And the Oscar goes to…

I love to watch award shows and imagine what I’ll wear and what I’ll say when I win them- or didn’t you know that I’m working on my EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony)? The Academy Awards has always been my favorite show, and I try to see as many of the Best Picture nominees as I can before the telecast. So far I’ve only seen three out of this year’s batch: The Grand Budapest Hotel, Selma, and Boyhood.
So many mainstream movies these days are about action, twists, violence, explosions, and special effects. I’m drawn to these movies as much as the next person. My favorite movie is Aliens, for crying out loud! I love me some epic battles between good and evil, so it definitely requires a flip of the mind switch to settle into a movie that’s about characters, great acting, and small intimate moments. As I watch more of these types of movies I’m learning to focus on the actors and the choices they make. It’s the difference between watching Guardians of the Galaxy and The Fault in Our Stars. Both good movies, but when you go from the one to the other, you have that transition period where your inner monologue goes something like this: What’s going on? Why is nothing happening? Why is it quiet? Oh wait- it’s just two people- talking! Oh! Ok… let’s go with it… Although the three Best Picture nominees I’ve seen are extremely different in terms of plot and execution, they all share those intimate qualities that I’m learning to appreciate.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is a difficult movie to describe. Set between the World Wars in a fictional country, a hotel concierge and his new bellhop experience romance, murder, prison escape, and the intimidation of a Nazi-like group. The heart of the movie, amidst all the frenetic moments, is the relationship between these two characters played by Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori. Their interactions are both funny and touching. There are significant looks, tirades, and understated sentences that give the film a sweet buddy picture vibe. Wes Anderson’s directorial style is not for everyone, so if you don’t like his movies you can check it out for free at your local library and see if you like it. I say give it a chance for the fine comedic acting, tons of crazy cameos, and moments of pathos.
Selma‘s recreation of Dr. King’s speeches and the marches over the Edmund Pettus Bridge had me breaking out into chills, leaning forward in my seat, and saying “Woah” under my breath. You read about these events in school, but seeing them dramatized is like getting punched in the gut. The film also gives you a glimpse into the inner workings of non-violent protest, and I watched each intimate exchange- between Dr. King and the President, between Malcolm X and Mrs. King, between Civil Rights leaders and student activists- with fascination. It shows those behind-the-scenes moments of disagreement, doubt, and silence as they worked to change the nation. It goes without saying that the acting is uniformly excellent and immersive.
Boyhood is the simple story of a boy and his family made unique because the director filmed the same actors over a 12 year period. Watching Mason, played by Ellar Coltrane (who never seems like an actor), grow from a boy into a man before my eyes was a one-of-a kind viewing experience. I saw the same sweet-faced kid get acne and become gangly. I heard his voice deepen. He felt like my child; I was part of the family and invested in his life. But he was also me, and as I watched I relived the awkward moments of my childhood, puberty, and adolescence. Not much happens in the movie, but what does happens is stuff that happens to almost everyone.

I’m just a girl who loves movies, so for what it’s worth I recommend these films. For a collection of professional reviews by actual film critics, go to Rotten Tomatoes. I always check there before I spend $11.75 on a movie ticket. The Academy Awards airs this coming Sunday, February 22nd… just in case you want to start watching!

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