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Oscar Awards honor remarkable films

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Despite all the controversy surrounding this year’s Academy Awards, from lack of diversity to the absence of praise for foreign films, I find myself oddly pleased with the outcome. The films and actors that came out victorious deserved their awards simply because they displayed great stories and performances, which is what the Oscars are meant to recognize. I did not get the chance to view every film and every actor’s performance, but from what I saw, I consider this year as one that produced outstanding cinema.

Let’s start with the winner of Best Picture: Birdman, or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance. Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s film blew me away with extraordinary cinematography. The film told a story of an individual struggling to regain recognition and to find a sense of relevancy, a struggle that most of us can relate to.

With a driving score that features little more than a drum set for the majority of the film, Birdman throws the audience into its world of a Broadway play and the lives of the performers. The movie is funny, despite its underlying sense of melancholy. Each character has underlying conflicts – ranging from ego to love – that get cast into a cauldron of conflict that adds more substance to a movie full of dark humor.

Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts and many other outstanding actors work together to bring the film’s Broadway cast to life. They play off each other, creating a sense that the audience is watching a performance within a performance. Birdman deserved the win, despite being up against many other outstanding films, many that I have not had the chance to see.

Another performance that stood out to me as one worthy of going down in cinema history is Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of Dr. Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. Some were surprised by Redmayne’s win as Best Actor in a Leading Role, yet I don’t believe any other performer deserved it. Redmayne’s ability to flawlessly depict the physical symptoms of ALS created a film so emotional that I found myself tearing up at many points during the film.

Physical performance is an aspect of film that is often overlooked or cast aside as something that comes after an actor’s ability to perform vocally, yet Redmayne proved that this notion is false. At many points I thought I was watching Hawking himself on screen, battling struggles so great that I found myself reevaluating the work ethic that I put into my studies sorry, Mom and Dad. Redmayne’s performance was driven by the emotion of Hawking’s personal experiences with love, health and dream of finding a single equation to explain everything. I firmly believe that a truly great performance is one that will make me emotional, despite my tough exterior shell.

It is also important to look past the awards and recognize films that speak to the individual, and the one film that I found myself watching over and over was Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. The score can best be described as the pinnacle of music found in film history. With a cast brimming with talent, from Ralph Fiennes to Bill Murray, Wes Anderson has created a film that is both hilarious and serious at the same time. So if you are looking for something to do on a lonely Tuesday evening, I highly recommend The Grand Budapest Hotel, a film that captures a time period in Central Europe that was almost on the fringes of being lost, and a story that will be enough to brighten anyone’s day.

After seeing the great films that came out this year, I greatly anticipate the cinematic masterpieces that will follow in 2015.

hatzky1@stolaf.edu