I'd Like to Fire the Academy
BIRDMAN. I previously wrote about Birdman here when it made #10 on my Top Ten list of 2014. I liked this movie, I did. But again, I admired it in the same way I loved Black Swan. A fascinating watch about how far an artist will go for their art. It's got an awesome score throughout, fantastic cinematography, pitch-perfect editing, great performances, and it's got that whimsical thing going on for it. But no, it was not my favorite film of last year.
BOYHOOD. I previously wrote about Boyhood on my Top Ten list here where it made #5. While it was my personal fifth pick (and lower than fellow nominee Whiplash,) Boyhood was the movie that I absolutely felt should win Best Picture. Richard Linklater just GETS life, and his 12-year labor of love Boyhood is absolute evidence of that. This movie is nothing more than a series of vignettes of one boy's life from young boy to young man. But the way they are presented to us is much like our own remembrance of significant events in our own youth. This movie attempts to speak to its audience in such a personal way, by relating special moments of one boy's life that shaped him... moments that you find aren't too different from instances in your own life. Shame it only walked away with one award.
THE IMITATION GAME. I liked this movie a lot more than I expected to! Great performances, combined with drama and surprising moments of humor and warmth. Still, it's a little bit "by the numbers British period piece Oscar bait."
AMERICAN SNIPER. Ditto the last entry. I'll see it eventually, but for now here's Kent's review.
THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING. If any movie this year is The King's Speech, it's this one. Likewise, both lead actors of the films took home the Best Actor prize. I wrote about The Theory of Everything previously HERE. I just felt like this movie kept me at arm's length the entire time by showing more of a portrait of Stephen Hawking's circumstances than who he was and what made him tick. Since this was based on his wife's novel I felt that they should be a little more straightforward that it's her story. Had they done that, it might be more distinguishable than your everyday biopic.
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL I watched this movie twice (the second time out of generosity for the movie's sake) and other than some awesome production design and some entertaining performances... I really don't know what all the fuss is about. The plot seems simple enough at first, but then gets more and more convoluted as each minute wears on. Perhaps that's the point as this is supposed to a far-fetched story one tells to another. But...somewhere along the way it lost me. BOTH times. Sorry, Wes fans. It was really nice to see Ralph Fiennes in a lighter role for once and you can tell he's just eating it up. Clearly the cast love being in this movie, I just wish as an audience member I could say I loved watching it.
SELMA. For me, Selma is kind of a mixed bag. It was funny to me when one of the presenters last night mentioned that Selma showed us the man that Martin Luther King Jr was, not the hero... because I felt completely the opposite. Certain aspects of his personal life were glossed over as much as possible to have him remain a hero when if we saw how he struggled with it, he could have actually seemed human. But I can't deny the film was gripping, anchored by David Oyelowo's lead performance. My issue is this: I understand the civil rights movement was a horrible time in history and people behaved abhorrently, but I just feel like 12 Years a Slave handled the subject matter a bit more delicately in showing that these horrible behaviors were a product of their respective times. 12 Years a Slave showed the good and bad in humanity in both races, meanwhile I checked my clock in Selma to see when a kind caucasian person actually showed up into the movie... and well, it took 1.5 hours for that to happen (and then they were subsequently killed by other caucasian people.) It just felt a little gratuitous to me. But again on the plus side, this movie had gorgeous cinematography. Should have been nominated there.
WHIPLASH. Whiplash was my personal favorite among the nominees and my first review for it can be found HERE. I saw it almost a year ago when it won best of fest at Sundance and since then has remained the film to beat in my eyes. I'm not surprised it wasn't given more serious consideration because its intensity isn't really something those safe Oscar voters go for. But this movie is absolutely electric and keeps you on your toes the whole time. It truly is one of the most intense movies I've seen in years and it's about a jazz band for goodness sakes!