I went to the AMC Best Picture Marathon in Chicago with my sister Elizabeth -- the giant one where they watched all eight movies in a row. I'd already seen The Grand Budapest Hotel, which was the last one of the night, so we left before it began so we could get home at 5 in the morning instead of 7. So I managed to watch all the Best Picture nominees and have an opinion on them by the morning of the Oscars. Here's my final opinions on them, all ranked from least favorite to favorite.
8. The Imitation Game
I'm apparently in the minority on this one, but I just didn't think it was that good. I think Benedict himself did a tremendous job, really creating a fascinating and sympathetic character, but the other actors were not at all interesting, and the script was a muddled, cheesy mess... though either I or the Academy are extremely confused, as this won Best Adapted Screenplay. It's worth seeing for Benedict, but he's really carrying the whole movie.
7. American Sniper
A good movie that completely falls apart in the last 15 minutes, when it abandons the character arc it had worked so hard to establish and pretends all the problems the first hour and a half set up just never actually existed. It gets ranked above The Imitation Game because it was almost something really amazing, but it was a huge disappointment to me.
A good story that comes across more as a documentary than a biopic. Aside from one or two scenes that really have an emotional impact, the movie as a whole is more informative than powerful. Information is a good thing to have, but I don't think that's what the movie was going for.
5. The Theory of Everything
A sweet and interesting story that doesn't really offer anything new or surprising to the genre, but it's effective and well-told. Eddie Redmayne deserved his Oscar for his transformation in this movie -- he's fascinating.
...I didn't even realize until now that all the biopics are grouped together at the bottom of my chart. (It's also interesting to note that each one of these biopics often centers around"The story of a brilliant man and the longsuffering woman who supported him." The women in each of these movies are so similar that I frequently get them mixed up. Two of them got Oscar nominations, but I have to think hard to remember which ones because there's not really a lot of difference between the four.)
4. The Grand Budapest Hotel
I watched this one back in October of 2014, and it's interesting to note that at the time I noted that Anderson films have a way of slipping away from me, and I wondered if this would have more staying power. It mostly didn't, in that I can't tell you what this is about except that Ralph Fiennes is in it, but I do remember enjoying it a lot. So, like The Theory of Everything, it didn't stand out to me but I enjoyed watching it.
And here we're getting into the ones that I really, really truly liked. Boyhood is a slow, but deliberate story about growth and change and figuring out who you are, and this makes the 12-year-filming gimmick not just a gimmick but something that fits the story perfectly. Patricia Arquette is especially good in this (another well-deserved Oscar win there). I understand the people who find it slow or dull -- it's more about scattered episodes than consistent story progression -- but much like Linklater's Before trilogy, I found it extremely watchable because the characters were likable and interesting.
For most of the night, I thought this would be my favorite. It's a delightful, visually beautiful, fascinating look at fame and growing old and self-worth. It reminded me a lot of Black Swan, my favorite Best Picture nominee from the 2011 Oscars, though Birdman has fewer lesbian sex scenes. So... if you liked Black Swan, I'd suggest checking this one out, since I have the same reaction to it.
Entertainingly, the people around me did NOT like this movie. One of them loudly yelled, "BOOOOOOOO!" at the screen for a full minute after it ended and then proceeded to complain to all of her friends for the next several movie breaks about how much she hated it. I was curious as to why, so I kept listening in, but, uh, turns out she was just upset about the fantasy/reality blend because it was confusing. We would probably not be good movie buddies.
The reviews for this movie all use words like "electrifying" and "thrilling" and "intense," and Whiplash is all of these things. American Sniper had more action, Selma had higher stakes, The Imitation Game had more intrigue, but this was the movie that had me on the edge of my seat, especially in the final 15 minutes. Out of all the movies I saw, this was the one that stuck with me, the one I still remember moments from a week after seeing it, the one that I want to rent on DVD and watch again.
Did you watch any of these this year? What did you think of them? Which snubbed movies did you want to see get a Best Picture nomination?