Seeing as tonight is the 88th Academy Awards ceremony, I went to see as many of the films nominated for the top categories as I could. Unfortunately, this was the first year in a while that I was unable to at least see all the best-picture nominees, as I missed out on seeing The Revenant. However, I still want to give my order for which of the nominated movies I thought were the best picture and such even if I have to omit some. So my lists are as follows:
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE:
Out of the nominees for this category, I saw Matt Damon in The Martian and Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl. While both of them did a phenomenal job, between the two of them I would give it to Redmayne as his character was far more nuanced and difficult to play. Matt Damon did an excellent job of brining Mark Watney to life, but The Martian was far more story driven than the heavily character driven The Danish Girl.
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE:
Out of the nominees for this category, I saw Jennifer Lawrence in Joy, Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn, and Brie Larson in Room. This year’s films were full of excellent acting, especially when it comes to the actresses. All three really embodied their characters and propelled their stories along, but I hands down have to say Brie Larson was the best by a mile. Saoirse made Eilis relatable and realistic, Jennifer was strong and quirky as Joy (though the role was a typical Jennifer Lawrence role), but Brie embodied Joy in Room and really made that story feel real. I don’t think Room could have been anywhere near as strong as it was without the powerful acting of Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay.
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE:
Out of the nominees for this category, I saw Christian Bale in The Big Short, Mark Ruffalo in Spotlight, and Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies. This is probably the most difficult to determine since all three of these actors really did a great job at becoming their characters. I am not familiar with Mark Rylance, but his portrayal of the Soviet spy Abel was topnotch and made me feel for the character who was so reviled by the American public. Both Ruffalo and Bale stood out because the characters they portrayed were different from the sort of roles I’m used to seeing them in. However, I think I will have to give it to Bale since his physicality when playing the role of Dr. Michael Burry really got across the quirkiness of the man more than most other actors could.
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE:
Out of the nominees for this category, I saw Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl and Rachel McAdams in Spotlight. While I am much more familiar with Rachel McAdams, I must say that I will be paying attention for upcoming films starring Alicia Vikander as her performance as Gerda Wegener was so heartbreaking and realistic. In many ways, The Danish Girl was less about Eddie Redmayne’s character and about the emotional challenges Gerda had to go through as her husband became a woman. Rachel McAdams did an excellent job, but was lost in the sea of great actors in Spotlight, making it hard for her to stand out as much as she could have in another film.
Out of the nominees for this category, I saw all the films except for The Revenant, which may very well win since it is done by the renowned director Alejandro González Iñárritu, who won last year for Birdman. Out of the other films, my list is as follows:
- Spotlight – While a great film, I didn’t feel that there was really anything special going on with the directing in comparison to the other nominees.
- Room – The directing in Room really got you to feel like you were inside the character’s heads. The shots were done in a way that made you feel small when you needed to feel small and feel trapped when you needed to feel trapped and so on. But overall, the acting and story are what really made Room incredible.
- Mad Max: Fury Road – While I wasn’t a huge fan of Mad Max‘s storyline, I can’t argue with the fact that the directing and cinematography was amazing. I also heard that many of the stunts were done for real without the use of much CGI, which is very impressive.
- The Big Short – The way the director tackled The Big Short was fascinating. For a film about such an intensely important subject, it came out funny and quirky instead of depressing. The way the characters broke the fourth wall and explained things was great. Without a top notch director and screenwriter, this film could not have been adapted from the book it was based on at all.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I’ve seen all the best picture nominees for this year with the exception of The Revenant, which may very well be the movie that takes the prize. However, based on my limited knowledge of the story and theme, I think I personally would not select it for the top spot. Though the acting and directing could very well be another story. My list for my favorite best picture nominees are as follows:
- Mad Max: Fury Road – This is my least favorite of all the nominees mostly because the story was too over the top for me to fully take seriously. I have read some interesting articles about the subtext, but overall I think some of the messages in Mad Max are a little too far beneath the surface, whereas others are a bit too blatant. The cinematography was awesome and the actors all did a good job of brining me into the world, but the film did a bad job of standing alone and I found myself confused during parts of the beginning.
- Spotlight – While an excellent movie that shined a light on an important topic that is known about, but not looked at in detail by many people, Spotlight suffered from having too much to tell and to many characters to move around. There were several points in the film where I couldn’t tell exactly what was going on and others were there just wasn’t enough going on. I also wished they had explored the psychology of abuse a little more since they had begun to and stopped short. Though the message of writing meaningful things instead of writing quickly was something I took to heart.
- Brooklyn – This was a heartwarming film that made me laugh. It didn’t have too much deeper meaning, but it really didn’t have to. It was a movie about love and life and the decisions we make in order to be happy, which I think are things everyone thinks about at some point.
- Bridge of Spies – This was an excellent film that brought together phenomenal filmmakers from the actors to the writers to, of course, Steven Spielberg. The focus was on people instead of on battles and the overall feeling of the film was positive. I thought it had a lot of great points to make about lumping people into groups and what makes America great in theory. I left the screening very happy that I got a chance to see it before the ceremony.
- The Martian – This is typically my kind of film as I absolutely love science-fiction told in a realistic manner. While not fully air tight with its science, The Martian did a great job of depicting what it would be like if an astronaut were trapped on Mars. The film was gripping like Gravity, but also really funny at times. Definitely one of the best of the year in general.
- The Big Short – This one was my favorite in terms of watchability since it is a movie that I find so fascinating that I can watch it again and again trying to figure out more of what the characters are talking about. It was excellently adapted from a source book that I’m sure is nowhere near as funny and quirky as the film, and would have been impossible to adapt in other hands. The acting was all impeccable and the story was easy to follow even though the subject matter was esoteric and confusing. The topic of the financial crash of 2008 is something that effected so many people all over the world, yet nobody really knows anything about it.
- Room – I was torn about putting Room as my top choice mainly because it isn’t a film I would like to add to my collection or watch again any time soon. But in terms of artistic power, it is everything a movie should be. The actors (especially Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay) made all the characters fully realized and created the illusion that all of this was truly happening, the director got inside the heads of the audience to make us feel exactly what we were supposed to feel, and the writing was so real and devoid of cliches or carechtures, which made the story feel so like it was actually happening and left lingering emotions with me for days after seeing it. While not the type of movie I would typically see, the filmmakers absolutely hit the bullseye in terms of making the film they wanted to make. This one will stick with me for a long time.