeup and hairstyling achievements. In fact the most complex makeup took four hours to put on each day—and that doesn't include the time it took to remove it! I hope to see this team of 50 special effects artists recognized for their work in this film that's both hilariously entertaining and endearing.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE // The Grand Budapest Hotel
The word "delightful" may not be used very often in everyday conversation (at least by me), but that is the first word that comes to mind when I hear Alexandre Desplat's score for The Grand Budapest Hotel. The music perfectly accentuates the quirky charm of Wes Anderson's film, providing the viewer with an emotional roadmap through the twists and turns of the plot, and enhancing the odd beauty of the cinematography and design. Desplat is nominated for Best Original Score of two movies this year (The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Imitation Game). But it is his work helping Wes Anderson to fully realize the artistic vision for GBH that should be honored with the Academy Award this year, as much as I enjoyed Hans Zimmer's contributions to Interstellar.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS // Guardians of the Galaxy
I always think it's sad that there aren't enough award categories to properly celebrate science fiction and fantasy films, meaning that Marvel's two brilliant releases of the past year, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy, have ended up competing for Best Visual Effects. Despite this, I have to say that Guardians of the Galaxy is the clear winner: a witty, moving film that manages to portray space travel, aliens, a talking raccoon, and an animated tree in a surprisingly convincing and visually lush way, as well as making you believe in the characters and relationships. It deserves to be celebrated.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY // Inherent Vice
P.T. Anderson wanted to adapt Thomas Pynchon's Vineland, a sprawling novel set in 1984 that weaves everything from ninjas to government conspiracies into the life of a hippie refugee in NorCal pot country. But he realized that was impossible, and we're the better for it. His adaptation of Pynchon's deceptively deep detective novel, Inherent Vice, draws the nagging melancholy out of a summer-bummer caper set in L.A. during the Manson murders. Right off the bat, Anderson declares his intentions with Pynchon's line about the overuse of the word “love” playing into the hands of those who do anything but—spinning a tale about small redemptions and quiet sacrifices with a deep resonance in our disoriented time.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY // The Grand Budapest Hotel
I've never met a person who didn't have a strong reaction to absolutely every element of Anderson's films. He creates a world with its own parameters that he manages to cleverly establish without showing his hand, he chooses actors so well respected that it's impossible not to pay attention, and his exaggerated sets and ironic humor are so nonchalant that if you blink you might miss it. This latest zany film has a grander epic feel than its predecessors. Scaling alps and staving off an invading army, Anderson's writing shines in Ralph Fiennes' delivery and his range is realized in Adrian Brody, Fienne's counterpoint. The social commentary is somewhat grander than in previous films, but Anderson shows us that even though circumstances may become extreme, our choice in how we conduct ourselves will always shape the outcome.
—Hannah Allen White