2015 ACADEMY AWARDS

One of the best moments? Or THE best moment?
One of the best moments? Or THE best moment?

Elizabeth

Well, we didn’t get very far in our Oscar campaign this year. This was because of a few reasons, but the main one being that by the time the nominations came out, a good number of the movies were already out of theaters but not on DVD yet. So it’s a lot harder to pick up the slack when you have no way to do it. Out of the 60 unique films nominated, we only saw 10 this year. But this time we sort of went forwards instead of backwards; we usually start with smaller movies that maybe have a couple of nominations and save bigger ones for last. So this year we may have seen less, but I felt like I knew more about who I wanted to win this year than I have in a while.

Best Picture – Out of all the nominees, my favorites were Grand Budapest Hotel and Birdman. I was secretly hoping for a Grand Budapest Hotel sweep, because seeing a Wes Anderson movie sweep the Oscars would sort of be a dream come true, but I’m really just as happy with Birdman.

Best Actor – Ehhhh. The Theory of Everything wasn’t good, but Eddie Redmayne was pretty good in it. At least better than Bradley Cooper. But was he better than Michael Keaton or Benedict Cumberbatch? I don’t think so.

Best Actress – The Best Actress category was chock full of stuff I didn’t want see. I never wanted to see The Theory of Everything. Wild looked amazing but I felt like watching a movie about a younger woman losing her mother would be too emotionally traumatic for me to be worth it. Still Alice also looked amazing, but it was kind of along the same lines as Wild in terms of sadness. Basically, I just knew I didn’t want Felicity Jones to win this. But when Julianne Moore won . . . well that was such a long time coming that it was really great. I personally would have liked to see her win a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for The Big Lebowski, but maybe that’s just me.

Best Supporting Actor – I kind of figured this would happen. Whiplash was terrible but I do love J.K. Simmons, and the Oscars love it when actors yell a lot. But again, it’s J.K. Simmons, so I really can’t not be okay with him winning.

Best Supporting Actress – YESSSSSSSSSSS!!!!! Our girl! Patricia Arquette! Patricia Arquette is a little special to us because we both love True Romance so much and her character in Boardwalk Empire is totally badass and amazing. She also looked hot as hell in True Romance and looked beautiful in Boyhood, without looking weird and plasticy. But, obviously, my favorite moment of probably the entire night was her amazing acceptance speech, which ended with a badass call for women’s equality that Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez lost their shit over. It was amazing.

Best Director – I have to say, I loved Birdman but I was disappointed that this didn’t go to Richard Linklater. Usually I hate it when the way a movie is filmed is valued over the movie itself, but I do think that Linklater deserved recognition for what he did with Boyhood.

Best Film Editing – Uh, yeah, same for this one. First of all, Whiplash won and Whiplash was only allowed a pass for J.K. Simmons winning. Second of all, can you imagine the editing that went into a movie filmed over 12 years? I guess I feel like if I edited Boyhood and fucking Whiplash won over me, I would quit.

Best Foreign Language Film – Perfect! The only one we saw won! Usually the opposite happens. So even though we didn’t watch the others, Ida was so good and such a good movie watching experience that I’m really happy it won. I personally think it also should have won cinematography, but that was never going to happen.

Best Makeup/Hair/Costume/Production Design – This wasn’t the Wes Anderson sweep I was hoping for, but Grand Budapest Hotel deserved these more than anything else.

Best Sound Mixing – I truly have 0 opinion on sound mixing, but I was pissed Whiplash won another.

Best Adapted Screenplay – I didn’t think this was really the strongest category. We didn’t see Inherent Vice, but I mostly just knew I didn’t want American Sniper, The Theory of Everything, or goddamn Whiplash to win. So I was happy with this one, and Graham Moore’s acceptance speech made me choke up a little.

Best Original Screenplay – Good call.

Christopher

Another year and the Oscars have come and gone. Although it seems so much faster this year. We definitely came nowhere close to watching all the Oscar movies. I mean I don’t think we even came close to watching half. However, I did feel like I knew a little more of what was going on just because we watched more of the main pictures this year. We did miss Selma, which we really need to watch soon but I’m glad we watched what we did. I do really want to try to watch all the animated shorts and a few of the foreign films and documentaries.

Also, I thought the actual show was better than it has in the past. It was a lot less harsh of the audience which I liked. I do think the whole Oscar ballot in a glass box skit fell flat every time it was mentioned but I knew it had to be magic related considering the host, Neil Patrick Harris. And of course Harris was far better than someone like Seth MacFarlane. And of course I thought the worst moment of the night was Sean Penn’s green card joke(?).

I felt overall this year was not that great. I felt like the last two years had a lot more films I enjoyed watching, especially best pictures. Can’t wait for next year though!

WHIPLASH (2014)

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ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS

  • Best Picture – Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook and David Lancaster
  • Best Supporting Actor – J.K. Simmons
  • Best Film Editing – Tom Cross
  • Best Sound Mixing – Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley
  • Best Adapted Screenplay – Damien Chazelle

Elizabeth (spoilers!)

I didn’t like Whiplash because you can argue that the winners of the movie are two things I hate: jazz and total assholes.

The movie follows Andrew (Miles Teller), a student at an apparently prestigious music school. He, and everyone else (including other professors), practically shit themselves every time professor Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) shows up. Why? Because he’s brilliant? Maybe? All we know is he has some kind of special jazz band class that he asks Andrew to join, only to continually torture him by yelling at him until he cries, slapping him, and making him play until his hands bleed, among other things.

Eventually, Andrew and the band are at a music competition, which Andrew is late to because his bus broke down. When he gets there, Fletcher tells him that his part will be going to someone else as Andrew is late and doesn’t have his drumsticks. Realizing he left his drumsticks at the car rental place he used to get there, Andrew promises Fletcher he’ll be right back and rushes to pick them up, only to be broadsided by a truck on his way back. He crawls out of the car and runs the rest of the way to the competition, bloody and nearly crying, just in time. But he can’t really play (it seems like one of his hands is broken), so Fletcher makes him leave. Because this is the culmination of all the literal blood, sweat, and tears he’s put in and Fletcher doesn’t seem to care, Andrew attacks him on stage and is then kicked out of school.

A lawyer approaches Andrew and asks him to testify against Fletcher, because a former student of his killed himself and the depression only started once he was in Fletcher’s class. Andrew agrees, and though we never see him testify or how it comes to Fletcher, we can assume Fletcher is fired. Months later, Andrew passes a jazz bar that is promoting Fletcher, so he (for some reason) goes in to watch. Fletcher spots him and they have drinks (again, for some reason), and Fletcher tells him he was fired from the school because an unknown student testified against him, and then invites Andrew to perform with his band at a jazz festival. Aaaaaaaand for some reason, Andrew agrees. However, while on stage at the festival seconds before their performance starts, Fletcher tells Andrew he knows it was him who testified and leads the band in a piece that Andrew has never heard of or been given sheet music for. Andrew leaves the stage humiliated, only to come back a few seconds later to start playing one of the harder pieces from Fletcher’s class. Andrew leads the band in the song, and the movie ends with a drum solo.

So, yeah, why should we care about any of this? There are essentially only two characters here, Andrew and Fletcher. All we know about Andrew is that he is a young music student, he’s a good drummer, he’s close with his father, and he doesn’t have many friends. At one point, he asks a girl on a date. We see that date and it goes okay. A little bit later, we see Andrew break up with her (even though it seems like they only went on that one okay date) because he thinks she’s going to prevent him from being successful. Then Andrew invites her to the jazz festival at the end via telephone, only to find out she has a boyfriend. We never see her again, and her presence means absolutely nothing and is unbelievably pointless to the story. All we know about Fletcher is that he is a jazz musician and an insane monster. Is he a brilliant jazz musician? I guess? We’re really just supposed to assume that – it’s never proven to us. The entire movie is a cycle of scenes of Andrew trying really hard, Fletcher abusing him, and Andrew trying again. Over and over and over. And in the end . . .nothing happens? One could argue that Fletcher acted the way he did to bring out the brilliance and genius of his students (as he claims he does at point) and the entire movie is just to get Andrew to play this amazing drum solo in the end. But I don’t buy that. Fletcher is obviously out for revenge against Andrew, and when Andrew first leaves the stage at the festival, Fletcher seems very satisfied with that. So I don’t think Fletcher was a brilliant teacher, I think he was just a sadist who can read music. And even though Andrew sort of overcame Fletcher in the end, for what? He was still humiliated, he was still kicked out of the music school, and he was still just performing at a jazz festival. We don’t know that he found any kind of music success after the festival, and I think it’s safe to assume that he never will. And that’s why I think the only real winner was jazz itself (ugh) and at a close second would be Fletcher himself.

Yeah, J.K. Simmons was good and I really like him a lot. But he wasn’t given much to work with. His character was so one-dimensional it was like a caricature. And Miles Teller was pretty good, too, but had the same problem – he was pretty good because his character didn’t do much but get tortured. I know Whiplash started as a short film and it really should have stuck with that; you can get away with one-note characters much easier in a short film. Whiplash has also gotten really good reviews (it currently has a 95 on Rotten Tomatoes and an 88 on Metacritic), but I truly don’t understand why. It’s not like this was a bad looking or shoddily put together film, but it really didn’t accomplish anything and was really hard to watch.

Christopher

This was one of the most repetitive movies we’ve watched for these Oscar nominations. Student works hard, teacher yells at him; student works hard, teacher yells at him; student works hard, teacher yells at him. This movie just reminded me of all the shitty baseball coaches I had to deal with when I was younger and how just yelling at someone really doesn’t help them succeed at all. Fuck people that think it can. I’m glad I don’t have to sit through this one again.

THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING (2014)

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ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS

  • Best Picture – Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce and Anthony McCarten
  • Best Actor – Eddie Redmayne
  • Best Actress – Felicity Jones
  • Best Original Score – Jóhann Jóhannsson
  • Best Adapted Screenplay – Anthony McCarten

Christopher

Hopefully this is the absolute low side of Oscar movies this year cause this movie was tough to get through. This is certainly the perfect example of a movie Elizabeth and I would of never watched had it not been nominated for an Oscar. And why was it nominated exactly? I kept asking myself that after sitting through this collage of montages.

The Theory of Everything was boring, had very little character development, and was full of the same scenes over and over again. The biggest conflicts that appear in this movie could of all easily been avoided had some sort of communication happened between ANYBODY. Obviously a big part of the film involves Stephen Hawking slowly becoming paralyzed due to ALS. However, even the other characters in this film can’t say what they are thinking to each other. Because of this everyone is miserable in this movie, especially the viewer.

One thing that is pretty funny in this movie is the character of Jonathan Hellye, played by Charlie Cox. Cox’s character, a third party who starts off as a helper but ends as an adulterer, plays the exact same role as he did in Boardwalk Empire. Except he doesn’t kill anyone in The Theory of Everything. Almost exactly. I can only assume that the casting director of the film was a giant Boardwalk Empire fan, saw that his movie had the exact same character and immediately knew Cox was who they were going to cast. If you watched Boardwalk Empire it’s kind of distracting. However, that didn’t really matter too much because by the time he shows up you’re well into a movie you know is bad.

Skip this for sure! The acting was good and the makeup was good but I would love to know why this is up for so many Oscars.

Elizabeth

The Theory of Everything falls squarely into my category of Movies I Have No Interest In Seeing But Now I Have To See Because It’s Nominated For An Oscar. The main reason I didn’t want to see it was that this movie about the life of Stephen Hawking was promoted as a love story between he and his wife, Jane. The tagline is “His mind changed our world. Her love changed his.” The main poster is a scene of them spinning each other around, which looks like it’s coming straight from a Nicholas Sparks movie. And that’s all well and good. Except if you know anything about Stephen Hawking’s personal life (which we do, thanks to the documentary A Brief History of Time), you know that he and his wife, Jane, divorced 20 years ago in 1995. Sooo, I wasn’t that excited about seeing a 2 hour plus love story about a marriage that ultimately failed.

Ironically, I don’t think The Theory of Everything managed the passing of time very well; if it wasn’t for Hawking’s declining health it would be hard to tell how much time had passed. To try and make up for it, the movie is packed with montages. Every time the movie needed to move along but also get information out, we got a montage. It also didn’t handle Hawking’s declining speech very well; eventually Hawking is so hard to understand that Jane has to become his interpreter. And that’s fine, until we get a scene that’s a conversation between just Stephen and Jane. Stephen says something unintelligible, and because she’s not interpreting, Jane just answers rather than repeats what he says. That makes sense in real life, but not really when you have viewers who can’t understand him at all. Subtitles were used in another scene where people were speaking French, so I know they’re capable of it!

Also, you might notice that picture above looks kind of weird. A little fuzzy, maybe. But that’s not just this picture. That’s the whole movie. The entire movie looks like it was shot from the perspective of someone with too much chlorine in their eyes.

Eddie Redmayne was good as Stephen Hawking, but I think it had a lot to do with the physical transformation he went through throughout the movie. Felicity Jones wasn’t bad, but her main characteristic was being an overwhelmed wife. We never really saw things from her perspective, which made her character kind of boring to me.

Watch A Brief History of Time instead.

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (2014)

 

Budapest

 ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS

  • Best Picture – Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales and Jeremy Dawson
  • Best Cinematography – Robert Yeoman
  • Best Costume Design – Milena Canonero
  • Best Director – Wes Anderson
  • Best Film Editing – Barney Pilling
  • Best Makeup and Hairstyling – Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier
  • Best Original Score – Alexandre Desplat
  • Best Production Design – Adam Stockhausen (Production Design); Anna Pinnock (Set Decoration)
  • Best Original Screenplay – Screenplay by Wes Anderson; Story by Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness

Elizabeth

I think the very first thing that struck me about The Grand Budapest Hotel was its scale. I definitely associate Wes Anderson with meticulous set pieces and beautiful locations, but this was to a level that I thought was impressive for even him. The film takes place in the fictional country of Republic of Zubrowka, which gives Anderson the ability to create an entire fake world based in our real world. It reminded me of The Royal Tenenbaums in that way; even though that took place in New York, it feels like a New York that isn’t real. But every shot of The Grand Budapest Hotel is packed, and in the best way possible. Packed with people, packed with set pieces – this comes through even in shots that are pretty sparse. Instead of feeling claustrophobic, it made it feel real, like this world was old and lived-in. Another great part of having a fake country is that this giant cast is full of natural accents; American, English, Irish, etc etc. But this country has no accent, so it’s not wrong to have everyone in their natural voice. Again, it just makes it feel more natural.

Wes Anderson’s ability to handle a massive cast has never been more clear than with The Grand Budapest Hotel. While he’s just as able to work with a more paired-down cast (Bottle Rocket, The Darjeeling Limited), I think his ability to handle this size cast is one of his most impressive talents. This cast ranges from Anderson regulars with small parts (Schwartzman, Wilson, Murray), new-to-Anderson actors (Keitel, Ronan, Fiennes), and with a straight-up new actor as the film’s driving force (Revolori). Even with that kind of mix, no one feels out of place or obvious. Everyone manages to blend in together somehow to form this weird world that doesn’t always feel all that weird.

But really, like with all of Wes Anderson’s movies, my absolute favorite part is the story and the characters within it. The story is wrapped up in a perfect package without feeling contrite; instead it just feels like Anderson is really good at framing his stories. And like the cast, the story is large: multiple romances, multiple villains, multiple narrators, an art heist, war, pastries . . . every element of the story is cared for by Anderson. You’re never lost, you’re never wondering why something is the way it is, you just follow along. It manages to feel completely original and like an old storybook all at once.

I loved Moonrise Kingdom, but I loved The Grand Budapest Hotel even more. Even though it’s his latest and just came out a year ago, I feel like it’s already the most classic Wes Anderson film that he’s made.

Christopher

Since the Oscars are just around the corner and the list was released last Thursday, Elizabeth and I are finally ready to get into trying to watch everything on the list! Hopefully we’ll get even further this year. It seems like a lot people are upset with some of the nominations, and I’m sure with good reason, but as we start watching everything in each category I think I’ll have a better understanding of what deserves to be on the list and what didn’t. The first movie we’re starting with is The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Ever since I stumbled across Bottle Rocket on Comedy Central back in middle school or whenever, I’ve been pretty into Wes Anderson and his films. I really enjoyed his last movie, Moonrise Kingdom, but I was a little nervous about seeing The Grand Budapest Hotel. I think the number of scenes that were shown in the trailer made me nervous that the film was going to be very difficult to follow and was going to take place in multiple locations just to make it look pretty. However, I did not find this to be the case at all while watching the film.

Although some of the set-up might have been confusing for some, I found the storytelling upon storytelling to work in the film’s favor. It did an excellent job of feeling like it was taking you through time and mediums. The girl in the beginning is reading a book, we get to see the writer talking to a camera about when he was inspired to write the book, we see the author meet the protagonist, who in turns tells the story that inspired the writer to write the book that the girl is reading on a bench. See…it sounds like it would be confusing but it creates a sense of importance. That the events that take place around The Grand Budapest Hotel are so important that their stories last through time. This movie did a fantastic job of creating layers.

In that same sense I feel like this felt like Wes Anderson’s biggest movie. It felt like he spent a ton on money but in reality he only spent around 26 million. Just a drop in the hat to someone like James Cameron who spends a shitload but skips the whole having a good story thing. I loved how there were so many extras in this film. So many scenes felt like an I Spy page.

I would totally recommend this movie to anyone. I think it has many appealing elements that would draw in a wide variety of individuals. I’m not sure if this will be my favorite Oscar movie, but I know with just this and Captain America: The Winter Soldier as the only two we’ve seen, it’s at the top of my list right now.

CAPTAIN PHILIPS (2013)

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ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS

  • Best Picture (Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, and Michael De Luca – Producers)
  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Barkhad Abdi)
  • Best Film Editing (Christopher Rouse)
  • Best Sound Editing (Oliver Tarney)
  • Best Sound Mixing (Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith, and Chris Munro)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay (Billy Ray)

Christopher

This movie was crazy. I didn’t really expect to enjoy it but I thought it was great! I think I must really like movies involving modern day pirates. I think I’m alone on this but I have always thought of Life Aquatic as my favorite Wes Anderson movie. But anyway, Captain Philips held my attention all the way through. Before we watched it I thought the movie was going to drag on, I really couldn’t imagine what the story was going to be the whole time. But it worked in every way! I really don’t have a lot to say except I loved it so if you haven’t seen it yet, check it out! It’s at Redbox at least.

Elizabeth

I really did not want to see Captain Philips when it first came out. Pirates are too scary and it just seemed way too stressful. But Chris pointed out that it was probably going to get nominated for Oscars, so I knew I would have to see it. But I’m glad it did get nominated, because it was really good.

Captain Philips is not as stressful as I thought it was going to be, but I mean that in a good way. I guess it helped that I knew Captain Philips (Tom Hanks) wasn’t going to die because the real Captain Philips is still alive. But the pacing of this movie was so good because it wasn’t relentless, but still kept you going. I liked that it focused a lot on the pirates, especially Muse (Barkhad Abdi) and what their situation was. That helped the movie avoid an ultra “Go USA!” tone that would have really gotten annoying. I also liked that they didn’t really focus on anyone’s family – the most you see is Philips’ wife in the beginning. We don’t need to check back with everyone’s families like they do in The Perfect Storm (which I hate) because we understand how worried and upset they must have been without needing to spend time seeing it. I also loved the relationship of Philips and Muse – they seemed to be weirdly equal, but then not at all equal, all at the same time.

Also, Captain Philips makes Tom Hanks look like a total badass, but also like a nice dad type of character. Who wouldn’t want to see that?

PHILOMENA (2013)

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ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS

  • Best Picture (Gabrielle Tana, Steve Coogan, and Tracey Seaward – Producers)
  • Best Actress in a Leading Role (Judi Dench)
  • Best Original Score (Alexandre Desplat)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay (Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope)

Elizabeth (spoilers!)

I guess I’m not 100% sure how to feel about Philomena. It’s the kind of movie that I would feel guilty for not liking because it’s based on a true story and has good performances. But still, I feel sort of blah about it.

The story of Philomena is fairly tragic, and although it did happen, seems overly sappy at times. Philomena (Judi Dench) was sent to a convent as a teenager because she was pregnant. After giving birth, she was forced into hard labor there as payment for staying. While she was there, the nuns adopted out her son without telling her. Fast forward to old lady Philomena, who tells her story to Martin (Steve Coogan), a writer who sets out to help her find her son. Turns out the son was an American who had died 9 years before of AIDS. They then find out that he had tried to find his birth mother and went back to the convent, where the nuns told him that Philomena had abandoned him and they didn’t know where she was, even though she checked in with the nuns every few years. They also find out he’s buried in the convent’s cemetery. The end!!

I guess the biggest problem I had with the story is why we were supposed to care so much about this particular person. They repeatedly say that Philomena spent her whole life searching for her son, but in the beginning we see her tell her daughter about the existence of her son for the first time, some 50 years later. So she did go back to the convent to try to get their help to look for them, but saying she spent her whole life looking for him seems far fetched. He was a senior official for the Reagan and first Bush administrations. Would he have been that hard to track down? The movie takes place in present day, sooooo there’s the internet and all. I don’t know, I guess I just wasn’t that convinced. It’s a sad story but I just wasn’t really that interested.

Christopher

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I saw this movie but I think in the end I was mostly bored. I left this movie asking too many questions. Namely, why was this made into a movie. I enjoyed most of the story but I ended up feeling like it was just a bunch of crazy coincidences. I didn’t really care too much about Philomina the person. I would say, if you’re interested, watch this, but there were way too many other incredible movies that came out in 2013 to watch first.

SUPER SPECIAL ACADEMY AWARDS RUN-DOWN 2014

Well, once again, we didn’t make our goal of seeing all the Oscar-nominated movies this year. But we did see a decent amount, and in our defense, the movies were prettyyyyyyy intense this year.

Here’s what we saw:

1. American Hustle

2. Captain Philips

3. Dallas Buyers Club

4. Gravity

5. Her

6. Nebraska

7. Philomena

8. The Wolf of Wall Street

9. Blue Jasmine

10. The Croods

11. Frozen

12. Inside Llewyn Davis

13. The Act of Killing

14. Cutie and the Boxer

15. 20 Feet From Stardom

16. The Hunt

17. The Lone Ranger

18. Star Trek Into Darkness

19. Before Midnight

20. Feral

21. Get a Horse!

22. Mr Hublot

23. Possessions

24. Room on the Broom

25. That Wasn’t Me

26. Just Before Losing Everything

27. Helium

28. Do I Have To Take Care of Everything?

29. The Voorman Problem

Here’s what we didn’t see:

1. 12 Years A Slave

2. August: Osage County

3. Despicable Me 2

4. Ernest & Celestine

5. The Wind Rises

6. The Grandmaster

7. Prisoners

8. The Great Gatsby

9. The Invisible Woman

10. Dirty Wars

11. The Square

12. Broken Circle Breakdown

13. The Great Beauty

14. The Missing Picture

15. Omar

16. Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa

17. The Book Thief

18. Saving Mr. Banks

19. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

20. All is Lost

21. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

22. Lone Survivor

23. Iron Man 3

24. Cavedigger

25. Facing Fear

26. Karama Has No Walls

27. The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life

28. Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall

Well, so we at least saw more than we didn’t see. But we’ll try again next year!