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Khushrenada's Annual Oscar Thread Tradition. 2015 style!

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--- Quote from: ShyGuy on January 21, 2015, 09:07:32 PM ---Nightcrawler needs to be on the list.

--- End quote ---

This. Fantastic movie. I think I may like it better than Whiplash.

I also think The Drop should be their as well, but I have yet to see all the nominees so maybe that is premature.

These are the movies released in 2014 that I've seen so far:

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
The LEGO Movie
The Monuments Men
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Veronica Mars
The Amazing Spiderman 2
Edge of Tomorrow
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Guardians of the Galaxy
Step Up: All In
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything
Gone Girl
American Sniper
Dumb and Dumber 2
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Prt 1
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

(Going through this list, I realize I saw all of them at the theatre except for Boyhood and Nonstop. Yay me.)

From that list, my own top ten all-around favorite movies of the year would be:

1. Whiplash
2. Nightcrawler
3. Guardians of the Galaxy
4. The Lego Movie
5. Selma
6. Gone Girl
7. The Grand Budapest Hotel
8. Veronica Mars
9. Step Up: All In
10. Dumb and Dumber 2

I actually saw Nightcrawler the week after I saw Whiplash which to me was the perfect follow-up. I was really on a movie high after that. Shame Gyllenhaal didn't get a Best Actor nod. He's been doing some good work lately and Nightcrawler might be his best yet. I realize it has its faults but I really dug it. While my choices may cause you to question my opinion when it comes to movies, we all have our own personal tastes and I know they're not for everyone but I enjoyed them.

Alright. Back to movie talk!

The Imitation Game - Of all the movies nominated, I just don't see myself watching this one again. There's just nothing about it that makes me feel compelled to see any part or scene again. It's enjoyable enough to pass a couple hours but to me there isn't much drama or tension to the story despite an obvious effort to make it more interesting. It reminds of me Argo which also just felt very manufactured in making its tension and action. Benedict Cumberbatch's performace is fine but I can't say there was anything noteworthy about it. I think he's given better performances in other works than this one. Keira Knightley was the brightest part of the film to me. In the end, I give it what might be the worst criticism a film can get by saying that it is just average and a little bland. It just didn't stand out to much to me and I find it rather forgettable.

The Theory of Everything - I rate this higher for it's beginning. As Stephen and Jane fall in love, it's romantically shot and full of life and vibrant. After the diagnosis and as Stephen begins to get less mobile, the film begins to be less interesting to watch. If it weren't for the performances of Redmayne and Jones, it wouldn't be that much different from a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie for the middle and end. Redmayne's performance is really quite brilliant the more I think about it. You do see him as Hawking and, as his condition grows worse from youth to how we see him now, he always comes across as natural. As I was watching the film, the thought came to me that this is sort of a poor man's "A Beautiful Mind" in that it has some very similar qualities and story progression. However, A Beautiful Mind is able to wrap up it's story much better. The Theory of Everything doesn't seem to have any clear ending besides the dissolving of the marriage. In that sense, their is a beginning, middle and end. It seems to search for something profound to wrap up the whole proceedings first with a dream of Hawking walking in perfect health again and then a quick flash-reverse though all sorts of moments and scenes from before. Neither really work and the movie just feels like it lacks any conclusion which I guess mimics Hawking's failure to have yet discovered a Theory of Everything and that quest still being unresolved.

The movie also explains a bit about Hawking's contributions and theories to science. It doesn't really delve that deep and tries to keep it simple enough for anyone watching to understand. It is sort of interesting to realize how new still some of our understandings are about time and space. It's easy to think these ideas have been around for a long time since we've grown up with them yet they were quite revolutionary and are still being debated, examined, and refined. In the end, based on it's performances and a great beginning I could see myself watching again, it's an above average movie but it is not always a cohesive whole. Parts are greater than its sum.

American Sniper

There's really not much to say about this film movie wise. It's an enjoyable movie. It's suspenseful, riveting at times, emotional, and generally well acted. I understand why it was nominated, but I honestly don't feel that attached to it. I don't find myself thinking about it like I do other movies. And maybe it's because they hammer in the same message over and over again, that there is little reason to think about the movie after you've seen it. And speaking of which, that message really never took hold, despite the many conversations about it, until this scene with a dog. It's brilliant, but they never do it again, and the message becomes verbal again.

Then there's the ending. I won't spoil it for you, but it was such a strange decision to end the way the did especially because of how visceral the film was till that point, that I think they weren't allowed to do it the way they wanted. Somebody had to say 'no', because this film would have been much better if it ended appropriately and it's a real shame.

I can stop thinking about that ending. It was so incredibly weak when it could have been controversial, shocking, but realistic. It really is a shame. And I think Clint Eastwood made the wrong decision (and I don't say that very often).


Birdman - This is a hard film for me to review. I'm pretty terrible at subtext. I don't always need things plainly explained to me. I've watched 2001: A Space Odyssey many times and even though it gives very little in the way of narrative or explanation, I love it. Yet, movies like Birdman frustrate me as I can't help but wonder if there was a message there I wasn't getting or one I'm supposed to make up on my own. It plays with reality which leaves questions of what is actually happening and what can you trust on screen which further obscures things for me. It's billed as a comedy but I hardly laughed and found it more dramatic. Yet, even with these negatives and question marks which brings my opinion down a bit on the movie, I fully acknowledge it as a brilliant piece of cinema.

The reasons for that are many. First of all, it has probably the best acting in any movie this year. Keaton, Norton, Stone, and all are terrific. One of the things I find most interesting about Keaton and Norton is that they are both playing characters and those characters then act as other characters in a play. You've got these complex roles and yet you can see them change a bit between when they're on stage and off stage. Even as they repeat scenes in the play at later times the performances are a bit different as they reflect the mood and emotions their character are in. At times, characters lie to one another through their acting. The movie should be watched by everyone on the master class of acting done in it.

In addition, the movie goes with the rare choice of making it look like one long continuous take or shot. It adds a bit more to some of the surrealness that can occur on screen and yet I also think it helps put us more in the main character's frame of mind. Time is marching forward. The pressure is building as he comes up to the opening day of his play and he has nowhere to escape or rest with his fear of the possibility of failure looming large. Since the camera and cinematography don't allow the audience to have any rests or breaks by never cutting or stopping, it helps convey some of that anxiety and intensifies the focus on these characters. On top of that, it gives the movie a bit of a hallucinatory feel when you think about the movie afterwards which again helps as we are sometimes shown what is possible imagination on the part of the main character. Add to that the musical score which consists of a lot of drumming which seems to convey signals of possible trouble or pressure and it all blends together quite well.

Finally, the movie is also full of ideas and statements about show business. When Keaton confronts a critic in a bar about criticism, with Birdman talking to him on the street about what people want in movies, the actor's desire to stay on top, be respected, to be big. There's a lot of scenes that crackle and a lot one could think and talk about from this movie. As I write this, I'm now wondering if I ranked it too low because there is just so much that is great about this movie. Yet, it can also be obtuse and maybe just a little too surreal for its own good that I know it will leave a lot of viewers confused, puzzled and unresolved which it did for me and that ultimately brought down my enjoyment of it when it was over making it a difficult movie for me to recommend and really love.


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