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Oscars 2015: Best Actor



While three of the acting categories are pretty much guaranteed at this point, Best Actor still remains interesting. Here we have a showdown between young and old, two snubbed nominees who deserve to be here, and one lone wolf who could have gone supporting. But overall we have a great list of men who gave great performances last year. Here’s my breakdown:

The Nominees:

Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game

Bradley Cooper, American Sniper

Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Michael Keaton, Birdman

Steve Carell, Foxcatcher

This is a very good list of nominees, but there a few startling omissions, chiefly David Oleyowo and Jake Gyllenhaal. I’m a bit surprised that Steve Carell made it in for Foxcatcher, as he could have gone back and forth between Supporting or Lead, and edged out say, Robert Duvall. But I’m glad he’s here, considering all the buzz he received last year that seems to have faded. Bradley Cooper is also a surprising nominee given the lack of previous nominations for American Sniper, but the Academy fell in love with the film and Cooper’s performance. I wouldn’t discount Cumberbatch or Cooper at this point, honestly.

But this is a race that will boil down to young vs old, between Keaton and Redmayne, both first time nominees. Redmayne has been picking up awards right and left for his performance as Stephen Hawking, which is well deserved. But if I could choose, I’d give it to Keaton, a veteran who delivers his best performance ever in Birdman.

My Predictions

Should Win: Michael Keaton, Birdman

Will Win: Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Should Have Been Nominated: David Oleyowo, Selma

My Personal Nomination: Jack O’Connell, Unbroken

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Posted by on February 8, 2015 in 2015 Academy Awards


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Ranking the Best Picture Nominees

Every year there are notable omissions, but this year’s Best Picture nominees are a pretty fair bunch. Predictably so, every film deserves to be there, but there can only be one winner. Without further ado, here’s my personal ranking of all eight Best Picture nominees.

8. The Theory of Everything

James Marsh’s Stephen Hawking biopic is about as by-the-books as they come, but it’s still a great affecting look into one of the most influential men in the scientific world. Propelled by an outstanding performance by Eddie Redmayne, the film delves deep into his marriage with Jane, played by the excellent Felicity Jones, and how his disease affected their life. It’s your typical well-done British biopic, but don’t let the biopic cliches keep you away.

7. Selma

I’m shocked that David Oleyowo isn’t being recognized for his work as Martin Luther King Jr. This film couldn’t have come at a better time, too (and would’ve gained a lot more traction had screeners been sent out). It’s relevant, poignant, and resembles a time not so different from the one we are in now. Ava DuVernay handles the film with delicacy, but she isn’t afraid to pull back the curtain and show us the behind the scenes look at blacks’ fight for voting and equal rights. Her direction is impeccable, with great attention to detail and sweeping moments.

6. The Grand Budapest Hotel

While not as charming as his last feature, The Grand Budapest Hotel seems like the culmination of everything Wes Anderson has done thus far. With all of his signature quirks and quips, the film is a joyride from beginning to end. It’s a hilarious tale that never lets up, bolstered by Ralph Fiennes’s charismatic Gustave H. Beautiful cinematography and production design solidify Anderson as one of the finest indie directors of his time.

5. American Sniper

The biggest box office hit and most controversial film of the bunch, Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper is his best film since Unforgiven. A brutal look at the life of Chris Kyle, a sniper in the Iraq war with over 200 confirmed kills, American Sniper goes deep into Kyle’s psyche, showing the harrowing effects of war. It’s a moving yet tense film, with scenes back home juxtaposed with breathtaking war scenes. Bradley Cooper flexes his muscles as Kyle, offering a performance that asks so much of him and lets him deliver on every level.

4. Whiplash

The “little indie that could,” Whiplash is a treat. It’s a tense psychological glance into the pursuit of perfection, and what you sacrifice for it. What’s great about Whiplash is that it never succumbs to music indie drama cliches. This is a movie that is supposed to make you uncomfortable, and it sure does thanks to JK Simmons’s performance. The best villain of the year, his creative insults and brutality scare the viewer, but they don’t scare Andrew in his pursuit to be an excellent drummer, and he’s sure to gain the recognition he deserves come Oscars day.

3. The Imitation Game

The trailer for The Imitation Game makes it seem like this year’s The King’s Speech, and in many ways it is. It’s Weinstein’s darling, a British biopic about an influential man in history who overcame obstacles, but the similarities stop there. The Imitation Game avoids what made The Theory of Everything just okay by trusting its performers and interweaving plotline. There aren’t any wasted scenes, every scene is carefully calculated, like Turing himself. It’s very well-directed and scored, but would be nothing without Benedict Cumberbatch, who turns in a beautiful and remarkable performance that gives the film the emotion needed.

2. Birdman

Birdman is insane, and I love it. The film never misses a beat and is firing on all cylinders for its two hour run time. Innaritu gives the film such an infectious rhythm that you’ll be tapping your feet the whole time. Michael Keaton delivers the comeback of the year as Riggan, a washed up actor staging a Broadway play. It’s a reflection of Keaton’s career while also being something completely new. Supporting roles courtesy of Emma Stone and Edward Norton keep it afloat, and Birdman features my favorite sequence of the year: Riggan parading through Times Square in his underpants.

1. Boyhood

By now you’ve definitely heard of Boyhood’s 12-year shooting time span, and how Ellar Coltrane literally grew up on screen. While many are dismissing its gimmick, there’s no denying the beauty behind Boyhood’s simplicity. It’s such a low-key, unique film that is a wonder to watch unfold on screen. Boyhood stresses the importance of those moments that define us, that make us who we are, and it’s the best coming of age tale this century. Linklater’s attention to detail helps him nail those moments with little details, quirks, or a line of dialogue that we know is important. Boyhood will be different for everyone who watches it, but the universality is what unites every viewer. Whether you’re Mason, his sister Sam, or his mother (the amazing Patricia Arquette), everyone can relate in a different way. There’s such beauty in its universality that it almost transcends the limitations of film. We might even forget we’re watching a film and not a child’s home videos. What Linklater has done is fantastic, and it sounds impossible, yet the script allows the film to grow just as its protagonist does, delivering one of the most unique films I’ve ever seen.


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Posted by on January 25, 2015 in 2015 Academy Awards


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Birdman is exceptional. It’s funny, dark, modern, and represents a sort of career-defining moment for Michael Keaton, who kind of dropped off the radar at the new millennium. A clever commentary on both the industry and Keaton himself, Birdman is wholly original, and you won’t see anything else like it this year.

Starring Michael Keaton, Birdman tells the story of Riggan Thomson, a washed-up actor who used to play Birdman in a series of superhero films. Sound familiar? Well, that’s because it’s representing Keaton playing Batman in the 1990s, when he dropped out after the third film. In Birdman, Riggan is attempting to write, direct, and star in his revival Broadway play, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, based on Raymond Carver’s short story. At first it can all be kind of confusing, but it comes together and makes for a deeply felt and humorous tale.

Riggan is internally conflicted by his two thoughts: his present thoughts and his Birdman-era thoughts. Birdman constantly torments him, and here we see the effects that Hollywood can have on certain individuals. Riggan is susceptible to fits of rage, media scrutiny, and all he wants to do is create a hit play. Getting in his way is a variety of characters who each have their own unique temperaments. Mike Shiner, played by the wonderful Edward Norton, is Riggan’s first choice for the lead role in his play. Initially, the two get along, with their playful banter and fun Hollywood chatter. But soon things spiral out of control and Shiner outshines Riggan and his ego gets the best of him. This culminates in an outstanding scene with Riggan walking naked through Times Square.

It’s all a very personal film, one that taps into Riggan’s inner demons. Here’s a character injured by his selfishness and those around him, one who is both deeply sympathetic and loathsome at the same time. You meet his ex-wife Sylvia (Amy Ryan) and his daughter and assistant Sam (Emma Stone), both who turn in excellent performances, especially Sam. The familial interactions are both cold and harrowing, but have an aura of patriarchal love as Riggan tries to reconnect with Sam, who is fresh out of rehab.

All of this comes together through phenomenal camera work from Emmanuel Lubezki, hot off his win from last year’s Gravity. The film is shot in only a few number of takes, with excellent tracking shots and great angles that actually mean something. Birdman is a great example of how the cinematography can elevate a good film into a great one. Scenes with Riggan’s inner demons battling within use great use of narration and score. Antonio Sanchez delivers a Broadway-esque score with blaring horns and light percussion, one that I hope gets awards recognition down the line.

In fact, the whole film deserves awards recognition. Keaton is amazing and gives his best performance ever here. Emma Stone and Edward Norton are also scene-stealers. Many scenes in Birdman I think will be all-timers, from Shiner and Riggan’s fist fight to Riggan’s flight through New York City. It’s a testament to Innaritu’s great direction that I think Birdman will stand the test of time. It’s one of the year’s best, and a great revival for an all-time great actor.

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Posted by on October 24, 2014 in Movie Reviews


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