Okay, now that that’s over with (Valentine’s Day), we can get on to what the rest of February is all about, for me anyway. The Oscars. Next Sunday marks the 87th annual Academy Awards, and as you may have noticed, I’ve increased my value over last year’s two cent’s worth post.
That’s both because I’ve seen more of the movies and performances nominated (all the Best Picture nominees except for Selma, and many films that contain nominations in other categories) and because I value my own opinion on the subject more (thanks, Mom). As for Selma, I opted not to see it. What can I say? I’m kind of a baby. I never saw 12 Years a Slave either. I can tolerate fictional violence if it has a point, but have a harder time with true portrayals, particularly of shameful periods in history. So, without further ado — my nickel’s worth.
My favorite movie of the nominees and personal pick for Best Picture is Whiplash. I’m not saying it’ll win, but I absolutely loved it. Perhaps it resonated with me so much because it appealed to my artistic side. This inspiring film carries the message that what is necessary to become one of the greats in any creative endeavor (in this case Andrew Neyman, played brilliantly by Miles Teller, aspires to be a legendary jazz musician) is a drive that eclipses all else and leaves the rest of the world questioning your sanity. I’ve had this very conversation with writer friends and personally determined that I probably don’t have what it takes to make it big. Not for lack of talent, though unbeknownst to me that may be an issue too, but because I desire to have a long, sane and balanced life!
J.K. Simmons, formally known as “that guy,” plays whip-cracking professor/conductor Terence Fletcher, who takes the concept of tough love to new heights and rattles off offensive insults with rapid, drill instructor precision. Simmons has my vote for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, though I liked Mark Ruffalo in Foxcatcher (is Channing Tatum too much of a hunk to even be considered?) and Edward Norton’s performance is one of the few things I actually liked about Birdman.
I had planned a whole separate review of Birdman called “Snobby Bird,” but as usual, time got away from me. I know, I know. A lot of people liked it. I thought it was a pretentious, artsy, load of poo. Okay, maybe calling it poo is a bit much. After all, it’ll probably win. But I’d even prefer to sit through American Sniper again! (Read my earlier review of it here.) Well, wait. I’m not sure that’s true. As a writer and wannabe film critic, I’d probably read up on Birdman and suffer through it again just to try to figure out what all the fuss is about. Am I missing something here?
What bothered me about it is that it took me back to my college days as an English major or even further back to high school drama geek days when I was surrounded by hoardes of goth-styled, eyebrow-pierced young adults all trying to prove how unique and smart they were. At first, it’s intimidating. Like being stuck wearing penny loafers in some dark, artsy dive bar on open mic night listening to spoken word poetry. But then you really listen. And realize no one’s saying anything that profound or that you yourself can’t say anyway.
So, this is how Birdman struck me. Like a rebellious teenager desperately trying to prove how clever he is, director Alejandro Inarritu dazzled us with stylistic camera shots, an annoying, almost continuous drum soundtrack and heady, superfluous dialogue that had most of the audience nodding in approval while I bet they secretly scratched their heads, particularly at Keaton’s surreal alter-ego’s antics, and wondered but what’s it all mean? I understand the dig it took at today’s audience for needing superhero fueled action and explosions versus thoughtful Raymond Carver adaptations, but I still left feeling like I needed the CliffsNotes. Or Award Nominees for Dummies. Or maybe that’s all me and I just didn’t get it. I ‘d like to think I’m fairly smart, but I guess it’s possible. That’s probably why I prefer straightforward, simple writers like Hemingway.
For other nominations, I like Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game or Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything for Best Actor. (In Redmayne’s case, he deserves to win for the sheer physicality it took to transform into Stephen Hawking alone.) Speaking of amazing transformations, Meryl Streep would be my pick for her bajillionth award, this time for Best Supporting Actress in Into the Woods, if it wasn’t for Patricia Arquette in Boyhood. Into the Woods, by the way, is my favorite film not nominated for Best Picture. It’ll be a shame if it doesn’t at least take home an Oscar for Costume Design. I pick Julianne Moore in Still Alice for Best Actress. No, I haven’t actually seen the movie yet so I guess I can’t say, but I just bet she’s fantastic. I won’t be unhappy if Rosamund Pike wins either. She was truly twisted in Gone Girl, while Reese Witherspoon and Felicity Jones played parts that really didn’t do much for me.
So, there you have it — my nickel’s worth. I guess you know what I’ll be watching next Sunday. It’s the only thing that could tear me away from Downton Abbey. Well, that or a movie.