The Academy Awards 2015 ceremony is almost upon us, and once again we've ended up with a fine crop of films vying for the Best Picture Oscar.
Yes, despite the constant discontented mutters bemoaning the lack of originality and craft prevalent in current filmmaking, it seems that the cinematic artform is indeed alive and well.
But what if the state of today's movies really was as bad as the pessimists believe? What would the Best Picture nominees actually be like, in this alternate, crappier universe?
Read on as I present for your consideration our eight Best Picture 2015 nominees as seen through a mirror darkly, and consider yourself lucky that we live in the best of all possible worlds (or at least, a world where a film from The Asylum doesn't end up in the race for Best Picture!).
Big Bird Man (or The Expected Virtue of Elmo)
In the performance of his career, Michael Keaton plays an aging muppeteer who walked away from his success on Sesame Street in the 90s, now trying to revitalise his career by writing, directing and starring in a Broadway adaptation of What We Talk About When We Talk About Love told through the magic of puppetry.
Big Bird Man has garnered praise for its thematic depth and technical craftsmanship, particularly the skill shown by director Alejandro G. Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki in making it appear as though the entire film was shot in one take (which is difficult at the best of times, let alone when one half of your cast is sitting on the stage with their hands rammed inside the other half).
Bradley Cooper stars as the most accomplished flautist in U.S. orchestra history in American Piper, which spotlights both his remarkable achievements as well as his difficulty re-adjusting to everyday life after returning from the overseas concert tour scene.
Cooper (who bulked up for the part) has received universal acclaim for his gritty performance, however some critics have questioned what they see as the decision by auteur Clint Eastwood to use the famously ambiguous world of the woodwind section as the setting for a simplistic story about right and wrong.
An anime from Tokyo-based Tatsunoko Production, Cell MA follows the story of a single-celled organism as it struggles to come to terms with its new-found sentience whilst simultaneously fighting for survival in post-apocalyptic Boston.
Upon its release, Cell MA was lauded for its astonishing visuals, even as debate raged over the quality of its convoluted storyline and its (quite frankly, shocking) level of sexual content.
In his most commercial film to date, Richard Linklater shines a light on the earliest days of everyone's favourite outlaw, Robin Hood.
Newcomer Ellar Coltrane dons the green leggings of a young Robin of Loxley in a story that sheds new light on Robin's formative years, throwing the spotlight on his rarely seen parents (played by Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette).
Boy Hood earned rave reviews across the board for it tight narrative structure and crowd pleasing set pieces, and industry insiders marveled at its brief, 12-week shooting schedule.
The Grand Budapest Motel
From The Asylum, those loveable purveyors of straight-to-DVD knock-offs like The Da Vinci Treasure and Transmorphers, comes their laziest attempt to piggy back off the success of a beloved film yet!
Hindered as it was by a non-existent budget, wooden acting, uninspired production design and no cinematic release, critics were left scratching their heads in wonder after The Grand Budapest Motel was nominated for the top gong (by way of an obscure technical loophole unique to this universe) ahead of its more artistically accomplished source of inspiration.
The Theory of Nothing
After 17 years of rejecting pleas by fans and studio executives alike for a reunion special, Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David finally caved and brought back Seinfeld, and this time, it was on the big screen!
Casual audiences were thrilled by the return of Jerry, Kramer, Elaine and George, but critics and die-hard fans of the show were up in arms over the decision by Seinfeld and David to shoehorn the theories about nothing by computational scientist Russell K. Standish into the film's story.
Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley lead a stellar cast of British talent in this feel-good comedy about maths genius Alan and his fiancee Joan, who are constantly being outdone by their German neighbours at charades.
Sick of being trounced night after night, the couple build a machine capable of deciphering the German's secret messages, but are faced with the vexing dilemma of how to use this knowledge to their advantage without killing Tuesday Game Night forever.
Cumberbatch received the majority of attention for his stand-out performance as loveable geek Alan, although critics also singled out director Morten Tyldum's efforts at balancing breakneck tension with slapstick laughs.
The latest superhero outing from Warner Bros. Studios and DC Entertainment, Whiplash sees Henry Cavill reprise the Superman role as, egged on by bald nemesis Lex Luthor (J.K. Simmons), he confronts his colourful roster of enemies and breaks their necks one by one.
Whiplash proved divisive among critics and fans alike: some praised it for taking risks with the established Man of Steel mythos, whilst others complained that “battle fatigue” kicked in around the first hour or so of involuntary chiropractics.
So – still think today's movies couldn't get any worse? Would you actually watch any of the above alternatives? Let me know in the comments below!