If I Were an Academy Member: David Mumpower

By David Mumpower

February 20, 2015

Don't you just love being British?

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Since I rank every wide release during a given year, exercises such as this one are simply a matter of my pulling up a list. This year, it was especially easy, because two of the eight nominees, i.e. 25 percent, are my favorite movie of 2014 and one of my bottom 10 movies of the past year. Another title from my top 10 and a near-miss comprise another 25 percent of the list. Clearly, I have a strong opinion about half of the films the Academy has nominated for Best Picture.

With regards to the other half, all of them finished in the upper third of my grading system for the year. In other words, even if I am not crazy about the decision to exclude certain titles that deserved a better fate such as Begin Again, I still think this batch of contenders is solid, except for one notable exclusion. And I definitively have the minority opinion on that one.

1) The Imitation Game

At the end of the year, I vacillated between three titles in trying to determine which one was my favorite. I’ve watched Edge of Tomorrow more than any other 2014 title, and I am singularly obsessed with the relationship between Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley’s characters in Begin Again. In the end, I determined that the historical and cultural significance of The Imitation Game were not the reasons I was praising the film, which would have undid its candidacy.


Instead, I kept going back to the fact that as much as I love Knightley’s performance in Begin Again, she’s even better in The Imitation Game. And while nobody has noticed it, the entire film hangs on her. When Alan Turing stands up in support of a woman as a World War II codebreaker, it is a character defining moment as well as a hint of how poorly Britain treated some of its most talented people at the time. The necessity of that storyline has stayed with me after most critics and Oscar trackers have moved along to new topics. In a year with several quality nominees, The Imitation Game is EASILY the best.

2) Whiplash

As you know by now, BOP’s staff named this film as the Best Picture in the 2015 Calvins. While it did not garner my first place vote, I did select it on my ballot. The idea of a hard-ass mentor bringing the best out of a hungry protégé is nothing new in cinema, yet you’d find fans of Whiplash who are bothered by the lack of novelty. When JK Simmons hammers at Miles Teller, the world stops until one of the two men exits the scene. Forget romances and bromances. This coupling is the finest of 2015 and one of the most engrossing of the 2000s to date. Whiplash has virtually no chance of winning Best Picture at the Oscars, but I’m thrilled that the staff at BOP felt otherwise.

3) Selma

I fully understand why voters have fled in terror from the thought of Selma winning Best Picture. In the minds of many, 12 Years a Slave took home the title last year. Ergo, the outcries of racism are misplaced. The problem I have with that is simple. Selma is the vastly superior film. Selma features a pair of star turns by David Oyelowo and Carmen Ejogo plus a dynamic supporting performance by the perennially underrated Wendell Pierce. It is a more important and modern story whose timeliness borders on prescience. The real problem with Selma is that its content is so indescribably depressing. Once the movie ends, the viewer wants to forget what they just watched. I fell victim to this behavior myself.

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