Eight films are up for Best Picture in the Oscar race

By Joe Ostrica

	The Academy Award nominations were announced recently, and the eight films that made the cut are: “American Sniper,” “Birdman,” “Boyhood,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “The Imitation Game,” “Selma,” “The Theory of Everything” and “Whiplash.” Two of the films - “Boyhood” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” - are available on DVD and blu ray. The other six movies are currently in theaters.
	Here's a look at this year's Best Picture nominees:
	“American Sniper” was ignored by the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild nominations, but its recent red-hot fire at the box office and wide national release has given this Clint Eastwood film a lot of momentum going into the Feb. 22 Oscar ceremony. Since opening wide a few weeks ago, this story about real-life Navy SEALS sniper Chris Kyle has set box office records for R-rated dramas, January weekends and now a record-breaking weekend for Super Bowl weekend ($31.85 million), bringing its total to nearly $250 million. Those are summer box office type of numbers usually reserved for PG-13 comic book films, not R-rated war dramas aimed at adults. The film is amazing, Bradley Cooper's chances of being an upset to win the Best Actor Oscar are increasing by the day and the film is definitely one of the best of the year. Go see it on the big screen while you can. Grade: A
	“Birdman” is an insanely ambitious technically shot film (the movie is made to appear like it was done in one take), features an amazing performance in the comeback of the year from Michael Keaton and has a stellar supporting cast surrounding him, including fellow Oscar nominees Edward Norton and Emma Stone. The under-the-miscroscope look into the world of actors and Broadway may be too inside for some filmgoers, but may be extremely rewarding for those who love cinema and the art it can be. Grade: A-
	“Boyhood” may be a small story, following a boy's life from the ages of 7 to 18, but it was an epic undertaking, with filmmaker Richard Linklater and his actors getting together for two weeks every year for a 12-year period to make the film. Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke (both Supporting Actor nominees) are terrific and its a wonder to watch lead Ellar Coltrane grow up into a young man before your eyes. Grade: A
	“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is filmmaker Wes Anderson's most ambitious film to date, a period film that has an enormous cast, a grand story packed into a tight 100 minutes and displays some of Anderson's most complex setpieces to date. The academy recognized this too, honoring the film with the most Oscar nominations (nine), tied with “Birdman.” Grade: A-
	“The Imitation Game” is quietly becoming a box office hit ($68 million and counting) and it's a fascinating true story that many people don't know about, showing the impact British mathematician Alan Turing (nominee Benedict Cumberbatch) and his team had on cracking a Nazi code that helped stop World War II. Turing was also persecuted later in life, but to reveal why would be a spoiler. Grade: B+
	“Selma” tells the story about Martin Luther King and his attempt to secure equal voting rights and the crucial march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965 that helped the cause. There has been controversy over the film not receiving any acting or directing nominations, but 2014 has been a very crowded field of contenders and only a handful of slots to fill. Grade: B+
	“The Theory of Everything” tells the fascinating story of physicist Stephen Hawking, following decades of his life, showing his college years at Cambridge in the 1960s, the love of his life Jane and the suffering he goes through when diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease. Eddie Redmayne is amazing as Hawking and is the leading contender to win the Best Actor trophy. Felicity Jones is also wonderful as Jane. Grade: B+
	“Whiplash” is possibly the smallest film of the bunch, but this independent gem is a gripping tale, following jazz drummer student Andrew (Miles Teller) as he is instructed by abusive instructor Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) who is trying to make his students sound perfect and reach their full potential, but teaches as if he's a drill sergeant for the Marines. The film is edited beautifully and is as suspenseful as an action film at times. Simmons is the one sure-thing lock in the Best Supporting Actor category. Grade: A-


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