Selma

Oscars 2015 – My Picks

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Last year was the first year I actually watched all of the Best Picture nominees before the Oscars aired, and I really enjoyed having an opinion on who I thought would take home awards. Not only that, but I was right about most of the awards. This year is much harder though. I think the categories are much tighter, and it’s definitely going to be harder to pick the winners for the major categories. Adding to that, this year the Actress categories are much more spread out, and I haven’t had enough time to see all of those performances. But I will do my best based on what I do know, and then we’ll see who actually wins Sunday night!

Patricia ArquetteBest Actress in a Supporting Role

Patricia Arquette
Laura Dern
Keira Knightley
Meryl Streep
Emma Stone

I have not seen Wild, so I can’t speak for Laura Dern’s performance, though I do know she’s a great actress.  While I love Emma Stone, I don’t really feel that her performance stands out as deserving of this award over the other women in this category. However, I really think this award belongs to Patricia Arquette. I thought she was one of the best performances in Boyhood and one of my favorite parts of the film. I will be really disappointed if this award goes to anyone else.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Robert Duvall
Ethan Hawke
Edward Norton
Mark Ruffalo
J.K. Simmons

This category is a really hard one to choose from, as all are terrific actors who gave great performances. In my opinion Duvall is probably the only one I’m sure won’t win – not because his performance was lacking in any way, but because I just think the other four have a really high chance of winning and it’s hard to pick a best between them. However, my favorite by far is J.K. Simmons. He was absolutely fantastic in Whiplash. He’s my pick to win, though I think you could also make a really strong argument for any of the others.

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Marion Cotillard
Felicity Jones
Julianne Moore
Rosamund Pike
Reese Witherspoon

This is another hard category, but this time because I haven’t yet seen three of the five performances being nominated (I hadn’t even heard of Two Days, One Night before the nominations came out). However, I think we can cross Rosamund Pike off the list of likely winners; like with Duvall above, she gave an excellent performance but I think the others are probably more likely candidates. While I loved Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything and think she’s very deserving of an award, I suspect this one may go to Julianne Moore.

Michael KeatonBest Actor in a Leading Role

Steve Carrell
Bradley Cooper
Benedict Cumberbatch
Michael Keaton 
Eddie Redmayne

I might as well just start every category off with “This is a really hard one…” because they all are. Again, all the performances in this category were excellent. I’m slightly biased towards Benedict Cumberbatch because I love him, as well as Bradley Cooper (who did give his best performance to date) but I suspect neither will win this one. Steve Carrell gave a fine performance in Foxcatcher, but I just don’t think it’s one that stands up against some of the others in the category. While Birdman wasn’t my favorite of the nominees, Michael Keaton gave a fantastic performance and I think this is his year.

Best Directing

Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman)
Richard Linklater (Boyhood)
Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher)
Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game)

I honestly don’t know who is going to win this category and I hesitate to pick one name. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be either Alejandro G. Iñárritu or Richard Linklater because their films felt the most original and innovative of this year’s nominees. I loved the concept and execution of filming over twelve years, to show the actors actually aging and I loved the way Birdman felt like one fluid shot through the whole film – though I suppose that speaks more to the cinematography than directing. If I had to pick one I would go with Linklater here, but I definitely could be wrong.

Still7.JPGBest Picture

Whiplash
The Theory of Everything
The Imitation Game
Selma
American Sniper
Boyhood
Birdman
The Grand Budapest Hotel

Last year when I walked out of the theater after seeing 12 Years a Slave I was certain that film deserved to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. I never once doubted that it deserved it, or that it would win. There is no clear front-runner in my mind this year. I know who will likely win based on reviews and other evidence, but I’m not sure any film is a clear winner for me. Whiplash is by far my favorite, and I think it’s one of the best in the category even though I don’t think it will win. And American Sniper stuck in my head longer than any of the other films, but part of that is due to the controversy it raised.

Judging from the evidence I’ve seen so far, I suspect this category will come down to either Boyhood or Birdman. Both were original stories told in unique ways, and even though neither one was a film I particularly loved, I see why they made it into the category. While I easily could be wrong, I am going to pick Boyhood as the winner this year because I think the story and the film itself resonates with a wider audience than Birdman. 

So there you have it, my picks for this years Academy Awards. I’ll be tuning in Sunday night to see how many (if any) I chose correctly.

Best Picture Nominee: Selma

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Selma PosterCast:
David Oyelowo
Carmen Ejogo
Tom Wilkinson

Selma tells the story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s time in the small Alabama town, and the struggle to get equal voting rights for African Americans following the Civil Rights act.

This film is a hard one to review, because I don’t want to offend anyone and I know the subject of Selma’s nominations is controversial enough since it didn’t receive any acting or directing nominations. I believe this is a powerful film, and an important one. Every person in America should see Selma and be reminded of where we came from, and how we really should be much further along today than we are. We’ve come a long way, but as recent events in Ferguson and elsewhere in the country have proven, we still have a long way to go. Selma does an excellent job of making the figures in the Civil Rights struggle real and human, and the performances every actor gives is outstanding. It really is a great film.

However, I’m not sure it’s a Best Picture. While the writing and the acting were terrific, there were a lot of technical aspects to the film that really bothered me. There were some interesting choices being made for camera angles which worked in some cases but in others just felt like bad composition, or like the actors weren’t making their marks. There were also a lot of scenes where the lighting didn’t seem right at all – I hate when films try to use less lighting for nighttime scenes and it just ends up making it hard to see what’s going on.

In addition to those aspects, the subtitles taken from FBI records were distracting and annoying, at least for me. I understand the point they were trying to make – to highlight the extent of FBI surveillance on Dr. King and his associates – but every time they popped up on screen it took me out of the film entirely. They distracted me from what was going on, instead of enhancing the onscreen action. Perhaps if they had faded to black then put the text up as part of the transition, or just something different it would have worked better.

While I really thought Selma was a good movie, and in many ways I enjoyed it more than Birdman, Grand Budapest Hotel, or Boyhood, I just don’t think it stands up to the rest of the films in the category. While I may not have enjoyed the other three I just mentioned as much as Selma, I do believe they were more creative and original. I feel the same way about American Sniper. Both are good films which I would recommend to anyone, but they don’t really take any chances or stand out from the crowd as far as cinematography goes. Selma was a little more original than American Sniper – and would likely have a better chance at winning than Sniper – but neither one will be taking home that trophy.

Rating: 8.5

Favorite Moment: There was a scene where, after the first attempt to march from Selma to Montgomery ends tragically a young man says he’s had enough and wants to gather up weapons to go back. He is told (by Andrew Young I believe, I never caught the character’s name in the movie, but looked him up on IMDb) that this not the answer, that it will only lead to even more lives lost. The actor playing Young (Andre Holland) delivers that speech so well, it’s possibly the most impressive performance aside from Oyelowo’s performance as Dr. King. 

Ranking: 

1. Whiplash
2. The Theory of Everything
3. The Imitation Game
4. Selma
5. American Sniper
6. Boyhood
7. Birdman
8. The Grand Budapest Hotel

Oscar Season is here!

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Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last 24 hours, you probably heard that the nominations for the 87th Academy Awards were announced yesterday.

Last year I watched all nine Best Picture nominees and had so much fun doing so, I decided to do it again. This year I’m also going to try to watch as many films from the other categories (particularly animated and documentary features) as I can as well.

from bbc.co.uk
bbc.co.uk

This year I’ve also been trying to pay more attention to the film industry in the months leading up to the nominations being announced, and I have to say I wasn’t surprised by any of the Best Picture nominees, with the possible exception of Whiplash, which I only heard of for the first time when J.K. Simmons won the Golden Globe Sunday night. I even managed to see The Imitation Game and The Grand Budapest Hotel  already, though I’m going to have to watch the latter again, as I was only half awake while I was watching it (it was during the middle of the night on a transatlantic flight).

There were a few I was surprised didn’t make the cut, particularly Foxcatcher, which managed to receive nominations for Supporting Actor, Lead Actor and Director, but didn’t get an actual Best Picture nomination. Part of me suspects that the Academy just couldn’t live with nominating a Channing Tatum film for an Oscar (and if so, I can’t say I blame them). Despite my general lack of interest in anything Tatum stars in, I do plan to see Foxcatcher, since it is up for the other three major awards.

I know there was a lot of outcry yesterday about the Academy not nominating The Lego Movie for Best Animated Feature. I have to be honest and say I don’t have a lot of opinion either way about that one in particular. I actually fell asleep in the middle of the movie. It was cute and fun, but I just didn’t love it as much as the rest of the world seems to. Maybe I missed something?

I would love to give you my early predictions, but I don’t feel qualified to speak on which will win since I’ve only seen two films so far. From what I’ve heard – and it’s success so far this award season – I think Boyhood stands a fairly good chance at taking home the Oscar, but I’ll be able to give a more definite opinion once I’ve seen everything else.

So watch this space over the coming months as I review all the Best Picture nominees and as many other nominated films as I can.