Oscar movies to watch: then and now

THIS YEAR’S FILMS

“Birdman” or “The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance”

A rare case of a recent movie breaking into my Top 10, “Birdman” is a clever parody/exaggeration of the washed up career of the main actor, Michael Keaton, and his life after his performance as Batman. “Birdman”, much like Top Five, goes over the issue of a serious actor being remembered for a subpar role while taking it one step further. The somewhat selfish and cynical actor attempts to perform an original play, while at the same time, fighting his daughter’s drug use after time in rehab and dealing with a challenging partner.  The film is excellent, and  doesn’t rely on being viewed on a big screen with surround sound speakers. The film was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Achievement in Cinematography, and Best Writing, Original Screenplay, and more.

“Nightcrawler”

Life, Love, Violent Murder, and Nightcrawling in the City of Angels

This film, set in atmospheric nighttime L.A., is about a man who is so desperate for a job in the newscasting business that he starts his own company himself. A few police scanners later, he finds himself arriving at violent crime scenes, car crashes and sometimes even to crimes in progress. The questions of turning a blind eye, withholding information, and borderline involvement, all for the sake of a paycheck are all raised, adding to the dark theme of this movie. The narcissistic main character, the grim subject matter and even the night time setting itself adds to this sense of darkness.

Due to the very many dead bodies, blood and implied horrifying violence, I would not recommend this film to people offput by violence. It is rare for a recent movie to pierce my Top 10 list, but somehow, this film did just that; yet, at times I was literally sick to my stomach from the tension. It’s a disturbing, dark film, but thats the point. If you can handle it, it’s one of the best films of 2014, and possibly the most emotionally intense movie ever. Who would’ve guessed a lowlife psychopathic Jim Carrey would end up being one of the best, yet most complex, ‘protagonists’ in film history. He’s terrific- but he’s off the charts creepy, and he’s a soulless being. Nothing can prepare you for how he is. The film was nominated for Best Writing, Original Screenplay.

 

CLASSIC FILMS

“The Producers”

The ironic, self-referential film “The Producers”, is about a scam where a shy accountant and a failed playwright draft a play destined to fail; their plan being to can make off with a profit and escape to Brazil. The play is called “Springtime for Hitler”,  or as they call it, “A love letter to Mein Führer.” Along the way, they gather a psychopathic ‘former’ Nazi party member, an ultrafeminine lead actor with a habit of adding “Baby” to random sentences, and a long list of older women as donors for the play. The donors are each promised 100% of the profits. Naturally, the plan fails as the audience loves the accidental humor of the play and they are sent to jail, where the repeat the process, promising inmates profits of 100% each. While this film is absolutely hilarious, its big contribution is in its effect on pop culture. The lingerie-wearing accountant’s lines, “Please be unconscious,” and “I landed on my keys” became quite famous. All of these common cliches of sorts first appeared in this influential 1968 film, setting the stage for Mel Brooks to make some of the funniest movies ever. The film won Best Writing, Story and Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen, and was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, in 1967.

“Alien”

One of, if the not the best Action-Horror film, (along with “Dawn of the Dead”) this title offers moments of heart pounding tension as you expect something to jump out. When you least expect it, the Xenomorph, or the “Alien” franchise’s resident killing machine, strikes. The firefights are chaotic, quick, and disorienting, while the realistic battle chatter and memorable characters makes it feel extremely realistic. The combination of the horror and tension from the first film is matched quite well with a Vietnam-style Colonial Marine factor, giving it a unique mixture of multiple genres. Everything is done well- the retro-futuristic sets, the memorable characters, and the terrifying enemies and situations, combine into one of the best movies ever. “Aliens” was the breakthrough film for prolific director James Cameron. It was nominated for Best Music/Original Score, Best Film Editing, Best Sound, and won Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Actress in a Leading Role, (for Sigourney Weaver,)  Best Effects, Visual Effects and Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing, in 1986.

-Jon Rose

 

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