Saturday, February 21, 2015

My Oscar Picks


Best Picture

1. Boyhood

2. The Imitation Game

3. Theory of Everything

4. American Sniper

5. Birdman

6. Whiplash

7. The Grand Budapest Hotel

8. Selma

To me there’s a clear top four and a clear bottom four. Other than that, they are difficult to rank. Boyhood is not only amazing and moving, but it is so incredibly unique, and the concept of filming it for 12 years allowed more character connection than I’ve ever felt. The Imitation Game and Theory of Everything are biopics led by some incredible performances. Remayne’s performance might mildly outdo Cumberbatch’s, but the overall story in The Imitation Game is so crisp that time just flies by. Theory of Everything is an emotional rollercoaster, and Eddie Remayne and Felicity Jones own the screen. American Sniper is a difficult watch, but one of the truest depictions of modern war and PTSD that has ever hit the screen. Birdman oscillated between amazing and too pretentious for its own good, ultimately giving us a movie more memorable for its performances from Keaton, Norton, and Stone than for the film itself. Whiplash is a wonderful artistic achievement that involves you heavily in two characters, but ultimately the abusive teacher and the self-absorbed student are hard to root for, even if JK Simmons and Miles Teller play their parts nearly perfectly. The Grand Budapest Hotel was loads of fun, but although I’m a self-professed Wes Anderson fanboy, the movie didn’t scream “Best Picture” to me, and its nomination is probably more of a tip of the cap to Anderson than the film itself. Selma was a good presentation of a historical moment in time, but the movie gives you little to care about character-wise.

Other notes: Interstellar would have placed 4th on this list if it had been nominated. Not sure why it didn’t even get a nomination when Gravity nearly won last year. Other movies that I have higher rated than the bottom four nominees this year include The Boxtrolls (nominated as Best Animated Film), Edge of Tomorrow, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and Chef.

Best Actor


1. Eddie Redmayne (Theory of Everything)

2. Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game)

3. Bradley Cooper (American Sniper)

4. Michael Keaton (Birdman)

Did Not See: Steve Carrell (Foxcatcher)

This is an incredible group and very good nominations. I mean, Keaton was so strong and I have him way down at #4. Cooper owned the screen as Chris Kyle, and he still falls short of Redmayne and Cumberbatch, who had more difficult roles to play and similarly owned them.

Best Actress

1. Felicity Jones (Theory of Everything)

Did Not See: Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night), Reese Witherspoon (Wild), Julianne Moore (Still Alice), Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)

Odd number of nominations for movies that weren’t very well-reviewed. Not a fair category for me to evaluate, but I will give massive props to Felicity Jones in Theory of Everything, who created one of the more sympathetic and conflicted characters I can remember.

Best Supporting Actor


1. Edward Norton (Birdman)

2. J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)

3. Ethan Hawke (Boyhood)

Did Not See: Robert Duvall (The Judge), Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher)

I think Shia LeBeouf got snubbed as a Best Supporting Actor for Fury, most likely because he’s out of favor in Hollywood and Fury overall disappointed, but he was riveting in his role. Edward Norton was irritating, but was so excellently and memorably irritating, in Birdman. J.K. Simmons might just win though, and this will be the moment when he stops being just “the dad from Juno”. Ethan Hawke was great, but Boyhood was more about the script and the directing than any singular performance.

Best Supporting Actress


1. Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game)

2. Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)

3. Emma Stone (Birdman)

4. Meryl Streep (Into the Woods)

Did Not See: Laura Dern (Wild)

Not a very strong field. Keira Knightley is my easy winner here for what she brought to The Imitation Game. Without her, Cumberbatch’s performance would not have been as good. Arquette was good (and better than Hawke), but the same thing applies here in that Boyhood was not about any individual performance. Emma Stone was little more than a crazed wreck. Don’t understand the nomination unless they ran out of people. And Meryl Streep for Into the Woods? Come on. She was fun, but her nomination is entirely because she’s Meryl Streep, who flat owns other movies but not this one. Heck, she wasn’t even as good as Angelina Jolie in Maleficent. With a field this weak I’d have at least considered Anne Hathaway for Interstellar or even Sienna Miller from American Sniper to fill out the bottom half of the list.

Other notes: I’ll be very disappointed if Boyhood doesn’t win for Best Director or Original Screenplay if it doesn’t win Best Picture. Yes, many were disappointed The Lego Movie didn’t get nominated for Best Animated Film, but did you see The Boxtrolls? Another wonderful animated film from the creators of Coraline and Paranorman. I didn’t see all the nominations, but Birdman had some very interesting Cinematography, as did The Grand Budapest Hotel. Hey, maybe Interstellar can win for Best Visual Effects. Some good nominees for Original Score, including double nomination for Alexandre Desplat (The imitation Game/The Grand Budapest Hotel). Johann Johannsson was noticeably good in The Theory of Everything. To me it’s between Johannsson and Desplat for The Imitation Game. American Sniper might deserve an Adapted Screenplay win for turning a recently written biography where the author dies mid-filming and still creating such an engaging film, but it’s hard category to give fair judgment to without having read the books as well, and that’s a lot to ask! I wonder if Sandra Adair winning Best Film Editing for Boyhood is the biggest shoo-in of all the categories, considering she had to edit 12 years of filming.


Complete Movie List from Past Year

2 Feb 2014



Captivating. Created a whole strange, believable world. Amazing Phoenix performance.

9 Feb 2014

Dallas Buyers Club


A difficult watch by design, but very good. McConaughey is amazing once again this year.

23 Feb 2014

What Maisie Knew


A nice, rewarding drama if you’re willing to wade through the wreckage

24 Feb 2014



Surprisingly great movie, with touching and thoughtful performances from Dench/Coogan

26 Feb 2014



Subtlety touching and funny. Although good, didn’t see “Best Picture” in it anywhere.

27 Feb 2014

Blue Jasmine


A real dud that tries to make us pity a criminal’s naïve and drug-addled wife

25 Mar 2014



Pure throwback Disney magic, but dare I complain about plot holes in a movie like this?

29 Mar 2014

The Station Agent


Superb characters and script. Peter Dinklage flashes the talent everyone knows about now.

30 Mar 2014

The Well-Digger’s Daughter


Great period piece and wonderful setting. And I now love Astrid Berges-Frisbey.

30 Mar 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel


Very fun, but definitely pales next to Wes Anderson’s previous two films.

5 Apr 2014

The Angel’s Share


Scottish setting and a lead you want to root for, but the crime makes it less satisfying

20 Apr 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier


Really fun movie uses Rogers/Capt America as lead for what’s more of a SHIELD movie

25 Apr 2014

Thor: The Dark World


Good as always, but likely forgettable over time. Did enjoy Loki/Thor conflict.

11 May 2014

Into the White


A very nice—albeit fairly tame—WWII film that makes the most out of 5 enemies in a cabin

16 May 2014

Super Troopers


This movie really is funny. First half stronger than second, but it has staying power.

17 May 2014



How a heartwarming movie should be done. Excellent job by Favreau/Vergara/Leguizamo.

26 May 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past


An amazing addition to great series. More character-based, but this is a strength.

30 May 2014



A little inconsistent but pleasant, and Jolie carries it while it doesn’t overstay its welcome.

6 Jun 2014

The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug


There was a little more magic in this one. Only held back by lack of ending/overuse of CGI.

7 Jun 2014

Double Indemnity


Expected more out of AFI #38. Setting and style stand out, but story not memorable.

7 Jun 2014

Edge of Tomorrow


Outstanding film, well-paced. Cruise can nail these sci-fi roles (Minority Report, Oblivion).

14 Jun 2014



Surprisingly well-done film restrains itself, only occasionally overstepping into sappy

19 Jun 2014

The Astronaut Farmer


Corny, cliché, and implausible throughout, but still pleasant in a Hallmark sort of way

22 Jun 2014

22 Jump Street


Definitely as funny as the first, and uses self-awareness as an effective comic tool

23 Jun 2014

Raging Bull


A dark movie with amazing DeNiro performance. One that sticks with you.

4 July 2014

2 Guns


Basically just preposterous fun, but Denzel and Wahlberg make for a good team at that.

9 July 2014

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty


There was something good in there wasted in a sea of over-the-top product placement

25 July 2014



Easiest 4-star in a while. Movie is groundbreaking and perfect and moving and awesome.

9 Aug 2014

The Fisher King


Well-done heartfelt movie follows Bridges and Williams as they cope with their scars

21 Aug 2014

The Railway Man


Hard to watch, but successful when focus is either in past or when Lomax faces Nagase.

23 Aug 2014



A lot of wasted potential by trying to fit too much in. Plenty to like, but no Hunger Games.

27 Aug 2014

Grapes of Wrath


Fonda/Ma are dynamite and the movie has fascinating pre-WWII communist leanings

4 Sep 2014

On Golden Pond


Fonda overplays his hand, and while Hepburn is fantastic, the movie is too Lifetime-y

13 Sep 2014

Robot & Frank


Wonderfully odd and moving. At its best when it’s just Langella and his robot friend.

2 Oct 2014

The Boxtrolls


Another great one from makers of Coraline/Paranorman. Fun and original.

11 Oct 2014

The General


Silent picture keeps attention beyond just watching for history. The bridge scene was cool.

18 Oct 2014

A Long Way Down


Only Toni Collette’s performance is worthwhile. The definition of contrived.

19 Oct 2014

The Lincoln Lawyer


Where McConaughey’s resurgence began. Gripping, cool drama that keeps you guessing.

23 Oct 2014

Frozen Ground


Engaging but I’m guessing forgettable. Cage is excellent, but other characters undeveloped.

24 Oct 2014

Birdman (Or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)


Heavy and thought-provoking, though it’s a bit over-the-top pretentious for its own good

1 Nov 2014

Cloud Atlas


Watching this without reading the book is a nightmare, but it’s still very well done.

7 Nov 2014



Well-done film that’s relentlessly heavy and bleak. Supporting Actor nom for Shia LeBouf?

21 Nov 2014



Nolan does it again. Three hours sail by, held by McConaughey’s rock star performance.

29 Nov 2014

Stand By Me


A great adventure, carried by River Phoenix, a beautiful setting, and a great script.

12 Dec 2014

Hunger Games: Catching Fire Pt 1


Well-done, more character-focused. Naturally held back by having no real ending.

26 Dec 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy


Fun, but I was expecting it to be a lot more engaging. Barely any humanity, just goofiness.

2 Jan 2015

In Your Eyes


I can deal with the unbelievable concept, but not the unbelievable characters.

4 Jan 2015



War at its realest. Documentary is hard to watch at times, but excellently done.

8 Jan 2015



The premise is too much, and the will-he-won’t-he scenario distracts from everything else.

8 Jan 2015

The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies


Nice to have a conclusion, though best parts were most human, and most parts weren’t.

15 Jan 2015

The Imitation Game


Cumberbatch/Knightley are superb and the movie whisks by. Gripping and emotional.

16 Jan 2015

American Sniper


A tale of modern war and PTSD, and a stunning homage to Kyle. Cooper is riveting.

24 Jan 2015

Trip to Italy


It’s not that it’s poor, it’s just that it falls flat compared to the first.

30 Jan 2015

Into the Woods


Musical did nothing for me, but the movie was funny. Chris Pine hilarious as a prince.

31 Jan 2015

The Interview


It’s not “good” but I’d be lying if I didn’t laugh, and I do respect what it was doing.

6 Feb 2015



Teller & Simmons are powerhouses. They just own the screen. Uncomfortable yet good.

6 Feb 2015



Oyelowo as MLK will get deserved attention. Movie benefits from its narrower focus.

12 Feb 2015

The Iron Lady


More a great performance from Streep than a great movie.

13 Feb 2015

Theory of Everything


Just an outstanding film. Redmayn e’s performance is incredible, and Jones not far behind.