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More exceptional films from 2014…

Posted on January 16th, 2015
Posted on January 16th, 2015

by Coop Cooper

I’m still powering through many of the 2014 films that are up for awards and here are five more I think are exceptional and worthy of a watch…

“Birdman” – A washed up actor (Michael Keaton) tries to salvage a troubled play production that could revitalize his career, but a narcissistic, unhinged co-star (Edward Norton), a zany cast of misfits and his own psychosis could derail his comeback. Shot to look like it was filmed in one continuous shot (it wasn’t), “Birdman” is an actor’s dream film which will be most well known for singlehandedly – if not temporarily – resurrecting Michael Keaton’s career. While the dialogue is witty, the ensemble cast is top-notch and the camerawork is impossibly precise, the characters are unlikable and the ending is a complete dud. Still there is a lot to enjoy here, especially a few hilarious scenes, one in particular features Keaton strutting through Times Square in his tighty-whities while real-life tourists take pictures of him. Rating: 3 and ½ out of 5

“American Sniper” – Recorded as the most most lethal sniper in U.S. Military history, Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) completes multiple tours in the Middle East, but each time he returns home to his wife (Sienna Miller) and children, he finds he can’t leave the trauma of the war behind. This film appears to be the most politically polarizing with one half cheering it as a realistic portrayal of loss and patriotism while the other half is demonizing the film for hero-worshiping a man who had 160 confirmed kills (out of 255 probable) against Islamic combatants. In actuality, the film is about a man with a gift for combat who eventually finds a way to be at peace with the horrors he experienced and help others with PTSD after returning home. Much like “The Hurt Locker”, “American Sniper” is a brilliant war film (wide-release begins this weekend!). Rating: 4 out of 5

“The Imitation Game” – During WWII, Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a mathematics genius who invents a machine to decode the unbreakable Nazi message encoder known as the ‘Enigma’. Unfortunately, Turing’s autism and his sexual orientation draw the ire of his colleagues and the British government. Of the 2014 films I saw belatedly, this film has the best chance of winning an Oscar for Best Actor. Cumberbatch has been an A-list actor for a couple of years now, but this film proves he is a cut above. He has some heartbreaking scenes with his co-star Keira Knightley that sealed the deal for his upcoming award nominations. The history behind the story is likewise fascinating and makes Alan Turing not only a tragic character, but a deciding factor in WWII and the father of modern computers. Rating: 4 and ½ out of 5

“Whiplash” – A gifted jazz drumming student (Miles Teller) at the most competitive music conservatory in the nation finds his resolve challenged when a sadistic and vindictive professor (J. K. Simmons) pushes him past his physical and emotional limits. J. K. Simmons, fresh off of winning a Golden Globe for this role is the undisputed lock to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. He is such a monster and a force of nature in this film, his performance might be the best of 2014 period. This film excels on all levels from writing and cinematography to music and performances. The twists at the end, including the final one, will have you questioning the motives of Simmons’ character right up to the very last, thrilling frame. Rating: 5 out of 5

“Big Hero 6” – After a supervillain kills his brother and steals his powerful ‘microbot’ invention to use for evil, teenage genius Hiro converts his late brother’s gentle, inflatable medical droid ‘Baymax’ into an Iron Man-like superhero to take back his technology and avenge his brother. His brother’s four co-workers develop their own super-powered suits and join Hiro and Baymax to become a team of six. It’s a fun and harmless film but apparently it takes place in a world in which Japan had won WWII and San Fransisco was re-named San Fransokyo. While this is never fully explained, it adds a strangely nefarious tone to a kids film that only adults will notice. Rating: 3 and ½ out of 5

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My short film THE BEST DAY premiered in October 2011 at the Delta Cinema in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Little did I know I had a special guest in the audience who was about to ask me a question during the Q&A. Yep, I got a little flustered when I saw who it was.

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