If I Were an Academy Member: Reagen Sulewski
By Reagen Sulewski
February 20, 2015
Films I'd Be Happy with Winning It All
1) The Grand Budapest Hotel
I'm a total sucker for the Wes Anderson oeuvre, and this is arguably Anderson in his purest form, free to express all his strangest stylistic ideas on us. You could call it indulgent and twee and I wouldn't really disagree with you, but I sat in the theater with a big silly grin on my face for the entire running time, lapping up the bizarro world he created, full of overly-mannered concierges and mute assassins like some giant play set.
Probably the year's biggest surprise, it's a crackling suspense thriller about jazz drumming. Every second of it buzzes with tension, and the battle of wills between Miles Teller's aspiring student and J.K. Simmons' (the best overall performance of the year) tyrannical teacher was the most fascinating character study of the year.
Films I'm OK with Winning It All
They had me at “single shot (or appears to be)” and just increased their hold on me with Michael Keaton's awesome, unhinged performance. I like the concept a bit more than I like the actual movie, but there are enough elements throughout, including the incredible cast, that my disappointment in the execution of that concept is only minor. Filled enough “Oh, *that* just happened!” moments for an entire year of films.
A little more admirable for its scope than its enjoyability as a film, this never quite kicked into the next gear for me. There's nothing specifically “wrong” with Boyhood, and at times it was quite compelling, but its episodic nature never really allowed it to soar. Maybe it never really could, thanks to its structure.
Film I'd Be Disappointed to See Win
5) The Imitation Game
Its historical liberties notwithstanding, it's essentially two hours of watching someone struggling with being antisocial while watching spinning dials. This really only opens up for one rather spectacular scene of genius inspiration, but as a character study of Alan Turing, it falls down rather miserably and tries for a Hail Mary at the end that doesn't land. The “Animal House” style coda is as short shrift as they possibly could have to the real issues around Turing's death.
Film I'd Be Particularly Upset To See Win
6) The Theory of Everything
It was a majorly disappointing year for historical biographies about landmark British scientists. Perhaps as a function of whose perspective it was written from, The Theory of Everything falls ridiculously short on what makes Stephen Hawking such an important figure, and ends up being a bog-standard tragic romance. Notably, it barely even tries to talk about Hawking's most important work, as if you made a film about Lou Gehrig where he only hit one baseball, which was a ground-rule double.
8) American Sniper
I can't in good conscience rank these films as I never quite got around to these two, but if I had to make any kind of choice, I'd give a slight edge to Selma over the general sense of it having been screwed out of a lot of other nominations, while American Sniper's other nominations and its dump truck full of cash are enough reward.