People

Stay Connected

Subscribe

Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content

Archive

Picks and Pans Main: People Picks

Posted on

FOR ADDITIONAL REVIEWS OF MOVIES, TV SHOWS, MUSIC AND BOOKS, GO TO PEOPLE.COM/PICKS

No. 1 Jane the Virgin

Gina Rodriguez is the unblemished heart of a fresh, innocent, funny series

TV

COMEDY/DRAMA

The happiest surprise at the Golden Globes was actress Gina Rodriguez’s win, giving this delightful first-season show a boost. Jane is packed with plot twists, some tragic, and characters, some malevolent, but the overarching tone is kind, human, accepting—no amount of storytelling scaffolding ever blocks out Jane’s sun. Her father, a telenovela star, may not have been around for her childhood, but now he keeps a vision board imagining them as a parallel Jon Voight and Angelina Jolie. Everything ultimately depends on Rodriguez as Jane, industrious and optimistic, but the narrator (Anthony Mendez, with a rich flourish of a Spanish accent) is Jane’s true voice—amused and amusing. “All righty, let’s begin,” he’ll say. Off we go. (CW, Mondays, 9 p.m.)

GUILTY PLEASURE!

No. 2 Fifty Shades of Grey

Do Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan sizzle—or is this torture to sit through?

MOVIE

SEE IT: Face it, you’re here for the dirty parts … and they’re plenty steamy: two beautiful bodies getting unabashedly kinky. The rest is sometimes entertainingly ludicrous, sometimes tedious. Who cares if the performances are one-note, as long as that note is hot?

SKIP IT: E L James’s prose in the novel is awful (“I like my women sentient and receptive”), but at least there’s no ignoring its erotic pulse. Johnson and Dornan have none, and as a result his S&M games feel like physical abuse. The pair could have been better played by Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. I mean it.

No. 3 Estelle, True Romance

MUSIC

R&B

Romance falls under the rubric of R&B, but Estelle’s influences range from pop to hip-hop to reggae to soul. Her sensational pipes are the one constant. She pulls herself up by her bootstraps on the power ballad “Conqueror” and owns her sexuality on “Make Her Say (Beat It Up),” which rivals Beyoncé’s “Partition” in blush-worthy lyrics. This is about courage, not crushes. (Feb. 17)

No. 4 Kingsman: The Secret Service

Colin Firth leads a spy flick so kicky, it’s nearly a spoof

MOVIE

ACTION

It’s no easy trick to shake up the fusty spy genre—in a Savile Row suit no less. But that’s what Kingsman does with relish. When natty Harry (Firth) takes a shine to Eggsy (Taron Egerton), he clues the rough lad in on a cabal of agents fashioned after the knights of the round table. The gadgets and spycraft are old hat, but the film’s wild nuttiness feels fresh, as does Samuel L. Jackson’s lisping villain. It’s too bad a boorish twist nearly spoils the fun, but Egerton and Firth go down like the perfect martini—gin, if you’re a Kingsman. (Feb. 13, R)

No. 5 Elle King, Love Stuff

MUSIC

ROCK

King’s a lot of things (singer-songwriter, banjo player, guitarist), but girl next door isn’t one of them. She’s got a snarl in her voice and isn’t sorry about her whiskey-drinking or man-eater ways—see: “America’s Sweetheart” and “Ex’s and Oh’s”—making this debut one bluesy ruckus. (Feb. 17)

No. 6 Vikings

The bearded brutes push farther into Europe without (so far) learning manners

TV

DRAMA

“When the spring comes, and my blood heats up, I want nothing more than to raid or fight.” That’s Viking talk, and it’s no exaggeration—in History’s suitably vigorous series, the uncivilized Nordic bands would seem willing to go marauding at the drop of a hat or helmet. Season 3 begins with Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) in Wessex fighting for King Ecbert (Linus Roache). On the road ahead: the city of Paris. Limbs are hacked off with ruddy gusto, while in a quiet moment Ecbert treats a few bumpkins to the sexy comforts of an ancient Roman bathhouse. Hot baths—who knew? (History, Feb. 19, 10 p.m.)

No. 7 Imagine Dragons, Smoke + Mirrors

MUSIC

ALTERNATIVE

On their sophomore effort, the Vegas group upholds their indie cred while delivering the explosive hooks that shot them to mainstream success. Over trippy production frontman Dan Reynolds thunders through heavy subjects—struggling with his Mormon faith, a strained relationship with his parents—on must-hears like “I Bet My Life,” “Friction” and “I’m So Sorry.” (Feb. 17)

No. 8 Bad Hair Day

TV

COMEDY

Monica (Austin & Ally‘s Laura Marano) is a willfully popular high school senior whose prom dreams are wrecked after she applies too many products to her hair. She looks like she’s wearing a headdress of baby carrots and twine. Hair Day strays too far from this important crisis—a stolen necklace plays a large role—but it’s a nice lesson about not wigging out over the need for approval. (Disney, Feb. 13, 8 p.m.)

No. 9 The Last Five Years

MOVIE

MUSICAL

Anna Kendrick may well be human, but evidence suggests she can do no wrong. She elevates this ambitious but flawed experiment about a couple, Cathy (Kendrick) and Jamie (Jeremy Jordan), who play out the full five years of their relationship in song. Her tunes begin in the sad present, reeling back to the hopeful beginning. His travel in reverse. While Jordan is solid, with a fine tenor, Kendrick nails the emotional journey. One note: The film is nearly wall-to-wall singing, so don’t take your musical-hating friend (or you won’t be friends for long). (Feb. 13, PG-13)

No. 10 @crazyjewishmom

INSTAGRAM

COMEDY

Kate Siegel’s funny Instagram hit, featuring real cellphone texts between her and her mother (Kim Friedman, a retired TV director), is the maternal Sh*t My Dad Says. It’s a constellation of pointers (and jokes), urging Kate to marry. Also, things like “Great bra shop in Linwood.”

No. 11 The Best New Books

Tales of imperfect connections, a girl’s postapocalyptic journey and a moody mystery set in Baton Rouge

Laura van den Berg

Find Me

NOVEL

A plague has killed millions, but young Joy has made it through. Defiant and immune, she escapes the scientists monitoring her and treks across the ravaged land, searching for the mother who abandoned her, facing down terrible memories. It sounds grim, but this is a thoughtful, touching story about survival—about finding ways to heal and reasons to live.

M.O. Walsh

My Sunshine Away

NOVEL

The rape of a teenage track star in a Baton Rouge suburb—and its effect on the 14-year-old neighbor who has a crush on her—form the emotional nucleus of this wrenching and wondrous coming-of-age tale. Walsh’s debut novel is a mystery, a Louisiana mash note and a deeply compassionate, clear-eyed take on the addled teen-boy mind.

BOOK OF THE WEEK

Katherine Heiny

Single, Carefree, Mellow

STORIES

Men like facts, women like narrative. That’s part of what keeps them at odds in this collection, whose characters might have stepped out of Girls—grown-up but still groping toward happiness. “When she tried to talk to [her husband] about how terrific Leo’s teacher was,” a woman complains to her lover, he “only told her a bunch of facts about Bosnia.” Her lover’s reply: “What did he say about Bosnia?” (So much for infidelity.) These are wry, winning stories you won’t soon forget.

GREAT NONFICTION

Paul Fischer

A Kim Jong-Il Production

Who knew? Before he ran North Korea, Kim Jong Il made all its films—and kidnapped two South Korean stars to help him out. Timely and fascinating.

Zoë Howe

Stevie Nicks: Visions, Dreams & Rumours

All about the Fleetwood Mac songbird’s rise from ordinary midwestern childhood to rock goddess status. Go your own way, indeed.

Lynsey Addario

It’s What I Do

Using words and pictures, acclaimed photojournalist Addario explains what drives her from war zone to war zone—and how she balances her work with life as a mom.

No. 12 The Oscars

TV

Here’s who will—and who should—bring home the gold on Feb. 22

For more on the Oscars, go to page 70.

Best Picture

Get out your fancy hats and your binoculars—we have a horse race! With the competition slowed by spats over the depiction of LBJ in Selma and Alan Turing in The Imitation Game, narrative high-wire acts Birdman and Boyhood are neck and neck to the finish. The gutsier, sharper backstage drama Birdman has won more early prizes, but the emotion and ambition of Boyhood, shot over 12 years in its actors’ lives, could still give it the edge.

WILL WIN: Boyhood

SHOULD WIN: Birdman

Best Actor

With so many actors doing such quality work, it’s a shock this race hasn’t become an ungentlemanly brawl. Steve Carell was coldly menacing in Foxcatcher, and Benedict Cumberbatch gave a prickly character vulnerability in The Imitation Game. But Eddie Redmayne delivered a true tour de force performance as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, while Michael Keaton, excellent in Birdman, has the better story, in a wink-wink role as a superhero-movie actor.

WILL WIN: Keaton by a feather

SHOULD WIN: Redmayne

Best Actress

If Julianne Moore doesn’t win for her astounding transformation in Still Alice, it will be the shocker of Oscar night. As a linguistics professor who develops early-onset Alzheimer’s, Moore is subtle and heartbreaking, her identity slowly flattening and unfolding like an origami swan.

WILL WIN: Moore

SHOULD WIN: Moore

Best Supporting Actor

Mark your Oscar ballots now. J.K. Simmons will nab a statue for his ferocious turn in Whiplash as a fearsome band teacher. Besides, who could say no to the guy who plays the yellow peanut M&M?

WILL WIN: Simmons

SHOULD WIN: Simmons

Best Supporting Actress

In a year soft on great female roles, Patricia Arquette, as Boyhood‘s mom, will likely best Meryl Streep’s Into the Woods singing witch. Arquette makes motherhood look as scary and joyful as it truly is.

WILL WIN: Arquette

SHOULD WIN: Arquette

IS SNIPER A SPOILER?

With more than $250 million in U.S. box office, American Sniper is surging. But can it eke out any wins from its six Oscar nods? Sniper could score for its terrific sound, and don’t count out Bradley Cooper for a Best Actor upset. But it’s unlikely to top Best Picture frontrunners Boyhood and Birdman. Academy voters like Cooper’s tightly controlled turn, but they don’t love the film.

OSCARS 2015 BALLOT

Best Picture

American Sniper

Birdman

Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Selma

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

Actor in a Leading Role

• Steve Carell, Foxcatcher

• Bradley Cooper, American Sniper

• Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game

• Michael Keaton, Birdman

• Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Actor in a Supporting Role

• Robert Duvall, The Judge

• Ethan Hawke, Boyhood

• Edward Norton, Birdman

• Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher

• J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Actress in a Leading Role

• Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night

• Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything

• Julianne Moore, Still Alice

• Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon, Wild

Actress in a Supporting Role

• Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

• Laura Dern, Wild

Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game

• Emma Stone, Birdman

• Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

Animated Feature Film

Big Hero 6

The Boxtrolls

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Song of the Sea

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Cinematography

Birdman

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Ida

Mr. Turner

Unbroken

Costume Design

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Inherent Vice

Into the Woods

Maleficent

Mr. Turner

Directing

• Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman

• Richard Linklater, Boyhood

• Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher

• Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel

• Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

Documentary Feature

Citizenfour

Finding Vivian Maier

Last Days in Vietnam

The Salt of the Earth

Virunga

Documentary Short Subject

Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

Joanna

Our Curse

The Reaper (La Parka)

White Earth

Film Editing

American Sniper

Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Whiplash

Foreign Language Film

Ida, Poland

Leviathan, Russia

Tangerines, Estonia

Timbuktu, Mauritania

Wild Tales, Argentina

Makeup & Hairstyling

Foxcatcher

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Guardians of the Galaxy

Music, Original Score

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Interstellar

Mr. Turner

The Theory of Everything

Music, Original Song

• “Everything Is Awesome,” The Lego Movie

• “Glory,” Selma

• “Grateful,” Beyond the Lights

• “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” Glen Campbell … I’ll Be Me

• “Lost Stars,” Begin Again

Production Design

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Interstellar

Into the Woods

Mr. Turner

Short Film, Animated

The Bigger Picture

The Dam Keeper

Feast

Me and My Moulton

A Single Life

Short Film, Live Action

Aya

Boogaloo and Graham

Butter Lamp (La Lampe au Beurre de Yak)

Parvaneh

The Phone Call

Sound Editing

American Sniper

Birdman

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Interstellar

Unbroken

Sound Mixing

American Sniper

Birdman

Interstellar

Unbroken

Whiplash

Visual Effects

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Guardians of the Galaxy

Interstellar

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Writing, Adapted Screenplay

American Sniper

The Imitation Game

Inherent Vice

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

Writing, Original Screenplay

Birdman

Boyhood

Foxcatcher

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Nightcrawler

Tune in to the 87th Annual Academy Awards SUNDAY, FEB. 22 7 p.m. ET ON ABC