Spoiler Alert: I use the term "spoiler alert" because it is the common colloquialism. A more proper term would be "Informing Alert". Why wouldn't you want to know what you are getting into? Informing Alert: I don't like surprises much. Not only that, some of these movies are steeped in history. Things that actually happened (and some things that didn't exactly happen- I'm looking at you Selma). If you are concerned about not wanting to know something then reevaluate your stance and then read on... There will be "spoilers".
American Sniper - This hard-to-watch is now the highest grossing war movie ever. Some media acted all shocked that it had such a huge opening weekend at the box office, and I was like "Um, did you see the trailer?" It was the best trailer I have ever seen. It made me feel things: patriotic things, empathetic things. It made me consider my family, what I would do for my country, where the line should be drawn, where enemy lines should be erased. The movie was just as good as the trailer. It depicted a realness from the perspective of a warrior that was hard-to-ignore. Not only about while being deployed, but also about being home and the homeland he serves. From what I understand, it also stayed true to the story. Though tragic and tough, the story was beautifully told and taught audiences a lot. Bradley Cooper should win Best Actor for his performance. It is my Best Picture pick. It was the best overall and it was the best at what it was.
Birdman - I will say it: this movie is weird as hell. I consider myself pretty open to artistic stuff, but this was heavy handed even for me. They were able to pull it off. Crazy as it was weird. That was the point though, to take us into this world of a crazy man in a crazy back stage world. As far as the acting goes, Michael Keaton proved he was more than just Batman in the most meta way possible. He can act, but he wasn't the best. Ed Norton, who never disappoints, didn't. And if you are on my private fashion emails, you know I have an affinity for Naomi Watts. While Emma Stone somehow has tricked America into having a collective affinity for her, she seemed less annoying to me. In comparison to other films: it was the best of an art-house movie. A few years ago The Artist won, an that was weird and art-house, and terrible, and poorly done, and shouldn't have won anything. Birdman was good, and well made and maybe could win with out pissing me off. It makes me wonder if this year's dark horse Birdman (so many animals) will come out the victor? [Insert lesson on voting primaries here, and why this movie actually might win considering the others will split votes and this one could be universally liked enough to be 2nd Best with 1st Best being a 4-way tie, and Last Best being a 3-way tie.]
Boyhood - Look, this went were movies have never been. They created something really new. Well, kind of. It is like when produce came out with those cotton candy flavored grapes this summer, or when we got the grape flavored apple. Still fruit, but new. Still a movie, but new. Boyhood was a little boring, the plot wasn't wowing anybody. Though, it did give me curiosity to wonder if every persons personal tale is at least that interesting? If so, that is interesting: to consider that everyone might be mildly interesting if I cared enough to find out. Linklater will/should win for Director.
The Grand Budapest Hotel - Here is the problem with this movie: it reeked of Wes Anderson. Wes Anderson smells good, but it is old hat. It was exceptionally entertaining. I loved it. Had this movie been the first WA movie ever made it could win. But it isn't, and it won't, and it shouldn't.
The Imitation Game - USA won that war. Unrelated: This movie shouldn't win this Oscar. It was good, not great. Just like Britain's contributions to WW2.
Selma - This movie was comprised of long scenes depicting MLK in private, quieter moments- with The President in the Oval Office, with his wife discussing an affair in the middle of the night, even showing his own contemplations leading to major decisions made on the front lines of the civil rights movement. Unless everyone that knew MLK kept meticulous and deeply personal journals, and/or cooperated with the filmmakers in an intimate way with the clarity of objectiveness and with out personal bias, let alone the shaded view of 50 full years in between then and now, we don't know what was actually said or thought. So, this movie is pretty much made up, around a framework of history. Selma is wrong to voice history like this. The movie did a fine job emotionally investing the audience, it's really a shame they threw credibly to the way side. They had a responsibility to respect history and they did not. The Civil Rights movement is important to understand and telling the story of the Selma March was worthy of a film. I agree with the general sentiments of the movie. Agreeing with morals of the protagonist of a movie doesn't mean the movie was good. I did not like this movie much. When people say they really liked this movie, they might mean to say they really like civil rights or they really like MLK or the story is important.
The Theory of Everything - It was semi-captivating, and it was semi-superbly acted by Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones. When I say semi-suberbly acted, what I mean by that is Eddie did a phenomenal job, but within external limits. He really transformed his body and his delivery was amazing. But he didn't speak for much of the film. Some say that makes it more difficult, since he can only rely on his body language/facial expressions. I say it makes it half as hard. Simplifies it and amplifies the performance he did give. Sorry, bro. This one goes to Bradley. Also, I couldn't tell if Felicity Jones is that good, or was just that well-cast. The personal story of Stephen Hawking is amazing. It is a story of genius (see below) that was able to connect to a broad audience, because really it is a story of struggle and love, and we can all relate to that. I also appreciated the cinematography, costumes, and lighting. The secondaries that help transport you to another time. Those details were spot on.
Whiplash- I saved the worst for last. (And the list is alphabetical). In the worst of cases, people mistake abuse for love. This movie/story gets something very wrong. I've long said not all who are manic are geniuses, but all geniuses are a some degree of manic. Manic can be a symptom of genius. In Whiplash they make it seem like if you are manic the symptom could be (musical) genius. That if you really just let go of all sanity, something creative might be able to come out. No. Not how it works. This was unfortunately written by someone who is looking at genius from the outside in. Continually purporting that if the main character could just get to that level of instability, he might find this depth of drumming that he didn't even know he had! Sorry, again, no.
True: You may have this gift of musical genius and when you tap it, sometimes the manic escapes.
False: When you have this intense instability, sometimes the music escapes.
When JK Simmons' character goes on a diatribe about why he is