Another slice of Cake with your Imitation Bird?

Apologies for the brief intermission in posting. I’ve been rather busy the last week or two dealing with some family matters. I haven’t been watching a lot of new material. However, it did give me the opportunity to re-watch a few of the more notable films of last year with folks that hadn’t seem them yet. Namely, in this case, Cake, Birdman, and The Imitation Game.

Since I saw them last year, there has been a ton of hype, not to mention statuettes presented, that have raised expectations on these films. First-time viewers are a bit handicapped by those expectations, so it wasn’t very surprising to me that Birdman, especially, fell short of the wow-factor for them than it managed for me the first time I saw it when the hype was just building.

Birdman is still an impressive piece of craft, but the story and characters are not the most riveting or likable. On second watch, knowing its path and, I think, its intent, the reason it struck so many chords with the Academy become even clearer: it is such an insider’s movie on a story level, they just couldn’t help themselves. This doesn’t diminish its achievement, many of its performances, nor its import, but it makes the film less enduring. Having now seen it twice, I’m probably done with it for a long time to come, if not forever. It, honestly, just isn’t that good a script.

On the other hand, Cake was only more interesting the second time through. Aniston is fascinating and subtle. The story is complex and quietly revealed. Even the bland Worthington cannot kill the emotional impact of the plot. I can see coming back to it again down the road. I’m still disappointed that Aniston wasn’t given more recognition for her impressive performance.

And, finally, Imitation Game, which I found frustrating the first time through in comparison to other depictions of the same time and events. It contains solid performances. The script, though it won many awards, still suffers from framing and focus problems for me. Seeing Moore accept his Oscar was one of the most emotional moments of that evening, but it wasn’t the best writing of the lot. Note the voice over opening, where it closes the frame, and then the order of the final blocks of text at the very end. It is much clearer on second viewing what the story was to be about (especially after the Oscar speech) but that isn’t what happened on screen for me. As I mentioned in the original write-up, the code-breaking dilemma is so powerful on its own, it overwhelms the rest of the story which felt like it had been dialed back to keep it out of the foreground.

There was more rewatching as well. The Boxtrolls, which holds up incredibly well; Despicable Me, which doesn’t; Edge of Tomorrow, which still rocks on even its 3rd  go-round; and Guardians of the Galaxy, which still entertains after several viewings though I’ve realized it works better for those that watch super-hero flicks on a regular basis as so much of the humor is more insider than I realized at first.

I hope to be back on a more regular posting schedule starting this week. The Post Office is also throwing hitches into that as they no longer deliver first class mail in one business day within the same region (which is killing my turnaround time on discs). But that’s another post. For now, I thought I’d share at least some of what I was watching this past week.

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