THE ENVELOPE
Hollywood's Awards and Industry Insider
Oscars 2015: Director Alejandro G. Inarritu sees the 'Birdman' in us all

Some writers say they don't set out to make a statement but to ask a question. For Alejandro G. Iñárritu, director and co-writer of "Birdman," there were plenty of questions — about ego and id, self-worth, purpose and identity — just not the kind usually found in a fast-paced backstage comedy.

"What is the meaning of all this? Why am I doing what I'm doing? I'm always looking for something that will in some way electrify me with joy," he says. "It's a relentless question. That's what drives me and where I relate to this guy."

In "Birdman," "this guy" is protagonist Riggan Thomson, played by Michael Keaton. Riggan is a washed-up action star on a Quixotic quest to adapt, direct and star in a Broadway play to reestablish himself as an artist. Iñárritu says Riggan's existential frustrations came very much from his own, something reflected in how the other characters can seem like parts of the protagonist's own psyche, alternately helping and hindering.

FULL COVERAGE: Oscars 2015

"All those...

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Our Level the Playing Field picks: Awards for those Oscar has overlooked

Immense effort and countless dollars go into securing Oscar nominations, not to mention winning the actual awards. But what of those worthy candidates that never have a real shot to compete because of lack of promotional funds, fleeting theatrical exposure, dearth of distributor interest, absence of industry juice or any combination thereof?

From the underappreciated to the obscure to the downright invisible, these would-be contestants are often as impressive — if not more so — than the most praised and publicized of the potential nominees.

FULL COVERAGE: Oscars 2015

Thus, The Envelope presents the fourth annual Level the Playing Field nominations in honor of some favorite underdogs that received little to no attention this award season and, in a perfect world, could have been contenders. And if you haven't seen these (so few have), do yourself a favor and check them out.

Best picture: 'The Immigrant'

Despite a seeming lack of distributor support this award season, "The Immigrant," a...

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Benedict Cumberbatch: fanboy, photobomber, award-circuit rider

Benedict Cumberbatch is chasing the sun. Fresh off an island vacation with fiancée Sophie Hunter and just out of a steam at the Parker Palm Spring's sauna, Cumberbatch is moving his patio chair clockwise around a firepit on a chilly January afternoon. "There's no shame today," says Cumberbatch, clad in gray sweatpants and a vintage Pink Floyd T-shirt. "I'm going back to England, where it's like the Arctic Circle. I need to store up the sun now, otherwise I'll get rickets by the time I step off the plane."

Cumberbatch has landed in Palm Springs along with the rest of the cast of "The Imitation Game" to accept an ensemble award at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. The movie, a look at the life of Alan Turing, the Cambridge genius who led the team that cracked the Enigma code that Nazi Germany used to encrypt its radio transmissions during World War II, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September and recently won eight Oscar nominations, including nods...

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Oscars 2015: Our predictions for animated, foreign and documentary films

Three films considered surefire Oscar nominees — "The Lego Movie," "Life Itself" and "Force Majeure" — didn't find favor with the academy in, respectively, the animation, documentary and foreign-language categories. How do those races shake out in their absence? Here's a look at the contenders with more categories coming next week.

ANIMATED FEATURE

The nominees:

"Big Hero 6"

"The Boxtrolls"

"How to Train Your Dragon 2"

"Song of the Sea"

"The Tale of the Princess Kaguya"

FULL COVERAGE: Oscars 2015

And the winner is: "Big Hero 6." Privately, many competing here had ceded the Oscar to "The Lego Movie" because this category, more often than not, goes to the movie that the most academy members have seen. And because voters' average age is 63, they're typically not inclined to watch more than one or two of the nominees, if that. (Some just ask their grandchildren how they should mark their ballot.) Thanks to its February release date and a ubiquitous presence on Time Warner-owned HBO, a lot...

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Oscar archives: In '77: 'Rocky,' posthumous honor and Scorsese snub

The 49th Academy Awards in 1977 ushered in a watershed year in the history of the Oscars.

That ceremony marked the first time a performer was posthumously awarded an Academy Award and a previous lead actress winner received an Oscar for original song. Foreign filmmakers — including the first female director — and performers were among the marquee nominees, while one of cinema's most influential directors failed to receive a nomination for what is now considered a landmark film.

And, finally, a tiny drama about a sad-sack underdog written and starring a struggling actor took home the top prize, beating out more artistic films that left tradition behind.

FULL COVERAGE: Oscars 2015 | Ballot

Best picture nominations that year went to Alan J. Pakula's "All the President's Men," based on the book by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein chronicling how they cracked the Watergate Hotel break-in; Hal Ashby's "Bound for Glory," a biographical drama about folk singer Woody...

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Oscar Watch: 'Birdman' up, 'Boyhood' down ... for now

Oscar Watch, charting the ups and downs of the award season, comes to you every Monday from now through the end of February. With the Producers Guild and Screen Actors Guild weighing in this weekend, we have a bit more clarity -- and craziness -- to sift through. Let's get to it ...

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