Won 1 Oscar (Best Writing [Adapted]) / Nominated for 7 more (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Production Design)
The premise of cracking an enigma code doesn't sound too interesting on the surface. However, just watching the trailer and hearing the music of this film got me hooked. This was one of my most anticipated movies of the year and it did not disappoint. Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightly both had my vote for the Oscars in their respective categories. It slows down like most British films, but the story doesn't suffer. The sluggish pace is a good thing in this instance and adds to the suspense. The acting by the whole ensemble is excellent and my lack of knowledge about Alan Turing made the story very intriguing. Like Selma (2014), the story is a nice combination of biopic and a very specific instance in the person's life, in this case, working on the enigma code during World War II. I wish it won more awards, but it is a great film nonetheless.
Won 0 Oscars / Nominated for 0 more
Groundhog Day (1993) and sci-fi had a baby and this is the result. A very fun experience, Edge of Tomorrow can't be heralded for being ground-breaking or industry-defining. However, it does everything a good science fiction movie should do. The story is fast paced, the effects are well done, and the acting isn't terrible. Emily Blunt is also here. Always a plus. Like Oblivion (2013), I keep enjoying these annual Tom Cruise sci-fis. I have just come to accept it as part of my cinema taste. Although this film is full of shaky plot points and unbelievable developments, it still had me upright in the edge of my seat until the very end. This is a wonderful addition to the science fiction catalog.
Won 0 Oscars / Nominated for 1 more (Best Animated Feature)
I would have never seen this one if I did not make it a point to watch every nominated animated feature every year. I am glad I do because this is a visually stunning piece that also has a fun, fantasy story. The narrative puts Irish and Scottish legends in a blender and distributes them in one cohesive screenplay. The artwork that brings these legends to life is something to behold. My one gripe is the repeated song (of the sea) that occurs a little too often throughout the 93 minutes. However, the sheer sense of adventure in the last act of the film, mixed with a plethora of awesome characters makes this one of my favorite non-Disney/non-Pixar animated movies ever. There is one that tops it for this year, though...
Won 4 Oscars (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Writing [Original], Best Cinematography) / Nominated for 5 more (Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Sound, Best Sound Editing)
The big winner on the night, this tied with another movie on the list for most awards and nominations, with four and nine respectively. Birdman won three out of the five major awards. I was not rooting for it to win any of them, but I am glad it did if it was between this and Boyhood (2014). Michael Keaton returns to prominence with a wonderful performance as the leading role. He had the edge on Eddie Redmayne for a good stretch of Awards season, but fizzled late. His great cast of supporting characters, especially Edward Norton, is also brilliant. The most unique aspect of this one, however, is the cinematography. The majority of the movie, aside from the last minute or so, looks like one continuous shot. The camera is on the move the entire time, transitioning through walls and ceilings, and this sense of motion keeps the story going at rapid pace. The original percussion score mixed with some bombastic classical music from the romantic era is the icing on the cake. Not my choice for Best Picture, but still a very worthy winner. It also wins my award for best poster of the year.
Won 0 Oscars / Nominated for 1 more (Best Animated Feature)
An excellent sequel from DreamWorks (when has that ever been said?), Dragon was the frontrunner for Best Animated feature. I think Disney's Big Hero 6 (2014) was a poor choice to win this award as not only this movie, but Song of the Sea is better. This addition to the franchise is a rare breed of being on par, if not better, than the original. It is cool to see the main characters a little older and the creativity that goes behind each type of dragon. Small ones, big ones, really big ones, slow ones, fast ones, the variety is immense and makes for some really beautiful animation. The narrative is engrossing and just plain fun. Nothing is too surprising in the plot, but that is fine with me. What's more, we only have to wait three more years for Toothless and the gang in the third installment.
Won 0 Oscars / Nominated for 2 more (Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Visual Effects)
My favorite entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date, Guardians is, for many, the introduction of a diverse array of characters. Whether you like violent raccoons or gentle tree-men, there is a character to latch on to in this film. For me, this was also my introduction to Parks and Recreation's Chris Pratt. I've seen him in Her (2013) and Zero Dark Thirty (2012), but not in a major role. I like his comedic demeanor and have high hopes for him in the next Jurassic Park installment. Not only does Pratt turn in a great performance, but so does his co-actors. This movie combines this great acting with awesome music, visuals, a very fast pace, and progresses the MCU into new cosmic territory. It will be very interesting to see if the likes of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and the others ever meet up with these characters. Until that day, I'll just be hooked on a feeling.
Won 4 Oscars (Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Original Score, Best Achievement in Production Design) / Nominated for 5 more (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Writing [Original], Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing)
Wes Anderson's latest masterpiece had my vote for Best Picture. Although another nominee tops this in my personal list, I still think this is the best movie of 2014, overall. The acting is superb here as Ralph Fiennes continues to be my favorite modern day actor. The quirky story got snubbed when Birdman beat it out for the award. The narrative is a treat as a surprising amount of adventure takes place. The comedy is also on point. Each scene delivers a laugh in a very unique way that only Anderson can pen and Fiennes can deliver. Come to think of it, this Anderson/Fiennes combination is simply perfect. The music is also very good. I didn't think it should have won the award, but it makes up for the writing upset. I still like how the music compliments the very strange, characteristic Anderson cinematography. The yellowish tint and wide shots make this such a beautiful film. To recap, a great story, great acting, great music, great directing, and a great mix of comedy and drama all adds up to a tie with Birdman for most nominations at the Oscars. However, it comes up short in every major category, which is a shame. I think Wes Anderson will continue to deliver on a regular basis and he will have his day one of these years.
Won 0 Oscars / Nominated for 1 more (Best Visual Effects)
Bryan Singer's return to X-Men is long past due. Although X-Men: First Class (2011) put this franchise back on the right track, Days excels it to new heights. Two of my favorite things in stories is time travel and super heroes. By default, this film skyrockets near the top of my list. It's fun to see the diverse array of mutants and anything with Jennifer Lawrence and Hugh Jackman will always contend for movie of the year for me. This particular story is also a very pivotal moment in the comics. A few slight changes allows Jackman to be the lead role but if you complain about that, shame on you. It's fitting that Singer returns and melds the older actors of his original two films and the younger ones from First Class. It is done swimmingly and I couldn't have hoped for any better. Plus, the Quicksilver scene is one of the most talked about scenes of the year, featuring the song Time in a Bottle by Jim Croce.
Won 1 Oscar (Best Visual Effects) / Nominated for 4 more (Best Original Score, Best Sound, Best Sound Editing, Best Production Design)
Take one of the most popular directors of modern day cinema, mix in the 2013 Best Actor and 2012 Best Supporting Actress, and add in the sweetest eye candy this side of the Mississip, and you get the best IMAX experience I've ever had. Still a powerhouse on IMDb with an 8.8 rating on #21 on the Top 250, Interstellar makes you think, makes your mouth water, and draws you in to its world for a whopping 169 minutes. At nearly three hours, this movie pleases on so many levels. Matthew McConaughey continues to surprise me with his second above average performance in a row. Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain have their moments as well. Even Matt Damon makes a shocking appearance. The ensemble has prestige to spare. The story, which like X-Men, also has to do with time. Not exactly time travel, but the theory of relativity plays a huge role in the screenplay. Traveling through black holes and discovering new planets in a realistic setting in the not too distant future creates a very creepy aura and provides the perfect amount of tension. This is one that cannot be missed.
Won 3 Oscars (Best Supporting Actor, Best Film Editing, Best Sound) / Nominated for 2 more (Best Picture, Best Writing [Adapted])
My favorite film of 2014 is Whiplash, the story about a first year jazz drummer at a music conservatory, who auditions for and makes the top jazz studio band. J.K. Simmons was a lock for Supporting Actor, and rightly so. He gives his best performance of his life as the cut-throat instructor. This movie connects with me on so many levels. I was in jazz band in high school and learned to really love the music. The sampling of amazing jazz standards, especially the focus on Caravan (made famous by Duke Ellington) had me tapping my foot the entire movie. The incorporation of the tunes into the story is something to behold. I can understand Miles Teller's desire to be the best, especially in a musical setting. Watching the main character practice and interact with the instructor is a roller coaster of emotion. One moment, you think Simmons is fine with Teller's playing and you think triumph is right around the corner. The next, he goes on a very uncomfortable, yet artistically done tirade. It also brings up the question of how hard a mentor should push his or her mentee. If people didn't push their students extremely hard, we wouldn't have the greats today, in any field. But at what cost? Is being a legend in your craft worth your sanity? The magnificent writing (which is really original and not adapted, but that's another story) and beautiful music makes this movie worthy of all the adjectives sprawled all over its poster. It never had a shot at Best Picture, but it is my personal favorite of the year.