Academy Awards Preview: Best Picture Nominee ‘Whiplash’

With the Academy Awards upcoming on February 22nd, ‘More Critical’ hopes to review the 8 films nominated for Best Picture. We will look more closely at why each particular movie might not be deserving of film’s highest credential.

In the past few weeks, it’s fair to say J.K. Simmons has done well for himself as he heads into Sunday’s ceremony the favorite to collect another Best Supporting Actor award. Simmons terrifies as Terrence Fletcher in Whiplash, an over-zealous and aggressive jazz professor; the character envelopes him, as his shiny, bald head and veiny, throbbing arms add to the menacing effect. Miles Teller also performs admirably in the lead role of Andrew Neiman, bloody hands wrapped around drumsticks and all. The film cleans up in a timely 106 minutes, looks good and explores a world infrequently visited, intertwining it with the suspense of a gripping teacher versus pupil rivalry.

Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons star in ‘Whiplash’

Unfortunately, throughout, the film feels as if a looming deadline forced director and writer Damien Chazelle to call it quits on an unpolished screenplay. The script’s problems are easily mendable. For one, Fletcher pours his heart out to Andrew near the film’s end in a monologue that would have helped define the character and aided the film if it had been present in the movie’s first 20 minutes. A viewer can reasonably assume that Fletcher pushes his students only because he wants the best from them, but revealing a softer side to the character helps the audience understand him more and thus creates more drama in the end when events go awry. In no way should Fletcher become palatable, but relatable and palatable are not the same. Continue reading “Academy Awards Preview: Best Picture Nominee ‘Whiplash’”

Academy Awards Preview: Best Picture Nominee ‘Birdman’

With the Academy Awards upcoming on February 22nd, ‘More Critical’ hopes to review the 8 films nominated for Best Picture. We will look more closely at why each particular movie might not be deserving of film’s highest credential.

Birdman is unquestionably ambitious and undeniably accomplishes its visual goal: to present itself in a single take. From a filmmaking standpoint, this achievement needs to be celebrated. Furthermore, Birdman does not sacrifice aesthetics for the effect, as Hitchcock’s Rope (1948)––another one-take project––arguably did. Due to the contemporary era’s mastery of handheld camera technology, in comparison, the Master of Suspense’s thriller looks, at best, like a play whose set is too wide for the stage. Alejandro González Iñárritu so meticulously lights and frames Birdman, that the amount of thought put into every motion must have been immense.

Michael Keaton and Edward Norton in ‘Birdman.’

From a storytelling point of view, the single take promotes a pressurized, claustrophobic environment, trapping the viewer in the world of a lone theater alongside the film’s protagonist, Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton). Birdman filters everything through its main character, as the audience emotes, acts and evolves with him. Without room to breathe, the only way to escape the film’s world is to stand and walk out of one’s own theater. Continue reading “Academy Awards Preview: Best Picture Nominee ‘Birdman’”

Imaginings: Animal Collective’s “Also Frightened”

A poem by Tim Jurney, inspired by Animal Collective’s “Also Frightened,” off 2009’s Merriweather Post Pavilion. Listen to the song below:

Here’s the poem. Apologies for the formatting of the poem, as the website only allows you to manipulate the appearance of text to a degree. For the original formatting, click the link below the text to download the poem in its original word document:

Also Also Frightened

snakes eat eggs in 15 minutes and spit out the shells in neat little bundles

they have more muscle pound for pound than people

snake venom kills cancer cells

a person born in the year of the snake is charming

there are snakes all over my crown

their skulls break easily beneath my feet

crying about the death of a snake is always ironic

snake gods tend to be wise and everywhere

i have lost every staring contest with a snake

an eclipse is a voracious snake devouring the sun and the moon

Download: Also Also Frightened

Feedback? Email

Imaginings: Darkside’s ‘Psychic’ – Chapter 1

This is a new direction for More Critical, one that is fueled more by creativity than analysis. This series of posts will take a closer look at Darkside’s album Psychic from 2013. The following is a creative, fictional piece inspired by the aforementioned music. To listen to the album, stream it on Spotify, download it from iTunes or listen on YouTube. The full piece will come in chapters, each one using two songs at a time for creative fodder.

The album cover for Darkside’s ‘Psychic’

If this in anyway inspires you to write a piece and you want to submit it for publication, please email

Chapter I: ‘Golden Arrow’ & ‘Sitra’

An invisible, ominous fog snuggles the mountain like a wet blanket as the worshippers brood outside the midnight cave, anxiously haunting it with promises of blind worship. From within, labor pains echo, reverberating hollowly in the blind chamber; they are distant.

And then she is born.

Into the blackness, a child of pain. A harsh glare, still ill defined; she is inconceivable to the simple eye, a yet poorly manifested ideology. Upon raising up, she flexes what will become extremities. Tense hearts thump outside, waiting to perceive something but never understand it. Continue reading “Imaginings: Darkside’s ‘Psychic’ – Chapter 1”

‘Selma’ Wasn’t Snubbed; ‘Selma’ Wasn’t That Good

Internet publications rushed to Selma’s defense after the film received two Academy Award nominations last week, for Best Picture and Best Original Song. The Washington Post’s reaction was typical: “The most obvious snub was ‘Selma,’ Ava DuVernay’s moving biopic about Martin Luther King Jr.” No nominations for the film’s director, actors or screenplay were a recurring point of concern.

The Post attempted to explain the lack of nominations, citing an overly white, male and old Academy, opposition from Lyndon B. Johnson aides—who argued the film undermined the former president’s legacy—and poor promotion on Paramount’s part.

David Oyelowo portrays Martin Luther King Jr. in ‘Selma’ [photo from NY Daily News]
Many publications used Selma’s predicament to reestablish their staunchly egalitarian sensibilities, in case ever accused in the future of inappropriate conduct. Forbes’ Scott Mendelson—a white male, coincidentally—tirelessly reminds readers he is angry; Selma’s omission from several categories was “egregious” but he was “sadly not-entirely-surprised DuVernay was not nominated for Best Director. The Daily Beast’s Kevin Fallon employed endless sarcasm and vented, “We’re not going to say the Academy is racist. (But you can.)”

These articles poorly specify why Selma deserved these nominations, beyond the civil importance of its raw subject material and protagonist. If social and cultural relevance is the measuring stick for films, World Trade Center starring Nicolas Cage should be an American classic. Nowhere in the Academy Awards rulebook does it say nominations are doled out based on social and historical context and importance. Continue reading “‘Selma’ Wasn’t Snubbed; ‘Selma’ Wasn’t That Good”