Breaking Down the 2015 Academy Award Best Picture Nominees

The Best Picture Nominees:

  • American Sniper
  • Birdman
  • Boyhood
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • The Imitation Game
  • Selma
  • The Theory of Everything
  • Whiplash


I have watched all eight of the movies listed above. Now, I will attempt to go through them one-by-one and give a brief explanation of my personal opinion of each movie, as well as evaluate their chances of winning on the big night.


American Sniper


I have already reviewed this movie (find it here), but I will quickly reiterate the main gist of my feelings on it. It isn’t bad. Bradley Cooper has one of his best performances as sniper Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in U.S. Military history. Clint Eastwood creates some good action sequences. But the problem is that this movie isn’t a pure action or a pure war movie: it is trying to tell Kyle’s story. That’s where I fall off with this movie. The emotional resonance is lost on me. In all honesty, it might be the worst movie of the eight.


This being said, don’t count American Sniper out. It is the biggest January blockbuster in history with over $200 million dollars and counting. This isn’t to say that the Oscars favor high-grossing movies (they almost always don’t, as a matter of fact). But given that this movie has gained so much traction in the last month alone gives it a reasonable shot at sneaking in and pulling the carpet out from under Boyhood and Birdman. Speaking of which…





I fell in love with this movie the first time I saw it. There was something aesthetically different about it. The tracking shots and unique score mark this movie as something that is far outside what the Academy normally honors. In my mind, the Academy likes to err on the side of period pieces and conventional Hollywood films. Because of this, you get a lot of movies being released in November and December that cater toward what the production companies think the Academy might like (more on this later…).


Although Birdman doesn’t come off as Oscar-fodder, it still has a pretty good shot at winning the big prize. I would place it as the second favorite for Best Picture. It has gained a lot of accolades and, even if it doesn’t take home the biggest award of the night, I would definitely bet on it taking at least one category somewhere in the show.





There’s a special place in my heart for Whiplash (and it made my best of 2014 shortlist, which can be seen here). I was so totally engrossed in this film that I was literally on the edge of my seat. And this is a movie about jazz, for Christ’s sake! If any movie about jazz can keep my interest for 100 minutes, then I’m sold on it. J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller are both lightning hot in this movie. The cinematography is beautiful. The music is electrifying. I feel that the only downside is the simplicity of the story, but I didn’t think that that took too much away from the overall experience.

I can’t imagine a scenario in which this movie wins Best Picture. But if it does, I will almost certainly jump out of my chair and yell “Holy S–t” as loud as I can. Maybe.


The Grand Budapest Hotel


Having watched this movie over ten times (don’t ask me why), I know a thing or two about how it’s all put together. And it’s an incredibly well-crafted film. I’ve always been on the train of thought that if you’ve seen one Wes Anderson movie, then you’ve seen them all. And I still believe that to an extent. However, The Grand Budapest Hotel seems different for Anderson. It is darker and less afraid to deviate from the quirky nuances that he puts into all of his films. I would argue (though not with much confidence) that it is his best film. It is my favorite of his, just narrowly brushing past The Royal Tenenbaums by a hair. Anderson’s mise-en-scene choices are exactly what you would expect, the writing is nearly flawless, the cinematography is solid, and the acting is impeccable, especially from lead Ralph Fiennes.


In a different year, I could see this winning Best Picture. The competition is too tough this year, though. Maybe next time, Wes!



The Imitation Game


Remember before, when I mentioned that some movies have that general mood that seems to be screaming to the Academy: “Give me an Oscar!” The Imitation Game kind of felt like that sort of movie to me. At least when compared with the other nominees. It’s not a bad film by any means, but it seems very conventional. Alan Turing’s story is great, and Benedict Cumberbatch does a brilliant job playing him. But the narrative on screen is lacking. Not to mention that Turing’s homosexuality is haphazardly thrown into the plot midway through, and the tone of that subplot doesn’t quite mesh with the code-breaking aspect of the film.


There was a time when I thought The Imitation Game might pull an upset against the frontrunner. That moment is long past. Now it seems like the film has little to no chance at taking home the statue. Don’t expect this one to upset.





I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. Most biopics play in such a similar fashion that once you see one, you feel like you’ve seen them all (Hey, just like Wes Anderson movies!). Selma feels a bit different. Maybe it is the specific focus on one part of MLK’s massive contribution to the Civil Rights Movement. Or it could simply be David Oyelowo’s great performance. But there is something about Ava DuVernay’s directorial style that also caught my attention. I think, given the opportunity, she could make a truly amazing film. Selma was good, but I think that DuVernay can do even better. And I hope I’m right.


Selma was snubbed in other categories (aside from “Glory” getting a nod for Best Original Song), so there is no indication that it has a chance in the big race (you can see what else got snubbed in this year’s Oscar nominations here). I would be more than surprised if it pulled out a win.



The Theory of Everything


I really enjoyed this film. Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne both had remarkable performances. They kept me glued to the screen. But beyond them, there isn’t much more that is noteworthy about the movie. It has a good score and a decent script, but it doesn’t stand out among the other candidates. I can’t see The Theory of Everything winning.





This is the one that has Best Picture ostensibly stamped right on its forehead in red ink. A movie by a universally-acclaimed filmmaker (Richard Linklater) that took 12 years to make. An achievement in its decade-plus long production alone, this movie is incredible. Beyond that, though, this is a really good movie. It does plod along a bit down the stretch, but overall it is a heartfelt film with solid, consistent performances all around.

Boyhood will win Best Picture. I would be shocked if anything else did. It’s that simple, folks.


Ranking the Nominees By Chances of Winning:

  1. Boyhood
  2. Birdman
  3. American Sniper
  4. The Grand Budapest Hotel
  5. The Imitation Game
  6. The Theory of Everything
  7. Whiplash
  8.  Selma



As always, thanks for reading!



What movie do you think will nab Best Picture this year? Do you think there were any movies that weren’t nominated but should have been? Let me know in the comments!


–Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)


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