I would love to give my own thoughts on who should win the Oscars this year, but mother-of-a-toddler life has not allowed me to see many of the nominated movies. I’ve really only seen The Grand Budapest Hotel and Birdman of the nominees this year.
So I do not offer my own opinions but politely put forth the opinions of one Kevin Lee who produces a video essay series for Fandor.com. Part of his work includes a series of short videos comparing the nominees in all of the major Oscar races: Picture, Director, Leading Actor and Actress, Supporting Actor and Actress, and Cinematography. Each video offers metrics for comparison, like the amount of screen time an actor gets within their performance, sensible examinations of craft, and strong subjectivity. Lee’s subjectivity values nuance over show-boating and uniqueness over cookie-cutter “Oscar bait.”
But the greatness of these videos comes from his commentary on craft and meaning as well as the glimpses of these films the comparison provides. The cinematography video was especially illuminating as it compared different styles of color palette, camera movement, and technique. And for a film-goer like myself who hasn’t seen many of the nominees and not a lot of time to do so, watching these videos clued me into films I would like to catch up with and films I will let slip away.
Some of my favorite observations made by Lee:
- In the Best Supporting Actor video: Edward Norton hits 5 different emotional notes in 30 seconds.
- In Best Actor: Michael Keaton brings 3 dimensions to a selfish a-hole while Bradley Cooper brings darkness and depth to the hero facade, but considering all that Keaton has to navigate every second of Birdman, his performance is fascinating moment to moment.
- In Best Director: Wes Anderson’s style is easily (albeit cheaply) parodied, and this is highlighted with short clips of the Wes Anderson porn parody (not explicit).
- In Best Cinematography: Dick Pope’s cinematography in Mr. Turner is almost too perfectly evocative of Turner’s art–it seems fake. Though some dismiss the cinematography in Birdman as a trick, there are notable moments of restraint with the camera, it can be both showy and nuanced.
The entire series can be found here, but I offer a couple of my favorites embedded below.