Great art is hard to ignore. It can inspire, tear apart, get one to think, and evoke a million more responses. So, when I heard from some stuck-up, old, white guys that there is eight pieces of art that surpass all others from last year, I had to check them out. It took me a while, but after careful deliberation and preparation I have brought my opinion (the only one that matters, right?) to you. I hope you enjoy my thoughts on each film nominated, but more than that I hope you have a great day on the red carpet. Hey! I think I see J-Law already! Boyhood
Boyhood is a great piece of art. Let's get this out of the way first, before I go on to state my "flawed opinion". Boyhood doesn't deserve to be nominated. It is not even that great of a movie. There is no story! Movies are, after all, the art of visual narratives. We also don't have that compelling of a main character. It is not Ellar Coltrane's problem that there is fundamental problems with the redeeming and intriguing qualities to his characters. Those somehow got lost in the writing room. There is also a couple clichés and issues I won't get into for the sake of one paragraph, but needless to say Boyhood is not all its cracked out to be. Don't get me wrong, what was accomplished is extraordinary. It is a miracle Richard Linklater was able to construct Boyhood. Just please don't be confused by all the hype. It is a problematic film. Other movies deserved to be nominated in its place.
Benedict Cumberbatch's nuanced and muli-layered performance is a marvel to watch. For the most part the film is as well. Except, it's not. The pacing never quite works. There is also a key moment towards the end of the film that is completely emotionally forced. I could also complain about the lack of creativity and the flow of time in this movie, but I might come across as pretentious and hypercritical in doing so, so I won't. What I will say is the Imitation is a really good movie. All of the acting is brilliant, none more so than Cumberbatch, and it is honorable for the creators of the film to embark on the journey of telling this sadly unnoticed piece of history. What Imitation is not though, is a masterpiece. As I have said, it is - by all accounts - a really well made film. It's just not Oscar Worthy.
Theory of Everything
Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne, need I say more. They're the reason to see the film. That type of talent and chemistry on screen is a wonder to watch. What is not a wonder to watch, is pretty much everything else. Ok, I am being too harsh. The music is great, the cinematography is decent, but there is problems. The pacing in Theory of Everything is really lacking. It also just throws in these scenarios and situations merely to showcase acting chops, without adding anything to the story. At first these situations can be forgiven, but there is one too many to overlook. Don't get me wrong, Theory of Everything is quite good, and I am glad that we found a good film to pay homage to Steven Hawking. His accomplishments deserve that. With that in mind, the film just isn't up to par to be considered the best of the year.
Bradley Cooper's performance in American Sniper is special. It is the best of his career. That's all I have to say to say about that. No, the film is more than that, but nothing rivals his performances. Which when you think about it, says that he carried the film. I mean, Clint Eastwood is solid in the directors seat. He gets the intensity, grittiness and emotional burden of the battle scenes right, generally speaking. The supporting acting is also good and cinematography is not bad. Almost everything is fine and dandy in American Sniper. It is not perfect though. Some times the camera work and editing is too broken up to get a real sense of what is going on (when we're supposed to). The last battle scene also feels a little too emotionally contrived for its own good. Furthermore, it also skates a thin line between being obnoxiously patriotic and just recounting a real life story. I'm not sure exactly where it lands, but there is a discussion to be had. Overall, I'm not complaining too much that it was nominated. There were just plenty of better films though.
Wes Anderson is an odd duck. I love him for that. All of his films are so quirky and polarizing among audience. I can understand if you don't like the guy. What I have a hard time understanding is not having appreciation over great art. The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of the most well constructed and elegantly made films of last year. The intricate production design show this. The creatively uncreative cinematography show this. The cleverly constructed humor show this. Though more than this, it is the charismatic lead performances and the chemistry between Tony Revolori and Ralph Fiennes that show this. It is these things and more that make this film so great. What I believe to be a small tonal issue at the very end keep it, from me giving it the perfect rating. That being said, The Grand Budapest Hotel definitely deserved a place among its fellow nominees.
This was the last best picture nominee I saw, seeing it only this morning, but it might as well have been the first. Selma is an excellent, excellent, excellent film. This excellence is shown through many facets, but the one I'd like to highlight is the lighting. Sometimes this is overlooked in films, and I understand why (it doesn't appear to be all that important). Upon further investigation this lighting not only can set the brilliant tone of an entire film, but show so much more conflict within the characters. Selma does this as good if not better than anything I've seen this year. This would be pointless if you didn't have the acting to back it up. From David Oyelowo's emotionally powerful performance, to all of the actors backing him up, coupled with the fantastic music, we are given such an evocative experience. Almost no film is perfect, and this is no exception. Small clangings of exposition that are a little too blatant take away from flow and tone of film, but it flirts so much with being a masterpiece that they almost don't matter.This brilliant tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. is special and hopefully will carry over to help lead towards more change for years to come.
Oh, Whiplash! I am so glad I saw this film, even if it took me forever. J.K Simmons performance is a revelation. We rarely see that type of energy on screen. Not only is he so believably terrifying, but the in the strangest of ways endearing to empathy. It would not have been as impactful though without the lead performance from Miles Teller which one of the most quietly brilliant displays of acting from last year. His performance is so internal that one can almost forget how impressive he is. When his more visible emotions shine through, it is just as much of a wonder to watch. Not only is it raw, and emotionally powerful, but so dang impressive considering his fervent dedication to the drums for the role. This is not even mentioning Whiplash's precise editing, deliberate pacing, joyous music and how it has some of the most jaw-dropping moments in cinema from last year. Yes, the film occasional flirts with flaws from what could be unnecessary plot twists, and thin supporting characters, but it never hits them. Whiplash is a perfect film. There is only one film I would rather see win best picture in its place.
This paragraph is not enough to give praise to this glorious piece of art, but I'll try. There are few films out there that have ever accomplished what Birdman has done with cinematography, having the film appear without edits, let alone everything else it accomplishes. Michael Keaton's performance alone is a bloody impressive display of talent. Not only him, but everyone else as well steps up there game to give one of the best ensemble of brilliant performances seen on screen. I'm not even talking about simple things, such as the great music and pacing. All of this could be for naught if these embellishments didn't add or contribute to the overarching story, but they do! Everything in Birdman builds towards to its brilliantly executed narrative. I could go on to talk about the film's meta/self-referential style and all it's insightful thoughts on Hollywood, but that isn't important for you to know. What is important to know is this a fan-freakin'-tastic piece of art, and it deserves to be seen by all who love great cinema.