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88-Academy-Awards-2016-Oscars-ListThe 2016 Academy Awards are this weekend. As is my custom I have watched all of the best picture nominations. I will predict winners in a following blog, as well as make some other comments, but for now, here are my brief thoughts on each film. NO SPOILERS.

Bridge of Spies–Loved this film. I can’t believe Tom Hanks is not nominated for best actor and that Spielberg is not on the list for best director. A movie like this can bog down in its pacing, and the acting can become stiff. Neither of these are problems. The best part of the movie, though, is Mark Rylance as the Russian spy Rudolf Abel.

Mad Max: Fury Road–For a film in this genre, Fury Road is a great movie. The only way it can win best picture is if all the voting members of the academy are seventeen-year-old boys. The movie is essentially one giant car chase.

The Revenant–Leonardo DiCaprio did a fantastic job in this movie, and the cinematography is fantastic. I especially enjoyed the camera work on some of the action sequences. The “Bear Scene” is among the best 10 minutes of any movie you’ll ever see.  Sadly, the movie’s whole is not as good as its parts. It bogs down at times, and the characters, though interesting, are flat. In addition, I didn’t care for the ‘weirdness’ elements of the film that try to give it a spiritual punch. Bonus Information–Revenant is a word that means “ghost” or “revived”. Its a good title.

Spotlight–This movie is about heroes. The journalist showcased in the film are heroes because they dug and dug and dug until they uncovered the travesty taking place in the Roman Catholic Church.  I know from personal experience that there are sexual predators that find their way into churches (and schools, civic organizations, etc…), but the cover-up is what this story is mostly about. This movie does a fantastic job of dealing with a difficult subject in an outstanding way. I believe, in a certain way, it is the kind of film that all church-going people should watch.

The Martian–A fun movie, but not as good as the book. Particularly, it is not as funny as the book. The MC, Mark Watney, was much funnier in print than on film. The movie is a great science fiction film, but I don’t know if it rises to the quality of great film. Two bonus items on this movie: Bonus one–Matt Damon keeps getting stuck somewhere and Hollywood has spent a lot of money bringing him home (click here for proof) Bonus two–It really irked me how much of the story they gave away in the trailer for this film. Hollywood, please try not to tell the whole story in the thirty minute trailer.

The Big Short–Unless you are an unscrupulous banker or financial adviser, this film will make you angry. This movie takes the job of exposing the excesses of Wall Street with zeal. The acting is brilliant–particularly Steve Carell and Christian Bale–and the script is crisp enough to keep people engaged in what could otherwise be glassy-eyed mumbo jumbo. A special part of this movie is the way it intentionally breaks the fourth wall in order to take a moment to explain something. It is a clever method of exposition.

Room–Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay are fantastic. The movie is gut wrenching, the plot is horrifying, and the characters are authentically tragic. It comes at you in two acts–and without giving anything away, the second act, though less tense, is the best and bravest part.

Brooklyn–This movie has everything. It is an immigrants tale, but it is the story of all of us insofar as it follows a young woman who works through a changing cultural environment, falls in love, matures, and then must face her past and choose.  This is the kind of movie you want to watch with someone you love. Religion, ethnicity, soci0-economic, immigration, and coming-of-age are all deliciously treated through very complex characters.

Summary–None of these movies are duds (unlike several of the previous years) and all of them are interesting. I am not certain all of them are worthy of their nomination, but none of them are a complete waste of time. Each movie is for mature audiences, and none, in my opinion, are appropriate for children under fifteen.

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