The Imitation Game (winner)
The Theory of Everything
2014 is an interesting year for adapted screenplays. There are plenty of good ones, but most are the type of film that Oscar doesn’t tend to notice, or at least didn’t six years ago. It was a banner year for comic book/graphic novel movies. X-Men: Days of Future Past is an obvious choice, as is Guardians of the Galaxy. Kingsman: The Secret Service was based on a graphic novel as well, and certainly could be a part of this conversation as much as anything else. Animated movies are rarely chosen for screenplay nominations, but How to Train Your Dragon 2 had a damn good story. Still Alice nabbed some nominations, though, and it might well belong here. The biggest miss? Gone Girl.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. I genuinely disliked Whiplash so much. As a teacher, I found the movie absolutely offensive on so many levels. Any teacher who acted the way Fletcher does would be run out of town on a rail and would have dozens and dozens of lawsuits following him. Whiplash promotes a culture of abuse and, like so many abusers, attempts to pass this off as “helping” or “teaching.” Any attempt to normalize this shit, even as a cautionary tale, is pure garbage. I know the Academy should do better, but it won’t.
4. I could say a lot the same about American Sniper. While it’s not actively pro-abuser in a lot of ways, it is a movie that attempts to absolutely dry-dick the audience with a star-spangled boner. This is not me being anti-war and complaining about a pro-war movie. This is a movie that glorifies itself in the deaths of non-white people. I realize that there are plenty of people who enjoy this kind of thing, but the reveling in the real-world deaths of other people is not something I will ever understand or condone. Fuck this movie.
3. I didn’t hate The Theory of Everything, but it is so badly mis-focused that I wonder at the point of it. A biopic about one of the greatest scientific minds of the last several generations, and what we get are slices of home life and musings about whether or not Hawking believed in a god (which he didn’t, incidentally). We could have had a movie about the science, about the ideas the drove him, but instead, we get this. It was a missed opportunity for something that could have been interesting instead of, ultimately, a movie of the week.
2. I’m honestly not sure I fully understood Inherent Vice. That’s not going to be a shock, given that in general, the author on whose work the film is based (Thomas Pynchon) is notoriously opaque. It’s a film I should probably watch again when I’m wide awake and have absolutely nothing else to do for the entire running time and half an hour afterwards. That it managed to claw its way up to second place despite making about as much sense as a flavored suppository says a great deal, and not much good, about this set of nominations.
1. This leaves us with The Imitation Game, which was Oscar’s actual choice for this award. Given the five nominations, it’s the one I’m going with, even though it has some of the same problems as the Theory of Everything. It’s not necessarily focused correctly, although it’s more on track. It leaves out a great deal of what makes Turing such a tragic figure, and that could have been included more in the final film. Still, it tells a hell of an important story, and most of what it does, it does well enough. But it’s not my real choice.
This would have been a fine year for Oscar to get the stick out of its ass and nominate something both fun and interesting in this category. Oscar will probably never really enjoy pure popcorn movies like Kingsmen and will never really respect a good superhero film, but it could at least pretend every now and then. As for me, I’d almost certainly go with Gone Girl without a second thought.