I was just reading in the newspaper about how no one really cares about watching the Academy Awards anymore and that the winners are all so predictable and the nominee choices are sexist and without diversity. Has the Oscars grown old, stale, and out of touch with society? Perhaps so. I’m not exactly sure why I still watch the entire drawn-out broadcast each year, but I guess I still enjoy the hubbub over the year’s best films and discussing films of interesting substance. And though the Best Picture nominees this year might be filled with predominantly white, male protagonists, the films offer quite an array of subject matter. Similar to a good book, I like how the best films can transport one to a place or situation that is not our own and draw us into remarkable stories. The list below is of the nominated films I’ve seen over the past months in the order of when I saw them.
“Begin Again” I loved this little movie about a singer-songwriter in New York who collaborates on an album with a disgraced music executive. It’s by same writer and director as the movie “Once,” whose story also captured the magic of music. Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley shine in “Begin Again,” and I can’t believe Knightley actually sings the songs for the movie. That takes guts. The film is nominated for Best Original Song for its tune “Lost Stars” and I’m hoping it will win.
“Gone Girl” This film adaptation did a great job replicating the suspense and creepiness of the popular suspense novel by Gillian Flynn. Kudos to the filmmakers and to Ben Afflect and Rosamund Pike for getting the flawed Nick and Amy so right. Pike is nominated for Best Actress, deservedly so. I’m just a bit worried she’ll be forever typecast in my mind as the diabolical Amy no matter what roles she takes on next. “Gone Girl” received 1 nomination for Best Actress.
“Interstellar” Funny, I didn’t like director Christopher Nolan’s other film “Inception,” but I thoroughly enjoyed this time puzzle story about a group of astronauts who travel through a wormhole in outer space. The film is thought-provoking and elegantly shot with some cool special effects too. My husband and I thought it much better than the prior Oscar space flick “Gravity.” “Interstellar” is up for 5 Oscars: Original Score, Production Design, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Visual Effects, and I’m hoping it’s going to win a couple.
“Birdman” I loved this clever black-comedy film about a washed up actor who tries to revive his career by staging a Broadway play. There’s a lot of cool actors and performances in this. And along with “The Imitation Game,” “Birdman” was my favorite film of the year. It’s up for 9 nominations: Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Picture, Best Cinematography, Best Director, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Best Original Screenplay. I particularly want it to win for Screenplay, if not also for Best Picture.
“The Imitation Game” Another favorite film of the year for me. What an amazing story! About a team of mathematicians, including Alan Turing, that break the Nazis’ Enigma Code during WWII. Benedict Cumberbatch is terrific as Turing and any other year would likely win Best Actor. But I’m a bit afraid that he and the film will be snubbed out of many awards because much of the attention seems elsewhere. “The Imitation Game” is nominated for 8 Oscars: Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Picture, Best Director, Film Editing, Original Score, Production Design, and Adapted Screenplay.
“Unbroken” This film based on Laura Hillenbrand’s bestselling book about Louis Zamperini’s life, primarily in a Japanese prisoner of war camp during WWII, wasn’t nearly as good as the book but did have compelling parts to it. I’m a bit surprised it was snubbed in nominations, receiving only three: Cinematography, Sounds Editing and Sound Mixing. It wasn’t even nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay which was done by the Coen brothers. But perhaps it’ll win for Cinematography.
“Boyhood” I saw this nearly three hour film on pay-per-view TV. Much has been talked about how it was filmed over 12 years. It’s pretty down to earth but it surprisingly engaged me even though it’s simply a look into the life of a family and particularly of a boy’s growing up. The family doesn’t have a lot of money and struggles through the mom’s relationships and divorces; it ends once the boy gets to college. “Boyhood” comes off feeling quite real, which interested me. I didn’t find it my favorite but I know many others think it should win Best Picture. Patricia Arquette is expected to win for her role as the mother. It’s up for 6 nominations: Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Picture, Best Director, Film Editing and Original Screenplay.
“Wild” Based on the bestselling book by Cheryl Strayed, this film, about a woman trying to overcome her grief over the death of her mother and the end of her marriage by walking the Pacific Coast trail, seemed to live up to the book. It has some solid performances along with a scenery that’s tough to beat. It’s up for 2 nominations: Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. Hooray for the return of Laura Dern.
“The Judge” I saw this film recently on pay-per-view TV. It’s about a son who returns to his hometown to defend his father, a judge, against a murder charge. I like Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall but this film has irksome characters that didn’t really resonate with me. Though there was a sad sense of a family’s missed opportunities which came through. It’s up for 1 nomination: Best Supporting Actor for Robert Duvall’s performance, who last won an Oscar for “Tender Mercies” in 1983.
“Selma” I was geared up to see this film about civil rights icon Martin Luther King’s campaign for equal voting rights in Alabama in 1965. It’s a moving, interesting account though I did find the actual footage of the march in Selma, which is included at the end, even more so and could’ve watched more of that. I was surprised that actor David Oyelowo who plays King didn’t receive a Best Actor nomination. The film did get 2 nominations: Best Picture and Original Song.
“American Sniper” I’ll be interested to see if this film receives any Oscars as there’s been considerable controversy swirling about it, as well as the ongoing murder trial of its protagonist. I recently reviewed the book and movie, see the post below. I’m not sure it will win any awards though it already won at the box office, becoming the top war movie of all time. It’s a stunning feat for sure. “American Sniper” is up for 6 nominations: Best Actor, Best Picture, Film Editing, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Adapted Screenplay.
“Theory of Everything” This film, about the life and struggles of physicist Stephen Hawking and his wife, grew on me as it went along and I ended up liking it quite a lot. It had great performances by Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne and I’m glad I didn’t pass up seeing it, which I almost did. It’s perhaps the sleeper hit of the year and is up for 5 nominations: Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Picture, Original Score, and Adapted Screenplay.
“Still Alice” This film is based on Lisa Genova’s bestselling book, which I reviewed in January about a successful woman who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s at age 50. It’s sad but also thought-provoking. Julianne Moore is considered a shoe-in for Best Actress. I found her performance quite good but perhaps no more extraordinary than others in her category. Though she gave the role a realness and dignity which I hope will succeed in bringing more attention to sufferers of Alzheimer’s. “Still Alice” is up for 1 nomination: Best Actress.
“Nightcrawler” I watched this crime thriller about a freaky L.A. crime-accident TV cameraman Friday on pay-per-view TV. Wow is this dark and creepy. Jake Gyllenhaal plays weirdo roles so well. I recall the other dark role he played in “Enemy” in which he portrays a professor and a look-alike man who he pursues. Strange. This film too is disturbing — but well worth a Friday night rental. Hooray, too, for the return of Rene Russo. “Nightcrawler” is up for 1 nomination: Original Screenplay.
So far these are the nominated films I’ve seen. 14 in all. I was going to see “Foxcatcher” starring Steve Carell, Chatum Tanning, and Mark Ruffalo but I never made it there. It looks like a good rental for later. Anyways, what were your favorite films or performances of the year? And do you think you’ll watch the Academy Awards?