Ranking the Nominees

I have now seen all of the Best Picture nominees and while I gave my predictions a few days ago I thought I would do a quick post ranking the nominees. I would also add I think Song of the Sea, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Locke, Big Hero 6, Tale of Princess Kaguya, Lego Movie and Interstellar are better than all of the films but Boyhood nominated but they are all good movies.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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. grand-budapest-hotel5. 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.

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 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.

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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.

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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.

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Imitation Game: A Review

imitation game7As 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 IMITATION GAMEThe 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.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing with Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke in The Imitation Game.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.

imitation game4Matthew 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.

imitation game10The 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.

Overall Grade- B+, Content Grade- A