On my quest to WATCH EVERY BEST PICTURE NOMINEE EVER!!! I’ve decided to go ahead and get this year’s Oscars out of the way. Just consider it an aside from my main goal of going decade by decade(currently I’m tackling the 1930’s). The 88th Academy Awards were held on February 28th, 2016 and featured these 8 films from 2015:
Paramount – 2hr 10min
DIRECTOR: Adam McKay
GENRE: Comedy/Procedural/Social Commentary
NOTES: Based on the book by Michael Lewis.
PROS: Makes a very complex subject approachable, mostly through the use of comical asides(although probably condescending if you are versed on the subject… which I’m not). • The final decisions of our main characters despite any moral scruples they may have has a sobering effect. • The acting is mostly strong, if not a bit cliched. • Led Zeppelin for the credits!
CONS: The ever roving docu-drama-esque camera work. • Interjections of pop culture(although I think the point was, “Hey people, look at all the stupid stuff you were preoccupied with while Wall Street was busy screwing you.”) • Some manic editing(a single frame of Steve Carrell’s face? Why?) • The attempt to shoe horn in Baum‘s(Carrell) emotional past. • Oversimplifying Wall Street bankers by making them the ONE & ONLY reason for the collapse & seemingly all the world’s problems(smash cut from bankers in their nice cars to bums under a bridge).
BETTER REVIEW THAN MINE: from Tony over at tonymacklin.net
Walt Disney Studios – 2hr 21min
DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg
GENRE: Spy Thriller/Cold War
NOTES: Based on true events which took place between 1957 – 1962.
PROS: Perfectly executed. Spielberg takes what is essentially a series of conversations around desks and makes it feel swift, entertaining and poignant • The Coen brothers flair for the ironic shows itself in the screenplay(which they were hired to touch up). • All the secondary foreign actors are very strong. • Mark Rylance puts on a master display of restraint and won Best Supporting Actor for his performance. • A perfect role for Hanks. Our modern day Jimmy Stewart.
CONS: This is old fashioned Capra-esque filmmaking at it’s finest and so there is a tendency for moments to play a bit exaggerated. • Some of the music doesn’t quite gel.
BETTER REVIEW THAN MINE: from Brain Tallerico over at rogerebert
Fox Searchlight – 1hr 52min
DIRECTOR: John Crowley
GENRE: Romance/Period Piece
NOTES: Based on the novel by Colm Tóibín. • Much of the filming took place in Montreal because New York did not have enough buildings remaining from the 1950’s.
PROS: Saorisie Ronan is stunning. A true movie star and a great actress. She does a lot with a limited script. • It’s a simple story but it pulls on the old heartstrings. Mainly because Ronan(as Eilis, pronounced ay-lish) is so magnetic. Who wouldn’t want to fall in love with her? • Some funny moments at the boarding house dinner table, especially with the two “giddy” girls played by Emily Bett Rickards(Patty) and Eve Macklin(Diana). • I like that Eilis ends up where she started, only now with some life experiences to pass on. A classic film trope but it always works.
CONS: All the conflicts in this movie feel a little too convenient. • Eilis falling for Tony(Emory Cohen) feels very rushed. • The color palette is a little silly. They are trying to evoke a nostalgic image of the 1950’s but the colors are so pronounced it starts to almost feel like a cartoon. • I really can’t stand pointless(underline pointless) hand held camera work. Why in the world we need a handheld style to portray mundane moments(like sitting around a dinner table) is beyond me. This is an tv/movie epidemic right now in my opinion.
BETTER REVIEW THAN MINE: from Richard Brody over at newyorker
Warner Bros. 2hr
DIRECTOR: George Miller
GENRE: Action/Car Chase
NOTES: The 4th installment in the Mad Max franchise following Mad Max(1979), Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior(1981) & Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome(1985). • Pre-production began as early as 1997. • Won the Academy awards for Best Costume Design, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Makeup & Hairstyling, Best Film Editing, and Best Production Design.
PROS: Bonkers. Absolutely bonkers.
CONS: None really. I could see how this might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but for the type of film it is, it hits zero sour notes.
BETTER REVIEW THAN MINE: from Anthony Lane over at The New Yorker
20th Century Fox – 2hr 21min
DIRECTOR: Ridley Scott
NOTES: Based on the book by Andy Weir.
PROS: Matt Damon fits quite well in this role of the imperturbable botanist-astronaut. • Visually immersive(which is Ridley Scott’s biggest strength in my opinion.)
CONS: A touch predictable. • Clichés run rampant. • Watney(Matt Damon) always has the right answer the first time. He hardly ever struggles. • There’s a damn musical montage! • Lazy script writing with one note characters. • Scientists who suddenly need the details of their field explained to them. • One too many internet meme-esque dialogue moments, e.g., “I’m gonna have to science the shit outta this”. • Kristen Wiig’s character exists to merely ask questions which the writers are afraid the audience might not be able to ask & answer on their own. • Jeff Daniels is miscast here. • Overlong. It could have used some tighter editing, especially once Watney leaves Mars. • The ubiquitous self-surgery scene.
BETTER REVIEW THAN MINE: from Cole Smithey over at colesmithey
20th Century Fox – 2hr 36min
DIRECTOR: Alejandro Iñárritu
NOTES: Based on the book by Michael Punke and the true account of 19th century trapper Hugh Glass.
PROS: More amazing cinematography from Emmanuel Lubezki. The use of natural lighting makes you feel the cold and smell the dirt. • The Bear attack on Glass(DiCaprio) is frightening and hyper-realistic. It really sells the whole movie from that point. • Tom Hardy as Fitzgerald is phenomenal.
CONS: The tone of the film fluctuates. • The doses of magical realism in the dream sequences feel a bit dated. • The addition of Glass‘ half-Pawnee son Hawk(Forrest Goodluck) feels tacked on. None of the emotion there feels earned. In real life, Glass sought revenge for simply being left for dead by Bridger & Fitzgerald and not for anything to do with a son(There is no historical record that Glass even had a son or an Indian wife for that matter). • As much as I enjoy the look of the film and how it takes it’s time to dwell on the scenery, it could have used some tighter editing.
BETTER REVIEW THAN MINE: from Justin Chang over at Variety
A24 – 1hr 58min
DIRECTOR: Lenny Abrahamson
GENRE: Drama/Traumatic experience/PTSD
NOTES: based on the novel by Emma Donaghue.
PROS: Incredible performances by both Larson & Tremblay. • Intense scene right smack dab in the middle of the film. It includes an incredible zoom shot coupled with powerful music that makes me cry just thinking about it.
CONS: The second half tries to cram way too much into it’s time. There are many issues touched on that could easily have their own movie devoted them. • The camera work(apart from the aforementioned zoom) doesn’t really do anything interesting. Just more of the same boring handheld work that’s so popular these days. • Jack‘s(Tremblay) narration feels tacked on but I’ve never been a fan of voiceover(even in Kubrick’s work).
BETTER REVIEW THAN MINE: from Tim Robey over at thetelegraph
Open Road – 2hr 9min
DIRECTOR: Tom McCarthy
NOTES: Based on true events.
PROS: Great acting from both the stars and the supporting players(especially Billy Crudup and Stanley Tucci). Mark Ruffalo turns in yet another great performance. He was made for these procedurals.(see also: Zodiac(2007)) • The fast talking newspaper movie. Reminiscent of classic newspaper movies like The Front Page(1931). • The dialogue is fantastic. And the actors make it feel very natural. Even when they are clearly moving the plot along.
CONS: Some cliche music from Howard Shore. • I felt they needed to highlight the victims sooner in the film in order for the audience to connect to the crimes and feel the importance of the Spotlight team’s project. • The victim interviews tended to play like a TV show. • The scene where Sacha(Rachel McAdams) confronts Father Paquin(Richard O’Rourke) felt very forced and unrealistic. That he would just open the door and immediately admit to molesting young boys is hard to believe.
BETTER REVIEW THAN MINE: from Sheila over at rogerebert
Did the Oscars get it right?
Spotlight is a great movie but there are better procedural-type films(like Zodiac(2007), All The President’s Men(1976), High And Low(1963), and Apollo 13(1995) to name a few). It was certainly deserving of the nomination this year but Mad Max: Fury Road is perfection. If any “Action” movie(a genre which the Academy has almost always ignored) deserved Best Picture it was Mad Max: Fury Road. Incredibly exciting and confident in it’s theme and overall purpose.
Here are some well reviewed films eligible that year which weren’t nominated for Best Picture. I compiled the list from various sources and I’ll leave it up to you to decide if they were snubbed or not. Have one to add? Let me know and I’ll list it. The ones I’ve seen are marked with an asterisk:
45 Years – dir. Andrew Haigh
Anomalisa – dir. Charlie Kaufman/Duke Johnson
The Assassin – dir. Hou Hsiao-Hsie
Carol – dir. Todd Haynes
Creed* – dir. Ryan Coogler
The Diary Of A Teenage Girl – dir. Marielle Heller
The Duke Of Burgundy – dir. Peter Strickland
The End Of The Tour – dir. James Ponsoldt
Ex Machina – dir. Alex Garland
Experimenter – dir. Michael Almereyda
The Hateful Eight* – dir. Quentin Tarantino
Inside Out – dir. Pete Docter
Mustang – dir. Deniz Gamze Ergüven
The Look Of Silence – dir. Joshua Oppenheimer
Sicario – dir. Denis Villeneuve
Steve Jobs – dir. Danny Boyle
Son of Saul – dir. László Nemes
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens* – dir. J. J. Abrams
Straight Outta Compton – dir. F. Gary Gray
Tangerine – dir. Sean Baker
Victoria – dir. Sebastian Schipper