Entertainment Movies

Oscars 2015: Your guide to the Best Picture nominees

Liz Braun, Jim Slotek, and Bruce Kirkland, QMI Agency

Photos of the eight best picture nominees for this year's Academy Awards. (Handouts)

Photos of the eight best picture nominees for this year's Academy Awards. (Handouts)

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There are nine films up for Best Picture at this year’s Oscars. Here are our capsule reviews for the nominees.

American Sniper

OSCAR NOMS: 6

Director: Clint Eastwood

Stars: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller

BOX OFFICE SO FAR: $307,000,000 (domestic)

Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper is an often lazy and somewhat hazy propaganda film about American heroism and hell in the Iraq War. Partly, I blame Eastwood’s lazy way of filmmaking. It is not his age — he is 84. It is not his talent — he has directed some great movies, among them Unforgiven, Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby. But it is his attitude — Eastwood rarely demands script rewrites, shoots quickly and casually, and finally just gets on with the job. But his fellow traveler on this journey is noteworthy. Bulking up for the role, temporarily changing his facial structure to mimic the look and sound of the real man, Bradley Cooper plays U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle with an intensity that he reserves for roles that really fire him up. 2.5 stars out of 5 - Bruce Kirkland

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Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

OSCAR NOMS: 9

Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Stars: Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis

BOX OFFICE SO FAR: $36,000,000 (domestic)

This black comedy about celebrity, fame and the sad state of movie stars Michael Keaton as an actor who tries to make a comeback with a Broadway play years after he found fame playing a superhero. Hmmm — that's oddly familiar. Are we all standing in a hall of mirrors? Yes indeed, right alongside Edward Norton, Emma Stone and Naomi Watts. An unexpected pleasure from Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu; funny, clever and terrific visually, and one of the best movies of the year. 5 stars out of 5 - Liz Braun

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Boyhood

OSCAR NOMS: 6

Director: Richard Linklater

Stars: Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette

BOX OFFICE SO FAR: $25,000,000 (domestic)

Boyhood is not just the best film of Richard Linklater’s 26-year filmmaking career in Texas. It is simply and elegantly one of the best films of 2014. As storytelling, Boyhood is a superbly conceived drama about one boy’s life as he grows up through his 12 years of schooling prior to college. As cinema, Boyhood is a quiet revolution in technique. The film is 166 minutes long. Yet it is so affecting, so much a thing of wonder, that it could run forever and I would still keep watching. 5 out of 5 stars - B.K.

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The Grand Budapest Hotel

OSCAR NOMS: 9

Director: Wes Anderson

Stars: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Edward Norton

BOX OFFICE SO FAR: $59,000,000 (domestic)

Wes Anderson’s latest opus, The Grand Budapest Hotel, is bloody bonkers and simply splendid.

That said, if you reject the work of America’s most eccentric filmmaker, there is nothing scattered among the grotesqueries and pleasures of the new film to entice you. Anderson’s cinema is so particular and so peculiar that individual taste is critical. 4.5 stars out of 5 - B.K.

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The Imitation Game

OSCAR NOMS: 8

Director: Morten Tyldum

Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode

BOX OFFICE SO FAR: $80,000,000 (domestic)

The Imitation Game is an historical biography about a unique human being who quietly, and even furtively, revolutionized the modern world while saving millions of lives during World War II. Oddly, perhaps, there is nothing unique about the film itself — except for the mesmerizing performance by Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role. Cumberbatch embodies the role of Alan Turing with a profound grace and a singular determination that verges on genius. 4 stars out of 5 - B.K.

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Selma

OSCAR NOMS: 2

Director: Ava DuVernay

Stars: David Oyelowo, Oprah Winfrey, Carmen Ejogo, Tom Wilkinson, Tim Roth

BOX OFFICE SO FAR: $48,000,000 (domestic)

In telling the story of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. before and during the now-famous Selma-to-Montgomery protest march early in 1965, Ava DuVernay’s historical film is solid if unspectacular. Yet it burns with a fierce intensity beneath the surface, especially in the mesmerizing performance of David Oyelowo. 4 stars out of 5 - B.K.

The Theory of Everything

OSCAR NOMS: 5

Director: James Marsh

Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Emily Watson, David Thewlis

BOX OFFICE SO FAR: $33,000,000 (domestic)

Director James Marsh takes an unremarkable, chronological approach to the life of cosmologist Stephen Hawking. Hawking is a man whose state of being is irony itself – a mind that takes wings through the universe and time, while trapped in an atrophied, immobile body. As Hawking, Oscar front-runner Eddie Redmayne (Les Miserables) performs with the precision of an athlete. 4 stars out of 5 - Jim Slotek

Whiplash

OSCAR NOMS: 5

Director: Damien Chazelle

Stars: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist

BOX OFFICE SO FAR: $10,000,000 (domestic)

Director Damien Chazelle, who based the story on his own experience as a student jazz drummer in the thrall of an Alpha task-master, has created a remarkably economical and claustrophobic piece of storytelling. J.K. Simmons’ Terence Fletcher, a failed jazz pianist and a foul-mouthed brute, is a real revelation. The actor – best known of late for cuddly roles such as the dad in Juno – draws on some of the dramatic poison that first brought him to fame as the white supremacist in TV’s Oz. Villains get all the attention, rightly so here. 4 stars out of 5 - J.S.

**Box office figures obtained from boxofficemojo.com**

 


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