Best Picture Short List Pt. 1

Each year, I have strived to see every film nominated for Best Picture before the Academy Awards so that I am able to accurately form an opinion as to which film deserves to win. Unfortunately, I have fallen short each year. In 2014, however, I got an early start by seeing Boyhood upon its initial release over the summer and have since made substantial progress. The official list of nominations has not yet been released but I have been monitoring predictions from Indiewire and Awards Circuit in order to make some guesses. I have written previously about Boyhood (still my pick for the winner) and Interstellar, but have also seen The Grand Budapest Hotel and Gone Girl, both of which I adored so much that it is difficult to actually convey my opinions in words. From a list of ten, I currently have three movies remaining (Unbroken, Foxcatcher, and Selma). I wanted to write a post in which I say just a few words about the three most recent potential nominees I have seen.

Birdman
Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Starring Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone

michael-keaton-flies-birdman-promoI liked this movie from the very beginning. The opening shot was weird and intriguing and the pacing kept me interested the entire time. There was an overarching sense of claustrophobia–which was only truly noticed when Keaton’s character finally emerged from the theater more than halfway into the movie–that was delivered in a way more effective than I’ve experienced with other films. Overall, Birdman was shot beautifully, it was strange and entertaining, but I ultimately just didn’t connect in a way that I did to the other films.

The Theory of Everything
Directed by James Marsh
Starring Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, David Thewlis _80152666_80152665 This was absolutely one of my favorite films of the year. Going into it, I had high expectations as I adore Eddie Redmayne and am endlessly interested in the life of Stephen Hawking. Initially, I knew that this was a film for me as I watched the scenes at Cambridge. This is a #studyspo film if I ever saw one and it made me wish that I could have been a man studying at Oxbridge in the 60s, wearing wool suits and cavorting around trying to make sense of things. What surprised me about the movie, though, was Jane Wilde’s story. I was unfamiliar with her life and left the theater feeling really humbled and inspired by her. The filmmakers and actors managed to tell a rather sad story about Hawking’s family without demonizing figures who could have been easy targets for judgment. Theory was a gorgeous, quiet little movie with an incredible soundtrack (by Johann Johannsson) and I highly recommend it to those with an interest in academia.

The Imitation Game
Directed by Morten Tyldum
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode the-imitation-gameMy thoughts on The Imitation Game are numerous. Going into it, I was convinced that this would be a close second favorite to Boyhood. While I did really enjoy the movie, I was slightly disappointed in the execution. I found myself wishing that the story had focused more on Alan Turing’s personal life and work as opposed to spending so much time on historical context which is clearly important but, honestly, a bit obvious. There were some grainy, old-timey shots of Hitler that I found a bit cliche and I found that the plot seemed to follow the typical trajectory of problem found, solution available, solution fails, problem solved, everyone cheers. That trajectory, however, was followed by twenty minutes of emotional exposition regarding Alan Turing’s personal demons—which is what I wanted from the beginning. I just felt as though the story had so many complex, interesting facets that it was impossible to truly do them justice. I will say that Benedict Cumberbatch was outstanding, but I was rather taken by Matthew Beard who gave a really compelling, albeit small, performance.

The BAFTA nominees are in and I’m so excited to see that they are being led by The Theory of Everything and The Grand Budapest Hotel. I think Theory, being a wholly British film, will take Best Picture in Britain but I am still set on the idea that Boyhood, a wholly American film, will win the Oscar.

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