Are They Worthy Part 3, The Rest of Them. Oscar Ready

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.

For more from this author, go to: and order his gripping novel, In The Sanctity of Revenge



Yeah, I know they don’t say that, but I like it. It’s true. The one who gets the statue is the winner. The others lose. That’s not to say they’re ‘losers’. It doesn’t mean they’ve lost at life, that they’re failures. Hell, they’re doing what they love and they’re doing it well enough to get the attention of their peers to the point that they are selected to be in the elite club that is the Oscar Nominees. You are a professional success in my book if you’ve accomplished that. But if they don’t win, they, by definition, lost. That’s just how it goes.

In any event, I like to watch the Oscars. I like to try to guess who will win. I love, like everyone else and I don’t know why, the In Memorium segment in which all the people who’ve died between last year’s telecast and this year’s are honored with sad music and a string of fade up-fade out headshots, the very notables honored with a small clip.   But in order to really enjoy the Academy Awards, you have to have seen some movies. I liked watching the show when I was a kid too, but I hated that Amadeus or Terms of Endearment were up for Best Picture when I would’ve much rather have seen Goonies or Temple of Doom up for the award.

Well, I’ve grown up now and my tastes have, if not changed, expanded. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing better than a good Indiana Jones adventure, but I don’t mind the subtle genius of a movie like The Skeleton Twins. I’m disappointed that neither Kristen Wiig nor Bill Hader was nominated for their roles in that film. Both proved that they are so much more than comedic actors. They are Actors. Much as MacGruber proved the same in last year’s fantastic film Nebraska. See it if you haven’t.

As a result of my expanded tastes, I like to try to see as many of the Best Picture nominated movies as I can before the awards telecast. This year, I’m way behind. At the time they were announced last week, I hadn’t seen any of them. So I started this weekend with the first two: Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel and Boyhood.

If you’ve never seen a Wes Anderson film, you’re missing out. He has a style such that you know immediately that you are watching a Wes Anderson film, a style that elicits an either ‘love him’ or ‘hate him’ response from moviegoers. It seems to me that he composes each scene as a still photograph then lets the action take place within that picture. It is a beautiful way of making a film. The camera isn’t just there to capture the actors; it is truly painting a picture.

As far as what’s going on within those pictures, well ‘quirky’ is an understatement. The characters are refreshingly unique and often odd. The people inhabiting The Grand Budapest Hotel are no exception. In fact, they are among the most likeable of any in a Wes Anderson movie. The script is tight and funny and well paced. It was a fun movie to watch. I loved it. It certainly deserves to be nominated for Best Picture. I’ll reserve my opinion as to whether or not it should win after I’ve seen all the nominees.

Boyhood is the exact opposite of The Grand Budapest Hotel. Boyhood was filmed over the course of 12 years using the same cast. That’s a neat idea. We see the main character grow up before our eyes without substituting some unknown kid whom kind of looks like the star to play the role of ‘Young Main Character’. In this case, when the movie begins, Ellar Coltrane who portrays the protagonist, Mason, is a little boy. By the end of the film, Ellar Coltrane the actor, is a grown-man same as the character Mason he’s portraying. It’s neat to see him and the other child actors grow and age as the film goes along.

The scenes with Ethan Hawke are good. I like Ethan Hawke. I think he’s a good actor, and he takes on these experimental roles (Before Sunrise for example) and he delivers. The problem with Boyhood is, he’s the only one. It felt like a student film when Hawke wasn’t on the screen. Even veteran actor Patricia Arquette comes across as stiff and unbelievable as does the rest of the cast.

Not only did shooting meander, but so too does the script, and that is not a good thing. It feels as if writer/director Richard Linklater kept rewriting and refining and changing the script to the point that one scene felt as if it had no relation to the previous scene, even if they were shot within the same time period. It was all over the place.

And as far as the experimental, and brave, approach of shooting one film over the course of twelve years, it didn’t work, at least not in this film. I’d like to see it tried again with a better script and with better execution. It was an okay movie. About an hour longer than it should’ve been. Did I like it? Yeah, overall it was enjoyable. Best Picture though? Not a chance. If Selma, American Sniper, Whiplash or Birdman are as good as people are saying, or even come close to being as good as The Grand Budapest Hotel, Boyhood doesn’t stand a chance. It’s an okay movie. It is not the Best Picture of the year.

I’m going to try to get to the rest of the nominated films between now and the big night. I will post my thoughts throughout. What do you think of these two films? Am I wrong about Boyhood? Let me know.