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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

2015 Oscar Preview: Best Picture

THE NOMINEES:

- American Sniper
- Birdman
- Boyhood
- Selma
- The Imitation Game
- The Grand Budapest Hotel
- The Theory of Everything
- Whiplash




WHAT SHOULD BE HERE: Nightcrawler

Recently I wrote about why Edge of Tomorrow should have received a Best Picture nomination, Action flicks and superhero flicks can be good and there's no reason we can't say they're one one the 8 to 10 best films of the year when they're done properly. Star Wars was nominated for Best Picture in 1978. The Dark Knight may not have earned a Best Picture nod, but its snub was the main reason The Academy changed how voters choose the Best Picture nominees. Frankly, the way Hollywood is leaning with more emphasis on Marvel and DC properties and less emphasis on "prestige" films, the Academy might as well steer into the skid.

However, there's no way on God's Green Earth that a film like Edge of Tomorrow or Guardians of the Galaxy was going to get a Best Picture nomination in 2015. A film that actually had a chance to earn a nomination was Dan Gilroy's dark and twisted thriller Nightcrawler. The acting in the film was spectacular, the story was so complex, layered, and nuanced, and it sucked you in from the get go. Just an incredible film and a perfect movie to speak to those 30 and under- which of course is not in The Academy's wheelhouse which is why it didn't receive a nomination.

Click here for my full review of Nightcrawler

THOUGHTS AND MUSINGS ON THE NOMINATIONS:


WHIPLASH: Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash is the best film of 2014, which is even more impressive to me considering Chazelle made this film for only $3 million. Whiplash is the story of Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) as he attempts to become one of the greatest drummers of all time with the “help” of his jazz conservatorys teacher, the abusive and foul-mouthed Terrence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons). The film is the story of what it takes to become the very best at something, and the ethics of specifics motivators compared to its effectiveness. Not only is this an extremely entertaining straightforward story, but Whiplash ascends above the rest in its commentary of the PC, no-one-keeps-score-in-sports world we live in.
SELMA: I can’t believe how good Selma actually is. Ava DuVernay’s story about how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) and his organization’s fight for voter quality in the South. By focusing on King and the movement around him, DuVerney was able to tell a compelling and entertaining story with generic two-dimensional characters. Selma rises above the stereotypical “whites are racists and they suck” mold of films (like Lincoln and 12 Years A Slave) by not only pointing out the flaws in Dr. King himself and by focusing on the world around him.

Click here for my full review of Selma

BOYHOOD: Boyhood is the best, most entertaining boring movie I have ever seen. Not a lot happens in Boyhood as writer/director Richard Linklater purposefully attempts to avert Hollywood clich├ęs as that’s how real life is- yet it works. By filming a movie over the span of 12 years, Linklater is able to fully develop characters and relationships. If aliens ever come down to Earth and want to know what life was like during the 2000’s, they can watch Boyhood. Even though the film is over 2.5 hours to watch, it’s well worth the experience.

Click here for my full review of Boyhood

BIRDMAN: I personally was not a big fan of Birdman as I found the lack of cuts and its jazz drumming score detracting and pretentious. However, I can appreciate why other people liked it so much and I can see the argument to be made why it is the best film of the year. There are many films that others deem “great” or “award worthy” (as we’ll see below) that are just boring and not worth watching, but Birdman is not one of them. There are some great moments in Birdman and the acting, mainly the performances by Michael Keaton and Edward Norton, is excellent, but overall, I could have gone my entire life without watching the film.
AMERICAN SNIPER: Another film I strongly disliked but I appreciate its nomination is American Sniper. To me, this Clint Eastwood war flick felt like a watered-down version of The Hurt Locker (another film I wouldn’t recommend) with less character development and absolutely no plot. However, the film is a box office smash success story and a lot of people seem to have these visceral and emotional reactions to this film that The Academy shouldn’t ignore. I would much rather nominate films at the Oscars that are popular that the general population seems to love versus tiny projects that only critics and movie snobs seem to enjoy.

Click here for my full review of American Sniper

THE IMITATION GAME: I walked into The Imitation Game thinking that it was going to be Oscar-bait, a film that lacked substance and pandered to Baby Boomers. When I left the theater, I’m surprised it didn’t have a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, because I don’t understand how anyone can dislike this film. What you think is going to be a paint-by-numbers film about Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) takes a hard right turn after its second act to not only show you the complexity of this character, but it gave you you a sense of what justice was like at the end of WWII. The script by Graham Moore was so good, I can see how it won The Blacklist.

Click here for my full review of The Imitation Game

THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING:  James Marsh’s film should have been renamed The Theory of Everything Wrong with Academy Voters. This film truly is Oscar-bait and the only reason you should see this film is so you can have a conversation with Grandmother. The film is lifeless, the script is pointless, and the acting performances are overrated. I get infuriated for every award I see Eddie Redmayne win (who plays Stephen Hawking in the film) because not only are award voters too stupid to realize that this performance only exists to win an award, but these performances do nothing to make you care about anything that goes in in the movie. I appreciated a Stephen Hawkings story from his wife’s Jane’s perspective, but if you’re going to make a movie this dull, then just make a documentary so we actually get to know about the famous physicist’s life.

Click here for my full review of The Theory of Everything

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL: I hate this film so much, and I hate The Academy for forcing me to watch it. Before this year I had seen a handful of Wes Anderson's film to know that I wasn't a fan of his movies. Since Wes Anderson essentially makes the same types of movies these days, I purposefully passed on this flick when it originally came to theaters. Then it was nominated for a butt-load of Academy Awards, so in order to properly critique the film I had to actually watch it. I did and I hated every second of it. From the superfluous, unnecessarily verbose language of these characters to the stylized scenery and use of mise-en-scene that's realistically just putting lipstick on a pig, I loathe this film. Wes Anderson doesn't understand that "quirky" does not equate to "funny" and it most certainly does not equate to "interesting". I would rather watch a real parody of Wes Anderson films than the Wes Anderson parody The Grand Budapest Hotel turned out to be.

IF I HAD AN OSCAR VOTE:

1) Whiplash
2) Nightcrawler
3) The Imitation Game
4) Snowpiercer
5) Selma
6) Boyhood
7) Obvious Child
8) Interstellar 

There is a very particular way The Academy tabulates the vote making your first and second choices extremely important. Because I care about this stuff, I feel like I'd attempt to get inside information before sending in my ballot at the last second possible. Without any knowledge of what other voters were doing I'd put Whiplash #1, but if I had known that Whiplash was going to get a nomination but Nightcrawler was on the bubble (which is what actually happened), I'd place Nightcrawler at the top.

WHO SHOULD WIN (ENTIRE ELIGIBLE FIELD): Whiplash
WHO SHOULD WIN (ACTUAL NOMINEES): Whiplash
WHO WILL WIN: Birdman




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