2016 Oscars: Spotlight

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Source: Wikipedia

Spotlight was this year’s surprise winner of the Best Picture Oscar, and though very few thought it would actually win the award, I would be surprised to hear many people say it was not deserving. The film was actually rather unique in the modern era – it was entirely dialogue-driven and featured no action sequences. The only suspenseful moments had to do with the information these brave journalists were unraveling and the sensitivity of the subject matter. The premise of Spotlight is that a small group of investigative journalists for the Boston Globe stumble across some old press clippings and case files that lead them to dig deeper into the, now famous, Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal. The movie shows these intrepid reporters’ journey to unravel decades of cover-ups, misinformation, and even outright collusion between church officials, Boston area lawyers, law enforcement, and even media executives. As the truth comes together, it becomes enormously clear just how horrible and how rampant the abuses were, making the cover-up that much more horrific. Plot-wise, the subject is certainly worthy of a film and makes for an important topic to be reminded of today. It is a timeless lesson in the importance of standing up against abuse and protecting our neighbors from systemic problems; a message that certainly resonates in today’s world, where media outlets, political agents, and corporations are becoming increasingly intermingle.

Regarding the film’s stylistic choices, the director, Tom McCarthy, deserves a lot of credit. The film is perfectly cast, and undoubtedly features the strongest ensemble cast of any film this year. The performances of Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Stanley Tucci, and everyone else were incredible. If there is any doubt that Mark Ruffalo is much more than just the Hulk, look no further. The format is also very enjoyable, with minimal film effects or dramatic lighting, it feels much more like a documentary in tone and feel. This makes the information being relayed and the heartfelt acting feel incredibly real and important. The content of the story is very upsetting, but the tone of the film is relies on dialogue and portrays the story’s development much more how it would have felt to the reporters who uncovered it. The result is that Spotlight is a must-see film and one of the most important stories of the year. Though it tells a very specific story in great detail, the film’s importance is much more far-reaching and its message is timeless. An unexpected, but well-deserved win for Best Picture. Academy Pick: Best Picture

 

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2016 Oscars: Mad Max: Fury Road

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Source: Wikipedia

Mad Max: Fury Road: is a crazy, relentless action movie blockbuster about a post-apocalyptic world decimated by atomic war, drought, and lawlessness. Plus, it’s a reboot of an ’80s cult classic action series. Despite all of that, it was not only nominated for Best Picture, but considered by many to be a front-runner to actually win the award. On awards day, it cleaned house in a lot of the smaller, secondary awards categories such as Film Editing, Costume Design, Set Design, etc. But the truly amazing thing about this movie was just how complete it was. The artistic touch and authenticity under George Miller’s directorship were phenomenal. Many scenes were sped up slightly to create a visual representation of the stress and adrenaline-fueled action sequences. The make-up and costumes made the world feel dirty and hellish; characters are disfigured by radiation and a horrible, unforgiving landscape. And the society, if you can even call it that, is brutal and barbaric. The result was an almost overwhelming and psychotic world view that the audiences felt a part of. Mad Max also looked REAL — from the costumes and makeup to the series of actual explosions, the film presented a nice relief from the standard summer blockbusters that rely so heavily on CGI landscapes and characters. This seemed to learn from Peter Jackson’s ridiculous Hobbit trilogy (ugh I can’t believe it’s a trilogy): orc makeup in LOTR = awesome; CGI orcs in Hobbit = stupid.

Another impressive thing about Mad Max: Fury Road is that it could have easily been another cheap ’80s action movie reboot. The original starred a pre-crazy Mel Gibson and the special effects were a lot cheesier. Most of these reboots focus on improving special effects and replacing characters with CGI monstrosities, but Mad Max instead focused on creating a truly good film instead of following the failed formula of Terminator, Robocop, and Total Recall. It is the rare summer blockbuster that impresses the Academy’s voters, and Mad Max sure did impress. Rumors were even floating around that it had a chance to take Best Picture. It retained all of the weirdness and artistry of an Oscar film, while showcasing enough violence and explosions to earn the money of a summer action flick.

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Though Mad Max is such a coherent film experience, it does have one weakness that affects its rewatch-ability. Much like the classic interview question, its weakness and its strengths are kind of intertwined. The lack of exposition, the relentless action sequences, and sparse dialogue, especially between main characters, adds a touch of realism to the world Miller created. However, it also gives the audience less time to really get to know the characters and see them develop. The result is that the movie is highly enjoyable, but it’s less engrossing and personal because we lack those connections to developed characters. Charlize Theron, Tom Hardy, and Nicholas Hoult are certainly compelling, but I didn’t feel like I really knew anyone’s motivations. This is no fault of the movie, but more of a style choice. All in all, this is definitely a unique action film and is tremendously well-made and a lot of that credit goes to Miller’s direction. Go see it. Blorg! Pick: Best Director

 

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2016 Oscars: Brooklyn

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Source: Wikipedia

Brooklyn is a personal story about a young girl’s journey to find her place in early 1960s Brooklyn. It is a very compelling story about the emotional ups and downs the main character, Eilis (prounounced Ay-lish) experiences as she uproots her life in small-town Ireland to move to Brooklyn in pursuit of opportunity. Saorise Ronan as Eilis is very believable and endearing, bringing the emotions of homesickness, hope, and desperation into the fore. Brooklyn is also a love story, depicting a cute and timeless romance blossoming out of Eilis’ loneliness, as she meets Tony (Emory Cohen) and quickly the two become inseparable. Though the film has no action sequences, the plot certainly drives the story, and key events in Eilis’ life do create a sort of emotional suspense. The whole cast and the direction by John Crowley make Brooklyn a wonderful and enjoyable film, and Cohen’s performance as Tony could easily have won himself a nomination as well.

This is the kind of story that is difficult to describe, since it is truly a personal story about a character evolving and finding herself in a new place, and the few plot points that could be outlined may give away too much of the story. Also, like Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn is not really a groundbreaking story or style so much as it is a nearly flawless execution of a classic format, making it definitely worthy of the Best Picture nomination, but not unique enough to win the actual Oscar. I feel that a film should win the Best Picture Oscar for taking a few risks and executing properly, without any real risk, a well-crafted film doesn’t really push any boundaries. Nevertheless, I definitely recommend it for anyone who enjoys a classic dialogue-driven, emotional story of love, loss, and personal growth.

 

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2016 Oscars: Room

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Source: Wikipedia

If you are looking for a happy, fun movie for a relaxing night in, Room is not that movie. It is an emotional, stressful, and evocative tale about a young woman, Ma, played by Brie Larson, who was kidnapped as a teenager and has lived hidden away in captivity for seven years. Her captor, a creepy man she calls Old Nick (Sean Bridgers) brings her the bare necessities to survive and consistently rapes her and abuses her. During captivity, she gave birth to a son, Jack, who is 5 at the time of the movie and played by Jacob Tremblay. This horrific description is scarring and leads to many high-stress emotional moments throughout the film. Room is successful as a film just for showing all of these emotions in a genuine fashion, but its true achievement is the amazing ability to relay the story through Jack’s eyes. He has a child’s wonder and naïveté ‎that keeps him from seeing just how horrible his situation is. Jack’s entire life has occurred in the confined shed that he knows only as “Room,” to which the movie owes its name. Jack’s concept of reality is distorted, thinking of things through the lens of his extremely limited spatial understanding: things exist either in Room or in TV. Since he only knows of this limited reality, he refers to most objects with the “zero article,” treating things like unique objects with personal names rather than using definite or indefinite articles to identify a particular objects. For example, he refers to “chair,” “room,” and “door” rather than saying “the chair” or “the door.” This adds to the completeness of how Jack’s world-view is depicted and makes each interaction fascinating, horrifying, and terribly engrossing.

*Spoiler* watching Jack’s reactions following his and Ma’s escape is also very telling for some real-life victims of these kinds of horrible acts. He struggles to adapt to the direct sunlight, the prevalence of germs, and he is afraid of all of the things he’s never seen. The complex emotions of watching Jack experience the World for the first time is truly wondrous and simultaneously depressing.

Overall, Room is the kind of amazing film I never want to see again. I was blown away by this film and was glad I watched it during the day time. Everyone should watch, just prepare yourself a few hours afterward before trying to sleep. Amazing acting by both Larson and Tremblay, the kid definitely could have gotten a nomination and Larson most definitely deserved her awards. I picked Room for Best Picture because it really challenged and affected me more than any other film this year. I think it made the rash of captivity stories in recent years into something more personal and even more horrifying. This film did something unique and took risks, but it succeeded in making an unforgettable experience. Blorg! and Academy Pick: Best Actress; Blorg! Pick: Best Picture

 

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