American Sniper - This movie stars Bradley Cooper as an expert marksman who is fiercely loyal, fearless, and has a gifted military mind. The fact that director Clint Eastwood decided to portray Cooper's character as a CGI raccoon just makes the movie that much more intriguing. And a sci-fi film very rarely gets a best picture nomination, much less a superhero film. ... What? This isn't that movie? You mean I can't make my "I am Groot" joke. Damnit.
Birdman - A movie title acting as an insult to the looks of its leading man. I am appalled that the Academy would reward such bullying behavior. Plus, I like Michael Keaton. He is a Pittsburgh guy like me. In fact, thinking about growing up in Pittsburgh, I had a friend who we nicknamed Bird. I don't know why we called him Bird, but we did. But Bird (Doug) was a good guy. He was part of the group of guys I hung out with back then. And Bird was up for anything. I remember one summer, my brother and I created a little "amusement park" in our basement. My friends Alex and Bird were over one day to enjoy the park. We had this "ride" where someone would climb onto a rolling ottoman and we would push him back and forth under the ping pong table. Well, Bird got on the ottoman to try the ride and it wasn't as exciting as he had hoped. So my brother and I both pushed Bird from one side of the ping pong table and Alex was going to catch him on the other side. However, we pushed the ottoman with such speed that Alex had to step aside or risk getting run down. Bird went flying across the basement and cashed into the miniature toy pool table we had. The entire thing collapsed onto Bird, leaving him groaning under a disaster of a mess. I can still remember Alex running up to him and yelling, "Bird, are you alive?" Ah, good times... good times...
Anyway, back to this movie. I like Michael Keaton. And I think he deserves some praise. Plus, every time I mention Michael Keaton, I can one reference one of his greatest performances. So now, one of the best lines in the history of movies, and one my grammar fiend friends can appreciate, from the 1984 masterpiece "Johnny Dangerously" -
Boyhood - A needless reboot of the 1991 classic, "Boyz n the Hood." Frankly, I am not sure why Hollywood keeps deciding to remake movies, especially ones that are still fresh in people's minds. I apologize for my soapbox here, but I will say that the casting of young Ellar Coltraine in the Doughboy role (made famous by Ice Cube) was quite a casting faux pas.
The Grand Budapest Hotel - A low budget hotel set in the odd town of Budapest, Ohio is the scene for this tale of wacky hijinks. A group of travelers visit the hotel only to find there is no way out. The discovery of a long dead astronaut and his sad diary allow the plot to move forward since nothing else does. The three travelers decide to pretend to be the three investors and make a play to purchase the hotel. This is accomplished and they leave to return to their spaceship. Or was that an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation? Regardless, the Klingon High Command gave this movie cha' rIlwI' Ha'.
The Imitation Game - Normally biographies are highly thought of by the Academy voters, and this one is no different. The subject of this biography is a bit of a puzzler though, as most people would not think Joe Piscopo is a worthy enough subject for such an exercise. However, the film spends a good portion of time on Piscopo's various impersonations (thus the name of the movie), and the results are often amusing. Very little time is spent on Piscopo's bizarre body-building phase (Carrot Top should take note) or on his relationship/marriage to his son's former babysitter. I was pleased that they spent a good chunk of time recalling one of Piscopo's greatest roles, Danny Vermin from the 1984 movie "Johnny Dangerously." And of course, it gives me the opportunity to introduce another one of the greatest quotes in movie history -
Selma - Selma Hayek is awesome. There is no way to avoid that truth. But this movie is simply clips of other Selma Hayek movies, with no real purpose. Other than to see Selma Hayek on the big screen. So, in that sense, it works magnificently. I mean, who can argue with seeing clips of Ms. Hayek's wide-ranging career choices in movies like "Frida", "Desperado", "Bandidas", "Dogma", "54", and "Fools Rush In?" Plus ending the film with Selma's amazing snake dance in "From Dusk till Dawn" repeating multiple times was just brilliant.
The Theory of Everything - The longest film ever made. The director, Richard Linklater, filmed one molecule for one week every year since the Big Bang. The film follows this molecule's evolution throughout time and space as it eventually turns into a young boy. The finale (spoiler alert) involves the molecule-now-young boy going to a movie theater to watch this film, creating an unstable paradox in the space-time continuum and causing the world to collapse upon itself.
(okay, admit it, you are still watching the Selma Hayek snake dance, aren't you?)
Whiplash - Another documentary makes the short list for the Oscar this year. This film discusses the history of thrash metal music, with a focus on the Big Four - Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax. Metalheads far and wide came to see this movie even though it had a limited release. Apparently, the movie was released only to theaters which installed a new roller coaster technology in the seats. This gimmicky technology was used to provide theater-goers with the head banging action a movie of this magnitude deserved. However, rumor has it that thirty-two academy voters suffered fractured cervical vertebrae during screenings, so this film will most likely not win the big award.
The Academy only nominated eight movies this year for the title of Best Picture. And I think, based solely on these brief summaries, that the clear winner for Best Picture should be: