Sunday, January 25, 2015

THOUGHTS ON AMERICAN SNIPER CONTROVERSY

A lot has been said over the past week about last week's number one movie and best picture nominee American Sniper. It's absolutely unprecedented total of $107 million over the weekend has everyone analyzing its formula, and while its detractors are watching it with falcon eyes I'm sure movie studios have just ordered a slew of military biopics we can expect in the years to come. I have my own reasons why, and they're pretty sound.
  1. It was up for six Oscars, which has never hurt a movie's sums.
  2. It has arguably one of the best stars working right now in the lead.
  3. It appeals to military audiences,
  4. Faith-based audiences; Kyle's Christian beliefs are prominently displayed.
  5. Red-state audiences. 
  6. Action-movie lovers.
  7. War-movie lovers.
  8. A respectable, certified fresh score of 73% on Rotten Tomatoes.
With a demographic as wide is that, how could Eastwood and co. not have hit their mark? But these are summer blockbuster numbers after all. Nobody blinked an eye when the critically reviled fourth installment of the Transformers series pulled in $100 million. But when an R-rated Iraq war movie in January with not-too-expensive $60 million budget pulls that in? There's bound to be criticisms and harsh analyzations of it, and I'm here to quell the fire and address those controversies head-on.

THE MAIN CONCERNS:

1. FAKE BABY CONTROVERSY
I'm starting out with this one because this is the most dismissible of the three. This gets a big "WHO CARES" from me, and obviously it wasn't noticeable to when I watched it, or any of my family that watched it. This got so much news coverage, all for a prop. Maybe the baby they were going to use was sick, or they couldn't get him/her to calm down? It hardly matters, and this criticism, when so many larger questions are at hand, gets classified in the "nitpicks" bin.

2. PRAISING KYLE AS A HERO
This is a very thin line to walk, and I will indeed tread carefully. There are the critics saying there shouldn't be a film about a man who killed 160 people, glorifying the murder of Iraqis. Then there are those who scoff at that, saying killing was Kyle's duty and responsibility by the American military and that he was following orders. That phrase "following orders" is controversial in itself. But I don't think the movie paints Kyle as a man who loved to kill, though in his book he did say some of his killings were "fun." With the godlike decision-making of life or death, there will be an expansion in ego, especially SEALs, who naturally will feel superior once they've completed training. In interviews, Kyle was noted as saying he didn't regret any of his killings. The truth is that's what he was assigned to do, and he did it expertly. The movie shows the way it weighed with him post-Iraq, and never depicted him shooting anyone that didn't pose a threat to his team. Why they were in Iraq is a completely different story, but seeing Kyle as a hero is in no way wrong. He served his country and saved the lives of his fellow SEALs, and that's what's depicted.

3. IS THE MOVIE PROPAGANDA?
I was sure the answer was yes in the first 15 minutes, but then became uncertain. I really, really despise it when filmmakers show clips of 9/11 for emotional string-pulling. A movie dedicated to the subject, United 93, hardly showed the Towers burning. When Kyle sees this and the earlier '98 embassy bombings, he stands up, like Uncle Sam is grabbing him from the shoulders. But I realized that, and I am giving the film the BOTD, that it truly isn't pro-war, but rather pro-soldier. Kyle says that he fights for God, family and country, but right after a fellow soldier tells him he's not sure if he can put his faith in something divine. The clear PTSD he's shown with, as he nearly puts down his dog after a misunderstanding is enough to bring that message home. Eastwood shows the SEALS process looking like sheer hell, and the sandstorm where Kyle nearly dies straight out of a nightmare. Not to mention the impact his absence has on his family, the ones he says he's fighting for. The scene right before he goes and is eventually a killed by a fellow soldier suffering mental illness, was probably dramatically licensed. Did he really tell his son to look after the women? Did he really make a full improvement as Sienna Miller's character notes? Maybe, maybe not. If Kyle was alive he'd still be suffering the blows of PTSD head-on.

I've had the displeasure of reading Twitter fights of this argument, and they made me realize why I deleted mine almost a year ago. All I know is Chris Kyle was no "American psychopath" as his detractors claim, but the man wasn't a saint, and no one is. Personally that's the message I got from Eastwood's movie. If the politics of American Sniper bother you so much, just look at the movie as squarely a fictional piece, and judge it on cinematic merits.

Monday, January 19, 2015

REVIEW: AMERICAN SNIPER

I saw this film this past Saturday, which means I had no earthly clue that Clint Eastwood's American Sniper would pull in an unheard of $90 million. That's a better weekend than Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies and 22 Jump Street, all blockbuster sequels with established franchises. What's the reason for this unheard of success? Patriotism: people love seeing films about American war heroes. Buzz: Sniper got six Oscar nominations last Thursday including best picture, actor and adapted screenplay. But most importantly: word of mouth. A movie can have great reviews and Oscar nominations, like The Hurt Locker, and nobody will see it until it sweeps the Oscars. But, if not for Bradley Cooper's performance alone, the film's mammoth box-office returns are well justified.

The film largely chronicles the time Chris Kyle spent in his oversea tours, mostly in Iraq. After seeing the '98 embassy bombings on TV, Kyle, like a good American (as the film tends to patriot-ize his as) goes to the Navy and eventually becomes a SEAL. That sentence sounds very oversimplified; the movie briefly shows the hardships and humiliation, including being hosed down and, that it took to become a coveted Navy SEAL. Kyle's shown as always being the American personification of a good guy: signing up for the military, defeating the "enemy" and having a wife and kids.

Even though this was a real man, Cooper could've abandoned Chris Kyle the person and gone with Chris Kyle "the Legend" as he was called. With a name like that you're almost bound to disappoint. If a stand-up comedian toted that he was the funniest man alive, you would begin critiquing his jokes and finding flaws in his delivery. But Kyle met all of them while on duty, accumulating over 250 kills in his four tours. What Cooper does is become the comedian's audience, and finds the flaws and insecurities of the man. While on duty, Kyle is an OOH-RAH golden boy, an eliminator of evil. While back at home his mind's over in Iraq, pondering who he has to kill. He's no Dahmer, Kyle doesn't kill for the thrill of the sport, but to protect his brethren. At least that's what he tells himself to get by, but his kills and his time start weighing on him, and when he's finally home he's far from being finally home.

Cooper, in subtle actions like looking down and passive aggressively taking compliments for his actions, becomes this man, who loves to serve his country and wants to be home, but when he's home he'd rather be serving his country. Being in the military is almost his addiction, and coming home to regular life is his withdrawal. I wish Sienna Miller had more to do as his wife Taya, because the real life Taya was heavily involved in the creation of this film. Her main motivation it seems to me was just to miss Chris. I also wish Eastwood's direction would've shown more restraint: some of the battle scenes lose their edge when they drag on and on. On the reverse, some scenes were so intense I could feel the packed house grip their chairs as tight as I was. The movie isn't hit and miss, rather hit-and-I-wish-this-could've-landed-more-on-target.

Let's just give it up to Cooper, who along with physically transforming himself with a bulky exterior and a pitch perfect Texas accent, landed an Oscar nomination for this role, voiced Rocket Raccoon and is on Broadway to rave reviews as the Elephant Man. His dedication along with Eastwood's direction makes this one of last year's best thrillers, and the audience has clearly spoken if they want to see more quality movies like this.

Rating: 2.5/4 stars

Sunday, January 18, 2015

2015 OSCAR NOMINATIONS SNUBS AND SURPRISES! OR (WHY OSCAR SHOULD STEP ON LEGOS)

This year's Academy Award nominations, which took place yesterday at- NO LEG MOVIE NO LEGO MOVIE NO LEGO MOVIE NO LEGO MOVIE NO LEGO MOVIE NO LEGO MOVIE. I had to get it out, I have to vent, because shouting at my television as it went from How to Train Your Dragon 2 to Song of the Sea. And I'm sure the latter film is very respectable, but at least until Oscar time people will be hating it, because it STOLE the coveted fifth spot from, I think it's safe to say, everyone's favorite animated movie of 2014. Enraged fans swept to Twitter, prompting the directors to make characteristically clever tweets, including co-director Phillip Lord showing a Lego Oscar. I'd rather win that than an actual one, though a regular Academy Award wouldn't hurt that much if I stepped on it.

There were other snubs and surprises that occurred the other morning. They are not as important as The Lego Movie's absence, but I will proceed regardless. A full list can be found HERE.

BEST PICTURE:
Snubs: Eight. You can nominate ten, and they give us eight. Let me passively aggressively sigh and keep typing. The biggest ones that come to mind are Gone Girl, Foxcatcher, which still cleaned up very well, Nightcrawler, or any respectable blockbuster.
Surprises: American Sniper, with its lack of presence in the Globes and the SAGs blew me away with its half dozen nominations. I'm similarly excited to see Whiplash on here, a smaller movie that packs an enormous punch. Also, who knew The Grand Budapest Hotel would garner so many nods?

BEST ACTRESS:
Snubs: Sorry, Rachel. This was probably the closest Jennifer Aniston had to a shot at the gold, but she's still got a chance for the SAGs! Amy Adams, who just isn't nominated enough times, is also another notable absence.
Surprises: Marion Cotillard!! She flirted with an Oscar nomination for 2011's Rust and Bone, but she succeeded here, being the sole foreign speaking nominee in the Oscars this year.

BEST ACTOR:
Snubs: David Oyelowo and Jake Gylleenhaal are the big ones here, and some pointing figures at the largely white Academy for his exclusion, along with Selma's director Ava DuVernay, which I'll get to later. Ralph Fiennes not being here is unsurprising, but I'm glad his homeland honored him for some hilarious, zany work in The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Surprises: It's pretty wonderful to say that the man who played a 40 year old virgin and Michael Scott is an Oscar nominee, for what I hear is some truly disturbing work as villainous millionaire John du Pont. The BAFTA's nominated him under supporting, which I hear it is even though he's top billed. Bradley Cooper's nomination surprised until I saw the movie.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
Snubs: It's no surprise at all that the Academy didn't honor Andy Serkis in another motion-capture performance as Caesar in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes; they've blown every single chance. No love for Josh Brolin, who garnered a Critics' Choice nom for Inherent Vice. And even though I wasn't nuts about the movie, I could have seen Unbroken's Miyavi getting some attention for his intense acting debut.
Surprises: None. The same five guys have been nominated for this award all season, and the same guy has been deservedly winning it over and over.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
Snubs: Though she has less time onscreen, (though that is the point of this award, right, for all those people who stand out in smaller roles?) I would've loved to have seen Tilda Swinton get nominated for her bizarre turn in Snowpiercer. Like A Most Violent Year, no Jessica Chastain, who was the presumed fifth spot on here. Additionally, Rene Russo's turn in Nightcrawler had raves, and brought her home empty handed, along with Naomi Watts who got nothing for Birdman and her SAG-nominated role in St. Vincent, also shut out.
Surprises: Meryl Streep getting nominated?! Holy over-saturation, Batman. The real surprise here is Laura Dern, who I praised highly as one of last year's ten best characters. In that post I crossed my fingers Oscar would recognize what she brought to Wild, and sometimes wishes do come true.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

OSCAR PREDICTIONS OR (HOW I FAILED MISERABLY AT THE GOLDEN GLOBES)

Well, take my predictions with a grain of salt, because I will be the first to admit that I had a hard time with Sunday's Golden Globes. Though it was called a night full of upsets, it was still depressing to read my scorecard of 10 out of 25 right, and I got four wrong alone in the movie category! Grand Budapest Hotel beating Birdman?!? How to Train Your Dragon 2 defeating The Lego Movie?!? It was a weird, weird night, but all that matters to me is that Boyhood came out on top, winning three awards for Patricia Arquette, director Richard Linklater and best picture!!!

This leads me to believe exactly what I thought back in July...Boyhood will sweep the Oscars! Though I'm predicting Birdman will lead in nominations due to its innovative nature, probably at least 10. Theory and Imitation will do well technically since they're period pieces, then expect to see Boyhood with a respectable six or seven. Below I have my full listing of the nine major nominees, and little notes for the ones that might be a little left field, though I've tried to play it safe with my now-terrible Globe track record.

BEST PICTURE: (If history serves right, I'm calling nine nominees. The 10th slot could easily go to Nightcrawler or American Sniper. At this point I can't see St. Vincent, Wild or Into the Woods getting in there.)
  • Selma
  • Birdman
  • Boyhood
  • Whiplash
  • Gone Girl
  • Foxcatcher
  • The Imitation Game
  • The Theory of Everything
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
BEST ACTOR: (Like last year this is airtight. I could put Steve Carrell, Bradley Cooper, Ralph Fiennes or Bill Murray in there. But you know who I want the most? Ellar Coltrane. Please give this to him.)
  • Michael Keaton- Birdman
  • Eddie Redmayne- The Theory of Everything
  • Benedict Cumberbatch- The Imitation Game
  • David Oyelowo- Selma
  • Jake Gyllenhaal- Nightcrawler
BEST ACTRESS:
  • Rosamund Pike- Gone Girl
  • Reese Witherspoon- Wild
  • Felicity Jones- The Theory of Everything
  • Julianne Moore- Still Alice
  • Marion Cotillard- Two Days, One Night (This is the wild card. For some reason I just can't see the Academy giving it to Aniston. Cotillard has history here, and though only the Critic's Choice Awards has recognized among the big groups, I can see her pulling what Javier Bardem did several years back with his nod for Biutiful.)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: (I can't believe it but I'm including Duvall in here. Like Cotillard he has a track record with Oscar, and even though his movie has a 47% on Rotten Tomatoes, expect his name here. The only other possibility could be Josh Brolin from Inherent Vice.)
  • J.K. Simmons- Whiplash
  • Edward Norton- Birdman
  • Ethan Hawke- Boyhood
  • Mark Ruffalo- Foxcatcher
  • Robert Duvall- The Judge
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
  • Patricia Arquette- Boyhood
  • Emma Stone- Birdman
  • Keira Knightley- The Imitation Game
  • Meryl Streep- Into the Woods
  • Jessica Chastain- A Most Violent Year
BEST DIRECTOR:
  • Richard Linklater- Boyhood
  • Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu- Birdman
  • Wes Anderson- The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • David Fincher- Gone Girl
  • Ava DuVernay- Selma
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:
  • Boyhood
  • Birdman
  • Selma
  • Nightcrawler
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:
  • Whiplash (There was a minor controversy with Whiplash competing for this category instead of original, and it's kind of complicated so I'll link that HERE. But J.K. Simmons has so many great lines in here I can't imagine its exclusion.)
  • Gone Girl
  • The Imitation Game
  • Wild
  • Inherent Vice (Even though no one understands this movie I still think the Academy will reward Paul Thomas Anderson)
ANIMATED MOVIE:
  • The Lego Movie (WHY DIDN'T YOU WIN?!?)
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2
  • The Tale of Princess Kaguya (The Oscars also have a history: of nominating left field foreign titles. Remember Chico & Rita? Ernest & Celestine? The Secret of Kells? Me neither and that's my point. This anime has gotten raves, and unless they go the three-nominee route it could have a presence on here.)
  • Big Hero 6
  • The Book of Life

Sunday, January 11, 2015

GOLDEN GLOBE PREDICTIONS 2015!

This is just a straightforward list of predictions for the eleven major film awards! I will make my should win/could win predictions once it gets closer to the actual Oscar night, but since Oscar tends to stick fairly close to the Foreign Press, I'll save it for later. For now, I'm going to predict who's taking the gold home, and how this will determine the Academy Awards! A full list of the nominees HERE.

BEST ANIMATED MOVIE:
Nominees: (Big Hero 6, How to Train Your Dragon 2, The Lego Movie, The Boxtrolls, The Book of Life)
Winner: This isn't because it was my second favorite movie of the year, but I honestly believe that if any movie but Lego wins it will be an upset. I love HTTYD2, but this seems like the frontrunner.

BEST SCREENPLAY:
Nominees: (The Imitation Game, Gone Girl, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Birdman, Boyhood)
Winner: This is actually one of the toughest races to call! There's no clear winner here, no Aaron Sorkin or Woody Allen script to fall back on. Though Birdman and Boyhood are the creative picks, I think the Press will reward Gillian Flynn with a riveting translation of her book Gone Girl to the screen.

BEST DIRECTOR:
Nominees: (Wes Anderson, Richard Linklater, David Fincher, Ava DuVernay, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu)
Winner: Birdman will do good damage in the comedy field, but with Linklater's dozen years of putting in work it'd be hard not to rightfully give him the trophy.

COMEDY/MUSICAL
FILM: 
Nominees: (Pride, St. Vincent, Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Into the Woods)
Winner: This competition has a clear winner: Birdman. Its only close competition would be Budapest, if just to reward Wes Anderson's zaniness.

ACTOR:
Nominees: (Michael Keaton, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes, Joaquin Phoenix, Bill Murray)
Winner: Since he's the presumed frontrunner for the Oscars, it has to be Keaton, though Fiennes just got a Best Actor BAFTA nomination, and could be a very very dark horse.

ACTRESS:
Nominees: (Emily Blunt, Julianne Moore, Amy Adams, Quvenzhane Wallis, Helen Mirren)
Winner: This has to be the toughest race to call. Adams won this award last year, Moore could pull the Kate Winslet double win, and, for my money, Blunt had the best performance. Then again, she was the only performance I saw. I think I'm giving it to the latter though, because she balanced the comedy and musical aspects of her role as the baker's wife very well.

DRAMA
FILM:
Nominees: (The Imitation Game, Boyhood, The Theory of Everything, Selma, Foxcatcher)
Winner: Though there are strong biopics about a lot of famous men here, the one that has struck the chords of so many American audiences will be the victor: Boyhood's taking home at least three trophies tomorrow night.

ACTOR:
Nominees: (Jake Gyllenhaal, David Oyelowo, Benedict Cumberbatch, Steve Carrell, Eddie Redmayne)
Winner: Another close, close race. Gyllenhaal has elevated from dark horse to serious candidate for an Oscar nomination, but due to the physical aspects of Redmayne's performance that made you double over when you realized it wasn't Hawking onscreen, I'm going to give it to him.

ACTRESS:
Nominees: (Julianne Moore, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, Felicity Jones, Rosamund Pike)
Winner: Amy Dunne herself, Rosamund Pike, has gotten a lot of traction for her performance ever since Gone Girl wowed us back in October, but has a combination of great role/career reward I think Still Alice is the movie Moore will win for.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
Nominees: (Edward Norton, J.K. Simmons, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Duvall, Ethan Hawke)
Winner: These five gentleman have been up for everything but the Oscar nominations this awards season, and it really boils down to Norton v. Simmons. After being bowled over by both, I'm going to give the slightest edge to Simmons, whose veteran status might elevate his chances.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
Nominees: (Meryl Streep, Keira Knightley, Emma Stone, Patricia Arquette, Jessica Chastain)
Winner: I'm so happy to say that Patricia Arquette is the frontrunner in this category. Her role as the mother was very lived-in, as I heard one critic describe it as. Nothing flashy, just dealing with drunk husbands and making sure her kids get to college...even though she might not want that for herself. The only upset I can see is Streep, only because...she's Streep.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

MY 10 FAVORITE PERFORMANCES OF 2014!

I've been saying to friends and family that the fact we're living in the year twenty fifteen sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie. And it was! (Thank you, Back to the Future Part II). But let's go back to last year for the last time and examine some of the best written/acted/directed roles of 2014. Whether it was a wicked music teacher, a teen with cancer or simply a man driving his car, these are the actors, in alphabetical order, who grabbed my attention this year.

EMILY BLUNT as Rita in EDGE OF TOMORROW- Emily Blunt had an incredible 2014, starring in this action flick that got a lot of critics and audiences calling this "underrated" and standing out in the musical ensemble Into the Woods.  I thought it was an inventive movie but didn't wow me. What we can all agree on is Blunt's performance. Hopefully, after great turns in Looper and The Adjustment Bureau this will cement her as one of the best action stars of today. She's fearless as Rita, and if I were in Tom Cruise's shoes I wouldn't mind meeting her everyday again and again and again.


BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH as Alan Turing in THE IMITATION GAME- Perhaps this doesn't make me a true nerd but I haven't seen a lot of Cumberbatch. I didn't watch him as Khan, I've never seen "Sherlock." But I might just subscribe to his fan base if Imitation Game is any signifier. He plays the father of the modern computer, Alan Turing, a tortured man who was bullied in some way all of his life. Nailing that awkward genius persona and putting a lot of sensitivity into the role, Cumberbatch was compulsively watchable onscreen.

LAURA DERN as Bobbi in WILD- Reese Witherspoon is getting all the nominations for her performance, and she deserves a spot on this list too. But Laura Dern was just a great mom this year, popping up in The Fault in Our Stars as well. She's a lovely, an almost ethereal figure who brought life into the life of her daughter (Witherspoon's life). Fingers crossed the Academy sees that in her next Thursday.

TOM HARDY as Ivan Locke in LOCKE- The movie equivalent of a one-man show, how difficult must it've been for Tom Hardy to take on the role of Ivan Locke, where the entire film rests on his shoulders for its success. As director Steven Knight feeds us bits and pieces of Locke's life, we realize how the man's future is cemented. We see Hardy range the gamut here, from metaphorically looking in the rearview to confront the sins of his father, reassuring his own family and dealing with his sometimes buffoonish employees. With each step a new layer's revealed: he's a villain, he's a hero. He's everything in-between, and though this list technically is just in alphabetical order, Hardy wins my vote for best performance of the year.

ETHAN HAWKE as Dad in BOYHOOD- In a movie overflowing with realistic moments and genuine acting, I walked out of Boyhood thinking Ethan Hawke had the best shot at an Oscar. It turns out his movie ex-wife is probably heading to the podium, but Hawke's instantly lovable father won me over the most. The wildly liberal, Beatles-loving Senior to Mason Jr. was the constant among the boy's ever-changing life, and even when he had a pair of alcoholic stepdads you knew Hawke would swoop down and be the fun dad everyone wants. His hike with Mason was a highlight amongst a movie with nothing but importantly unimportant moments.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

MY TOP 5 FAVORITE FILMS OF 2014!

What a wonderful, marvelous year it was for the movies. Emphasis on the Marvel: the studio produced three movies this year, and honestly all three could've been added to this list in a weaker year. I think what bonds this list of five films together is uniqueness: each put a spin on either a tired formula or predictable pattern and exceeded everyone's expectations, and brandished interesting and complex faces into the ever-growing, endlessly fascinating world of the movies.

For a couple hours at a time I was able to fly with Michael Keaton, investigate with Ben Affleck and drive with Tom Hardy. Movies have such a way of whisking you away for a while, and I think that's why everyone got so up in arms when The Interview was cancelled because of the Sony hackers. Though it's a low-brow bro-humor movie, everyone should be able to have free artistic license with their film, and we ultimately did not bow down.

As usual, here are a list of films I either need to see or regret missing last year that might have landed on this list: American Sniper, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Chef, Selma, St. Vincent, Nightcrawler, and Life Itself just to name a few. Without further ado, here are the movies that enthralled me, gripped me and most of all surprised me with how good the movies really can be:

5. BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE)
Yes, I included the full title out of respect for the jazziest (and there was a movie about a jazz drummer on here!), most gonzo film of the year. I grew up on Batman and Beetlejuice, so it was great to see another antihero come from Michael Keaton, the past-his-prime actor looking for redemption on Broadway while dealing with an egomaniacal actor and a resentful daughter. Keaton of course blows you away with his meta-depiction of a man trying to hold on, while Edward Norton and Emma Stone sneak up and shock you with how good they can be with bitter, self-involved characters. Though that ending will have people guessing for years to come, this biting showbiz satire with incredible cinematography and a percussion-only score is innovative and first-rate filmmaking.

4. GONE GIRL
David Fincher has become a Christopher Nolan of sorts. We all know the kind of movie he'll deliver (a dark, complex, winding character study of some sort) and we flock to see it. I was unfamiliar with the source text that Gillian Flynn adapted from her own novel, but I can imagine if it's as faithful as people say it is, it's a mature, devastating take on a seemingly perfect marriage. When these two minds meet not a lot can go awry, especially if you have Batfleck and Rosamund Pike on your team, the latter who might be looking at taking home some Oscar gold. There are two different sides we see in Gone Girl that make you revaluate the entire story. That's what a good mystery should do, and even if it hadn't have accomplished that, getting a good performance out of Tyler Perry should count for something.

3. LOCKE
Easily the most underrated and under-seen movie of the year, Locke follows Tom Hardy as Ivan Locke. In a car. For an hour and a half. One of the most minimalist movies I've ever seen, this film locks you in for a startling 90 minutes, as you watch the life of a man crumble. Hardy's post-Bane career has gone nowhere but up, and this look at a man you feel 20 different things about at once is remarkably astonishing. Is he a villain? A hero? A bad father? A man of his word? No, he's just a man, and I thank writer/director Stephen Knight for letting us glimpse into the worst night of his life. Go rent this often funny tragidramedy now and see what the Oscars will overlook.  

2. THE LEGO MOVIE
Honestly if my number one movie hadn't come out, I don't know if there would've been anything to even remotely coming close to topping this movie. It was one of the funnest experiences in my movie-going life, seeing this with friends on a Saturday night in a theater in 3D. This movie was packed to the brim with kids and I didn't even care. I don't like kids! This movie did bring out the kid in me though, I was laughing probably every other minute, the rest of the time my brain was trying to comprehend the sheer hard work put into this movie. The gorgeous visuals, the A-list voicing cast (oh my God, Morgan Freeman as Vitruvius destroyed me), and maybe something that's gotten overlooked: the message. The movie takes a strong voice in saying kids should be themselves, pushing creativity and individualism. It is a perfect animated movie, constructed as well as a professionally-made Lego castle.

1. BOYHOOD
Was there ever any doubt? Though The Lego Movie was my favorite movie-going experience, Richard Linklater's magnum opus was like watching my life unfold before me. I'm going to tip the scales to Boyhood, everyone's favorite movie of the year. Let's put aside the fact that my life currently lined up with the titular boy, Mason (the incredibly game Ellar Coltrane), and I too played 20Q, was obsessed with Harry Potter and had a lot of dumb middle school friends. Besides it being so massively relatable to me even though I wasn't born in Texas or had abusive stepdads, the movie touches a nerve with anyone who's been a mother/brother/father/daughter. It is a human story, and instead of hitting the birthdays, riding a bike, getting a first kiss, Linklater narrows down to the nitty gritty: getting bullied, taking a hike with your dad, your teacher telling you you need to get your life together because you're going to college. I went to college a few weeks after seeing Boyhood! This movie made me feel alive and happy to see the tale of a 2000s kid finally being brought to life so beautifully onscreen. Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke are some of the most realistic, caring parents ever depicted on film. The enormous obstacle of shooting over twelve years is the achievement that the Academy Awards will surely recognize. But how Boyhood resonated and stayed with me long after we see Mason looking out at the future that awaits him is the true accomplishment.

Read on to see some more movies that juuuuust didn't make the cut and some that I'd like to cut out of my memory!