What are these films, anyway?

Collegian Staff

The Oscars are this weekend, and odds are you didn’t see every film nominated.

Maybe you weren’t interested in a couple of them. Maybe you had class and homework and maybe even a life.


That’s why we here at the Collegian have provided summaries of all eight films nominated for Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards.

We don’t have a life.

The Imitation Game

Summary by Anna Groeling

“Are you paying attention?”

The plot centers around the true story of Alan Turing, a genius mathematician, who strives to crack the German Enigma code during World War II. The Nazi’s code gives Turing and his team of code-breakers an extra challenge, as it resets each and every day at midnight. With its 159,000,000,000,000,000 possible solutions, both Germans and Allies believe it to be unbreakable.

“The Imitation Game” jumps around between three time periods: Turing’s schooldays, his work at Bletchley Park and his final years after the British government prosecutes Turing for his homosexuality.

The film is directed by Morten Tyldum and casts Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing.

In addition to Best Picture, “The Imitation Game” has seven other Oscar nominations, including Actor in a Leading Role (Cumberbatch), Actress in a Supporting Role (Kiera Knightley), Adapted Screenplay, Original Score, Directing, Production Design and Film Editing.




Summary by Morgan Smith

“Selma” is the narrative film biography of Martin Luther King Jr., specifically looking at his fight for civil rights in Selma, Alabama.

Directed by Ava DuVernay and starring David Oyelowo, the film paints a harsh picture of some of our nation’s darker history, and refreshingly, some of King’s own dark history, including adultery against his wife.

The film begins with King’s acceptance speech when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and ends with his moving speech in Montgomery, after his famous march from Selma.

The story in between honestly feels like a horror film. Complete with shocking violence and dehumanization, “Selma” is disturbing by any measure. Even more frightening is looking up the events of the film afterward and finding out that they are mostly true.

Oyelowo gave the best performance of his career in this eerie reminder of a strange time that existed only half a century ago.

The film has two Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Original Song.



Summary by McKenna Ferguson

Filmed over the span of over a decade, “Boyhood” has been a long time coming.

The film stars Ellar Coltrane as Mason, an ordinary boy growing up and living out the unique experiences that come with adolescence. Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke star as his divorced parents, while Lorelei Linklater (daughter of director Richard Linklater) shines as his sister.

The film received early praise for its totally-unique process. It took over 12 years to film this movie, with the cast and crew meeting up annually to shoot the film in installments. Because of this the film rings true, including such real-life 90s kid obsessions such as Oregon Trail, Ask 20 games, “Harry Potter” premieres and, yes, even “Twilight.”

With no set plot besides a boy growing up, “Boyhood” has received mixed reviews from audiences, but is beloved by the Academy. The proof is in its six nominations including Directing, Editing, Best Original Screenplay and nods for both Arquette and Hawke.


The Grand Budapest Hotel

Summary by Skyler Leonard

Written and directed by Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” tells the story of a famous concierge who works at a hotel based in a fictional European country during the 1930s.

At times dramatic, comedic and romantic, the movie moves with proper Wes Anderson flair as the concierge and his young lobby boy companion face quirky scenarios and problems. The film is filled with an expansive cast including Ralph Fiennes, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Bill Murray and many others.

With nine nods, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” ties with “Birdman” for the most nominations this year. Some nominations include Best Motion Picture, Original Screenplay and Original Score.


American Sniper

Summary by Dom Lopez

“American Sniper” is the theatrical take on the book of the same name, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper.

The true story focuses on Chris Kyle, a legendary sniper, having racked up over 100 confirmed kills. The movie takes us through his journey to become a Navy Seal and his various tours to Iraq, as well as his frustrations as he tries to track down an enemy sniper.

The other major portion of the movie has Kyle at home with his wife (Sienna Miller) and growing family, as they all struggle with Kyle’s post-traumatic stress disorder. As the movie goes on you can see his struggle worsen, with Bradley Cooper accurately portraying the struggles many who saw combat face.

The film is nominated for six Oscars including Best Writing—Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing and Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Bradley Cooper).


The Theory of Everything

Summary by Skyler Leonard

Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones star in this biopic that captures the famous romance of Stephen Hawking and his wife, Jane.

Directed by James Marsh, the movie captures the first interaction of the couple in 1963 and details their budding romance as Stephen Hawking grows in notoriety from his success in theoretical physics, and also struggles with the diagnosis of motor neuron disease.

The movie has five nominations including Best Actor and Actress nods for Redmayne and Jones, respectively.



Summary by Erica Grasmick

From director Alejandro González Iñárritu comes the story of a man fighting against the inevitable irrelevance that comes with the Hollywood film industry.

Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton) is a burned-out actor whose reputation as Birdman, the once-famous comic book hero, precedes him. To prove he is above mediocrity, Riggan attempts to write, direct and star in his own Broadway debut.

Throughout the film he battles delusions of grandeur and the consequences it inflicts upon his career and relationships. As his play faces threats from an outrageous actor (Edward Norton) and a theater critic who is out to “kill his play” (Lindsay Duncan), the failures of his personal life are revealed.

“Birdman” is nominated for an impressive nine Oscars including Acting nods for Keaton, Norton and Emma Stone.



Summary by Morgan Smith

Written and directed by Damien Chazelle, “Whiplash” stars Miles Teller as Andrew, a promising young drummer in New York City.

Andrew meets infamous orchestrator Fletcher, played by J.K. Simmons, while practicing at the Shaffer Conservatory of Music, one of the best music schools in the country. Through various lucky circumstances, Andrew gets a position as Fletcher’s core drummer.

The violent and tense relationship between Andrew and Fletcher is in itself an even to behold, as hilarious and evil insults, chairs and blood go flying in Fletcher’s attempt to coax greatness out of his drummer.

The motivation behind the main characters can be summarized by the excellent line delivered by J.K. Simmons: “There are no two words in the language more harmful than ‘good job’.”

“Whiplash” has five Oscar nominations, for Best Motion Picture, Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Editing and Best Sound Mixing.


The Collegian A&E Desk can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com.