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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Theory of Everything: A Review

theory of everything2I finally got to the theater to see the Oscar nominated film  The Theory of Everything. It tells the story of Stephen and Jane Hawking’s marriage and life together.

theory of everythingThey meet before Stephen’s ALS diagnosis and everything is shot through sepia tones with dew filled lighting, very picturesque. (That technique is called upon far too often in the movie…).  I wish they had let us know why Jane falls in love with Stephen.  She just says kind of out of the blue that she is in love with him but I would have liked to have gotten more into her heart.

Then the film chronicles his diagnosis, their marriage, his progress on The Brief History of Time and his physics theories.  They do a good job making the theories accessible and easy enough for the viewer to understand.  You might not really get them but enough to see why they are so important.  (I mean it is black holes after all!).   There is also a continuing theme of Stephen’s atheism conflicting with his theories which was interesting.

theory-of-everything-stephen-hawking-movie-trailerThere is an extended section where Jane meets a choir director named Jonathan and that was a snoozefest. I never felt like I got to know Jane well enough.  I found myself anxious in her sections to get on to Stephen because more concrete things were happening to him and the performance by Eddie Redmayne is very good. Felicity Jones is just ok but the script doesn’t give her a ton to work with.

The movie also has constant twirling which I guess was supposed to mimic the universe but got annoying after a while (seriously even the coffee twirls).

theory of everything3My feelings at the end of the movie is- it is fine. It’s a perfectly standard adequate satisfying biopic about a very unique man. I found myself getting anxious for the story to move along and all the dew filled picturesque cinematography got on my nerves. It kept the two main characters at a distance.  I rarely felt I got in their hearts or who they really were.

theory of everything4But I still enjoyed it. It’s competently made and a good story.  I liked it.  I just didn’t LOVE it.  It’s such an interesting life that it may work almost in spite of itself.

I liked they didn’t try to give it more of a perfect ending than was deserved. From  what I understand they stuck to real life events pretty well.

I couldn’t help but think of A Beautiful Mind while watching A Theory of Everything.  Both are shot with a similar style about women married to geniuses who become ill. I think A Beautiful Mind is better because it gets a little more into both characters heads and I liked the twist (and the script is tighter).  But they are very similar.

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So if you liked Beautiful Mind than you will probably enjoy A Theory of Everything.  I’m certainly glad I saw it.  It’s always great to watch stories of people who defy the odds and do incredible things.  A Theory of Everything gives us such a story and I enjoyed it even if I didn’t think it was spectacular. I was inspired by the events of the movie more than the movie itself.

This would be a good movie to watch on a Sunday when you are looking to be inspired and it would certainly be a good way to introduce students to Hawking’s life and ideas. Like I said it doesn’t reinvent the wheel but I liked it.

As far as content there is hints of affairs but it is kept very PG and a brief but very tame penthouse magazine. Maybe a little language and a scene where a trachea is installed that was tough to watch.

Overall Grade- B-

Content Grade- A