Best Picture Reviews: American Sniper, Selma, Birdman

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American Sniper directed by Clint Eastwood

American Sniper

BY NADIRA CHAND

Following the U.S. Embassy bombings in 1998, Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) is motivated to enroll as a Navy Seal. Calling upon his hunting instincts, Kyle quickly establishes himself as a notorious sniper, referred to as a “legend” amongst his peers. Although he is hesitant to kill, he pushes forward under the pretext of protecting his country. Four tours later, Kyle has become estranged from his wife and his children. A hero in his own right, Kyle struggles with separating reality from the traumatic incidents of the war.

Based on the memoir American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History by Chris Kyle, and directed by Clint Eastwood, this box office hit is sure to gain recognition at the Oscars. Bradley Cooper delivers the most complex role of his career, adding depth and dimension to his portrayal of Chris Kyle with a skilled ease. The 40-year-old actor gained 40 pounds to play the role. Sienna Miller, making a re-appearance in the film industry after taking some time off to raise her daughter, seems to have officially launched her post-baby career.

 

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Selma directed by Ava DuVernay

Selma

BY KAYLA SIPPEL

“We must march! We must stand up!”

Told from the empowering point of view of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. himself, Selma chronicles the civil rights leader’s three month-long campaign to secure equal voting rights in a society that is unready and unwilling to hear anything of it. Slip back into 1965 and follow Dr. King Jr. on his epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama as he and his brothers and sisters in the civil rights movement are faced with racial hatred, stubborn cultural ignorance, and violent opposition as they strive to convince then-President Lyndon B. Johnson to sign the Voting Rights Act.

As the fiftieth anniversary of this momentous advance in the movement for racial equality approaches, Selma offers invaluable insight into the journey and constitution of one of the movement’s most remarkable leaders, flaws and all. Deep, emotional direction by Ava DuVernay, and an absolutely stellar performance by David Oyelowo (Martin Luther King Jr.) shows equally how far we’ve come and how far we have to go.

 

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Birdman directed by Alexander Gonzalez Innaritu

Birdman

BY ANURAAG SESHADRI

Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is a fading Hollywood superstar; attempting to recapture his lost glory, he decides to direct and star in a Broadway play. How this aging has-been works with a plethora of difficult characters–  including his rebel daughter, a hot-shot theatre actor, and a New York Times critic devoted to bringing him down– is the rest of the story. While Birdman may seem like a drama that we have seen before, it unfolds like a thriller with Alexander Gonzalez Innaritu’s expert handling.

With smart editing, the movie plays like a series of long shots tailored to give no breaks. Keaton turns in an exceptional performance as the neurotic Riggan, while Edward Norton is a live-wire as Mike Shiner, a cocky thespian. Emma Stone holds her own with an assured performance as Sam, Riggan’s unforgiving yet caring daughter.

The screenplay and direction complements the gamut of talented actors, rightly making it one of the frontrunners for an Oscar come February 22nd.

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