Truby Ranks the Oscar Films – 2015

Budapest hotelHere’s my annual ranking of films hoping for Oscar gold, from best to worst. Films that earned nominations for either Picture or Writing, Original or Adapted, have a star.

*1. The Grand Budapest Hotel: a story within a story within a story about the wonder of storytelling in a magical hotel that time forgot, until now.

*2. The Imitation Game: a conventional but beautifully executed script that goes in one door – cracking the Nazi code – and comes out another – a man tragically persecuted because he is gay. Classic storytelling in the screenplay form.

*3. Nightcrawler: Horatio Alger from Hell. How to make it in America using the sleaziest tactics creative capitalism allows. Network for 2014, but darker.

*4. Whiplash: a minimalist fight between player and coach perfectly focused toward the final knockout punch.

5. Guardians of the Galaxy: the most entertaining film of the year is the result of writers who have mastered the craft of the comic myth.

*6. Interstellar: a post-graduate class in the cinematic plot of convergence, including some plot holes the size of the universe that prevent it from being a knockout.

*7. Selma: the preaching in the monologues is powerful stuff. The preaching in the dialogue is not. A moving portrait of one of the great battles in the civil rights movement and the imperfect man who made it happen.

*8. Birdman: structurally ambitious, but few things are as hollow or pretentious as an existential exploration of what it means to be an AC-TOR.

*9. Boyhood: a hundred moments in a boy’s life, struggling to form a pattern, but the total is considerably less than the sum of the parts.

*10. American Sniper: portrait of a professional killer with the typical Eastwood bait and switch, bemoaning the cost of violence while wallowing in the pleasure of the kill.

*11. The Theory of Everything: although this film has real emotional power, the man against disease story has no dramatic engine, so it gets slower and more annoying as it goes on. Maudlin and on-the-nose, this is what’s known as an actor’s movie.

12. Wild: an ultimately satisfying memoir-true story about a woman healing herself. But it’s all medicine. There’s no plot to make it fun.

*13. Foxcatcher: a predictable, single-line descent about two nut jobs and the decent guy who gets caught in the middle. The fake nose doesn’t help.

14. A Most Violent Year: a passive protagonist and a plot that hits the same beat until, suddenly, the movie’s over.

15. Gone Girl: an absurd battle between a psychopath and an idiot, with one of the worst endings in years.

16. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies: thousands of onscreen deaths give undeniable proof that the monstrous Orcs are the worst warriors in history.

*17. Inherent Vice: an Oscar-nominated, endless, boring mess that cements Paul Thomas Anderson’s reputation as the most over-rated writer-director working today. Bad plot, bad characters, bad dialogue, bad acting. Bad.



  1. Claire Reply

    Thanks John. Need to check out some of the films at the top of your list.

  2. Richard Coleman Reply

    Only seen acouple of these films as most don’t interest me (fantasy and such – bleh!). Just a couple of small observations.
    Budapest Hotel: Pure C-R-A-P. Made no sense at all. Confusing and boring.
    Inherent Vice: Other than your comment about the writer-director (I’m not familiar with him) I totally agree. A waste of money.
    Interstellar and Imitation Game: Concur.
    Selma: Who is the flawed man you speak of? I would refer you to the review by Jim DiEugenio at
    Just my opinions of course.

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  4. Kath Reply

    Hi John, I enjoyed Gone Girl (I read the book first, so maybe I saw it differently) but your review made me laugh really loud. It’s perfect!

  5. Thomas Reply

    In my opinion, Grand Budaptest could have been better if the director avoided such a repetitive mannerism that made me feel to be watching a marionnette show instead of a movie with human actors, and kept me away from any emotion.

    I didn’t like the ending in Nightcrawler for the same kind of cartesian reasons I didn’t like the ending in Interstellar : with all the footage and the fact that he checked the licence plate from his computer, they could not charge him, really ?

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  7. Imad Reply

    I’ve seen some of nominated movies, not all of them, my ranking is:
    A – Tangerines
    1 – Birdman
    2 – Whiplash
    3 – Boyhood
    4 – Nightcrawler
    B – Ida
    C – Leviathan
    5 – Grand budapest hotel
    D – Two days, one night
    6 – Gone girl
    7 – Guardian of galaxy
    E – Timbuktu

  8. William Davies Reply

    Mr. Truby,

    As you had said it long before the Oscars, that ‘The Imitation Game” was ” a conventional but beautifully executed script,” and it has now come to past. It won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay. Thank You for your Critical, Precise, Analysis of the structure of screen writing.

  9. Ali Reply

    Often times desire and need aren’t the same thing. The charcater desires the hot chick in school, but what he needs is the more nerdy chick that sits in the library. She will truly make him happy. But the charcater needs a goal, something he wants, something he is trying to get, or the story goes nowhere. The goals can change throughout the story.

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