2015 Best Picture Nominees: The Year Of “Huh, That Was A Movie?”

Every year, I try to see all of the films that are nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. And most years, I’ve seen a good number of them by the time nominees are announced. That was before 2015, the year of the “huh, that was a movie?” nomination. Chalk it up to a large percentage of the nominees only hitting theaters in the past few weeks, and the dearth of wide-release, crowd-favorite films that were worthy of nomination.

I doubt I’m the only one here who hasn’t seen most of these nominees, but if you break them down they all make sense. The Oscars love controversy, and plenty of these films have it. Besides, there are certain types of movies that the Academy can never pass up, and many of those categories are represented here. We have a month and a half. If we start brushing up now, we won’t be the people saying “huh, that was a movie?” when Best Picture is announced.

 American Sniper

Is Anyone I’ve Heard Of In It?: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller … that’s about it as far as big names go. But Jonathan Groff was in it, and since Into The Woods and Annie didn’t make the cut – not that anyone thought Annie would be up for anything other than a Kids’ Choice Award – this is the best that musical theater fans are going to do this year.

Director: Clint Eastwood

In A Nutshell: A modern-day war film based on the memoir of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, focusing on his skill as a sniper and the difficulties of returning home.

Fits Into The Stereotypical Best Picture Nominee Category Of: 21st century American warfare (see also: Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker)

Is There A Controversy Or Something? And how! Like Zero Dark Thirty, this film portrays the reality of U.S. war tactics – or, one version of that reality – and lets viewers draw their own conclusions about the morality of it

Is the protagonist a white guy? Yes.

How Can I See It? In theaters.

Birdman

Is Anyone I’ve Heard Of In It?: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis

Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu

In A Nutshell: A tormented, washed-up actor – best known for his role as superhero Birdman – attempts to make a comeback in theater.

Fits Into The Stereotypical Best Picture Nominee Category Of: Formerly successful or stable man struggles with his personal demons (see also: Silver Linings Playbook, The Artist, The Fighter)

Is There A Controversy Or Something? Not that I know of.

Is the protagonist a white guy? Yes.

How Can I See It? In theaters. DVD release date is February 17, so if you wait you can see it ahead of the ceremony without paying to see it on the big screen.

Boyhood

Is Anyone I’ve Heard Of In It?: Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, and buzzed-about newcomer Ellar Coltrane. I mean, are you a newcomer if you’ve been working on your Oscar nominated movie for 12 years?

Director: Richard Linklater

In A Nutshell: A young boy – played by the same actor, over the course of 12 years – grows into early adulthood, experiences a typical modern American childhood with changes in his family and personal life, as the major events of the time play out in the background.

Fits Into The Stereotypical Best Picture Nominee Category Of: Unflinching depiction of the complexities of childhood and/or family life (see also: Beasts Of The Southern Wild, The Tree Of Life, The Kids Are All Right)

Is There A Controversy Or Something? No, it’s just really, really good.

Is the protagonist a white guy? Yes.

How Can I See It? Available on DVD and On Demand.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Is Anyone I’ve Heard Of In It?: Ralph Fiennes, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Saoirse Ronan, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson… it’s a Wes Anderson movie. You know the drill.

Director: Wes Anderson

In A Nutshell: A concierge – at an alpine hotel painted in the soothing hues of a box of macarons –  is framed for murder in a fantastical story mainly taking place in a fictional European country in the 1930s.

Fits Into The Stereotypical Best Picture Nominee Category Of: Quirky comedy (see also: Little Miss Sunshine, Juno); Quirky Europe (see also: Hugo, The Artist)

Is There A Controversy Or Something? No, unless you’re one of those people who gets really riled up about the proliferation of “twee.”

Is the protagonist a white guy? Yes.

How Can I See It?  It’s on HBO/ HBO On Demand. If you (or your parents whose HBO Go account you use) don’t have that, it’s available elsewhere on DVD and on demand.

The Imitation Game

Is Anyone I’ve Heard Of In It?: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley

Director: Morten Tyldum

In A Nutshell: British mathematician cracks the Nazi Enigma code, helping the allies win the war, only to be prosecuted for homosexuality by his own country

Fits Into The Stereotypical Best Picture Nominee Category Of: World War II (see also: Inglourious Basterds, The Reader, Atonement, Letters From Iwo Jima); LGBT past (see also: A Serious Man, Milk, Capote, Brokeback Mountain)

Is There A Controversy Or Something? Some murmurs that the film overplayed Turing’s relationship with Clarke.

Is the protagonist a white guy? Yes.

How Can I See It?  In theaters.

Selma

Is Anyone I’ve Heard Of In It?: David Oyelowo, Common, Oprah, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Niecy Nash

Director: Ava DuVernay

In A Nutshell: Historical drama about the 1965 Selma voting rights marches.

Fits Into The Stereotypical Best Picture Nominee Category Of: America’s legacy of racism (see also: 12 Years A Slave, Django Unchained, The Help)

Is There A Controversy Or Something? Lyndon B. Johnson’s supporters, or whatever it is you call supporters long after someone is dead, believe that Selma overstates the tensions between LBJ and MLK

Is the protagonist a white guy? White, no. Male, yes.

How Can I See It?  In theaters.

The Theory of Everything

Is Anyone I’ve Heard Of In It?: Eddie Redmayne, Emily Watson, up-and-comer Felicty Jones

Director: James Marsh

In A Nutshell: The story of physicist Stephen Hawking’s early career and relationship with his former wife Jane, based on her memoir.

Fits Into The Stereotypical Best Picture Nominee Category Of: Geniuses, hard workers and high achievers (see also: The Wolf Of Wall Street, Zero Dark Thirty, Lincoln, Slumdog Millionaire, Capote).

Is There A Controversy Or Something? I don’t think so.

Is the protagonist a white guy? Yes.

How Can I See It?  In theaters.

Whiplash

Is Anyone I’ve Heard Of In It?: Miles Teller, Paul Reiser

Director: Damien Chazelle

In A Nutshell: A jazz drummer attends music school, where his teacher is an abusive asshat.

Fits Into The Stereotypical Best Picture Nominee Category Of: Students and teachers; higher education (see also: An Education, Million Dollar Baby, Precious, Black Swan, The Social Network)

Is There A Controversy Or Something? Nope.

Is the protagonist a white guy? Yes.

How Can I See It?  In theaters.

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4 thoughts on “2015 Best Picture Nominees: The Year Of “Huh, That Was A Movie?”

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