Friday, February 26, 2016

Howard ranks the Oscar nominees

Reporting direct from Dublin, Ireland --

And taking a break from my half-assed British Isles travelogue --

It's time for my annual rankings -- not predictions -- of this year's Oscar nominees, from my "most deserving of an Oscar" to  "what the heck is this movie doing on this list?".  I make it a point to see all Best Picture nominees, of which this year there are eight, and rate them from my slightly twisted and unscientific point of  view (but who cares, it's MY blog).  It usually means doing a binge in January and February, because I don't go the movies nearly as often as I used to.

Overall, I'm not excited or blown away by any of the nominated films, but tradition is tradition, so here goes:

1.  THE REVENANT.  This might be the first time I am picking the actual winner, although my blessing might be a jinx.  I didn't want to even see this movie because I knew there were some gory, bloody scenes -- definitely not my thing -- but I ended up being thoroughly engrossed and impressed by the overall picture:  the story, the acting, the cinematography.... Pretty amazing.  Oh yeah, I know -- "How did the guy not die from hypothermia ?"
2.  BROOKLYN.  This film is sort of the opposite of The Revenant -- quiet and sensitive.  Set in the early 1950s, it's the story of a young Irish woman who moves to the US to find opportunity and has to figure out where "home" really is.  Saoirse Ronan is terrific.  Beautifully filmed.
3.  THE MARTIAN.  Can you believe I ranked this mass-appeal outer space movie so high?  The story is crazy and far fetched , but Matt Damon and the disco music are great.
4.  SPOTLIGHT.  OK, back to a serious film.  It's the behind-the-scenes-at-the-Boston-Globe intriguing story about the reporting of the priest/children sex abuse.  A good topic well done, to me just not outstanding filmmaking.
5.  BRIDGE OF SPIES.  I was thinking, oh here we go -- another Steven Spielberg/Tom Hanks movie, but it's not bad.  Set in Cold War 1957, it's about the attorney trying to obtain the release of Francis Gary Powers, the US spy pilot shot down over the USSR.  The scenes set in "East Berlin" felt especially well-done and suspenseful.
6.  ROOM.  A small but good film.  The first half of the film is especially small since it takes place all in one room, a mother and young son.  Very well done.  The second half of the film is more like a Lifetime Movie of the Week.  Still, it's very worth seeing.
7.  THE BIG SHORT.  This is the story of the people who figured out the housing bubble of 2007.  I'm not a stupid, uneducated person, but much of the dialogue was incomprehensible to me since it had so much Wall Street insider lingo.  HBO could have done this one -- maybe better.
8.  MAD MAX: FURY ROAD.  So how the heck did this post-apocalyptic special effects car chase thing get nominated for Best Picture (Are they cars, or what?).  Since this is on On Demand now, I even sat through it a second time and still haven't quite figured out who the good guys are.  But the special effects and film editing are great.

Some picks in the other categories:
BEST ACTOR:  Leonardo DiCaprio for THE REVENANT.  He will finally get an Oscar.
BEST ACTRESS:  Saoirse Ronan for BROOKLYN.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:  Rooney Mara for CAROL (A film that should have been at least nominated for Best Picture).
BEST DIRECTING:  The guy with the unpronounceable, unspellable name, director of THE REVENANT.

Whew, that's it for another year.  The Oscars will be on television this Sunday night.


Tomorrow, I give my impressions of DUBLIN.  What a great city!

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