Movie lovers, the 2015 Oscars are almost upon us. As we wade through the cinematic doldrums of January (“Blackhat” and “Paddington” notwithstanding), let us reflect on the abundance of cinematic riches gifted to us in 2014. By all accounts, it was a damn good year for cinema, a year full of head-tripping thespians, excursions into outer space, European art capers, and biopics of everyone from Stephen Hawking to MLK. Any year where we get the seething, god’s-lonely-man psychosis of Dan Gilroy’s “Nightcrawler” alongside a family film as subversive and wickedly intelligent as “The Lego Movie” surely can’t be faulted for lack of variety. For those that need a quick refresher, a brand new Oscar promo video — edited by one Tomas Medero — has recently landed online and it’s a terrific reminder, if one was needed, of the films that made us laugh, cry, wince, and holler in rousing approval during this past year.
In spite of the deeply creepy opening voiceover from John Du Pont of “Foxcatcher,” this is a beautifully cut-together tapestry of the year in motion pictures, emphasizing the themes of dream-chasing, suffering, and, finally, hope that ran through 2014’s most memorable flicks. Every year, themes and recurrent motifs emerge in the bulk of the year’s cinematic output, and 2014 was no different. We got films about the promise of America, (“Foxcatcher,” “A Most Violent Year,” “The Immigrant”), nostalgia for a forgotten time (“Only Lovers Left Alive,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel”), and films about suffering for one’s art (“Birdman,” “Whiplash”). The promo also, interestingly, utilizes a good deal of footage from Oscar underdogs like “Nightcrawler,” “Gone Girl,” “Interstellar,” and “Whiplash,” while weaving in clips from the more buzz-heavy Awards frontrunners like “American Sniper” and “Selma” in a somewhat more diminished capacity.
We must say, one aspect of the Oscars that we aren’t so crazy about is the element of cultural hierarchy that exists within the Academy itself, the notion that one film has more “relevance,” for lack of a better term, than another. As time has shown us over and over again, (“Raging Bull,” anyone?) films that are, in time, looked at as masterpieces are frequently overlooked come Awards season, a clear indication that the system, though perhaps necessary, is far from perfect. Films like “The Imitation Game,” “American Sniper,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” and “Birdman” are all so completely different from each other that the urge to compare their merits, though understandable, is entirely unfair to the films and their respective creators. Nevertheless, it is strangely affirming to see some of our favorite films sitting side by side in this video, itself a dazzling glimpse at the stories film can tell us: about ourselves, our country, our sense of identity, and where we belong in this world. Watch the six-minute promo below:
The 87th Annual Academy Awards will screen Sunday, February 22nd.