The Oscar contenders: Remaining reviews

I had meant to write reviews of each film after watching them but didn’t get around to doing that, so here is an abridged review to those films:

Boyhood – There has been so much talk around this 12 year project. It is a project that required an incredible vision and commitment, one which director Richard Linklater held onto for the better part of the last decade. The film is a beautiful and heartwarming story about parenthood, childhood, and well, boyhood. The question in examination, when does “boyhood” really end, and when does “manhood” really begin? We literally watch Ellar and the entire cast grow up (and old) before our eyes, and while the film itself ends as Mason Jr. goes off to college, one can’t help but to feel that the rest of our lives have just begun as well. Spanning over the course of 12 years, Linklater preserve an impressive heart and direction for this film, and I can only imagine that as each year goes by, the conversations and discussions he has with both his actors and himself is that much more interesting. To all those wondering how much longer they must work on their project before they call it quits, Linklater’s commitment and vision is inspiring and encouraging to all of us in that boat. But more importantly, “Boyhood” allows all of us to reflect on the moments and the years of our lives that have shaped (and hopefully continue to shape) our lives.

Birdman – I’ll admit this piece could have been a little tainted by a hype that grew around the film, mostly from friends, for me. “Birdman” essentially is a film that examines method acting; distinguishing between an actor’s sense of reality, and his sense of ‘acting’. By using live theater as the backdrop, the characters of the film go through the process of portraying what is real and what isn’t on the stage. This is an interesting topic to dialogue about, as every actor hopes to take a crack at the main stages of Broadway, to prove that they truly are actors, and not just puppets on a silver screen. I thoroughly enjoyed the constant drumming in the background, giving life to this “New York state of mind” was quite comforting (sigh…as much as I’d hate to admit it, it’s going to take so much to flush the NY out of me). Though obviously not actually a single shot, the film is edited together as though everything was a single shot; the passing of time and space happens seamlessly, and quite impressive I might add. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the type of walk and talk camera work first seen on “The West Wing”, but the energy that it creates I imagine emulates that of a Broadway stage performer. This was a very thoughtful and artistically articulate film, and though I understand the intent of certain choices, especially dialoguing with the theme of method acting/stage vs. screen acting, ironically it was the acting of the film that bothered me. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Edward Norton’s performance, but opposite Michael Keaton, there was just something that felt kind of off about the interactions. I think I appreciate it more for what it’s trying to portray and the aesthetics that went into bringing that conversation to light, but the actual execution of it felt somewhat underwhelming.

Whiplash – If I had to pick my favorite of the pool, it would hands down go to “Whiplash”. From the moment I watched the teaser trailer when I was looking into attending TIFF this past season, this movie had me hooked. The narrative and performances are both gripping; Miles Tyler deserves some sort of recognition for his performance (and might I add practice, for he did 90% of the actual drumming in the film), and JK Simmons’ well-deserved nominations were definitely warranted. It’s a gruesome look into how a talented young individual with great potential ahead of himself, is driven (to madness) by an unconventional mentor who pushes the students in his conservatory to perfection. The dynamic and relationship between these two are incredible, at some point in time I think we can all relate Tyler’s character, a fresh-faced young talent seeking approval. On the one hand, you want Andrew to stop practicing and pushing himself beyond his literally physical limits, yet we all know what it feels like to achieve our successes all the while keeping an eye behind us at the hungry dogs that threaten your spot. The film brings in another discussion about the whole concept of “earning” a spot. Does something belong to you once and for all simply because you’ve “earned it”? As Andrew finds out, that’s not the case. Not two minutes after he achieves his high, he realizes that everyone is always replaceable in a band; keeping his core seat isn’t only a matter of perfecting his craft, it’s also making sure that no one else ever comes anywhere close to it. “Whiplash” being a film about jazz band, is accompanied by an infectious soundtrack (which I’m currently listening to as I write this), all with the same intent and goal: a strive towards perfection. At the end of the night, I can only imagine Director and Writer Damien Chazelle with his hand bloodied and cramped, sweat pouring everywhere as he attempts to make his version of the perfect movie. And in the final sequences of that fantasy, Damien stares intently into the eyes of his audience who are on the edges of their seats, until he finally sees that look he’s been waiting for, a look that tells him he’s finally achieved it.

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