Tricks of the Hairstyle and Makeup Nominees


Tilda Swinton in “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”Credit Fox Searchlight Pictures

Sometimes a well-placed prosthetic or a stylish mustache are just what an audience needs to buy into a story, as evidenced by this year’s Oscar nominees for makeup and hairstyling:  “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “Foxcatcher” and “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

One quality seems to unite the craftspeople in this select group: a willingness to try anything — from chemistry experiments to baby-bottle nipples   — to get a character right.

Here are edited excerpts from those conversations.

“The Grand Budapest Hotel,” Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier

Much like the period film itself, the stylized looks of the inhabitants of “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” directed by Wes Anderson, were inspired by famous faces of bygone days. “Gone With the Wind” star Leslie Howard is a reference point for the perfectly appointed hair of M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes); there is a touch of Queen Anne in the octogenarian Madame D. (Tilda Swinton); and even the tattoos of Ludwig (Harvey Keitel) were inspired by Michel Simon’s in the 1934 French film “L’Atalante.”

But Frances Hannon, the film’s head makeup and hair designer,  warned against going too far with a famous face or period: “Never put the actor in the period, but rather make the period work for the actor. Never get stuck on a look-alike or in a certain time. If it doesn’t work, look elsewhere. There are so many looks in the world.”

A Wrinkle, in Time: One of the film’s standout transformations is the taught-skinned Ms. Swinton. Ms. Hannon commissioned Mark Coulier, a prosthetics specialist, to create the 11 pieces of fine silicone carefully placed on Ms. Swinton’s cheeks, chin, neck, hands, arms, nose and earlobes, creating an aged look that was both exaggerated and believable. Ms. Hannon then used five wig pieces to add a towering layer-cake of gray hair to her head and two long triangles of nape hair at the bottom of her neck to elongate the silhouette further. “If I had used a French bob with her dress and those prosthetics, her head would have turned into a little pea,” she said.

For makeup, Ms. Hannon turned to her own mother as a model. “I wanted her to look like somebody who never goes without her lipstick but doesn’t necessarily look in the mirror anymore to apply it, so it’s always a little wonky, which my mum’s is. Then there’s the touch of blue on the lids and a little too much rouge on the cheeks.”

A Head, Lovingly Crafted: It took almost eight weeks for Mark Coulier to sculpt and mold Ms. Swinton’s prosthetics at his workshop in St. Albans, England, where he also “loving crafted” the severed fingers of Deputy Kovacs (Jeff Goldblum), and a bald cap and nose for Gustave’s inmate pal, Ludwig.

Society of the Fancy Mustaches: Facial hair helped flesh out each gentlemen’s character, especially for the film’s many concierges, Ms. Hannon said. “Each was from a different hotel in the world, so for M. Ivan (Bill Murray), based in Switzerland, Ms. Hannon went for a bushier down-sloping captain’s mustache, which she shaved from  Mr. Murray’s natural beard. Mr. Fiennes’s mustache took some time, she said. “It had to be so perfect, so clipped and exact, never a hair out of place.” For the lobby boy Zero (Tony Revolori), a penciled-in mustache was enough, she said, a nod to his mentor, M. Gustave. “What makes a film work, whether it’s stylized or not is not to go that one step too far and become a caricature.”



Steve Carell in “Foxcatcher.”Credit Scott Garfield/Sony Pictures Classics


“Foxcatcher,” Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard

Creating a monster doesn’t always mean fangs and fur.  “Foxcatcher,” Bennett Miller’s retelling of the disturbing relationship between the wealthy John E. du Pont and the Olympic wrestlers he sponsored, Dave and Mark Schultz, used a set of tiny teeth and a receding hairline to transform Steve Carell into a dangerous eccentric.

Those Lips, Those Eyes:  Rather than make Mr. Carell look like du Pont, the team aimed merely to make him seem as if he came from that wealthy world. Adding just a few of du Pont’s features — an arch in the nose, wispy eyebrows, a receding hairline, dark brown eyes (via contact lenses), and pale skin — helped them achieve that effect while somewhat disguising Mr. Carell’s well-known face in the process.

The mouth was a special focal point. “Look at the Kennedys, they have very specific smiles and teeth,” Bill Corso, the film’s head of makeup said. Du Pont’s teeth were tiny and his lips thin, so with a fake set of teeth, a prosthetic lip and dental plumpers — sheer plastic veneers with a bulky gumlike substance attached — inserted under both lips, they turned Mr. Carell’s “sculpted, aquiline, Mediterranean face” into the softer, doughy face of du Pont, he said.

Nipples in the Nose: While researching wrestlers, Mr. Corso and Dennis Liddiard, the film’s key makeup artist, noticed that they all had strange profiles. “Their faces really flatten out,” Mr. Liddiard said. “The cartilage in their nose breaks down over time, their jaws start to jut out and their foreheads protrude. And then they also get the cauliflower ear.” For the Schultz brothers, played by Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum, the team made prosthetic ears and gave Mr. Tatum a prosthetic for the bridge of his nose to make it look as if it had been broken.

But with so much physical contact in the script, anything larger was out of the question, he said. They turned to plumpers again, this time made from baby-bottle nipples and inserted into Mr. Tatum’s nostrils, “which widened his nose at the bottom and pulled the tip down,” Mr. Liddiard said.

A Much-Needed Break: When makeup touch-ups were required, the guys were grateful to get a chance to rest, Mr. Liddiard said. “Sometimes Channing would look at me and say, ‘Isn’t there something wrong with my ear that you have to fix?’”



Michael Rooker in “Guardians of the Galaxy.”Credit Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Pictures

“Guardians of the Galaxy,” Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White

While the bright body paints of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” based on the Marvel comic series, are easier to see than subtler cosmetics, how to make them work on film was not always so obvious, Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou, the film’s lead hair and makeup designer, said. And when wig glue refused to stick, Ms. Yianni-Georgiou decided to make her own. “I absolutely loved chemistry in school, I love the potions. And that works alongside my artistic brain; I never really switch off one or the other.”

A Hero’s Hair: For Chris Pratt’s main character, Peter Quill, Ms. Yianni-Georgiou  gave him sideburns, a nod to the 1980s and music from the era that he’s always listening to. “I think his hair really helped to shape him up, gave him a more modern edge that young people of today could relate to.”

The Sweat Test: The villains Ronan (Lee Pace) and Yondu (Michael Rooker) were Ms. Yianni-Georgiou’s favorites to design, she said, though it was a challenge to find paints that would stay on their skin throughout filming. After testing what seemed like everything on the market, she hired a formulator to mix custom makeup. Michael Rooker ran laps outside to test that mix, which eventually worked so well that he could sweat without disturbing the paint. “That was a big ‘hurrah’ moment,” she said. Mr. Pace was also a sport about testing his makeup, she said, “getting his hands dirty, playing around with African and Peruvian tribal markings,” so much so that she had to send him away at one point.

Giving (Hair) Back: Ms. Yianni-Georgiou had the “horrible task” of shaving Karen Gillan’s hair off so that the prosthetics for her character Nebula, a fusion of alien and robot, could fit tightly against her head. “Karen was a good sport and we made wigs from her hair so that she could wear them to interviews. That was my idea. I just thought if a young actress has to go out for auditions, you can’t send her off with nothing, you’ve got to give her something beautiful.”

Oscars 2015: The Carpetbagger’s Predictions


An Oscar statue on the red carpet of the 87th Academy Awards.Credit Monica Almeida/The New York Times

Get your Oscar ballot ready. Here are the Bagger’s coin tosses and sure things and likely winners:

Best Picture

Pick: “Birdman”

Contender: “Boyhood”

This one’s a nail-biter, folks: It could go either way. In a season that kicked off with no front-runner and drew kvetching from some quarters for supposedly lackluster offerings, Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” found its way to the head of the pack, charming critics and winning numerous critics’ awards and top industry prizes. By telling the story of a family over a dozen years through the eyes of its youngest member, “Boyhood” plainly yet movingly painted a rich picture of everyday American life.

There were questions, though, about whether the film’s seeming simplicity and lack of whiz-bang action would be enough to woo Academy voters. One answer seemed to come from the industry guilds, which gave Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s “Birdman,” about an actor who played a movie superhero in the throes of a midlife crisis, their top awards. Initially “Birdman” was deemed too arty and polarizing to be a serious contender, but its technical wizardry and minutes-long takes, and a story line about show business, actors and their attendant angst, earned the film passion votes.

“Boyhood” could win yet; it landed, after all, both a Golden Globe and the top award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. There is also the not-to-be discounted chance, quite slim, that a third contender, such as the megahit “American Sniper” or the Oscar bait “The Imitation Game,” could slip through a divided vote. (“Selma,” despite much discussion, is at this point an also-ran.)

But most bettors’ chips are on “Birdman.”

Best Director

Pick: Richard Linklater

Contender: Alejandro G. Iñárritu.

This is another tricky one to call and remains a bit of a coin toss. Alejandro G. Iñárritu won the Directors Guild of America prize this month for the high-wire act that is “Birdman.” The man who has long reveled in connecting disparate stories and nipping and tucking time gave himself and his cast members a stiff challenge with this: shoot minutes-long scenes in a film that seems free of any cuts. But Richard Linklater’s tenacity in filming his labor of love, “Boyhood,” annually drawing together his performers and crew to tell a story over the course of 12 years, seems likely to draw enough Academy members’ votes to win this category, which has been split with best picture before.


Pick: Eddie Redmayne

Contender: Michael Keaton

Again, a tough one. For much of the year Michael Keaton seemed to have this category sewn up. His bare (literally) performance as Riggan Thomson in “Birdman” was met with delight by moviegoers, who missed Mr. Keaton’s singular, twitchy presence on the big screen. The film’s story, of an actor who played a superhero staging a comeback, also mirrored Mr. Keaton’s own career trajectory, and the performance earned him a Golden Globe. But Eddie Redmayne also took home a Golden Globe, along with the ever-important Screen Actors Guild award, for playing the theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking. Mr. Redmayne’s depiction of Mr. Hawking’s physical degeneration as his amyotrophic lateral sclerosis progressed has won praise from the scientist himself. The Academy also loves a struggling hero, and the Hawking character bests the lead for “Birdman” on the likability scale.


Pick: Julianne Moore

Contender: Reese Witherspoon

Julianne Moore occupies a rare Hollywood sweet spot: roundly admired for her talent and range, while managing to be charming and affable at every turn. She is also 54, and despite being nominated four times before for an Academy Award, she has never won. That will change on Sunday, when Ms. Moore is a lock to win best actress for her performance as a professor with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in “Still Alice.” The film itself has been criticized for being thin, but this Oscar will be for Ms. Moore’s body of work: She has swept the category in run-up awards all season. Reese Witherspoon deliberately stepped out of her comfort zone as the shattered protagonist in “Wild,” but any rival of Ms. Moore this year is a distant second.


Credit Mike Blake/Reuters

Supporting Actor

Pick: J. K. Simmons
Contender: Edward Norton

Filmgoers came to know J. K. Simmons as the craggy-faced J. Jonah Jameson in the Tobey Maguire-era “Spider-Man” trilogy, and as the exceptionally affable dad in “Juno.” And though Mr. Simmons played villains before, his ferocity as the sadistic, maniacal music teacher Fletcher who tortures Miles Teller’s drum student in “Whiplash” seemed to break new ground. While Edward Norton was pitch-perfect as a pompous yet extremely talented Broadway star in “Birdman,” Mr. Simmons has owned this category, picking up awards all season, and the Academy loves a character actor who has put in his time (in Mr. Simmons’s case, some three decades).

Supporting Actress

Pick: Patricia Arquette

Contender: Emma Stone

The announcement last summer by Team “Boyhood” that it would be running a best supporting actress campaign for Patricia Arquette left some scratching their heads. As the mother, Olivia, in the film, Ms. Arquette arguably has a lead role. But during the awards season Ms. Arquette collected prize after prize in supporting categories, tirelessly working the circuit and winning people over with her plain-spoken, humble affect. She has also earned admiration for doing the anti-Hollywood thing of letting her face wrinkle and body widen on-screen over the course of the movie’s 12-year production.

As the mouthy, postrehab daughter to Michael Keaton’s Riggan Thomson in “Birdman,” Emma Stone hit all the right notes. But the Academy knows Ms. Stone has years of good roles and, almost certainly, more nominations, ahead of her.

Adapted Screenplay

Pick: “Whiplash”

Contender: “The Imitation Game”

Another tight race. “Whiplash” is a bit of an Academy darling. Voters love the fraught story of an ambitious young drummer nearly broken by his monstrous music teacher, and J. K. Simmons is going to walk away with the best supporting actor award. The back story is also tantalizing: Its writer and director, Damien Chazelle, 30, first showed the film as a short at Sundance to raise production money. Accolades have also been directed at Graham Moore’s “The Imitation Game,” about the genius mathematician Alan Turing, who helped the Allies win World War II, only to be persecuted for being gay: It won the Writers Guild of America honor. “The Theory of Everything,” meanwhile, won the British Academy of Film and Television Arts award in this category, and “American Sniper” has a chance, too. But “Whiplash” is the strongest bet.

Original Screenplay

Pick: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Contender: “Birdman”

What a merry candy-colored ride Wes Anderson took us on with the delectable confection that is “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Starring Ralph Fiennes as a peerless hotel concierge with a penchant for octogenarian lovers, the film was released early in 2014, and word circulated that Mr. Anderson wanted to avoid awards season hoopla. Nice try. It tied “Birdman” for the most Oscar nominations, including best picture and best director. Mr. Anderson has been nominated for his screenplays twice before, for “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “Moonrise Kingdom,” but the Academy clearly loves “Grand Budapest” the most. The screenplay for “Birdman” also stands a chance, but its strong showing in bigger categories makes this year’s screenplay prize seem destined for Mr. Anderson.

Anatomy of a Scene: Best Picture Nominees

Category Close-Up: ‘Citizenfour’ Leads the Race for Best Documentary


Edward Snowden in a scene from “Citizenfour.”Credit Radius-TWC, via Associated Press

If any film other than Laura Poitras’s “Citizenfour,” an unsettling look at pervasive electronic snooping by the United States government, wins the Oscar for best feature documentary, it will constitute a huge upset. With the whistleblower Edward Snowden as its main subject, “Citizenfour” doesn’t just recount recent history, it actually puts a camera in the room as Mr. Snowden makes one explosive revelation after another to Ms. Poitras and other journalists.

That’s not to say the remaining nominees don’t have their merits. A pair were directed by two-man teams and are about photographers: “The Salt of the Earth,” by Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, is a look at the career of Sebastião Salgado, one of the most celebrated photographers of our time, while “Finding Vivian Maier,” directed by John Maloof and Charlie Siskel, examines the life of a Chicago-based nanny whose work became known only after her death in 2009.

Rounding out the field are two films set in conflict zones. Orlando von Einsiedel’s “Virunga” is, at least on its surface, about efforts to save endangered mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. But poachers may be the least of the animals’ problems, as a civil war rages around them and a British oil company with ties to corrupt officials also shows up. And in “Last Days in Vietnam,” Rory Kennedy tells the story of the American withdrawal from Saigon in April 1975, focusing on embassy officials who tried to evacuate as many of their South Vietnamese colleagues as possible.

But “Citizenfour” has various advantages over its competitors. Some are purely cinematic: Ms. Poitras has found an interestingly dramatic way to show email correspondence, and is telling a real-life story that has all the elements of a thriller, elements that she emphasizes in a way that makes Mr. Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, seem almost like a Jason Bourne.

Beyond that, however, Ms. Poitras benefits from her choice of subject and the tribulations she faced in making “Citizenfour,” whose title comes from the screen name Mr. Snowden used when he first contacted her. Mr. Snowden’s revelations, which made him a hero to some and a traitor to others, affect every American citizen and millions more abroad, so audiences — and Academy voters — come to the film with some familiarity with its subject.

And Ms. Poitras will no doubt get extra points for sheer gumption. As a result of earlier films on national security issues, one of which earned her an Oscar nomination, she apparently ended up on the Department of Homeland Security’s watch list; at the very least, she was repeatedly detained and interrogated at border crossings, and has had her belongings searched, which led her to move to Europe. So a vote for “Citizenfour” is a way for Academy members to make something of a political statement, without having to put their own reputations on the line.

If there is to be an upset of historic proportions, it will come from one of two quarters. “Virunga,” for all the Conrad-like greed and destruction it shows, is in the end a feel-good story about courageous park rangers devoted to the primates in their care. Both last year and the year before, after procedures were changed to encourage more Academy members to vote in the documentary category, films about overlooked musicians won the Oscar at the expense of more formally innovative films. That gives a sense of just how much the Academy likes stories of people who triumph over seemingly insurmountable odds.

And in “The Salt of the Earth,” Mr. Wenders, working in crisp black and white, has devised a very clever way to show Mr. Salgado talking about some of his most famous photographs while at the same time showing those images. That formal innovation will no doubt appeal to Academy members in the technical branches.

But the signs seem to point to “Citizenfour,” which can make its own claim to being that kind of film.

Attention, Office Oscar Pool Players


Workers moved an Oscar statue on the red carpet for the 87th Academy Awards. Credit Monica Almeida/The New York Times

It’s predictions day at the Carpetbagger blog and as you pore over your Oscar ballot, here are some thoughts to keep in mind:

— The Bagger’s predictions are here. In the neck-and-neck race between “Birdman” and “Boyhood,” she’s choosing the former.

— Her colleague David Leonhardt at The Upshot has already explained why the Oscars make such a good subject for prediction markets. And now, for those who’d like a little help, he has a ballot marked with odds-on favorites that may give you a head start on your office Oscar pool.

— For the contrarian view of the best picture race, reports that Senzari, described as “a big-data company specializing in movies and music,” says that “American Sniper” has the best chance of winning best picture, followed by “The Imitation Game.” The argument hinges on box office performance and an analysis of the movie’s elements, rather than the usual prognosticator benchmarks of precursor prizes and the like.

— For the cineaste view, Kevin B. Lee at Fandor asks not who will win, but who deserves to win, in his annual video essay examining each of the nominees here.

What if regular film fans, not Academy members, could vote on the Oscars? Twitter’s answer, based on tweets and the context of the messages, was “Selma.” But according to a survey conducted for The Upshot using Google Consumer Surveys, it’s “American Sniper.” Reporting on the survey, Mr. Leonhardt writes, “42 percent of respondents cited ‘American Sniper,’ while no other movie received more than 12 percent.

Finally, for those tired of odds and predictions and the guesses surrounding best picture, here’s a sure thing: Vocativ took a look at who gets thanked in acceptance speeches here and found that “the Academy” has been name-checked in 43 percent of all speeches (or at least the ones archived by the Academy here), followed by Mom and Dad (28 percent of speeches).

And the individual most often thanked? Harvey Weinstein beat out God (winners mentioned the producer 34 times; the Almighty, 19). But the Oscar thank-you award goes to: Steven Spielberg, name-dropped 42 times.

Category Close-Up: A Tough Call in the Foreign-Language Race


A scene from “Leviathan.”Credit Anna Matveeva/Sony Pictures Classics

For the first time in several years, the competition for the Oscar for best foreign-language film seems to be a toss-up. The last three winners (Iran’s “A Separation,” Austria’s “Amour” and Italy’s “The Great Beauty”) had victories that seemed pre-ordained, and even before that, it was easy to identify a front-runner. But this year looks like a real horse race between two movies from neighboring countries that are somber in tone but otherwise seem to have little in common.

The Russian “Leviathan,” winner of a Golden Globe last month and a prize for best screenplay at Cannes last spring, is a two-hour epic, filmed with a color palette that takes maximum advantage of the barren landscape and sweeping sky of its Arctic setting. Andrey Zvyagintsev, the film’s director and co-writer, has drawn on a variety of sources, ranging from the Bible to an incident in Colorado a decade ago, to tell the story of a hard-drinking auto mechanic whose life is destroyed when he resists the local mayor’s effort to seize his home and workshop. It’s a parable of life in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, full of explosive emotional outbursts fueled by vodka, and thus disturbingly contemporary.

In contrast, Poland’s “Ida,” written and directed by Pawel Pawlikowski, is 80 minutes long, beautifully filmed in black and white, ascetic in style and narrow in focus, with most scenes shot in small rooms and full of repressed emotion. Set in the early 1960s, the movie’s title character is an 18-year-old novitiate who learns that she is actually Jewish, meets an aunt she didn’t know she had and gradually discovers the traumatic family history that had been hidden from her. It is thus a post-Holocaust film, rather than one that directly addresses the Holocaust.

Either film could win, and whichever does, there will be no grounds for complaint. In the end, the result is likely to be determined by the mood of Academy voters, which is always subject to change. Which kind of artistry do they prefer on the day they cast their ballots — the short, small, black-and-white Polish film or the sweeping, colorful, epic Russian film?

In its way, the Academy can be as opaque as the Kremlin or the Vatican, which means that predicting how members voted is a fool’s errand. But there are a number of factors that might give “Leviathan” a bit of an edge over “Ida.”


 Agata Trzebuchowska in “Ida.”Credit Music Box Films

To make “Ida,” Mr. Pawlikowski had to overcome a number of obstacles, stemming mostly from his aesthetic choices. As a result, he had difficulties even assembling the budget. And then, after “Ida” was released, he had to contend with a backlash from some Polish nationalists who objected to the way that he apportioned responsibility for the killing of Jews during World War II.

But Mr. Zvyagintsev has trod an even more complicated path. Today’s Poland is a democracy, and a member of the European Union. Mr. Putin’s Russia, in contrast, is increasingly dictatorial, and Mr. Zvyagintsev has thus had to play a very complicated political game, first to get “Leviathan” made, then to get Russia to submit it for Oscar consideration and now to get the movie into Russian theaters.

Movies are supposed to win Oscars based purely on their cinematic merits, but let’s be realistic and acknowledge that it is hard to shut out the news coming from the real world. And following the victory of “Leviathan” at the Golden Globes, there have been a lot of loud denunciations from Moscow: the minister of culture attacked Mr. Zvyagintsev personally; groups complained vociferously about his portrayal of the Russian Orthodox Church; neofascist nationalist parties have accused him of being an unpatriotic Russian; and some cast members have been threatened with reprisals.

This is an extraordinarily obtuse strategy, of course, on the part of the Russian authorities. The criticisms can only add to the allure of a film that has so clearly riled the powers that be. By raising the profile of “Leviathan” abroad, including among Academy members who may not normally pay a lot of attention to international politics, Putin supporters may actually be improving the odds of Mr. Zvyagintsev’s hoisting an Oscar on Sunday.

Here’s another scenario, albeit unlikely, that may be worth considering. What if “Leviathan” and “Ida” are so evenly matched that they end up virtually tied and thus create an opening for a dark horse? Were that to occur, the most likely beneficiary would seem to be Abderrahmane Sissako’s “Timbuktu,” which represents Mauritania. Like “Leviathan,” it is an extremely topical film: it offers a portrait of daily life in a Sahel city under jihadist control at a moment when the Islamic State and Boko Haram seem to be running wild, and required considerable personal courage to make. And like “Ida,” it tells much of its story through the intimate setting of a single family.

There has never been a tie in this category, so only one of these worthy films is going to take home an Oscar. One final consideration, which may just be a coincidence: Every year since 2010, the winner of the Golden Globe for best foreign-language film has gone on to win the Oscar a month later. Granted, we are talking about two very different groups, the foreign press that covers Hollywood and the Hollywood establishment itself. But from this vantage point in New York, it also looks like “Leviathan” may have the slightest of advantages.

Celebrating Long Shots and Outcasts


 “I’m just figuring we don’t have a chance,” Rory Kennedy said.Credit Danny Moloshok/Reuters

Updated, 5:39 p.m. | WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Rory Kennedy was fully expecting not to go home with the Oscar for best documentary feature on Sunday, yet nonetheless she was in high spirits Friday, at a sun-dappled lunch in the courtyard of the famous, and infamous, Chateau Marmont hotel.

“I’m a documentary filmmaker,” she said to the several dozen attendees, “This” – she waved to the white-linen-draped tables topped with carefully wrought small bouquets – “is not something we’re used to.”

Ms. Kennedy’s “Last Days in Vietnam” tells the wrenching tale of the hundreds of Vietnamese promised sanctuary then abandoned by Americans as Saigon fell: the last helicopters left the roof of the American Embassy without them.

Distributed by American Experience Films/PBS, it’s a very long shot for the documentary Oscar – “I’m just figuring we don’t have a chance,” Ms. Kennedy said merrily – and didn’t have bank that backed other campaigns, like that of “Citizenfour,” distributed by Radius, a unit of the Weinstein Company. Indeed, during luncheon chitchat, Ms. Kennedy seemed more concerned with the seven feet of snow paralyzing Boston. She did add, wryly, that during the Oscar ceremony, she would probably be the one wanting to be helicoptered away.

The luncheon, held by Dom Perignon, drew a grab bag of guests: Julian Sands, Cheryl Hines, Nicky Hilton, Peter Fonda, Maria Shriver, Minnie Driver and Andre Balazs, the hotelier behind the Chateau Marmont. The Bagger was seated by “American Experience’s” executive producer Mark Samels, who was among the many Northeasterners happy to be in town and escaping the frigidity home.

The Bagger shared another point of solidarity with him: he hadn’t been invited to Vanity Fair’s ballyhooed Oscar afterparty either. Viva los outcasts!

Correction: Feb. 21, 2015
An earlier version of this post misstated Andre Balazs’s role in the luncheon. He was a guest, not the host. The host was Dom Perignon.

How It Came to Be ‘Birdman’s’ Night


Alejandro G. Iñárritu backstage at the Dolby Theater.Credit Monica Almeida/The New York Times

Well, there you go. With the Academy Awards, sometimes you just never know. Or, rather you do, if you know where to look.

The victory lap for “Birdman” at the Oscars on Sunday night, scooping best picture and director, presumably away from “Boyhood,” made sense to people well versed in the Academy’s ways. The organization often is deaf, even resistant, to the inclinations of critics, many of whom crowned “Boyhood” the year’s best. Entertainment Weekly’s January cover story anointing the film as “this year’s Oscar front-runner” probably didn’t help the film’s cause (or, since we’re on the topic, a not-so-flattering piece in The New York Times the weekend voting opened).

“Birdman” had so many elements for actors and below-the-line craftspeople to chew on: the ballyhooed long shots, which won the cinematographer an Oscar; the actors having to work with clockwork precision; the storyline itself. Seasoned Oscar watchers said they knew it was over for “Boyhood” when “Whiplash” took the editing award: the Academy’s respect for how Richard Linklater’s film was sewn together by the editor would have to be paramount in order for the picture to win. There was some surprise that Mr. Linklater didn’t collect best director, but as others have noted, the Directors Guild Award – which went this year to Alejandro G. Iñárritu – is often the bellwether of where that Oscar will land.

But it was clearly the night for “Birdman” – to the great joy of the folks at New Regency and Fox Searchlight, who were behind last year’s winner, too, “12 Years a Slave.” “Birdman” even won best original screenplay, a surprise, since Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” had a story line that was at once more sweeping and more delicate, and collected a Writers Guild Award. Yet every film that had been nominated for best picture collected some kind of award, a nice outcome.


Alexandre Desplat with his prize.Credit Valerie Macon/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

And, hurrah, Alexandre Desplat finally won an Oscar for best original soundtrack, for his yodeler-laced compositions for “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” this after getting nominated eight times. (Mind you, two of those nominations were from this year; even he was worried they’d cancel each other out.)

It’s good to note, for those still mourning the losses of “Boyhood,” that a small independent film about the passing of time wouldn’t have had a chance in many other years, something Mr. Linklater noted on the red carpet.

“I think if ‘Birdman’ and ‘Boyhood’ are duking it out,” he said, “that’s pretty amazing.”

At the Governors Ball, Winners and Even a Happy Also-Ran


Emma Stone, Lego Oscar in hand, embracing the Oscar-winning Julianne Moore.Credit Valerie Macon/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

One of the perks of being on the West Coast for an awards show is that it’s beholden to East Coast time. Which means when things finally wrap up after dragging on for far too long, it’s only, like, 9 p.m. Delighted to have a first awards season behind her, and having endured a surprise red carpet rainfall (the tent sprang massive leaks), the Bagger was torn between a determination to head home, stat – what else is there to say to people after three months of nonstop talking about the same thing, for heaven’s sakes? — and wanting to let off some steam.

So, it was on to the Governors Ball, which is in a red-velvet-lined ballroom in the same complex as the Dolby Theater and involved cutting through a chilly and puddly outdoor mall, gown trailing a snail-like wet streak. Waiters passed by with mini chicken pot pies, caviar and crème-fraîche-daubed baked potatoes, and smoked-salmon toasts cut into Oscar shapes.


At the ball the Lonely Island guys, left, who performed “Everything Is Awesome” on the telecast, met up with Common, a best-song Oscar winner, and Questlove, right.Credit Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The winners and a few also-rans were there: Ethan Hawke split early, giving a curt “hello.” Patricia Arquette was huddled around a table with her people – her daughter, her sister Rosanna, and her boyfriend, the artist Eric White. Felicity Jones, glorious in her Alexander McQueen dress (no, the Bagger, in the spirit of #AskHerMore, didn’t ask what she was wearing – the Bagger just happened to overhear) was toting one of the Lego Oscars that had been floating around the show. Laura Dern, who walked the red carpet earlier with her father, Bruce Dern (they did the same for his Oscar nomination last year), was there with her two children. “Don’t you think your mom is the best actress ever?” an enthusiast asked her son. “Um, yeah,” the pretty-much-cornered kid replied.

The presence of the higher octane belles and beaux of the ball was signaled by a scrum of people and camera operators. One such crowd formed at the back of the ballroom as the night’s big winner, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, arrived with his family and writers and producers.


Eddie Radmayne with his wife, Hannah Bagshawe, at the Governors Ball.Credit Valerie Macon/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Eddie Redmayne zipped by, heading to get his statue engraved; so did Julianne Moore, dancing a little to the live music — led by yet evocative of easy listening – arm-in-arm with her husband, Bart Freundlich. Michael Keaton was floating around, too. “I wish you had won,” Mr. Keaton was told by a passer-by. “So do I!” he replied. Yet if disappointment ran deep, it didn’t show.

Others were off to the très exclusive Vanity Fair party in Beverly Hills, but not the Bagger (they didn’t extend an invite), who hopped into a limo with a few Fox executives on their way to the Fox Searchlight party. The studio, whose films won eight Oscars on Sunday, celebrated in a West Hollywood bar-restaurant and had all the dancing and merrymaking one would expect from a celebration of winners.

But back to the limo waiting area of the Oscars, which is a scene in itself: valets read the numbers of arriving rides through a megaphone to match car with customer, like an auctioneer. There are chaises and heat lamps and cappuccinos served from a gleaming four-foot-high machine.

Mr. Iñárritu asked the Bagger if she would mind snapping a photo of him and his wife and two children, which she did, to the auteur’s apparent satisfaction.

Oscars 2015: The Numbers, the Backlash and More

As awards season mop-up operations continue, here are a few developments to catch up on:


Patricia Arquette accepting her Oscar on Sunday.Credit Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The Viewer Gap: The ratings for the Oscar telecast were down nearly 15 percent from last year, reports the Bagger’s colleagues Michael Cieply and Brooks Barnes, who write that the dearth of box office hits in the Oscar mix was a big factor. “It’s sad, but most people have to finally accept that the Oscars have become, well, elitist and not in step with anything that is actually popular,” Philip Hallman, a film studies librarian at the University of Michigan, tells them. “No one really believes anymore that the films they chose are the ones that are going to last over time.” Read more.

Patricia Arquette Backlash: Meryl Streep and other stars cheered the supporting actress Oscar winner when in her acceptance speech she championed “wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America.” But her backstage remarks in the press room afterward were not so roundly hailed. “It’s time for all the women in America and all the men that love women, and all the gay people, and all the people of color that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now,” she told the assembled news media, a comment that drew rebukes from several quarters, Variety reports. Read more.


Pawel Pawlikowski, the “Ida” director, accepting the Oscar on Sunday. The orchestra tried to play him off, but he won that battle.Credit Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Celebration in Poland: By winning the foreign-language Oscar, “Ida,” the period drama about an 18-year-old novitiate who discovers she’s Jewish, broke the country’s nine-film losing streak. As the Bagger’s colleague Rick Lyman reports, news of the victory dominated Poland’s television channels on Monday, with politicians and experts debating the country’s international image in film and other important matters (like Oscar fashions). “Ida,” directed by Pawel Pawlikowski, had drawn controversy from nationalist critics unhappy with how Poland’s role in the Holocaust was portrayed. But Mr. Lyman notes, “For the most part, though, the controversy was pushed aside Monday in a huge national wave of congratulation.” Read more.

Lamentation in Italy: The opening-night selection last year at the Venice Film Festival was “Birdman.” But the jury of that event passed over the eventual best picture Oscar winner and awarded its top prize to “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence,” the Swedish drama. Now Italian newspapers and other commentators are bemoaning the oversight, according to Variety, citing headlines like this one in the daily La Stampa: “’Birdman’ and its missed Venice opportunity.” Read more.

A Joan Rivers (Non-) Explanation: After the In Memoriam segment concluded without a mention of the death of the top fashion cop, outrage poured forth on Twitter. The Los Angeles Times checked in with the Academy on Monday and received this statement that doesn’t exactly explain the omission but is probably all we’ll get: “Joan Rivers is among the many worthy artists and filmmakers we were unfortunately unable to feature in the In Memoriam segment of this year’s Oscar show. She is, however, included in our In Memoriam gallery on” Read more.