With only a few hours before the parade of stars down The Red Carpet begins, I'm whipping off a few, very brief comments about the movies nominated for Best Picture. Enjoy, engage, disagree if you like...
This movie was not as controversial as I thought it would be based on various Facebook posts. Some of the criticism revolved around the difference in how Kyle was portrayed in the movie, as opposed to the book, but I can’t speak to that having not read the book. Simply as a film, if we can believe anything in a film, it did make real the massive amount of stress that some servicemen and women encounter on a daily basis in war. It also illuminated the difficult adjustments a couple must go through, both together and individually, during deployment and upon the veterans return. What the film did not show, which I thought was almost a travesty, is the difficult healing process that must take place. The story fell really flat and inauthentic when his on-screen therapy consisted of one session and a tour of the VA. The film portrayed a man affected only by the stress of protecting himself and his fellow soldiers and not at all by his 160 “confirmed kills.” And that stress was apparently forever alleviated once he began to help his fellow veterans. If the film had portrayed a man who, though he loved his country, still had at least a few qualms about killing men, women and children, or about war in general or that war specifically, I think his critics might have been more sympathetic. But unfortunately a stereotype of the “Guns, God & Country cowboy, with little ability to question, be self-reflective, or see another point of view, was also confirmed.
I love Birdman as a film and commentary on our pop culture and give it my Best Picture nod. I hated listening to the soundtrack but it was perfect for the film...driven and chaotic. Michael Keaton’s performance was brilliant (Best Actor worth IMO) as a super-hero has-been trying to finally do something artfully significant. It had a play-within-a-play feel to it; portraying all the drama, ego and insecurities associated with the theater. For me, it also asked the questions; Who are we as individuals in this high-tech, attention-seeking world? What should make a person famous or infamous? Why is society so fickle, demanding and unforgiving? These cultural complexities centered around Keaton’s character; he possesses huge insecurities around how his play would be perceived, his daughter questions his relevance because he doesn’t possess a Twitter account, he questions whether his past fame as a super hero was worth it in light of what he had to sacrifice. Birdman was the whole package for me...great performances, great soundtrack, great story, great tension, great cinematography and great messages contained within.
The scope of Boyhood is something we don’t see in movie-making these days; a two-hour film shot over the course of 12 years...no actors playing the “young version” of the boy or make-up to age the adults. It had to have been a risk...not knowing if the actors would commit for that long, if they would be available, or even alive for that long...so that aspect was intriguing. But as unique as the approach was, the storyline itself was rather ordinary, as films go. I did think it would be a great film to watch and discuss with your own children, as it did portray many of the struggles families endure and how those struggles ultimately affect everyone involved.
The Imitation Game
This was, undoubtedly, the most moving of the all the films. It was convincing, educational, emotional and entertaining. Cumberbatch made us like this socially unlikeable man during the movie, and love him at the end. I always know the movie is doing its job of engaging me in the story when I am completely lost in it for the duration; when I forget I am in a movie theater. This movie did that for me...it is number two on my list for Best Picture...and the one I would most recommend. See it.
SelmaWith all the talk of heroes flying around the internet, sparked by American Sniper, I’m not sure why this film has been left without its share of positive “comments” about MLK. The movie was educational, as it fleshed out these real events during the civil rights movement. What struck me was how King changed a nation using only words of truth that inspired peaceful action, beautifully delivered by David Oyelowo (even though the Director could not use the actual speeches due to copyright laws, she claims she re-wrote them with the essence intact.) What wasn’t delivered in the film for me was a full sense of the man, not just the leader, which would have allowed me to connect more emotionally to the film. But I had to ask myself this question after seeing both Selma and American Sniper...which of these men represents a hero to me? Is it someone who does what comes naturally in fighting for what they believe in or someone who goes against the human instincts of anger, revenge and aggression to defend themself, or to fight against what they believe is wrong?
Also, I wished they would have used songs from the time period instead of just spirituals for the soundtrack. To me that would have made the film a bit more real.
The Theory of Everything
Least favorite of the eight movies, but that may be because of my own pre-conceived ideas. I thought I was going to see a movie about the scientist that became one of the 20th centuries’ most renowned and controversial. Instead, I watched a tragic love-story that could have been about anybody with a disability. I also found it strange that no one seemed to age during this movie, or even dress appropriate to the time period. It was as if the director either wanted to keep us thinking we were in the ‘60’s (an I’m not sure why that would be) or his costume department was just really bad.
A really interesting and entertaining story...good plot, acting, conflict, etc. J.K Simmons is unlikeable from beginning to end, and I suspect not that unique in some highly competitive art and music schools (I once had a guy in college tell me and another girl he couldn’t hang out with us anymore because he wanted to focus on his art...and we were just friends). This is a story about how far people will go for art, or fame, or to prove themselves. And sometimes it doesn’t always end happily.