|Patricia Arquette and Ellar Coltrane in Boyhood|
1. Boyhood - How anybody can not be completely blown away by the achievement of this 12-year project by Richard Linklater is beyond me. It's a drama about a kid growing up, in which all the actors actually age in real time through the course of the filming. More than that - it's a really great life story, beautifully performed. Patricia Arquette will win the Oscar for this one, and if Linklater doesn't, it's simply wrong.
|Agata Trzebuchovska in Ida|
|Michael Keaton in Birdman|
4. The Imitation Game - This was the film that was recommended to me more than anything else this season, and it does not disappoint. Benedict Cumberbatch deserves the Oscar for his highly nuanced portrayal of a conflicted gay autistic savant who paid as dearly for his sexual proclivities as for his OCD pursuit of a machine that can think. Keira Knightley is tolerable but not on the same level as her co-star. Daunting British accents for the hard-of-hearing; otherwise very enjoyable and extremely moving.
6. The Grand Budapest Hotel - Super-quirky, especially when it goes (literally) off the rails into a sledding fantasy. Anything this original that gets an Oscar nod should stand very proud. Will not win, however.
|Mark Ruffalo (center) and|
Channing Tatum in Foxcatcher
|Jones and Redmayne in The Theory of Everything|
9. Whiplash - Who knew music school could be like boot camp, only worse? I'm a huge fan of jazz drumming, but this is not the way to form a great artist. Another Indie-style film featuring terrific performances, especially by the Oscar-nominated and likely to win Best Supporting Actor J.K. Simmons as the brutal taskmaster.
Special Mention: The Lunchbox is a 2013 film out of Bollywood that was missing at last year's Oscars because India refused to nominate it. Still, it earned my top rating of four stars for its combination of charming romance and rare entry into the day-to-day life of working and middle-class Indians. The plot focuses around an unlikely glitch in the Six-Sigma perfection of India's system of "dabba wallas" - the largely illiterate deliverymen who transport millions of home-made lunches to office-bound workers' desks every day. The delivery error leads, naturally, to quite unexpected love. A must-see movie for anyone with a heart or an interest in everyday India.
|Irrfan Khan in The Lunchbox|