Movie Review: Selma

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Great cinematography, score, and lead performance by David Oyelowo gives power to an important chapter in modern history involving one of the most influential figures in modern modern history.

The film is quite slow paced, but every Oyelowo owns the screen in every shot.  His portrayal of Dr. King as someone who is almost a God-like figure when giving a speech or rally, and someone who struggles with family issues just like any other average family man, was brilliant.

The film deserves the Oscar Best Picture nomination it got.  It might not have star appeal or a topic that will have people come in droves to watch, but I recommend this film as a way to witness one of the pivotal moments in American history.

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Movie Review: The Imitation Game

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Really solid performances by Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley are the highlights of “The Imitation Game,” which tells the story of genius mathematician Alan Turing and his quest to create a machine that can break the German Enigma Code during World War II.

Historical thrillers / biopics / war films that are based on true events achieve brilliance not because of the plot, but because journey towards the film’s outcome.  Take “Lincoln,” for example.  The 2012 historical drama film about President Abraham Lincoln’s efforts to pass the 13th Amendment bore no factual surprises; we all know it passes.  But it’s Steven Spielberg’s execution of the screenplay that gave us so much emotional attachments to the characters and the outcome. Like “Lincoln”, we all know the historical outcome depicted in “The Imitation Game,” that Turing ultimately does develop the machine that would propel the Allied Forces to victory in the war.  But the journey Turing takes towards completing the machine is what keeps us glued to the screen.

Turing’s character reminds me of Gregory House, from the TV Show; the misanthropic genius who is obsessed with solving puzzles, has a devastating childhood, and doesn’t play by the rules.  Cumberbatch rightfully deserves the Oscar Nomination for Best Actor, and I wouldn’t mind spending a few hours at the theatre in his world.

Movie Review: Whiplash (My favorite film of 2014)

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Fallen into the wrong hands, “Whiplash” would have been a boring TV movie or mini-series.  But in the hands of upcoming director Damien Chazelle, incredible editing by Tom Cross, who won the Academy Award for Best Editing for this film, and gripping leading performances by Miles Teller anad J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash” is a masterpiece that seemingly came out of nowhere, and was personally my favorite film of 2014.

As an educator, I can relate, to some extent, life in the world of education and the idea of pushing students to their limits.  There is no one-size-fits-all method to teaching.  In real life, some young adults actually can respond quite well to Simmons’ character’s ultra-intensive methods, breaking the students down and putting them back together; this is supposed to transform the student into something he otherwise could never achieve.  Other students (perhaps the majority) simply cannot take the immense pressure that such an environment imposes.  The key is to find a balance between being challenging and encouraging.

It’s an incredible film.  Who knew that a drama between student and teacher set in a music school can be this intense? Must Watch!

Movie Review: Birdman (The Best Film of 2014)

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or: “The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance”

A good trait of a film is that it can hold the audience’s attention throughout its entirety.  When the opening credits appeared synchronized with the wickedly catchy soundtrack, I was glued to the screen.  The opening shot of the film establishes that this is going to be a drama that blends true human emotions with a tiny dash of fantasy.  The film feels likes a prime time Broadway play; its caricature of a man with an identity crisis, a man who is in conflict with everything around him, who struggles internally as well as externally, is told through a brilliant filming technique that immerses the audience in his world.

It was the best film of 2014 that I saw.  And my second favorite, behind “Whiplash.”  It is an incredible piece of film making, and it is definitely worth a watch.