Oscars 2015: Ranking the Best Picture Nominees

With the Oscars now a mere day away, it’s time to get really excited.

This year, eight films are vying for the Best Picture trophy, but only two (Birdman and Boyhood) seem to stand any realistic chance of winning, if other awards wins are anything to go by. Let’s take a look at all of the nominees, starting with the weakest, all the way up to our favourite of the shortlist.

8. American Sniper

Bradley Cooper in American SniperSomething of a revelation at the US Box Office (and on course to become 2014’s biggest release Stateside), this is the weakest of a very good set of movies. Chest-beating patriotism, questionable political standpoints and plastic baby aside, it is an exciting modern war movie featuring great performances from Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller. It’s clear Clint Eastwood still knows how to make a movie people want to see, after a couple of less successful outings.

7. The Imitation Game

THE IMITATION GAMEThe life and achievements of Alan Turing are very worth acknowledging and bringing to the attention of as many people as possible, but this film (which was initially seen as a potential winner) has fallen down the pecking order since its release. Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley are both good; there’s a solid supporting cast and it’s a movie which is surprisingly funny as well as affecting. Ultimately, it’s just not as good as some of the other films that it’s up against, and is a bit too ‘televisual’ and lacking on some of the more interesting aspects of the story.

6. The Theory of Everything

Jones and RedmayneEddie Redmayne must now be seen as the favourite to pick up the Best Actor gong for his incredible performance as Stephen Hawking. As with Dallas Buyers Club last year, the two lead performances here (Redmayne and Felicity Jones) are probably better than the film as a whole. It’s a very emotional and uplifting film, almost entirely fitting the ‘Oscars blueprint’ – similar to The Imitation Game but the stronger of the two.

5. Selma

SELMAMaking the top 5 is Selma, a film which has been overlooked in many of the other major categories, most notably Best Director (Ava DuVernay) and Best Actor (David Oyelowo). The film is an excellent telling of the march from Selma to Montgomery, and the Civil Rights movement in the USA during the 60s – shocking, powerful and saddening, especially given the current climate in parts of America recently. Oyelowo is Martin Luther King, in a performance far more deserving than those of nominees Cumberbatch or Cooper. There are some legitimate technical reasons as to why this wasn’t nominated for more awards, but it’s an important movie that children should be watching in schools for years to come.

4. Whiplash

Whiplash-5547.cr2On the surface, the plot of this least screams out ‘Oscar contender’. Miles Teller’s Andrew wants to be a great jazz drummer, but is psychologically and physically pushed to breaking point by the monstrous band leader, Fletcher, played by J.K. Simmons. It’s Simmons (a lock to win Best Supporting Actor) who turns this film into something special – it’s both a gruelling and exhilarating watch, and enough to put you off playing the drums for life.

3. The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest HotelWes Anderson at his most ‘Wes Anderson’ – this is a film that has really connected with critics as well as audiences. Released way back in March (the earliest release of the nominees), The Grand Budapest Hotel has clearly stayed in the mind of Academy voters since, picking up the most nominations overall (nine, tied with Birdman). An incredible achievement in artistry, the film is certain to pick up a number of the smaller awards on the night. It arguably boasts the strongest cast of the year, with Ralph Fiennes’ surprising comedic turn as concierge Gustave H, the icing on the (Mendl’s) cake. This is surely the most fun of all the nominees.

2. Boyhood

BoyhoodBoyhood will probably win the top honour, having won at the Golden Globes, BAFTAs and many other ceremonies along the way. Showing normal life for Mason (Ellar Coltrane), a boy growing up over 12 years, it’s the fact it was filmed over such a long period that’s got everybody talking. Unlike any other film that’s come before it because of this, Richard Linklater will almost certainly be taking the Best Director Oscar back to Austin with him. The clear favourite for weeks now, there has sadly been something of a backlash against Boyhood. Some people bemoan the lack of storyline and the acting in places, but for those that got it, it was like watching a real family grown up and evolve on screen. And that’s beautiful to watch.

1. Birdman

Keaton and Norton face off in BirdmanThe only other film that stands a realistic chance of winning Best Picture is Alejandro G Inarritu’s masterpiece, Birdman. Michael Keaton gives a career-best performance as Riggan Thomson, a former-superhero actor trying to get credibility and keep his life together by putting on a play.  An acting masterclass from Keaton and, amongst others, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts and Emma Stone, this is absorbing, hilarious, dark and truly majestic. Filmed as if one-take and with percussive drums punctuating it, it is a film that is fresh, unique and has a real personality. Everybody involved, from cast to crew, is at the very top of their game. This would be one of the best films in any year.

Coverage of The Oscars begins with the Red Carpet at 11:30pm on Sunday 22nd February 2015 on Sky Movies Oscars, with the ceremony beginning at 1:30am Monday morning.