What it’s up for: Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Original Score, Film Editing

Moonlight tells the story of a poor boy named Chiron growing up in Miami who is discovering who he is compared to who others expect him to be. He struggles to find purpose and meaning as he grows up, hoping to find where he belongs.

First and foremost, I have to criticize the cinematography and film editing. Half of the movie is out of focus. Literally. I’m not sure what happened there. I assume it must be some sort of artistic choice that represents the difficulty of discerning who you are as you grow up…or something. However, it makes the movie almost unwatchable. I had to close my eyes a few times because the distortion was messing with my head. Outside of that, the lighting and framing are creative and effective…when you can see it. But, the score is great. It’s eclectic and also helps with some of the exposition.

Mahershala Ali gives a great performance, however, he’s in less than 1/3 of the film. He’s not the first actor/actress to get nominated for a role that has a short screentime. That practice isn’t something I fully understand. Although he did great, I felt like he didn’t have enough time to make an impact. What was more impactful was how Trevante Rhodes channeled Ali’s characteristics as he played adult Chiron.

Naomie Harris blew her performance out of the water. She played Chiron’s drug addict mother who grows and changes just like Chiron. She was incredible and impressive in her range and depth of performance.

I can’t say much about the screenplay because this one is also achingly slow. Fortunately, it’s also the shortest of the movies. There are few conflict/resolution plot points in the film. It’s basically one big conflict, which is Chiron discovering himself. I understand that that’s the point, but not enough happens in the movie to even track his growth. *Spoiler alert* It also ends with no resolution which is frustrating after such a slow film.

Barry Jenkins wrote and directed Moonlight which leads me to believe he was going in a Boyhood or Terrence Malick direction with the film. If that’s the case, kudos and well done. If that’s not the case, then it’s just a slow film without an engaging plot. Perhaps he was just trying to portray realism. I get that filmmakers like to do that and those are the movies that get nominated for awards. But it’s just so depressing.

Best Picture – Doubtful
Director – Doubtful
Supporting Actor –  Probable
Supporting Actress – Highly possible
Adapted Screenplay – Unlikely…I think
Cinematography – I doubt it
Original Score – Nope
Film Editing – Doubtful



Hacksaw Ridge


MovieHacksaw Ridge
What it’s up for: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Film Editing

In World War II, conscientious objector Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) wants to serve and honor his country by joining the Army and becoming a medic. Met with obstacles from every side, he pursues this goal and ends up a hero. (Not a spoiler because this is a true story.)

I enjoyed this film the most out of the seven Best Picture nominees I watched. As with most Mel Gibson movies, there was some religious symbolism helping to guide the story along. I love symbolism/metaphoric storytelling, religious or otherwise. There was a lot going on in this movie and I think Gibson did a great job.

Andrew Garfield was fantastic and captured the real Desmond Doss pretty accurately. You can feel his determination, desperation, and fear at all the right times. Andrew Garfield with a southern accent does throw me off a bit, though.

War films often tend to be nominated for one or both sound categories. There’s not a whole lot I can say for Hacksaw Ridge in these categories other than it must have been challenging.

The film editing was quite well done and was crucial to the story-telling. With a lot of chaos and explosions in the final battle, it was necessary to have a good editor.

Best Picture – Nope
Director – Hollywood give an Oscar to Mel Gibson at this point in time? To that I say “ha!” and “no”.
Actor – Unlikely
Sound Editing – Unlikely
Sound Mixing – Unlikely
Film Editing – Unlikely

La La Land


Movie: La La Land
What it’s up for: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Original Score, Original Song (x2), Production Design, Costume Design, Film Editing

I, like many, was initially put off by how many nominations this movie received. I thought it was another movie about Hollywood and the Academy was giving nominations based on relatability to their world. Thankfully, I was wrong. La La Land isn’t about the Hollywood elite. It’s simply a basic boy-meets-girl love story set in Hollywood.

Mia (Emma Stone) is a barista trying to become an actress. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a musician trying to open a jazz club. Through song and dance and banter, La La Land tells us the story of their love.

The chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone is unparalleled in modern cinematic pairings. They do so well together. They bring the best work out of each other. Both of them performed incredibly considering they needed to act, sing, and dance. The only strange thing is that sometimes they are so natural together that it feels awkward. Because real life is awkward. Both of them had powerful moments in the film. One of those moments for Emma Stone was when she sang Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” which is one of the two Oscar nominated songs from this movie.

The other nominated song is “City of Stars

I have very little doubt that one of these two will win the Oscar. Probably “City of Stars“, let’s be real. That’s the one Golden Globe win I’ve accidentally let myself see.

Like any good musical, the music of the songs are found throughout the story to help guide the musical themes. The score is unexpectedly unforgettable. After leaving the theater, my thought was “Well, that was ok.” But two days later, I found myself humming the music at work. It ties into the movie so well that you can’t help but hear the music when thinking about the plot.

Speaking of the plot, (man, I’m killing it on transitions today), the screenplay is phenomenal. The ultimate reason why the screenplay stands out is due to the fact that it is a song-and-dance musical. Without a good screenplay, singing and dancing is just awkward. The production design is brilliant. The movie is set in modern times, but the only way you would know that is by their phones. The obscurity of the settings, set decor, costumes, vehicles, and even the hairstyles give it a timeless quality. The costume design in particular stood out to me with Emma Stone’s outfits. The outfits suggest inspiration from different eras, while still being modern. It’s a delicate balance that I can’t explain well because I’m not a fashion person.

My absolute favorite part of the movie was the cinematography. I can’t fully express my awe towards the cinematographers in words. Imagine me doing Kermit’s muppet arms and you might get a sense of how I feel about it. The coloring and lighting changes with the mood. Whatever they did with the cameras and/or lights made some of the live backgrounds look almost like extremely high quality stage sets which allowed for the musical numbers to have that old-time musical feel from classic films. You really see this in the “A Lovely Night” tap number. (The scene that’s on all the posters.)

That tap number is also the moment where you see some of the best of the film editing. With “long shot” dance numbers, music, and singing, the editors have a lot to deal with. They pulled it off quite well. Those elements also give the sound mixers and sound editors a challenge. On those accounts, the sound was flawless. The transitions from speech to song were seamless. The necessary sound effects merged perfectly with the natural sounds.

The feel of the movie seemed somewhat familiar. It’s because Damien Chazelle, who wrote and directed Whiplash, also wrote AND directed La La Land. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – when someone directs AND writes the screenplay for a film, the product more often than not comes out better. Chazelle is definitely going places. This is his second big hit in the last two years. Not to mention, that Whiplash and La La Land are really his only major productions anyway. He’s come out the gate swinging. (I think that’s mixing sports metaphors but whatever.)

I’ve seen 7/9 Best Picture nominees. Unfortunately I won’t be able to see Fences or Hidden Figures. From what I’ve seen, I want to think that La La Land will win. I didn’t think so at first, but after watching more of the BP nominees, it’d be hard to beat it. Lion might be the closest contender. I liked that the movie was nostalgic to the classic films without being cynical or satirical. The ending….well, that would be a major spoiler, but the ending is what gives it a solid berth in the Best Picture category.

Best Picture – Likely. Unless the Academy goes in a politcal statement direction. (I’m looking at you Moonlight.)
Director – I’m not too sure actually. Statistically, if it wins BP, Cazelle should win too (since it is the most nominated film). But last year is the obvious exception to that rule.
Actor – Doubt it. Sorry, darling.
Actress – Doubt it.
Original Screenplay – Possible
Cinematography – Strong yes. This is an extremely powerful category though.
Sound Editing – Possible. Arrival gives it a run here.
Sound Mixing – Possible. If it wins mixing, it’ll probably win editing.
Original Score – I so want Thomas Newman to win, but it’ll probably be either this or Lion.
Original Song (x2) – Probable. I’d pick “Audition” but it seems like it’ll go to “City of Stars
Production Design – Probable.
Costume Design – Maybe? I haven’t seen enough of the costume films to be sure. I hope so.
Film Editing – Possible. That’s also a tough category.

The Revenant

Movie: The Revenant
What it’s up for: Best Picture, Leading Actor, Supporting Actor, Director, Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling, Production Design, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects

The Revenant tells the story of Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) who gets left for dead in the wilderness of the 1820s by his team. Glass’ grim determination for revenge drives him to use all the survival skills he possesses to try and get back to their fort. As a whole, the film is engaging and enjoyable. From a technical standpoint, there were certain things I just could not get past. We’ll start with the positives though.

Leonardo DiCaprio completely sells his forsaken character. He commits himself fully physically and emotionally. This is another nomination for a role with little dialogue. Even though he rarely speaks, he effectively communicates his story through his actions. However, it seems that DiCaprio had little to work with when it came to his character’s story. We are given virtually no background information or character development for Glass. In spite of that, DiCaprio creates a character that bonds with the audience and creates an emotional connection.

Similarly, Tom Hardy‘s character, John Fitzgerald, the antagonist of the film, makes himself known and hated fairly quickly despite having minimal character development. His strong character has a believable authenticity that makes him seem like he’s actually from the 1820s. The one thing that causes his character to suffer was not his fault. You could not understand half of what he said. I spent a significant amount of time lost when he was talking due to some terrible sound mixing (which I’ll get into more later).

The gorgeous cinematography captured the elements perfectly and drove the story along. They used natural light almost exclusively throughout the entire shooting process resulting in surprisingly clear and realistic shots. Lubezki is just a genius. Combine the painstaking cinematography with the unique film editing and you have a wilderness film that feels kind of like a Terrance Malick piece. There are certain scenes where Glass’ perception of reality shifts into dreams and hallucinations. There’s no transition into these stages. They just happen. Consequently there are moments where you have no idea what’s going on until it’s over. It takes nothing away from the story. It’s simply odd.

The production design also helps communicate Glass’ reality and strongly frames the impact of nature on our lost hero. The crew works with the elements in order to explain the story. That aspect was beautiful. The artificial locations (the fort, Native camps) felt authentic and kept the illusion of the historical aspect of the film intact.

The makeup and hairstyling team had an insane amount of work for this film. The makeup artists in particular had to create a number of flesh wounds and injuries for various characters as well as Native American body art. The costume design team created authentic (I assume) and intricate costumes. Each costume had a number of different elements to it.

I like Alejandro Iñárritu as a director. He made some bold choices with this film. They shot chronologically to make the experiences feel more authentic. This caused major budget problems for them when the snow melted at the end of shooting, forcing them to fly to Argentina to finish. He effectively directed several silent characters and characters speaking different languages. Overall, he did a great job. However, there were some minor issues that he had some control over that he should have resolved. Which leads me to…

The ridiculously awful sound mixing. The sound editing (creation of sounds for the film) was perfectly fine. Superb even. Elements of the mixing were good too, particularly with the incorporation of natural sounds into stereo. However, the biggest issue of the whole film has to do with dialogue. Half the time, you can’t hear the dialogue that’s in English. AND THEN a significant amount of the Native dialogue had to be redubbed after filming so the words don’t match the actors’ mouths. Iñárritu (supposedly) thought the latter wouldn’t matter because people would be focused on the subtitles. Mixing the dialogue into the background noises should have been given more of an effort. It’s possible that due to the time constraints of their post-production process, they just neglected it. I guess the Academy ignored that glaring issue when they nominated The Revenant for sound mixing.

Lastly, the visual effects. I know the whole motion-capture-bear thing has become a high-toned and fancy to-do in the technical circles. Yes, the technology is impressive. However, the end result for the bear and almost all the other animals leaves much to be desired. They all looked fake. Hair is hard to animate, but look at the recent Planet of the Apes films and you know it’s possible to create realistic looking animals. I think this may have been another area that suffered due to their time constraints. The real star of the effects team is whoever was in charge of the practical effects. So…many…fake dead animals. So…much…blood and guts. Seriously, this movie had significantly more gore than The Hateful Eight.

Best Picture – Probable but there might be a dark horse that takes the main prize
Leading Actor – I mean…if they don’t, there will be rioting
Supporting Actor – Possible
Director  – Highly likely
Cinematography – Highly likely
Costume Design – Unsure…
Film Editing – Unlikely
Makeup and Hairstyling – Highly likely
Production Design – Unlikely
Sound Editing – Unlikely
Sound Mixing – Please, lord, no
Visual Effects – Unlikely

The Big Short

Movie: The Big Short
What it’s up for: Best Picture, Supporting Actor, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing

I can’t remember the last time anger made me cry. It may never have happened before. Halfway through The Big Short, my anger grew so great it could only release itself through tears.

This movie tells the bleeping true story of a handful of people in the financial world who figured out that the housing market would collapse in 2008. The movie takes some creative liberties when telling the story for efficiency and effect, but the basic stories are true. Greed, stupidity, and arrogance created an unending vortex of doom for everyone.

Deadpool may be making waves for breaking the fourth wall, but guess what? The Big Short did it first (this year). One of the main goals for this adapted screenplay is to educate the general public about what happened in 2008 as well as explain some of the legal and financial mumbo jumbo people tend to just throw at us. One of the ways they accomplish this in the film is by bringing in random celebrities (like Selena Gomez and Anthony Bourdain) to explain certain terms (like CDOs and tranches). Not to mention, the narrator of the film is Ryan Gosling’s character, Jared Vennett, and he and many other characters have moments where they face the audience and explain something. Breaking the fourth wall can be difficult to execute smoothly but the screenwriters and actors pulled it off perfectly.

Beyond the fourth wall, the screenplay itself is just phenomenal. Several different narratives come together in the film to create the overarching story. Some of them connect to the others and some of them don’t. However, they all fit together without causing any confusion and build upon one another to explain the technicalities of the situations that unfold.

The movie had some of the oddest film editing choices I’ve ever seen. There were intentional continuity errors throughout the film. At least, I assume they were intentional because there were a number of them and I doubt the Academy would nominate a film for film editing if it had made so many errors. Almost every time the camera angle changed, the film would jump back a few seconds within the scene. For now, I’ll go on believing in some reasoning behind those choices. Besides that, the editing kept an effective hectic flow throughout the film, creating a sense of urgency and dread for what was coming. It easily went back and forth between the cameos and the story. It played a significant role in making sure the different narratives were distinct but part of the larger picture.

Adam McKay not only directed the film, but he also co-wrote the screenplay. He had a clear intention in his head of how he wanted this movie to go. How clear that was to everyone else is up for debate. I appreciated the quirkiness of the film. At the very least, his monumental task of directing a huge ensemble of main characters succeeded beyond doubt. All the actors did a fantastic job and played off each other perfectly. Christian Baleironically enough, got the supporting actor nomination. He was the only character not to interact with any of the other main characters in this ensemble film. His character, Michael Burry, a real player in this financial drama, is an anti-social former doctor with a love of heavy metal music. I didn’t really understand the music thing until I got in my car after the movie and the only music I wanted to listen to, in my anger, was hardcore screamo. Bale did a great job, but I think any one of the other actors (Steve Carell in particular) could have gotten the nomination.

The film is amazing, if only as a tool to teach people about the economy. I learned much from watching it (although Arrested Development Season 4 prepared me well for the subject matter so I knew a little bit already). There’s a warning at the end that tells us that the economy is set to create another housing bubble with the banks and financial institutions creating the same problems under different names. They do it all in the name of greed. Really though, please go watch this movie if you haven’t already. It’ll be at Redbox on March 15th.

Best Picture – Unlikely
Supporting Actor – Possible but I doubt it
Director – Possibly
Film Editing – Unlikely
Adapted Screenplay – Possible but I doubt it


Movie: Spotlight
What it’s up for: Best Picture, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Director, Original Screenplay, Film Editing

Movies often allow us the perfect escape from everyday life. Sometimes they shine light on reality.

Spotlight tells the true story of the investigative journalists from the Boston Globe who reported on and exposed the systematic abuse from Catholic priests and the cover-ups around them. Through a series of events, the Spotlight team uncovers more and more information about what had been happening in the Boston archdiocese over several decades. Their efforts culminate in a series of articles released in 2002 that rattled Boston and the world.

The film focuses almost exclusively on the reporters and their process. It’s not a smear campaign against the Catholic church. In fact, there are several times in the film where characters explicitly specify the differences between their faith as Catholics and the flawed system that led to the widespread abuse by the Catholic priests. The story is as much about the importance of investigative journalism as it is on the abuse scandal itself.

Mark Ruffalo is a friggen genius. He’s a chameleon. He probably should have won supporting actor last year. He definitely deserves the nomination again this year. He plays Mike Rezendes, one of the journalists on the Spotlight team and the writer of the initial article published in the Globe. Ruffalo does such a fantastic job turning himself into Rezendes that I needed to watch interviews with Ruffalo to make sure he didn’t have the distinctive facial and speech characteristics of Rezendes in real life. When you watch interviews with the real Rezendes, you can see how completely Ruffalo transformed. Beyond just the physical transformation, Ruffalo’s intensity and vulnerability throughout the story make his character seem real. He seems as if he’s actually discovering these things in real time and reacts as such. It probably helps that Ruffalo has a Catholic background. This subject matter may have been quite personal for him.

Meanwhile, I have no idea why Rachel McAdams got nominated for supporting actress. She did great as Sacha Pfeiffer, another one of the Spotlight journalists. However, her performance was forgettable. It felt no different than most of her other roles. I kept waiting for that moment when she would earn the nomination – since sometimes the turning point comes in a single scene rather than the performance as a whole. That moment never came.

The direction by Tom McCarthy was solid. It helped that he also co-wrote the original screenplay. I love it when filmmakers play both those roles. The pace of the film was constant and urgent the entire time without feeling draining. Conversations between characters happened naturally and authentically. There was amazing intentional symbolism, foreshadowing, and repeating themes communicated through scene locations and framing. This also plays into the film editing which was smooth and kept the symbolism flowing from one scene to the next. It plays out almost like a mystery, even though everyone knows what happens. The audience makes discoveries along with the characters as they peel back layer after layer of information.

If this movie only accomplishes one thing, I hope it drives home the need for investigative journalists. I didn’t understand the need for them until I saw this. Often what we see on TV or in film regarding journalists is an intensely fictionalized caricature of people who don’t really do much…except maybe cause problems for Spider-man. Internet journalism is ruining the integrity of journalism as a whole and promoting poor research and poor quality stories. Journalists can do things others can’t. They should be appreciated.

Best Picture – Unlikely
Director – Unlikely
Supporting Actor – Possible
Supporting Actress – Highly doubtful
Film Editing – Doubtful
Original Screenplay – Probable…it makes the most logical sense to win


Movie: Room
What it’s up for: Best Picture, Leading Actress, Director, Adapted Screenplay

As with most of the Oscar movies every year, I knew little about the plot of Room. I will admit, there were several moments where I couldn’t help but draw parallels to Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. However, the power and impact of the movie prevented that from distracting me too much.

Room is the adaptation of a novel by the same name that tells the story of a little boy and his mother’s captivity and eventual escape from the mother’s kidnapper. It is told from Jack’s (Jacob Tremblay) perspective. All he’s ever known is “room” (the shed he and his ma [Brie Larson] are being kept in) and he believes that to be all there is to the world.

The best adapted screenplays happen when the original authors contribute to the adaptation. Emma Donoghue, the original author, retains sole credit for the writing of this movie’s screenplay. Although the pacing felt slightly odd at times (primarily in the second half) and Jack’s narration could have been cut down a bit, the quality of the story remains evident. The movie is shot beautifully. The shots effectively set up scenes so that even if Jack is not narrating, you’re still seeing things through his eyes. They don’t present everything from Jack’s perspective (Ma gets her own touching moments when you get to see her heart), but the weight of the story is held by him.

Which leads me to mention the FANTASTIC performance given by Jacob Tremblay. He was seven when they filmed. He memorized lines and was directed in blocking, but there was some improvisation during filming as well. If I hadn’t read a couple interviews, I would’ve assumed that the entirety of his performance was improv’d – in a good way! He came off naturally and seemed like he wasn’t being coached too much. There were several scenes where he and Brie would carry on a conversation and they would keep the shot focused on him alone. That showcased his ability since there was no clever editing to keep the scene going – he wasn’t just spouting one line at a time. He carried those scenes all on his own.

And then there’s Brie Larson. What a gut punch. That’s the first term that comes to mind. I’d like to talk to any moms who’ve seen this movie and find out how emotional it was for them. It was emotional enough for me just witnessing the events unfold through this story. The emotion came entirely from Brie, even though the story was being told (mostly) from Jacob. When Jack would talk to Ma and she would just look at him, you could feel what was being unsaid. We see Ma protecting Jack from the truth and then adjusting her own thinking to help him cope with reality. She’s brave and self-sacrificing. I find that writing about this movie now, I’m thinking of Ma as a real person.

Both Brie and Jacob clearly benefited from some exceptional direction by Lenny Abrahamson. He chose to shoot the film chronologically (when most movies jump around for production efficiency) in order to accommodate their seven-year old leading actor. Directing a child actor in any role is a task, much less one that takes up so much screen time. Not only did he tackle that momentous task, but he also worked with Donoghue for an extended period of time on the screenplay. And then there’s Brie Larson. Good actors are good actors, but they’re made great with great directors. I have no doubt that Brie contributed a significant amount to the direction of her character. However, Abrahamson brought together a child actor, an untested screenwriter, and a leading actress who is not the main character, into an intriguing and heart-wrenching story that deserves its Best Picture nomination.

Best Picture – I would not be surprised if this one ended up in the top two. I don’t think it will win but I’d be glad to be wrong.
Director – Abrahamson earned his spot in this category, but he has a hard fight against Iñárritu.
Leading Actress – Likely. I’m gonna say likely. Maybe even very likely.
Adapted Screenplay – I’m not sure on this category yet. I need to see a couple more of these movies.


Mad Max: Fury Road

Movie: Mad Max: Fury Road
What it’s up for: Best Picture, Director, Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Makeup, Production Design, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects

I, like many, scoffed at the ten nominations for Mad MaxFury Road. On the outside, it doesn’t seem to fit your standard Academy film. It seems like a post-apocalyptic version of Fast and Furious. This is a perfect example of how you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

Mad Max: Fury Road tells the story of a woman named Furiosa (Charlize Theron) who helps a group of female slaves escape from a mad dictator. She attempts the escape through an expansive desert, hoping to find a place of peace on the other side. As she journeys, she’s joined by Max (Tom Hardy) who is battling his own demons.

George Miller had quite the undertaking as the director. First of all, there’s virtually no dialogue. The story is built and pushed almost entirely through the action going on. Secondly, the pace of the movie stays about the same (hectic) almost the entire time. There are stunts practically every five seconds. I don’t know how many extras worked on the film (or which extras were real and which were virtual) but they were numerous. Miller pulled an amazing number of variables together to create a seamless experience. I wish I’d been able to see it in theaters for the full effect.

The cinematography was intentional, creative, and effective. It set the tone for the film. It felt like a modern version of a 1980s film – which makes sense considering this is part of the Mad Max film franchise. (Full disclosure: I’ve never seen any of the other Max films. I did quickly skim the plots of the other three on Wikipedia before watching this one, though.) It was unique and memorable. Of course, this would all mean very little if the film editing wasn’t just as good. Which it is. Everything flows well from one scene to the next. It flows so well, that you just find yourself falling into the next moment without realizing that a scene change is happening. For a movie with so much action, it would be easy to get tired of things blowing up all the time. For a movie with very little variability in pacing, it could be easy to get overwhelmed. However, the editing – combined with a narrative score (which should have been nominated) – keep you interested and engaged the entire time.

The costumes and makeup designs tell their own stories. Both are intricate and dramatic, while subtly helping to explain things. The screenplay provides little in the way of background information for the societies that are encountered in the film. The costuming helps display the state of degradation that these people have found themselves in while also helping to distinguish between different groups or types of people. The makeup brings everything full circle by providing the futuristic sense that these people are not like us.

The visual effects of the film are almost indistinguishable from the practical special effects. Although most of the scenes are simply set in the desert, there are some truly epic moments starring the visual effects. Most of the film is one huge car chase that is creatively enhanced through some CGI work. Oh, and Charlize Theron is missing an arm the whole time. I had not even realized the broad scope of the visual effects work until I had to think about it for this post. While you’re watching the movie, the CGI/greenscreen effects don’t stand out from the actors and real vehicles.

The sound editing helped create the illusion of reality almost flawlessly. For the sound mixing, I felt like there were some off moments when the vocals were mixed in. Particularly with Tom Hardy’s lines (of which there were maybe five). I’m not sure if that’s just me being picky or if they did have some dubbing issues. Everything else related to mixing seemed strong.

Production design is my last to analyze for this post because everything I could say has probably been said about any of the previous categories. The production design stands out because all the other categories are so strong. They each work together perfectly to form this immersive environment. The fact that this film stands solidly in the realm of well-crafted stories without a significant amount of dialogue is evidence of exceptional production design.

Overall, it is a great movie. It’s not my normal type of film but I enjoyed it. Something that stood out significantly to me is the fact that there were numerous times where the filmmakers had an open moment for some gratuitous nudity and they chose not to do it. There was also very little profanity. In a time where those two elements are usually crutches for filmmakers, it’s impressive to see someone make a good movie without them.

Best Picture – Unlikely. Even though it’s very good.
Director  – Unlikely. Just because of the other contenders.
Cinematography – Possible….
Costume Design -I hope so! I think it’s in the top two.
Film Editing – Not sure yet.
Makeup – Possible. Old age makeup is usually the give away for this award so I’ll have to see what happens in The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared first.
Production Design – Unlikely…but I think it’ll be between this and The Revenant
Sound Editing – Unlikely
Sound Mixing – Unlikely
Visual Effects – Possible

The Imitation Game

Movie: The Imitation Game
What it’s up for: Best Picture, Leading Actor, Supporting Actress, Director, Film Editing, Score, Production Design, Adapted Screenplay

This movie is not at all what it seems to be in the trailers. It’s not a war movie. It’s not even really a character drama. It’s more like a political statement for the UK.

The Imitation Game follows the true story of mathematics prodigy Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) and a team of geniuses who attempt to break the unbreakable Enigma coding machine of the Nazis during World War II.

I’ve never been a Benedict Cumberbatch fangirl and I’ve never fully understood his mass appeal. However, this is the most nuanced performance I’ve seen him do and I was impressed. Turing’s social inabilities paired with what seems to be OCD create a unique personality that needed to be paired with intentional, abnormal body language. Cumberbatch pulled it off brilliantly.

In contrast, I’ve always been fond of Kiera Knightley, who plays the character of the “unlikely woman” who joins the code-breaking team. I was more fascinated by her character in this movie than any of her previous roles. She tends to be the same person in everything she does (which is still good and enjoyable to watch). In this movie, however, she brings her game to a new level. The hair/makeup folks did a great job with her in particular. Since she wasn’t just one of secretaries, they made sure her appearance was a little more haphazard than the well-put-together typists.

This movie is more about gay rights than anything else. They try to hide it but are so intentional in how they try to hide it, that it makes it seem all the more obvious. Because of that, the plot is too convoluted. You’re left not knowing what exactly you’re supposed to focus on. One moment, you’re fully engrossed in defeating Hitler, and the next you’re thrown back in time to learn more about Turing. If the movie had been solely focused as a character drama and not lauded as a war movie, it would have been less confusing.

In general, the movie is well-constructed. The director in particular did a great job working with different timelines (a trend this year it seems) and many different characters. The screenplay was good but not the best I’ve seen this year. It flowed beautifully but lacked a thorough script. (Example: Not once did they even try to explain how their code-breaking machine worked, even in the vaguest sense.) The production design was typical for a WWII film and I don’t really understand why it was nominated. The film editing was nothing out of the ordinary, but was well done.

Alexandre Desplat was nominated twice for score this year. Once here and once for Budapest. His score for Imitation is good, but it doesn’t connect the plot well enough to be a truly impactful score.


I’m just going to keep this simple and say that on a case by case basis, I think it’s unlikely that The Imitation Game will win in any of these categories. However, it also seems unlikely that the Academy would let a movie that Hollywood is championing as a gay rights film to go without an award.


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