So of course, the boy and I have been clambering to cram in the rest of the Best Picture nominees before the awards tonight. Friday, we rented Birdman. Yesterday we saw The Imitation Game and Whiplash. Today, we rented The Theory of Everything and Selma. Here are my final thoughts on the rest of the nominees and stay tuned to the end for my pick for Best Picture.
Birdman. Artisitically brilliant. Heading into this weekend, this was my pick for Best Picture, but I still had so many more films to see, I couldn’t choose this one for sure. It flows like one continuous shot. Michael Keaton’s performance was fantastic. Edward Norton and Emma Stone lead a flawless cast of supporting characters. It is imaginative, poignant, touching. Great film.
The Imitation Game is a good movie. It is well-written, well-directed, and very well-acted. I liked it. It is a teaching moment for historical brilliance that aided the free-world’s defeat of Nazism during the 1930’s and 40’s as well as the past prejudices, oppression, and crimes agains homosexuals that today seem unimaginable but which in fact took place not all that long ago. As such, it is an important piece of filmmaking. A good movie. A solid movie. Certainly worth seeing.
The Theory of Everything. Another biopic of a genius. Great direction and cinematography, but it didn’t engage me the same way that the other films in the category did. With that said, Eddie Redmayne deserves the Best Actor Award for his performance here. He used his face, his body, his voice expertly. As good as Michael Keaton is in Birdman and as much as Bradley Cooper becomes Chris Kyle in American Sniper, Redmayne simply surpasses even those two great performances. The film though, not my choice for Best Picture.
Selma: The scene depicting the 16th street Baptist Church bombing that killed four little girls took us inside that church, showed us what the headlines and history books couldn’t begin to adequately describe. Continuing with this year’s theme of flawed heroes, Selma took an honest look at a great man at a pivotal time in the civil rights movement in America. The final scene is moving, inspiring, and stirring. The words of Dr. King resonate to this day. At the risk of being mistaken for criticizing the subject of the film, as with American Sniper, I will make my criticism of the film independent of my admiration for the man. It is a wonderful film, however, as with The Theory of Everything, it did not pull me in the way some of the other films did. Is this because of my age or my race? Maybe. I honestly don’t know.
Last, but certainly not least is Whiplash. I went into this movie expecting very little. I came out exhausted. WIthout revealing too much about the story, I can tell you that I held my breath through most of the final ten minutes of the film. I caught myself several times throughout the movie unconsciously clenching my fists with bated breath, on the edge because the filmmakers of Whiplash utilized the arts of music and filmmaking, cutting the film and manipulating drum tempo to build tension subtly throughout until at the very end you are taken to the point where you desperately want that release to come and… and… and… it doesn’t, at least not yet, so you wait as it builds more, and builds and builds and you wait for it… wait for it… wait for it… tension and release with no release until…
Well, I don’t want to ruin it for you. 🙂
I have never seen a film like Whiplash before. I’d never been so manipulated by a filmmaker in that way before. I don’t think I’ve been so energetically on edge while so engaged in a film before. It was written, edited, directed, acted, and scored perfectly. This film doesn’t have the social messages of Selma and The Imitation Game. It doesn’t have the stylistic beauty of The Grand Budapest Hotel and Birdman. It wasn’t experimental like Boyhood. It wasn’t about real life heroes like American Sniper, Selma, The Imitation Game, and The Theory of Everything. But what it was, was a true film-going experience, unique in how it grabs, holds, and shakes its audience, tossing it around, anticipating the landing so we can finally breathe that sigh of relief. It is a rare quality for a film to affect its audience so effectively, and isn’t that the point of films?
My choice, though I’m not sure it will be the Academy’s choice, for Best Picture this year is Whiplash. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and go. All these films are worth seeing. All will make you think. All have something to say. Whiplash will make you hold your breath.