The Oscars 2015

“Alright, alright, alright”(Feel free to repeat that in your best Matthew McConaughey impression…or not) The 2015 Academy Awards are tonight!!!  This is my third year writing about the Oscars and giving you my picks and musings about the best films and best performances of the year.  I was able to see every film nominated for best picture and every performance in the best actor/actress and best supporting actor/actresses categories.  Well, one movie nominated for Best Picture I walked out of because I thought it was that bad. It doesn’t happen often that I walk out.  Which film did I walk out on?  Read on and you will find out.  You may be surprised.

Rarely does the Best Picture go to my favorite movie of the year. The Oscar voters and I seem to have different tastes.  You would think I would have more in common with a 63 year old white man(that’s the predominant make up of Oscar voters) but apparently MTV and BET had more of an impact on me than I thought! (All credit goes to Fab Five Freddy and the cast of the first Real World) Anyways, I will count down and rank the nominated films starting with my least favorite.  You’ll see who I want to win but I will also include who I think will win.   I will give you my “should win” and “will win” with the acting performances.  As previous readers know, I can be kind of ridiculous in my opinions and it is possible that I will hate your favorite movie of the year.  Don’t take it personally.  🙂  This year you should be pretty safe because I liked almost all of the movies.

Also, you will not hear analysis such as ” the didactic advantage of Ethan Hawke’s characterization as a satirical intellectual in a post-modern familial emotional apocalypse”  However, you are likely to hear words like “cool” and “stupid”.  That’s just how I talk so let’s do this “thang”

Best Picture Nominees (not in any particular order…yet)

The Grand Budapest Hotel

American Sniper

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Boyhood

The Imitation Game

Selma

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

This was a actually a pretty good year.  I’m not sure it is a memorable year but I think there are a couple films here that will stand the test of time.  I actually liked them all a lot, well that is except for my lowest ranked nominated film of the year…

#8 American Sniper

Some of you may have already assumed that I am a liberal pansy by the mere fact that I am writing an Oscar blog.  Well? I think “pansy” is a tad harsh but I am liberal in my leanings. BUT, my political leanings had nothing to do with my thoughts on this film.  This film is based on the true story of Chris Kyle, an American sniper in the Iraq War.  Apparently, there was a lot of controversy about whether it was a propaganda piece for war or it did not depict Muslims in a favorable light, glorified snipers, etc.  I didn’t even get to this deep of a discussion about this movie because I just thought it was such bad film-making. Take what I say with a grain of salt because this is the film that I walked out on.  From the first scene it all felt so contrived and weirdly fake.  For example, we have all probably seen the preview where Bradley Cooper’s character Chris Kyle is about to shoot a young Iraqi boy who is carrying a rocket and walking toward his battalion.  The soldier next to Chris Kyle says “You better be sure he has a rocket or they will lock you up in Leavenworth (Leavenworth Prison is a maximum security penal facility of the US Military).  Really?  He’s gonna get locked up in a US prison for shooting a civilian he believes is about to kill American troops?  It doesn’t take much research to find that Leavenworth prison is not filled with American military who accidentally, or purposefully for that matter, killed innocent civilians during war.  I even found an article from two Iraqi soldiers who thought that was a ridiculous line for the character to say.  My whole point with all this is that no one would ever say anything like that because it is nowhere close to being true.  It is a poor attempt by the writer to increase the tension maybe? I don’t even know, I just know that in the 45 minutes I could sit through it was just poorly written line after line.  Don’t even get me started on the classic “soldier picks up girl in a bar who says she doesn’t date soldiers but dates him because of the funny witty banter they experience together.”  Can we just retire this cliched scene from movies and get more realistic for god sakes.  I’m gonna sit through the entire film eventually but what I saw wasn’t good.  I still love America though(especially if the NSA is reading this).

#7 The Theory of Everything

These next few films could all be tied in my rankings and I liked them all a lot.  They are lumped together in my opinion but I had to choose so Theory of Everything sits at #7.  This is the story of Stephen Hawking(Eddie Redmayne) and Jane Hawking(Felicity Jones) who met and fell in love at Cambridge. In the beginning of their relationship he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease.  It is the story of their life together as he becomes wheelchair bound and one of the greatest theoretical physicists. What I really loved about this film is that it was just as much about Jane Hawking.  Felicity Jones, who I must admit I wasn’t that familiar with, was amazing.  I loved watching her as she dealt with the emotions of watching the man she loved slowly lose his ability to walk, talk, eat and figure out what she wanted in the midst of it all.  I loved the fact that this movie didn’t go the cheesy inspirational route with their relationship instead showing how both of them fell in love with other people during their time together and eventually divorced and ended up with those people. Eddie Redmayne is a favorite for Best Actor and his physical transformation was amazing and his emotional transformation was strong too.  It is still such an inspiring story to see the impact he has had only being able to move a cheek muscle to communicate through a machine.  Pretty trippy.

#6 The Imitation Game

I’m usually not a fan of true stories made into film because I think they sometimes rely on the story too much and lack creativity in the storytelling.  This movie probably lacked creativity in the storytelling but I just liked the story so damn much.  I had never heard of Alan Turing before and his role in being part of team that broke the German code “Enigma” which potentially saved thousands of lives over the final years in WWII.  Turing(from England) had a wild life. He is considered a pioneer of the modern computer and a war hero.  He also committed suicide at the age of 41 after undergoing chemical castration by the legal system for being a homosexual which was a crime at that time.  Super sad.  I kept thinking that we would all know about this man had he not been homosexual.  He would be in all our school textbooks.  Let’s hope he gets in them along with the others. You don’t have to see the movie but read this story somehow.

#5 Whiplash

Man, it was just nice to hear some Jazz music for 2 hours in the movie theater.  This film is about a jazz student and his relationship with an abusive jazz professor.  It’s probably about other stuff too but I am keeping this thing simple.  This movie was intense.  This young man driven to succeed and be the next great.  His professor(J.K. Simmons) is legit crazy in this movie.  Simmons plays him well but I would have liked some more nuance in his character.  This film made me think about the cost of being great.  This young man’s whole life is about trying to be great and it almost kills him, literally.  I think we underestimate the power of being “good enough”.  There seems to be a price for being “great” that I’m not sure is worth it.  I liked this movie more until I read an interview by J.K. Simmons where he was discussing his character saying that he was abusive and he doesn’t condone that but that the character has a point when he said “the worst two words in the English language are good job”  He then went on in the interview to describe how he doesn’t agree with parents clapping when their children go down the slide because “gravity did all the work, not the child” Yowza! Dad of the Year? Well, Mr. Simmons, you gotta “let go” at the top of slide if you want the gravity to work for you and I for one would applaud the courage to “let go” every chance I get.  Can I get an “amen”?

#4 The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson’s films are just damn fun!!!  I was really disappointed when Moonrise Kingdom wasn’t nominated two years ago.  Finally, they get it right and nominate Grand Budapest.  It’s crazy how I went into this film thinking “Alright, maybe it will be a little too Wes Anderson-y for my tastes.  Perhaps I’m growing tired of his style”  Not even close man.  It is ridiculous the world that is created in this film.  There are some great interviews with cast and crew about them filming at a hotel  in eastern Europe for several weeks.  Pure creativity at its best.  Pure joy.  The details are amazing and once again Wes Anderson gives the stage to a newcomer, Tony Revelori as Zero.    Anderson did the same with Jason Schwartzman in Rushmore.  How sweet for him to trust his films with new actors.  Once again, it is a treat to watch the star studded ensemble cast of Grand Budapest.  Some of my favorites were Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, everyone really.  This is a great movie! I wish I put it higher on this list.

#3 Boyhood

This film is written and directed by Richard Linklater.  Go watch this guy’s movies, especially Before Sunrise(co-written with Kim Krizan). Before Sunset(co-written with Kim Krizan) and Before Midnight.  The dialogue in his films, including Boyhood, is masterful.  It is amazing how Boyhood captures the messiness, the realness, the underlying anxiety of relationships in its dialogue.  I loved it.  It’s the complete opposite of American Sniper in terms of writing.  It transported me back to my own childhood.  The scenes with him visiting his Dad’s apartment as a young boy were just like mine.  An apartment filled with cigarettes, guitars, and congo drums!  Haha.  Many of you have probably heard the story of this film.  It was filmed intermittently over 12 years to follows the life of a 6 year old boy(whose parents are divorced) until he is 18 and goes off to college.  It was filmed with all the same actors, including the boy, over 12 years!  Crazy, mesmerizing experience to watch.  There were scenes where the boy was 13 but maybe the movie only lasted 10 minutes on that time period.  To think, they waited several years to film 10 minutes of the movie.  One thing I think really shines through in movies is how much love did everyone working on it have for the project.  You can really feel this in a film and no more than in Boyhood.  He captured boyhood pretty damn good.  Why did I put this #3? I’m starting to question that myself.  I guess at the end of the day, if I take away the unique film-making did I really think it was better than my top two?  Let’s just say I won’t be mad(Definitely not “Argo” mad) if it wins and I think it might.

#2 Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

I was starting to have a panic attack going back and forth about which was my second favorite nominated movie of the year.  Coincidentally, I think I had a panic attack watching this movie.  I don’t even know what to say about this movie. Brave! It was basically one shot the whole time, meaning the camera never cut away.  The entire sound track was percussion. Yeah, that’s right, drums, nothing else(and it worked brilliantly)  It was about a “washed-up” actor who was famous for playing an iconic superhero “Birdman”.  Now this actor(played by Michael Keaton)  is trying to prove himself to himself and his critics(and Birdman) by producing and starring in a broadway play.  The movies takes place mostly in the theatre during the few days till opening night.   It is almost impossible to think that this movie was written without Michael Keaton in the lead role.  Perfect is an understatement for the job he did.  This entire cast was great.  I especially loved the scenes and the relationship of Keaton with his ex wife(played by Amy Ryan).  Edward Norton might just win Best Supporting Actor as the method actor brought in just days before opening night.  He was pretty hilarious.

#1 Selma

Here we have my favorite film of 2015.  I usually don’t trust Hollywood when it comes to movies concerning race.(see 2013 Oscar blog about Django Unchained and 2014 blog about 12 Years a Slave).  Selma surprised me and inspired me.  There were so many things I loved about this movie.  I loved the relationship portrayal of Martin Luther King and Corretta Scott King.  This was a great example of “showing” the characters feelings for each other not “telling” us about them.  They could not say a word (and they had some quiet scenes together) but the energy was fierce.  That is acting.  That David Oyelowo and Carmen Ejogo were not nominated is a travesty.  This film is about the 3 month period culminating in the march in Alabama for Voting Rights for African Americans.  I loved that this particular time period was chosen as opposed to an biopic of MLK.  In many ways this movie wasn’t even about MLK. It was about the movement itself.  I hope we have another movement like this in my lifetime.  What was so powerful was how every word in the script was relevant then and relevant today.  I mean we do really still fight the same struggle.  It may look different.  It may not depending on where you are looking from.  The institutional racism of the criminal justice system today, the prison system today, poverty today.  All of the words of the civil rights movement are just as meaningful today.  My hope is, to quote King in Selma as he is talking to President Johnson, “We cannot wait any longer.”

This is my list and my rankings! My guess is that Birdman or Boyhood will win.  I’m guessing Boyhood.  I think Birdman might be a little too good and outside of the box for the Academy voters.

Best Actress

Marion Cotillard(Two Days One Night)

Felicity Jones (Theory of Everything)

Julianne Moore (Still Alice) Will Win and Should Win

Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)

Reese Witherspoon (Wild)

This was a very strong group.  I mentioned previously how impressed I was with Felicity Jones in Theory of Everything.  Rosamund Pike was what I like to call “Creepsburg, West Virginia” in Gone Girl.  Marion Cotillard was fantastic as always.  I actually preferred her in The Immigrant this past year.  But Julianne Moore was the real deal as a woman with early onset Alzheimer’s.  Brilliant.  I guarantee she will win.

Best Actor

Steve Carrell (Foxcatcher)

Bradley Cooper (American Sniper)

Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game)

Michael Keaton (Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) Should Win and Will Win

Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)

Once again, Travesty that David Ayelowo (Selma) was not nominated.  Usually, the actor that undergoes the most physical transformation wins and that would be Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking.  He is the early favorite but I am going to guess Michael Keaton.  I heard a critic predict it could be an upset and Bradley Cooper could take home the Oscar.  I hope not.

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) Will Win

Laura Dern (Wild)

Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game)

Emma Stone (Birdman) Should Win

Meryl Streep (Into the Woods)

I didn’t really love, love, love any of these performances.  They were all good but no one really stood out to me.  If I had to, which I don’t, but I will, I would say my favorite was Emma Stone.  I think she could pull the upset but the favorite is Patricia Arquette

Best Supporting Actor

Robert Duvall (The Judge)

Ethan Hawke (Boyhood)

Edward Norton (Birdman) Should Win and Will Win

Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher)

J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)

Robert Duvall is one of my all time faves.  I would watch him put on his shoes in the morning.  I have no idea why Mark Ruffalo is nominated.  I love him as an actor but I didn’t see the greatness in his performance.  You already know how I feel about J.K. Simmons. Of course I think if he wins no one should clap.  I’ll go with Ed Norton.  He was pretty fun to watch.

A few other tidbits

My favorite documentary this year was Citizen Four.  This was actually one of my favorite movies this year.(Along with Locke and Nightcrawler)

Best Director is a really tough category this year.  I’m torn between Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Richard Linklater (Boyhood) and Alejandro Inarritu (Birdman).  I think Richard Linklater will win but I think Inarritu should win for directing.

I think Boyhood and Richard Linklater will win for original screenplay and should win.

Yo, That’s a rap.  Enjoy the Academy Awards and thanks for reading. I appreciate that you took the time to read my ramblings.  I still love the movies.    Please follow my blog if you wish as I will be posting more content very soon.  What were your favorite movies of the year?  Let me know, Leave a comment.

Much Love,

Tim Bryant

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