Do you love the Oscars? What have you seen? Who and what are you rooting for?
I’ve seen six of the Best Picture nominees, having missed the two front-runners: The Big Short and The Revenant. I’ve also seen the movie that most obviously should have been a Best Picture nominee. Here are my capsule reviews.
Best Picture Nominees
Bridge of Spies: This was thoughtful and beautiful, very moving, very intelligent. I loved how it wasn’t in any way showy. Spielberg can be showy. Instead, he used his great skill as a director to be restrained, and yet to frame each moment perfectly. I love that Mark Rylance was nominated for his very quiet, very subtle performance: He was stunning.
Brooklyn: This is a movie to fall in love with. Ostensibly a romance, it’s truly about a young woman figuring out who she is and who she can choose to become. It captures a moment in time beautifully. You walk out of the movie so damn happy you’ve seen it.
Mad Max: Fury Road: Anyone who hasn’t seen this picture is scratching their heads about how it was ever nominated for Best picture. A Mad Max movie? Really? The thing that most impressed me was George Miller’s clear and uncompromising vision. He didn’t turn this into something palatable or modernized. He didn’t change his original 1970s Mad Max vision of the dystopic future based on how we might, today, view a dystopic future. Instead, he stuck with his creative guns. This movie is individual and personal in a way few movies are these days; it’s not a corporate product. Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult in particular act their hearts out. All that said, it is a relentless action-fest with a level of insanity that is definitely not for everyone.
The Martian: An obvious crowd-pleaser, this is a movie that just makes you feel good about movies. Matt Damon is insanely charming and appealing, the movie is smart, it respects science (with some flaws, but still), it is fun, it’s an adventure: It’s an old-fashioned let’s go to the movies movie. I loved it.
Room: Just saw this one last night. It is one of the best movies of the year. It’s disturbing, original, thoughtful, and rich. Brie Larson (who I’m told is a lock for Best Actress) is complex and uncompromising. Jacob Tremblay is as good a child actor as I’ve seen since Tatum O’Neal or Anna Paquin. William H. Macy has just a couple of scenes, but should have been nominated for Supporting Actor instead of Ruffalo. The subject matter is disturbing, and the first half is claustrophobic, but we’re never forced to see anything gruesome.
Spotlight: This one is the needle scratch for me. It’s a good movie, but very by-the-numbers. It pretends to be All the President’s Men without really understanding how to elevate the material into a movie. Most of the acting is more mimicry of the real people than actual acting–it’s all surface. Mark Ruffalo, in particular, is awful: Hammy and full of bizarre tics. Usually I love him. We love John Slattery, and he’s actually great in this, but none of the acting really carries the movie except for Liev Schreiber.
Carol: It’s absolutely a disgrace that this wasn’t nominated for Best Picture. It’s stunning, it’s beautiful, it’s everything. I don’t want to talk about it too much, because this is one of those films absolutely elevated by its ending. Cate Blanchett is a vision, she’s perfection, and so is Rooney Mara. Mara shouldn’t be nominated for Best Supporting Actress, because she’s obviously the co-lead. Sarah Paulson, in a true supporting role, should have been nominated.
Inside Out: Another one that deserved a Best Picture nomination, this is one of the most creative movies I’ve ever seen. Clever and yet so true. Pixar outdid themselves.
Creed: Stallone is considered the front-runner for Best Supporting Actor, and I’m okay with that. He showed that being Rocky is actually acting, and not just being a meatball. It’s a very good movie.
Ex Machina: A bit of a sleeper, you really should see this one, which is very smart and original, a sort of combination of Sleuth and science fiction.
…I’ve seen another half-dozen nominated films, but ten capsule reviews is probably enough to keep you folks busy.