Trophy Talk: The Oscar Potential of ‘Birdman’ and ‘Inherent Vice’
People love watching famous people accept trophies. So, every so often, The Huffington Post’s Chris Rosen and ScreenCrush’s Mike Ryan will speculate about these trophies and which famous person might win one. It will be fun. Let’s talk some trophies! Today, we discuss the prospects of Michael Keaton and Edward Norton in 'Birdman' and Paul Thomas Anderson's 'Inherent Vice,' which both screened at the New York Film Festival.
Chris: Well, 'Birdman' is one of the two best movies I've seen all year. 'Inherent Vice' already feels like a distant memory, and it doesn't even come out for two months.
Mike: Well, let's talk about 'Birdman' first. So far, it's my favorite movie of the year. Like, with a capital F. It's just in a different category than ANYTHING else this year. I wanted to stand up and applaud after. It's one of those movies you see, then you're in a good mood for the rest of the day. It's a, "Oh, yeah, THIS is why I do this job," kind of movie. Having said that, 'The Imitation Game' will still win Best Picture.
Chris: I didn't love 'Birdman' as much as that -- your description is kind of how I felt after seeing 'Boyhood,' still my No. 1 movie of 2014 -- but it's just awesome. I loved how funny it was. I loved how profound it was in discussing pop culture and Hollywood. I loved all the performances, especially Edward Norton, who might give the performance of the year. 'Birdman' is effortless -- which is a joke in an of itself, since making 'Birdman' was a herculean task. Yet we agree: 'The Imitation Game' is still winning, and not because 'Birdman' is too good, but maybe because it's just too honest. Oscar voters seem to love movies about making movies, but I don't know if they'll get on board with one that, in essence, takes a dump on the carpet.
Mike: Oh, you're right, 'Birdman' is not a movie that endears itself to the Hollywood populous, I'd suspect. I mean, I will promise you that Meg Ryan will not be voting for 'Birdman' -- some of the shots it takes at people are personal and vicious -- but, it takes a lot of shots at itself, too. It's a world in which everything is heightened. But, gosh, is it fun to watch. I've seen it compared to 'Black Swan,' which isn't really accurate, but it is weird and 'Black Swan' was weird and 'Black Swan' didn't win. Keaton and Norton are shoo-ins, but I don't think either will win. Keaton is Bill Murray in 'Lost In Translation,' a sentimental favorite who will probably win a Golden Globe, then lose the Oscar to Eddie Redmayne.
Chris: Since this is Trophy Talk, let's talk about the trophies. I suspect you're right that Keaton won't win. The nomination, as it was with Bruce Dern at this year's ceremony, will be enough of a reward. (Keaton doesn't seem to want it either. Or, if he does, he's really good at pretending otherwise.) Norton should run away with the supporting actor category in my mind, but it's probably not that clear cut in reality. J.K. Simmons is still a sentimental favorite, and has the added benefit of being an ostensible lead. Norton disappears during the last 30 minutes of 'Birdman' (and the movie, frankly, suffers from his absence). Emma Stone is a popular choice for a nomination in the Best Supporting Actress category -- I think she'll make the cut, but Naomi Watts and Amy Ryan could be in there, too. Both are wonderful. So where I assume 'Birdman' has a real chance at wins is below-the-line: Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing. Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu could also win, assuming the Academy wants to continue its run of splitting Best Picture and Best Director.
Mike: Oh, yeah, the cinematography is out of this world fantastic. Emmanuel Lubezki also shot 'Gravity' (he won an Oscar, he probably has another coming) and 'Children of Men' and 'The Tree of Life' and why aren't we just doing a Trophy Talk just on Lubezki? Is he the best working today? Also, with Norton, I get the sense he's ruffled some feathers in the past. Those kind of things can come back to haunt a person at times like this.
Chris: The thing I love about Norton, so far at least, is that he simply doesn't seem to give a shit. He was happily cantankerous during a press conference after the New York Film Festival press screening of 'Birdman,' and who could blame him? I was cantankerous just sitting in the crowd as cameras clicked clicked clicked clicked away.
Let's talk about Lubezki. People call him Chivo, Mike! That's a pretty cool nickname. Wouldn't you love to have a nickname like that? Most people just call me Rosen. If only someone was like, "Chris Rosen, we're going to call you Chivo now." I'd be so much cooler. (Oscar wise, I think he might already have the trophy for 'Birdman,' and he's so good we should retroactively give him one for 2006's 'Children of Men' too. Sorry, Guillermo Navarro!)
Mike: That's a solid, solid nickname. How much do we say about 'Inherent Vice'? I don't want to sound dismissive because I am not being dismissive. It's just a hard movie to write about. I wrote 1000 words last week and it took me forever. My thoughts are complicated. Short version I guess is that I like it more for existing than I did experiencing it.
Chris: The best thing I can say about 'Inherent Vice' is that I absolutely want to see it again. Like I said at the start of this, it feels like a distant memory -- a story I heard one night after too many beers. There's a lot to unpack in that movie, and not just because the plot is intentionally inscrutable. To boil 'Inherent Vice' down to awards feels icky, but such is life: If 'The Master' was able to score three significant nominations (Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress), and 'Her' nabbed five, I think 'Inherent Vice' could find itself as a multi-nominee. Paul Thomas Anderson's script, Robert Elswit's cinematography, Jonny Greenwood's score -- all seem like contenders. Joaquin Phoenix is great too, but Best Actor is too crowded.
Mike: I agree. And I agree. Let's don't talk about it anymore as far as trophies. And I will see it again because I want to view it for what it is: A series of vignettes as opposed to a cohesive plot. But, even after ALL of this, it sounds like nothing has changed: The big three are still 'The Imitation Game,' Eddie Redmayne and Reese Witherspoon.
Chris: Since our last chat, Mark Harris wrote about the Oscars for Grantland and focused in on 'Boyhood.' I'm definitely still keeping 'The Imitation Game' atop my prediction list, but damn if Harris doesn't make a good case for 'Boyhood.' It's a weird year of contenders, so maybe that will be the surprise? (No, who am I kidding, it's 'The Imitation Game.')
Chris Rosen is the senior editor of Huffington Post Entertainment. You can reach him on Twitter.
Mike Ryan is the senior editor of ScreenCrush. You can contact him directly on Twitter.