I felt like an emotional bomb went off inside me while watching American Sniper. The film's depiction of modern war and its impact on an individual and a family is profound. I admittedly was watching this film with a comparative eye at times, mentally measuring how it stacked up against the other films I had seen for the purpose of this blog series. With about 30 minutes left, I thought to myself, "It's really good, but I wouldn't put it above The Grand Budapest Hotel at this very moment, and it is probably below Birdman too."

Then the last 30 minutes hit. It's one hell of a 30 minute stretch. Your emotions twist in the wind, turning each way Clint Eastwood's direction points you. Of the Best Picture nominees I have seen so far, American Sniper packs the strongest finish. It's a movie that will make you feel, and those movies are always great. If Birdman had finished as strong as American Sniper, it would be locked into my personal top spot (and probably unable to change). American Sniper really is a movie that has it all for me - suspense, action, drama, internal and external conflict, and it is dripping with emotion. I'm surprised Sienna Miller did not earn a nomination for her performance. Her and Bradley Cooper (a well-deserved nominee) are fantastic.

I also had the opportunity to see Inherent Vice recently (which shamefully is nominated only for an adapted screenplay award). I absolutely loved the film, and definitely thought it could have warranted a Best Picture nomination as well as a slew of acting nominations. Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Torro are exceptional. Del Torro's small role is a scene stealer. I saw the film with one of my cousins and he had a perfect reaction to Del Torro's performance - "the film probably needed one more good Del Torro scene to be perfect." I completely agree. Inherent Vice is odd, and not a film that everyone will unanimously gobble up. I found it very funny from start to finish, and loaded with great acting.

This is one of a series of blog posts tracking my attempt to see every film that is nominated for the eight major categories at the Academy Awards. Below is my updated list of rankings, and what I still need to see. A reasoning for my picks will be included with my final selections. These are the clubhouse leaders.

Best Picture

1) American Sniper

2) The Grand Budapest Hotel

3) Birdman

4) Boyhood

To Be Seen: The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash

Best Actor (Leading)

1) Michael Keaton - Birdman

2) Bradley Cooper - American Sniper

3) Steve Carrell - Foxcatcher

To Be Seen: Benedict Cumberbatch - The Imitation Game, Eddie Redmayne - The Theory of Everything

Best Actress (Leading)

1) Rosamund Pike - Gone Girl

To Be Seen: Marion Cotillard - Two Days, One Night, Felicity Jones - The Theory of Everything, Julianne Moore - Still Alice, Reese Witherspoon - Wild

Best Supporting Actor

1) Edward Norton - Birdman

2) Mark Ruffalo - Foxcatcher

3) Ethan Hawke - Boyhood

To Be Seen: Robert Duvall - The Judge, J.K. Simmons, Whiplash 

Best Supporting Actress

1) Emma Stone - Birdman

2) Patricia Arquette - Boyhood

To Be Seen: Laura Dern - Wild, Keira Knightly - The Imitation Game, Meryl Streep - Into the Woods

Best Director

1) Richard Linklater - Boyhood

2) Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu - Birdman

3) Wes Anderson - The Grand Budapest Hotel

4) Bennett Miller - Foxcatcher

To Be Seen: Morten Tyldum - The Imitation Game

Best Original Screenplay

1) Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo - Birdman

2) Wes Anderson, Hugo Guinness - The Grand Budapest Hotel

3) E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman - Foxcatcher

4) Richard Linklater - Boyhood

To Be Seen: Dan Gilroy - Nightcrawler

Best Adapted Screenplay

1) Paul Thomas Anderson - Inherent Vice

2) Jason Hall - American Sniper

To Been Seen: Graham Moore - The Imitation Game, Anthony McCarten - The Theory of Everything, Damien Chazelle - Whiplash

AuthorJohn Juettner