The 2016 Academy Awards are fast approaching, so it’s time for BuzzHub’s comprehensive coverage of the biggest night in movies to kick into gear. First up is our breakdown of the 8 films nominated for Best Picture, ranking them in our order of preference and telling you what deserved to take home gold on Oscar Sunday!
I don’t know how they’ve done it, but the makers of Brooklyn have seemingly fooled everyone on earth into thinking they’ve made a good film. Ha! Brooklyn is an embarrassment to my native Ireland: a cliché-infested explosion of sentimental grue and oily insincerity. As unappealingly designed and shot as the worst Tom Hooper films and bearing some of the worst dialogue in recent memory (courtesy of author Colm Tóibín and screenwriter Nick Hornby), what is really most astonishing about the praise Brooklyn has received is the lack of criticism for Saoirse Ronan’s wooden, dull central performance. Ronan is the ultimate Irish con-artist. Brooklyn is the ultimate con.
7. THE BIG SHORT
Adam McKay’s zippy, flashy account of the greedy motherf*ckers who predicted the 2008 Wall Street Crash (but didn’t tell anybody) could, with an Aaron Sorkin or a Jay Roach on scripting duties, have been a compelling and stirring work of modern filmic brilliance. However, McKay’s page material is very poor, and even Steve Crrell and Christian Bale can hardly elevate it to a higher standard. The Big Short wants to make us hate its characters, but its so obnoxious a film that we end up also hating the people who made it.
6. THE MARTIAN
A year after Christopher Nolan’s magnificent, profound Interstellar was ignored completely in the major Oscar categories, Ridley Scott’s comparatively flimsy The Martian: another Matt-Damon-is-stuck-on-another-planet adventure, has been recognised as one of the “Best Pictures of 2015”. Sure, The Martian is quite fun, with an excellent ensemble cast including Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Donald Glover and Jeff Daniels. Sure, it has a terrific soundtrack comprised of 80s disco classics and a bit of David Bowie. But it is at heart a comedy, and not one of the year’s funniest. Best Picture we think not.
5. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
Who would’ve thunk it a year ago that a summer blockbuster sequel to a 1979 Mel Gibson post-apocalyptic car-chase movie directed by the 70-year old man who made Babe would be one of 2016’s Best Picture frontrunners? Certainly not me. But against all odds, Fury Road turned out to be as fresh, inventive, overtly political and generally well-assembled an action film as we’ve seen this century. Charlize Theron is outstanding as new feminist icon Imperator Furiosa. Colour and light dominate every frame. If only the story was a bit more… existent.
Similarly to The Big Short, this is a solid drama that could have been a great drama under the watchful eye of a more masterful storyteller than it was entrusted to. Nonetheless, Tom McCarthy’s film is hugely impressive in its honest and unsensational retelling of the investigation that unearthed child sex abuse in the Catholic Church. The ensemble cast work truly as an ensemble: there are no showy moments, and if anyone stands out it’s the restrained but sympathetic Liev Schreiber. Spotlight would have been a terrific HBO movie. For now, it’s a bloody decent theatrical movie.
3. THE REVENANT
For the second year in a row, Alejandro González Iñárritu has a Best Picture frontrunner on his hands. Why? Because the man’s a goddamn genius! The Revenant is a narratively simple but visually astounding folk tale, combining some of the most groundbreaking cinematography of recent years with intense performances by Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy and a pseudo-Malickian existentialism. The Revenant is no masterpiece, but it is the very definition of unmissable.
2. BRIDGE OF SPIES
Oh, Steven Spielberg. Just when we thought we’d lost him to boring tripe like Lincoln, he gives us this sublime Cold War thriller, one of the most riveting films he’s ever made. Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance’s focal interaction is a sight to behold: two of the world’s finest actors at the top of their game. The Coen Brothers-polished script is smart, funny and educational. The production design, cinematography and score couldn’t be better. Bridge of Spies is a rare gem, and we couldn’t be happier to see it nominated.
With this heartbreaking adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s acclaimed novel, Irish director Lenny Abrahamson has proven himself as one of the world’s foremost filmmaking talents. Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay are the greatest of all this year’s great double acts (Hanks/Rylance, DiCaprio/Hardy, Hardy/Theron), displaying a remarkable actorly engagement as a mother and son imprisoned in a garden shed that is, to the young boy, the only world he’s ever known. It’s hard to believe that these two aren’t really mother and son, and it’s the utter realism of Room that makes is so special. Even with darkness at its heart, this is a life-affirming film about hope, love and the ability of the soul to transcend spacial limits with imagination. Room is never as cheesy, sentimental or faux-philosophical as we’ve made it sound. This is the real deal. This is what Best Picture-nominated films look like.
From two Irish low-budget dramas (one fantastic, one not-so-much) to a Cold War thriller, an Australian post-apocalyptic adventure, two cynical accounts of recent history and two contrasting tales of survival in the cold and the heat, the Best Picture list 2016 is a varied and interesting bunch. Is it as strong a list as 2015’s, when Whiplash, Boyhood, Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel (four BuzzHub five-star films) contended? No. The omission of Inside Out and Steve Jobs from this list is extremely frustrating, especially since Pixar’s Up (essentially a brilliant 10-minute short followed by 80 minutes of talking animal nonsense) made the cut in 2010, and is significantly inferior to this year’s Inside Out– unarguably the best film of 2015. Sicario and Love & Mercy also deserved recognition (we didn’t have much hope for Star Wars, though it deserved it).
We’d love to see Room or Bridge of Spies take home gold on Oscar Sunday, but our smart money’s on Spotlight to actually win.
Stay tuned to BuzzHub over the next week for more Oscar coverage.