I've finally done it. I've managed to see all 8 nominated films BEFORE the actual airing of the Oscars on this Sunday night.
There are 24 categories of awards that will be handed out, but I'm only concerning myself today with Best Picture. There are 8 nominees and a ton of controversy, so here are my brief reviews of each nominated picture and who I believe should win and who will win.
I'll review the films in the order in which I saw them.
Mad Max: Fury Road
Color me surprised when this summer flick got an Oscar nod. Not that it's not a good film, it is. "Fury Road" is another chapter (I wouldn't call it a continuation or a sequel) of the Mad Max Franchise from the late 70'sand 80's. This is the fourth Mad Max Film, and is directed by George Miller, as the other three were. "Fury Road" is a bleak, violent look at a post apocalyptic Australia where rain water and fuel are the currency and women are bought and sold. So, basically nothing different from now, except people wear a lot more spiky leather and war paint. Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron lead the cast of this high octane, low dialogue explosion heavy testosterone fest. I enjoyed the film fully. For sheer entertainment value I give it a 4 out or 5. Best Picture? Not a chance.
Director Alajndro G. Inarittu give us a thrill ride with the story of a frontiersman who is left for dead and spends quite a lot of time and energy trying to get revenge on the one who left him. Tom Hardy (In another Oscar nominated film!) garnered a best supporting actor nod for his work, but this film is all Leonardo DiCaprio. Dialogue is sparse, but cinematography is magnificent. Westerns are typically not my cup of tea, but there's so much more going on here. The opening fifteen minutes remind me of the opening "Cold Mountain of my very favorite movies. Leo hasn't gotten an Oscar. This will probably be his year. Give this one a 5 star rating..Best Picture? Odds on favorite. also, if Inarittu can win Best Director for that steaming pile of elitist nonsense that was "Birdman" then he's a shoe in for the award this year.
Make all your jokes about how much the world has paid to rescue Matt Damon from places in movies. This time he's stuck on Mars all alone and everyone thinks he's dead. Based on what is turning out to be a brilliant novel by Andy Weir, "The Martian" is funny, dramatic, suspenseful and is probably the first movie that makes you really, really care about a potato crop. Director Ridley Scott (one of my favorite directors ever) uses a light touch on a storyline that could have gone the super explosive testosterone route. Golden Globes called this a comedy probably because they wanted to give it an award and were limited to five films in the dramatic category. Oscar doesn't have that limitation. 5 out of 5 stars. Best Picture? Probably going to be "The Revenant's" biggest competition.
The Big Short
The story of the 2007 housing market collapse doesn't sound like a rollicking comedy and yet this brilliant movie based on Michael Lewis' book does just that: It makes us laugh in the midst of a story
that infuriates all of us because most people who live in the US (and around the world) lost money as a result of this. (My husband and I lost 25% on the value of our house and a huge chunk of his 401K, but we didn't lose our house so we were one of the lucky ones.) "The Big Short" explains exactly what happened and who's to blame in a way that's clear and interesting and funny. The acting here is spot on with Steve Carell and Christian Bale leading a huge all star cast. This is a 5 out of 5 stars and will more than likely go on my list of favorite movies ever. Funny, informative, dramatic, and heartfelt. Best Picture? Should be. Could be. Won't be.
A young woman leaves Ireland to find a new life in Brooklyn. She finds a good job, a place to live, and a young man to love. And then she's called back to Ireland where she faces temptations of the homeland. That's my synopsis. And now I have a question: What is this movie doing on this list? I'm not saying it's a bad movie, it's not. It's lovely. There are moments that are funny and sweet. But...what is this movie doing on the Best Picture list? I could classify this as a romantic comedy, although it's light on the comedy, but it's rather structured that way. The problem with that is, well, we just do not like the main character, Ellis. That's a big problem when you're trying to tell a love story from the point of view of the main character. This movie, like pretty much all of the other Best Picture noms is based on a book. I have zero interest in reading the book if it's ANYTHING like this movie. I should not HATE the main character in a love story. And it's not just me. The gentleman sitting behind us said at one critical point in the film, "That bitch!" It's a cute movie, it's well shot, but I'm giving this one a 3.5 out of 5. Best Picture? Not a chance. Will Saoirse Ronan win Best Actress? No, and her ticket to the Oscars should be taken away.
Bridge of Spies
What do you get when you put Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, and a compelling story about the high water mark in Cold War history together? Well, I know what you SHOULD get and this isn't it. Don't get me wrong. "Bridge of Spies" is a fine movie. It's interesting. And it's pretty forgettable. I expect more from Spielberg and Hanks, and maybe that's unfair. I realize their hands are tied because when you do a biopic you can't just add aliens or blow stuff up for fun. Still, this film is gray, and not just because much of it takes place in the newly minted East Berlin. Hanks gives us the same idealistic good guy we know and love, but he barely breaks a sweat. The shining moment is Mark Rylance in his understated portrayal of Rudolph Abel and he should win Best Supporting Actor. 3 out of 5 stars. Best Picture? Nope.
If you haven't read the brilliant novel by Emma Donoghue then the minute you finish reading this blog go out and buy the book and read it. A mother's love, sacrifice,and implosion are seen through the eyes of her five year son who has never been outside the small room he calls home and his mother calls her prison. The movie does a more than admirable job bringing the story of a young woman abducted and caged by a man for seven years, five of which she spent protecting her son. A thrilling escape gives the young Jack a chance at a real life but may prove to much for Ma. Bri Larson is nothing short of genius and heartbreaking in this emotionally taught drama. She should, and if I'm predicting, will win Best Actress. 5 out of 5 but be ready to weep. Best Picture? If I got a vote it would be YES! This one should win.
The shocking priest sex scandal in Boston is brought to light by a handful of reporters battling the Church, local authorities, and their own neighbors and family. This is a story that has rocked a generation of church goers and a blight on the Catholic Church or any church. As a movie, however, I may have to blame director Tom McCarthy for a lumbering start. I almost turned this one off, not because of the content, but because it took FOR FREAKING EVER to move. Granted, it's a drama about crimes that are not witnessed and witnesses that mostly bear no visible scars. Still...have a thought about pace! Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams are nominated for supporting roles and neither one should win. McAdams is boring and Ruffalo is down right awful in the fist hour of the movie. Now, granted, Ruffalo gets better. Enough so that by the time the movie is over you pretty much feel relief that he no longer looks like his fake Boston accent is painful for his mouth. The final forty minutes or so are excellent and everything a movie goer looks for. But awards should not be given to movies that are only good for forty minutes. Oh, wait, sure...but then they're called documentaries. 3 out of 5 Best Picture? No, although this one should have had more potential.
And finally, the big question: Is Oscar racist?
The Oscars broadened their Best Picture category to contain up to 10 pictures each year. This year there are two films I felt were ignored and should not have been.
The Hateful 8
Quentin Tarrantino's Western is brilliant, beautiful, and hard core. Every actor in this film is golden
on completely on point, (Except for Channing Tatum, why was he even in this film?) This is a tense, fast, heart pounding film with a wildly long run time, but you'd never ever know it. Tarrantino has matured into brilliance and with all the magnificence in this film it should have been nominated. Its' a 5 out of 5 and if you haven't seen it, find the biggest TV you can and watch it.
But the bigger overlook:
Straight Outta Compton
The story of ground breaking rap group NWA. I'm not a fan of rap music and I'm not a fan of nudity or foul language. I am a fan of movies telling me a story that rivets me to my seat and makes me feel something. This movie is no more vulgar or violent than "Wolf of Wall Street" and has many parallels in its story to the great "Citizen Kane." (Think I'm crazy? Watch the movies side by side and see if Kane and Easy-E's stories don't feel similar.) Blunt, harsh, vulgar, this is not a film for everyone, but this white woman from the suburbs thinks Oscar should have given it a nod, especially when they had more nominations available. Shoot, they could have dumped "Brooklyn 5 out of 5 and it's every bit as strong as most of the films that got nominated.
That said, I do not believe Oscar is racist. I believe Oscar is narrow. Oscar can only handle maybe a couple "controversial issues a year and this year it's LGBT. With acting nominations for "Carol" (A BAD MOVIE YOU SHOULD NOT SEE ) and "The Danish Girl" (A VERY GOOD MOVIE) and with the whole taking on the Catholic Church in "Spotlight" I think the old farts in the Academy felt they'd done their duty by special interests. Except none of this should be about being special interests. Movies should be about story telling and good story telling should be for everyone. Straight Outta Compton is a well old story. Brooklyn is not. Spotlight is not. It's not about racism. It's about not being afraid to say, "We think the best stories this year dealt with these issues."
Oscar needs work, but we still love him!
Meanwhile, if you're looking for more of my in depth reviews, I have a book!
You can check out reviews written by my friend Linda and me by clicking RIGHT HERE!
finally, Sunday is the Oscars! I'll be watching, will you?
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