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What’s the Point of All These Best Picture Nominees?

The message of each of this year’s Academy Award-nominated films, in 100 words or less

Selma

Real “best pictures,” the ones we film lovers spend years rewatching, rehashing, reconsidering, arguing over—and in our most unguarded moments might even accidentally refer to as “life-changing”—seem to contribute to the human conversation in a singular way. A film can, (though unfortunately it often doesn't), function as an elaborate thought experiment in which the chaos of human life can be dissected, sorted, and presented for in-depth examination in a form free of real-world consequence. But the cruel measuring stick of financial success compels screenwriters and directors to keep their experimental ideas to a minimum, and causes their guinea-pig actors to fear the consequences of response to any edgy stimuli. Despite these stacked odds, most of the Best Picture nominations for the 2015 Academy Awards managed to say something we thought was worth hearing, and to them we say “GOOD Point” (denoted by an asterisk). Below is our attempt to distill the message of each of this year’s Best Picture nominees.


*The Theory of Everything

You can never be too smart to need people who challenge your beliefs and assumptions. If God is love, the reverse must be true, according to the transitive property.

*Selma

There's no way you'll reach a clear consensus on what exactly transpires between people with cross-purposes behind closed doors, but there can be no question that the government's gross mistreatment of civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and the systematic disenfranchisement of black people during segregation are two unacceptable stains on American history that we as a country have not yet recovered from and must all work together to avoid reliving at all costs.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Nobel Prize-winning author and often frustrated screenwriter William Faulkner—known for his long discursive sentences, jarring shifts in perspective, and high-concept narrative structures—might've ruled Hollywood if he could have married all of that with impeccable taste in set and costume design.

*The Imitation Game

The heinous persecution faced by British inventor and unsung hero Alan Turing after he helped the Allies win WWII must have caused him to question (as in the tests named in his honor) whether the "people" he was dealing with were actual human beings capable of reason and empathy or unfeeling automatons.

*Boyhood

Gradual change over long periods of time is nature's original makeup and special effects department.

*Whiplash

No one else can ever fully understand the sacrifices you make or the wounds you inflict on yourself and others for the sake of your art. But being the best at an art form still seems like a poor excuse to act like a jerk all the time.

*Birdman

Kurt Vonnegut's warning that “We are who we pretend to be” is even more pertinent if we never knew who we really were in the first place. Also, if you do the Batman voice too often it might just stay that way, and critics are quite possibly the worst people in the world.

American Sniper

As we have abstained from seeing this movie for legal reasons (in case we ever find ourselves embroiled in a civil suit with former Minnesota governor Jesse “The Body” Ventura), we can’t truthfully claim to understand the point. But were we to guess, we’d say the lasting lesson from American Sniper is that we'd have to forcibly remove the Academy from the palm of Clint Eastwood's hand in much the same way the late Charlton Heston once suggested we could confiscate his beloved gun.