As we entered our empty nesting period, Candice and I took the plunge in 2012 and made a pledge to try and see all of the year’s films nominated in the Academy Awards’ “Best Picture” category. We (almost) succeeded – seeing eight of the nine 2012 nominees – and every year since we’ve taken on the same challenge. While we seldom get to all the films (we generally avoid the gratuitously violent ones such as 2013’s Django Unchained), we’ve seen the vast majority and have really enjoyed talking and – in my case – writing about them.
This year there are eight nominees, and as we enter the final month we now have three under our belt. The Grand Budapest Hotel is a wonderful, lush, and very funny film by Wes Anderson, which we saw in March when it was first released. The acting by Ralph Fiennes as the concierge, along with that of the rest of the ensemble, is delicious while the plot is convoluted and crazed. This is a very good film…but not the winner!
On Saturday, we walked to the historic AFI Silver Theatre in downtown Silver Spring to see The Imitation Game. The story of Alan Turing, who helped break the German code in WWII and pioneered the computer in the process, is simply terrific. There is so much to consider when watching this movie. It covers three periods of Turing’s life – his unhappy childhood, his work during the war, and his arrest after the war for his homosexuality. His physical and mental deterioration is such a sad ending for a unique talent. The line that spurs Turing in his youth, he then uses on fellow code-breaker Joan Clarke, and she ultimately uses to encourage him during his last year of life sums up the wonderful message of this movie: “Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.” Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing and Keira Knightley as Clarke are both remarkable. They turn in top-flight, Oscar-worthy performances. Highly recommended, and a great candidate for Best Picture.
Earlier today, we returned to the AFI Silver Theatre to watch The Theory of Everything, about the life of physicist Stephen Hawking and his first wife Jane Hawking. This was another excellent movie, with incredible performances by Eddie Redmayne as Stephen and Felicity Jones as Jane. Hawkings’ diagnosis of motor neuron disease, soon after he meets Jane, sets up the challenges of increasing fame and increasing physical deterioration that drive the movie forward. Both The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game demonstrate that movies without animation and action – and focused on brilliant minds, no less – can still be gripping, powerful, and moving.
Candice didn’t have a favorite between the last two, but I feel that The Imitation Game has more depth and is ultimately more satisfying. So with three down, the completely untrained but joyfully opinionated DJB rankings for Best Picture stand as follows:
1. The Imitation Game
2. The Theory of Everything
3. The Grand Budapest Hotel
Come back next weekend, as we’ll have at least two others to add to the list.
Let’s go to the movies!
More to come…