Masters of Hollywood – from directors to actors – anticipate awards season each and every year, hoping that their work throughout the past 12 months will gain them a coveted nomination. Whether you think of the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Awards, or the prestigious Oscars when you think of the most exciting night for film, those who have worked to gain a nod from one academy or another have been thinking of them all for months. Although mere onlookers to the awards, the general public plays a vital role in bringing awareness to these films by purchasing a ticket to see them in the cinema – so, like it or not, we as “the people” have a duty to uphold when it comes to our favorite film gaining recognition. With rumors swirling around which actor will win an Oscar and which film will take home the golden trophy, these are 10 films that stand out as worthy of seeing before the big night.
Gone Girl could indeed be the “date night movie of the decade” as well as “the best movie of the decade.” Director David Fincher adapted Gone Girl from a novel – something that he is known to do (i.e. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) – and almost immediately after its release, critics were praising the work. Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike give the performance of a lifetime in a film that left me absolutely speechless throughout its entirety. Several times while screening this film, you may find yourself having to get up and walk away from it as it leaves you to the point of wanting to crawl out of your skin. The film’s sequence of events propels viewers’ adrenaline and anticipation to an all-time high, which makes for an actual “on the edge of your seat” film – films that, nowadays, are quite difficult to pull off successfully. If you’re unlike those across the world who helped in securing Gone Girl as Fincher’s top-grossing film of his career, pulling in more than $350 million worldwide, I urge you to see this film before the Oscars. (Although the Academy isn’t keen on awarding Affleck for his roles – ahem, Argo – they did give a nod to Rosamund Pike for Best Actress.)
I was genuinely surprised that it took so long for Hollywood to latch onto the story of Stephen Hawking but I am truly glad that they did. In the now-nominated Best Picture of the Year at the Oscars, The Theory of Everything, viewers are allowed a carefully scripted look into the life of Hawking – beginning with his early years at Cambridge, and chronicling his later life with first wife Jane. It should be noted that Eddie Redmayne put on such a breathtaking performance as Hawking, that the real-life physicist “could’ve sworn that he was watching himself” on screen. Though not many “mainstream” moviegoers are flocking to theaters to see the film, those in the industry haven’t been able to find a single negative thing to say about it. Felicity Jones, who plays Jane Hawking, a doting wife and mother of three who stops at nothing to support and love Stephen through all of the difficulties with his disease, has received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. I would personally consider this film to be the best drama of the year as it leaves viewers feeling inspired, grateful, and enlightened. Eddie Redmayne took home a Golden Globe and is nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars – an award that is so rightfully deserved. It would not surprise me in the least if this film won Picture of the Year.
In a somewhat slower paced version of adrenaline-rushing cinema, Nightcrawler stands out amongst this year’s best films. Jake Gyllenhaal gained praise for his performance as a reclusive, “on the scene” freelance news videographer. Gyllenhaal lost a substantial amount of weight for the role in order to appear very frail, almost strung-out even, making his character’s appearance match the overall tone of the film. The actor’s performance has been compared to Robert DeNiro’s in Taxi Driver – a very flattering nod to talent that has previously been overlooked by the Academy. With 17 nominations for his role already under his belt from various film awards such as the San Diego Film Critics Society Awards, Gyllenhaal seems to be on the fast track to a well-deserved nomination at the Oscars. Even if the latter turns out to be just wished upon circumstances, Nightcrawler is a film that deserves recognition in some shape or form. I urge movie enthusiasts to delve into the darkness of the film.
Hollywood has been on a roll when it comes to putting out films that have major cast lineups and Into The Woods is no exception. Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, and Johnny Depp are the top-billed performers in the Disney film that has caused quite a stir in the cinema world these last few months. As per usual, Disney spent an exuberant amount of time and money making sure that people were aware of the imminent release of what they dubbed “a humorous and heartfelt musical.” The public was eager to feast their eyes on Meryl Streep singing again after her role in Mama Mia – eager enough that the film has already grossed more than $100 million since its release on Christmas Day and The Academy has awarded Streep with a nomination for Best Supporting Actress. The large cast may be overwhelming in theory, but Disney pulled it off by combining each individual storyline and meshing them into one plot – an extremely rewarding treat for viewers. If musicals aren’t necessarily “your thing,” don’t worry – the film is not all singing and dancing, spoken words even out the stage-to-screen adaptation. *It is important to know that Johnny Depp appears in the film for no more than ten minutes and performs one song.
Many films have been released this year that depict actual events, and one that definitely holds its own is American Sniper. Bradley Cooper portrays real-life Navy Seal Chris Kyle in a not-so-average war biopic. Different from its genre competition, American Sniper focuses more on Cooper’s character’s mindset throughout the war than the actual war itself. The Clint Eastwood-directed film pays homage to a very jilted man and his struggle to grasp the fact that his fellow Seals consider him to be a “legend” for his vast number of sniper kills during the Iraq war. Cooper and Sienna Miller star alongside lesser-known names such as Kyle Gallner and Max Charles, but their chemistry – although working a lot of the film on split screens – makes for a heartbreaking storyline. The film has received great responses from critics, with the Academy in agreement – Eastwood was nominated for Best Director and Cooper for Best Actor in a Motion Picture.
If tearjerker movies didn’t exist, there would be no such thing as Julianne Moore. In what many are calling her best role to date (which was backed by the Golden Globes and The Oscars), Moore stars in Still Alice, a film that will break your heart into a million pieces all while you watch in awe as the actress plays a 50-year-old woman diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. Moore’s co-stars Kristen Stewart, Alec Baldwin, Kate Bosworth, and Hunter Parrish effortlessly make up Alice’s devoted family who carry her through her disease with nothing but compassion and care. The most surprising aspect of the film comes in the form of Kristen Stewart who, believe it or not, works shockingly well alongside Moore, proving that her once questionable acting chops have been finely tuned. The film has flown under the radar in terms of spotlight publicity, but those that have had the pleasure of seeing it will all attest to the fact that it deserves every award out there.
The Untitled Magazine has been speaking with stars of Inherent Vice since the “Legendary Issue 7” was released, and said stars – Sasha Pieterse and Michael K. Williams – were not kidding when they boasted about the quality of the film. With Joaquin Phoenix leading the Paul Thomas Anderson adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s novel, viewers are taken on an intense, psychedelic journey through the later half of the 1960s in Los Angeles. Anderson’s keen eye for detail that follows him film to film shows itself to be extremely apparent in Inherent Vice, so much so that he received an Oscar nomination for Writing in Adapted Screenplay. As always, Phoenix plays an offbeat character – something that he has become known for – and it is not overshadowed by costars Josh Brolin, Reese Witherspoon, and Owen Wilson. The massive cast paves way for many twists and turns that require the viewer’s undivided attention.
Starring Wes Anderson veterans Adrien Brody, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton and Owen Wilson, along with Ralph Fiennes and newcomer Tony Revolori as the two protagonists, like a French farce, The Grand Budapest Hotel is an amalgamation of funny misunderstandings and good old fashioned slapstick. Mix together an eccentric hotel concierge, a treasure hunt, a loyal lobby boy named Zero, rich patronesses, war, murder, and friendship, and you get a classic Wes Anderson movie. The imagery is pleasing, with lots of centered shots and long takes as always Anderson’s trademarks. The plot is crazy, quirky, eccentric, fantastic, and yet by the end, it feels real. We find ourselves with “the feels” for Gustave H., the aged hotel owner. An Anderson movie definitely develops a cult following, but will this one break through to win an Oscar?
Birdman takes viewers down a path into a surreptitious genre that’s called “black comedy.” The film is very blatantly making a mockery of actor Michael Keaton’s real life turmoil throughout the years, but it is done in such a slick manner that you would think that you were watching the actual events play out. Keaton stars alongside Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, and Naomi Watts in what is, in my opinion, the most ambitious film of the year. Your heart will break for Keaton’s character as he spends the entire film seeking various forms of validation in his life – from work to family. Birdman is nominated for Film of the Year at the Oscars, a SAG award for Outstanding Cast in a Motion Picture and Keaton was singularly nominated for his performance at the Golden Globes as well as Best Actor at the Oscars. Following in his footsteps are Edward Norton and Emma Stone for their performances in the film with a nod from the Academy for Best Supporting Actor and Actress. I recommend this movie over any other this year, and also suggest sitting down and watching it a second time around as it has the ability to completely overwhelm you during the first screening.
A lot can be said for women in film this past year. Actresses have been stepping out of their comfort zone and taking risks that are both admirable and challenging. Reese Witherspoon decided to leave comedy as something of the past and star in Wild, a film that will assure audiences that there is more than one dimension to her talents. Wild admittedly reads as the female version of 2007’s Into The Wild, but has a spark to it that doesn’t go unnoticed. Witherspoon portrays a woman whose marriage ends just at the same time as her mother’s life – stricken with anger and sadness, she impetuously chooses to hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest trail alone. The film follows Witherspoon’s character as she tackles obstacles that she never knew were ahead of her – both on her hike and in her life. Witherspoon was nominated for an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and both SAG and BAFTA awards for her role.
Overall, this past year in cinema has proven to be extremely satisfying. Genres found themselves meshing, actors found themselves singing, and you’d be damned if you didn’t think that the majority of what played in theaters didn’t make a killing. The movies mentioned above stood out for their impressive casts, unique points of view, and breathtaking story lines. As a viewer, I have never been so impressed as I was while watching the 10 movies discussed in this article and I urge everyone to see them as well, if not for the sake of the Oscars, for yourselves.
– Jessica Natale for The Untitled Magazine