Oscar Contenders: The Reviews!

No matter how many outlandish dresses appear on the red carpet, the movies are the true attraction at the Academy Awards. Here’s your Link guide to the eight Best Picture nominated films.

Selma


The true story of Martin Luther King Jr., specifically centred around the fight against voter inequality in Selma, Alabama in the 1960’s. It explores King and his supporters as they fight institutional racism, culminating in the Selma to Montgomery marches. It also portrays US President LBJ’s initial indifference to the civil rights movement, and Alabama Governor George Wallace’s outright opposition. A compelling, evocative story with many dynamic portrayals of remarkable people, we also see the human side of King in his relationship with his wife Coretta. Starring David Oyelowo as King and Carmen Ejogo as Coretta.

American Sniper


The true story of Chris Kyle, a sniper for the US Navy SEALs. The highest grossing of all the best picture films, American Sniper follows Kyle on his four tours of duty in Iraq during which time he became the deadliest marksman in the history of the US military. It also explores his relationship with his wife and kids, which becomes strained due to his trouble leaving the horrors of war behind when he comes home. The film shows a gripping perspective with many powerful scenes, but it casts too wide a net and the focus can get lost. Starring Bradley Cooper as Kyle and Sienna Miller as his wife Tanya.

The Imitation Game


The true story of Alan Turing, the man behind the decryption device which has been credited with winning World War II for the Allies- the enigma machine. Turing is a misunderstood genius who pioneers the machine with his crackerjack team throughout the course of the film. But Turing is hiding a dangerous secret. After the war’s conclusion the police discover the mathematician is a homosexual, which was punishable by law in Britain at the time. An exceptional story with great actors to carry the gravitas of the topic. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing and Keira Knightly as his colleague Joan Clarke.

Boyhood


The story of Mason Evans Jr., a boy growing up in Texas. The film follows Mason from age 6 to age 18, when he heads off to university. The story also revolves around his ever changing family, with his mother and sister at the core, as they navigate moving, divorces and finding themselves. A true work of cinematic perseverance, Boyhood was actually filmed over the course of twelve years, so we watch the actors age alongside their characters. Nuanced and honest, Boyhood’s engaging characters and theme make up for the lack of an overarching plot. Starring Ellar Coltrane as Mason and Patricia Arquette as his mother Olivia.

READ MORE: Hungry for more Academy Awards? Check out our guide to the big night!

Whiplash


The story of Andrew Neiman, a jazz music student at the esteemed Shaffer Conservatory in New York. Neiman aspires to become a great drummer, and is elated when he is scouted to be an alternate in a prestigious studio band. However he is ultimately pushed to the breaking point by the band’s abusive and manipulative conductor Terrence Fletcher which strains his relationship with his single father and girlfriend. The dark horse of the best picture films, Whiplash is a captivating thrill. Starring Miles Teller as Neiman and J.K. Simmons as Fletcher.

The Theory of Everything


The true story of Stephen Hawking, beginning during his time at Cambridge University as a PhD candidate. The film primarily chronicles his romantic life with Jane Wilde as they navigate married life and raising children all while coping with Hawking’s quickly deteriorating health. Theory further explores the effect of Hawking’s ALS on his life and research, on his path to becoming one of the most famous physicists of his time. A quality romantic film with masterful acting, but the writing lacks pace. Starring Eddie Redmayne as Hawking and Felicity Jones as Wilde.

The Grand Budapest Hotel


The story of Gustave H, a concierge at a prestigious European hotel. The film explores Gustave’s unlikely friendship with a young bellboy named Zero, which develops around a series of increasingly ludicrous and unwieldy circumstances. This comedy of errors is set to the backdrop of an unstable continent, in the period between World Wars I and II, which gives the film a surprising emotional depth. A true comedy, Budapest Hotel will also pull at your heartstrings, but may be too nonsensical for some. Starring Ralph Fiennes as Gustave and Tony Revolori as Zero.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)


The story of Riggan Thomson, a faded Hollywood actor famous for playing the superhero Birdman. Thomson becomes obsessed with making a comeback, which he pursues by writing, directing and starring in a Broadway show. Throughout this time he has hallucinations of his character Birdman, and begins to lose a grip on reality all while trying to salvage his career and his family. A comedy that delves into dark places, Birdman is all together an impressive piece of cinema. Starring Michael Keaton as Thomson and Emma Stone as his daughter.