What can you do on a rainy or snowy afternoon that transports you to another world? I know, reading!…or in this case watching a movie. As the weather hasn’t been very friendly in the past weeks, I decided to dedicate my long afternoons to movies.
This year I managed to watch almost all of the pictures nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. I was very happy to see that both of my favorite actors got an Oscar. The first one is Julianne Moore for her role as Dr. Alice Howland in “Still Alice” and the second one is Eddie Redmayne depicting Dr. Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything”. It is a funny coincidence that both are natural redheads!
Another performance that really impressed me was J.K. Simmons in the supporting role in “Whiplash”. In my opinion, this year presented many interesting candidates and I would not like to believe that the prizes were bought, as some people may think. Other years may have been different…
“Still Alice” left me quite shocked with the idea of suddenly starting to lose my memory. Alice starts noticing small changes in her daily life. She started forgetting unimportant things, like some items on her shopping list. Then she started forgetting the names of people she had been just introduced to, she started forgetting words and the contents of her lectures in the university. She started to lose her usual sharpness and clearness. It is very difficult for her to accept losing who she is and who she has become, her ideas, her thoughts and especially all of her memories. However, with the help of her husband and family the loss is a little bit less painful until she isn’t really herself anymore. We all know the feeling of trying to remember the name of a book, a place, an address. A German saying quotes: “What you don’t have in your head, you have it on your feet”. This means that we all have had to run twice to the supermarket or find a convenience store nearby because we forgot to buy milk… I know that our concentration and our brain should work hand in hand to avoid extra runs. However, it is no the case of Alice, who suffers from a very aggressive form of Alzheimer. I spoiled a little bit of the story, but it is worth watching the film, especially if you like dramas.
If this is the case, you will also like “The Theory of Everything” that is the biographic movie of Stephen Hawking. It is based on the book written with the help of his wife, Jane Hawking, who believed in him and gave him all the support he needed. We all have heard about this famous professor, his theories about the Universe and his incredible will to survive and think. The relationship between him and his wife is the core of the story presenting many nuances and changes of their marriage. Eddie Redmayne is incredible from the very beginning of the film showing us a young and good natured Stephen who starts noticing small changes and difficulties in his movements till he is diagnosed with ALS, a motor neurone disease. Eddie’s performance gives us a perfect idea of the development of the illness. Prof. Hawking is now 73 years old and was only given two years to live. He is the best example of a positive attitude, an infinite will to live and good humor.
As for the Oscar for best picture, I liked very much that “Whiplash” was nominated for this category. What is the movie “Whiplash” about? It has also a lot to do with a strong will, patience, talent and human relationships. J.K. Simmons is Fletcher, an instructor and director of a jazz band in a conservatory. He will not permit that talent gets wasted and pushes his students to the very last borders of sanity. His ways are not kind and he can be as mean as the meanest villain in a comic book. He is bad tempered and arrogant. Andrew, Miles Teller, a promising young guy enrolls the band and is challenged by his instructor until he almost reaches madness. Fletcher challenges one of the new students to achieve his best on the drums. He has to be the fastest and every beat has to be exact and on time. The characters are so well played that while watching I almost got up and threw the drums and everything at the instructor. You get so mad and outraged while watching. It is a story that goes to the very bones, very well performed. The film also got an Oscar for sound editing and it is really worth watching.
My favorite choice for the best picture was “Birdman” and it did win. Michael Keaton was great in his role as Riggan, a “worn out” actor who used to play the role of a superhero trying to achieve a hit again.
It is a film that has to do with strong emotions and a newly found will power. Birdman was a forgotten superhero who could even fly and observe the world from the “heights”. Riggan, the actor who played him, is a man who has lost his self-confidence, lives a mediocre life and wants to be someone again. Birdman is now his alter-ego who encourages him to leave his comfort zone and tries to be successful again. Riggan also wants to patch the broken communication with his daughter and has to prove to himself and the public and critics that he can be better than the arrogant new theater talent, Mike, played by excellent Edward Norton.
Alejandro González Iñárritu, as writer and director, creates a film where Riggan changes in his inner and outer life. His dreams and wishes are images of the old superhero intermixed with scenes and struggles in real life. He learns to defeat himself and overcomes his fears and disappointments. The film combines in a very subtle manner reality, illusion and delusion. The dialogs are witty and sarcastic while the movie reminds you often of a theater play because it was mainly filmed in one take.
I didn’t watch American Sniper, but I don’t like war movies nor do I agree with the vision of many American films of their military and heroes. Clint Eastwood was the director and I imagine that it could be a good film for those who like the genre.
Another film nominated in many categories was The Grand Budapest Hotel. I liked the originality of the settings, the camera, especially the frontal takes usually in 4:3 resolution. The music and the atmosphere were very appealing. I found the story very original, but although I liked it, it is not one of my favorites. It was maybe too bizarre for me… who knows.
I also watched “Boyhood” where the same actors were filmed for a period of 12 years. It is about the coming of age of Mason and his family life. His parents are divorced and his mother, played by Patricia Arquette, becomes the most important person in his life. She plays her role in a very natural and convincing manner without glamour or stereotypes. For her performance she got the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. His father, Ethan Hawk, was not very present and was not very responsible when Mason was very young. Within the years he changes his ways and becomes a good companion to Mason and to his daughter Samantha.
The project and the filming idea were very ambitious and got to a successful end. This is a very innovative way of filming that started 12 years ago with a defined beginning and had a predefined ending, but was flexible enough to adapt to changes during all those years managing to show the development in all characters.
I wish you an interesting week watching some of the winning films.