With a week until the ceremony, the countdown to the Oscars is in progress and the bets are open. Who will be the big winners and who will soar at the after party? We won’t know until the 22th of February, but in the meantime, everyone can pitch in their favorites. In true movie addict fashion, we couldn’t pass the opportunity of sneaking a peak at this year’s BEST PICTURE nominations. Without giving any spoilers, we’ll get down to business.

BRAVERY: ‘American Sniper’

‘American Sniper’ is a 2014 American biographical war drama film directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Jason Hall. It is based on the book ‘American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History’ by Chris Kyle.

A taut, vivid and sad account of the brief life of Chris Kyle who served four times in Iraq as a sniper. He saved the lives of countless American soldiers and gained recognition for his expert marksmanship.

With six nominations, including best film and best actor for Bradley Cooper, who  plays the Navy SEAL, ‘American Sniper’ is a true expression of bravery, built on the foundation of true  compassion. The theme of the movie is blunt and effective, though also troubling. With 255 kills, 160 of which were officially confirmed by the Department of Defense, Kyle is the deadliest marksman in U.S. military history.

Bradley Cooper, referring to his character has stated: ‘Because what you really neglect are the soldiers. To me, Chris was utterly human. I never had to go from icon to human. I was studying a man, and I was trying to inhabit the man.’ – source

Why we love it: Like every other great Clint Eastwood movie, it arises from the simple premise of a fight to the death between good guys and bad guys. It’s about the bravery of a hero who gives his life for a cause depicted in the movie with solemn appreciation.

AN INSTANT CLASSIC: ‘The Imitation Game’

‘The Imitation Game’ is a 2014 British-American historical thriller film directed by Morten Tyldum, with a screenplay by Graham Moore, in which Benedict Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing, the brilliant mathematician whose proficiency in cracking codes was instrumental in helping the Allies defeat the Nazis in WWII.

It’s a familiar portrayal of the rogue genius who pushes further despite the incomprehension and contempt of his smaller-brained contemporaries. The movie is undeniably strong in its sense of a bright light burned out too soon, and the often undignified fate of those who dare to chafe at society’s established norms.

Why we love it: It’s hard not to get caught up in this well-told tale and its heroes acting craftsmanship  that is threatening to become an instant classic.

ART VS. COMMERCE: ‘Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)’

‘Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)’ is a 2014 American black comedy drama film co-written, produced, and directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu.

Watching the movie we couldn’t help but think about an obvious and intentional parallel with Keaton’s Batman movies from more than two decades ago. In ‘Birdman’, Keaton is cast as aging actor Riggan Thomson, who’s earned his fame and wealth by playing superhero Birdman. The hook is that his fans want more even though he’s moved on from that role long time ago.

Audiences could get vertigo following the spiraling story line choreographed by Mr. Iñárritu and his cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki. The result is a  swooping, feature-length single shot that converts cinema to theater-and back.

With a well-assumed approach, the single shot vibe of the movie serves to address the critique that screen acting is somehow less demanding than stage acting, as there are no conventional editing tricks in place to better the performances.

The movie is a wonderfully raw, dark and vulnerable take on human condition. This film dares the viewer to consider the everyday magic that we tend to ignore, repress, or resent.

Why we love it: ‘Birdman’ was filmed almost entirely inside Broadway’s St. James Theater, giving all its relationships an extremely claustrophobic feel, usually found within theater performances. What resulted is a film about fame, relevance, self-worth and lots of other intense stuff.

 THE UNDERDOG: ‘Whiplash’

‘Whiplash’ is a 2014 American drama film written and directed by Damien Chazelle based on his experiences in the Princeton High School Studio Band.

We must admit that we haven’t had such visceral feeling in a long time. We watched the movie on the edge of our seats, shouting and laughing along with the characters. And it’s all because of the addictive relationship between Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) and Terrence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons).

‘Whiplash’ proves full of adrenaline by exploring a misleadingly dull subject – the relationship between a music student and his teacher that eventually turns into a heart stopping thriller.

Damien Chazelle on the performance of J.K. Simmons: ‘I wanted him to be a great villain role and scare the s–t out of you without ever using a gun or a knife,’ he says. ‘I wanted him to scare the s–t out of you just by how he walks in the room, how he talks to you. And there are very few actors who can pull that off. He’s not playing a murderer or a terrorist. He’s playing a music teacher. That to me still makes me giddy.’ 

Built on the social commentary about what it takes to make it in a competitive and cutthroat world, the movie is a deeply personal and vibrantly alive drama carried by two electric performances.

Why we love it: With a subject based more on power that it is about jazz, ‘Whiplash’ is about driving yourself to the crumbling brink of insanity in order to achieve your dream.

Here we end part I and we’re curious to know who you think will win this 87th academy award for BEST PICTURE. Take your time, because will be back with the other 4 nominees, we tell you, they’re as good as the first four.

For part I of the article click here.

Featured image source: Oscars 2015 “Imagine What’s Possible” Artist Series: Petra Borner, Sweden.