The 88th Academy Awards is upon us in a few days. Though not without controversy and the usual outcry of snubs, we can acknowledge and honor the best of the year 2015. Come February 28th, several questions will be answered. One of them is, will Leonardo DiCaprio finally take home the award for best actor? Another is which of the 8 films nominated will take home the prize of best picture of the year 2015? Just by examining the past winners and nominees, you can get a sense of what the Academy voters are looking for in a “best picture”. A smart script, comprehensible narrative, emotionally gripping storyline, engaging dialogues between the actors, and so on so forth. The nominees of the year 2015 is a testament of great films worthy of nominations. Why 8 and not 10, I have no idea. I think Steve Jobs was snubbed, and maybe Straight Outta Compton. Regardless of feelings and personal preferences, the Academy voters, over 6,000 members, gave us these 8 films. Listed below are the 8 films and some highlights. The percentages is the tomatometer score on rotten tomatoes.
3 oscar nominations: best picture, best actress, and best adapted screenplay.
Out of all the nominees, Brooklyn has the highest score on the tomatometer. It hits all the right notes of a solid oscar film. Beautiful simple feel-good story of an Irish girl who immigrated to Brooklyn, NY. She struggles with adjusting to her new life away from all she’s ever known until she falls in love with an Italian gentleman. Saoirse Ronan is nominated for best actress and rightly so. I have to say my wife loved this movie more than I did as I’m not a romance film kind of guy. Still, Brooklyn is a beautiful movie and a good one to take your date to see.
Bridge of Spies 91%
6 oscar nominations: best picture, best supporting actor, best original screenplay, best original score, best sound mixing, best production design.
When Steven Spielberg teams up with Tom Hanks, on top of having the Coen brothers co-write the script, you know you have a solid movie. Bridge of Spies is a cold war espionage tale of an american attorney tasked with negotiating the release of a u.s. pilot shot down in Russia. The film relies heavily on the bond of two men and that bond being based on mutual respect amid fear and suspense. At the end, I find myself marveling at the true American spirit shown that seems so lost today.
The Big Short 88%
5 oscar nominations: best picture, best supporting actor, best director, best adapted screenplay, best film editing.
There’s something to be said when you take a frustrating and complicated subject that ultimately angers you because of the truth being told and make it into a comedy. Helmed by Adam McKay who is known for comedies (Anchorman) takes a brilliant cast and weaves them into this story with incredible details about a few men who discovered what the banks were doing with the housing market before the market crash of 2008 and made a gamble that earned them millions while hundreds of thousands of lives were affected. It’s a fiery, angry rebuke and a stern warning of what may come again.
4 oscar nominations: best Picture, best actress, best adapted screenplay, and best director.
Room is a beautiful, heartfelt drama centering around a 5-year-old boy and his mother held captive in a small room. What makes Room captivating is how the film makes us see from the boy’s perspective, oblivious to the outside world. Arresting with extreme tension and love, the mother and son’s fight for survival is sure to pull the heartstrings. Brie Larson has earned her nomination as she was absolutely brilliant, and so was her young costar Jacob Tremblay.
The Martian 93%
7 Oscar nominations: best picture, best actor, best adapted screenplay, best sound mixing, best sound editing, visual effects, and best production design.
Once again, America has to pull together and spend millions of dollars to rescue Matt Damon. Nominated for best actor, Matt plays Mark Watney, an astronaut presumed dead and left behind. But Watney is still alive, and he has to find a way to contact home, almost 50 million miles away, while trying to survive on a barren planet with little supplies. Matt delivers a likeable guy with wit and charm that as we follow along in his endeavors, we feel what he feels. His success, his failures, his loneliness, and his desire to make it home. All the while, the stellar supporting cast that make up the crew that left him behind and NASA at home, work together to bring him home. Ridley Scott gives us a gorgeous movie with great special effects and makes this fun for the family to see.
The Revenant 83%
12 Oscar nominations: best picture, best actor, best supporting actor, best director, best cinematography, best film editing, best costume design, best makeup, best sound mixing, best sound editing, best visual effects, and best production design.
It would be a major shocker if the award for best actor went to someone else instead of Leonardo DiCaprio. Leo, a method actor, went all out in his preparation for his role of Hugh Glass in The Revenant. From eating real uncooked animals and sleeping in animal carcass, you would think someone would just give him the award before he kills himself. The Revenant is a stunning visual feat with award-winning visual effects and beautiful cinematography capturing the beauty and harshness of the Northwest with only natural lighting. The Revenant is the story of Hugh Glass and his fight for survival and revenge after being left for dead from a bear attack. What a powerful testament on the sheer will of the human spirit.
Mad Max: Fury Road 97%
10 Oscar nominations: best picture, best director, best cinematography, best film editing, best costume design, best makeup, best sound mixing, best sound editing, best visual effects, and best production design.
From beginning to end George Miller delivers one of the best action films to date with the return of Mad Max. With Tom Hardy taking over the role that made a star out of Mel Gibson, this high-octane trip on steroids that is Fury Road is one hell of a ride that nearly nonstop from beginning to end with little breathing room. Fury Road is a simple story packed with gorgeous special effects, vibrant characters with fantastic hairstyles, makeup and wardrobes. What also stands out is that all the stunts are real. This is probably my favorite out of the nominees and one I can watch again and again.
6 Oscar nominations: best picture, best supporting actor, best supporting actress, best director, best original screenplay, and best film editing.
If I could add a new category to the list for the Academy Awards, it would be best ensemble acting. Spotlight centers on a group of journalists who exposed a dirty secret of the catholic church that affected hundreds of lives while handling the subject matter with care and humility. The acting is so incredibly spot on that I forgot I was watching a movie and was just pulled into the story. Even though both Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams are nominated for best supporting, every actor in this film holds an equally important role in the telling of the story. Ruffalo only stands out as he has an important emotional scene that he delivers with such care and heart, you wonder why it took him 600 auditions to get his first callback. This is one of those stories that lingers with you for days and you work to see what darkness is out there needing light to be shined on. What lives out there with stories to tell that are desperate for justice and mercy.
My personal pick for best picture would be Spotlight, even though I think it would be cool if Mad Max took home the win. Every film listed are all perfectly capable and worthy of winning.
Here are my oscar predictions. I left out some categories because I have no idea what would be selected. For example, best documentary and animated shorts
Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Actress: Brie Larson, Room
Supporting Actor: Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Supporting Actress: Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
Animated feature: Inside Out
Cinematography: The Revenant
Costume Design: Mad Max: Fury Road
Director: George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
Film Editing: The Big Short
Makeup and Hairstyling: Mad Max: Fury Road
Original Score: The Hateful Eight
Original Song: “Writing on the Walls” Spectre
Production Design: Mad Max
Sound Editing: Mad Max: Fury Road
Sound Mixing: Mad Max: Fury Road
Visual Effects: The Revenant
Adapted Screenplay: Room
Original Screenplay: Spotlight