I began writing this Friday night and finished just in the nick of time as we are 15 minutes away from the ceremony.  2016 was full of a lot of awful things and Hollywood was not an exception.  However, there at least came out of the fold a few gems here and there.  That is what we shall be celebrating and honoring Sunday evening as we look to see who will be taking home the little naked golden man.

One thing I find odd about the Academy is that they set up their own rules and guidelines for categories and the number of nominees etc. and then tend to not fulfill those at times.  The Academy normally allows for up to ten films to be nominated for Best Picture however, this year we only have nine.  I’ll let you know which one I think they should have added in as number ten perhaps a little later, but it seems odd to me that they wouldn’t just go ahead and always nominated the maximum number of films for each category.

Anyway, I digress.  Let’s dive into the Best Picture nominees that came out of 2016.

Let’s be honest though, some of these shouldn’t even be in this discussion.  This kind of reminds me of 2014, where the choices were rather weak.  So let’s start with the ones that I don’t think are worthy of a coveted “Best Picture Nominee” title.



Nominated for:  Best Picture, Actress in a Supporting Role, Adapted Screenplay

If you are familiar with my reviews and my critiquing style, then you’ll know that I judge rather harshly.  However, this does not always mean that the score I give the film will match the entertainment value I place on it.  This is one such example.  This movie is really good, and really interesting.  I enjoyed it quite a bit.  I found everyone’s performances to be of elevated level and there were even small moments where Jim Parsons almost isn’t Sheldon.  However, until proven otherwise, Parsons will always be Sheldon in everything he does.  He wasn’t even able to escape it as a cartoon character (although I am certain that was done intentionally).

Taraji Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae head up a great cast that also includes Kevin Costner, the aforementioned Jim Parsons, my childhood crush, Kirsten Dunst and one of this year’s nominees for Best Supporting Actor, Mahershala Ali.

The story is simple.  It’s about the ladies of NASA who had a huge hand in the success of getting John Glenn into space and then some.  This film sends a powerful message of equality on two fronts at the same time and does it rather well and also achieves a wonderful level of that kind of film that is light-hearted and fluffy.  The kind of film you put in on a Saturday afternoon when you’re feeling lazy or need something easy to watch.

The reason this mainly gets a five for me and doesn’t warrant a BPN (as I’ve taken to calling them of late) is that it’s just that.  It’s kind of a fluffy, light-hearted, easy movie to watch that doesn’t really drive anything home that lingers afterward.  In fact, I keep forgetting this movie is even a nominee.

Aside from the good performances by the cast, the rest of the film is pretty generic and doesn’t pull a lot of emotion out of its audience.  Especially for a film that is trying to tear into an equality sub-tone and drive a point home.  This story seeks to tell the world about major contributors that the agency appears to have been rather mum about and while we get those ideas and scenes spelled out for us in simple fashion, the film does little else to get us to actually care about the topic, and in that regard, it fails.


MOONLIGHT:  3.5/10

Nominated for:  Best Picture, Actor in a Supporting Role, Actress in a Supporting Role, Cinematography, Directing, Film Editing, Original Score, Adapted Screenplay 

I will start with full disclosure here, and full acknowledgement that I am in a distinct minority of those who did not like this film.  I get it.  People liked the message of growing up the way the main character did and how tough it can be and so forth.  But this movie has zero original bones in its body.  In fact, I don’t even think the score is original.  Admittedly, I did zero research to see if all the lyrical tracks on the score were written specifically for the film or not.  If not, then I refer you back to the beginning where I talk about rules and regulations regarding Academy criteria.  Other scores in the past have been disqualified for less.

Anyway, this film is pieced together by chapters that appear between scenes throughout the film and it follows the life of a kid who grows up in a harsh neighborhood with a drug addict mother.  Alright, already we’ve got an unoriginal plot that we’ve seen just about every year, and even in the nominees.

I’m sorry, but I hated this movie.  I agree that it was well done as far as technically and the performances were rather great, but man…this movie doesn’t deserve a BPN, let alone some of the other nominations it got.  If it steals wins from more deserving films, I’m going to be pissed.  One of those is Ali.  This isn’t the first time an actor has been nominated when only appearing in about five to ten minutes of an entire film, but normally the reason for that is that their performances were extremely impactful to the rest of the film and Ali’s was not.  Obviously the character he played had an impact on the main character’s life even into adulthood, but Ali wouldn’t have anything to do with that.  I think Ali is a great actor, but the other guys in the category deserve it more.  Sorry buddy.

I’m not going to spend too much time on this film because I hated it, but if you like those coming of age stories and movies, then you’ll probably like this one too.


FENCES:  7/10

Nominated for:  Best Picture, Actor in a Leading Role, Actress in a Supporting Role, Adapted Screenplay

Based on the play written by August Wilson, Fences is a glimpse into the life of a bitter middle-aged man who missed his chance at the big leagues due to the color of his skin and the time in which he lived.

Set mostly in the backyard of Troy Maxson, this film really feels like watching a play at the theatre.  The set pieces and dialogue make you feel like you’re sitting in the audience of a live performance.  This is one aspect that I really enjoyed about this film.  The set design coupled with the written dialogue made this thing work well.

Denzel puts up one of the best performances he’s had in some time, and Viola Davis matches him stride for stride.

This is a review where there’s really not much to say about it.  It’s just a great overall movie with great dialect and acting.  Some of the situations later on in the plot didn’t sit well with me, as they seemed to come from nowhere, but then again, so do most of the events in our everyday lives and maybe that’s the point.

I’m not so sure Denzel deserves to WIN for this performance, but he definitely earned his nomination.  Viola on the other hand, she will likely win and I don’t think anyone should be upset about that.


LA LA LAND:  7.5/10

Nominated for:  Best Picture, Actor in a Leading Role, Actress in a Leading Role, Cinematography, Directing, Costume Design, Production Design, Film Editing, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Original Screenplay, Original Score, Original Song, Original Song

With 14 nominations, La La Land has garnered the most nominations of this year’s Oscars.  The above is not a typo or an accident either, as the film has two different songs that have been nominated for Best Original Song.  Those are City of Stars and Audition (The Fools Who Dream).

If you like musicals, then this one is probably the one you’re rooting for all the way through on Sunday night.  I think this year I wouldn’t be too upset if it won every award it was nominated for, as it was truly a delightful film.  I thoroughly enjoyed both Gosling and Stone’s performances and the two songs up for awards are easily my favorite two in the film.  Well, I take that back.  A Lovely Night was a fun song and scene as well.

I think that since Hollywood loves musicals, and it was kind of born from musicals and old classical style theatre, La La Land has a great chance at overwhelming the evening.  Perhaps if it were poorly done or executed, then we may have something to complain about, but Damien Chazelle has done it again.  He’s taken a musical theme and turned it into a darling.  With Whiplash, we had a wonderful close-quarters-combat style film between two bullheaded musicians where one is the student and one the teacher that drew great performances and nominations out of J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller.  One of my favorite films of the Oscars that year, Whiplash brought us a taste of something a bit different that we hadn’t seen in a while from Hollywood and Chazelle brings us something similar with La La Land.

Sometimes musicals can feel bogged down with large musical numbers with a lot of props and extras, but aside from the opening montage, this one has those numbers woven perfectly within the story line and they flow right into the tone and pacing of the film.  If you love jazz, then this one may perk your ears a bit more than others as well.  I can’t say enough about how well this film brings us back to the old days of Hollywood when it was all about music and actual talent.

I won’t spoil it, but I also loved the rather nontraditional ending as well.  Something you normally wouldn’t find in a film like this.



Nominated for:  Best Picture, Actor in a Leading Role, Actor in a Supporting Role, Actress in a Supporting Role, Directing, Original Screenplay

Holy fuck.  This movie almost gave me a nervous breakdown.  I have felt anxiety during a movie before (Melancholia), but this was just…not fair.

The trailers set you up to believe and understand that Manchester by the Sea is going to be very somber drama.  They are not lying.  However, there’s no preparation for one of the major reveals that occurs about halfway or three quarters of the way through the film.

While I’m being honest about things, I have to say, I couldn’t handle it.  I’ve seen some shit in movies before.  Some fucked up shit.  Probably worse than this, but the thing that we learn that happens to Lee and Randi Chandler (Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams respectively) just hits too close to home (thank God not fully and hopefully not ever) as a father.  That’s all I’m saying about that.

I read a lot of things online where people were kind of lukewarm about this film, saying it was pure Oscar bait etc., and maybe it is.  But it deserves it.  It was beautifully shot and I’m surprised it didn’t nab a cinematography nod.  The score is fitting and melancholy and wonderful and the writing was superb.  The chemistry between Affleck and Lucas Hedges was fantastic.  They played off of each other very well.  Kyle Chandler was great in his limited screen time and Michelle Williams is another example of someone who only appears in the film for a finite amount of time but unlike Ali, Williams absolutely deserves her nomination.  She earns her Supporting Actress nomination solely based on the scene between her and Casey when they run into each other on the street.  That scene is one of the most powerful interactions between two characters I’ve seen in a long time and it broke me down.

I wouldn’t be upset if Manchester by the Sea won every category it was nominated for either, although yet again, I think there are more deserving films and performances in some.  But I don’t think anyone is beating Casey.  The only one that stands a chance in my mind is Garfield.

Speaking of Andrew Garfield…



Nominated for:  Best Picture, Actor in a Leading Role, Directing, Film Editing, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing

For all of his shortcomings, film making is not one that Mel Gibson has to worry about.  I don’t think he’s there’s been one movie that he’s directed that has not been good.  Now, I never got around to seeing Apocalypto, but someday I will.  However, when I still worked at the theater, I got enough glimpses of it to get a good enough idea and it seemed pretty good.

Hacksaw Ridge is based on a true story about Desmond Doss, a religious fellow who volunteers to serve in World War II as a medic but refuses to carry a gun or fire one.  His idea was that “while everyone else is taking lives, I’m going to be saving them.”  Noble enough I suppose, but not very practical, especially in the greatest war the world has ever known.  His superior officers certainly felt this way, but he proved them all wrong as he went into battle and bravely aided and saved almost 100 lives give or take depending on accounts.  A couple of those were even the enemy.

Mel Gibson does what Mel Gibson does best and gives us a gritty, as realistic as possible view of how things may have played out on Hacksaw Ridge in the Pacific Theater.  It’s like Braveheart and We Were Soldiers and Saving Private Ryan all came together and made a singular clone of themselves in a lab and Hacksaw Ridge popped out.

The battle sequences are quick and fast-paced, smoky and dirty and tough to see, much as it was for the soldiers on the ridge.  People died within seconds of summiting the top, including guys we get to know in boot camp with Doss.  The film does not mess around and doesn’t play favorites.  People die in war, and Gibson doesn’t pull punches here.  This movie is bloody and brutal and gory and heartwarming all at once and you’re wondering how he pulled it off the whole time.

Andrew Garfield did a fantastic job here.  Evidenced by a sweet appearance by Desmond Doss himself in the end credits, Garfield captures his persona and mannerisms well.  Garfield has a real chance at beating Casey Affleck for Best Actor this year, or at least I think he’s the best shot at it.

Others were superb as well.  It’s always strange to see Vince Vaughn in a serious role, even though he does them from time to time.  And like those times before, he does not disappoint here.  We get a serious side of him and a humbled side of him as he plays Garfield’s drill instructor and company Sergeant in battle.  Sam Worthington surprises as well, as the Captain that didn’t believe in Doss and had to eat his pride after all.  I think they even did a decent job matching him up with the guy he was playing as well, as he appears in the end credits too.

When American Sniper and the Year of the Biopic occurred, I griped about using stock footage or actual home video footage in films, but I think merely having short interviews with the real soldiers in the credits gets a pass.  It was nice to see the closure there.

The film is beautifully shot and if this wins the sound editing and mixing awards, I will be pleased.  You couldn’t help but feel like you were right there in the mortar craters with the soldiers as grenades exploded all around you and gunfire whizzed past your head etc.

In fact, I am pulling for Gibson to win Best Director here.  It was truly a work of art and it hit home as well.  I began missing my grandfather something fierce as I watched and recalled his stories of fighting in Fiji and the Philippines and at Guadalcanal and so forth.  World War II has always held a special place for me due to that man and Hacksaw Ridge made me think about him again as I wondered if he had heard of Desmond Doss or perhaps even knew or met him before way back when.


ARRIVAL:  9/10

Nominated for:  Best Picture, Cinematography, Directing, Production Design, Film Editing, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Adapted Screenplay

This is, I think, my favorite film out of all of the BPNs.  I know I rated Hacksaw Ridge a half a point higher, but this one almost spoke to me.  I think it might be the Communication degree in me and overall love for my language that gave this film a special place for me.  Also, it’s a Sci-Fi movie and it got nominated for Best Picture.  Like, what the fuck?  That is amazing.  And it deserves it too.

I’m on the fence about whether I think Amy Adams got snubbed or not.  I think she did a fine job, as did Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker.  But the real stars of the film are Bradford Young and Johann Johannsson.

Anyone that knows me knows that I place probably the highest value on photography and music in film.  They can both make or break the things, after all.  Even films with weaker performances and even writing can be elevated by a great score and a guy who knows his way around a camera lens.  We caught a great glimpse of this last year as this trio (including Villeneueve) nabbed nominations for their categories last year with Sicario.  They have done it again here.

Bradford Young’s photography was breathtaking and both surreal and organic at the same time, if you can figure that out.  It felt like watching something from National Geographic at times, while at others it felt like watching Alien.  Slow pans and patient tracking lended to the film’s superb buildup of suspense as well as tone.

Meanwhile, Johann Johannsson has done it again.  I feel this is yet another snub, apparently due to rules for qualification here.  Apparently pieces of his ensembles borrowed from previously recorded works or some such thing, but the real triumph of this score is that it bleeds right into the sound effects.  At times you aren’t sure if it’s the music or the aliens’ speech that you’re hearing and I thought that was superb.  It’s eerie, yet calming at the same time, much like the rest of the tone of the film; something else that Young did so well with his camera.

The plot, to me was fairly straight forward.  I think this is why I loved it so much while others were left a bit confused.  It focuses a great deal on speech, language and the overall understanding of communication as a whole.  Something that Amy Adams’ character has to try to explain to Whitaker and Renner is that they can’t just go in and ask the question they want to ask straight up.  That question being, “why are you here?”  It seems simple enough to us because we speak English.  Or, let’s say for one of the other nations featured in the film, the Chinese, it might seem simple enough to them when they ask that question in Mandarin or Cantonese etc., but now you have the issue of two different language structures and different words meaning different things.  That’s not even including Russia, or the Middle East, where some of the other alien pods show up.  She explains that we can’t simply ask this question because we don’t know if they have the same concept of language as we do.  We don’t know if they have prepositions, verbs or even nouns.  Does each individual alien have a name?  Are they a collective?  We can’t decipher the difference between what a singular alien is doing on Earth as opposed to its whole race.  Perhaps “Joe Alien” (as she so refers) is there for the adventure or has ulterior motives while his race as a whole has other ideas.

For me, just what I typed up there is exactly why I loved this film.  I love tackling language and diving into the meanings behind the words people choose to put together in sentences and that’s only scratching the surface to this film.  I don’t want to ruin anything for anyone so I won’t go too much further into it except for the fact that this movie is just utterly gorgeous to look at and listen to.


LION:  7/10

Nominated for:  Best Picture, Actor in a Supporting Role, Actress in a Supporting Role, Cinematography, Original Score, Adapted Screenplay

Aside from the confusion at the fact that Dev Patel is being nominated for support instead of lead, films about true events or based around true events are kind of tough to judge.

Do we look at the film and see how close to the real story it came?  Do we look at casting choices against their real life counterparts?  Perhaps both and many other factors as well.

One thing I will say, before we get too far along in this one, is that I think Sunny Pawar is probably worthy of a nomination as well.  When young kids give great performances, they should be lauded for them, as I feel like acting in such complex roles is likely more difficult for those of younger ages.  The Academy has awarded young talent before, so there’s no reason why Sunny (and Alex Hibbert and Ashton Sanders from Moonlight) should be left out of the group of nominees in either performance categories.

Now onto the film.  I can see why the score is up for nomination as well.  It grabbed me right away, although maybe I’m just a sucker for the piano.  Cinematography accolades are proven during the opening credits sequence and continue throughout the film.  A lot of the photography during Sunny’s scenes is really well done.

I think this is yet another film where someone gets nominated for their performance even though they have very little screen time.  Again, I find that the performance Nicole gives us is also more powerful than that of Mahershala’s in Moonlight.  I’m still trying to wrap my brain around that choice.  Perhaps I missed the whole point of that movie, but I doubt it.

I digress.  Lion is a wonderful little story about a little boy’s terrifying ordeal of getting lost in India and somehow finding it to an orphanage where he’s adopted by an Australian family.  Twenty years later, he decides to try to find his mother, brother and sister and the search is on.  Much of the film focuses on the little guy and his journey, while the latter half of the film touches on the adult orphan’s search and discovery.

This is another feel-good film, the likes of which Hollywood fawns over every year around this time.



Nominated for:  Best Picture, Actor in a Supporting Role, Film Editing, Original Screenplay

So we’re about 40 minutes from the beginning of the Oscars and I literally just finished this film.  As I’m pressed for time, I’m probably going to fuck this review up, but this is one of those movies that kind of fits into the type that I like and so, naturally, I liked it!

A modern western bank robbery movie set in Texas, Hell or High Water follows two brothers on a quest to pay back the bank that threatens to foreclose on their late mother’s ranch with its own money.  The film has a good balance of humor and tension that slowly builds as we go along.

Jeff Bridges is not surprisingly great yet again.  I enjoyed the relationship between Pine and Foster as well.  They did a swell job at making it seem like they were naturally brothers.

I think this film is pretty predictable in some areas, but there were some surprises.  I think this has one of the better endings.  I may have been complaining about one of the other film’s endings earlier, but I like the way this was sort of open ended, but maybe not?

I liked the cinematography, but I think not getting a nod for that is the right call.  Nothing really stood out there.  Maybe it’s a disadvantage of the flat blandness of Texas.

If you really liked this movie or like western style films or heist movies, then this one should be on your list.

One thing I want to touch on that I don’t think I’ve done in past Best Picture Binges is call attention to a film that I think got snubbed in a hardcore way.  It goes back to what I mentioned before about the Academy rules allowing for up to ten Best Picture nominees.  This year we have nine.  But why?  Where in the hell is Silence?

I don’t know what Martin Scorsese did to the Academy, but they always seem to fuck him over even when his film deserves more accolades than the ones they choose over him.

It did manage to get a nomination for Cinematography and if it wins, I will be perfectly fine with this.  It deserves so much more.  Andrew Garfield should have two nominations for Actor in a Leading Role.  In fact, his performance in Silence was superb.  It was much better than what he did in Hacksaw Ridge.  The score was fantastic as well and the writing and pacing of the film was near perfect.  There was a sense of suspense and tension from start to finish.  Silence would be the front runner for winning these categories if it were not left out.  If you see no other Best Picture Nominee, then watch Silence because it deserved it much more than some of those that did get recognition.


Here’s the part where I talk about how I rarely post on my blog and so forth.  I noticed the last time I posted here was well, the last time I did an Oscar Binge post.  Oops.  Here we are again though, and it’s Academy Awards Eve.  If I weren’t a huge football fan and a huge Denver Broncos fan who just watched his team destroy the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50, this would be my Super Bowl.  That’s what I tell people anyway.  Now, I know the Oscars are a huge popularity contest amongst the snobbiest of snobbies in Hollywood, but that’s fine.  I enjoy them and have ever since Jurassic Park was nominated back in 1994 (for the 1993 year).

Alright, I just finished the last of the Best Picture Nominees and so we’ll probably start there, but I want to point out that I’ve had most of them viewed for a while.  I’ve just been procrastinating on getting this written up.  Also, I normally like to watch all of the films that include the performance nominees as well, but this year I wasn’t able to get to all of them and by that I mean a few of them just didn’t appeal to me.  But here’s what I do know:


ROOM:  7.5/10

Nominated For:  Best Picture, Directing, Actress in a Leading Role, Adapted Screenplay.

This one is the most fresh in my mind so we’ll start here.  I’ll have to admit I did zero research on this film leading up to watching it and as such, I literally thought the whole hour and 57 minutes would take place in this small room.  I asked myself how this could hold up for that long and still be interesting.  But of course thankfully, I was wrong because I decided not to read a simple synopsis.

The gist of the story is that Joy (heheh, there are two characters named Joy this year who are played by actresses who were nominated for their performances) gets kidnapped at 17 and is held captive for seven years and in that time she has a child, whom we celebrate a fifth birthday for in the beginning of the movie.  Even though the entire movie does not take place inside “Room” it does get us through to the half way point before the scenery changes a bit.

This story turned out to be much more than I’d initially imagined and by the end I was quite enthralled with what I had just watched, which was much heavier and much more morose than I was even ready to get into when I sat down to watch it.  Without having watched 45 or Carol, I suppose I can’t say for certain, but I’m hard pressed to believe anyone gave a better performance out of the Best Actress nominees than Brie Larson.  She was outstanding.  The weight of what Joy carried and the trauma she must have gone through was really palpable in Larson’s performance.  Almost equally, I thought that Joan Allen, William H. Macy and Tom McCamus brought out the helplessness family members of kidnapping victims must feel after such a tragedy is over.  You want so much to feel ecstatic and happy for your loved one, but you don’t know how to cope with the trauma they’ve gone through because you weren’t there.  These three did that wonderfully.

There has been a lot of buzz, as there is every year regarding Oscar snubs and so forth and if we’re going to talk about that then I think we need to talk about how Jacob Tremblay is not on the list of Best Actors in a Supporting Role because that little kid was phenomenal.  His performance might have been better than Larson’s.  There is no one I rooted more for during this movie than that kid.  I’m assuming Tremblay was a little older than five when they were in production for this, but he had a grasp on the character, the situation and the belief that this little boy would have had in his situation and for a kid that age to be able to portray that and get that emotion was impressive.



Nominated For:  Best Picture, Directing, Actor in a Supporting Role, Editing, Adapted Screenplay.

I’ll be completely honest in saying that I was kind of lost through most of this film because I don’t really understand the stock market or housing situation but that’s not to say this was not a good movie.

If there was an Academy Award for Best Ensemble Cast (and there should be) then this one would definitely be in the nominees for that category.  I’m also curious as to how Steve Carrell was not among the nominees for Best Actor.  Not that I think he would win, but I did think his performance was great.

As a result of what I said previously, I regretfully don’t have much to say about this film other than that I enjoyed the acting (not sure Bale, as much as I love him, deserved a nomination though) and I thought it was put together well.  I don’t think anyone should be surprised about the editing, directing and screenplay nominations because the film was smooth and didn’t deviate from it’s plan.

IF you have even the slightest grasp of the stock market and the housing bubble burst and so forth, then you might really enjoy this movie.  Or, it could’ve been completely way off and you might hate it, but I have no idea.  I was confused through most of it.

Oh, and if you can’t watch the trailer video, the movie is basically about a group of brokers and investors that foresaw the housing bubble burst and they attempted to cash in on it early on before it happened.


Nominated For:  Best Picture, Actor in a Supporting Role, Original Score, Sound Mixing, Production Design, Original Screenplay.

In a film that picked up six nominations, it’s very peculiar that one of them wasn’t for Best Actor in a Leading role.  I thought most of the cast did a fine job but I thought Hanks was the strongest of all of them and that includes Mark Rylance, who garnered a Supporting Actor nod.  Also, how does Steven Spielberg direct a movie like this and not get a nomination?

Whenever Spielberg makes a movie like this, you know it’s going to be a good one through to the end.  The brilliant thing about it is that these are historical films about events that occurred and that we can read about and yet Spielberg puts us right there in the thick of things as if we were involved in the event itself every time.

This film is about the prisoner exchange between the United States and the then USSR where an insurance lawyer managed to negotiate the release of not only our U2 spy plane pilot, but also a university student being held by the Germans in the 1950s.

Much of this film centers around our lawyer (Hanks) getting to know his client, the Soviet spy (Rylance).  Intertwined at just the right increments is the development of the U2 spy plane program and how Russia captured one of its pilots when they shot him down.  Once this event occurred, the United States was willing to trade straight up, spy for spy.  Our lawyer had different plans.  He wanted to bring the student home as well.  Two super powers and a third little country trying to establish itself in the world by building a wall are entangled in this dance on splintered glass.

I’ll go ahead and say I’m fine with the nominations it received.  The score by Thomas Newman (as always) is wonderful and the writing was pinpoint. The production design was top notch as well.  I mean, they had to create the 1950s over again, which is no easy task.  I am a bit curious as to how Rylance got a nomination but Hanks didn’t.  I didn’t really feel any emotion or sense of wanting to even care about his character.  He was just…there.  The performance wasn’t riveting or outstanding or through the roof or anything like that.

Alright, moving on.  It’s 04:35 in the morning and I can’t think straight.


Nominated For:  Best Picture, Actress in a Leading Role, Adapted Screenplay.

Alright, so I was actually interested in this one before the nominations even came out for two reasons.  Irish accents and Emily Bett-Rickards.  Sadly, Emily isn’t in much of it, but the Saoirse Ronan’s accent alone kept me interested.

This is a rather simple film.  Girl emigrates to the United States from Ireland in search of a better life for herself.  She wants to become an accountant or some such thing that she’s following her sister’s footsteps in.  At first it seems like she might have a rough go of it, but she does live in a boarding house set up by the local Catholic Church where she meets other women her age.  She gets a job and we follow her through her first little glimpse in the States but overall the movie has that “feel good” situation going on and the ending doesn’t disappoint.

One thing I liked about this film is that there was no over-the-top miscommunication that tends to help these little soireés along in the romance department.  This is just one of those feather-light films where you can watch and not worry about getting stressed out over what happens to the main character.  The kind your mom puts on while she crochets in the lounger on a rainy day.

Saoirse’s performance was wonderful, but from what I’ve seen, still nobody is beating Larson.  I enjoyed the cinematography and production design, but nothing really stands out in this film, sadly.


Nominated For:  Best Picture, Directing, Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling, Production Design, Visual Effects, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Cinematrography, Costume Design.

I have to admit, I watched this movie a long time ago last summer when it first came out, so my memory is a bit hazy.

What I do remember is that there is virtually no plot.  There’s really no direction in this film other than forward at about 100 miles per hour in jacked up muscle cars and big rigs.  I’m actually extremely surprised to see this film get a Best Picture nomination because it really wasn’t.

Don’t get me wrong.  This movie is pretty awesome.  It’s full of action and high octane stunts and some pretty impressive camera work and a downright awesome soundtrack that could get anyone pumped if you played it loud enough.

The characters don’t really have fleshed out back stories and not really knowing exactly what Max’s overall goal was in the film is a bit of a hindrance, but again, oh well, this is an action movie and I’ve got my popcorn ready.

On top of all that, this sucker hauled in ten nominations.  TEN.  What?  Technical awards and design and cinematography, sure, but I’m not so sold on some of the others.  This is good knews for sci-fi and action films however, because lately they have been getting more and more recognition from the Academy and Mad Max really drives that point home.

If you haven’t seen Mad Max:  Fury Road yet though, I’m not sure what you’re doing with your life.  It’s a ton of fun.


Nominated For:  Best Picture, Directing, Actress in a Supporting Role, Editing, Original Screenplay.

This is the other film this year that should be in the Best Ensemble Cast category if there was one.  Outstanding performances all around.  Ruffalo was on another level for him in this one.  Keaton did a wonderful job in a supervisory role but I think he was better in Birdman.  Although if he’d also gotten a nomination, I wouldn’t be mad.

This movie is basically about the Boston Globe staffers from the Spotlight branch of the paper dive into what turns out to be the gigantic story of molestation within the Catholic church that broke wide open back in the early 2000s.

McAdams, Ruffalo, Keaton and even the smaller players like Crudup, Schreiber and Tucci were all near the top of their game in this one.  It felt like the whole cast took this topic to heart and you could see it in their performances.

It would appear my reviews or comments are getting shorter. It’s 05:11 and we’re still trucking.  But now we’re to the good stuff.

THE MARTIAN:  8.5/10

Nominated For:  Best Picture, Actor in a Leading Role, Production Design, Adapted Screenplay, Visual Effects, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing.

I got about half way through the audio book before I lost it and I was super upset about it because I was having so much fun listening to Mark Watney catalog his daily routine as he’s stranded on Mars.

I felt the same as I watched the movie.  The only difference was that I still didn’t know how it would end when I watched the movie so that was fun.

Like the novel, this movie is smart, scientific, awesome and hilarious.  Additionally, the visuals are stunning.  How this film didn’t get a cinematography nomination is beyond me.

We get to follow Mark around and listen to his sarcastic quips and humorous diagnoses to his every day challenges while he attempts to survive on Mars while waiting for a rescue from NASA.

The cast is great.  Damon is hilarious and Daniels, Ejiofor, and everyone else is pleasant and puts up performances that would align with their characters’ positions.  Most notably Daniels and Ejiofor.  Their exchanges back and forth really sell the tension as well.

This film is visually amazing to look at.  I know it’s heavily computer generated but it’s very believable as the landscape of Mars and so forth.  I’m a bit upset it didn’t get a cinematography nomination though.  I also made a prediction last year some time that Star Wars would sweep the technical categories but I’m wondering if that isn’t a sure fire bet this time around.  The Martian, Mad Max: Fury Road and maybe even The Revenant or Ex Machina could take some of those Oscars away from Star Wars.


Nominated For:  Best Picture, Actor in a Leading Role, Actor in a Supporting Role, Directing, Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Makeup And Hairstyling, Visual Effects

I’m sitting here listening to the score for this film wondering how that’s one of the only categories this film got snubbed on.  Outstanding score.  This film is spectacular.  By far my favorite film in the Academy Awards this season.  I know everyone wants Leo to get his Oscar, but I’m serious when I say that if he does not get the win for this, there is something seriously wrong with Hollywood and the Academy.

DiCaprio was fantastic.  I kept telling people he was channeling his inner Daniel Day-Lewis throughout the film and it worked.  If you try to tell me that he shouldn’t even have a nomination because he hardly had any lines in the movie, then we can’t talk movies because I’ll tell you to your face you know nothing about film.

Conversely, Hardy’s character talked way too much and he played it flawlessly.  This film will be taking home a lot of statues later on (tonight).

There is so much substance and meat to this film that I wish I was in the mood to write about.  The symbolism in almost every shot and every action taken by DiCaprio’s character alone could garner an entire blog post by itself.  There is so much of the Hero’s Journey woven deep into the sinews of this story and visually portrayed on the screen.  And beautifully too.  If this doesn’t win the cinematography award I will be furious.  Natural lighting?  Come on!  The ability to capture that lonely, cold, abandoned and close to death and despair feeling through just the landscape and some of the brilliant shots within this film is a feat in itself.

There are certain shots throughout this film that really sell this movie and establish it as the top contender this year.  The camera work is extremely close up a lot of times and that makes it much more personal and evasive.  The blood in the water or on the snow bank with it’s sacrificial meaning by the icy cold creak, the wind in the trees that goes along with our hero’s inner voice and mantra.  The bear attack.  That’s all I’m saying about that.

This film is by far the best film I’ve seen in a while.

Now, I have seen some of the other nominees in different categories.  Sicario, Trumbo, Steve Jobs, Joy  and just to name a few.  I won’t really go into those much except to say that even so, The Revenant should be the king of the Oscars this year.  Sicario had outstanding cinematography and a wonderfully haunting score while Trumbo was just interesting altogether if you’re a film history buff.  Joy was okay, but I don’t think this is Lawrence’s strongest work and Steve Jobs was rather great.  Fassbender was perfect and I hope Kate Winslet wins Best Supporting Actress for it.


About a month ago, the Academy Award nominations were revealed.  Now, in the past I have waited until after the Oscars to finally sit down and watch the nominated films to see if I agree with their worthiness and so forth.  Either that or I am just too lazy to get out and watch more movies and so find myself cramming afterward to get them all watched.

This year, I figured I’d try a new approach.  How about watching these movies before the big night instead!  Novel idea, I know.  So that’s just what I did.  I took four days and watched two films a day in order to cram the Best Picture nominees in first.  Normally the Academy takes full advantage of the ten slots they’ve allotted for Best Picture nominees, but this year, oddly enough, they’ve chosen to only pick out eight films for consideration in the category.  While this is puzzling, it certainly made my life easier.

Before I go any further however, I must point out that I am extremely upset that my favorite movie from 2014 was snubbed from the Best Picture category and as a result, I hope it sweeps every other category it was nominated for.  That film would be Interstellar.

Now, I didn’t really go in any particular order here, so let’s just go ahead and get started where I did.

Selma:  6/10

Nominated for:  Best Picture, Original Song.

I have been discovering that my thoughts and opinions on some of this year’s nominations probably do not align with the vast majority.  This film was the first of said cases.  There was some hullabaloo surrounding the Academy’s decisions on this film when the nominations were first released and they were not favorable.  People were extremely upset that it was not recognized for more achievements and one of those was David Oyelowo’s performance as the iconic Martin Luther King Jr.  Sadly, I have to agree with the Academy regarding this picture.

In general, it turns out to be a wonderful movie, however I really feel like it was not Best Picture worthy.  In fact, as we go along, I’ll say this again for a few of the others as well.  One of the issues with this film is that this year’s class is extremely “biopic” heavy.  There tends to be a trend with this type of film attracting the attention of the Academy, but 2014 was apparently the Year of the Biopic.  As a result, you really had to stand out and hit the ball out of the park with your particular story in order to run with the big dogs.  Selma just falls short.  Oyelowo’s performance was rather bland, and unfortunately, the rest of the film suffered from the same staleness.  There were only a couple of instances where I felt like there was any real emotion involved in the characters or the story at all.  The scene at the beginning with the church bombing and the ending with the victory speech on the capitol steps were the most emotion-inducing scenes for me.  The other issue I had with this film was that it seemed to rely too much on stock footage.  This always tends to bother me though, unless it is done well, and in most cases it seems to be used as a crutch or money saver instead of adding substance to the film with the cast members instead.  One of the other nominees is a good example of how to use the cast to recreate stock footage and I’ll bring that up later.

Selma seems to be conveniently released in a year where we seem to have reverted back to that time in history.  I’m looking at you Missouri.  We all know what I’m referring to, but I know that’s not why this film was made.  The timing is just fitting and so was the song that was nominated for Best Original Song.  The lyrics are still, unfortunately relevant today.

Technically, this film is well done, and well put together.  Overall it is shot fine with no overbearing issues.  I never really noticed the music or score though, and that is a disservice because the music in a movie can really make or break the story.

One of the things that really took me out of the film was Oprah Winfrey.  Now, I won’t knock on her acting skills because she’s not that bad at all really.  However, I think that she is too much of a brand name in her own right to be taken seriously in roles where she really wants to be.  This is unfortunately one of those cases.  Her performance was good and she had some pretty remarkable scenes, but I couldn’t get passed the whole, “oh hey, it’s Oprah again” and I couldn’t see her as her character.  This really is not her fault of course, but it does take away from the film.

A couple of other little tidbits of note:  I didn’t like that it just skips over Malcolm X’s assassination, since he was in the movie.  They should have made that a more prominent part of the film, even if it was just one scene.  Tim Roth was great as Governor Wallace.  The same can be said for Tom Wilkinson’s performance as President Johnson and of course, as I said before, David’s portrayal of MLK was really great.  The main problem I had with the film was that I felt like it lacked emotion.  It lacked the power that a film like this should pack behind it.  Last year we got an extremely powerful and emotional storm with 12 Years a Slave and with Selma it was little more than a light breeze.

American Sniper:  4/10

Nominated for:  Actor in a Leading Role, Best Picture, Film Editing, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Adapted Screenplay.

The year’s darling war drama.  We seem to have one of these at least every other year.  One of the big issues with having so many films like this come out each year or just about is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to determine which film is better than another.  We’ve had powerful war dramas of late in The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty so it makes it more interesting to see whether new additions can hold up.  While I think American Sniper is probably better than those two films or at least on par, I am hard pressed to see its Best Picture potential but perhaps I was too preoccupied with not wanting to be biased about the movie that I may have been too harsh on it.

I have found that I’m kind of in the minority about this film.  It’s being touted as a wonderful film about a wonderful American hero and I have no disagreements with the latter part of that statement especially, but it suffered from the same lack of emotion that Selma did.  I found myself on my phone a lot during the movie and kind of losing interest throughout a lot of the movie and I’m not sure what to make of that outside of the fact that it must mean it was unable to hold my interest and for being a war film, that’s not good news.

The sound mixing and editing were wonderful.  Cooper’s performance was spot on (especially if you’ve seen interviews with Kyle in them in real life).

Eastwood has this knack for making really great movies that just fall short of being pushed over the edge into greatness.  That’s not saying he hasn’t made such films before, but of late, it seems like he has either missed something in a film here and there or just hasn’t been able to find that next level the way he did with Letters to Iwo Jima and Mystic River, or even Unforgiven.

American Sniper also suffers from the stock footage problem.  The most powerful moment in the entire movie was actual stock footage at the end of the movie and that’s not okay.  In order to be a successful director or have a shot at being the best picture of the year, that power has to build and be displayed throughout the film by the actors and the production crew.  Using tear-jerking bait at the end of the film while the credits roll almost shows an acknowledgement of failure to convey that tone during the rest of the film.  For those of you that have seen it, there were only a couple of instances in the entire film where I felt an actual response because I’m a father.  Outside of those quick scenes and Cooper’s performance, there isn’t really much else to the film.

Boyhood: 3/10

Nominated for:  Actor in a Supporting Role, Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Picture, Directing, Film Editing, Original Screenplay.

Okay, let’s just be honest with each other here for a minute.  This was not a bad movie.  It was actually quite interesting and had a lot of great content and acting.  Here’s the deal.  We all know it’s only getting nominated for stuff because it literally took the production twelve years to film it.  Last year we had 12 Years a Slave, well this year we have 12 Years a Film Project.  It worked out quite well, but the content of the story is absolutely tried and true and nothing new.

The idea was for the film to follow Mason (Ellar Coltrane), his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), and mother (Patricia Arquette) through their mundane family life for 12 years.  So the film starts out with Mason at age 6 and then ends with Mason at age 18 as he goes off to college.

The trick about this movie is that the character development is literally grown over time and I’m guessing very little writing had to be involved in order to achieve this since the audience was able to follow these characters as they aged along with the actors themselves.  We see Mason struggle through being a young boy in school while his mother struggles with failed marriages and going back to college and in the midst of all this, Mason and Samantha get little moments with their father (Ethan Hawke) throughout the film.  It creates a really great picture of what separated or divorced families really go through and how sometimes the only way they can get through some hard times are by working together when absolutely necessary.

I have a really difficult time believing the production crew on this film had a difficult job and I felt that way as I watched.  Since we see little snippets of Mason’s life every year here and there, I felt like it couldn’t have been a very difficult task for some of the people working on the film.  One example I thought about was the editor.  It must have been nice having a year at a time to edit portions of the film together, but I’m sure they still had tight deadlines.  I saw an interview on Conan with Ellar, however and it made me feel like my beliefs are valid.  Conan asked him about how it felt making the film as he grew up and Ellar just said that it was much like anything else.  He still went to school and lived his everyday life but they would get together for about a week at a time and film the necessary scenes for whatever age he happened to be and then they’d go back to their lives.

I think it’s a noble project for a director to take on.  I think it would take extreme commitment from everyone from the actors down to the catering crew but at the end of the day, it’s a story about a single mother struggling to provide for her two children, juggle school and work and bad relationships and it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.  This was the third Best Picture nominee that I felt didn’t deserve said nomination and again find myself in the minority.  In fact, Boyhood may very well snag the Best Picture award away from more deserving films, but we’ll have to wait and see.

The Imitation Game:  7.5/10

Nominated for:  Actor in a Leading Role, Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Picture, Directing, Film Editing, Original Score, Production Design, Adapted Screenplay.

Here we have film number three that deals with an actual historical figure or existing person.  The film is set in England during World War II and follows the amazing events surrounding the cracking of the German Enigma code machine by Alan Turing and his crew.

Turing is touted as the father of the modern computer (I suppose without him, I wouldn’t be writing this on my laptop, and you wouldn’t be reading it on a website!) but his brilliance was cryptography and with this he and his team were able to successfully crack the Enigma code and their efforts had significant influence on the outcome of the war.

The film is full of other layers of Turing’s life, of course.  As it is likely well known, Turing was found to be a homosexual and ended up being punished for his orientation.  The film touches on his early relationship with one of his classmates during primary school that alludes to his orientation throughout the film.  While the film does not focus on this aspect of his life, I think it does a wonderful job at keeping his upbringing and his personal lifestyle relative to the story at hand and helps to explain his mannerisms and actions throughout the film.  I think it was important for director Morten Tyldum and writers Andrew Hodges (book) and Graham Moore (screenplay) to convey that aspect of his life so that audiences could see the turmoil he was faced with as well as the persecution he went through that ultimately lead to his suicide because the way his country treated an essential war hero was appalling at best.  The film was able to do that very well without detracting from the main focus  in the Enigma Machine.

As a film, this is your typical Academy Award type of film.  Set in an older period of time, involves an historical figure, a war and really intricate web of dramatic sub-plots and includes wonderful performances by the actors in the starring roles.  Benedict Cumberbatch is really making the acting thing look easy, although given the nature of the film and the time period, it did feel a little Sherlock Holmes-esque at times.  Kiera Knightly gives one of her best performances to date, although I didn’t feel like it was anything overly powerful or memorable.

Overall, it felt kind of like your typical British period piece with what I also refer to as “typical British coloring” and of course, a proper musical score to go along with it.  I’ve not had much of a chance to listen to it separately, but Alexandre Desplat pieced together quite an appropriate score to go along with the film.  It’s the kind of score you don’t really notice, however, as it just kind of happens to be in the background, only coming forward for dramatic effect once in a while.  I think that was the weakest part of the score, although this is never a bad thing.  Sometimes it’s better for the score to go unnoticed, although music is an important factor.

This film is fantastic at what it sets out to do, and should hold your attention with some of the interesting content, mostly surrounding the Enigma and Turing Machines.

The Grand Budapest Hotel:  5/10

Nominated for:  Best Picture, Cinematography, Costume Design, Directing, Film Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling, Original Score, Production Design, Original Screenplay.

Okay, first thing’s first.  If you are a Wes Anderson fan, you will likely love this movie.  I however, am not.  I have given his films several chances in the past and I just cannot get behind them.  I get the humor and I have a dry sense of humor myself, but I just cannot bring myself to like his stuff.

So, this review will likely be short.  Here’s what I will admit to though.  I really do respect Wes as a director and filmmaker.  He has a great ability to make artistic and aesthetically pleasing films.  That being said, they just don’t do it for me.

Here’s why I respect him.  He usually ends up luring in great talent for his roles.  They usually end up giving great performances for said roles.  The cinematography in most of his films is almost always exquisite and this film is no exception.  There is normally a significantly obvious color theme and style theme (often more than one) at work throughout his films and they work wonders as scenes and sets on their own as well as together.  When I see a Wes Anderson film, I feel like I’m looking at an old boring but probably really well done piece of art from who knows what time period.  For this film, this has special indications as the plot of the story revolves around a certain painting so the cinematography is very cleverly reminiscent of paintings or other mediums of artwork as well.  The music in his movies is usually on point as well and Alexandre Desplat has woven together a wonderfully fitting ensemble of pieces for this film.  This score is significantly better than his Imitation Game score.  However, one thing I noticed is that the score includes other classical works not written or composed by Desplat and therefore I feel like that should have disqualified it from Original Score contention.

Aside from the purely technical and production aspects of Wes Anderson’s films, I can’t really bring myself to waste much more time talking about this film.  Again, if you’ve enjoyed his stuff in the past, you might view this one as his best yet.  I certainly think it is and I still didn’t like it.

Whiplash:  9/10

Nominated for:  Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Picture, Film Editing, Sound Mixing, Adapted Screenplay.

I dubbed this one this year’s Gravity in terms of overall runtime.  This is a film that doesn’t waste our time at all which is especially poignant given that timing and/or keeping time is a specific focus of the film.  The story is rather simple and concise.  Andrew is a music student and percussionist who is attending the nation’s best school for music and he is trying to get into a class that is taught by a renowned and notorious musician.  Fletcher is a no-nonsense, drill instructor (I felt like Simmons channeled his inner R. Lee Ermey for the role) type of guy who does not tolerate failure, laziness or general mediocrity in his classes from his students.  He is a terrifying presence and his students not only respect him, but they fear him as well.

There are a few things that have made Whiplash one of my favorite Oscar films of 2014.  The story is simple and the runtime of the film doesn’t waste time either.  Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons put on one heck of a display of machismo, arrogance, pride, testosterone and sheer willpower clashing together between the two of them to form this dynamic and volatile relationship between student and teacher.

I can’t really say much about the film without telling a lot of the greatest parts of it and ruining the fun, but what I can say is that if J.K. Simmons does not walk away with an Oscar for his performance, it will be a crime.  A crime not unlike allowing a musician to perform onstage without the proper music sheets.

I personally think another film will and should win Best Picture, but I will not be upset at all if this one steals the win away.

The Theory of Everything:  9/10

Nominated for:  Actor in a Leading Role, Actress in a Leading Role, Best Picture, Original Score, Adapted Screenplay.

Admittedly, I wasn’t really interested in this film because I’m not really a fan of Stephen Hawking.  I know, the science community would likely bite my head off for saying that, but that’s fine.  I do greatly appreciate his contributions to science of course, for sure though.

Now, I bring that up because once I got to watching the movie, I began to become more and more engrossed in the story and blown away by Eddie Redmayne’s performance.  His performance alone not only carried this movie, but elevated it into the kind of film the Academy salivates over.  Felicity Jones lends her own powerful performance as Hawking’s wife Jane, who wrote the book the film is based on.

The story is rather straight forward, and the most biographical of this year’s biopics.  We are able to see Stephen before he was diagnosed, and if the film is any indication, he was quite the charismatic personality and I think if it weren’t for that, we may be experiencing a very different Stephen Hawking in real life.  Strong will and determination are necessities when it comes to overcoming and dealing with debilitating conditions such as Hawking’s and Redmayne gives us a painfully wonderful glimpse into the world that Stephen deals with every day.

Eddie has my vote for Best Actor, although I’m quite certain it may go to Michael Keaton, which I’m also fine with.  Eddie’s performance was just so vivid that I find it hard to see a better performance out of the nominees.  Felicity matches his intensity and may very well have earned herself the same award.

This film is the perfect example of how you can use the actors and production to recreate already existing stock or home video footage.  This is what American Sniper, The Imitation Game and Selma failed to do.  There is an important scene in the film that shows Hawking and his family playing in the backyard and you see his children playing with him and climbing on his chair and it’s wonderful how close the production got to making it look exactly like the home video footage of the same instance that I remember seeing some time ago.  For me, this adds to the film and makes it more authentic.  I think if they had just thrown in the home video footage there, it would have lost the power of the scene.  Sure, that type of scene has its place and did fit well near the ending of American Sniper but for the most part, I think director’s should avoid that tactic.

The Theory of Everything is also an example of how you compose a score worthy of the film itself.  Johann Johannsson composes a beautiful array of piano and string heavy sounds that really tend to stand out throughout the film.  He does a wonderful job at creating a distinct theme song that resonates throughout the scenes as you watch the story unfold onscreen.  This is exactly what it means to compose a film score.  Out of the composers nominated in this category, only Hans Zimmer outshines Johannsson with his Interstellar brilliance.  However, if there’s anyone that should deserve to win this award over Zimmer, it is definitely Johannsson.  I loved this score.  Plus, even though Alexandre Desplat is nominated twice for his two different scores, I feel like he cheated on The Grand Budapest Hotel score.

Ultimately, this movie is a tragic love story but it is a true tragic love story and those seem to carry more weight and speak to people just as well if not better than those made up.  If you’re a woman and you have a nerdy significant other, or you’re both just science enthusiasts in general, then it’s a film both of you can enjoy.

Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance):  9/10

Nominated for:  Actor in a Leading Role, Actor in a Supporting Role, Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Picture, Cinematography, Directing, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Original Screenplay.

If it wasn’t for Whiplash and The Theory of Everything, this one would easily be my favorite of the eight Best Picture nominees.

Michael Keaton plays a washed up has-been comic book hero film star who is trying to get credit back to his name somehow by producing, directing and starring in his first Broadway play.

This of course lends the perfect environment for the wonderful ensemble cast that makes up the players.  Edward Norton’s character is the resident Broadway veteran who agrees to come aboard to replace a previous actor who gets knocked out by a falling, errant stage light.  Norton is hilarious and awkward at the same time.  He is one of many characters that continue to wonder why they are even doing what they’re attempting to do constantly throughout the film.  None more so than Keaton himself, who struggles with doubt and an inner monologue that continues to tell him to give up and return to the glory days of comic book films.

Emma Stone gives her first big time dramatic performance in this film and she does quite a wonderful job of it as well.  I’m not so sure she puts up an Oscar worthy performance by any means, but she was pretty good nonetheless.  Naomi Watts and Zach Galifianakis round out the rest of the big time players.  Zach actually does a great job in a dramatic role, which may land him a few more of this type of role similar to the situation Jonah Hill found himself in throughout the past couple of years.

The movie itself is a strange but wonderful mixture of comedy, chaos, confusion, doubt and purposely, theatrical drama.  It could be seen as a parody within a parody of itself.  Often it felt like the goal of the film was to poke fun at itself for preaching about being washed up and trying to become relevant again.  It also liked to take jabs at the debate between film and theatre, which added a different level of humor to the mix, as if it were a play within a play that was being filmed almost documentary style.

The cinematography lent merit to this as Inarritu chose to use a lot of tight, close-up shots and a lot of following or leading shots down long hallways.  There was a sense of claustrophobia in certain shots as well, almost like Keaton’s character felt trapped in his quarters or even when on the stage performing.  I think if I hadn’t sat down and forced myself to watch Mr. Turner, I might say that this one deserves the cinematography Oscar.  However, Mr. Turner’s cinematography was absolutely stunning and perfect.

Now, even though I’ve not seen Biutiful, I am really not a fan of Inarritu’s work.  I couldn’t stand Babel and 21 Grams was difficult to get through.  It’s okay to tell the story in a linear and chronological manner and neither of those films did this.  They seemed like Inarritu was trying way too hard to be artsy and different.  However, with Birdman he doesn’t do this and this is the first film of his that I thought was really well done.

There are a great many things I could probably say about each of these Best Picture nominees, but then there’d be nothing left for you to discover as an audience.  As always, I like to say, if there’s a film you want to see then don’t listen to the critics.  Don’t listen to me and go see it, find out for yourself and reach your own conclusions.  I did watch a lot of the other nominated films due to garnering acting nominations or nods in categories that interest me, so I may do a follow up post-awards with reviews for those films.  I hope this hasn’t been too much information at once for any of you.  Since I’m finishing this up at about 5 in the morning on the day of the Oscars, I hope you all enjoy them and hopefully the most deserving nominations win.

Alright, alright, alright.


I have been waiting to see this film since I first heard of its announcement and saw the teaser posters.  I think it ought to be noted that over recent years and due to his fantastic care taking of my most favorite comic book hero, Christopher Nolan has emerged as one of my favorite directors.  In between filming The Dark Knight trilogy, Nolan also put out two other wonderful pieces of film in The Prestige and Inception. Both of those films were fantastic on their own and somehow Nolan found the time to string together five movies that helped raise the bar in Hollywood over a short period of time.

Now, enter Interstellar.  The story is quite simple really.  It’s not even a newcomer to the silver screen.  The film is set in a future that could be not too distant, or maybe even 100 years from now, but the idea is that mankind has used up the Earth’s resources, or at least some of them.  It is implied that there is very little rain or water available to water crops, which are being killed off in droves by some blight or other.  The only thing mankind has left seems to be corn, but the clock is ticking there too.  Essentially, we’re starving, and we’re suffocating and although slowly for now, the end is near and time is running out.

Throughout much of the first act of this film, the relationship between Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and his ten-year old daughter, Murphy is much of the focus.  Here is a small hint at what is to come.  Murphy is played by Mackenzie Foy, Jessica Chastain and Ellen Burstyn.  Cooper also has an older son played by Timothee Chalamet and Casey Affleck.  It is implied but never really explained that the mother/wife figure has passed away sometime earlier. We’ve seen that plot device before, but we can deal with it here. Her role is filled in by John Lithgow, who portrays her father and he lives with them in their beat up, dusty farmhouse.

In another career, in a different time, Cooper had been a brilliant engineer and pilot who worked for NASA, but due to the changing state of the world, he becomes a corn farmer like everyone else.  Murphy (or Murph, as she is affectionately called) still has some of her father’s appetite for exploration within her and at the same time, feels that she has been continuously visited by some unseen “ghost” or paranormal activity.  A small discussion over breakfast revolves around said “ghost” and its likelihood of existence and Murph is told to weigh the evidence against science and come up with an educated reason behind why random books keep falling out of her bookshelf.  It is this continuous occurrence coupled with a gigantic dust storm that propels Cooper into finally listening and investigating his daughter’s “ghost.”

What they find is a journey that leads them to a military installation in the mountains that Nolan wastes no time in identifying as what is left of NASA, or at least a re-invention of it.  It is led by Professor Brand (Michael Caine), a group of similarly brilliant minds and his daughter, Amelia (Anne Hathaway).  At this point we also get introduced to another amazing advancement in technology in the first appearance of a handful of differently functioning artificial intelligence entities that look like next generation automatic teller machines that are mobile and vocal.  Two such entities are simply known as T.A.R.S. and C.A.S.E.  They will later become very valuable shipmates and travel companions.

Professor Brand wastes little time in attempting to convince Cooper to captain their upcoming mission.  It is heavily implied that the two gentlemen have a past.  I’m guessing Brand was one of Cooper’s professors while he was in college, or maybe they worked at NASA together before.  We really don’t need to know that, I suppose, but it is a nice little addition to the character development that the brothers Nolan did such a wonderful job at developing throughout this film.

I think the character development is one of the main reasons this film is so powerful.  There is little time wasted before one begins to feel affection toward everyone in the movie and the seed of hope is planted early, perhaps nestled in between the stalks of corn that are struggling to survive the constant barrage of dust.  Watching this film as a father was especially difficult because I felt like I was the one leaving my children to go on this timeless, endless journey and no one in the film or watching it has any idea whether success will come.  It is with that heavy notion that Cooper and his crew (including Amelia Brand) blast off in search of a new home for all of us.

Once the crew is in space, and on their way to Saturn, which is where they hope to find a wormhole that mysteriously appeared there approximately 50 years prior.  Throughout much of the interactions between Cooper and the Brands and the others at NASA, it is learned that they have already sent several astronauts on loner missions through the wormhole to attempt to find a new home for humanity.  They have received promising data transmissions back from a few of the astronauts on a few of the worlds and so, they set off to investigate.

Now, I must say, if by this point in the film you have not noticed the beautiful cinematography captured by Hoyte Van Hoytema, then you have missed a lot of the feeling behind this film.  Hoytema has excelled before in the photography in Her (which I really would like to review also, but have not found the time to do it justice) and The Fighter.  Here, in another one of Nolan’s universes (surprisingly not shot by Wally Pfister this time), Hoytema captures the desolation and desperation of those left on Earth with the warm, monotone sepia filters.  The basic idea:  there is a LOT of dirt and dust and very little green left.  There is wonderful juxtaposition between the scenes shot on Earth and those shot in space or on the other worlds.  On one world the warm filters continue, but this time in a blue monochrome because the entire surface is water and as much as I would like to talk about the events that occur there, I will leave that spoiler out.  The next planet, where a great deal of the next act of the story resides is more monotony but this time we’re greeted with bright whites and grays because most of the world is ice and snow and not much else.  This is the world that they think may have the most promise.  This is also the first world where we encounter one of the astronauts sent before our crew.

Matt Damon!  It’s Matt Damon who plays Doctor Mann, one of their more brilliant scientists or “the best of us all” according to Amelia Brand.  The next few scenes and sequences are some heavy stuff and you will really want to pay attention to what is happening, what is being discussed and what some possible underlying symbolism might be.  Before too long, it might be understood that Dr. Mann literally symbolizes man as a whole.  The best evidence for this theory is that of Mann’s actions while they are on this giant ball of ice.  Since there are many plot advancements that occur with Dr. Mann’s character, I won’t say much, but I really hope that audiences will get the message.  The struggle of man, the always-present desire to survive and succeed and explore and continue on as a species and as individuals.  This is where some of the strong character development from earlier really starts to come out and shine.  Cooper’s desire to get back home to Murph is palpable.  So much so that you can feel it as you watch the film progress.  In the dialogue, in the actions of his character, in the visuals and in the music, you can feel how strongly Cooper wants to succeed on this mission.

I will always say that a movie is made or broken on the merits of the music that accompanies it.  Interstellar is a perfect example.  I have read that there were many audience complaints about how the music, most notably the pipe organ tended to drown out dialogue and other sounds throughout the movie.  I did not find this to be a problem.  While that is true, I feel like without the way they handled the score, without the overbearing pipe organ, we as an audience would miss out on much of the emotion and tone that the characters were going through.  Think about how quiet and soundless it must be while you’re floating through space.  Think about how loud the thoughts in your head have to seem in that environment.  This is what the score does.  It brings out the turmoil and the love and the strife and any other emotion our characters might be feeling in a given scene and Zimmer and Nolan have pieced it together well.   When the music gets so loud and almost unbearable, perhaps at that moment, if you were in their shoes in space, your own thoughts or situation might seem unbearable, inescapable or too strong to focus and survive.

I haven’t written this extensive a review in some time, and perhaps I dwelt a little much on the plot near the beginning but I think this film is worth it.  There are  so many aspects to this film that could fill pages of discussion and I have skipped over some.  I forgot to mention how awestruck and giddy and overwhelmed I felt when Saturn appeared on the five-story IMAX screen.  My favorite planet.  There he was in all of his glory.  I know it was CGI, but it seemed like I was watching images sent straight back in high-definition from Cassini.  The browns and the blacks and the muddy gaseous face of Saturn and the shadows and the rings…breathtaking.  As if that weren’t cool enough, later when we first see the stellar mass black hole that the main  three planets they choose to explore orbit around…just wow.  It’s not much, as far as visual effects difficulty goes, but it just looks so cool and so ominous and frightening.  Just this giant blackness with small flickers of light glowing around its edges and also creating a kind of Saturn-like look.  That could not have been accidental given the significance of Saturn and the worm hole just outside its orbit that leads to the galaxy where this black hole resides.

I have said a lot of things about this film and yet I know I have left so much out.  I know this film won’t be for everyone, and I know there’s already a critical divide among critics and audiences, but if you really like space and Nolan’s films and movies that make you think, then this one will be wonderful.  For those of you that really enjoyed Danny Boyle’s Sunshine, this movie is very similar in tone and photography and pace, but I think this movie is exactly what Sunshine was attempting to do but failed at the end (hint, I did not like said movie due to most of the second act and its ending).  For those of you that are really into the science behind film or things in general, I believe this film did its homework, and Nolan and company really tried hard to do their due diligence in at least making a plausible story that involves Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.  Not only does it include said theory, but I think it does a great job of explaining it and showing its key points first hand regarding black holes and time dilation and the bending of space.  There are so many layers to this film because of these aspects.  I won’t even discuss the final act of the film, but does it ever provide a really awesome scenario for what black holes COULD possibly have in store for us if we every do end up figuring them out.

If you love good storytelling, great character development, cinematography, scoring and directing, please check out Interstellar.  If you are a space and science buff, go check it out and weigh it against what you know.  Obviously it’s a work of fiction, and takes those liberties, but you may be surprised.  As I’m closing up this review, I’m sitting here listening to Hans Zimmer’s brilliantly heavy and ominous score for the film and I find myself wanting to watch it again, or wanting to drag my telescope out and look up into the stars (if it weren’t so bloody cold outside).  I think I appreciate this film because I appreciate that Nolan told a very real and raw story, kept it human and focused and didn’t need a bunch of action or explosions or aliens to carry out the weight and the gravity of the film.  With that, I leave you with a final clue as to what else becomes a large part of the focus of the film.


Go bloody see Interstellar!



I wouldn’t say this will become a regular thing, but the coworker and I were at it again.


Below is a transcript between the two of us regarding the topic of the day — the Tanka. 


TMTO: alright, let’s travel back to Japan, shall we?
TMTO: The Tanka
TMTO: Definition of Tanka

Tanka is a Japanese poetry type of five lines, the first and third composed of five syllables and the rest of seven. Tanka is the oldest type of poetry in Japan.

Example of Tanka

To live is to break
Ueda Miyoji

To live is to break
One’s heart for the sake of love;
A couple of doves,
Beaks touching on their way,
Are stepping out in the sun.

CW: The fourth line has six syllables…
CW: Unless “touching” is like “athlete” and contains three syllables?
TMTO: hahaha i noticed that too
TMTO: i was like: “Ueda is a liar!”
CW: He certainly is. Or he’s just bad at Tanka.
TMTO: one or the other.
TMTO: either way.
CW: So is that the way we’re going?
TMTO: yeah, why not hahaha
CW: Okay. One second, I think I’ve got a good one.
On the first reading
That might sound a little gross,
Perhaps illegal.
I can assure you it’s not,
It’s social commentary.
Your social commentary
Is likely not so backwards;
but probably true.
Especially in that state
Where demographics are wide
TMTO: However shocking,
One may not be so surprised
to learn that most states
House this array of cultures
Regardless of what the law says
Something to be said
on the progress of mankind.
Not a sad state of affairs.
Personal moral compass.
I may not be one
To speak on moral compass
But I do agree
Society needs a change
Less offense by the conserved
So the stage is set.
A new status quo to come.
The coliseum.
Volunteer or veteran,
All glory to the victor.
CW: If the winner’s name is Victor, I’m gonna have to revise that last line.

*All glory goes to Victor.

The night draws so close.
Such a great time to be had
At the old mead hall.
Friends and fellowship abound,
There’s no place I’d rather be
Billiards and beer
The best way to end the week
Various options
Dark and light and IPA
They’ll get you drunk either way
TMTO: (couldn’t decide if Billiards was 2 or 3 syllables)
CW: Three, certainly.
CW: Ath-uh-lete.
Chauncey(22:17:00): hahahaha
CW: That spells moon.
TMTO: yes. it does.
CW: Came across an interesting factoid just now. www has nine syllables, and as such is impossible to use in Tanka poetry. World wide web, however, has four, and may be used as part of any line.
TMTO: That is most interesting indeed.
CW: Interesting enough to try. That is, coincidentally, quite difficult…
The World Wide Web here
Is most unconventional
Like nine syllables
that break the mold of Tanka
CW: You suck.
CW: Success!!! Time for brandy!

World wide web waits
Woven with woolen wicker,
With wanton wonder
Warmest wench with whitest wrath
Wasting witty, wispy wimps.

The following is a transcript of a conversation between me and my coworker.  By now most of you should know of said coworker, as he is the same one that helped me come up with 10 Cubed.
As I’d stated in my previous post about the sonnet, he and I have been trying to come up with entertaining and challenging ways to communicate throughout our work day.  So far it has been quite fruitful and enjoyable.  I regret that I did not think to post the transcript from Haiku Day last week. 
So here is our attempt at a new poem style called a Cinquain.  I tried to find the simplest form of the poem possible for us to start off with.   I have left the transcript in it’s original format and haven’t edited much other than our names.  Apologies if it gets difficult to read.
TMTO: i think we’ll have to go with the Didactic Cinquain today.
CW: Elaborate.
TMTO: and if we’re feeling extra awesome, we can try the Tetractys Cinquain
CW: Two fives vs. three fives?
TMTO: in this particular type, it’s word count, not syllable count.
TMTO: but still 1, 2, 3, 4, 1
Warm, steam
Flowing, churning, spreading
Growing as it dissipates
TMTO: ^ so basically this type of thing
Descriptive words
Showing, revealing, acting
Explaining the title word
Dream plane
Creating, destroying, resting
Something I lack completely
Head pounding
Cold drinks await
The only effective solace
CW: Somehow I ended up botching that anyway. Let’s try again.
Visible, invisible
Carnal senses fail
There is no understanding
CW: Still not quite, gotta get the fourth line right.
CW: Okay, re-wrote the first two and picked up a third. Let’s see what you think of these.
Bleak, static
Bending, biting, breaking
Oh, to be free
Visible, invisible
Accepting, grasping, comprehending
Prove we aren’t dreaming
Aggressive, competitive
Striking, floating, falling
The end, an abyss
TMTO: hahahaha there you go.
TMTO: this one’s about word count, not syllables.
TMTO: although obviously, poetic rules are meant to be bent and broken.
CW: yeah, I got that, but when I wrote out the template from that image you posted, I mixed up a couple things.
TMTO: ah i see hahaha
CW: Obligatory apparently.
Annual celebration
Advancing, living, surviving
Another day, another dollar
Necessary sustenance
Varying, filling, recharging
Whether good or bad
Thoughtful words?
Repeating, whispering, shouting
All day, from me
Lofty, ephemeral
Floating, flowing, vanishing
Reminder all is fleeting
Weather confused
changing, warming, cooling
Colored leaves, bristled beards
CW: I like that one quite a lot.
CW: I’ve got a parody of that one I think you’ll enjoy. Gimme a second.
TMTO: hahaha
TMTO: uh oh
CW: No, it’s gonna be hilarious. Just be patient. 
CW: Okay, let’s try this out.
Warm, cold
Beginning, changing, ending
Brightest colors, darkest shades
TMTO: …. hahahahaha
TMTO: i wonder if that’s how she is
CW: I’m gonna step outside, experience a bit of this lovely autumn eve…ning.
TMTO: hahaha
CW: Pretty good, right?
Intangible experience
Selective, fleeting gossamer
Was it, or not
Past remembered
Remembering, contemplating, commemorating
Written by the victors
CW: Now that’s a damn good one. Ah, that gave me a great idea! We start each new one with the last word of the previous one. Sound like something that might work?
TMTO: i don’t see why not hahaha
CW: Great, let’s get this started.
Natural beauty
Enchanting, enlivening, terrifying
Never lost, only found
Under stars
Boggling, distracting, mesmerizing
Domed, vaulted universal ceiling
Interstellar cell
Living, evolving, dying
Microcosmic macrocosm, cosmic diorama
TMTO: is “contrary” really a synonym of “earth”? haha
Opposite opinion
Differing, bickering, babbling
Separate views, similar angles
CW: Doesn’t have to be a synonym, according to the original text. More like a synonym or reference to the title.
TMTO: meh
TMTO: dammit
CW: ?
Opposite opinion
Differing, bickering, babbling
Comparing, contrasting, countering
Separate views, similar angles
TMTO: Disagreement
CW: Ah… I really liked the first one. I was already trying to come up with one that would end VERY SIMILARLY [cough:plagiarist] to that.
TMTO: hahahaha
TMTO: well either way
CW: Okay, dialogue it is, then. On it.
TMTO: i just liked the alliteration of the gerunds line
CW: Totally! I tried that with the Stress one.
TMTO: hahaha
Intelligent conversation
Bantering, ribbing, jesting
We’re talking, not fighting
CW: Thought you’d get a kick outta that. 
CW: How… Appropriate. 
* these lines are intentionally blank but would not format as blank lines. 😦

This began as an experiment with the same coworker that I co-created 10 Cubed with.  The idea was to use only sonnets to communicate throughout the day because last Thursday we spent an entire 8 hour shift only speaking in Haikus.  I felt like a sonnet would add a different level of difficulty.

We didn’t end up doing this, because it’s been forever since I’ve attempted to write one and it took me forever.  I don’t believe the iambic pentameter is accurate either, but it was a worthy effort nonetheless.

Amidst the strands of time within this place
exists a constant thrum and drum of noise.
There seems to be a constant lower pace
where nothing can escape the sucking joys.

But this is where we stage our fight.
Prepare and stand against this day
so we shall raise our glass this night
and send these problems on their way.

Look forward to the coming of the eve
as this will be the tail end that we need.
At that final hour we may take our leave
and so commence the downing of the mead.

We will celebrate this day we set aside for Thor
with the hammering of ale until there is no more.


Posted: September 19, 2014 in Scraps
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sometimes I like to write in analogous or metaphorical ways based on how I feel–I think we all do.  This is something I put together on my lunch break based on how I feel toward a specific situation.


In those final moments, when all hope is lost and after the fragments and debris have torn apart the fuselage, you must make a choice. There is only room for two in the only emergency pod left and three of you remain. Your ship is going down, in flames and pieces, falling in a ball of fire with tails that stretch for miles.

You must make a choice, before they have a chance to protest. The lock is sealed and there you are, holding on to the rails outside. This is the last image you will see, of life and hope and meaning. But you must let go, so they can fall back to the waters waiting to embrace them.

Don’t think, just do. Let go, and push off. Close your eyes if you must, but you must do this last thing. You will be in solitude for a time and as you drift, waiting for the remaining oxygen supply to deplete, you have everything before you. The Earth and the Sun and Moon, and stars that will not even blink at this and yet, you drift, helpless and waiting…and after you are cold and gone…you will be out there, alone forever.

Not too sure about this one but the nice thing about exercises is that they don’t have to be good or anything.

Scenario:  A man wakes up to find that he cannot speak to his gramophone (this is a result of my apparent inept comprehension skills, as the situation was supposed to be that he finds he CAN speak to it)
Genre:  Surreal (if that’s even a genre)

The Gramophone


  1. Thunder rumbled lazily past the window while droplets of water pattered against its pane.
  2. His eyes were blurry at first and his ears were ringing, but he rubbed the sleep away and stretched limbs toward the four corners of the world.
  3. Sensors that he hardly noticed were slowly bringing the lights up in his room and the coffee pot began trickling.
  4. “It isn’t like you to be so quiet, Ptah,” the man said, nearing the gramophone in the corner.
  5. Whirring from the coffee pot and the continued gentle siege on the window pane were the only sounds in the bedroom.
  6. “Come on buddy; it’s too early for your shenanigans,” the man picked up the bras and moved it about.
  7. The gramophone showed no signs of life and dust had begun to collect on the inside of the pavilion.
  8. The wall was lit up now with the glow of the HoloVision coming to life.
  9. “…saying that prior to the incidents, low vibrations and ringing were heard…” the anchor on the wall was saying.
  10. Outside another clap of thunder boomed so close that the man stepped to the window to look out but only saw fire, smoke and a building crumbling to the ground.

I have a feeling these are going to become quite frequent.  That is perfectly fine, as at least my blog will finally get some regular usage.


Scenario:  Child’s Bedroom
Genre:  M. Night Shyamalan (we made this up…)


Battleship Row



Sunlight fractured through the small window overlooking the simple bed underneath.


Airplane noises echoed off of the walls in his bedroom and toy soldiers and tanks were strewn about at random or some chaotic design.


The P-51 Mustang whirled around in Charlie’s grasp as a Japanese Zero fled in his other hand.


Toy battleships were aligned neatly in a row, with one or two askew or turned on their side here and there.


Charlie moved his arms in large arcs, and brought the dogfight down below the hard deck with zooming sounds vibrating through his teeth.

|||| |.  

The Zero broke hard to the right as it slammed into the plastic battleship and left the Mustang with no choice but to pull up.

|||| ||.

More chaos exploded around Charlie as he flew over the harbor as torpedoes splashed into water and slammed into metal.

|||| |||.  

Sirens blared faintly over the sound of his propeller as water and fire splashed in all directions below him.

|||| ||||.  

Charlie could feel the water drench his uniform and the heat from the fires was causing him to sweat.

|||| ||||.  

Outside his window, officials in white coats, blue uniforms and fire-retardant gear ran all over the lawn and in that instant his door sprung open revealing two of his captors dressed in white in the door frame.