January 16, 2015

Top 10 at Oscars 2015

The Oscar nominations are out. This year is the year of indies, with several low to medium budget films dominating the short-lists. But what is going to be the topic of hot debate over the next few days is the list of movies that got snubbed by the Academy. 'Selma', for example, is the first Best Picture hopeful in decades that did not earn a nomination in any of the acting, writing, or technical categories. The screenplay of 'Gone Girl', Jake Gyllenhall's performance in 'Nightcrawler', and 'The Lego Movie' in the animated feature category are other major snubs. Another thing to note is that there is not a single movie this year with the Big Five nominations.

I've been watching the live coverage of the Academy Awards for its last three editions and I know that a lot of readers of this blog do the same, although it requires getting up at 6 on a Monday morning. Several others will watch the replay that evening and the awards will be a matter of furious debate over social media. (I remember how livid a lot of Leonardo fans were last year when he lost the Best Actor trophy to Matthew McConaughey; and some of them had not even watched 'Dallas Buyers Club' to know how amazing the winner was.) In order to really enjoy the award function and the debates that follow, you need to be aware of the movies that will be competing that day. Like in 2013, and 2014, I'm sharing with you the top 10 movies that you must watch to make your Oscar experience fruitful. You have got less than forty days to finish watching these. So, start rightaway.
  1. American Sniper (six nominations, including Best Picture and Actor): The Oscars sure love good ol' Clint! Snubbed completely by the Golden Globes, and earning only two BAFTA nominations, this biopic on perhaps the most lethal sniper in American miitary history is the 84-year young veteran filmmaker's fifth film to be nominated for Best Picture. Also, Bradley Cooper earns an acting nomination for the third consecutive year. The film releases in India today and I've watched the morning show.
  2. Birdman (nine nominations, including Best Picture, Director, and Actor): Each of the five films made by Inarritu over the last fifteen years, who is already a legend of our time, has earned at least one Oscar nomination, and a total of twenty-one! Talk about quality and quantity! PVR website says it releases in India on the 30th of January. My most eagerly awaited movie of this list!
  3. Boyhood (six nominations, including Picture, Director): My unconditional and obsessive love for this film is evident to the readers of my blog. You can click here to read my views on it. I have already watched it twice on big screen and if, after its most likely Best Picture win, it is re-released, I'll watch it again. I'm also super happy for Richard Linklater, the maverick maker of indies for more than twenty years, that he has a shot at Best Director. This once-in-a-lifetime-of-a-film headlines the success of indies in 2014, and is a pleasant reassurance that cinema has not yet exhausted all its great ideas!
  4. Foxcatcher (five nominations, including Best Director): Three films in almost ten years and they have earned as many as 16 Oscar nominations in total. What a career Benett Miller has set for himself. It is strange how this film could not make it to the Best Picture shortlist. Should release in India on the 30th of January.
  5. Grand Budapest Hotel, The (nine nominations despite none in acting categoires): It took eight films for the inimitable Wes Anderson to earn a Best Picture and Director nomination. This is one solid example why the Oscars need not be taken too seriously. However, this latest film by Anderson is absolutely delicious and gives us the assurance that despite operating in his own style, he has a lot more to offer. The film has aready had its run in India. But since it has earned most number of nominations (with 'Birdman'), we may find a limited re-release.
  6. Imitation Game, The (eight nominations, including Best Picture, Director, and Actor): Every year, through the award functions, I get introduced to filmmakers I didn't know about and this is one very important reason why I look forward to it. The Norwegian director, Morten Tyldum, started his career with TV and made his first feature film at the age of 36. In the next 11 years, he made three more films, and his fourth and the latest has catapulted him to the big league. It is also his English film debut.
  7. Interstellar (five nominations): Despite being an enthralling experience, the latest Nolan film fails to earn a Best Picture nomination. Honestly, I don't mind. It should win the VFX award, and perhaps one for sound as well. It is still running in theaters and you must watch it, preferably on IMAX. 
  8. Mr. Turner (four nominations): The veteran English filmmaker, Mike Leigh, who will turn 72 two days before the Oscar ceremony, has had seven nominations in his career so far, as writer and director. 'Mr. Turner', however, could not earn him any, or to its wonderful cast. With nominations for Cinematography, Production Design, and Costumes, it surely appears to be a visually stunning picture. Should release in India on the 6th of Feb. Must watch it, irrespective of its fate at the awards night.
  9. Theory of everything, The (five nominations, including Best Picture, Actor and Actress): When you are making a feature film on Stephen Hawking, you must do it well. And seems this one has done really well, the only film to earn both Best Actor and Actress nominations. Its director James Marsh has been a major documentary filmmaker as well and has won an Oscar for 'Man on Wire'. The film releases in India today.
  10. Whiplash (five nominations, including Best Picture): This is only the second feature by its 30-year old director, Damien Chazelle, who has also earned a writing nomination for the same. He must be proud of the illustrious company he is in and might just be the director to watch. All his films have music as their backdrop and this makes me particulary eager to watch 'Whiplash'. I have no clue about when it's going to be released in India. Any help would be gratefully appreciated.
There 91 nominations among feature films this year (not including, foreign-language films, shorts, animation, and documentaries) and the ten movies mentioned above cover 62 of them. They should also cover most of the 18 awards they are competing for. Hence this list should be good enough to for you. However, there is one major category that does not find representation in this list, the Best Actress. Even if you watch all the ten movies above, you'll miss out on four Actress nominees, and most likely the winner as well. I hope to come up with another list soon, for those who want to be pro at this year's Oscars. For starters, and for those who do not have a lot of time to watch movies, the list above should suffice.

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