'The Grand Budapest Hotel'
Sweeping in nine Oscar nominations, the most nominated movie in 2015 including Best Picture, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is one of the best executed movies of the year. This masterpiece, directed by Wes Anderson (who was nominated for Best Director), has it all: an engaging plot, hilarious banter, expert acting (although none of the actors were nominated), an incredible soundtrack and overall flawlessness.
The story is about a renowned concierge named M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) who pairs up with young bellboy Zero (Tony Revolori) to clear his name after he is framed for murder. While containing plenty of laugh-out-loud humor, like a birthmark in the shape of Mexico, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” also tackles complex themes. In the end this movie is a work of art and deserves a successful night at The Academy Awards.
“Boyhood,” written and directed by Richard Linklater, has been nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture. The film tells the story of Mason (Ellar Coltrane), a boy growing up in Texas whose parents have just divorced.
Filmed over a 12-year period using the same actors, “Boyhood” gives the audience the unique pleasure of watching the cast, especially Coltrane, grow up before their eyes. This allows for beautifully crafted and subtle character development that is rarely found in much of the fast-paced and special effect-laden films produced today.
“Whiplash” is the story of obsession with greatness, and the figurative meat grinder a young drummer (Miles Teller) at a Juilliard-style music school is willing to go through to achieve that goal. Most of that meat grinder takes the form of J.K. Simmons, who plays a jazz teacher so emotionally abusive he would make the drill sergeant from “Full Metal Jacket” blush.
The interplay between Teller and Simmons coupled with a brilliant script from writer/director Damien Chazelle give this movie a sense of suspense and tension that is almost unmatched by any movie in this year’s crop, and culminates in one of the most cathartic endings I have ever seen.
There’s a moment in the opening of “Selma,” after we watch Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. receive the Nobel Peace Prize, where we see four young black girls walk down a church staircase. The minute the camera pans over to the girls talking, I instinctively tensed up, hoping that my fear wouldn’t come true: the scene was of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama.
This is the sobering truth about “Selma”: its fictional depiction of very real American history sears itself into your brain unlike any textbook or documentary can. Director Ava DuVernay weaves an intimate, gripping vision about one of the most important moments in American history, and David Oyelowo’s spellbinding performance as King highlights one of the most talented casts this year.
DuVernay’s choice to focus the movie on a singular historical event, instead of a biographical tale, helps to put the film head and shoulders above fellow Best Picture nominees.
'The Imitation Game'
Not sure what to see after our intended movie was sold out, my roommate previewed “The Imitation Game” as “a movie about some guy who cracks a code.” Sign him up for a marketing class.
Anyway, “The Imitation Game,” nominated for Best Picture, provided much more than just my roommate’s vague description. The movie is about a man named Alan Turing who, while he does indeed crack a Nazi code during World War II, also struggles to come to grips with his own homosexuality. He has great difficulty accepting himself and overcoming his problems with social interaction.
“The Imitation Game” does a fantastic job profiling Turing, a man whose genius eventually led to the invention of the computer. For someone whose importance to modern society is vastly under-appreciated, it’s a story long overdue.
'The Theory of Everything'
“The Theory of Everything” chronicles the life of physicist Stephen Hawking, who falls in love with fellow Cambridge student, Jane Wilde. Previously a healthy man, Hawking learns he has a debilitating motor-neuron disease. With Wilde by his side, they defy all odds—scientifically and personally. This thematically rich docudrama not only tells Hawking’s brilliant story of scientific discovery, but more importantly explores love and relationships in a thought-provoking way.
The acting performances of Eddie Redmayne (Hawking) and Felicity Jones (Wilde) carry this film past the point of being just good, and on to something truly special.
Co-written and directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, “Birdman” follows Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton), a washed-up Hollywood actor famous for playing the titular superhero, as he tries to recover his dignity by writing and starring in a Broadway play.
“Birdman” received several Oscar nominations, including Best Supporting Actress for Emma Stone, who plays Riggan’s daughter Sam, and Best Supporting Actor for Edward Norton’s portrayal of explosive method actor Mike. Michael Keaton’s performance earned him a Best Actor nomination, and “Birdman” was nominated for Best Director and Best Picture.
While there was no shortage of controversy surrounding Clint Eastwood’s immensely successful and Best Picture nominated “American Sniper,” the quality of the cinematic achievement and acting roles cannot be denied.
Lead actor Bradley Cooper, nominated for Best Actor, shined as the confident and conflicted Navy SEAL Chris Kyle as he endures four tours in Afghanistan and Iraq and struggles to fit back in when he comes home. Cooper’s portrayal of Kyle was remarkable and his work to bulk up and really get into Kyle’s mindset is clear to viewers.
Sienna Miller also deserves praise for her role as Kyle’s wife Taya, who struggles with how Kyle changes after enlisting and wrestles with the man he has become. Additionally, the technical work in this movie was executed to near perfection and deserves to be rewarded. Overall, Mr. Eastwood has a good shot of taking home an Oscar this weekend.