What film will win the Best Picture Oscar this year? Will it be the one with the greatest production accomplishment? Will it be the one that takes you deep inside a character’s subjective world-view and makes you see life from his limited perspective? Or, will it be the story that has the most historical significance?
I love and appreciate the accomplishments of all of the films nominated for Best Picture this year. From a story perspective, most of them were spot on. We felt the stories. We rooted for the outcomes. We were mesmerized by the transformations. We applauded the spirit. We learned about people and situations that contributed to our world today. We connected with the emotional moments on a universal level. We felt the loss. We applauded the contributions. We grew up and we evolved. Yet still, some of the films resonated with me a lot more than others.
At the moment the three major contenders for best film appear to be BOYHOOD, BIRDMAN and THE IMITATION GAME. All three movies are brilliant in very different ways. It will be interesting to see if the voters go for nostalgia and production accomplishment, what life looks like from a limited worldview through incredible cinematic vision or the significance of a contribution left to the world by someone who while alive was never celebrated for his astounding accomplishments.
In BOYHOOD, we see the moments of what it is to grow up, what it is to parent, and what it is to evolve. We see a family start, fall apart, and come back together. We see our own families in some of these moments and feel our own nostalgia for what it is to grow up. The storytelling is not conventional. It is pieces of a life. I loved seeing what scenes were chosen to reflect the growth of the boy and the family. The determination it took to film over 12 years is a mind-blowing accomplishment.
With BIRDMAN, we experience what it is to see the world through a very limited worldview. I wrote a long time ago, “The best way to tell a strong story is to be present when your own is happening.” This idea is reflected in the wound/flaw of Birdman’s central character; his inability to be present. At first it feels like a narcissistic rant, but the story moves into deeper territory. It hits on universal themes with his of regret over a past choice, dysfunctional familial relationships, (the one that seems to cause him the most pain is between he and his daughter, and honestly, their dynamic is one of my FAVORITE parts of the film), his addiction/obsession with feeling validated, his limited worldview due to being manic, his living in what was versus what is, the list goes on. Birdman made me empathize with life from his perspective. It resonated with me strongly because it ‘s about the idea of the moments we can miss when we’re not present while in pursuit of a dream. The way that it’s shot like a play makes it stand out even more.
In THE IMITATION GAME, we learn about the tremendous contribution made by an individual whose intelligence and leadership shortened the Second World War and saved millions of lives. The tragedy is that such a beautiful mind was convicted for the then criminal offense of homosexuality. The precipitating events shortened his life, and he didn’t live to see his secret role in the war declassified and his accomplishment celebrated. This story is phenomenal. I thought every character and every moment was threaded perfectly throughout. I loved how Alan named his machine after his childhood love, Christopher, who influenced him to go into cryptography and whose own life ended far too soon. Alan names his machine Christopher so his first love can live on. The film’s dialogue is witty and clever. The goal is clear. The stakes are very high and we are reminded of them throughout. The subtext in certain moments takes you deep into how Alan Turing views the world and what keeps him isolated. I really felt this story. I loved the quote that was delivered in three different critical moments, “Sometimes it is the very people who no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.”
All three films are tremendous achievements in varying ways and all have great value. It will be fascinating to see if the voters cast their ballots for nostalgia and durational accomplishment, regret over life’s missed moments or historical significance and contribution. All three movies bring us into life perspectives that make us feel the powerful themes of the films.