OSCARS 2016: Breaking Down the Best Picture Contenders


Every year, audiences and film fans speculate as to which movies will be nominated for Academy Awards. Those speculations were put to rest recently when the nominations were announced on January 14. There are dozens of categories to talk about, but I figured I’d just get straight to the point and talk about about the nominations for Best Picture. If I’ve already written a full-fledged review of the movie, I’ll attach a link to the movie’s title. If there’s a movie on this list I haven’t reviewed that you’d like me to, let me know in the comment section! In the meantime, here are the nominees…

tbs_1-sht_teaserThe Big Short

  • What it’s about: Based on a true story, this movie follows the tale of several different men who foresaw the burst of the housing bubble in 2008, and decided to bet against the banks who couldn’t see it coming.
  • My review: The Big Short deftly tackles a serious subject matter with a controlled injection of comedy, while still showing a firm grasp on the gravity of the situation.
  • My favorite part: This movie makes its comedic intentions very clear at the start of the film, but the true hilarity is not revealed until the story halts in its tracks for the first time in order to have a famous celebrity explain a key term.

Bridge of Spies

  • What it’s about: When a Soviet spy is captured behind enemy lines in the midst of the Cold War, an insurance lawyer named Jim Donovan is called to defend him in court, making it look like the spy received a fair trial. As the trial moves on, things become far more complicated than Donovan could have ever imagined.
  • My review: Even if the movie feels like two distinct stories rolled into one, Bridge of Spies offers up a suspenseful plot and moving subject matter that help to make it a great thriller.
  • My favorite part: The captured Soviet spy is played by Mark Rylance, who has received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Time will tell if he wins or not, but the nomination is well-deserved. Rylance captured my attention every time he started speaking, and his “standing man” soliloquy delivered in the trailer is every bit as powerful in context as one would expect.

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Brooklyn

  • What it’s about: When a young Irish girl immigrates to 1950s Brooklyn, New York, she finds herself in situations that challenge her perceptions of home.
  • My review: Brooklyn is a well-acted and heart-felt film with a story that sends a strong message on the ideas of home.
  • My favorite part: Saoirse Ronan is absolutely phenomenal in a role that could have easily gone under the radar. When the stakes are raised, I was amazed by how focused I was on every single facial expression the character made as I tried desperately to get inside her head.

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Mad Max: Fury Road

  • What it’s about: Max Rockatansky returns to post-apocalyptic Australia, joined this time by Imperator Furiosa. The two must work together to outrun the tyrant, Immortan Joe, on the barren roads of the Wasteland.
  • My review: Mad Max: Fury Road is one beautifully psychotic car chase that hooks you with its action, pulls you along by its solid characters, and doesn’t let you go until the credits roll.
  • My favorite part: Every single action scene (and there were a lot of them) was handled in the perfect way to build tension, and they always utilized the brilliant set of colors seen throughout the movie. You could pause each frame of each action scene in the movie and hang every one of them in an art gallery.

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The Martian

  • What it’s about: The Martian follows the story of astronaut Mark Watney, who finds himself stranded on Mars after his crew mistakes him for dead and flees from the planet during a deadly storm. Watney must survive his hostile environment and somehow find a way to escape.
  • My review: The Martian is a spectacular adventure that trades out the dread-filled tone of previous space movies for a light-hearted and inspirational story.
  • My favorite part: After movies like Interstellar and Gravity, I was pleased to see that The Martian never took itself too serious. It wasn’t a straight-up comedy as the Golden Globes have suggested, but director Ridley Scott understood that a premise like this one came with enough drama built in, and that he could have a little fun with telling the actual story.

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The Revenant

  • What it’s about: After a fur trading expedition in the 1820s goes terribly wrong, Hugh Glass must survive the harsh conditions of the wilderness in order to get revenge on the man who left him for dead.
  • My review: The movie is well-acted, beautifully shot and does a spectacular job at building tension, but it sometimes goes over the top with gore to the point of ridiculousness.
  • My favorite part: I had two. First: The opening shot of the movie, which took my breath away by how gorgeous it was. Second: Tom Hardy, who steals the show with his performance that outshines Leonardo Dicaprio’s in many ways.

Room

  • What it’s about: After being held captive for years in a small room, a young boy and his mother finally escape, allowing the child to experience the outside world for the first time in his life.
  • My review: Room is a roller coaster of drama that features amazing characters and a tone that completely sucks you in to the story, forcing you to feel every emotional beat as its characters do.
  • My favorite part: Jacob Tremblay, who played the young boy, completely killed it. There’s so much that happens in this movie, and his character is the one who sells it all and makes it heart-wrenching. It’s as much his movie as it is Brie Larson’s, and it’s a shame that he wasn’t nominated for best supporting actor.

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Spotlight

  • What it’s about: A team of Boston Globe reporters investigate reports of a sex abuse scandal within the Catholic Church. The further they dig into the story, the more they realize that this may reach far beyond the Boston area.
  • My review: Spotlight spins a gripping tale stretched across several different characters and plot lines, masterfully weaving them together in a way that’s easy to follow and respectful to the sensitive subject matter.
  • My favorite part: In addition to keeping my attention by showing people shuffling through files, Spotlight‘s very last scene is both powerful and haunting…and what follows is beyond heartbreaking.

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My predictions

None of these nominations are huge surprises to me. All of them make sense, but if I had choose one film from the list to take out, it would either be The Revenant or Bridge of Spies. The Revenant was very well-crafted and beautifully shot, but in my opinion, it’s not the masterpiece people are praising it as. As for Bridge of Spies, it just doesn’t feel like it fits in on that list. It was great movie, but not as great as something like Brooklyn, Room or Spotlight. If I had to choose what to replace them with, I’d say either Inside Out or Straight Outta Compton. I know Inside Out was already nominated for Best Animated Feature Film, but an animated movie being nominated for best picture is not unheard of, and I think Straight Outta Compton was crafted with just a bit more finesse and had more energy behind it than Bridge of Spies did.

So now, we have the big question to answer: who will win? I’d say this year features a neck-and-neck race between The Revenant and Spotlight. Up until recently, my money was solely on Spotlight, but recent award shows have been favorable to Alejandro Iñárritu’s most recent effort, The Revenant. Iñárritu won last years Academy Awards for both Best Director and Best Picture, and it would be absolute madness for him to snag either of those awards for a second year in a row. If he won the award for Best Director, it would be the first time a director has won the award back to back since 1950. As for which movie I’d want to see win the award, I’d have to go with either Room or Spotlight.

What do your Oscar predictions look like?

Categories: Action, Biopic, Books, Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Journalism, Movies, Opinion, Sci-Fi, Spy, UncategorizedTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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