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GRE Vocab Wednesday: Oscar Words

With the Oscar nominations now in, the time is perfect for some GRE words relating to the upcoming extravaganza. Instead of casting my net wide by including all nominees–or the red carpet hullabaloo–I am going to focus on the best picture contenders, some of which you might have seen.




There are many different ways to deal with stress. In Iñárritu’s Birdman, Riggan Thomson, played by Michael Keaton, doesn’t do yoga, swing at a punching bag, or go to a therapist. Instead, he imagines that he is Birdman, a superhero he once played during the heyday of his acting career. Keaton imagines himself soaring through the air, causing light installations to fall, and myriad other kooky things that only make sense if you believe you are actually Birdman.

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Something that only exists in your mind, but expresses your desires is a chimera. More specifically, a chimera–pronounced kih-MEER-uh–is any illusory thing that will probably never exist: a world without war, or a world without bad movies.



Back when I was small, video games were little more than mere blips on a screen (PacMan was big). Over the years, though, video game graphics have advanced to the point that they look like actual people onscreen (the same can be said for CGI). Anything that mirrors reality is known for its verisimilitude.

In Richard Linklater’s film Boyhood, the director creates a film of such verisimilitude that it is hard to convince yourself that the events happening on screen did not actually happen. The film is shot over fourteen years so that the actors age in tandem with the characters they portray. And the film is utterly unpretentious in that it depicts a typical life—with the usual ups and downs—shorn of all the Hollywood filigree. You feel like you are almost trespassing on the lives you observe on screen. How’s that for verisimilitude?


There is something about Wes Andersen’s flicks that can best be summed up by the word droll. The word describes something–in this case the move Grand Budapest Hotel–that is quirky and provides dry amusement.

When we see the insides of the Grand Budapest Hotel (it looks somewhat like the inside of a wedding cake) and are introduced to the fledgling bellhop, we are never outright laughing but are thinking something like, “Hey this is all kind of cool and offbeat. What wacky thing or scene is going to come next?”


imitation game
This word has two definitions, one of which relates to the movie the Imitation Game.

A cipher is a code that one must decipher. In the movie, Alan Turing, played by the improbably named Benedict Cumberbatch, must crack the Nazi Enigma code.

Another definition of the word cipher is somebody who is of little importance and just follows the orders of those above.


Okay, I’ll confess, I have yet to see the movie Whiplash, but based on the previews the music teacher, played by J.K. Simmons (no relation to Rowling…jk) looks like a martinet: he is an extreme disciplinarian will to push those under him to their breaking point.

This word comes from a drill sergeant 17th century drillmaster in the army, who pushed his troops till the point that they nearly fainted. In the movie, a promising young drummer, played by Miles Teller, is pushed to practice till blood starts dripping from his palms.

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