Thoughts on… 2014 Best Picture Films

This year we have seen plenty of fantastic films come out, but only eight were nominated for the prestigious Best Picture Award. Here, Will and Vig rank the eight films from worst to best.

Number 8

The Imitation Game
In a year of great biopics, The Imitation Game was definitely one of the better ones. However, there’s something missing. It really doesn’t do anything to make itself unique in its story telling. It’s just another linear narration, and probably something I won’t remember in a few years. That being said, Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley are both really good, the latter shooting himself into complete stardom with this one role. As Will said, the ending leaves a bit to be desired, but its a solid film nonetheless. It just fails to be as unique as the films it is competing it, ultimately making it the ‘worst’ Best Picture nominee from the 2015 Oscars (Nightcrawler and Gone Girl were so much better).
The Theory of Everything
The Theory of Everything is a very good movie. It is incredibly well acted, with Felicity Jones scoring a Best Actress nomination and Eddie Redmayne as a co-favorite for Best Actor, and very well directed. It also depicts the real life relationship between renowned physicist Stephen Hawking and his first wife Jane Wilde, from their romantic beginnings through the progression of Hawking’s affliction with ALS. And as we’ve seen in years past, the Academy has a predilection for classy biopics (Argo, The King’s Speech). The problem is, it’s a good movie in a year of great movies and is, in my opinion, the clear-cut lowest quality Best Picture nominee.

Number 7

The Theory of Everything

I like to lump together The Theory of Everything with The Imitation Game because they are both biopics about English geniuses and they both lack a defining feature that makes them unique. However, what makes Theory of Everything a step above The Imitation Game, is that Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones are not just great, they are superhuman. The emotional value of the film has so much depth, but ultimately, it’s just not nearly as good as the films ranked above it on this list. 

The Imitation Game

If you’ve read my review of this film, which I’m sure most of the world has, then you know that I have some major beef with The Imitation Game. The ending is wrong, rushed, and jarring, with the end of Alan Turing’s story and the real biting irony of it relegated to aimless epilogue text. Still, save for the final 5 minutes, it is riveting, solidly acted, and historically intriguing. It’s the better of the two British biopics, but it still left a lot on the table, including a shot at some major Oscar hardware.

Number 6

Selma
I was kinda surprised myself when I found that I ranked Selma so lowly on this list. It’s a really, really great movie. It has more emotional depth than most of the nominees this year, and its message and performances are among the most powerful I’ve seen in a long while. David Oyelowo and Ava Duvernay got absolutely snubbed at the Oscars, the former of which gives the first realistic, successful portrayal of Martin Luther King Jr. in his entirety. I probably could have and should have ranked this above Budapest… but something prevented me from doing so. Selma was just too forceful in its approach, I think. 
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Visually striking, deftly comical, and delightfully odd, The Grand Budapest Hotel is the real oddity in this group of 8 films. The Academy has typically shunned director Wes Anderson and his new age, quirky films, opting instead for more typical and traditional films. This year, though, voters really went for it and gave the film 9 nominations. It might edge out the rest of the nominees in terms of creativity and visuals, and it definitely should have scored an acting nomination for Ralph Fiennes, but while it certainly has many though-provoking layers, but it lacks the significance that propels other films to the front of the pack.

Number 5

The Grand Budapest Hotel
I first saw The Grand Budapest Hotel on a plane, and you know, it was not a fantastic experience for me. It was good, but I couldn’t see what everyone was buzzing about. Then, it came on HBO one day and I was able to sit down and concentrate and really appreciate how masterful it is. It is so unique in its style, extremely entertaining and pretty memorable. Not only is the Grand Budapest Hotel one of the most unique films of the year, it is, in my opinion, Wes Anderson’s best film, especially upon re-watching it. 
American Sniper
Watching American Sniper is an intense and visceral experience; Eastwood and Cooper do not shy away from the horrors of war that soldiers must face on the battlefield and the ghosts that follow them back home. Controversy over the whitewashing of Kyle’s story and their unqualified depiction of him as an American hero have somewhat overshadowed Sniper’s merits as a work of film-making (Seth Rogen compared it to the Nazi propaganda film from Inglorious Basterds), but in my opinion American Sniper remains an illuminating and shocking movie.

Number 4

American Sniper
It pains me to rank this in the fourth spot. It just feels SO much better. But when looking at the three films ranked above it, you can probably understand why it is placed where it is. American Sniper is probably the most emotional and powerful film of the year. From beginning to end, it is able to grab your attention and keep it. With all the controversy clouding the film, its hard to remember that American Sniper, just as a straight up film, is pretty remarkable. I don’t really care about the inaccuracies in the story as long as the movie is good, and that’s what it is. It’s genuinely a memorable, enjoyable film.
Selma
As I wrote in my review (which, again, I’m sure was read by millions), Selma is very much the movie of the moment. It comes at a time when racial tensions in this country are at its peak, a fact that merely underscores the inherent lack of diversity in the Academy’s membership and 2015 nominees. It boasts great performances from David Oyelowo and Carmen Ejogo, as Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King, and is largely a musing on race and inequalities in 1960s and modern America. In other years, the moving Selma might just be top dog, but 2015 is one of the strongest years for movies in recent memory.

Number 3

Boyhood

I agree with Will when saying that the next three movies are virtually inseparable (though I would most likely include American Sniper in that group). Boyhood is probably the most heartwarming of the three, and the most unique. The story of its production is incredible, and the final product is a movie that will be remembered for years to come. It never fails to be entertaining, and is an incredibly crafted story. However, it has moments of really odd dialogue and pitiful acting (ugh, the scene where the boys are drinking kills me every time). Still a really great film though. 

Boyhood

These next three movies are virtually inseparable. I would be satisfied if any of the three won Best Picture next week, for each is incredibly deserving and would definitely win in weaker years. In fact, I would put all three above 12 Years a Slave and Argo, the last two Best Picture winners. Boyhood is of course an inventive movie, having been shot with the same cast over the course of 12 years. It follows Mason, played by Ellar Coltrane, as he matures and experiences all the heights and pitfalls of childhood. It is incredibly moving and equally confounding. I just wished it was better acted.

Number 2

Birdman
Being a self-proclaimed theater kid, I really connected with this film. The feeling of creating something with artistic value is incredible. And Birdman takes that idea and satirizes it, while still creating something moving and entertaining, despite how cynical and dark the movie tends to be. Michael Keaton, essentially playing himself, is absolutely tremendous and is definitely my pick to win Best Actor. Emma Stone and Edward Norton have also been overshadowed with all the talk of Keaton winning Best Actor. Innovative, technically brilliant, and entertaining, both with its drama and its hilariously written comedy, Birdman is definitely one of the better movies I’ve seen in a while.
Whiplash
Whiplash was a bit of a surprise nominee. Vig and I had hoped that it would snag a nomination, but it seemed to be lacking the requisite buzz for a last minute push. What a happy surprise! It is incredibly intense, with each scene topping the next and each actor pushing the others. Of course, JK Simmons is the biggest draw here, and he is the favorite to take home the Best Supporting Actor award next week. He is undoubtedly the most deserving, and his performance as Terence Fletcher is one of the best I’ve ever seen. Oh, and the soundtrack is pretty killer too. Unfortunately, Whiplash doesn’t have a shot in hell to take the prize, even though Vig and I both agree that it has as much merit as anything else.

Number 1

Whiplash
And here we are. My number 1 movie of this year is Whiplash, a movie that was stunning both visually and audibly. The music was utterly fantastic, combining with visceral camera work to make it so engaging. Then there’s J.K. Simmons, who will win Best Supporting Actor without question and deserves it more than anyone else does. His intensity is top-notch. The delivery of his lines are perfect. Everything about his performance is perfect. Miles Teller is also really good too, in case anyone forgot. Unfortunately, Whiplash has a 0% chance of winning the Best Picture, which is a real shame because it is the most intense and entertaining film of 2015, which is saying something considering what a great year this was for films. GO SEE WHIPLASH!!
~Vig
Birdman
Yes! Birdman is my favorite movie of the year. It is biting, ironic, dark, and yet often very comical. Michael Keaton gives a career-reviving performance as Riggan Thompson, an actor struggling to shed his reputation as a sell out superhero actor while trying to create something with artistic value and meaning. I’d vote for him as Best Actor and Emma Stone as Best Supporting Actress, and the interplay between the two, with their generational gaps and differing backgrounds exploited for comedic and dramatic effect, drives much of the movie. Of course, Birdman boats a certain meta quality, with Keaton and Thompson sharing certain central qualities and characteristics. Genre-bending, innovative, and brilliantly written, Birdman is simply put the best movie of the 2015 Oscars.
~Will
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Selma

Up next is Selma, Ava DuVernay’s historical drama about civil unrest in the South during the 1950s. Starring David Oyelowo, Tom Wilkinson, and Tim Roth, Selma is rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic material including violence, and brief strong language.

Selma recalls the incredible civil rights movement to secure equal rights for people of all races led by Dr. Martin Luther King (Oyelowo) in 1965. Following King and his followers in their triumphs and struggles during the violent fight to change history, Selma highlights the epic march from Selma to Montgomery that resulted in President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

9.0 out of 10

One of the biggest storylines of the Academy Award nominations was Selma’s snubbing. It was shut out of the Best Director Category and Best Actor category, both of which were considered virtual locks for nominations. Public outcry followed, with many criticizing the Academy for not recognizing diversity (all of the 20 acting nominations went to Caucasian actors, and the only non-white director nominated was Alejandro González Iñárritu). The truth is the academy is almost 94% white and 76% male with an average age well over 60. If you don’t have diversity in the voters you’re not going to see diversity in the nominees. It’s high time that the Academy makeup represents the diversity that exists society.

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Selma is also the movie of the moment. Yes, it recounts one of the most historical events and periods of the Civil Rights Movement, but it is also largely a musing on modern racism and the fact that we have not yet realized the ideals King strived for. It comes at a time when racial tensions are incredibly high – with the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown embroiling the country in heated conflict—which makes it all the more powerful.

From a purely cinematic viewpoint, Selma’s snubbing came as a major surprise. The film boasts major talents, with the likes of Tim Roth, Carmen Ejogo, David Oyelowo, and Tom Wilkinson.

Oyelowo was fantastic as Dr. Martin Luther King. He successfully conveyed the nuances of King’s personalities and the stark differences of his public and private personas. As King, Oyelowo made grand speeches with a booming voice in front of both hostile and sympathetic crowds but also excelled at his quieter, more intimate scenes. 2014 was a big year for Oyelowo, appearing in Selma, Interstellar, and A Most Violent Year. Here’s to hoping that his success continues in the future.

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Tim Roth was also exceptional. This is his first non-Tarantino film that I’ve seen, and he played the snaky, repulsive, racist governor to perfection. Just the way he delivered his lines, with drawn out vowels and overt arrogance was fantastic.

What really held Selma together was its direction. The camera work was sweeping and precise. Ava DuVernay made some bold choices, most notably her decision to film some scenes in slow motion. It was a jarring break from the movie’s continuity but I think, given the situations in which DuVernay employed this tactic, such a sensation was exactly the point.

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Unfortunately for Selma, I think the movie ended on somewhat of a sour note. Much of the film had centered around King’s acceptance of others and inhuman willingness to overcome the inequities of society, all while not shying away from the physical and social toll that his leadership put on him and his imperfections as a man. Selma ended on a moment of triumph, with (mild spoiler alert) King and his followers arriving in Montgomery, and then logically recognized the tragic end to King’s life in epilogue text. I definitely agree with this choice; a film about King’s legacy should not end with his untimely death. However, where I draw issue is with the rest of the epilogue text, specifically with regard to Governor George Wallace, played by Tim Roth. Without a doubt, Roth’s character was vile and venomous. In the epilogue text, the film stated that Wallace was the victim of an assassination attempt that left him partially paralyzed, and said that only then he come to adopt a more accepting view of race. I don’t have the correct phrasing, but the way it read on the screen was that the movie-makers were happy about his peril and were almost looking at it as “he got what was coming to him”. It read as vengeful and acerbic, which, while absolutely Wallace was, as I said, vile and venomous, goes completely against King’s teachings of tolerance, acceptance, and forgiveness. 
~Will

9.0 out of 10 

Plenty of biopics show the turning point of a movement because it’s easy. It’s easy and satisfying. There’s enough space for struggle and for resolution. But Selma does not place itself during the actual signing of any civil rights acts nor does it show a string of victories for MLK. Instead, the films opts to show a struggle which, for its purposes, is the exact thing it needs to depict.

In racial politics, Martin Luther King has, quite understandably, transcended human form. He basically relayed what 90% of the American people want for every race: stability, kindness and fairness. He took what seemed like a ridiculous movement to many racists and catalyzed into one of the biggest chunks of American history. What’s more, he did all without violence or acrimony. He upheld his beliefs for peace. For this, many have remembered King as pacifist and a god.

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Those people certainly aren’t wrong but Selma chooses a different route for King; a more human one. And while it’s probably much easier to document an admired yet controversial leader like Malcolm X’s strategic maneuvers, Selma chooses to show the personal battles King had to fight (Not resolve) to win the one against oppression. The film rightfully locks in to but one historical event and delves into the backroom politics that had to happen. Consequently, David Oyelowo’s King becomes much more of tactician than an activist for the film’s focused purposes.

Thus, we get to see all of the family moments MLK sacrificed, the fellow protestors he had to bicker with and the leaders he had to sway to ultimately launch his cause. It ain’t always pretty. While we typically knott all of the racial organizations of the era together, Selma depicts them as individual teams with their own scopes and interests that are loosely tied together. But the film largely recognizes that these turbulent moments make us appreciate the lighter ones. When we see the young activists of SNCC quarrel with the older organizers of the SLCC, it makes their compromise seem a lot more significant. Likewise, when we see all King had to do behind closed doors to secure his cause, it enhances his image as a man who was tethered to his beliefs in widespread equality.

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Plenty of historical movies regarding race are also criticized for featuring more white characters than there were present in real life. Some films have additionally been condemned for having said white characters actually save the day rather than the black figures the filmmakers claim to be focusing on. Whether you agree with this criticism or not, there’s no denying that Selma is firmly focused on black leaders and sugarcoating history to make people comfortable plays no part in the movie. The plot is rife with realistic tensions on boths sides that, again, only serve to make the somewhat infrequent moments of agreement more rewarding.

In fact, and this is an odd thing to say after I lauded the portrayal of MLK, I’m not sure whether this really should be lumped in as just an MLK biopic. King runs the show, yes, and he embodies the wishes of an entire movement but the more I recount this film, the more convinced I am that it is simply about the strength of peaceful protest. The movie is exactly what it says on the poster: Selma. Civil disobedience, speeches and marches in Selma. With King as its captain, I think Selma’s biggest purpose is to prove the power of demonstration which is quite an interesting angle after the Arab Springs, Occupy movements and moments of national unrest the past few years.

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Where does it rank amongst the other historical films of the year? Well, it’s quite a few notches above Unbroken. Just a bit further than American Sniper though Bradley Cooper certainly holds his own with Oyelowo’s (Which was criminally snubbed by the Academy) which puts it about on par with Imitation Game: a ranking I’m comfortable with. I’m certain grateful for the flurry of powerful nonfiction films but they’ve been exhausting to watch. Still, square off some time to get a front seat to the politics behind Selma.
~Zach

The Theory of Everything

Up next is a look at The Theory of Everything, James Marsh’s biographical romantic drama about Stephen Hawking. Starring Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, and Tom Prior, The Theory of Everything is rated PG-13 for some thematic elements and suggestive material.

The Theory of Everything is the story of genius Stephen Hawking and the relationship with his wife Jane, as they experience Hawking’s fight with ALS together.

7 out of 10

I think I’ve said on numerous occasions before that I am a sucker for romance films. But this one was different. They all had accents, there was a lot of math and physics involved- really just a bunch of things that set this movie up to be pure boredom for me. Essentially, I was prepared for two hours of stodgy, stereotypical biopic film-making. While this was definitely true at points, The Theory of Everything proved to be a solid film, large in part to its exceptionally strong lead actors.

theory 1

The first thing I saw Eddie Redmayne in was Les Miserables where he played Marius, and was actually pretty good. I remember being impressed with how genuine he was (which I guess is what acting is). My point is, that’s the trait that most stood out to me in his turn as legendary physicist Stephen Hawking. You could tell how hard he was fighting. His humanity was still evident, despite the almost supernatural persona Hawking has grown into. Redmayne is the perfect combination of intelligent, charming and visceral in a performance that would usually be good enough to be considered a lock for Best Actor, if not for Michael Keaton. That’s not to say he won’t win, in fact I think he’s the favorite. He’s just not a lock.

And his opposite, Felicity Jones, was superb. The first thing I saw her in was The Amazing Spider-Man 2, quite a change of speed from this if you ask me, and she was kind of a throw away. I mean that entire movie was a throwaway (zing!), so I guess she didn’t really make a difference. Back on topic, I was super impressed with her performance opposite Redmayne. It would have been easy to be swallowed and forgotten in his shadow, but Jones proved to be a nice contrast, strong and cunning as Jane Wilde, and stood her ground, in turn receiving a much-deserved Best Actress nod.

theory 3

And often overlooked is the fact that the whole film is a technical spectacle as well. The cinematography is authentic and gives the film a very old fashioned British feel, using some nice color contrasts and finding moments to show off dazzling visual effects. The soundtrack is  nostalgic and gripping, adding to the poignancy the film is going for. 

That being said, there is certain something to Theory of Everything that prevents it from individualizing itself from the rest of the films this year. Especially considering that this year was heavy on biopics, you have to do something to separate yourself if you want to be remembered. With a long list of films including Foxcatcher, American Sniper, The Imitation Game, Selma, Mr. Turner, Wild, and Unbroken, to be remembered requires standing out. The Theory of Everything, in my opinion, did not do that. The structure of the film was too regular– there were no risks taken with the story, the storytelling, the characters. Side note, I thought that was the same problem with The Imitation Game (coincidentally another story about a British genius in the mid 20th century).

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One of my main problems was that it was so one-sided. Once the romance wore out, our interested waned. The Theory of Everything had so much at its disposal to prevent this from happening, but instead it was all wasted. Hawking is maybe the smartest man in this world’s history and you don’t even talk about his science at all? That would have added a powerful second layer that the movie lacked behind the the relatively basic quest for a successful rom-dram. 
Alas, there’s no denying the strength of Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones’ sintilizing performances; it gives this film exactly what it needs to be to assert itself as a good film, even if its not a great one. Though it indefinitely lacks a second dimension behind the romance, which doesn’t help considering the story is rather bland being a biopic, the direction and acting are superb and allow Theory of Everything to justify being nominated for best picture.
~Vig

7.5 out of 10

This is the first year I’ve seen all the Best Picture nominees – Boyhood, Birdman, Whiplash, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Selma, American Sniper, The Imitation Game, and now The Theory of Everything – and in my personal opinion, it’s one of the strongest years for movies in recent memories. I thoroughly enjoyed (almost) all of the nominees, and there is no nominee that makes you scratch your head and ask yourself what kind of drugs the Academy is on. (Her? Really? [though Vig, the sappy, sentimental person that he is seems to love that one]).

I liked The Theory of Everything quite a bit more than past Best Picture Winners, namely the Academy-congratulating Argo, but unfortunately this movie comes in a year of fantastic movies, and some fantastic biopics (The Imitation Game, American Sniper, and Selma, among others). Other years, sure, The Theory of Everything would be a serious contender, but personally I think it falls in last place this year.

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That’s not to say that Theory doesn’t have its winning elements. Eddie Redmayne has a standout performance as Stephen Hawking, capturing effortlessly his character both before the onset of ALS and after. What really defined Redmayne’s performance, in my opinion, was his ability to retain Hawking’s cheekiness (it’s a British movie) even when physically crippled to the point where he can barely communicate. Even as Hawking transformed from a dashing, physically active college student into a wheelchair confined, aging man Redmayne showed Hawking’s refusal to submit to the disease. He’s a co-favorite with Michael Keaton to take the Best Actor award later this month. I personally prefer Keaton, but Redmayne is certainly equally deserving.

Opposite Redmayne was Felicity Jones. Her performance as Jane Wilde, Hawking’s first wife and the woman who cares for him for the first years of his disease, was incredibly compelling. She was alternatingly incredibly strong and heart-achingly vulnerable, able to communicate even the subtlest emotions with a simply look. Unfortunately for her, Julianne Moore is a virtual lock this year to take Best Actress.

These two leads were undoubtedly the top duo of the year, surpassing Keaton and Norton in Birdman, Cumberbatch and Knightly in The Imitation Game, and maybe even Simmons and Teller in Whiplash (which, by the way, just might be my favorite movie of the year). The chemistry between them was very alluring and very real and each complimented the other brilliantly.

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Aside from the acting, there was some very interesting camera work done here. Some shots were composed entirely in subdued hues of blue, while transition shots between scenes often reflected Hawking’s theories – latte foam was styled like a swirling black hole, for example.

My only problem with The Theory of Everything is that it was truthfully a little bit boring. It wasn’t oppressively long but was largely dearth of dynamic scenes. Yes, the film is about the evolution of Hawking’s disease and his refusal let it stop his work, and I get that that entails a slow process, but there was too often a lack of tension on the screen. Theory was also a relatively convention biopic. It failed to make a significant statement on illness, strength, or loyalty and instead seemed to be a mere retelling of Hawking and Wilde’s relationship which, while incredibly inspiring, fails to set it apart from the other biopics out there.

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Overall, The Theory of Everything is a moving and emotional – if not entirely exceptional—film about Hawking and Wilde that is carried almost completely by Redmayne and Jones, who give some of the strongest performances in recent memory. But unfortunately for Theory, that’s just not enough to set it apart from the other great films of 2014.
~Will

American Sniper

This week we take a look at 6-time Oscar nominee American Sniper, directed by the legendary Clint Eastwood. Starring Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller, this movie is rated-R for strong and disturbing war violence, and language throughout including some sexual references.

American Sniper tells the true story of legendary sniper Chris Kyle (Cooper). Originally setting out to be a cowboy, Kyle realized that he wanted something bigger for himself and joined the SEALs to become a sniper. As a result, Kyle struggles to remain connected with his family and life back home while becoming a legend among veterans and soldiers alike.

9.0 out of 10

The war genre has seen a slight revival this year, represented by the good (Fury), the bad- well, bad is a harsh word- (Unbroken), and the ugly (The Monuments Men if you even remember that). But none of this year’s war films looked like they could truly stand their ground against the all time greats. That is, until American Sniper was released.

I saw this film after Oscar nominations were released and was kinda confounded that it was voted over Gone Girl and Nightcrawler, and that Bradley Cooper was voted in over Jake Gyllenhaal and David Oyelowo. But after actually seeing the film, I can see it (Those snubs are still pretty dumb). American Sniper is a riveting, memorable film filled to the brim with tension and emotion, anchored by Bradley Cooper at his best.

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To put it out there, I was not aware of Chris Kyle’s story and how it ends, which apparently was national news back in 2013. As a result, I was really able to enjoy the intensity of this film that much more. And boy was it relevant. From the intensity of the music to the gripping cinematography, the film perfectly displays the grit and, at times, the solidarity of war. It didn’t take long for me to get emotionally invested simply because Eastwood’s direction perfectly developed Kyle’s journey, all the way from the beginning of his life. A lot of films are able to show the difficult conditions of war, but what American Sniper did was particularly incredible: war wasn’t difficult for him, being away from it was.

A lot of the criticism has been directed towards Eastwood’s glorifying of Kyle. Critics feel as though Kyle was actually an arrogant, racist psychopath but is inaccurately portrayed as the perfect American hero. To be honest, I was able to see that Kyle was a little off. He liked killing those opposite him, and that only added to the imperfection of his character. I didn’t feel like they were paving Kyle to be the perfect human being in any way. A hero, perhaps, but perfect? No, I don’t think so. The fact that he wasn’t a psychopath kept us into the movie. So maybe it isn’t the most ACCURATE film, but boy is it still good.

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The fact that he’s not completely a psychopath is also important because the movie is literally all him. From beginning to end he is the driving force of this film. And the only reason that works is because Bradley Cooper is spectacular. Remember when he was acting in all those comedies? Yes Man, Wedding Crashers, The Hangover? Neither do I. He’s rattled off three straight Academy Award nominated performances in Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, and now this, which is, in my opinion, his best performance. Christian Bale certainly rubbed off on him, as seen through the physical transformation he went through. His dedication to this role was clear. He was passionate and stoic, like Kyle, but also had a lighter side that made him likable. Dare I say best performance of the year? It was definitely up there (perhaps losing out to only Keaton and Gyllenhaal).

The one gripe I had with this movie was that it focused so tightly on Kyle that it detracted from the rest of the film. Some of the other characters of the film were uninteresting because they played second fiddle to the legend of Chris Kyle. Even his wife, who Sienna Miller did a really solid job of portraying, was a little bit uninteresting as a character. I know this is his story- I get that. But it certainly doesn’t help when the characters around him pale in comparison to him. And while the whole storyline with opposing sniper Mustafa, which was apparently ridiculously overblown, was really entertaining, it definitely made the movie more about his personal accomplishments rather than the impact of war on an individual.

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As I’ve said, there’s been a lot of criticism about American Sniper’s glorification of someone who really wasn’t that great a guy. So maybe it isn’t a perfect biopic, but it is a great movie. Ultimately, Clint Eastwood puts together a poignant, moving film that perfectly displays the horrors of war on the veterans who live through it. Supported by a brilliant Bradley Cooper performance, American Sniper hits the mark and is one of the best movies of the year.
~Vig

9.0 out of 10
In light of recent conflicts and criticisms, I’m gonna go ahead and preface this by saying I haven’t read all too much of Chris Kyle’s story so I can not judge the man but instead the movie itself. I’m allowing American Sniper the usual privileges I do for historical: it can have some inaccuracies or streamlined parts because, well, it is a movie and that’s just an occupational hazard of the art form. All that said, Clint Eastwood, the director who crafted Sniper, is a heckuva a talented man. I loved Gran Torino, I’ve heard great things about Million Dollar Baby and I do enjoy his Chrysler commercials. I lean to the Left but I’ve totally absolved him for talking to a chair on stage that one time. And, shocker here, he’s hit it out of the park with American Sniper.
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Sniper has killed it at the box office, its fared well with critics and has been universally praised by audiences. Aside from the controversies mentioned earlier, it has probably earned its place alongside the best war movies of the past few decades. So who’s responsible for this success? Who drives the movie and manifests Eastwood’s directions? As much as I had to boil the success of a huge film like this to one person, I must give that honor to Mr. Bradley Cooper.

Cooper’s star is rising. The star, once known as “that guy from The Hangover”, has handled some heavy-hitting performances these past few years and damned if his role as the military Chris Kyle ain’t one of them. The challenging thing about portraying Kyle is that, in the best way possible, there isn’t too much to portray. Whereas last review’s subject had his outbursts and even tantrums, Kyle remains quiet. Not out of coldness but out of years of layering over his actual feelings on the pain he’s either suffered through or caused. That’s a welcomed change from the usual heroes Hollywood presents us that gush with feelings: real people rarely just leak out their emotions, especially those who’ve been through numerous tragedies. Cooper plays Kyle as a quiet man but with undercurrents of shakiness and an aura of uneasiness that tenses the audience. Silence is scary.

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Here inlies, I believe, the number one issue many have with Sniper. The film very much trusts its audience to read Kyle and to fill in the blanks of his detached attitude. And, while Cooper does very well with this subtlety, that can be somewhat challenging considering the acts of violence that Kyle carries out in the film. As a result, that detached attitude, paired with Kyle’s incessant desire to assist his SEAL comrades, translates into stone-cold aggression to some. It’s easy to see how many could slip into this opinion but I do believe they’re missing the point.

Similar to The Hurt Locker, Sniper shows the dent that’s slammed into many ex-military men’s lives. This is hole widens and consumes plenty of veterans’ enjoyment of everyday activities. It’s a very challenging thing to portray, especially in a modern movie atmosphere that loves clear-cut arcs and black and white morality when it comes to war. When Kyle often itches to return to his role as a top sniper, its important to realize that the film is not sugarcoating his choices or depicting the relentless battle he fights in a positive way. Instead, it expects us to see how much violence has wrecked Kyle’s capacity for satisfaction with his life at home.

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Aside from Kyle’s development and Cooper’s brilliant performance, the film does provide a very gritty vision of Iraq that helps to fuel the suspense of the film. The Iraq the film portrays is not the usual place for villains to be conquered and fables to be made; it’s a place thoroughly ridden with dangerous, unrelenting terrorists at all turns and citizens tragically caught in the crossfire. It’s obviously, not a nice place to be and it provides the perfect backdrop for Kyle’s development into both a tortured man and a savior to all Marines.

American Sniper’s a very good film that benefits from its strong direction, sturdy lead and sheer intensity. Once again, I can’t really predict its performance with the Academy this year since we’re all looking at a very tight competition but I would not be thrown off if Cooper won. It’s any man’s game and Sniper just may hit a few targets.

(Sorry, I couldn’t resist)
~Zach

The Imitation Game

Today we take a look at Alan Turing’s biopic and the recipient of 8 Academy Award nominees, The Imitation Game. Directed by Morten Tyldum, it stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, and Matthew Goode. It is rated PG-13 for some sexual references, mature thematic material and historical smoking.

The Imitation Game follows the real life story of brilliant mathematician Alan Turing and his fight against time and the Nazis as they try to break the unsolveable Enigma Code at Britain’s top-secret Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park.

8.0 out of 10

For 110 minutes, The Imitation Game was a fantastic movie. 9.0 or 9.5 out of 10. It was gripping, incredibly well-acted, and unflinching in its portrayal of Alan Turing’s experiences and struggles. For the final four minutes of its 114 running time, it was still gripping and incredibly well-acted, but it lost that truth and faithfulness to Turing’s story, a fact that left me with a really sour taste and the movie with a significantly reduced score.

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For those first 110 minutes, I was enthralled. The movie never lost its tension, each segment of Turing’s struggle to break Enigma flanked by menacing real-life clips of fighting and bombing in 1940’s Europe. But The Imitation Game was not solely monotonous tension and idealistic nationalism; it also featured a central narrative of emotional agony. In the past, we see Turing’s ostracism and persecution by his peers and his inherent lack of ability to connect with other people. In the recent past, we see the contempt his peers have for him as they try to break Enigma. And in the present, we see Turing downtrodden and arrested, again facing the persecution of the people that surround him. This fantastic mix of tension and emotion jived together and moved the plot of the film along swiftly. I have a hard time imagining any viewer to be bored by The Imitation Game.

The acting was superb. Benedict Cumberbatch was absolutely phenomenal as the tortured genius Alan Turing, a role he has had some practice for as the BBC version of Sherlock Holmes. His voice inflections, stammering, and hunched-over walk were all incredibly convincing, and Cumberbatch has been nominated for numerous awards, including the Screen Actors Guild award for Best Actor, the Golden Globe for Best Actor, Drama, and I would be incredibly surprised if he is not nominated for the Best Actor Oscar when Oscar nominations come out later this month. Will he win? It’s possible, but there is some stiff competition this year with Michael Keaton in Birdman and Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything.

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Cumberbatch was really the driving the force in The Imitation Game. Keira Knightly added some comedy and insight into the sexism of the forties while also serving as the only character able to connect with Turing, but besides the interplay between these two and Turing’s inner struggles, The Imitation Game doesn’t have much to offer. But what it does it does exceptionally well and it is sure to be an awards show contender, especially with Harvey Weinstein’s campaigning powers at work.

That is where my review would end if the movie had ended after 110 minutes. The Imitation Game would have gotten a 9.0 out of 10, and it would be one of my favorite movies of the year, if not my favorite movie of the year (As it is, I still really enjoyed the film). But then the ending happened, and they got it so incredibly wrong. Spoilers will follow, but the movie is based on the life of a historical and historic figure, so I suppose they aren’t true spoilers.

After breaking Enigma, Turing returns home and continues to work on developing the first computer, Christopher. He is later arrested for “public indecency”, for attempting to have sex with another man. He is, in essence, arrested for being gay. He is then forced to endure hormone therapy to “chemically castrate” him and “reverse his homosexual predilections”.

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In real life, Turing endures this therapy for a year before committing a suicide via a cyanide-laced apple, a rhetorical omen of sorts. He is so persecuted by the very society that he saved through shortening the war and saving 14 million lives and creating the foundations for the modern computer that he ends his life. There is no Disney happy ending, but in reel life (in the movie), the screenwriters attempt to create one. In the film, Turing is visited by Knightley’s character and she supports him and he seems to find some semblance of inner peace. In a sense, he accepts his character, his situation, and what he’s done. His suicide and decent into widespread physical issues brought on by the hormones are reduced to after-credit epilogue fodder.

Had The Imitation Game stayed true to Turing’s story and showed the society’s persecution of the very man who saved them, I could very well be sitting here writing my first 10 out of 10 reviews and forecasting an Oscar sweep. But they messed it up and they messed it up badly. Rumor has it Weinstein thought it would be more appealing to the masses and more likely to win awards, but in my opinion it has had the opposite effect.

The Imitation Game was great, but damn, it could have been a cinematic landmark.
~Will

9.5 out of 10

World War II often dominates any historical/historical-fiction entries for the Academy Awards and it’s not hard to see why: it’s a blend of violent yet cerebral battles, there’s a closely shaved right and wrong with no room for dispute. Most of all, its sheer scale automatically ties it with billions of heard and unheard biographies that our writers will be excavating for the next few decades.
THE IMITATION GAME Alan Turing’s story is one of those brilliant yet buried biographies. Imitation Game knows this and tunes its writing, set pieces and pacing accordingly. It’s a memoir that packs a punch and slams its audience with a firecracker anecdote about one of the most exciting things ever, of course: the creation of one of the first basic computers that occupies a good quarter of an entire office.

The last film that I can think of that made coding riveting is The Social Network which is, in a small way, a twin to this movie. They both grab from a similar bag of tricks, using streamlined visuals and relying on a small circle of skilled actors. Moreover, they’re both handed the problem of making an antisocial, misanthropic genius the audience’s hero for a solid two hours and both are not afraid to show that hero’s ugly side.

imitation 1 This is where Cumberbatch hits his target with frightening precision (Insert American Sniper joke here). He keeps up that soft air of entitlement and condescension that vectors us all in pretty quickly. And his coldness makes it all the more special for those seconds where he lashes out, trust me. He drives the film by modeling his actions after the robots his character actively worships and injects just enough humanity at all the right moments to keep us all invested. That humanity is very much weaved around the structure of the entire movie which bounces between Turing’s construction of his code-cracking computer (Affectionately referred to as “Christopher” by our boy for some pretty intriguing reasons that are uncovered throughout) and his past at boarding school.

But we all know Mr. Cumberbatch has a knack for playing near-mechanical men with a concentrated dose of background, what about our supporting cast? Well, they do very well for themselves too especially since they have to hold their own against their dynamic lead. There aren’t a lot of large roles besides Turing but Keira Knightley pulls off an intelligent yet somewhat vulnerable portrait of Turing’s fiance and colleague, Joan Clarke. She is able to work with Cumberbatch and genuinely portrays the problems of working with an irritable intellect. The supporting cast of Turing’s workers do the same as they’re gradually forced to adhere to his intellect. Every actor here is pretty much brimming with the era as well.
Which brings us to our next point: the sets, clothing and atmosphere are all far up to snuff. In this era where audiences love to pick and chew at small inaccuracies, Imitation is up to the task and keeps its environment small yet accurate. Set pieces and wardrobe can sometimes go unnoticed with historical movies especially with actors like this but they provide a solid backdrop here.

THE IMITATION GAME This is a smaller matter but I’m also enamored with how smart this movie is and how much trust it does in fact put in its audience. As mentioned before, early computer models aren’t exactly the most exciting things on the planet and, yes, the viewer has to fight their way through technobabble every once and a while and maybe pretend that they understand how Enigma works but this adaptation does through a good amount of puzzles at the viewer. It’s always extremely important to me that a film like this doesn’t get corrupted by downplaying its complexity to the audience.

imitation 6 Cumberbatch has gotten the role he deserves and all of the nominations that go with it. Since he is a little new to this tier of film, I suspect that he won’t get all of the awards he’s earned but then again there’s no very little rhyme or reason to the Academy (Usually the one you forgot to see yet keep vaguely hearing about wins, almost inevitably). No matter what though, his role as Turing was an exceptional exercise in dramatic strength that’ll land him (even more) weighty roles in the future. Bravo, Mr. Cumberbatch. Oh, and bravo Mr. Turing as well. Amateurs like me wouldn’t be able to spout their opinions without the descendants of your invention.
~Zach

Whiplash

This week, Zach and Vig takes a look at the music-drama WhiplashDamien Chazelle’s second feature film. Starring Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, and Melissa Benoist, Whiplash is rated R for strong language including some sexual references.

Young and talented drummer Andrew (Teller) is attending a prodigious music school and is taken under the wing of one of the most well-respected teachers at the school, Terence Fletcher (Simmons). Fletcher never relents in his abuse towards the students, torturing Andrew on his journey to become the greatest drummer of all time.

9.5 out of 10

I’d seen Miles Teller in two things before Whiplash: The Spectacular Now and That Awkward Moment. In both films, he appeared to play the same whiny and lazy character. Not only that, but he wasn’t really great in either of them. There’s no doubt that he has potential, but so far he hasn’t really shown it. However, Whiplash is an intense, meaningful and well crafted story of determination and hard-work, greatly due to Teller’s stellar performance.

Teller, as aspiring jazz drummer Andrew Nieman, is great. While his tendency to act like a kid is apparent at times, Teller’s intensity is what this movie needs in a lead. He holds his own against J.K. Simmons (who I’ll get to in a second) and never relents. Every decision Nieman makes, even if it is a tad extreme, is believable and interesting. Teller practiced drumming for hours for this role, and let me tell you, it’s pretty damn good. Overall, Teller does a really solid job.

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However, I’m not head over heels about Teller simply because he had to go head to head with J.K. Simmons, who was absolutely incredible. Channeling his inner Sergeant Hartman (from Full Metal Jacket), Simmons, as Terence Fletcher, is relentlessly entertaining as a determined, unconventional, and excessively harsh music teacher. From beginning to end, he is the most entertaining character of this film. If you haven’t seen the “Rushing or Dragging” clip, it’s breath-taking. This transition from nice guy to absolute asshole is the greatest sequence in this film and is one of the greatest individual film scenes I’ve seen in a while. Simmons is what makes the movie great, and I think and hope he wins Best Supporting Actor.

While the acting is really good, the technical aspects are also spot on. The cinematography adapts to fit the pacing of the movie, specifically the fast paced rehearsals or performances. In the final scene, camera shots flow in and out of the drum set, highlighting each drum and cymbal while scrupulously displaying the sweat and blood that pour onto Andrew’s drumset. The shots were unique, capturing the art of drumming in stunning fashion. Meanwhile, the lighting is consistently dark but sets an appropriate gritty tone. It uses shadowing to its advantage, portraying Andrew as the star by lighting him while keeping Fletcher in the shadows, and sometimes vice versa. It isn’t groundbreaking, nor is it going to be winning a ton of awards, but it is still great work by Damien Chazelle.

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Alas, this film was not perfect. There were certainly some parts that were undeveloped, to say the least. Actually, there was only one real issue, and that was with the character of Nicole, Andrew’s girlfriend. Melissa Benoist wasn’t bad at all, my gripe is more with the way she was written. Rather than being an actual character, Nicole was more of an object that was used to get different things out of  Andrew’s character. At first, she was used to show a different side of him: rather than being a drummer 24/7 he actually had a life. But in her next scene, she was used to show how obsessed Andrew was with drumming, really the exact opposite of the first scene. And the worst is that I think there was a lot of potential to utilize her character so much more efficiently. Instead, her two scenes left a bad taste in my mouth because her second, and last scene, was really kind of random and ultimately pointless because there had been no build up. And towards the end, when he *spoiler* kind of tries to get her back, I felt no sympathy.

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But in the end, there is no doubt that Whiplash is an excellent film. Music is a volatile yet beautiful thing, and this film shows both sides of it. You can love it more than anything in the world, but it can also drive you to the brink of insanity. This film’s success is derived from the passion and intensity of both lead actors, interwoven with the intimidating task of discovering the answer to one not-so-simple question: What does it take to be great? The answer, in the end, is Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons and the power of sheer human will.
~Vig

9 out of 10

Whenever I have a pretty hard-line teacher, I’m torn up. On one hand, they are pushing me past my limits and slapping me with genuine truths about the competitiveness I’m going to face in the real world relentlessly. But on the other, they’re, well, in the most eloquent word choice of my career, dicks. At least, in the moment they are.

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But whenever I’m leaving a really strict teacher’s class (Thankfully, I haven’t encountered too many) I almost always find myself wanting to impress them and defy their view of me. There’s a nagging thought that throbs in my head: what can I do to win this guy over? Whether its about passing those high standards they set or stickin’ it to ‘em, that aspiration to stand out is always there.

Whiplash is an ode to this- prepare yourself – whiplash in thought. Like the drums its main character thrashes, it’s a surprisingly fast-paced picture, filled with crashes and booms.

And there’s simply no getting around this: it’s damned brutal. This is coming from me here. The guy who loves Tarantino, has always had high tolerance for gore and did not even squinch once during Gone Girl. Whiplash tight-ropes the line between “amazingly real and impactful” and “mean and brutal” (You know, the one Darren Aronofsky plays jump-rope with) and it luckily most leans towards the latter. But there are charged, charged scenes in this thing with some (Somewhat questionable but afforded) brutal twists and abrupt turns.

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Who navigates these sharp-curving courses? The actors of course! And this movie has got some terrific ones. Teller (Whom I’ve honestly never heard of before this, sorry) entrusted to play an ambitious character without being arrogant. This is yet another line the movie straddles with astounding ease: Teller’s character can, occasionally, come off as selfish but his actor plays this role so that we mainly see a student chasing his dream (Which has been distorted by a startlingly competitive atmosphere).

Simmons delivers one of those performances that I can say so much about yet so little at the same time: it nearly speaks for itself completely but its so polished, layered and well-done that I’m tempted to dedicate the entire review to it. I’ll give it a paragraph. Remember that “whiplashing” feeling I talked about with strict teachers? I had flashbacks. I sat in disbelief at how well he can evoke the conflicted feelings (and suspense!) a strict teacher often commands.

Meanwhile the directors and editors are there to make music exciting. When I heard of this and one of my friends raved to me that it was “incredibly exciting”, I kind of laughed it off in my head. Yet my friend wasn’t lying. I compared the pacing to the drum sets played in this film and the editing completely compliments it. Percussion is no background score for this film: it’s the heart of the band, one that hammers with an undying excitement as the plot increasingly closes in. The music is entrancing and intense-just like the class it’s played in.

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If I had to assign one arching idea to Whiplash its the conflict between talent and education. How much talent can we squeeze out of ourselves and what is it in the first place for that matter? When did arts become so gruelling? I remember talking to my a group of colleagues about those grad schools that teach film, art and music and asking whether it was a true way to go about discovering your talents ($50k to have a professor discover them for you is a little steep) and one guy capped it off with this single, albeit arguable conclusion:

“If you find yourself trying really hard and impressing others, then it stops being art.”

Bonus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqUq2Da7d5c

(Couldn’t resist)
~Zach

Like Whiplash? Hate it? Let us know in the comment section below!

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Up next, Sam and Vig take a look at the Alejando Gonzalez Inarritu’s critically acclaimed black-comedy Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). Starring Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, and Emma Stone, Birdman is rated R for language throughout, some sexual content and brief violence.

Birdman follows washed up actor Riggan Thomas (Keaton), famously known for playing “Birdman”, as he attempts to re-invent himself as a director by putting on a classic Broadway drama. However, when opening night goes terribly, Riggan must scramble to find a replacement lead actor. Along with the actor, Riggan must juggle the set, his daughter, and a critic who threatens to shut down the show. Overwhelmed with the disaster, Riggan attempts to overcome his struggle to successfully put up aplay and shed his status as a washed up actor.

9.5 out of 10

Being a man of the theater and someone who hopes to go into the business later in life, I was enthralled by Birdman. Not only were the technical aspects spot on, but the themes were interesting and the overall execution was unique, yet perfect. 

Part of what makes Birdman so brilliant is the characters. Every character is original, spontaneous and highly entertaining, and each feature their own way of keeping us interested. Edward Norton was hilarious and even more so into it than his character (a method actor) was. It’s good to see him back at it after a stretch of meaningless performances. Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Amy Ryan were all great as well, and the way the movie gave every individual some sort of storyline raised the overall stakes and kept us interested. Keaton though, as Riggan Thomas, was the shining star. Essentially playing himself in some light (Batman was only three years before the fictional Birdman), Keaton’s struggle with finding a purpose, mixed with hearing the voice of fictional Birdman every corner he turned, acted as a perfect anchor for this film to move around. Riggan Thomas was funny, insane, and driven to revive his pitiful self, setting Keaton up to be one of the best actor candidates to watch this year.

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The camera work, in my opinion, was stunning. The cinematography was worked in a way that the entire film appeared to be one continuous shot. It all looked very fluid, one scene moving directly to another. I was never able to take my eye off the film simply because it never gave me a chance. While this is not always necessarily a good thing, in this case, the strong dialogue and lack of action allowed the non-stop camera to be extremely effective. As a result, the slips between reality and fantasy were all the more convincing.

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The lighting was also manipulated very well to set the tone to however would fit what Riggan was thinking or feeling. For example, the first scene with Mike Shiner (Norton) uses lighting to make Shiner intimidating. The lighting is dim and eerie, and rarely illuminates Riggan. Instead it portrays Mike as a superior talent. Additionally, when Riggan is depressed, the lighting is dim. When he feels resurgent, like in the final scene, the lights are brighter and more hopeful. The lighting is subtle yet powerful in making the message so powerful.

And that message is what drives the film home. The film is a satire on the modern day blockbuster extravaganza and seriously questions the artistic integrity of the actors who star in these films. The decline of true art and the rise of mega action blockbusters is questioned throughout Birdman, specifically calling out Robert Downey Jr., Michael Fassbender, and Jeremy Renner. Don’t get me wrong, I love comic book movies, but the movie’s take on what true artistic talent is– passion-driven motivation– is a breath of fresh air.

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There is no doubt Birdman is a weirdass movie. It can, at times, appear to be a load of pretentious, loopy, bull-crap. But all of this loopiness, presented in the form of Michael Keaton speaking to an imaginary superhero and flying around New York City, gives Keaton his character and the film an awe-inspiring touch. Despite its tendency to seem overly surreal at many points, Birdman is smartly written, curiously crafted, and a straight up entertaining piece of film-making.
~Vig

6.5 out of 10

There were a lot of identifiably “interesting” aspects of Birdman.

The lighting was interesting. The coloring of the film varied from intense, almost monochrome blues, greens, and reds in the theater to the sparkling neon and black of Broadway at night, all the while maintaining a surreal brightness that somehow reminded me of jell-o.

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The camera choices were interesting. Many of the shots moved. In a typical scene, the camera would go from a side view of two people, and then spin to have only one person in the frame and then gradually go very close to the single subject, all in one motion. This rare, fluid type of filming had a strange, almost dizzying effect. The cinematographer also added to this disorienting feeling by occasionally filming characters in an way that resembled a fish eye lens.

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The melting of reality and fiction was interesting. The film starts with the main character, Riggan (Michael Keaton), hovering, cross-legged, in his tighty whities, a couple feet off the floor. As the film progresses Riggan reveals his ability to perform more and more spectacular feats, be it getting a light to fall in a theater, or flying over New York City. The film makers leave it up to the audience members to decided what is real and what is fake, although towards the end it definitely appears as if most of these powers are figments of Riggan’s imagination.
A main theme of the film is that people have an unsatisfied desire to be valued and important, and Riggan’s imagined super powers were a childish way to make him feel special and above everyone else (literally). Although the idea of self worth is an pertinent one that many of us can relate to, Riggan’s battle for importance quite honestly bored me. From an intellectual standpoint I feel I should care, but a self absorbed man throwing chairs around his dressing room is simply bland. I found the interactions between Sam (Emma Stone) and Mike (Edward Norton) infinitely more interesting, because it was an exciting situation between two original characters, which kept your interest while making you mildly think, rather than simply forcing an idea about the human condition down your throat. And yet, Sam and Mike’s story was a side plot at best, and was forgotten about when it was time for Riggan’s explosive inner struggle to take the full stage.

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The exploration of the eternal struggle for truth in acting was another redeeming factor of the movie. The battles the actors of the play went through to make their performances real were poignant and interesting. However, ironically, the film itself overall didn’t feel particularly truthful. [Spoiler] There were many plot points where the audience thought Riggan was going to die and then he was miraculously saved, which just seemed like the screenwriters toying with my emotions. All of the “interesting” aspects of the movie, from the lighting to the camera movement to the blending of fiction and reality, didn’t feel as if they were a natural part of the movie. It was done in such a way that all I could think of was some camera man meticulously planning his shots out just to be different. It didn’t feel organic, but rather an added bonus to give more pazzaz. It’s difficult to branch into the more “artistic” side of movie making, and I’m glad Birdman tried, but somehow the jigsaw didn’t fall quite into place, and the film ended up feeling a bit like a middle schooler trying to be avant garde.
~Sam

Like Birdman? Hate it? Let us know in the comment section below