For Your Weekend: Catch Up Before the Oscars

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The Oscars don’t start until Sunday night. You still have time to catch plenty of movies that have been nominated! Here are some of the ones you can still find.

I’ve included mostly movies with Best Picture and/or acting nominations. See the Oscars’ website for a full list – there are some technical-category nominees around, too.

Still In Theaters – Some more than others, check your local listings.
– American Sniper
– Birdman
– The Imitation Game
– Into the Woods
– Selma
– Still Alice
– Theory of Everything
– Whiplash
– Some theaters – I’ve seen AMCs – are also showing roundups this weekend of all the nominated shorts.

On DVD – Check stores, online stores, OnDemand services, RedBox or your local library.
– Boyhood
– The Boxtrolls (animated feature nominee)
– Gone Girl
– The Grand Budapest Hotel
– How to Train Your Dragon 2 (animated feature nominee)
– The Judge

Streaming On Netflix
– Ida (foreign language nominee)
– Virunga (documentary nominee)

What am I missing? If you’ve seen anything else out somewhere, please comment! Happy viewing!

Oscar Project 2015: Best Picture Roundup

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The 2015 Academy Awards are upon us! With just under a week to spare, I’ve finally seen all eight Best Picture nominees. It was a good year, overall — there wasn’t really anything that blew me away as much as past years’ winners, like “The King’s Speech” and “The Artist,” but in general, I enjoyed most of the nominees. I didn’t quite stay on top of things in terms of posting as I saw each film, so instead, here’s my roundup of all eight of them. They’re not really in any particular order — the last two are my bottom two, and I put my bet for Best Picture (though not necessarily my pick, if that makes sense), but I waffle on my rankings of the rest.

Friendly reminder: I am not a professional movie critic? I’m just a person who likes movies and the Oscars. You’ll see various comments about things like acting and pacing and camera work, but for the most part, I’ve evaluated these movies on how much I enjoyed them. I’d love to hear your thoughts on them, too — please feel free to comment away!

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Gone Girl

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I don’t want to write a lot about Gone Girl, because the fun of Gone Girl is in the surprises, and I know that if I write a lot I’ll ruin something. But man, what a great movie.

I read the book the summer before last, and it was one of those books that you can’t put down until you’ve read it from start to finish, even though it’s over 400 pages long. I went into it fully aware that there were going to be surprises, and I was still constantly caught off guard. The movie, also written by the novel’s author, Gillian Flynn, was the same. I was constantly on my toes, even though I knew what was coming.

The performances were fantastic. Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike were perfect as Nick and Amy Dunne — they made the characters complex, multilayered, just as they are in the book. The other characters were wonderful, too; I especially enjoyed Carrie Coon’s performance as Nick’s twin, Margo. I do wish they had not cast Neil Patrick Harris as Amy’s former boyfriend, Desi — for me, there was something mildly reminiscent of his “How I Met Your Mother” character, Barney Stinson, in his performance, and it was extremely disconcerting. But overall, no complaints.

The movie had great pacing, great scoring, great shooting. Everything was done in a way that kept you guessing, kept you feeling uneasy. It gets scary, and it gets graphic in both violence and sexual content — think before bringing your kids, small siblings, grandparents, etc. — but it’s all worth it. I left the theater feeling pretty creeped out, upset, what have you, but still very happy that I had seen the movie.

Would I recommend Gone Girl to a friend? Absolutely, but with the warning that he/she might not sleep well after seeing it.

Oscar-worthy? I don’t know much about the competition yet, but I will be baffled if Gone Girl doesn’t get a Best Picture nomination. It was just so strong in every way. I’m sure there will be well-deserved nominations for Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, and I won’t be surprised if the movie shows up in the directing and screenplay categories, too.

Programming note: With this post, I’m officially kicking off my 2015 Oscar Project. The most wonderful time of the year! Expect a full game plan to come out soon.

Oscar Project 2014: Final Thoughts

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Because things got crazy for me around Oscar night — film festivals! birthdays! papers! cookies! — I never got around to posting my Oscar predictions. The closest I got was a last-minute Tweet about my top-category picks.

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Oscar Project 2014: ‘Nebraska’

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Last year, I trekked to Columbia’s Ragtag Cinema after a snowstorm to see my final Oscar nominee of the year, “Amour,” a sad movie about an old couple. I really didn’t like it, I thought it was depressing and I didn’t enjoy it at all.

So I was wary when, last week, I trekked to Ragtag after a snowstorm to see my final Oscar nominee of the year, “Nebraska,” a movie about a guy and his aging father that I assumed would be sad because it’s filmed in black and white (logical, I know). I thought I was headed for an unfortunate case of repeated history.

Nope! Very wrong. Parts of Nebraska were sad, yes, but it was also very funny and very clever, and I enjoyed it a lot.

To me, at its heart, Nebraska was a movie about family, and about people and the relationships between them. It’s about how people affect one another’s lives and what people will do for one another. I loved watching all the lines play out, between father and son, brother and brother, old business partners, crazy distant relatives, the works. And none of it felt fake, either; they all felt like real people, vaguely familiar.

Before the movie started, the Ragtag worker said that “Nebraska” was a  “Midwestern” film, and I wasn’t sure what he meant by that. But as I watched, I understood. If you’re from the Midwest, I think you’ll get it, too.

Parts of “Nebraska” made me laugh; parts made me uncomfortable. There were a lot of emotions involved throughout the film, and — this is a stupid thing to say, forgive me — but at the end I felt pretty warm inside. Not warm and fuzzy, just, you know, warm.

Best lines: Any time the mother, Kate (June Squibb), opened her mouth. Gracious.

My verdict: Enjoyed. Would highly recommend and watch again, though probably not buy.

Oscar-nominated for: Best Picture, Best Actor (Leading, Bruce Dern), Best Actress (Supporting, June Squibb), Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Writing (Original Screenplay).

Rookie Opinion: I’d love to see June Squibb win, because I liked her character a lot. Bruce Dern was also wonderful, but Best Actor is (I think) the hardest race this year, so I doubt he’ll get that. I don’t know much about cinematography, but I thought this film was lovely; being up against “Gravity” is probably bad, though. For screenplay, I’d put this and “Her” in my top two. And I don’t think Director or Picture will happen. But “Nebraska” was great! It was so great. This is such a strong year.

*~*COMING SOON*~* This was my last Best Picture nominee! I’m 9 for 9. I will eventually have predictions, but probably not until closer to March 2. I’m still judging. Stay tuned.

Oscar Project 2014: ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’

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I have a lot of feelings about “The Wolf of Wall Street,” but mostly I’m just kind of mad about it. To be blunt, I don’t think it deserves to be an Oscar movie. It didn’t feel like an Oscar movie.

At first, it was fun. It threw me into the stock world, which, apparently, is full of profanity and bullying and drugs, creating an amusing bit of culture shock. The characters were all just the right amount of crazy to keep me laughing.

It wasn’t long, though, before I got tired of it. I got tired of the profanity, the bullying and the drugs. I got tired of the constant objectification of women, the gratuitous nudity and general lack of respect. I got tired of people behaving terribly with little to no consequences.

And then, after I hit the point of being way over the movie, it kept going for another hour. I thought it would never end.

I’m not saying “Wolf of Wall Street” had no merits. The music was good. The performances were good. It was visually pretty fun to look at.

Again, though, I just don’t think it’s an Oscar-worthy movie. It felt like a movie for 20-something guys who just wanted to sit through a few hours of profanity, nudity and drug-driven shenanigans. Compared to all the strong contenders in the Best Picture category this year, “Wolf of Wall Street” just doesn’t belong.

My verdict: Did not enjoy. Will not watch again. Might recommend to a few people, but would tell most to skip.

Oscar-nominated for: Best Picture, Best Actor (Leading), Best Actor (Supporting), Best Director, Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay).

Rookie opinion: Personal dislike aside, I don’t think “Wolf of Wall Street” will win anything. The competition’s just too strong.

Oscar Project 2014: ‘Her’

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I went into “Her” with pretty low expectations. From what I had heard, it was about a guy who basically falls in love with Siri, and although my friends said it was good, I was skeptical. But sure enough, I loved it.

Yes, it is about a guy who falls in love with an operating system, but it’s not long before that’s not weird: the relationship between Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) and Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) feels real enough, with all the ups and downs you expect from any real-life couple.

And “Her” isn’t just a typical love story movie focused on an atypical couple; it’s bigger than that. It makes you think a lot about relationships in general, about how people connect to one another.

There are a few scenes in which Theodore walks around completely engrossed in conversation with Samantha, totally ignoring the real people all around him. Eventually you start to notice that many of the other people are doing it, too, and it hits close to home. How many times have I walked across campus and realized that 90 percent of the people around me were on their phones? How many times have I been one of those people?

I was also surprised by how many times “Her” made me laugh, mostly thanks to a solid number of awkward moments and a video game character with an attitude.

Best lines:

The past is just a story we tell ourselves.

We are only here briefly, and in this moment I want to allow myself joy.

The heart is not like a box that gets filled up; it expands in size the more you love.

My verdict: Enjoyed “Her” enough to recommend and to watch again, but not enough to own.

Oscar-nominated for: Best Picture, Music (Original Score), Music (Original Song), Production Design, Writing (Original Screenplay).

Rookie opinion: It has a decent shot at winning for writing, but probably not much of a chance in the other categories.