by Mike Reistetter
With awards season coming to a close after the Oscars last night, many are scrambling to see the films that were nominated. Here are my top 10 films of the year and a brief analysis of each.
10. STILL ALICE
With one of her best performances, Julianne Moore’s character fights early onset Alzheimer’s and the disintegration of her once stable life. She fears the imminent probability that her young adult children will all one day be given the same fate that she has been dealt.
An unusual British film about an experimental band led by the eccentric and mentally disturbed titular character Frank. Played by Michael Fassbender, the supporting role delivers some of his best acting, surprisingly while wearing a paper mache head for a majority of the film.
8. AMERICAN SNIPER
Perhaps the most popular nominee of the year, “American Sniper” has been praised for its content, direction, acting, and message. Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper added pure talent and poise. “Sniper”’s only downfall is that it may win by popularity alone.
7. THE IMITATION GAME
Benedict Cumberbatch portrays Alan Turing in this British historical drama that reveals the war occurring behind the war. Turing, because of personal controversy, was not given the credit he deserved as the rightful inventor of computer science.
6. GONE GIRL
A thriller dominated by Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike’s performances. Viewers start to perceive missing persons cases in the news differently, provoking the inner detective in us all.
Jake Gyllenhaal acts as an aspiring freelance news cameraman who sells his firsthand footage of crime scenes to a news producer, played by Rene Russo in a career-revitalizing role. “Nightcrawler” was unique enough to entertain audiences well before the awards season, but seemingly seemed forgettable by the Academy who left it out of consideration for a Best Picture nomination. An instant cult classic!
JK Simmons leads an Oscar-worthy performance for best Supporting Actor with his portrayal of the antagonistic studio jazz band leader in this film. “Whiplash” not only reminds viewers the power of jazz music, but with first rate sound and editing it creates acoustic intensity comparable to sporting arenas. “Whiplash” is a timeless film, demonstrating the amount of verbal abuse one person can take before they break while attempting to impress their authority figures.
A Christopher Nolan film bound to move audiences with special effects. This Matthew McConaughey vehicle is a visual trip that demonstrates both the lengths at which a father would travel to for his children’s protection, and what lengths the Academy would go to in not recognizing a classic by denying it a deserved best picture nomination.
“Birdman” allowed Michael Keaton to channel his own past as a movie star who decided to “hang up the cape” and reject the stardom that created his image. With interesting directional use of the “long take” and colorful cinematography, “Birdman” was a scripted phenomenon with a cast that also included supporting Oscar nominations for Edward Norton and Emma Stone.
Richard Linklater’s coming of age masterpiece 12 years in the making covers the life of a fictional character named Mason from ages 6-to-18. The subtle transitions and editing are transcendent, as are the performances of the protagonist Mason’s separated parents, played by Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette. “Boyhood” depicted a dozen years of family life, self-discovery, and entrance into previously uncharted realms of adolescent maturation.