With the Tony nominations coming out tomorrow let’s take a glace back… Way back to the 88th Academy Awards. It was much like any other Oscar Awards ceremony with mostly predictable winners and the not-so-out-of-nowhere surprise. Leo won his Oscar, Stallone did not, Inarritu won again, and Spotlight nabbed best picture, but were the winners deserving of the awards? The not-so-relevant The Revenant was the frontrunner for taking home the prestigious best picture, but to many people’s surprise, Tom McCarthy’s historical drama Spotlight took the spotlight. Was this deserved though? Was Spotlight truly the best picture of 2015?
To look into what makes a best picture, one must look into the guidelines that have chosen the winner for last previous five or ten years. The film must be good (obviously if I may add) … Good: that means the acting, direction, and screenplay must be strong… Cinematography, art direction, sound effects, visuals, and special effects should also be in order if applicable. But that’s just the surface… A movie must also be relevant to win the Oscar, there must be something in the movie that must have a connection to what’s going on today, and there must some angle that the movie comes from. So let’s dive into the nominees.
The Revenant may truly have been an exhilarating movie with a remarkable cast led by Leonardo DiCaprio. The movie had truly amazing cinematography shot by the now three-time-Oscar-winner Emmanuel Lubezki. And with the masterful Alejandro Inarritu as director, this movie was sure to win best picture… But it didn’t. Looking back, it seems pretty obvious that the movie didn’t win: it has no relevance; no commentary on our society. While movies like Spotlight and The Big Short offered valuable insight into real happenings that shook the foundation of our society, The Revenant offered an artsy adaptation of Michael Punke’s historical novel. So did The Revenant deserve the Oscar? Not really… (Full review available here.)
Spotlight was the film that nabbed the Oscar and this was to some people quite a surprise. This film revolved around a group of reporters researching one of the largest stories in history and dealing with the results. This film was so strong and featured such a stellar cast led by Mark Ruffalo. The screenplay to this film was so exhilarating and amazing and by sticking to reality they managed to make these characters so unbelievably believable. The movie is also has substance and importance to today and has a strong message that rings in the viewers ears days, weeks, and months after watching this film. The only thing is that this film could have been made three years ago or so and would probably have been even more relevant then. (Full review available here.)
The Martian offered another protagonist-powered film with spectacular visuals and interesting one-man scenes. Matt Damon by all means was not the strongest actor in the season, but he definitely deserved the nomination. This Scott Ridley adaptation of Andy Weir’s thrilling novel had a few weaknesses here and there– but so did most of the nominees— the end may have been unrealistic and a touch anti-climactic, some scenes may have been too scientific to quite understand, and every supporting character may have been indispensable, but it is not a bad movie… It’s actually a really good one… But not an Oscar movie…Not relevant and not much to say about society. (Full review available here.)
Mad Max: Fury Road was a hit at the box office and very popular amongst critics and audiences alike, but also very popular with the Academy. The film garnered a total of ten nominations and winning six of them, but all the awards it won were technical. With no nominations in the acting or screenplay categories, the film is more of an achievement for action movies than anything else. Personally I was not taken by the movie, but that could very well be due to my lacking appreciation for action movies. But now comes the question: Was it deserving of an Oscar…. And the answer is no, because of the same reasons as the previous two: lack of relevance and nothing to say. (Full review available here.)
Room, the major indie movie of the year, was one of the most interesting films I have watched in quite a while. What really made the movie was the 10 Cloverfield Lane-style claustrophobic first act, the wonderful chemistry between Brie Larson and her co-star Jacob Tremblay, and the very touching last five minutes. What took the movie down a little for me was the flawed second act, and the fickle portrayals of Larson’s character’s family as well as a cringeworthily unrealistic interview scene. But the movie had strong acting, direction, and a decent screenplay. But it also had the most valuable thing to the Academy: a story worth telling with something to say and relevance. As depressing it is to think, this movie is relevant today, so to answer the question… Yes, it could potentially deserve an Oscar, but the most deserving? I’m not sure. (Full review coming soon.)
Brooklyn is a delicately manufactured romantic drama film carried by the nuanced Saoirse Ronan. When I first watched this movie I was enthralled in the plot and characters more than I was while watching any of the other films nominated for best picture. Oscar snubs were a large part of discussion after the nominations came out, but nobody ever mentions the fact that Michael Brook’s score for Brooklyn was barbarically snubbed for a nomination. But everything aside, this movie may have been a beautifully crafted film, but just like some of the other nominations the film is not relevant and although it has something to say; that something is not about our society, so no… It’s not a best picture… (Full review available here.)
The Big Short was one of the most unique films we saw this year; an intensive drama/comedy film that kept the viewer enthralled and engaged for its whole running time. A unique story with wonderful acting, directing, and writing this film was the bookmakers’ third choice for best picture (following The Revenant and Spotlight respectively). A movie that shows the corrupt Wall Street and the idea that this could easily happen again is the societal-reflection that it takes to win an Oscar as well as relevance today seems to be Oscar-worthy… Right? I definitely think so myself. (Full review available here.)
And then… Bridge of Spies, the historical thriller drama that showcased the extremely talented Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. This cold-war prisoner-escape film with a captivating screenplay and beautiful shots also features the previously-lesser-known actor Mark Rylance as the Russian spy Rudolf Abel. Everything adds up to a well-paced decently-thrilling film that doesn’t bite off more than it can chew, which subsequently is not very much, but that is perhaps a very good thing. But much like Brooklyn, this film is a good film as it stands—but nothing more… It says nothing, it changes nothing… It’s not game-changing or timeless, it’s something you would watch on Netflix or a plane ride… So no… Not Oscar-worthy. (Full review available here.)
So what have I concluded? Well… According to the guideline that I set up I came up with the following order… Ranked from least deserving to most:
6— Bridge of Spies
5—Mad Max: Fury Road
1—The Big Short