Academy Awards - The Oscars

OK, here we are again celebrating another year of film going. Some strong films this year, films that broke box office records, and films that failed. Here are my choices for the following awards and some thoughts around some of them.

  • Best Actor - Nominees are:  Bryan Cranston (Trumbo), Matt Damon (The Martin), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs) and Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl). This is not as strong a field as it was last year. The obvious missing actors are Tom Hanks (Bridge of Spies) maybe because he made it look so easy, and Steve Carell who was so quirky and interesting you just wanted to see what he was going to do next. Both of these were strong performances, yet not in my top two of this listing. Although Cranston's  performance was good, I didn't like the character nor the interpretation. Fassbender was very good, however this role had been done too many times in the last two years. I did not see The Danish Girl therefore I don't have an opinion. However, Damon and DiCapiro's performances were fantastic - beyond amazing. I loved each of them. My guess is that DiCaprio will win the Oscar.
  • Best Actress  - Nominees are:  Cate Blanchett (Carol), Brie Larson (Room), Jennifer Lawrence (Joy), Charlotte Rampling (45 Years), and Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn). This is a strong category although I didn't see 45 Years, the others were great. I also see a missing person from this list and that would be Rooney Mara in Carol as well. Between Cate and Rooney I would have picked Mara because I felt as though her evolution through the film was a more powerful statement. However, she is in the Supporting Actress listing. Out of the nominated list, it comes down to two outstanding performances: Ronan and Blanchett. Lawrence's performance was really good and I was fully engaged with her character, however it did not have the power of Ronan or Blanchett's. Larson was also very strong, however so much of her performance is linked to Jacob Tremblay the young boy that it took away from her own performance. For me I'd like Ronan to get this Oscar in an amazing performance in a  wonderful film.
  • Best Supporting Actress  - Nominees are:  Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), Rooney Mara (Carol), Rachel McAdams (Spotlight), Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl), and Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs). As I mentioned earlier I think Mara's performance belongs in the Best Actress category. I didn't see The Danish Girl so I'm making my pick without full knowledge of the selections. However, without Mara I think the most interesting and performance is Leigh's. It was so hidden and yet over the top that I was mesmerized each time she opened her mouth and/or the camera focused on her. These are the top two and in my view either probably deserves the Oscar.
  • Best Supporting Actor  - Nominees are:  Christian Bale (The Big Short), Tom Hardy (The Revenant), Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight), Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies), and Sylvester Stallone (Creed). The missing performance is Jacob Tremblay's in Room. He was phenomenal. But this is probably one of the strongest fields in years, so someone had to be left off the list. They were all great and my favorites out of this list are Rylance and Stallone. Rylance had such a small role yet it was so much impact on the film that it was unforgettable. However Stallone will get it for both this performance and his body of work as Rocky Balboa.
  • Best Cinematography  - Nominees are:  Ed Lachman (Carol), Robert Richardson (The Hateful Eight), John Seale (Mad Max: Fury Road), Emmaual Lubezki (The Revenant), and Roger Deakins (Sicario). Although Mad Max: Fury Road was big it did not grab me because I thought the film was more on the mindless side. Carol was elegantly shot and fully deserves the nomination. However, The Hateful Eight and The Revenant are over the top amazingly beautiful and powerful. The Hateful Eight deserves a lot of credit for doing so much in one room, while The Revenant wins this award for how shots were made and the perspective by which they were made. The winner - pick.
  • Best Adapted Screenplay  - Nominees are:  Charles Randolph and Adam McKay (The Big Short), Nick Hornby (Brooklyn), Phyllis Nagy (Carol), Drew Goddard (The Martian), and Emma Donoghue (Room). Wow, what a list. All great picks. Any one of these could win in any given year. However, my final two would be Randolf and McKay for The Big Short and Hornby for Brooklyn. In the end I'm picking Nick Hornby for Brooklyn because it was a great screenplay and a wonderful film to watch.   
  • Best Original Screenplay  - Nominees are:  Matt Charman and Ethan & Joel Coen (Bridge of Spies), Alex Garland (Ex Machina), Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, and Josh Cooley (Inside Out), Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy (Spotlight), and Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff (Straight Outta Compton). Another strong set of contenders. All very different films. In the end I think I like Ex Machina and Spotlight as powerful screen plays for very different reasons. One reflects a horrible set of acts by Catholic Priests and the other about the obsessiveness and controlling nature of technology. In the end I select Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy for Spotlight.
  • Best Director  - Nominees are:  Adam McKay (The Big Short), George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road), Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (The Revenant), Lenny Abrahamson (Room), and Tom McCarthy (Spotlight). Missing are:  Ridley Scott (The Martian), J.J. Abrams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Todd Haynes (Carol), Quentin Tarantino (The Hateful Eight) and John Crowley (Brooklyn). To me this is the most messed up nominee listing. How is Max: Fury Road better directed than all my exceptions? It isn't and doesn't hold a candle to them. Also given my exceptions, I think Abrahamson's delivery is not quite there. Anyway, from the nominee list, I would say it is between McKay, Inarritu, and McCarthy. In the end I'd select McKay (with McCarthy a very close second) because he did the most to keep the film on track. Inarritu had too many long wistful shots. However this listing of nominees is really flawed.
  • Best Picture  - Nominees are:   The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Room, and Spotlight. Missing here is Carol and The Hateful Eight. Mad Max: Fury Road is nowhere in the league as these other nominees and, in my opinion, doesn't deserve to be listed. I simply was board stiff by the one long chase film filled with foolish philosophy. It is hard for me to pick as I loved "Brooklyn" as being a wonderfully executed nostalgic story. I thought "The Big Short" told a compelling story of how our economy tanked. "The Martian" was beautifully delivered and Damon made it happen. "Bridge of Spies" and "Spotlight" are both amazing stories about something that really happened. I was totally engaged and felt they delivered in all ways; education and story. The only thing I didn't like about "The Revenant" was that there were too many long scenic only shots which took away from the story.  In the end, of the listed I'd like to see "The Martian" win but can also see the others winning except Mad Max.

Some other thoughts about films this year:

  • "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" was amazingly edited.
  • "Ex Machina's" visual effects were very strong and so were scenes in "The Revenant".
  • "Anomalisa" and "Inside Out" were both amazing Animated Feature films.
  • "Carol" had perfectly detailed costumes and overall set design.
  • "Writings on the Wall" the song for "Spectre" was dreadful.

Note: I'll be England sitting in silence for 30 days starting late next week. I may be able to see one more film before I go, but otherwise I won't be seeing any films or posting any reviews until the first week of March.

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