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2015 Oscar Nomination Reactions

Who says the Oscars are boring?

The 87th Academy Award nominations were announced Thursday, and with them came some shocks, both good and bad. Here I’ll give a quick rundown of my thoughts.

Best Picture

I knew my top film from 2014 “Captain America: The Winter Solider” wasn’t going to get any love here (although it did score a Visual Effects nod), buts some of the other films from my Top 10 list did earn the nomination, including the amazing “Birdman” and “Imitation Game”, as well as “Boyhood”. A surprising and welcome addition was “Whiplash”, and a snub I am surprised but not crushed by is “Foxcatcher”. “Selma” earned a nomination for Best Picture and that’s about it, but more on that in a second. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” continues its momentum ride, earning a Best Picture nod on its way to nine total nominations, tied for most with “Birdman”.

"The Imitation Game" Variety

The Imitation Game Variety

Best Director

Alejandro González Iñárritu and Richard Linklater both got their expected nominations for “Birdman” and “Boyhood”, respectively, but the biggest surprise to most people is that “Selma” director Ava DuVernay’s name is not on the ballot. Replacing her is Bennett Miller for “Foxcatcher” (rare to see a director get nominated for a film that is not). I am not saddened or shocked by this move, as I thought Miller handled his real-life subject matter better than DuVernay, but still, some are upset. Morten Tyldum for “The Imitation Game” and Wes Anderson for “The Grand Budapest Hotel” round out the group, the first time either man has scored a Best Director nomination.

Richard Linklater Variety

Richard Linklater Variety

Best Actor

Oh, hello there, Bradley Cooper. Cooper is by and far the biggest surprise on this list, as it seemed David Oyelowo was a lock for his portrayal of Martin Luther King, Jr. in “Selma”. I am shocked by the lack of Oyelowo, both because of how great his performance was, and the fact that the Academy loves biopic pieces (Michael Keaton is the only actor in this group who did not portray a real-life person). Also, Steve Carell earned a nomination for his chilling, career-defining role in “Foxcatcher”. Admission: I was freaking out that Carell wasn’t going to get nominated, but now I can say “Michael Scott has an Oscar nomination”, so that’s pretty cool. Jake Gyllenhaal’s name was in discussion for his creepy work in “Nightcrawler”, but I guess one psychopath was enough for the Academy.

Steve Carell Variety

Steve Carell Variety

Best Actress

The probable winner of this category, Julianne Moore, got her nomination for her role as a professor struggling with early onset Alzheimer’s. The women Moore will likely beat out include Marion Cotillard, Felicity Jones, Rosamund Pike and Reese Witherspoon. Of those names, only Cotillard surprises me, as it seemed Jennifer Aniston had a lot of buzz. Golden Globe winner Amy Adams will have to wait another year to get her 6th career nomination.

Julianne Moore Variety

Julianne Moore Variety

Best Supporting Actor

Probably the least surprising category. All five guys were nominated in the category at the Golden Globes, with J.K. Simmons taking home that trophy, and likely come February will have his name read at the Oscars, too. My vote would go to Edward Norton who was mind-blowingly good in “Birdman” as an egocentric actor, but beggars can’t be choosers. The hype-train didn’t stop for 84-year-old Robert Duvall, who scored his 7th nomination for “The Judge”, and to that I say… *shrugs* (it’s an OK movie certainly elevated by him and Downey’s chemistry).

Edward Norton Indiewire

Edward Norton Indiewire

Best Supporting Actress

This one features one of the biggest surprise nominations in Laura Dern. There was little talk about her getting nominated for “Wild”, but apparently the Academy saw her work better than Jessica Chastain’s in “A Most Violent Year” (a film that earned as many nominations as “Dumb and Dumber To”). I love that Emma Stone got nominated, I roll my eyes at Meryl Streep’s obligatory yearly nod, and I continue to applaud Patricia Arquette’s work in “Boyhood”, and she is the clear front-runner.

Patricia Arquette Indiewire

Patricia Arquette Indiewire

Other Notes

“The Lego Movie” not getting a nomination for Best Animated Film is shocking, even though it did get a Best Song for “Everything is Awesome”. Many people are up-in-arms about “Selma” only getting two nominations (Picture and Song) and to that I only say that in my personal opinion, everything in every category that was nominated over it was more deserving, except Cooper over Oyelowo (Cooper got a Best Picture nod, too,a for “Sniper” so it really seemed fair to give Oyelowo the Actor slot). I didn’t love “The Grand Budapest Hotel” but after it won Best Comedy at the Globes I knew a big day at the Oscars was inevitable (again, NINE nominations!). I’m so glad Tom Cross got nominated for his amazing editing job in “Whiplash”, I’m thrilled and astonished “Transformers: Let’s Blow Up the World Again” didn’t get a single visual and sound nomination, and I’m happy to see “Whiplash” and “Nightcrawler” get Screenplay nods, even if “Whiplash” did steal “Gone Girl”’s Adapted slot.

"The Lego Movie" Variety

“The Lego Movie” Variety

Neil Patrick Harris will host the 87th Annual Academy Awards on Sunday, February 22, 2015 on ABC.

‘American Sniper’ Shows the Horror, Necessity of War

American_Sniper_posterBecause, America.

“American Sniper” is based on the autobiography of the same name by Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. The film follows Kyle, dubbed the most lethal sniper in U.S. history with 160 confirmed kills, as he struggles to balance his duties on the battlefield with the ones at home. Bradley Cooper stars as Kyle, Sienna Miller plays his wife and Clint Eastwood directs.

Last January “Lone Survivor”, another true story about Navy SEALs, was released and it was an above-average, well-intentioned war film that had its fair share of miscues. “American Sniper” is right on par with “Survivor” as another real-life tale telling the story of some of the best and bravest men in the world, but it trips up along the way.

Clint Eastwood’s directorial filmography is really a tale of two types of films: engaging and interesting (“Gran Tornio”) or slow and mind-numbingly boring (“Hereafter”). His most recent film, last year’s “Jersey Boys” was a bit of both as the first half was great and the second half was Nyquil. “American Sniper” follows “Jersey Boys” because there are some parts that soar and are beautifully shot, but there are also some glaring narrative and pacing issues.

I know the story of Chris Kyle, and the man is a true American hero. Bradley Cooper does a very honorable portrayal of Kyle, playing a man who enlists in the SEALs because he wants to do something more with his life, but by the end of the film is questioning why he is doing what he is doing. Cooper essentially is playing two characters: badass super soldier and struggling husband.

The film does a good job showing Kyle in the early stages of his relationship with his wife, and by the end of the film how he has drifted apart because of the things he has seen and done in combat (despite him claiming his only regrets are the men he couldn’t save). Unlike most war films that are clearly pro-war or anti-war (or “Lone Survivor” which is accidently both), “American Sniper” walks the line quite delicately of what conflicts are actually worth getting into, and are they worth the lives of our soldiers?

One of the problems with the film, however, is how it handles the transitions between home and battle. The film opens up with Kyle sniping on an Iraq rooftop before abruptly cutting to a scene of him hunting as a child, as part of the obligatory “you’ve got a real knack for this sniping thing, kid!” moment. The rest of the film jumps back-and-forth between locations, sometimes without much explanation.

Sienna Miller does fine work as Kyle’s wife and she shares some tender scenes with Cooper, even if sometimes she is given nothing more than cliché “pregnant soldier wife” dialogue. The rest of the cast is solid, especially those portraying PTSD soldiers; however none of them are fleshed out or given too much to do.

“American Sniper” is a good-not-great movie that is a fitting tribute to its real-life subject, and features some well-shot battle sequences from Eastwood and some great scenes from Cooper. The film’s largest problem is its almost whiplash-inducing jumping to-and –from war scenes, as well as a frustrating ending that likely stems from the filmmakers not knowing how to properly handle the subject matter. Still, it is an enjoyable and at times tense and heart-breaking film about the horrors of warfare, and is one of the more honest war stories in recent years.

Critics Rating: 7/10