Yesterday I had the chance to see the new political thriller Eye in the Sky and it’s a tough movie to review because I was engrossed throughout but I left not really buying what it was selling. Let me explain. .
Eye in the Sky focuses on the many characters that come into play in the decision to make a ‘precision missile strike’ from a drone plane on a terrorist cell in Kenya. Some of the key players are:
Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren)- British military intelligence who has been hunting down these terrorists for many months.
Lieutenant General Frank Benson (Alan Rickman)- British general who is in England brokering the different voices there
Lieutenant Steve Watts (Aaron Paul)- USAF drone pilot out of Las Vegas
An array of other voices- cabinet members, Secretary of States, Prime Minister, legal counsel, foreign secretary, and a woman in Hawaii who has cool facial recognition software.
These characters must work together to realize the threat, calculate the risks, and execute the attack. Colonel Powell has discovered the 3rd and 4th most wanted North Africans are meeting together in a house in a dangerous part of Kenya. She hopes to do away with the suspects so they are no longer a threat to the Kenyan people.
They must have facial recognition so they send in a little bug camera which is operated by undercover agent Jama Farah played by Barkhad Abdi in a solid performance. Through the video they find the group is arming themselves for suicide bombings right then and there. This makes it imperative the situation be turned from a capture to kill operation.
The problem for Helen Mirren’s character is this requires a million approvals. Will they get away before the bureaucrats can make up their mind? That’s the big question and tension of the film. Alan Rickman is very good as her main touchpoint with London and the voice of the military in that discussion.
Things then get even more complicated when a little girl sets up shop outside of the house to sell bread for her family. They try to buy all the bread but it breaks Farah’s cover and they must decide whether a risk to her life is worth taking these terrorists out. Aaron Paul as the trigger man in Las Vegas is good as he stands up to the Colonel not wanting to kill the little girl.
The script by Guy Hibbert builds tension very well and the acting is great from all involved. However, like I said above I don’t know if I bought everything it was selling. It seemed a little propagandaish. Like I was being presented with the best possible situation for this type of operation. It felt like a way to say ‘see friends look how careful we are…’. Like a slickly made PR push for drone strikes.
I am sure there are strikes that are as painstakingly decided upon as the one depicted, but it all felt a little too perfect. There is one woman who is the opposition voice in the discussions and she is given some good dialogue. I like her pointing out that a suicide bomber killing a crowd of people doesn’t make UK look bad but them taking out a little girl does. There is a sick and twisted reality to that comment.
But even the way her character was resolved felt a little too preachy. I can tell you one thing my liberal friends will hate this movie. If you hated American Sniper than you’ll hate this. Both films show the new brand of warfare, but I personally felt Sniper told Chris Kyle’s story from his POV in a compelling way.
Anyway, I wouldn’t say don’t see Eye in the Sky because it is very well done. But I guess just try to enjoy it as fun entertainment and not a realistic political/military portrayal. If you can take it with a grain of salt than you’ll probably really enjoy it.
Also, this movie should not be rated R. Some of the swears must be background swears or mumbled because I didn’t hear them and the violence is not anything you don’t see on 24 or other shows. Either way, it’s extremely tame R rating. I can think of so many PG-13 movies that are WAY worse as far as content.
We can all be glad the Grand Budapest Hotel is there because without it we’d have a lot of solemn nominees. I mean has the academy forgotten how to laugh? Gone are the days when movies like It’s a Mad Mad Mad World could get nominated for Best Picture. Kind of sad really.
Anyway, here’s how I would personally rank the nominees.
1. Boyhood- It’s a movie that really moved me and made me think about my life in a new way. It’s not a movie to entertain you but to remind you about the small moments with people that make up your life. I loved it. To me it is significantly better than any of the other nominees.
2. Selma– A movie that helped me get to know all sides of a great American. It wasn’t all the grand moments but soft, even shameful moments where you saw that anybody can make a difference. It was a part of the Civil Rights movement I wasn’t as familiar with and I was really moved by it. Amazing performance by David Oyelowo.
3. Whiplash- Mesmerizing film that builds tension so well with an insane performance by JK Simmons. It asks the question ‘what is the price to be paid for greatness?’ I wish it had shown more of the motivations behind the characters but still very gripping movie.
4. American Sniper- Gripping account of the most successful sniper in US Navy Seals history, Chris Kyle. The movie gets you down with the soldiers a lot for a sniper movie and it feels gritty and very intense. The narrative at home and on his tour of duties flow well together and are brought together in the story of a very complex man. It is a movie that tells his story and leaves the judging for God and others. I was really moved by. 5. Grand Budapest Hotel- The one comedy nominated! I think I give this a little bit of a pass because it is Wes Anderson’s best and most mainstream film. I’d have to watch it again to decide if I really like it better than the other nominees but I did like it. It’s not over-quirky like a lot of Anderson’s films. It is witty and the world creation is strong with more likable characters than many of his other films. Very good engaging cast as always.
6. Imitation Game- A solid biopic about Alan Turing, the man behind the computer which decoded the enigma machine. I liked the stuff about the decoding better than the more predictable personal portions but it was all strong and very well acted. The big mean boss who is constantly after Turing felt like such a cliche and the cop narration felt a little phony but I liked it.
7. Birdman- I know I’m not as high on this as everyone else but I’ve got to tell you what I really think not what is popular. I really hated the way this movie treated its female characters. I’m shocked that nobody else in criticism seems to be saying this? It will probably win tomorrow when Boyhood a movie featuring complex woman will not (although hopefully she will win). I have thought about it and I know it is an allegory for popularity and fame but why does the movie assume women are so much more fragile and judgmental than men? Is there not a Chris Farley, River Phoenix for every Lindsay Lohan and Judy Garland? The critic and the near rape especially bother me. But that said, it isn’t at the bottom because I do think they tried to do something different, the cinematography is very good and I thought Michael Keaton was great. I just don’t think it was anywhere near the best picture of the year. Oh well.
8. Theory of Everything– This is a good movie. I enjoyed watching it much more than Birdman. And Eddie Redmayne was unforgettable as Stephen Hawking. You forget it is an actor after a while. That’s pretty amazing especially since he doesn’t have a voice for a good chunk of the movie. However, it is pretty predictable biopic and large sections drag a bit. I didn’t think Felicity Jones was very good and the dewy sepia toned cinematography and constant twirling (even in the coffee) got on my nerves. Still a very good movie just bottom of the 8 for me.
As I said in my American Sniper review I saw it and Imitation Game on the same day and they are more similar than you might at first think. They are both about unusual men who saved lives in time of war.
The Imitation Game is about the mathematician Alan Turing who invented an early computer that helped the British to solve the enigma coding machine the Germans used.
At the end of the movie they say Christopher (Turing’s machine) saved 14 million lives and helped end the war 2 years sooner. That is pretty amazing especially for someone I’ve never heard of before this year.
The reason why we haven’t heard of Alan Turing is his untimely death in 1954 and the fact the entire code breaking enterprise was kept secret for 50 years.
In a lot of ways The Imitation Game is a lot like The Theory of Everything. Both about geniuses who aren’t appreciated at first but end up making great contributions. Both have personal struggles that make it even harder for them to be accepted- Stephen Hawking his disability and Alan Turing being gay at a time where it was illegal to do so.
Both are good movies but I would say The Imitation Game is better although it falls into some of the same standard biopic formulas we’ve seen before.
Of the 4 biopics nominated for best picture I’d rate them- Selma, American Sniper, Imitation Game and Theory of Everything. And they are all good movies just Game and Everything are a little predictable and formulaic.
Benedict Cumberbatch is very good as Alan Turing and I thought Keira Knightley was pretty good as his fiance and friend. The rest of the cast is good with the exception of Charles Dance playing the obligatory stick in the mud boss who doesn’t recognize genius we’ve seen in a million other movies. I could have also done without the cop interviewing Turing narration throughout that felt extremely phony. I don’t think anyone had to tell a gay man in 40’s England to keep quiet about their homosexuality. This is a genius we are talking about.
Matthew Goode and Allen Leach (from Downton Abbey) take small parts as members of the code breakers and all the sets and costuming is very well done. Alexandre Desplat’s music is also very moving and not over the top like so many biopics.
The movie ends on a very sad note that is necessary as it is the real events but I couldn’t help but wish the movie had been a little less formulaic to help absorb that sadness- it kind of came out of left field. But it was tragic for sure.
Cumberbatch is great as Turing. He is basically playing the same role as he is in Sherlock so if you like him there you will like him here. He is vulnerable and awkward yet still likable in a way few actors could pull off. The parts with the codebreaking were new and I learned something. And like I said the rest of the performances are great. Overall a very entertaining enlightening film.
It is also nice that it tells the story of a gay man without an agenda or vulgarity being shoved at the screen. It’s just his story. I love that and think it is perhaps more impactful than some films that are more blatant and heavy-handed in their messaging. I certainly was moved by it.
As far as content it is pretty clean. There is a little bit of PG-13 level profanity and one sexually explicit joke I’m surprised they could slip by with but other than that a film appropriate for middle school and up and a worthwhile message and story to learn about.
So I just saw American Sniper and Imitation Game so will post both reviews in the next little bit. It was quite the downer of a double header I must admit but they actually have more in common than you might think. Both movies are about men in times of war who’s unusual excellence saved soldiers lives.
American Sniper is the story of Chris Kyle played by Bradley Cooper, the greatest sniper in Navy Seals history who was referred to as ‘The Legend’ by other seals. There is lots of controversy over the wars overseas, Chris Kyle, his book, and some of his statements. I’m really not going to get into all of that. I am just judging the movie. It is God’s place to judge Chris Kyle and any others who had the guts to do something I could never do for a cause they believed in.
To those that feel American Sniper is a propaganda piece for a war that is a mistake, I would make this counter argument. Imagine if you had a movie about a German WWII soldier. The soldier may do great and admirable things for what most believe is a wrong cause but that doesn’t make the actions themselves and the way HE see’s them any different than any other soldier. Chris Kyle is a man who did what he was told to do and saved many of his Navy Seal brethren lives and far be it for me or anybody else to put the condemnation of a cause on the shoulders of one man.
I happen to believe there was value in the cause and what we did over there but that is a conversation for another day on another blog. American Sniper does not really turn Chris Kyle into a hero. It is clear he is very uncomfortable with such recognition. He is a man who did his job and that job was saving Navy Seals and Marines.
The movie is brutal. It’s a tough sit through, and I had many a moment where I had to look away or close my eyes because it was too intense. That’s not a mark against it. War and its horrors are the one type of violence that I think is important and worth seeing. Director Clint Eastwood does a great job helping you feel like you are there with Chris Kyle and the other soldiers in Chris’ four tours of duty. For a man famous for being a sniper you feel on the ground with the troops a lot.
Al-qaeda has their own sniper called Mustafa which kind of puts both sides on equal playing field (if you can call it that) in the movie. It is clear the conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq is one of individual houses and skirmishes with neighborhoods. Not the rows of cavalry or the mass of soldiers we see in other war movies. It makes sense why a sniper would be needed because it’s such an individual version of warfare.
The only other movie I can think of which has shown this type of conflict was the Hurt Locker and I personally think American Sniper is much better. I certainly felt way more invested in Chris Kyle’s story than anyone in that movie.
I thought that Clint Eastwood does a good job keeping a narrative throughout each tour and Chris’ time at home. At each intense period of fighting there will be a call to his wife played by Sienna Miller, thus bringing the family into the action and then at home he will have flashbacks bringing the action to the home. I thought it was interesting how both times seemed equally intense but in different ways. In war Chris seemed to wish he could save more men and at home Chris wished he could save more men.
Like I said it is a brutal movie. It is graphic, violent and disturbing but it is war people. I would have been more bothered if it wasn’t all of those things. Again it felt like you were there with Chris on the ground and Clint Eastwood does a great job of building a comradery with Chris and his men quickly so that way when things happen you as a viewer feel the loss or fear along with Chris. It’s pretty remarkable the way he does that sometimes in just one conversation or smile you feel bonded to a soldier.
The movie doesn’t really make Chris Kyle into a hero. If it was a Stephen Spielberg movie there would have been soaring music and dramatic speeches. There isn’t any of that. Just a man who did what he had to do in his worldview.
The language is very bad but what you might expect out of a bunch of soldiers risking their life everyday. American Sniper is the kind of movie I won’t ever want to watch again but I am very glad I saw once. I feel I got a tiny bit of insight into what our brave men and women do over there. I know it is still a movie but it’s at least more insight than I had this morning before seeing it.
The ending when you’ve just seen Chris Kyle growing and changing is devastating. It just doesn’t seem right with all he went through for it to have come to that.
Again it is not our place to judge a man like Chris Kyle. He did what he had to do and he saved many lives. That is the story of American Sniper and it tells that story well. The rest of Chris Kyle or the value of the war itself is for another movie, another discussion. I was very moved by American Sniper and I’m glad I saw it. It’s brutal but I’m glad I saw it.
Bradley Cooper is terrific as Kyle. He’s proud, stoic, vulnerable.
Overall Grade- A Content Grade- F (although I don’t think it is Adults only. It’s war! Teens should be able to appreciate that).
I thought I might help you out and share with you my Oscar ballot. We will see how I do come Oscar night but if Boyhood doesn’t walk away with a lot I will be very disappointed (well as disappointed as you can be with a stupid awards show…).
I still think Boyhood will win. Birdman is too independent in feel for older academy voters and Boyhood has universal themes and was so groundbreaking I think it will win. I think it will be like when the academy went with King Speech over Social Network (a decision I actually agree with as I think SN is majorly overrated). I could see The Theory of Everything coming in as dark horse as the academy loves those ‘real life’ portrayals. I have seen all but 2 but hopefully will get to the rest in the next few days.
Will Win: Boyhood My Vote:Boyhood
My review of Boyhood
Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu (Birdman)
Richard Linklater (Boyhood)
Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher)
Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game)
I know Inarritu has won some leading up to awards but Linklater is due a statue and what he did in Boyhood is astonishing. It’s certainly one of the most profound movie going experiences I’ve ever had. For him to direct a film over 12 years how can you not give him the directing award and to make something so beautiful to boot. Come on!
Will Win: Richard Linklater My Vote: Richard Linklater
Best Lead Actor
Steve Carell (Foxcatcher)
Bradley Cooper (American Sniper)
Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game)
Michael Keaton (Birdman)
Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)
I have actually only seen 2 of these movies! I am going to try to get to American Sniper and Imitation Game this week but we will see. It looks like Eddie Redmayne is going to win and I think it is deserved. Cumberbatch love could come into play and the academy always does have soft spot for veterans like Keaton. I actually think he deserves to win even though I have issues with Birdman. His performance was very good. Redmayne is great as well. You forget he isn’t Stephen Hawking in the performance.
Will Win: Eddie Redmayne My Vote: Michael Keaton (If I could give it to anyone it would be to Tom Hardy in Locke which was unforgettable)
Best lead actress
Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night)
Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything)
Julianne Moore (Still Alice)
Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)
Reese Witherspoon (Wild)
I have actually only seen 2 of these movies and to be honest wasn’t that crazy with either Rosamund Pike or Felicity Jones performances. Julianne Moore will win. It’s her 5th nomination I believe and she is evidently great in Still Alice.
Will Win: Julianne Moore My Vote: Weak year for female performances. I guess my favorite was Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow. I can’t pick either of the 2 I’ve seen because I didn’t think they were good.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Robert Duvall (The Judge)
Ethan Hawke (Boyhood)
Edward Norton (Birdman)
Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher)
J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Whiplash was a very engrossing movie . I had some problems with the character motivations but it was great. JK Simmon is unforgettable and should and will win. I wish Andy Serkis had been nominated for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. His ACTING blew me away.
Will Win: J.K. Simmons My Vote: J.K. Simmons
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
Laura Dern (Wild)
Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game)
Emma Stone (Birdman)
Meryl Streep (Into the Woods)
This award should and will go to Patricia Arquette for Boyhood. She did something that no other female actress has done in showing how a woman ages. We don’t talk about that. We hide it away but there she was at 28 and there she was at 40. She is the reason I loved the movie so much because she never really gets a chance to commit to her life and family. She just lives and makes some bad choices along the way. When Mason is leaving for college and she realizes her life in a sense is over it is completely devastating. I will never forget it. I would also have nominated Jessica Chastain for Interstellar.
Will Win: Patricia Arquette My Vote: Patricia Arquette
Best Original Screenplay
Birdman(Alejandro G Iñarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo) Boyhood(Richard Linklater) Foxcatcher(E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman) The Grand Budapest Hotel(Wes Anderson) Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy)
I think will be where they award Grand Budapest Hotel. It really is Wes Anderson’s most approachable movie I’ve ever seen. It’s funny and mellows down the ‘quirky factor’ which many of us find annoying in his movies.
Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel My Vote: The Grand Budapest Hotel
best adapted screenplay
American Sniper(Jason Hall) The Imitation Game(Graham Moore) Inherent Vice(Paul Thomas Anderson) The Theory of Everything (Anthony McCarten) Whiplash(Damien Chazelle)
This is a race between Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything, which is silly because the script in Theory was really quite weak. The only other one I’ve seen is Whiplash which would probably be my pick. If I could pick any script I would go with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes because it was the script that moved me the most. It made me think and I loved it.
Will Win: The ImitationGame My Vote: Whiplash (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes if I could pick)
Birdman(Emmanuel Lubezki) The Grand Budapest Hotel (Robert Yeoman) Ida (Ryszard Lenczewski, Lukasz Zal) Mr. Turner (Dick Pope) Unbroken (Roger Deakins)
I would be stunned if Emmanuel Lubezki didn’t win for Birdman and he deserves to win; although I want to give it to Dick Pope just because of how cool he was when his name was slaughtered during his big moment. (Seriously you think they’d go over that with that lady?)
Will Win: Birdman My Vote: Birdman
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
The Grand Budapest Hotel(Adam Stockhausen) The Imitation Game (Maria Djurkovic) Interstellar (Nathan Crowley)
Into the Woods (Dennis Gassner) Mr. Turner(Suzie Davis)
The Grand Budapest Hotel will win and it deserves to win. I wish Paddington had been nominated as I loved the sets of that movie but oh well!
Will Win: The Grand BudapestHotel My Vote: The Grand Budapest Hotel
best costume design
The Grand Budapest Hotel(Milena Canonero) Inherent Vice (Mark Bridges) Into the Woods(Colleen Atwood) Maleficent(Anna B. Sheppard) Mr. Turner(Jacqueline Durran)
I am going to go out on a limb on this one and say that Colleen Atwood will win for Into the Woods. It was the best costumes I saw all year. She’s has name recognition (nominated 11 times and won 3) and I think if in doubt people will vote for her and the great costumes in a fairytale movie. But I admit it is my out on a limb so you may want to put Grand Budapest Hotel on there because Milena Canoero has also won 3 times (quite the club of costume designers!). The costumes were great in GBH. I just think a little better in Into the Woods.
Will Win: Into the Woods Should Win: Into the Woods
BEST FILM EDITING
American Sniper (Joel Cox) Boyhood (Sandra Adair) The Grand Budapest Hotel (Barney Pilling) The Imitation Game (William Goldenberg) Whiplash (Tom Cross)
Boyhood will win with American Sniper being the next most likely. Whiplash is probably the best editing I saw all year with those drum sequences put together so seamlessly.
Another going out on a limb and going to pick Guardians of the Galaxy because that makeup made those characters not CG. Foxcatcher could also come in because of the prosthetics (haven’t seen it). Grand Budapest Hotel is probably the odds on favorite but you have to take a few chances in your ballot because there are always a few surprises.
Will Win: Guardians of the Galaxy My Vote: Guardians of the Galaxy
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
The Grand Budapest Hotel(Alexandre Desplat) The Imitation Game(Alexandre Desplat) Interstellar(Hans Zimmer) Mr. Turner(Gary Yershon)
The Theory of Everything (Johann Johannsson)
It does seem time for Alexandre Desplat to win but Johann Johannsson has won early awards and they are all pleasant scores. I actually didn’t care for the loud overbearing score in Interstellar so I hope that doesn’t win. I wish Joe Hisaishi had been nominated for The Tale of Princess Kaguya. It was one of the best scores I’ve ever heard.
Will Win: Theory of Everything My Vote: Out of those I’d pick Grand Budapest Hotel but I would have given it to Joe Hisaishi Tale of Princess Kaguya
best original song
“Everything is Awesome” (The LEGO Movie)
“Grateful” (Beyond the Lights)
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” (Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me)
“Lost Stars” (Begin Again)
It will either be Everything is Awesome or Glory and I think Glory is a solid hip hop anthem. Both movies should be honored. Lost Stars is probably the best written song of the group but Everything is Awesome is my favorite.
Will Win: “Glory” My Vote: “Everything is Awesome”
best sound mixing
I think this will and should go to Whiplash. My understanding of sound mixing is rather limited but what I do know it is putting together different sounds to make a scene work and nowhere was better than that than Whiplash.
Will Win: Whiplash My Vote: Whiplash
best sound editing
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
American Sniper will win this award. It’s a lock. Only seen one on this list. (All the movies come out at the same time so it takes me most of the next year to see them all!).
Will Win: AmericanSniper My Vote: Only seen Birdman and I wouldn’t give it to that. I would give it to Whiplash
All of these movies have amazing visual effects. I would be happy if any of them win. I wish that every last one of them was nominated for best picture. It was such a strong year for comic book movies and I’m normally not a huge fan. These movies were immersive experiences with well written characters and story arcs you don’t normally see in big budget movies. It was awesome. I think Dawn of the Planet of the Apes will win for best visual effects and I think it should win.
Will Win: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes My Vote: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
I like all of these movies and I’ve seen all of them. I actually gave A’s to all of them. I think How to Train Your Dragon 2 will win and it is a great movie. It is a rare sequel that is better than the original. It had an epic feel to it and I loved the heart of the mother character and the flying sequences were amazing. However, I think both Dragon and The Boxtrolls are weaker than Lego Movie even though I loved them. My favorite would be Song of the Sea but I loved Big Hero 6 and Kaguya. I would be happy with any of them winning. The one thing that makes me pull for Dragon is DreamWorks really needs a win right now. They’ve had huge layoffs, closed their major studio and there upcoming releases do not look promising. The strangest thing is that all 3 of their films last year made a healthy profit so I don’t know what is going on?
For me 2014 had only 2 theatrically released animated stinkers. It was such a great year. The diversity of the characters, scope of animation and heart-felt topics covered I will never forget. 2015 looks pretty sad in comparison.
Will Win: How to Train Your Dragon 2 My Vote: Song of the Sea
I haven’t seen any of them but Ida is nominated for best cinematography so I would go with that. Why is it that animated films never get nominated for best foreign film? Tale of Princess Kaguya or the Latvian Rocks in My Pockets would have been worthy entries.
Will Win: Ida My Vote: Haven’t seen any but I’d give it to Rocks in My Pockets
Citizenfour Finding Vivian Mayer Last Days in Vietnam The Salt of the Earth
Pour sad Life Itself is not nominated. Baffling. I haven’t seen any of these but I will be disgusted if Citzenfour wins and we reward anything to do with the scumbag Edward Snowden but I wouldn’t put it past leftist Hollywood.
The animated shorts are actually really strong. The other one’s I haven’t seen but I am going with the major predictions
Animated Short: Feast Documentary Short: Joanna Live Action Short: The Phone Call
There’s my ballot. Hope that helps you out when getting ready for your office polls and the like. Occasionally they do give the right movie the award (Slumdog Millionaire for example) so let’s all hope for Boyhood! But if it goes to Birdman than cheers for Hollywood’s misogyny in full force!
And here are my best and worst of the year videos. I have seen some I would have included but it’s still movies I love.