Look Smart The Night of the Oscars

Ah, Hollywood awards season is here, that time of year when you feel pressured to see movies all for the excitement of one night…Oscar night. You know what excitement we’re referring to; you look pretty, pretty cool when you’re the only person in the room who’s seen Still Alice and inform everyone Julianne Moore MUST win as they announce the nominees. Her clip comes up and you say “It’s gotta be her guys, you don’t understand. I’ve never seen a performance like this, you didn’t see it? What? It’s so, so good.” You said the same thing the year before about Judi Dench in Philomena, and the same thing the year before that about Emmanuelle Riva in Amour. And let’s face it, Jennifer Lawrence beat Emmanuelle, but you basically were the one to discover her in Winter’s Bone. Hello – what had you said in 2010?! But it works. Just like a trusted recipe, every year, everybody is impressed. And we won’t even get into foreign language films; now there be some brownie points.

But seriously, it’s overwhelming trying to see everything, so we thought we’d narrow it down for you, because we want you to look cool as much as we want to look cool ourselves. We brought on one of our Academy experts (aka an anonymous high-profile agent who gets the screeners, watches them all, and says seriously prolific things about entertainment that make us feel somewhat like Hannah at the Iowa Writers Workshop on Girls this season), to break down what movies are worth it, kinda worth it and like…not kinda worth it. Or at least, that’s how we break down the categories to make it potato-head friendly.

As told by an anonymous, high-profile agent…

‘Tis the season to be critical! Seeing all of the movies in the awards cannon is a self-imposed annual requirement. I’ve managed to convince myself that being able to hold my own by the office water cooler makes me a better and more whole person. To quote the great Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s Vacation, “it’s a quest, a quest for fun;” and so I will do my best to impart my wisdom on you, equal parts pretentious and lowbrow, cliché and dissident, politically correct and offensive.

I’ll begin with the likely winner for Best Picture at the Oscars, Boyhood. Some cranky haters have called the age progression premise a gimmick, but I thought this was one of the most authentic, touching, coming-of-age films I’ve ever seen, and without an ounce of saccharine sentimentality. Patricia Arquette has so deserved all of the awards thus far received, and she will undoubtedly walk away with the Academy Award; I only wish Ethan Hawke had been equally campaigned for.

Moving on to one of my favorite nominees in years is Iñárritu’s Birdman, which was a two-hour masturbatory session of theatre meets film with a stupid-good cast (including the overlooked Naomi Watts). It was original, entertaining and poignant, and I had a dopey grin plastered on my face the entire time.

Less grin-inducing but equally as formidable was Whiplash, which I can’t recommend enough to anyone who will listen. The always-excellent J.K. Simmons is finally getting the attention he deserves. It’s unfortunate that the PR machine decided Miles Teller wasn’t also worth focusing on though, because he delivered a superlative performance about the self-imposed torture we put ourselves through to achieve perfection.

Although it wasn’t nominated for best picture, another one of my favorites this year was Wild. Thankfully Reese finally got her balls back! Reese’s portrayal of Cheryl Strayed and her journey to rebirth was daring, funny, and beautiful.

I can’t say I enjoyed Foxcatcher per se, but that’s okay, because it wasn’t meant to be enjoyable (right…?). I can’t remember the last time I’ve been so disturbed (in a good way) by a performance as I was by Steve Carell’s.

Re: The Imitation Game, I’m embarrassed and ashamed that I didn’t know this true story prior to seeing the movie, and was incredibly moved by it. Benedict Cumberbatch was spectacular.

So, where were the acting nominations for Selma? Don’t get me wrong, I like Bradley Cooper, and his portrayal of Chris Kyle in American Sniper was impressive for an actor that my jury is still out on, but that slot should’ve gone to David Oyelowo for his all-encompassing, inspiring performance as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And shove it to the haters who don’t feel Selma was a complete enough biopic.

Eddie Redmayne was indisputably brilliant as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, but – and cue the angry response – I was a little bored during this. Also in my “meh” category is The Grand Budapest Hotel, which I guess I sort of liked, but am confused by its place in the awards race; I found it twee. Those are joined by Into the Woods, which made me want to take a Quaalude.

In the no-one-seemed-to-care-as-much-about-the-movie-but-there-was-a-stand-out-performer category, there’s Julianne Moore in Still Alice.  A lifelong fan of Moore’s, I’m thrilled to place my bet on her inevitable, absurdly overdue win. My blubbering as the credits rolled concerned my mother, who asked if I was near a Xanax. I didn’t cry during Gone Girl, but I did salivate over the insanely, awesomely, sick performance by Rosamund Pike, who my group of gal pals all proclaimed they wanted to bone after we left the theater. Lastly there’s Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night, who was perfect as always. The movie though, was painfully boring.

Phew, that’s the long and short of it! If you can only see three best picture nominees before February 22nd, make them Boyhood, Birdman and Whiplash. And if you made it through this, you’re probably very bored at work, a masochist, or my mother.

Can’t Miss

*Birdman

*Boyhood

*Whiplash

Wild

Gone Girl

Still Alice (for Julianne Moore’s performance)

Selma

If You Have Time

Foxcatcher

The Imitation Game (I really liked it, just not as much as the above list)

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Skip It

Two Days, One Night (Marion was amazing, but this was painfully boring)

American Sniper

The Theory of Everything (Eddie was amazing, but meh)

Into The Woods (See, Quaalud)