Last year I found myself in the surprising position of having viewed most of the films nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards through my own free will, lured only by their marketing campaigns and my general interest. This year when the Academy dropped their nominations I hadn’t even seen half of their choices because the Academy is always fucking up. But I rallied and I watched every damn one of these movies. None is better than The Raid 2. Even the worst of these wasn’t as bad as Jupiter Ascending.
Is Clint Eastwood lazy or incompetent? I ask this since I don’t know myself, and maybe someone who has worked on his films in the last ten years can educate me. American Sniper neither enraged me nor challenged me to think, and instead joined the long list of late era Clint Eastwood directing jobs where the camera just gets propped up in the corner and the acting is wooden and indifferent. Bradley Cooper is actually pretty good but he’s surrounded by a bunch of nothing. The action scenes have no rhythm or intensity and feel half speed. The supporting cast is Gran Torino level skilled, so you have scenes where a soldier learns one of his buddies was killed and he bellows “Fuck!” the same way you or I would when you forgot to buy pretzel bread at the store and have to use regular bread for your sandwiches for lunch all week. I’ve made some noise online about the fake baby in this movie and it fits with the laziness of everything else. There is a baby whine placed over every scene with the infant but it’s so haphazardly applied to the soundtrack that it only draws attention to this fake fake baby. Most importantly, Eastwood doesn’t even make the disgusting, rah rah America “God I love the military” movie that so many places have made this movie out to be. Cooper’s Chris Kyle is clearly tormented by the horrors of war and has some PTSD but he doesn’t at all seem excited to be killing anyone. Instead it just becomes a rotation of Kyle going war, coming back, going back to war, again and again. It’s like the second half of The Hurt Locker, which is the part that no one likes of The Hurt Locker. The best part of the whole movie is when we see that the enemy sniper who has been gunning down American soldiers spends his free time SPINNING BULLETS ON HIS KITCHEN TABLE. This movie couldn have used more of that bullshit.
I have been more than forthcoming with my thoughts on Birdman. It’s pretentious and masturbatory, it attacks low hanging fruit and strawmen, and it isn’t even funny. People have told me that it isn’t supposed to be funny but tell that to all the marketing that says it’s comedy. I will admit that after sitting through some of these other stinkers, at least Birdman is attempting to be visually compelling, even if that very attempt is another misfire.
Boyhood is wonderful film. Beyond not feeling like a stunt it nails the way that our parents can mold us and influence us and try to make us good people but we still become who we are all on our own. I know my dad didn’t intend for me to write snarky shit about movies online but here we are.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is another fine Wes Anderson production and his first best picture nomination because it references World War 2. It also has the saddest ending of an Anderson film, unless you count the sadness you feel after sitting through Darjeeling Limited and thinking “They literally threw the metaphor off the back of the train? Fuckkkkkk thissssss.”
Listen, actors got tricks and skills and some guys can do a lot and some guys can do a couple things. But after sitting through The Imitation Game I dunno if Benedict Cumberbatch has that much to offer us as an actor. I’d love to see this guy not play an introverted genius with bad social skills. Imagine him playing a party planner who gets along with everyone? I’m gonna say it, BC needs to do a romantic comedy where him and Jennifer Garner don’t get along but keep meeting on transatlantic flights and arguing over who gets the aisle seat. The rest of The Imitation Game is standard biopic business, and considering it comes from the guy who did Headhunters, it is a total disappointment. It’s the kind of movie that social studies teachers will make the class watch on half days.
I was genuinely moved by Selma. By focusing on one particular moment in history instead of trying to summarize a historical figure’s entire life, Selma manages to create nuance and suspense around a well known event in the cause of civil rights and make Martin Luther King Jr. a real guy and not some awards beacon. David Oyelowo’s performance is perfectly level, playing a man instead of icon. He felt like a real guy who was trying to figure all this shit out and genuinely worrying about failing. Also, despite having Common in a prominent role, this movie is great. First time for everything!
I’m going to repeat a joke I made about The Theory of Everything right after I watched it the other day: “We all know that Stephen Hawking is more than his disease. What this movie presupposes is, what if he isn’t?” Theory is as Oscarbaity as they come. Even more than The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything will become a threat amongst tenth grade English teachers and their students. “If this class doesn’t behave I’ll make you sit through that Stephen Hawking movie.” “No, teacher! We promise to behave. Please give us a test!” Theory of Everything has two(!) scenes where we watch someone stock a bookstore window with copies of Stephen Hawking’s new book. What is the book about? Who cares? Stephen Hawking still has a working dick! That is the lesson of this movie as Hawking’s wife says “Look what we did” as their three children run around a fountain. I’ve never even heard of Stephen Hawking’s kids! I do know that he’s been on The Simpsons and Star Trek: The Next Generation which this movie never mentions because it is too busy being lame as fuck. Also Eddie Redmayne should be in movie jail for Jupiter Ascending, not up for awards. Get your head out of your ass, Academy.
Whiplash is fire, is flames, is greatness. J.K. Simmons is a monster and his monstrousness consumes Miles Teller to the point where instead of being repulsed by the monster he wants to be him. Still the greatest finale of any of the nominees and the best delivery of “Fuck you.” in cinema for the year 2014.
It doesn’t matter who wins this year, just like it didn’t matter last year. SPRING BREAK FOREVERRRRRRRRRRRRRR.