Duke debates: Who’s taking home an Oscar?

By: Julian Routh & Sam Fatula | The Duquesne Duke

Award season continues with one of the most watched shows of the year; the annual Academy Awards. Among this year’s major categories are nominees that have been lucky enough to take home gold, while others had to half-heartedly applaud following a tough loss. Sunday should be no different, as many of the major categories are nearly impossible to predict who will come out on top. The Duke put together its picks of who deserves to exit the weekend with Oscar honors.

Best Film
Winner: Boyhood – It’s time to settle the debate once and for all about whether the artistic innovation in Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Birdman makes a better case for Best Picture than the pure brilliance and unwavering dedication of Richard Linklater’s Boyhood.

The verdict; although Birdman tests the limits of artistry, Boyhood goes above and beyond them. Shot over 12 years with the same cast, Boyhood captures the early life of its central character, Mason (Ellar Coltrane), from age 5 to 18. It is an intimate coming-of-age tale told through the eyes of a somewhat ordinary family at the turn of the 21st century.

Of course, critics of the movie say that it has no significant plot elements, and that it can barely keep the audience’s attention. But Boyhood doesn’t need a great scene, or even a stellar acting performance, to be iconic.

It simply tells the story of a boy – from his first day of elementary school to his first day of college – in a manner that feels all too real, because it was.

Even though it might not take home any of the other big awards, Boyhood should get Best Picture. It is like nothing the film industry has ever seen before, and that’s what the Oscars are all about. -JR

Winner: The Grand Budapest Hotel – Among the heavy hitters in the Best Film category this year, Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel seems to be rather understated. Its quirky candor combined with light storytelling has been frankly engulfed by the intense political themes and tones that characterize its fellow nominees. Despite it being rather unmentioned as a potential winner of Best Film, it should not be diminished as a serious contender.

This image released by Fox Searchlight shows Ralph Fiennes, left, and Tony Revolori in "The Grand Budapest Hotel. " The film is nominated for an Oscar Award for best feature. The 87th Annual Academy Awards will take place on Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015 at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Fox Searchlight)
This image released by Fox Searchlight shows Ralph Fiennes, left, and Tony Revolori in “The Grand Budapest Hotel. ” The film is nominated for an Oscar Award for best feature. The 87th Annual Academy Awards will take place on Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015 at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Fox Searchlight)

From a technical standpoint, hardly any of the other nominees hold a candle to The Grand Budapest Hotel. Anderson is simply a natural at framing establishing shots and making simple settings appear on screen as visually stunning and symmetrical. It also has a unique sequence of storytelling unlike any of the fellow nominees, where bits of narration are actually included within dialogue of the film’s characters, an extremely tricky task to execute and speaks largely to the time dedicated toward this project.

The Grand Budapest also possesses a strong cast, with Ralph Fiennes undertaking the shallow-yet-compassionate role of hotel concierge and protagonist, Gustav H. Fiennes alongside the talents of Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe and Jeff Goldblum (just to name a few) results in 90 minutes of gasping-for-air laughs and a strange desire to have just a small vial of L’air de Panache. Don’t sleep on The Grand Budapest Hotel. -SF

Actor in a Leading Role
Winner: Michael Keaton, Birdman – In any other year, a Best Actor cast of Steve Carell, Bradley Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch and Eddie Redmayne would be a race to remember. But it’s 2015, and first-time nominee Michael Keaton already has this category wrapped up for his riveting performance in Birdman.

In Birdman, Keaton, a Pennsylvania native, plays Riggan Thomson, a struggling Broadway actor whose 15 minutes are already up. The way Keaton portrays Riggan’s inner turmoil is dark and unnerving, yet humorous at the same time. It truly is a masterpiece on screen.

It’s time for the 63- year-old Keaton to get his Oscar recognition. -JR

Winner: Bradley Cooper, American Sniper – For someone who has transformed his Hollywood persona as much as Bradley Cooper has in recent years, his latest role as Chris Kyle in American Sniper is his most ambitious effort yet. It may also be his best.

Out of all the controversy that has surrounded the film since its debut just months ago, the only thing that hasn’t been disputed about the film is Cooper’s outstanding performance. The ability to take on such an emotional role of someone like Chris Kyle, a murdered veteran, takes a certain amount of confidence and execution. Cooper’s ability to battle his emotions throughout the film brings the character to life in such a dramatic fashion to an extent where the audience is completely invested in the story, despite it being a reenactment.

In this image released by Warner Bros. Pictures, Kyle Gallner, left, and Bradley Cooper appear in a scene from the film, "American Sniper," directed by Clint Eastwood. (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures)
In this image released by Warner Bros. Pictures, Kyle Gallner, left, and Bradley Cooper appear in a scene from the film, “American Sniper,” directed by Clint Eastwood. (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures)

For this reason alone, Cooper can stand alone amongst his fellow nominees. -SF

Actress in a Leading Role
Winner: Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl – This is where we will see the first dark horse winner of the year. Though the odds are stacked against her, Rosamund Pike deserves an Oscar for her work in David Fincher’s Gone Girl.

In a performance so haunting that it’s nearly breathtaking, Pike exceeds the nearly insurmountable expectations she was faced with when she was cast for the role. Playing the twisted, complicated heroine in a much-anticipated adaptation of a beloved bestseller is no easy task, yet Pike proves she’s deserving of the role through a multitude of eerie monologues and subtle character developments.

This should be enough to push her above Reese Witherspoon (Wild) and Julianne
Moore (Still Alice) for the Best Actress award. -JR

Winner: Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Although all actresses nominated for Best Actress each gave riveting performances in their respective film, none of them seem to top Julianne Moore’s role as a mother with progressive Alzheimer’s in Still Alice.

The reason behind Moore deserving Best Actress does not have a direct connection with taking a role of an Alzheimer’s patient per say, but rather how her actions emote so many different feelings that go along with the disease. You see her happy to remember her family, frustration and ultimate despair when she can’t remind herself what she had for breakfast … it’s an emotional roller coaster ride that Moore takes full advantage of.

No other actress nominated had such an effect on her viewers, and Moore takes the award deservedly so. -SF

Actor in a Supporting Role
Winner: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash – J.K. Simmons has already swept the board in Supporting Actor categories at the Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice Awards and Screen Actors Guild Awards, and will surely add an Oscar to that list this Sunday.

Simmons’ performance as a violent, bullying music teacher in Whiplash is one for the ages; an honest, brutal portrayal of how to demand perfection from students in ways that aren’t always flattering.

If Edward Norton wins this award for Birdman, it should be considered robbery. –JR

Winner: Edward Norton, Birdman – No matter how hard Edward Norton tries, he is typically associated as the “Supporting Actor” in a film. This is no means to discredit Norton, as his role as a supporting actor brings out the best of the protagonist, a clear qualification that deserves an Academy Award.

What places Norton at the front of the conversation of Best Supporting Actor is his exchanges between him and Michael Keaton. If you notice, the entire conversation is done in one take, a highly unorthodox method of cinematography. But the talents of both actors emphasize the talent both men possess, and truly bring out angry sequences during the film to their full potential. A robbery? Not so fast. -SF

Actress in a Supporting Role
Winner: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood – Patricia Arquette is certainly the frontrunner for this award, and rightfully so. The first-time nominee is the heart and soul of Boyhood, which required 12 years of dedication in an age when actresses like Arquette could easily pick up television roles for better pay.

In Boyhood, Arquette plays Mason’s mother, Olivia, who is divorced and struggling to find love. She also struggles with the passage of time, as she watches her little boy grow into a young man. “I just thought there would be more,” she says as Mason leaves for college.

It’s a memorable line from a memorable performance, one that Arquette should win an Oscar for. -JR

Winner: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood – In terms of comparing the rest of the nominees for Best Supporting Actress, it’s difficult to place Patricia Arquette on equal footing for her role in Boyhood.

Why? Her role as Olivia is not only a more considerable role within the plot versus her fellow nominees, but she also embodies a single mother so effortlessly. It’s almost like a natural role for her, where ‘acting’ doesn’t really come to the mind of the viewer versus watching a documentary.

Simply put, Arquette outshines her competition by leaps and bounds. -SF

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