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.


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.

whiplash poster 2014

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.

american sniper

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.

imitation game7

 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.

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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.

Movies I Saw Youtube Videos

Pictures12Today I tried something different and made 2 videos for my channel.  One that summarized the movies I saw in the theater in January and another the movies I saw at home.  If you read my reviews you already know my opinion but this is a summary.  I would love if you took a look and subscribed to my channel.


Oscar Noms Reactions- 200 posts

86th Annual Academy Awards - Red Carpet

Hi guys! Just a quick post this morning and it is my 200th post!  Can you believe it! Thanks for making this such a fun part of my life. My other personal blog http://smilingldsgirl.com is just about to get 1000 posts (and has 500 followers!) but I’ve had that for 7 years.  This has only been since August  Crazy!

Just thought I would give a little response to the Oscar noms, not that these awards matter that much.  Still, it is nice to see quality praised.

I’m still working on seeing the nominated films and of the Best Picture noms I’ve seen Boyhood, Grand Budapest Hotel and Selma and they all deserve their noms.  Probably the surprise was only 8 noms this year when they can have 10 (the best picture nomination process is so convoluted and ridiculous).

I’m going to see Whiplash on Saturday so excited for that and should get to everything else in the next couple of months.  What’d you think of list?

Best Picture:
American Sniper
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything

The biggest surprise is no nomination for Lego Movie. This is probably the result of it being an early 2014 release and it being a comedy.  The academy tends to praise dramas at the expense of comedies which I think are in many ways harder to pull off especially for kids.  It was also a definite tip of the hat to hand drawn with Tale of Princess Kaguya and Song of the Sea both getting nominated.

The fact is it was an incredibly competitive year in animation.  I know a bunch of you disagree with me but I still think this is the strongest year in animation since the 90’s.  Just my opinion but for a movie as inventive, creative and funny to be off the list as the Lego Movie says something about the strength of the year.

While I haven’t seen Song of the Sea it looks amazing, so I can’t argue with the 5 on the list. They were all great. Of the one’s I saw I gave them all A’s.

Best Animated Feature:  (click film for link to my review)
Big Hero 6
The Boxtrolls
How To Train Your Dragon 2
Song of the Sea
The Tale of Princess Kaguya

Other surprises-  no nom for Life Itself which I thought given Ebert’s popularity would be a shoe-in but it is kind of appropriate as the documentary branch consistently let Ebert down (example- Hoop Dreams not being nominated in 1994).

No nom for David Oyelowo for Selma is a big surprise because it is a great performance and typically the academy loves actors who portray famous people well.  Also it would have been one non-white nominee (amazing how non-diverse Hollywood can be?).  All the 20 nominees for acting are white.

Surprised but not surprised with a Meryl Streep nom for Into the Woods.  She is great and it was a fun performance, but at this point her getting nominated has become such a bore. I almost wish she’d just take herself out of contention.   I would be stunned if Patricia Arquette doesn’t win in that category.

Robert Duvall is kind of the same way with his nom for The Judge which I haven’t seen but didn’t hear great things. I am also a little surprised Ethan Hawke got nominated but happy.

No nom for Gone Girl (or its director David Lynch) which is a surprise although I haven’t seen that yet either.

Tom Hardy deserved to be nominated for Locke.  I mean who else can say they kept audiences transfixed talking on a car phone for 84 minutes? Oh well. Not enough room on the list.  I’m surprised no love for Nightcrawler which I probably won’t see because of the violence but heard is pretty great.

While not a surprise, disappointing to only have 1 nom for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes for visual effects. Andy Serkis deserves to be recognized for the amazing ACTING he does.  Apes really affected me and made me think about life and conflict. It was a fun blockbuster but with something to say.

My prediction is it will be a big night for Boyhood.  It certainly was the movie that impacted me the most in 2014.  I think it will win picture, director, and supporting actress.

I also think Big Hero 6 will win for best animated movie.  It’s a battle between it and How to Train Your Dragon 2. Both deserving.

What did you guys think? What surprised you?

To 200 more posts!

Selma: A Review

selmaTonight I had the chance to see the new movie Selma about a moment in the Civil Rights Movement (1965 to be precise) when Martin Luther King led a protest in the town of Selma over the discriminatory practices used to keep black citizens from voting.

I’m almost ashamed to admit it but I will- before this movie I didn’t know that much about the Selma riots.  I knew about the march on Montgomery, bus boycotts, march to Washington, Medgar Evars, and the Greensboro Sit-ins.  I know about a lot but for some reason this particular event had escaped my education.

Not that you can ever take all of your education on anything from the storytelling of a movie, but I am grateful to this film for introducing me to the subject and doing so in a very moving, motivating way. I feel inspired to learn more.


Selma is an extremely strong movie I think everyone should see (even you non-Americans).  We all should know about these injustices.  We should know because they persist in today and unfortunately always will. The human brain has a hateful side to it that always wants to prop one group over another and feel superior for a variety of reasons. This then provides a rationale for all manner of hate because it is not a person we are hating but a ……….(fill in the blank). My own ancestors had an extermination order written against them and were forcibly evicted from this country.  We all have those stories in our heritage and need to know about them.

But that does not mean that Selma is preachy.  It is a lot like Stephen Spielberg’s Lincoln but I think more effective in some ways.  Just as in Lincoln we learn about the passing of the 13th Amendment,  Selma focuses on the months leading up to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

martin luther king selmaMartin Luther King is played very well by David Oyelowo who even sounds like King and captures both the loud and soft moments very well.  This is not a perfect version of King.  It shows him as a man who is unfaithful to his marriage and perhaps an idealist to a fault.  I was glad he is not shown as a paragon of virtue like a Lifetime Movie might have.

God uses very imperfect vessels to further his work and someone like Dr. King was used to do great things.  Imagine what we imperfect souls could do?

Selma-movie-Bridge-scene-592x333The cast is huge and features many famous names like Common, Cuba Gooding Jr, Niecy Nash, and of course Oprah Winfrey in a small but moving role (you forget sometimes she can really act).

If I was going to nitpick the casting of 2 Brits as LBJ (Tom Wilkinson who’s accent roams) and George Wallace (Tim Roth) was odd.  They are both fine in their scenes but the accents could have been better.

lbj wallaceLiberals might be ticked off at this movie because their patron saint LBJ is painted as an adversary of King.  Someone who had to be talked into a corner in order to bring the bill to Congress. I liked how it shows people how complicated governing is.  Something which seems so cut and dry to us may be littered with land mines for the folks in Washington.  Doesn’t mean you don’t act but it is harder often than we realize.

Another aspect of the movie I liked was it is not a ‘white people are evil’ message.  In fact, thousands of white clergy came at the call of King to join in the march across the Selma bridge.  There were nuns, rabbi’s and many of other faiths, which was something I didn’t know about.

selma2If I had to nitpick there are quite a few stops and starts.  I kept thinking the big moment was coming and then there would be another but it didn’t bother me much.  The characters were interesting enough and I was engaged throughout.

The music by Jason Moran is also excellent.  One thing that annoyed me in Lincoln was the John Williams score telling you what to think every 5 seconds.  This was more subtle while still being dramatic when it needed to be.

selma3I had no idea Dr King was so young when he died- only 39!  It’s shocking really.  One of the most fascinating men who have ever lived (I mean that), Malcolm X, also makes an appearance and if you have read his Autobiography (which you absolutely should) you totally get what he is trying to say.

malcolm xAgain if I was going to nitpick the filming could have been better.  There were lots of extreme closeups when a 2 shot or crowd would have been more interesting.

But it really is a very satisfying picture.  I left learning a lot, crying a little, inspired much and wanting to learn more.  Can’t ask much more from a film than that.  The performances are excellent even if a few of the accents could be improved.  Especially Oyelowo deserves all the praise he is getting.  It is quite the accomplishment.


So go see Selma.  Take your families and friends.  Go see it and talk about what it means and what we can learn from it.   As far as content goes it is pretty tame.  There are 2 f words and a few other sprinkled profanity but it’s nothing to worry about.  The violence against the protestors can be tough to watch with innocent people getting gassed, struck at by police and beaten until a few are killed by redneck thugs.  But we need to know and have imprinted in our hearts these things.  And if you think the white people are bad in this movie see Rosewood.  That movie is brutal.  This is enough to show us what happened and teach us something without scarring us for life (although there is a place for that as well.   Some things should be taught to us so bluntly).  This movie however is more subtle and totally appropriate for mature children and teens.  I can see it being shown in schools in years to come and that’s a good thing.

What are some of your favorite movies based on real people or moments in history like Selma?  I’d love to hear and if any of you see Selma put in the comments what you think. Thanks!

Content Grade- B+  Overall Grade A ( few little qualms but overall really liked it)