This is entirely a personal opinion piece. Inevitably there will be some internal cheering and groaning for me this coming Sunday (February 22, 2015) and then life will go on. Speaking of personal opinions, the YouReviewers awards, where the nominations and winners were selected by a group of movie enthusiasts on YouTube. Many (though not all) of the reviewers give more thoughtful and intelligent reasons for liking or disliking films than some of the click bait reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes. The group of nominees contains a lot more variety than the Oscars. There are also a lot more interesting performances nominated than *some* of the acting nominees for the Oscars. There are plenty of big budget blockbusters that are outstanding films but not considered to be sophisticated enough for academy voters. There are also a couple of terrific smaller films that got limited releases, and the people with YouTube channels loved those films and helped spread the word about them. This article contains a link to the first part of their “ceremony.”
Anyway, this article will be a personal ranking of the nominees in various categories. If there are nominees that I have not seen the film, I will simply put n/a next to the particular person. I haven’t actually seen any of the nominees for best documentary feature, so that category will not appear in this article. There may be some spoilers.
1). “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
This film just keeps getting better and better on repeated viewings. The structure of the script and the cleverly absurd dialogue makes in thoroughly entertaining and intelligent from start to finish. Wes Anderson really used the ensemble cast quite well, whether actors had small or large parts in the film. The editing and music really ad to the humor, and the set design and cinematography really make the film visually amazing. The story itself is also very solid with plenty of twist and turns and subplots that enhanced rather than clashed with the main plot. This film is giving “Guardians of the Galaxy” a run for its money as for as most entertaining film of 2014 goes.
I missed this film when tit played at the Neon because of overtime at my day job and poor planning. Fortunately, it came to the “Little Art” in Yellow Springs last month. It was worth the drive over there even though I wasn’t feeling great that night and the weather was less than pleasant. The film is intense and entertaining from beginning to end. Watching J.K. Simmon’s Flether continually play minds games with Miles Teller’s Andrew Neiman, and push him to the edge throughout the film is not for the faint of heart. Watching Neiman practice to hard his hands literally drip with blood isn’t either. The music in the film is fantastic. One my way home I couldn’t help but heat more detail in the music on the radio, particularly the percussion. This is a fairly small budget film and director Damiem Chazell had to rely on substance over flash. He did an amazing job. The production is simply incredible.
The more I think about this film, the more I love it. The ensemble cast is terrific. Michael Keaton would absolutely deserve the win. His slightly unhinged performance really draws the audience in to Riggan’s state of mind. The scenes were all done in one shot and the editing was so good, it felt like the entire film was done in a single shot. Everyone involved with the production deserves all the credit in the world. Not only did the filmmakers give make the audience feel like everything was done in one shot, it was just plain awesome.
4). “The Imitation Game”
I can tell that this film had an effect on audiences because people really want to know who Alan Turing was and they want to know more about his contributions to winning the war and developing modern computers. The film itself is well constructed with the focus on three particular periods in his life: befriending and falling in love with Christopher Morcom, who also (in the film) inspires his interest in code breaking; the suspicion that he was a spy and conviction for indecency in the early 1950s that led his forced chemical castration by the British government and possible eventual suicide (due to the loss of his ability to work); and his actual work building his machine “Christopher” and breaking Enigma at Bletchley Park. Some people have criticized the film for not focusing enough on the fact that Turing was a gay man. I disagree with that notion. The film showed him being in love when he was young, having to hide his sexual orientation while he worked at a top secret facility during the Second World War, and then being convicted of indecency. The entire underlying premise of the film was that Alan Turing was a hero whose work saved millions of lives, but he was isolated by the secrets he was forced to keep. My only complaint about the film was that once his team cracked Enigma, the story rushed to the end of the war. The entire cast was terrific, the production design was gorgeous, and the tension was ever present.
Like “The Imitation Game” the events depicted in “Selma” should be more well-known than they are. In grade school and high school history classes, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, is a name and date students memorize and give a one sentence summary on a test. What most students know about Dr. King is that he gave the “I have a dream” speech and was assassinated in 1968. “Selma” goes into some real detail of voter suppression and police brutality activists faced. It shows the struggle between people who wanted to violently retaliate against the beatings, murders and other injustices and Dr. King who pragmatically wanted to keep everything peaceful. This is a very visual film, though the actual violence was probably much worse. David Oyelowo definitely deserved a nomination for his performance, as did Carmen Ejogo, but I doubt we’ve seen the last of either of them.
This was a beautiful film. It’s suffering from a bit of a double edged sword. Some people say it should win because it was shot over twelve years. That is quite unusual in the fast paced, impatient 21st century. Some critics say that it is only getting acclaim because it was shot over twelve years. While I wouldn’t be upset to see this film win, I actually loved it. If it does win, I hope people vote for it for other reasons. Shooting it over twelve years, made it a more organic cinematic experience as the audience got to watch not only the main character, but everyone grow naturally over the years rather than with make-up. Not only that, but the history of 2002-2012, was captured as it happened. While it was called “Boyhood,” perhaps “Motherhood” should have been a subtitle, because Patricia Arquette’s Olivia Evans is the person is the film who went through the most struggle. She had to survive being a single mother who at first had an absent father, then put herself through school to provide a better life for her children, had to escape two abusive alcoholic husbands, and ultimately everyone else enjoyed the fruits of her labors.
1-6 are all films I loved, it was difficult to rank them and as time passes my rankings may change.
7). “American Sniper”
Whatever the controversies surrounding Chris Kyle’s biography, this film was intense. Bradley Cooper did a great job portraying a soldier having to make a lot of fast, difficult decisions about when to take lives. One thing that may have ranked this film higher on my list would have been focusing more on Kyle’s relationship with his wife and children as well as him helping other veterans suffering from PTSD when he finally got home from the war. They could have shown more of his eventual killer (and his friend who was killed with him) rather than an ominous shot at the end and words on the screen.
8). “The Theory of Everything”
This is well below the others on the list. I really wanted to love this film and fully expected to, but it was just a sloppy mess. The filmmakers tried to cram too many things into the film itself, and just bumped into conventional plot points as it went along. Eddie Redmayne’s performance was fine, but not Oscat worthy (more on that later). The music in the film is fine, but doesn’t paint a vivid picture of the story. Some of the individual scenes are good, but any one of them could have been cut out without changing the overall effect of the film. The actors playing supporting characters all do a fine job, but don’t feel as relevant as they should to the overall story. There were scenes that tried to be symbolic, but the symbolism was ham fisted, (winding the clock back). Last summer’s Ice Bucket challenge brought more attention to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis than the unremarkable film did. The final scene where Stephen Hawking says to his ex-wife Jane “look what we made” talking about their children has no emotional resonance because the children were little more than props throughout the film.