Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

  The Martian is Castaway in space.
Astronaut Mark Watney is marooned on Mars and is left to survive on his own for hundreds of days. He needs to deal with a diminishing food supply, as well as the innumerable hazards that come with being the only inhabitant on a lifeless planet. This is the epic story of survival and humanity banding together to save a man’s life. 

This is probably the best book I’ve read this year. The Martian is thrilling, suspenseful, and hilarious. Mark Watney’s narrative voice is utterly readable and memorable–almost addictive. This is a fantastically compelling story of a man and all that he will do to keep on living. 

Finally, other than the excellent writing, I appreciated the accessible hard science fiction here. Like Michael Crichton, Andy Weir has made this a book that doesn’t dumb down the technical aspects but brings the readers up to what they need to understand while also not wasting time on the minutiae.

The Martian is a rare book, and I look forward to seeing how the film adaptation treats it. The one thing they can’t leave out (which the trailer seems like it may…) is Watney’s irascible sense of humor. It’s an essential aspect of his character that should not be lost. It’ll be hard to replicate the “captain’s log” inner monologue format, but that helps keep the book from getting too dark. 

The Last Man on Earth – TV Series Review

**Contains spoilers for the pilot episode of The Last Man on Earth**

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You had me at “Chinese hello.”

In a sitcom landscape populated with crowded ensembles and overused concepts, here comes Phil Miller, the last man on earth.

The Last Man on Earth starts around two years after some unexplained catastrophe hit earth. Phil Miller (Will Forte) travels the country looking for another human alive, but to no avail. He settles down in his hometown of Tucson, Arizona, and tries to survive on his own. He does, but he’s going pretty crazy.

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The loneliness is getting to him. In one of the best scenes of the pilot, Phil decided it’s time to off himself. It’s surprisingly heartbreaking for a sitcom, even if we know he’s not going through with it. With confidence, The Last Man showed the audience that it’s not afraid to get dramatic.

It’s a sad concept if you think it through. That would be true lonliness. That’s why we immediately sympathize with Phil, and we want him to find another human.

And find one he does. Carol Pilbasian (Kristen Schaal) is everything Phil did not want to find in a partner. She’s corrective, annoying, and hilarious.

What I love about The Last Man is that in this wholly original concept, it finds it’s way back to sitcom tropes. The relationship between Phil and Carol is similar to many marriages in older sitcoms, with a nagging wife and the slacker husband. But here we have a whole new spin on things. They’ve got to get along or die alone. It’s pretty black and white.

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The concept drew me in, but it didn’t stop there. The visual comedy is some of the best on TV right now. Sight gags and funny cuts are used heavily, separating it from many of the dialogue driven sitcoms that are so prevalent (not that those are bad, mind you).

The Last Man on Earth has an immediately intriguing premise and pitch-perfect comedy, with two stars that we can’t help but root for. As long as Forte and director/producers Phil Lord & Chris Miller have a long-lasting plan for the series, The Last Man on Earth will be well worth tuning into for years to come.

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Fresh Off The Boat – TV Series Review

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ABC has been basking in the glory of their crown jewel Modern Family. It’s a cash cow, and it’s won the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series five years in a row (one for every single season so far), tying Frasier‘s record. They new they hit something good with relating to white families, so of course they must replicate it.

Black-ish premiered in fall 2014 and tried to do for black families what Modern Family did for white families. Anthony Anderson’s comedy is decent, but never truly feels original. It’ll last, I’m sure, but it’s not the newest and greatest show.

Enter Fresh Off The Boat. Premiering a bit under the radar, this new series stars an Asian family who makes a move from Washington, D.C. to Florida and must adjust during the mid-90s. Rather than focusing primarily on the adults, Fresh is narrated by Eddie, the eldest of the three elementary-age boys. Eddie’s perspective guides the show as the family makes due in their new lives. He’s a wannabe gangster rapper, and his nineties-vibe is hilarious and well-written.

FORREST WHEELER, IAN CHEN, HUDSON YANG, CONSTANCE WU, RANDALL PARK

The family is entirely likable, even the harsh Jessica (Constance Wu) and Louis, portrayed by the funny, if not the best actor, Randall Park. The secondary kids are all funny and decent actors, unlike all the kids in Black-ish. Of course Eddie is the standout as the lead. It’s a fresh perspective, different from the kids on Modern Family.

Fresh Off The Boat succeeds where Black-ish fails. While it centers on an Asian family, the storylines don’t hinge on racial stereotypes. While Black-ish (often a very funny show, don’t get me wrong) seems to only have one card to play, Fresh Off The Boat doesn’t use race as an excuse to fill every episode. Sure there are plenty of racial jokes and funny bits having to do with the Asian family, but it’s secondary to the main plot.

Don’t get me wrong, Black-ish is a funny show that will hopefully get better, but Fresh Off The Boat is the real “answer” to Modern Family. It’s got a unique perspective and hilarious take on the family sitcom. I hope it continues.

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Daniel’s Top Ten Films of 2014

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2014 provided to be an incredible year all-around for film. Amazing blockbusters, spectacular indies, and epic Oscar films. It also happened to be the year I saw more movies than I ever have before. I saw 51 films in theaters this year (most of them for free, don’t worry), and 84 films released overall in 2014. It was truly difficult, as it always is, to lay out my top ten films. Some choices were easy, and there were some tough cuts. I even had to cheat a little bit with one tie. These are films that affected me in some way, challenged me, enlightened me, or even simply humored me. Check out the list, along with some honorable mentions.

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10. TIE: CHEF, BEGIN AGAIN Okay, okay. So I cheated. But I really couldn’t decide between these two. The reason I paired them together is that I had very similar feelings about them both. They are purely happy films. They’re feel-good, enjoyable experiences. Begin Again was an absolute surprise going in, and I left the theater floored at just how fun the film turned out. Chef has an infectious energy that pervades the whole film. They both deal very much with creatives and the importance of an artist’s free expression. Both are musically driven and have fantastic soundtracks. I couldn’t decide which I like more, and I stand by that. They’re under-seen, happy films, and the world needs more just like them.

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9. STILL ALICE The closest thing to a horror movie you’ll find on my list, Still Alice was a terrifying look at Alzheimer’s disease. I expected to like Moore’s performance, but I didn’t realize I would love the movie so much. It’s such a simple film, modestly shot, very few locations, small scale, but it’s so effecting. There are moments of shock at the progress of the disease. It’s frightening. “I wish I had cancer,” she declares at one point, and we get it completely. Moore’s performance is so pitch-perfect, capturing the fear along with the forgetfulness of Alzheimer’s. This a powerful film exploring a real-life killer. Watch it.

TT158. SELMA What an eerily well-timed film. In my life, the Civil Rights movement has always felt before my time, in the past. Of course as this year has taught us, it’s not that simple. Oyelowo gives an absorbing performance, showing MLK’s powerful authority, his zen-like leadership, and his behind-the-scenes boiling anger. Selma is an excellent, thrilling film, beautifully shot and exciting. It’s not a perfect film, yet I understand the confusion (read: anger) over it’s lack of a real presence at the Oscars, but let’s remember it’s nominated for Best Picture. When other films miss out on nominations, we don’t cry racism. Maybe that’s the reason, or maybe the voters just liked other films more. Either way, Selma works, and it’s a film that will last.

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7. BIRDMAN What a captivating, unique film. Wonderfully shot as if in one-take, Birdman draws us in, making the camera, along with the audience, almost feel purely like a spectator of a real event. The performances are top-notch all around. I feel as though I need to see Birdman a second time. The first viewing was more to experience it, but a second time is necessary to really appreciate what Birdman is trying to say. There are plenty of excellent emotional moments, like when Sam rips her father apart, telling him he doesn’t matter. But there are plenty of hilarious moments too, like most of Mike Shiner’s scenes. Birdman is a such a unique creation.

guardians-of-the-galaxy-zoe-saldana-chris-pratt6. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY Easily the best blockbuster this year, and there were a lot of great ones to choose from. Guardians of the Galaxy is funny, it’s surprising, and it’s just purely, unashamedly awesome. Sure it’s part of a franchise, but it’s a completely new universe. Everything feels fully developed and lived in. Chris Pratt proves he’s a star and gives a great performance. Guardians isn’t perfect, but it’s infectiously fun.

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5. GONE GIRL Incredibly written and endlessly intriguing, Gone Girl never stops making you think. It’s a thriller that has you guessing from the moment you finish the trailer. Rosamund Pike gives one of the best performances of the year-or of most years- as Amazing Amy Dunne. The film is so spectacularly woven together, releasing precise pieces of info at very specific moments. Cutting back and forth from real-life to Amy’s diary was a beautiful choice that only muddied the waters even more. This is certainly one of the best written films this year. Gone Girl adds yet another powerful thriller to David Fincher’s near-perfect filmography.

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4. INTERSTELLAR Interstellar is more of an experience than most films. I saw the movie in true 70mm IMAX, and it was worth it. It’s an immersive ride that drives you to want more. Story-wise, Interstellar is more interesting than impactful. The family drama is a little cliche, the characters aren’t all-in-all original. I stuck with the exploration aspect the whole time, but it lost me when we were brought into the staircase dimension. Still, in the end, none of that seems to matter. These are minor mistakes in a spectacular film. It didn’t reach the heights it hoped, but it reached farther than most. It’s a beautiful film filled with wonder. Inspiring and intriguing, Interstellar leaves me wanting more films just like it.

TT203. THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING This was a surprising film, but in many small ways. We go into Theory of Everything expecting an Oscar-caliber performance from Redmayne, and he delivers whole-heartedly. We expect less from Felicity Jones, who succeeds and exceeds these expectations at every turn. Theory is romantic and sad, painful and inspiring. Such a well-crafted film from beginning to end. Despite a sad ending, you can’t help but leave the film happy.

Whiplash-5547.cr22. WHIPLASH It was a very, very difficult choice between my top two. I swapped the titles multiple times before posting. Despite a tough battle, Whiplash has settled at a very respectable number two. J.K. Simmons’ formidable, intimidating performance is what makes the film. But don’t get me wrong, Whiplash is so much more than just that. Through his screaming and torment, Simmons’ Fletcher forces his students to give him only the best. One of the best lines of the year is spoken more than halfway through the film: “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than ‘good job.'” Honestly, it’s hard to disagree with him in the moment. His methods are maddening and horrifying but he begs a tough question: how far would you go for greatness? An intense, well-crafted, exciting, dramatic piece of art, Whiplash simply works.

TT211. BOYHOOD

Boyhood is exactly, perfectly my type of film. It’s an achievement all on it’s own: following a central actor portraying a character over twelve years of his life, filming a little bit each year. It’s a powerful concept flawlessly executed. The acting isn’t all around the best, and the story isn’t the most complex and original, but it doesn’t matter. It simply feels real. It’s life, pure and simple. We watch Mason grow up right before our eyes. It’s a truly effecting experience filled with catharsis. We all grow up searching for answers and meaning, and here we watch one such journey play out. It’s a powerful thing, this search for truth. While Mason certainly hasn’t found absolute truth in the end, his journey impacts us. Boyhood will remain an important film for decades to come. A pure slice of what it was like to grow up in this age. This is film history in the making. This is powerful, raw, emotional storytelling. Boyhood is the best film of 2014, and one of the best films in decades.

Honorable Mentions:

Best Animated Film: The Lego Movie

Best Documentary: Citizenfour. Incredible, thought-provoking real-life thriller.

Biggest Surprise: Edge of Tomorrow

Best Under-Seen Film: Snowpiercer

Worst Film of the Year (that I actually saw: Pompeii

Tyler’s Top Ten Films of 2014

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Up front, let me be clear that this my list of my favorite films of 2014. This is not necessarily a list of which films should be nominated for any Oscars in particular. When I’m thinking of a list like this, I’m focusing on enjoyability, as well as rewatchability. I can watch a film and recognize that someone has a particularly outstanding performance , or that the film overall is technically superb, or even those few films that are so clearly, wholly phenomenal that they should garner an Oscar nod. Thus, this list may overlap with those we’ve been talking about this past weeks. However, I have to expand a bit: just because a film gets–and deserves–an Oscar nod doesn’t mean that it’s enjoyable or that I’d watch it over and over.

I’m looking for a whole moviegoing experience. Would I recommend it to others? Is it impactful or particularly important? Was it fun? Visually appealing? Obviously, this is largely a matter of taste, and it’s an incredibly unscientific process to formulate a result.

Here goes, in order:

1. Chef

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Chef might be my favorite film of 2014. It’s not the best, most technical film. I didn’t break new ground in cinematography; it didn’t have an actor contorting himself into a wholly different persona; it didn’t hit new heights of sexuality; and it won’t win Best Picture this Oscars Season. But I think it’s my favorite anyway–it’s just a joyful film. From the addictive, upbeat soundtrack to the redemptive relationship between a nearly estranged father and son, it hits on all cylinders. It’s a truly heartwarming film, yet it doesn’t fall into the cheesy category, something that I think has been missing of late.

2. Guardians of the Galaxy

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3. American Sniper

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This film reminded me of Zero Dark Thirty, which is a film I can watch and rewatch. I see that happening here. It is still an intriguing film, well-made and thoughtful. Bradley Cooper’s intense and true portrayal of PTSD, as well as the juxtaposition of war life and home life was poignant and significant. The quickness of the film was needed to highlight the blur of war, and the struggle that soldiers and their families must go through during transitions.

4. Gone Girl

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Gone Girl was a crazy, intense film. First of all, I almost never like a film more than the book from which it is adapted: Gone with the Wind, the Bourne Trilogy, The Godfather, Parts I & II, and The Hunger Games series. In this case, it’s hard for me to decide which I liked better, because this film is quite faithful. The book is deeply mysterious and emotional, as is the film, yet the film was more visceral and impactful than the book. Usually I don’t think that, because my imagination is pretty vivid, but in this case it was more gripping.

5. Interstellar

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Interstellar was one of those movies that I wanted but didn’t even know that I wanted. I love films like this: films that mess with time travel and space travel, that explore the ideas of what lengths we might have to go to in order to preserve the human race. That, combined with McConaughey, Chastain, and Hathaway’s stellar acting sells the gravity (puns intended!) of the situation that they’re in. Finally, add in Hans Zimmer’s rich organ-oriented score and the captivating visuals, and you have a perfect storm of a film.

6. Whiplash

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I had to pick my jaw up from the floor at multiple points throughout Whiplash. It was a deeply dark and disturbing film, but one that also probes the depths of passion and perseverance. This isn’t an inspirational film, but it is a film that readily delves into the dark corners of the drive to achieve greatness, not necessarily for the love of the creativity of art, but for the notoriety of that greatness. I loved the film, but I would have to think twice before getting ready to sit through it again, because it brought me to a dark place. The opening scene, however, is maybe the most precise and concise piece of characterization I have seen in a long time.

7. Birdman

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Birdman was a singularly immersive experience. From the opening moments, I was enraptured by almost every element: Keaton’s (dare I say) breakout performance, the single-take conceit, the seamlessly woven play within a film, and the slow psychological burn that underpins everything we see. Each performance was spot on, though not all are nomination-worthy. This film will battle for Best Director as well, and I think it may deserve both awards (as well as Keaton’s Best Actor nod). However, no other film on this list tries to do what this one accomplishes, nor possibly leaves such an impact.

8. Selma

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I was riveted by Selma, from the bombing early on to the frenetic, emotional riots and brutality throughout. This move easily deserves its place on this list of nominees, if only to balance out The Imitation Game‘s shortcomings. The acting is superb from all angles (every actor is British, except for Common and Oprah), the music accents everything emotionally, the story is relevant and impactful, and they didn’t have to hit anyone over the head with the message of peace and equality. It does it on its own without being underscored by epigrams at the end.

9. Jodorowsky’s Dune

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Jodorowsky’s Dune is a film that is many things at once, and they all work together to form a compelling narrative about a madman’s dream about a hippie’s trippy novel about drugs and war. It was described as the greatest movie never made, an influential film that preceded seminal movies like Star Wars, Alien, and Blade Runner. To see the inner workings of the making of this film, as well as the exploration of Jodorowsky’s film career, is like a bit of a film history class, but the most exciting one you’ll ever take.

10. Still Alice

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Still Alice was excellent, and Julianne Moore is the quiet, yet standalone winner for me. Even with the other good performances on this list, Moore is clearly at the forefront. Where Felicity Jones is the rock next to Redmayne’s deteriorating academic husband, Moore is both the rock and the quicksand, clasping desperately at sanity, hoping that it will remain, and preparing herself and her family for the inevitable. It was a heart-rending performance, and one that is all-too applicable to audiences today.

Runners Up:

I understand that, with some of the films above, you may be scratching your heads a bit. There are some surprises on my list. To comfort you, here’s my long list (in no particular order) of the top films of the year overall. Remember that I was looking for rewatchability, more than simply the greatness of the film itself.

  • Foxcatcher
  • Boyhood
  • Theory of Everything
  • Begin Again
  • Fury
  • Big Eyes
  • The Judge
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past
  • Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier
  • The Lego Movie
  • Babadook

Oscars 2015: FINAL Predictions

Daniel: Here they are! My final predictions. I’ve been a certified Oscar junkie for five or six years now, and those years were fairly easy to predict. Best Picture was pretty much sown up before the award show even began. Last year I correctly predicted 22 out of 24 categories. That’s a lot, if I do say so myself. This year, however, I expect different results. The 87th Academy Awards have been a really tough to predict, and that’s super exciting for movies! Take a look at our guesses, and let’s see how we do!

Tyler: This has been an excellent year for films, with some categories clearly locked, while most are wide open. I haven’t kept track of how many predictions I’ve gotten right, but I do OK. Here are our choices; see how we match up!

Don’t forget to fill out your own predictions and guess along with us on Sunday, Feb. 22nd!

 

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BEST PICTURE

Will Win:

T: Birdman

D: Boyhood, but it’s probably wishful thinking.

Should Win:

T: Birdman

D: Boyhood

BEST DIRECTOR

Will Win:

T: Richard Linklater, Boyhood

D: Alejandro Iñárritu, Birdman

Should Win:

T: Alejandro Iñárritu, Birdman

D: Richard Linklater, Boyhood

BEST ACTOR

Will Win:

T: Michael Keaton, Birdman

D: Michael Keaton, Birdman

Should Win:

T: Michael Keaton, Birdman

D: Eddie Redmayne, but Michael Keaton will be a deserving winner.

BEST ACTRESS

Will Win:

T: Julianne Moore, Still Alice

D: Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Should Win:

T: Julianne Moore

D: Rosamund Pike, but Moore also deserves it.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Will Win:

T: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

D: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Should Win:

T: J.K. Simmons

D: J.K. Simmons

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Will Win:

T: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

D: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Should Win:

T: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

D: Emma Stone, Birdman

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Will Win:

T: The Grand Budapest Hotel

D: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Should Win:

T: Boyhood

D: Boyhood

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Will Win:

T: The Imitation Game

D: The Imitation Game, but this is close with Whiplash

Should Win:

T: The Theory of Everything

D: Whiplash

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

Will Win:

T: How to Train Your Dragon 2

D: How to Train Your Dragon 2

Should Win:

T: Big Hero 6

D: The Lego Movie. Wait what do you mean it’s not nominated?!

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Will Win:

T: Citizenfour

D: Citizenfour

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Will Win:

T: Birdman

D: Birdman

BEST FILM EDITING

Will Win:

T: The Grand Budapest Hotel

D: Boyhood

Should Win:

T: Boyhood (Well…Birdman…)

D: Whiplash

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

T: Ida

D: Ida, but it’ll be a close fight with Leviathan.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Will Win

T: The Theory of Everything 

D: The Theory of Everything

Should Win

T: (Interstellar should win…)

D: The Theory of Everything

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

T: Glory, Selma

D: Glory, Selma

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

T: The Grand Budapest Hotel

D: The Grand Budapest Hotel

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING

T: Into the Woods

D: The Grand Budapest Hotel

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

T: The Imitation Game

D: The Grand Budapest Hotel

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

T: Interstellar

D: Interstellar

BEST SOUND EDITING

T: Birdman

D: American Sniper

BEST SOUND MIXING

T: Whiplash

D: Whiplash

BEST ANIMATED SHORT

T: Feast

D: Feast

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT

T: Joana

D: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT

T: The Phone Call

D: The Phone Call

Oscars 2015: Miscellaneous Category Roundup

Rather than break down every one of the 24 Academy Award categories, we dedicated posts to Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Supporting Actor and Actress. Here, we’ll take a brief look at a few other major categories. We’ll also post our full Oscar Predictions a few hours before the Awards, so you can see how wrong we’ll be!

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Best Original Screenplay

Birdman, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. and Armando Bo Boyhood Richard Linklater Foxcatcher E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson; Story by Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness Nightcrawler Dan Gilroy

Tyler: Here, we’re looking at writing, rather than all of the elements that makes or breaks movies (like direction or acting…small things like that). This year, we’ve seen quite a number of solidly-written films (though I feel like a more than usual number were adapted, rather than original…). With all the love that there is out there for The Grand Budapest Hotel, I suspect that it will win, though I think either Birdman or Boyhood should get it. Birdman‘s intense whackiness and exploration of darkness and psychopathy just beg for this award. Much like the Direction nominee, I’m looking at vision and construction here, and this film relies on its construction. Similarly, with Boyhood, Linklater had a 12-year vision, writing and revision over that period of time, planning in detail what would happen, yet adapting on the fly as the years stretched on. What’s really missing here is Chef by Jon Favreau.

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Best Adapted Screenplay

American Sniper Jason Hall The Imitation Game Graham Moore Inherent Vice Paul Thomas Anderson The Theory of Everything Anthony McCarten Whiplash Damien Chazelle

Daniel: This category was significantly weakened by the surprise omission of potentially the best-written film of the year, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. Without that incredible screenplay, that narrows this to a fight between The Imitation Game and Whiplash. I’ve already laid out my thoughts on Imitation. It’s a perfectly fine, very average film, but I would not be surprised to see the Academy reward it, especially with the focus on homosexuality. That said, I strongly think Whiplash is a better written film. Chazelle’s script builds tension and asks intriguing questions, making you question whether or not you agree with the villain. American Sniper could be a dark horse, and the Academy certainly loved the film and loves a war movie, and Theory of Everything made a big splash as well. Inherent Vice was the surprise nominee here, so don’t expect it to win.

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Best Original Score

The Grand Budapest Hotel Alexandre Desplat The Imitation Game Alexandre Desplat Interstellar Hans Zimmer Mr. Turner Gary Yershon The Theory of Everything Jóhann Jóhannsson

Tyler: This is my favorite category, and I’d have liked to write a full post solely on the film scores of the year, but I’ll try and hold my tongue a bit. I listen to film scores while I work, grade, and write. They’ve become the soundtrack of my life, in many real ways. I’ve made assignments for my students, having them score books we read just as they would a film, because without music, films wouldn’t affects us as they do. We’ve got two Alexandre Desplat scores, so statistically we’re looking at a clinched win for him. He’s one of my favorite composers, and I can always rely on him to produce a memorable score that’s subtle and moving. If I had to choose between the two Desplat entries, The Grand Budapest Hotel (which I’ve been quite hard on throughout this Oscar Season) stands out as more memorable, though that does not diminish The Imitation Game‘s quality (another film whose score works better than the film overall). Mr. Turner had a surprisingly good score, though it doesn’t stand up against the rest. I’m torn between The Theory of Everything and Interstellar here, because they both rise above the rest. Theory boasts a lush, magical score filled with wonder and sadness, while the pipe organs of Interstellar is so memorable and impactful that, like its cousin 2001: A Space Odyssey, it works best while paired with the visuals. If you twist my arm, though, Interstellar has it because of it’s shocking originality.

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Best Cinematography

Birdman Emmanuel Lubezki The Grand Budapest Hotel Robert Yeoman Ida Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski Mr. Turner Dick Pope Unbroken Roger Deakins

Daniel: There were a lot of great-looking films this year. The legendary Roger Deakins racks up another nomination, but he’ll still be left without a win for Unbroken. Rightly so. Even though it looks great, it’s far from Deakins’ best work. Ida and Mr. Turner are certainly nice to look at, if not much else. The Grand Budapest Hotel is very well shot and executes the director’s vision perfectly. But, none of them compare to the achievement of Birdman, presenting in one take. This is an incredible feat, and it looks amazing. Emmanuel Lubeski will win back to Oscars here after last year’s Gravity.

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Best Visual Effects

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Guardians of the Galaxy Interstellar X-Men: Days of Future Past

Tyler: This is a fun category, because it involves the more popular films, and usually the more exciting films. Usually, the winner here is the one also nominated for Best Picture (Gravity, Life of Pi, Inception). I’m looking here for the films that are pushing boundaries in visual effects. X-Men: Days of Future Past was a blast of a film, with some great effects, but it didn’t do new things, and I’d say the same for Captain America 2 and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which I know is winning awards all over the place. It’s a great film, and visually impressive, yet it’s not too different from its predecessor. Guardians of the Galaxy, however, does. It steps forward in the Marvel Universe as a wholly visual film, an experience from the opening seconds through the final battle. For me, it’s Interstellar all the way. Hands down, done and over with. It is stunning, with over the top visuals and subtle visuals that form an atmosphere and aesthetic for the film.

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Best Film Editing

American Sniper Boyhood The Grand Budapest Hotel The Imitation Game Whiplash

Daniel: Every Best Picture winner since 1981 have received a nomination for editing. That long record may change this year, as Birdman surprisingly missed out here. The Imitation Game is unimpressive. American Sniper is great, and war movies often succeed here. Budapest Hotel is benefitted by some hilarious cuts, but the frontrunners are Boyhood and Whiplash. Boyhood succeeds in keeping a consistent tone and pace over twelve years of filming, but my bet is on Whiplash for it’s intensity and power through strong editing.

Check back on 2/21/15 for our Final Oscar Predictions!