I find myself having a hard time evaluating The Imitation Game. It's good. Really good, in fact. But I wouldn't call it great. There isn't much in it I can point at as a flaw, but there is nothing I found extraordinary either. Alan Turing was extraordinary in what he accomplished, that much I know. I left the theater with this very odd feeling of enjoying the film yet saying to myself "So what?"
The story of Turing is a remarkable one. The technology he is responsible for making is vast, and the film speaks to his significance in not only developing technology that helped to win - or going one step further, as the film does, won - World War II for the Allies, but also being the founding father of computer science. After the film I pulled out my iPhone to check my messages and thought to myself, "Without Turing, would this device be here?" The best answer I could come up with was - maybe.
Toward the end, I thought the film lost focus and direction as Turing's homosexuality is revealed, and pushed to the forefront of the story. I don't know if there was a better way to tell Turing's story, though. What ultimately happens to him needs to be addressed in a film about his life, and his sexual orientation is a major part of that, but it is so disjointed from the rest of the story that it feels like an unfortunate footnote.
Benedict Cumberbatch is very good as Turing, as are the rest of the actors. Again, I didn't feel any of them were great. I still think Birdman has the best acting of any film I have seen from this past year. Keira Knightly was very good as well, even if her character does not seem very dynamic. What I thought should have been the biggest point in the movie for her character - when Turing, who is engaged to her, reveals to her he is a homosexual - was basically brushed aside. I liked Matthew Goode's performance as Turing's rival, and yet still his cohort, Hugh Alexander. This is the third film I have seen Goode in (Watchmen and The Lookout being the other two), and the more I see of him, the more I like him as an actor. I don't know if he will ever be a leading role-type actor, but he's great as a supporting actor. His is the first performance I can point to and say, I think he should have been nominated over Robert Duval in The Judge.
In addition to The Imitation Game, I also saw The Theory of Everything recently. This film didn't land for me. Stephen Hawking in incredible not only in the theories he has developed about our universe but in what he has overcome physically. The fact that Hawking is still alive today is a testament to not only modern medicine, but the resiliency of the human body. Yet the movie about his life was lacking. Eddie Redmayne gives a phenomenal physical performance as Hawking. I can't imagine how Redmayne went about approaching such a daunting role. Watching the film made me think not of Redmayne's performance, but Hawking's life. I can't imagine how Hawking functions each day with his physical limitations.
I did enjoy the one aspect of The Theory of Everything particularly so - that Hawking wasn't cast in the role of difficult genius. When I think of biographical films about intelligent men that have made groundbreaking discoveries in their academic fields (A Beautiful Mind, and The Imitation Game), the genius thrust upon us is one who does not play well with others. I don't know much about the real-life personalities of John Nash and Alan Turing - or Stephen Hawking, for that matter - but I was happy to see Hawking presented as friendly, and sociable amongst his classmates instead of despised. Maybe it was true that Nash and Turing were not popular and Hawking was. Or maybe Hawking wasn't popular either. Regardless, it was refreshing to see a highly intellectual character presented as well-adjusted and liked by his contemporaries.
While there are not many movies left for me to see to complete this exercise, I do not know how many more I will see before Oscar Sunday. Honestly, it likely won't be too many more. I'll be posting a final update with reasoning on Sunday, so check back then.
1) American Sniper
2) The Grand Budapest Hotel
4) The Imitation Game
6) The Theory of Everything
To Be Seen: Selma
Best Actor (Leading)
1) Michael Keaton - Birdman
2) Eddie Redmayne - The Theory of Everything
3) Bradley Cooper - American Sniper
4) Benedict Cumberbatch - The Imitation Game
5) Steve Carrell - Foxcatcher
Best Actress (Leading)
1) Rosamund Pike - Gone Girl
2) Felicity Jones - The Theory of Everything
To Be Seen: Marion Cotillard - Two Days, One Night, Julianne Moore - Still Alice, Reese Witherspoon - Wild
Best Supporting Actor
1) Edward Norton - Birdman
2) Mark Ruffalo - Foxcatcher
3) J.K. Simmons - Whiplash
4) Ethan Hawke - Boyhood
5) Robert Duvall - The Judge
Best Supporting Actress
1) Emma Stone - Birdman
2) Keira Knightly - The Imitation Game
3) Patricia Arquette - Boyhood
To Be Seen: Laura Dern - Wild, Meryl Streep - Into the Woods
1) Richard Linklater - Boyhood
2) Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu - Birdman
3) Wes Anderson - The Grand Budapest Hotel
4) Morten Tyldum - The Imitation Game
5) Bennett Miller - Foxcatcher
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) Graham Moore - The Imitation Game
3) Jason Hall - American Sniper
4) Damien Chazelle - Whiplash
5) Anthony McCarten - The Theory of Everything