Oscars 2015: The Theory of Everything *** UPDATED


***UPDATED FEBRUARY 3rd

Redmayne’s odds of taking the Oscar increased with his win at the SAG Awards, while Cumberbatch’s decreased, but Birdman’s win as Best Ensemble at the SAGs and Best Picture at the Producers Guild Awards has upset the odds somewhat. While Keaton did not win individually at the SAGs, he should not be counted out just yet. It’s very possible that he will take the Oscar away from Redmayne, if only because his role in Birdman is something of a comeback and a triumph for a veteran actor who has done his time in the trenches. 

The Film: The Theory of Everything

Number of Oscar Nominations: 5

Will It Win? Eddie Redmayne taking home the prize is far from certain; the bookies have him joint favourite with Benedict Cumberbach. Redmayne needs to smear Cumberbatch’s reputation or manhood or make him rough someone up backstage at the Baftas to ensure he wins. Felicity Jones gives a wonderful performance, but nothing can stop Julianne Moore. The film is the sort of feel-good piece that would take home the Best Picture, if not for the presence of Boyhood. The score could be the only Oscar it gets.

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This is a re-post of my review.

The Theory of Everything is tear-jerking Oscar-bait, but it`s not just tear-jerking Oscar-bait.

There’s a moment early in The Theory of Everything when young Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) is at a formal ball with fellow Cambridge student Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones), and under the dance`s UV light the men`s whites glow brighter than the girls`dresses. He asks her if she knows the reason (it`s because of the flourescents in Tide washing powder). Before he gives that answer, though, Jane leans over and laughingly, almost breathlessly, asks “Why?” It’s a little moment, but Jones’ delivery is so natural, it’s easy to believe that this young girl is falling in love with this young man, which of course she is, and while Redmayne’s superb performance is getting praise and talk of an Oscar, it’s worth remembering that the film belongs to Jones as much as to him.

vlcsnap-2014-12-30-23h58m37s197Based on Jane Hawking’s memoir of her marriage to Stephen, The Theory of Everythingis an exquisitely acted biopic of the world’s most famous living scientist. It covers all the expected highs and lows of Hawking’s life: his brilliant work at Cambridge in the 1960s, his diagnosis with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, his marriage, his daily struggle as his body deteriorates, the births of his children, the publication of A Brief History of Time.

At its heart it’s about Jane’s determination to make her husband’s life less difficult and support him as he becomes world-famous (even while her own academic dreams are quashed). But it’s also about her inner struggle as a Christian married to an Athiest (she’s devout; he has issues with the idea of “a celestial dictator”). Soon she finds herself drawn to the handsome, widowed choirmaster, Jonathan (Charlie Cox, very good), who becomes Stephen’s assistant/caregiver.vlcsnap-2014-12-31-00h04m57s169There have been more dramatic love triangles, but this film is refreshingly free of histrionics, shouting matches, and general carrying-on, and I can’t help think it’s because it is a British film about a very particular subset of the English middle-class, one that always tries to keep a stiff upper lip. While the film is definitely a love story (and a very good one), it is also a nostalgic celebration of cracking Sunday roasts, homemade elderflower wine, real ale, cricket jumpers, herringbone jackets, lawn parties, and croquet (the film’s credits include a “croquet consultant”).

It helps, of course, that it’s set at Cambridge, a place that in the cinema is seemingly made for nothing else except gawky young men with floppy hair and delicate girls in pretty party frocks. There`s an awful lot of tea in this film.vlcsnap-2014-12-31-00h01m46s52Redmayne’s performance is wonderfully subtle; it is much more than a simple impersonation of Hawking, and the film serves as a reminder of what Hawking must have been like before the disease took hold. He was told he had two years to live, which perhaps made him work harder to prove his theory about the Beginning of Time, and which perhaps also compelled Jane to want to marry him (“I want us to be together for as long as we`ve got,“ she tells him). You might be reminded of Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot (which this film resembles in many ways, possessing a similar warmth and humour, as well as a certain steely resolve in its main characters). Redmayne smiles a lot, and the film`s great charm is that it leaves it to the audience to decide if that is something Hawking cannot control or if it is because he is thinking of something really funny (Hawking`s wicked sense of humour is well-known).vlcsnap-2014-12-30-23h58m48s55Jones, likewise, is extremely good. It`s not the sort of character – long-suffering wife – that gets a lot of notice, and other actresses this season are getting all the attention (Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl; Jennifer Aniston in Cake), but it`s a careful, warm performance with a great deal of grit underneath.vlcsnap-2014-12-31-00h00m13s121vlcsnap-2014-12-31-00h06m08s90Others in the excellent cast include Simon McBurney as Hawking`s father, Emily Watson as Jane`s mother, David Thewlis as Hawking`s mentor at Cambridge, Maxine Peake as his nurse, and Harry Lloyd as his college friend.

My fluffcast review here:

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18 thoughts on “Oscars 2015: The Theory of Everything *** UPDATED

  1. I don’t doubt Eddie’s acting ability. But there is a fine line between acting, and impersonation, no matter how hard the process.
    During the filming of ‘Marathon Man’, Dustin Hoffman was running on the spot off camera, to appear breathless in shot. Lawrence Olivier asked him what he was doing. When told, he replied, ‘You should try acting dear boy, it’s much easier.’
    I’m voting for acting. (Not that my vote matters a jot…)
    Cheers Niall, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Do you think actors are deliberately going for roles that are attractive to the Oscars? Biopics, roles involving a disability, tragic life stories, true events from history dramatized, roles that make an attractive actor ugly (Charlize Theron in Monster, for example), any “triumph against adversity” story…I’m sure there are a ton of other examples, but do you think everyone involved in the process – from studios to directors to writers to actors – know what makes Oscar fodder, and make films designed to appeal to the elderly members of the Academy?? If all these things are, as we often read, particularly appealing to Academy members, The Theory Of Everything is a shoo-in (and any other year, so would be The Imitation Game!) And it demonstrates why, as you say, Julianne Moore is a likely winner – although I can’t argue with that. One thing I’m not enamoured with, though, is the infatuation with “posh” Brits – Redmayne, Cumberbatch, Pike; all were privately educated. And that’s just off the top of my head. They say the US is a classless society, but it sure as hell encourages our class divisions!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. oh i think, yes, absolutely, but it’s nothing new, and actors and actresses have been mugging for sympathy and Oscar votes for decades … struggle against adversity / physical or mental illness (“they give you an oscar if you play a mental”: kate winslet, extras) … so yes, it’s definitely calculated, certainly at the very least, if we give them the benefit of the doubt about their intentions, they might be guileless about it, but the marketing people are not, and that is why all the tearjerkers come in december. as for the posh brits bit; dominic west is another, but probably most audiences in america don’t know he’s even english, let alone posh

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I also get fed up with Britain usually being represented by public-school fey men with clipped accents. I would like to see more recognition for films like ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’, with the marvellous Paddy Considine, and other films from Shane Meadows, such as , ‘A Room For Romeo Brass.’
      These give a far more realistic vision of life in England.
      Regards, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes he’s probably still Jimmy McNulty to them – although I have to confess to being gobsmacked when I discovered McNulty and Stringer Bell (Idris Elba) were British. Talking with friends who weren’t privately educated, about others who were, we all agreed – one thing private education definitely helps with is confidence – people educated privately have that sense of entitlement, and seem to have no nerves – they can even talk their way into jobs where they really don’t know what they’re doing, or aren’t qualified for, but seem to manage to “wing it”, whereas I’d be in constant fear of being found out. Actually, I wouldn’t even apply in the first place! My Dad’s theory is private education “puts the polish on the brass neck”!

    I’d forgotten that great line from Kate Winslet in Extras!! – SO true.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh you mean I Am Sam, or whatever it was called? I thought Sean Penn was going to be one of those actors who never won – but he got there in the end with Milk. I think he’s a great actor. Awesome in Carlito’s Way. Robbed it from Al Pacino (who really just played the same character he’s played in lots of films.)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have to agree about Penn. He may not have been that ‘likeable’ off set, but his performances in ‘The Assassination of Richard Nixon’, and ‘Sweet and Lowdown’ really sealed it for me. One of the great ‘forgotten’ modern American actors. Pacino on the other hand, found a formula, and stuck with it, whether it worked, or not.
        Regards, Pete.

        Liked by 1 person

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