It’s that time of year when the conversation starter is something like: “Felicity Jones or Rosamund Pike?” or maybe, “Michael Keaton or Eddie Redmayne?” A person’s thoughts turn to the allure of the silver screen and hope that artistic merit wins over mere power of celebrity.
An imperfect system
Although the Oscars are typically a reliable and respected establishment, it comes as no surprise that the system isn’t perfect.
Among the common criticisms is the possibility of racial prejudice being present in the voting process, with an overwhelming number of nominees throughout the years belonging to the white or “caucasian” group. Additionally, the underrepresentation of female filmmakers in Hollywood is reflected in the academy’s selections.
Most recently, outcry was directed at the academy for snubbing both David Oyelowo in the best actor category for his “Selma” performance, and Ava DuVernay for best director of the same film.
The ceremony has also garnered disapproval in its treatment of animation.
In the 13 (soon to be 14) years that the “Best Animated Feature Film” has been honored, eight of the awards have been won by a Disney or Pixar release, whereas perennial crowd-favorite
Dreamworks hasn’t received the award since 2001 for “Shrek.” Thus far, only one foreign film has achieved the honor, Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away” in 2002. The non-inclusive trend has not gone unnoticed in the animation industry, though (see any number of discussions on www.cartoonbrew.com).
Many people are now pulling for the three foreign or independent films in this year’s running – “The Boxtrolls,” “Song of the Sea,” and “The Tale of Princess Kaguya” – against front-runners “Big Hero 6” and “How to Train Your Dragon 2” from (respectively) industry giants Disney and Dreamworks.
So called “alternative” films have done well in other categories this year, though.
In the best actor race, many people see the male leads of “Birdman” and “The Theory of Everything” (Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne) as the two primary contenders. Performances as radically different as theirs are difficult to compare, so it’s nearly impossible to say if one was objectively better than the other.
Keaton has aged, as the saying goes, like fine wine. In “Birdman,” he expertly combines the unhinged energy of his younger days with the refined expertise only a performer of his vintage could bring to the table.
Redmayne, on the other hand, showed an astounding commitment to his role in bringing Stephen Hawking to the screen. According to IMDb, Redmayne spent so many hours perfecting an accurate portrayal of the effects of Hawking’s motor neurone disease that the actor actually re-aligned his own spine in the process.
In contrast, the best actress category could likely hold some surprises, as no one is an obvious favorite.
Pike is a possible front-runner, as she shows a haunting, terrifying side of human character that sticks with you long after the credits roll in “Gone Girl.”
Pike’s role wasn’t just emotionally demanding either. In an interview for IndieWire, she said to portray her character’s weight gain and loss she had to turn her “body into a chemistry lab.”
“It’s another emotional stress of the job, I think. It’s not entirely healthy,” she said in the interview.
While all roles in every movie are not as demanding as these examples, they certainly give an idea of the amount of work and dedication artists put into making quality films. Perceptive actors, like Pike, still manage to keep a handle on real life among the stress of creative activity in big-time projects.
“I don’t really know,” Pike said in the same interview. “I kind of have faith. I’ve lived in the same city all my life and I have faith that I can continue my everyday life.”
Now all that remains is to wait and see how all these different stories pan out. Only time can tell who of the many deserving nominees will bring home Oscar gold.
The 87th Academy Awards, honoring the subjects that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has decided are the best films and artists of 2014, will air on ABC on Feb. 22 at 8:30 p.m.
Brian McCray is a junior studio art major and an arts and entertainment writer for Cedars. He enjoys drawing, writing, watching movies and composing short bios of himself.