Thursday, February 12, 2015

Top Ten 2014 Films plus Very Short (!) Reviews of the 2014 Oscar-Nominated Live Action Short Films, The Wedding Ringer, Black or White, and Jupiter Ascending

  Looking Back Is Looking Better than Looking Forward (so far)
        Films and Other Rankings Plus Short Reviews by Ken Burke

 It may seem too far into 2015 to be posting lists of 2014’s “Best of …,” but for those of us who have to wait for awhile after New Year’s Day to finally see some of the more anticipated releases it takes awhile to know what’s really appropriate for these compilations.  I’m offering rankings only for categories where I’ve seen enough—or was moved enough to note a memory—to have some reasonable evidence for compiling a ranking, although I admit from the start that I haven’t seen some that generated a good bit of discussion even if they didn’t make to the nominees’ lists of various film-based-organizations from the Academy on down especially Locke (Steven Knight), Snowpiercer (Joon-ho Bong), Big Hero 6 (Don Hall, Chris Williams), Force Majeure (Ruben Östlund), Goodbye to Language 3D (Jean-Luc Godard), and Citizenfour (Laura Poitras), any of which might have impacted my lists—presented in my estimated order of quality—had I seen these others (all titles below in bold blue are set up as links to reviews in our Two Guys postings in this blog).

Top 10 Feature Film Releases of 2014

1.  Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu) * ** *** 
The best for me and some others, even though the Oscar momentum might be with Boyhood.

2.  Nymphomaniac: Volume(s) I and II (Lars von Trier) I doubt that others would even consider this one because of its "scandalous" nature, but I found it fascinating and not (just) for the graphic sex.

3.  Ida (Pawel Pawlikowski) Marvelous and a contender for Oscar’s Best Foreign Language Film but subtitles usually spell doom for a full-blown Best Picture nomination so I wasn't surprised.

4.  The Imitation Game (Morten Tyldum) *  Terrific tale of triumph and tragedy in the WW II era.

5.  Boyhood (Richard Linklater) *  Fabulous idea and execution but the story mostly bored me.

6.  Selma (Ava DuVernay) *  Maybe more politically than historically correct but still powerful.

7.  American Sniper (Clint Eastwood) *  I agree with Clint; this is ultimately an antiwar film.

8.  A Most Violent Year (J.C. Chandor) Here’s one that deserves a much bigger audience. 

9.  Gone Girl (David Fincher) An early favorite that faded but still a disturbing story.

10. Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy) An excellent satire on what passes for news in our world; as fate will have it, though, for whatever reason I didn't even do a full review on this one when it came out,

Along the way I had to omit Whiplash (Damien Chazelle), Still Alice (Wash Westmoreland, Richard Glatzer), Calvary (John Michael McDonagh; saw it and would have given it 4 stars but logistics of vacation break led to no formal review from me), and Venus in Fur (Roman Polanski), among others, but when lists are made choices must be made as well so some fall by the wayside.

* = Oscar nomination, Best Picture  ** = Screen Actors Guild Best Cast (their Best Picture award)
*** = Producers Guild of American Best Picture

Best Directors                                                      Best Cinematography

1. Richard Linklater *  ** (Boyhood)                               1. Visitors (Godfrey Reggio)
2. Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu * ** *** (Birdman)         2. Birdman * ** ***
3. Lars von Trier (Nymphomaniac Vols I and II)            3. Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer)
4. Morten Tyldum * **                                                     4A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
      (The Imitation Game)                                                         (Ana Lily Amirpour)
5. David Fincher (Gone Girl)                                         5. Interstellar (Christopher Nolan)

The Oscar favorite here would seem to be                    Most of my favorites here haven't even
Linklater, but the DGA award complicates it,                 been mentioned in this regard, but I say
so we'll just see what happens on Feb. 22.                   that they all have stunning images.

= Oscar nomination                                                      * = Oscar nomination
** = Directors Guild of America nomination                   ** = American Society of
*** = DGA award                                                               Cinematographers nomination
                                                                                       *** = ASC award

Best Leading Actors (Male)                       Best Leading Actors (Female)
1. Michael Keaton * ** (Birdman)                                  1. Julianne Moore * ** *** (Still Alice)
2. Benedict Cumberbatch * **                                       2. Charlotte Gainsbourg (Nymphomaniac 
      (The Imitation Game)                                                   Vols I and II)
3. David Oyelowo (Selma)                                           3. Roseamund Pike * ** (Gone Girl)
4. Eddie Redmayne *  ** ***                                        4. Felicity Jones * **
     (The Theory of Everything; James Marsh)                  (The Theory of EverythingJames Marsh)
5. Bradley Cooper * (American Sniper)                        5. Emmanuelle Seigner (Venus in Fur)

I’m quite close in my favorites to those who were actually nominated for Oscars or Screen Actors Guild (SAG) awards, except for the overlooked David Oyelowo (who could easily take Steve Carrel’s place from Foxcatcher [Bennett Miller] in my mind), plus I’m advocating a couple of knockout female performances that I doubt were even given consideration by Oscar and SAG voters.

* = Oscar nomination  ** = SAG nomination  *** SAG award

Best Supporting Actors (Male)        Best Supporting Actors (Female)
1. J.K. Simmons * ** *** (Whiplash)                        1. Uma Thurman (Nymphomaniac Vol. I)
2. Edward Norton * ** (Birdman)                             2. Agata Kulesza (Ida)
3. Channing Tatum (Foxcatcher; Bennett Miller)      3. Emma Stone * ** (Birdman)
4. Ethan Hawke * ** (Boyhood)                               4. Patricia Arquette * ** *** (Boyhood)
5. Robert Duval * ** (The Judge; David Dobkin)       5. Meryl Streep * ** (Into the Woods;
                                                                                        Rob Marshall)

This is the category where I have the most               I've got some decent overlap with this
overlap with the official nominators, except              category as well, but I highly encourage
I go with Tatum rather than Mark Ruffalo in              seeing my top 2 performances here,
Foxcatcher, everyone else's choice, although          even if you have to fast forward through
I think that Tatum's role was the more difficult          Nymphomaniac Vol. I to get to Thurman
one, handled well by him in every scene.                  because it's worth your time.

* = Oscar nomination  ** = SAG nomination  *** = SAG award

Best Original Screenplay                  Best Adapted Screenplay

1. Birdman * 1. Gone Girl **
2. Nightcrawler * **                                                      2. The Imitation Game * ** ***
3. Whiplash **                                                               3. Still Alice
4. The Lego Movie (Chris Miller, Phil Lord)                      4. Inherent Vice * (Paul Thomas Anderson) 
5. Nymphomaniac Vols I and II                                       5. American Sniper * ** 

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has complicated these 2 categories by classifying Whiplash as Adapted (in that director Damien Chazelle made a short film version of it that showed at the Sundance festival in 2013, so they see the feature version as based on the short) while the Writers Guild of America (WGA) nominated it in the Original Screenplay category.  If I saw it as adapted it’d be #5 on my list.  This category marks my final attempt to get some recognition—beyond total recall and destruction of all prints, as some would probably prefer—for the intensely-mesmerizing  (from the warped viewpoint of critics like me) 2 installments of Nymphomaniac. However, one Original Screenplay contender that didn't make my Top 5 list is The Grand Budapest Hotel *** (link just below) which took the WGA award, greatly helping its chances for an Oscar.

* = Oscar nomination  ** = WGA nomination  *** = WGA award

 While I don’t have enough screenings or “Wow, that was impressive”-notes to fill out any other categories I will say that in the Animated Feature area I found a lot of amusement with The Lego Movie, which I was surprised didn’t get an Oscar nomination, but—oddly enough, given my lifelong fascination with animation—I didn’t even see anything else of this format last year; of the Documentary Features that I saw I was impressed with Life Itself (Steve James), which also didn’t get nominated, along with Finding Vivian Maier (John Maloof, Charlie Siskel) and Last Days in Vietnam (Rory Kennedy) which did.  Of the nominees for Best Foreign Language Film I’ve seen only Ida, but it would take a masterpiece to top it in my opinion, while Best Production Design seems to be equally-owned by The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson), although I would have put Birdman into Oscar’s Final Five for that category in place of The Imitation Game or maybe Mr. Turner (Mike Leigh)—a film I admit I didn’t really care for all that much, despite being a great admirer of the actual artist's work, stunning canvases with visions years ahead of their time.

 Now, with all of that useless opinion-mongering out of the way (at least until Academy voters start reading this blog before making their decisions—and pigs [rather than pigskins] fly from Boston to Seattle—at which time these lists may not seem so useless after all), I’ll offer some shorter-than-usual (for me) reviews of various things that I’ve seen lately just so you know I haven’t already given up on 2015 releases (even though of the 3 features below the highest cumulative score among them was the Metacritic 45% for Black or White).  However, I’ll start with just one more 2014 cluster, one of the groups of 5 Short Films nominated for the upcoming Oscar awards, the intriguing program of Live Action offerings.  This time around, though, I'm dispensing with my usual brief content summaries prior to the reviews because that info is incorporated into the Short Film commentary and probably isn't needed for the features as they've either been in circulation for awhile already or are obvious enough in where their plots are headed that I'm not really spoiling much anyway.

Take care, curious readers, for plot spoilers gallop rampantly throughout the Two Guys’ insightful reviews.  Therefore, be warned, beware, and read on when you’re ready to be transported to … wherever we end up.  Please protect your eyes from the dazzling brilliance.
2015 Oscar Nominated Short Films—Live Action

 You won’t be able to find critics’ ratings for this cluster of Oscar-nominated shorts in the usual places but I can offer you this site for a good bit of information on the group (as well as the Oscar-contenders for Animated and Documentary Shorts, all of which are available in selected cities for theatrical viewing as well as accessible through other sources that you can find within the noted pdf).  All I’m going to have time to consider before the February 22, 2015 Oscar telecast are these Live Action contenders so I’ll just make some quick references here based on the order that I saw in Berkeley, CA at the marvelous Landmark Shattuck Cinema, beginning with the one pictured above, Parvaneh (Talkhon Hamzavi; 2012; Switzerland; 25 min.), an MFA thesis film about the girl of the title (her name apparently means “butterfly”), an illegal immigrant from Afghanistan now living in Zurich, working where she can to send money back home to her mother.  Due to not having a valid ID she’s unable to wire the cash, then meets friendly punk Emily who agrees to do the transfer for her after first introducing her to a night on the town where she encounters drink, music, and pushy men she’s not accustomed to (actually, the guy’s an attempted-thief until Parvaneh clobbers him with a beer bottle to retrieve her money).  It’s a sweet film with positive intercultural overtones.  Butter Lamp (La Lampe au Beurre de Yak) (Hu Wei; 2013; France-China; 16 min.), on the other hand, leaves me mystified, so I could use a dash of intercultural awareness about what’s going on here where all we have is a photographer and his assistant shooting various groups of Tibetan nomads in front of backdrops that range from The Great Wall of China to a beach to Hong Kong Disneyland, with the title seemingly referring to the request of one of their subjects for the photographers to take a jar of butter (in tribute to his mother) to the sacred Buddhist Potala Palace as they pass through Lhasa.  Given my unawareness of what deeper implications are intended by the filmmaker, all I can say is that—despite the many awards this film has already received—I’m a bit dumfounded by it, amazed that it made Oscar’s highly-competitive short list.  That doesn’t hold true at all for The Phone Call (Mat Kirby; 2013; UK; 21 min.) which consists almost entirely of Heather (a fabulous performance by Sally Hawkins) at a helpline call center in calmly frantic dialogue with “Stan” (voiced by Jim Broadbent), an elderly man so distraught over the loss of his daughter 25 years ago—then 2 years ago his wife of 37 years succumbed to breast cancer—that he’s taken an overdose of anti-depressants and simply wants someone to talk with as his life quickly runs out.  Her attempts to locate him don’t lead to rescue (although you could say that he’s already rescued himself) but we do close on a quick happy scene of Heather on a date with an interested co-worker, seemingly resolved to make the best of the life she has before it might slip away, just as "Stan's" did.

 Aya (Mihal Brezis, Oded Binnun; 2012; Israel-France; 39 min.) features another lead female character (titular, as with Parvaneh) who also wants to make something more of her life than she currently has as a wife and mother so, through a chance situation at the airport for Jerusalem (which seems to be at Tel Aviv), she allows an incoming passenger, Danish music expert Thomas Overby, to think she’s his driver to the downtown hotel where he’ll be staying for an international music competition acting as a judge, even though in leaving with him she abandons her also-arriving-husband.  During their journey into the city he briefly demonstrates a piano-fingering on her hand which leads to her request that he do more of this on her leg while she’s driving, making it clear that she’s open to risqué—if also risky—consequences to her ruse, which she finally admits to, even as she stops for a mysterious, tearful phone conversation before reaching the city.  Once they arrive, he invites her to stop in for further conversation, wherever it may lead (she’s said nothing to him of her family), which she considers before going home instead (maybe this all sounds like an Israeli version of The Bridges of Madison County [Clint Eastwood, 1995], but even if so it still works as a fascinating portrayal of deception and its potential consequences).  While Hawkins’ display of emotional range in The Phone Call is quite impressive, I’ll give top honors to Aya because of its successful manipulation of well-paced intrigue; if I were actually assigning ratings here I’d give this one a solid 4 stars.  However, the most enjoyable, often funny, one of the bunch—and as such a strong possibility for taking the Oscar—is Boogaloo and Graham (Michael Lennox; 2014; UK, 14 min.), set in 1978 Belfast where the surrounding British-Irish tensions are mostly set aside (except for one brief scene with soldiers toward the end that likely stirs compassion for the plot events of the final scenes) to concentrate on the reminiscences of 1 of 2 young brothers about the time their father brought home a couple of chicks as pets for them, which they embraced (giving the birds the names in the title) despite their mother’s distain.  When she becomes pregnant and wants them to use the now-grown-hens for dinner, Dad secretly saves the day by sneaking an egg from the refrigerator into their nests, which he continued to do until the birds were safely part of the family.  While Boogaloo and Graham is in English, as are the previous 2 noted above, we do get subtitles with the boys’ dialogue to help non-Brits among us navigate their thick Irish accents as a good time was had by all at the screening I attended.
The Wedding Ringer (Jeremy Garelick)
 Now that The Wedding Ringer has been out for about a month you could say that it’s served its purpose as an upbeat, inconsequential alternative to the  more serious-minded Oscar-contenders (and wannabes) that trickle into theaters in January after their official short runs in the L.A. market just prior to New Year’s to quality for Academy nominations.  There’s certainly little that’s memorable about this farce that you couldn’t glean just from the trailer (link far below if you’re interested), but if you haven’t seen it yet and need a (mostly) harmless diversion (especially if you’re an unattached guy with no interest in the 50 Shades of Grey [Sam Taylor-Johnson, Michael De Luca] monsoon that’s about to swallow up most of the available screen space near you) it’s funny in its intentionally overstated, often-grotesque sort of way.  The premise is that successful-but-familyless/friendless-tax-attorney Doug Harris (Josh Gad) needs not only a best man but also 7 groomsmen for his upcoming wedding to attractive Gretchen Palmer (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting)—how he’s been able to get to the point of 2 weeks out from the ceremony and keep her in the dark about who these guys will be isn’t a cognitive consideration that this movie expects you to ponder.  So, he’s off to the clandestine offices of The Best Man Inc. where con-artist-extraordinaire, Jimmy Callahan (Kevin Hart), normally provides such services but getting the extra 7 to back him up on such short notice amounts to his quiet industry’s holy grail, the so-called-but-never-yet-achieved “Golden Tux” ploy.  Jimmy comes up with the guys (complete with backstories, although not as convoluted as his where he’s forced to play an Army chaplain from North Dakota), with the intention of them being as absurd as possible—one has 3 testicles that he likes to show off, although where the humor is in another one being an escaped con who’s tired of raping male inmates so he’s broken out to get back to women completely escapes me.  Through a series of crazy circumstances that include Jimmy setting Gretchen’s grandmother on fire; Doug’s wedding party playing a muddy football game against his future father-in-law and some actual old pros (including Joe Namath); a dog attaching itself to Doug’s crotch requiring a cop-eluding race to the ER; and Jimmy accidently having to perform the wedding, we ultimately find that Gretchen’s not really attracted to Doug (he’d just be a good provider); Doug’s actually more interested in the Russian hooker, Nadia (Nicky Whelan), he meets at his bachelor party; the “marriage” is over even quicker than the one in The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967) because Jimmy’s no priest; Jimmy connects with Gretchen’s sister, Allison (Olivia Thirby); and just about everyone except Gretchen and her parents heads off to Tahiti for the honeymoon that never was.  The jokes are often crass, the situations are insane, yet the fun’s there if in you’re in kind of a mindless-stupor sort of mood, so if that appeals to you, have at it.
                                    Black or White (Mike Binder)
 While African-American Kevin Hart is somewhat unique in The Wedding Ringer as being one of the few actors that doesn’t seem to have been recruited directly from a British polo club, nothing at all is made of his race/ethnicity (I prefer the latter because the former has no scientific meaning where humans are concerned but it does carry a lot of sociological heritage), except for the unspoken assumption from the bride-to-be’s family and friends that none of Josh’s party seems to be from his background at all.  By contrast, Black or White is explicitly about the type of racial dialogue that cadres of social commentators have been saying for about 5 decades that we in the U.S.A. need to have a national conversation about.  While Elliot Anderson (Kevin Costner), another rich L.A. attorney, is no intentional racist he does have clear conflicts with his Black in-laws when his wife suddenly dies in a car accident, leaving him as the sole guardian of his wonderfully-charming biracial granddaughter, Eloise (Jillian Estell)—Elliot’s daughter died in childbirth; the girl’s father, Reggie Davis (Andre Holland), is a drug addict, despised by Elliot, who’s never been seen by his daughter—which prompts the other grandmother, Rowena Jeffers (Octavia Spencer), to seek joint, or even full, custody, especially when egged on by her equally-successful-to-Elliot-lawyer-brother, Jeremiah (Anthony Mackie).  Elliot resists because he doesn’t want the girl exposed to her Dad, but his grief over multiple situations quickly results in alcohol abuse, fractious court appearances, and angry interpersonal encounters—including with supposedly-clean Reggie, who’s willing to take a payoff from Elliot to just disappear again—that begin to fray the relationship between Eloise and Elliot, the only “parent” she’s ever known.  After a disastrous kidnapping attempt by Reggie, he admits he’s not ready for fatherhood yet, the lawsuits are dropped, and everyone attempts to live somewhat-happily-ever-after for the girl’s sake.  While this screen story features uniformly strong performances, is supposedly based on the writer-director’s real-life-experiences with raising a biracial child, and the dialogue exchanges get more honest than most race-based-discussions you’d find in our news media (Elliot admits he’s fueled by racist stereotypes at times but asks that his actions take credence over his reactions; Jeremiah shows that he’s not much different [Elliot’s associates seem more overtly racist than he is; hard to tell for sure what Jeremiah’s motives are, but he clearly thinks Eloise isn’t getting enough Black in her upbringing], although the rest of Rowena’s large, extended family seem quite gracious to Elliot while “Grandma Wewe” herself is more focused on finally being able to spend more time with her granddaughter than on berating Elliot over White privilege), the situations get contrived, the conflicts seem intended to spark debate more so than address anything less than Hollywood-ending-type-solutions, and the general response has been tepid at best (from critics we have Rotten Tomatoes' average at a miserable 37%; at the box-office the domestic take is only a bit over $13 million so far [does cover the production budget]).  I admire this film for making an effort to address the needed dialogue about how all lives matter, but Black or White comes off as a bit of a ham-fisted-approach.

               Jupiter Ascending (Andy and Lana Wachowski)
 I picked a good week to compress my comments on the feature films because if I had to summarize the plot of Jupiter Ascending I’d have produced an epistle as long as this entire posting just in an attempt to compress it (there's a longer summary if you like, but even it’s compressed from the full details).  For our purposes, suffice it to say that Juniper Jones (Mila Kunis) works as a toilet-scrubbing maid in Chicago, completely unaware that she’s the reincarnation of a superior outer-space-alien-matriarch from the powerful House of Abrasax, making her the owner of planet Earth.  She soon learns about her extended-family-connections, though, when she’s targeted for assassination by Abrasax-oldest-heir Balem (a wonderfully wacky Eddie Redmayne), although his brother, Titus (Douglas Booth), wants to marry her.  Titus sends a hulking guardian (half-human, half-wolf), Caine Wise (Channing Tatum), to protect her, so once she’s out and about in the cosmos she’s introduced to a non-stop-life of action, including warding off the various Abrasax minions on her tail (the lizardish ones working for Balem even have actual tails) or when she learns that Titus’ marriage proposal was simply to set her up for his own inheritance-based-execution-plot (seems that Earth is really just a highly-prized-breeding-ground so that humans can be ground up into a serum [shades of Soylent Green (Richard Fleischer, 1973)] that prolongs the lives of our powerful ancestral creators into extended millennia).  Throughout Jupiter Ascending we get another visually-spectacular-special-effects-driven-crisis just about every time you’d consider a restroom break (but you wouldn’t actually miss much because there’s a bigger, louder one yet to come) so if you just turn off your mind (maybe this was intended to be another trilogy from these Matrix-masters [1999, 2003] so they needed a lot of exposition in this episode) and flow along with the wonders of cinematic-image-creation this can be quite a relief from the wintertime reality of drought-inducing-hot-days on the West Coast, constant blizzards in the East, and who-knows-what in the Midwest (sorry, flyovers; except for regular news from good friend Roger Smitter [also in Chicago] I don’t take too much note of the GOP-dominated Heartland, crassly-cruel-liberal that I am).  Eventually, both evil brothers are killed (not sure what’s up with their sister, Kalique [Tuppence Middleton—can you get any more English than that?]), Jupiter’s content to keep her planetary ownership secret (for now), and her romance with Caine blossoms as they fly through the Chicago skies, him now on wings and her with his high-octane-rocket-boots.  This somewhat-entertaining mess can be great 3-D diversionary fun, but it’s opening weekend of about $18.4 million in domestic sales will need more gully-washers of cash (maybe from better overseas revenues) to negate its $176 million budget than we in California need in terms of real rain to replenish our reservoirs.  (The patriots—Midwesterners and Southerners, not the New England footballers—are getting their revenge!)  I wouldn’t advise staying tuned for more episodes of Jupiter, so see it now or just wait for something better.
 Finally, if you'll indulge me a very personal note, I must sadly say that this photo of me and my two editorial assistants (now you know why not much editing gets done on my reviews) is no longer accurate because the brown cat (tortoise-shell to be specific, so I’m told), my sweet girl, Annie, is no longer with me and my equally-sad wife, Nina.  At age 16 Annie succumbed to a jaw tumor that was beyond reclamation so we had to wish her a safe trip to the kitty Elysian Fields, cherishing the fond memories that she brought to us for 14 of those years.  At least we still have our other sweetie, little Inky (well, at 14 pounds not so little), with plans to find him a new companion soon.  Farewell, Annie girl: “Now cracks a noble heart.—Good night, sweet prince[ss], And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!” (from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet; Act 5, Scene 2; lines 358-360).  I’m going to keep using this photo in my social media sites, though, in memory of her, just as on a sillier note I keep Pat Craig’s name and photo on this blog even though he’s never written even part of 1 review for this site (besides, I can’t change it to Film Reviews from One Guy in the Dark; that just sounds too sad for anyone to even click on—except for a kind of curiosity that I’m not trying to lure in under false pretenses).  So, Annie and Pat are with us always, even if just in fond memory (if Pat ever reads this, I’ll let him pick his own thespian retort—really, he’s a much better actor than he is a film critic … so far, but I still await his contributions).
Related Links Which You Might Find Interesting:
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AND … at least until the Oscars for 2014’s releases have been awarded on Sunday, February 22, 2015 we’re also going to include reminders in each review posting of very informative links where you can get updated tallies of which films made various individual critic’s Top 10 lists and which ones have been nominated for and/or received various awards.  You may find the diversity among the various critics and the various awards competitions hard to reconcile at times—not to mention the often-significant-gap between critics’ choices and competition-award-winners (which usually pales in comparison to the even-more-noticeable-gap between box-office-success, which you can monitor here, and what wins the awards)—but as that less-than-enthusiastic-patron-of-the-arts, Plato, noted in The Symposium (385-380 BC)—roughly translated, depending on how accurate you wish the actual quote to be—“Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder,” so your choices are as valid as any of these others, especially if you can offer some rationale for your decisions (unlike many of the awards voters who simply fill out ballots, sometimes for films they’ve never seen).

To save you a little scrolling through the “various awards” list above, here are the Golden Globe winners for films and TV from 2014 and the Oscar nominees for 2014 film releases.

Here’s some more information about the 2015 Oscar Nominated Live Action Short Films (based on releases from 2014): (this starts with Parvaneh, complete with a clip and some photos, then you can follow links to the other 4 nominees)

Here’s some more information about The Wedding Ringer: (complete with a “Message for current and former Sony Pictures employees and their dependents, and for production employees, regarding the recent cyber attack”—but you can click on it too if you like even if you don't work there) (11:19 question and answer session with actors Kevin Hart, Josh Gad, and Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting)

Here’s some more information about Black or White: (5:07 interview with actor Kevin Costner) and (4:40 interview with actor Octavia Spencer)

Here’s some more information about Jupiter Ascending: (9:04 of short clips that show how various scenes were shot)

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If you’d rather contact Ken directly rather than leaving a comment here please use my new email at  Thanks.

By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile.    Ken

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.


  1. With the wealth of award shows prior to the Oscars, it's amazing if anything is left to surprise. Of course the real attractions on February 22nd are the A list stars, a good production and typically a top notch host, highlighted by the likes of Bob Hope in my youth (when TVs had antennas and no monthly bill) and Billy Crystal (when TVs had dvrs and 1080p).

    I do recommend Citizenfour and think it rates highly both as an interesting story and as an excellent documentary. I believe it should be on everyone's viewing schedule. Given the star is Edward Snowden who now resides in Russia, Citizenfour might even help inform about Putin's recent aggressiveness given Russia probably has unfiltered access to the classified documents.

    It is interesting Citizenfour arrived in Central Texas while Uma Thurman and Nymphomaniac Vol. I) did not. Meanwhile American Sniper has them standing in lines weeks after release. Espionage and violence is fine; but please, no graphic sex in the bible belt.

    Finally, one of my favorites of 2014 was Gone Girl, but I suspect it came out too early in the year and faded in memories when the inspired Birdman, Boyhood and Imitation Game films were released. All in all, a good year at the cinema.

  2. Hi rj, Thanks as always for your comments. I agree that 2014 offered us many delights but that most of the major awards are practically settled by now, with the Oscar suspense, if any, between Birdman and Boyhood for Best Picture, a resolution soon to come. Ken

  3. Citizenfour is scheduled to air on HBO starting February 23rd, the day after the Oscars.

  4. Hi rj, Thanks for the info. Now that I'm getting HBO on a short-term bargain deal I'll make plans to watch it. Ken

    1. Start your Game of Thrones HBO On Demand binge early. It's bigger and better than half of the films we see every year with multiple concurrent production crews in Europe, top notch screenwriting and excellent Cinematography. Try Season 1 at least and watch the director's piece after each episode to better understand what happened. Much like checking here on the more complex screenplays (unlike Fifty Shades.

  5. This is really a nice informative blog in which you discuss about Oscar nominated movies which is really a nice stuff. Thanks for sharing this and keep sharing.

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  6. Hi Angela, Thanks very much for you comment. I appreciate it. Ken