At age nine Richard Crouse saw The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean at the Astor Theatre in Liverpool, Nova Scotia. Paul Newman starred, John Huston directed and Richard was hooked on the big screen. Since then he has seen thousands of movies, written about most of them in the pages of Metro, talked about them on television shows like Canada AM, where he has spent the last decade as film critic and on the radio on his own syndicated Bell Media radio show The Richard Crouse Show. He is also the author of six books on pop culture history including Who Wrote the Book of Love, the best-selling The 100 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, its sequel The Son of the 100 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, the bestselling Raising Hell: Ken Russell and the Unmaking of The Devils and the upcoming Elvis is King: Costello’s My Aim is True.
Books to Oscars 2015
In American Sniper (based on the book American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History by Chris Kyle and Scott McEwen) rodeo rider Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) is prompted to join the Navy SEALS after watching scenes of terror on the news. His natural ability with a gun makes him a deadly sniper and soon he racks up a kill record that earns him the nickname The Legend. Protecting his brothers-in-arms comes with a heavy price, and soon his two realities—his family life stateside with his wife Taya (Sienna Miller) and the world of war—become confused. After four tours of duty and over one hundred confirmed kills, he must adapt to being a father, husband and Navy SEAL. Possible Academy Award nominations? Best Director for Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper as Best Actor.
Director Tim Burton turns his eye to the art world in Big Eyes (based on Big Eyes and All: The Unofficial Biography of Margaret Keane by Jennifer Warner). There was a time when Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz) was the top selling painter in the world. Original paintings of his big-eyed waifs commanded thousands of dollars but if that was too high end for you, a print could be purchased for the price of a breakfast at Dennys. And sell they did, like hotcakes. Keane became rich and famous and even though gallery owners, like the one played by Jason Schwartzman in the movie, thought the “taste police” should be called wherever the paintings were displayed and a critic (Terrence Stamp) called them grotesque and “an infinity of kitsch,” the morose portraits were very popular.
“I think what Keane has done is just terrific,” said Andy Warhol. “It has to be good. If it were bad, so many people wouldn’t like it.”
Trouble was, Walter couldn’t paint. He was an artist wannabe with a talent for promotion of other people’s work. In this case it was the work of his wife Margaret (Amy Adams). For her the paintings were a personal expression, for him they were a personal cheque to fame and fortune. From selling the paintings at street fairs to the walls of jazz clubs to their own gallery and finally department stores all over the world, Walter became the public face of the phenomenon while Margaret sat at home, tucked away in a small garret cranking out big eyes and keeping her mouth shut.
Eventually Margaret sought out the credit she deserved and share of the money she had rightly earned in a dramatic courtroom battle that was settled with easels and brushes instead of lawyers and writs. Possible Academy Award nominations? Amy Adams for Best Actress.
Based on true events, Foxcatcher (inspired by Foxcatcher: The True Story of My Brother's Murder, John du Pont's Madness, and the Quest for Olympic Gold by Mark Schultz and David Thomas) begins with Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum), a gold medal-winning wrestler at the 1984 Olympics, training with his brother David (Mark Ruffalo) to regain the glory of his past achievements. Out of the blue he is contacted by John du Pont (Steve Carell), multi-millionaire and sports enthusiast with a simple but grand offer. The patriotic du Pont asks Schultz to put together a team of wrestlers, who would train at a special facility at Foxcatcher Farms and establish America’s dominance at the upcoming Seoul Olympics. Schultz signs for $25,000 a year–“I just said the highest number in my head.”—beginning a journey that will end in world championship glory and murder. Possible Academy Award nominations? Steve Carell as Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor for Mark Ruffalo and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Gone Girl (based on the novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn) is about many things. It’s about the perfect crime. It’s about the disintegration of a marriage. It’s about the mob mentality that shows like Nancy Grace creates when “innocent until proven guilty” becomes a meaningless catchphrase. Heck, it’s even about proving Tyler Perry actually can act but mostly its about keeping the audience perched on the edge of their collective seats. Possible Academy Award nominations? Best Picture, Rosamund Pike for Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay for Gillian Flynn.
In The Imitation Game (based on Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges and Douglas Hofstadter)Benedict Cumberbatch is Alan Turing, a Cambridge mathematician who volunteers to help break the German’s most devastating weapon of war, the Enigma machine. “I like puzzles,” he says, “and the enigma is the most difficult puzzle in the world.” Called “the crooked hand of death itself,” it was a coding machine, thought to be unbreakable, that conveyed messages about every attack, every bombing run and every U-boat attack. The English tried for years to find the secret of the machine, but it wasn’t until Turing and his team—Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Allen Leech and Keira Knightley—built a computer capable of decoding the Enigma’s missives that the war turned in favor of the good guys. It was a top-secret operation, classified for more than fifty years, but that wasn’t Turing’s only secret. Gay at a time when homosexuality was illegal, punishable by jail or chemical castration, he was forced to live a world of secrets, both personal and professional. Possible Academy Award nominations? Best Picture, Best Actor for Benedict Cumberbatch and Best Adapted Screenplay for Graham Moore.
In Inherent Vice (based upon Inherent Vice: A Novel by Thomas Pynchon) Joaquin Phoenix, is Larry "Doc" Sportello, a shaggy haired hippie detective in 1970 Los Angeles. Perpetually stoned he sees the world through a fog, and writes things like, “Paranoia Alert!” and “Not hallucinating” in his red detective’s notebook. When his ex-girlfriend Shasta (Katherine Waterston) asks him to investigate a plot to have her wealthy, married lover committed to a mental health facility, Doc is sucked into a complicated web of deceit involving a neurotic LA cop named Bigfoot (Josh Brolin), a snitch (Owen Wilson), a drug crazed dentist (Martin Short), a drug syndicated called the Golden Fang and a man with a swastika tattooed on his face (Keith Jardine). Possible Academy Award nominations? Joaquin Phoenix for Best Actor, Katherine Waterson for Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor for Josh Brolin, Best Director for Paul Thomas Anderson, Best Adapted Screenplay for Paul Thomas Anderson.
Playing like Stephen Hawking’s Greatest Hits, The Theory of Everything (based on the memoir Travelling to Infinity: The True Story Behind The Theory of Everything by Jane Hawking) is a blow-by-blow account of his remarkable life, from socially awkward scientist-in-training to husband, father and finally, the wheelchair bound physics superstar.
The story begins in 1963. Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) is a student at Cambridge working toward deciding what his life’s study will be. Already an acknowledged genius he takes on time as a subject for his doctorate. As he sets out to prove with a single equation that time had a beginning, two things happen that change his life forever. He meets Jane (Felicity Jones), a pretty PhD student who would become his wife, mother of his three children and life support system after he is diagnosed with a motor neuron disease related to ALS. “I love you,” she blurts out when she learns he has only been given two years to live. “That’s a false conclusion,” he replies, scientifically.
Doctors dramatically underestimated his life expectancy, but were correct in their diagnosis. His body deteriorates until he is confined to a wheelchair and cannot speak, but his thoughts remain as vital as ever. As he developed theories like cosmological inflation Jane was his lifeline, and would remain so until just before the release of his besting book A Brief History of Time.
The Theory of Everything is not just the story of a great man but also the story of the great woman behind the man. Possible Academy Award nominations? Eddie Redmayne as Best Actor, Best Actress for Felicity Jones and Best Adapted Screenplay for Anthony McCarten.
Directed and produced by Angelina Jolie, (and adapted from Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand), Unbroken is a look at the indomitable spirit of Louis "Louie" Zamperini (Jack O'Connell) a first generation Italian-American Olympian runner who survived a near-fatal WWII plane crash and 47 days drifting on a raft with airmen Phil (Domhnall Gleeson) and Mac (Finn Wittrock). On their last day adrift he says to his raft mate, “I have some good news and bad news.” The good news is rescue, the bad news is the rescuers, the Japanese who promptly throw him in a prisoner of war camp. Years of physical and mental abuse follow at the hand of a brutal camp commander known as The Bird (Miyavi) before he finally emerges bloodied and bruised but unbroken, (that’s not a spoiler, just a fact), on VJ Day. Possible Academy Award nominations? Best Director for Angelina Jolie, Best Actor for Jack O’Connell and Best Adapted Screenplay for Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Richard LaGravenese and William Nicholson.
Wild (based on the bestselling memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed) from Jean-Marc Vallée, the Academy Award nominated director of Dallas Buyer’s Club, is a road movie. Or rather, a path movie as star Reese Witherspoon hardly spends any of her 1000-mile journey from Mojave Desert to Canada on an actual road. Witherspoon is Cheryl Strayed, a literate young woman whose life spins out of control after a family tragedy. To ease her pain she steps outside of her marriage to Paul (The Newsroom’s Thomas Sadoski) and into a world of booze, drugs and anonymous sex. She calls herself an experimentalist—the “girl who says yes instead of no”—but when she hits rock bottom she runs away from the past toward an uncertain future, cleansing herself and her soul with a 1000-mile trek on the Pacific Crest Trail. “I’m obsessive,” she says, “but this is stretch for me.” Possible Academy Award nominations? Reese Witherspoon as Best Actress, Best Director for Jean-Marc Vallée and Best Adapted Screenplay for Nick Hornby.
More from Richard Crouse
From exclusive interviews with director Ken Russell and new interviews with cast, crew, and historians, comes this examination of the beautifully blasphemous film The Devils. Based on historical fact, this controversial 1971 film is about an oversexed priest and a group of sexually repressed nuns in 17th-century France and the ensuing trials and exorcisms that followed. Detailing the production and the personalities of two of cinema’s great eccentrics, director Ken Russell and star Oliver Reed, Crouse delves deeper to explore the aftermath of the film. Chiefly, the question asked is How can a movie by one of the most famous filmmakers in the world end up banned, edited, and ignored by the company that owns it?
Elvis is King: Costello's My Aim Is True (coming in April 2015)
Before Elvis Costello was one of Rolling Stone’s greatest artists of all time, before he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he was Declan P. McManus, an office drone with a dull suburban life and a side gig in a pub rock band. In 1976, under the guidance of legendary label Stiff Records, he transformed himself into the snarling, spectacled artist who defied the musical status quo to blaze the trail for a new kind of rock star with his debut album, My Aim Is True. In Elvis Is King, Richard Crouse examines how the man, the myth, and the music of this arrestingly original album smashed the trends of the era to bridge the gap between punk and rock ’n’ roll.
Check out Richard Crouse's Oscar Picks Collection here.
his website here.
and follow him on twitter @RichardCrouse