Monday, January 26, 2015

Best Picture Blitz 2015: Battle of the British Geniuses

I have a limited amount of time to summarize all eight nominees for the Best Picture Oscar, so today I'm going to combine two thematically similar contenders.

I'm talking, of course, about American Sniper and Whiplash.

You can't even tell which is which.
Ha ha! No, I'm joshing with you. The intense character-driven drama about music and passion and the hyper-American movie about the trained killer are not the two I'm talking about. Those are yet to come on our journey.

This year there are two Oscar-nominated films that are historical dramas about impaired British scientists and their groundbreaking work: The Theory of Everything, the story of physicist Stephen Hawking, and The Imitation Game, the gripping of tale of mathematician Alan Turing's quest to break the Nazi code with the world's first computer.

Also known as oh my God Eddie Redmayne and Benedict Cumberbatch are amazing.

Who knew science could be so adorable?
I've already written about The Theory of Everything a little bit. I enjoyed this movie more than Precocious Daughter, although we both agreed Mr. Redmayne gave a really excellent performance. It was a finely written movie, but I think it was a bit hampered by the lack of dramatic tension. After all, we all know that Professor Hawking formulated his breakthrough theory before succumbing to ALS. In fact, we all know that Professor Hawking didn't succumb to ALS at all, at least not as of this writing. He's still going strong at age 72.

And still sassy.
Of course, we also know that Alan Turing did in fact invent the machine that cracked the Nazi ENIGMA code. Hmm. Yeah. So there is kind of the problem with historical dramas.

Here's another problem: We have two movies that hinge on the main character's relationship with a strong, intelligent woman, and those parts are still way underwritten. Not that Keira Knightley and Felicity Jones don't give really excellent performances. They do. It's just that they're making the most of parts that simply don't have the depth and complexity of the male leads. Or even of the secondary male characters in their respective films.

Mark Strong as MI6 agent Stewart Menzies
especially blew me away.
I guess I shouldn't complain. I mean, great parts for women are hard to come by, so good parts should be appreciated, right?

I hate even having to rationalize it that way. And the most frustrating part of all is that Felicity Jones gave the stronger performance of the weaker character, and vice versa for Keira Knightley.

They're both too awesome to have to split hairs like that.
But enough venting. Both movies really are very, very good. I'm thinking, though, that being so similar in general subject matter, they may end up splitting the Academy's vote, both for Best Picture and Best Actor. Kind of a shame, but on the other hand, kind of an embarrassment of riches.

I recommend them both, but if you only see one, see The Imitation Game. The ensemble cast works better for my money, and the script is a smidge more artful.

Also...Benedict Cumberbatch.

I will not squee, I will not squee.


From an abundance of professional admiration, of course.


  1. Bennie deserves to hear the squeed his visage elicits. He needs to hear it. I mean, how else is he going to find you?

  2. As much as I want to see The Imitation Game what happened to Turing is pretty heartbreaking. Sure, he's been pardoned and even put on British money, but all that came kind of late. That's the down side of historical/biographical dramas. You know how they're going to end.

    I felt that way recently watching the BBC telepic Poet In New York, about the final years of Dylan Thomas. I've read three biographies and visited Thomas's home in Wales, but the end was still so very hard to watch.


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