This year’s selection for the awards made a clear cut between this last few month’s film releases, with Whiplash, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Birdman and The Theory of Everything leading (every) race in the anglo-saxon world of cinema. The Edge’s own film team takes a look at the four titles, just in case you’ve missed out on their release in cinemas.
The Theory of Everything, dir. James Marsh
Nominations: 5 Academy Awards, 4 Golden Globes, 10 BAFTAs
The Theory of Everything is James Marsh’s spectacular biopic, focusing in on the lives of renowned theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and his first wife, Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones). Based on Wilde’s memoir, Travelling to Infinity: My life with Stephen, the film offers a touching insight into the struggles the young couple faced; the most infamous and prevalent of all, being Hawking’s tragically endless decline in health after he was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease at the age of 21. As well as depicting Hawking’s gradual deterioration, the film also makes a determined effort to provide insight into how Jane, as the wife and mother of a family in constant need of supervision, became overwhelmed by the weight of juggling her dedications at home with her own scholarly ambitions.
+ The performances in the film, by Redmayne and Jones are more than awards-worthy, showcasing an immense dedication to their roles as Stephen and Jane
– However, the film’s plot is arguably quite linear, and sugar-coats many of the darker scenes, with the over-bearing message of irrevocable romance.
Birdman or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance, dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu
Nominations: 9 Academy Awards, 7 Golden Globes, 10 BAFTAs
Birdman is the story of an actor, Riggan, who used to play the super hero Birdman in a blockbuster franchise, aptly casted as Michael Keaton. It follows his attempt to re-gain fame by writing, directing and starring in a Broadway play all while dealing with personal demons. The most unique feature of Birdman is the cinematography which gives the illusion that the film has been shot in a single take, using close ups and tracking shots expertly. This, combined with a consistence up-beat drum score, greatly contributes to the film’s unyielding pace. The supporting cast of Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts and Zach Galifianakis are all at their best and all are given small personal scenes to flesh out their characters. Keaton particularly steals the film, giving the best performance of his career as the unhinged Riggan. The drama of the play is enjoyable but the film also has a lot to say about social media, film critics and super hero films in general. Overall the film is a masterpiece in film making with great performances and poignant underlying themes.
+ Superb lead and supporting cast performances.
– Its structure is slightly repetitive
Whiplash, dir. Damien Chazelle
Nominations: 5 Academy Awards, 1 Golden Globe, 5 BAFTAs
Whiplash follows Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller), a student at the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory music school in New York, who has ambitions to become the best jazz drummer in the world. Once he realises Terence Fletcher (J.K.Simmonds) is searching for another drummer for his band, he gives all his time and effort in an attempt to impress the charismatic conductor. The wonderful central performances and the perfectly written script have created one of the most thrilling dramas in recent memory; from the start, when Andrew and Terence first meet, the tension is incredible, with each scene involving the two leaving the audience breathless. J.K. Simmonds’ powerful and emotional performance creates a character that seems ready to explode at any moment, with much of the film’s tension coming from the anxious wait for him to finally crack and Teller’s reaction once he does. The audience shares Andrew’s sense of dread. The heart-stopping emotion is relentlessly ramped up until the film’s incredible finale. Whiplash’s only flaw is that is fails to explore Andrew blossoming relationship with Nicole (Melissa Benoist) as well as it should, but this does not stop it from being anything other than a stunning piece of cinema.
+ The palpable tension created by Teller and Simmonds’ magnificent performances.
– Andrew’s relationship with Nicole could have been developed further.
The Grand Budapest Hotel, dir. Wes Anderson
Nominations: 9 Academy Awards, 4 Golden Globes, 11 BAFTAs
The Grand Budapest is a kaleidoscope of film fun and with a delightfully camp Ralph Fiennes at the helm as Mr. Gustave and an all star cast it falls ever so slightly sure of perfect. The story focuses in on the titled hotel but more importantly a single character’s life there: Zero (Tony Revolori). Though of course it is more complicated than this. As is everything. It seems Mr Gustave the concierge has been left a painting by a dead lover, something her family are none too happy with. Queue a large chase involving imprisonment and effectively a chain of hotels and a scary Jopling played by Willem Defoe and you have yourself one of the most fantastic and wildly camp movies to date. Though Jude Law’s screen time does little but create a sense of nostalgia the majority of the film is sweet and delightful on the palette. Ending on a bitter note, this film truly deserves all of its nominations.
+ the majority of the film is sweet and delightful on the palette with doses of wit and visual delights.
– Jude Law’s screen time does little but create a sense of nostalgia