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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Cole’s Assessment and Ranking of the 2016 Oscar Nominees

With 2015’s filmmaking season coming to an end this evening with the 88th Academy Awards, it is important to recognize the tremendous creative talent on display this year and every year, and that’s what tonight is all about. Below is my take on this year’s finest, with the exception of Brooklyn, which I was unable to get around to seeing.

  1. The Revenant: ★★★★

Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s filmmaking reign lives on with his latest film, The Revenant, a captivating, hard-edged testament to the director’s style, prowess, and pursuit of perfection. It boasts large scale production design, two brutally well-done performances (by DiCaprio and Hardy, the frontrunners in their categories, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, respectively), and it is ultimately the most memorable, most precise, most impressive motion picture of 2015.

  1. Carol: ★★★ ½

Carol is a chillingly romantic tale whose main characters are brought to life by the enchanting Cate Blanchett and the exuberant Rooney Mara. Among the film’s assets are the talented supporting cast and the equal mix of real-life and work of art that makes the story so unique.

  1. Room: ★★★ ½

Brie Larson is nominated for her heart-wrenching portrayal of the young woman abducted and kept in a garage shed for seven years in Room. That’s not the only thing to marvel at, though. Larson’s screen partner, the nine year old Jacob Tremblay, delivers a ground-breaking performance, and ultimately, the two leads carry us through one of the most memorable true-life stories told through cinema this year.

  1. Bridge of Spies: ★★★ ½

The Tom Hanks starring, Coen Brothers written, Steven Spielberg directed (wow!) cold war drama, Bridge of Spies, is exactly as fulfilling as the savory credits would indicate. It is captivating, well-acted, and gets everything right from the get-go. It also adds a serious amount of insightful perspective towards how we should treat enemies of the state.

  1. Spotlight: ★★★ ½

Spotlight is Zodiac meets All the President’s Men, about the Catholic church child molestation charges and, quite possibly, with better performances. Unfortunately, it sacrifices the impending sense of danger that the two other films harbored so effectively. Nonetheless, however, this is a chilling newsroom drama that makes all the right moves.

  1. Steve Jobs: ★★★ ½

Despite the fact that this year may finally be Leonardo’s year―having undeservedly lost for at least two of his Academy Award nominations in past years―Michael Fassbender delivers the strongest performance in any film of 2015 as Steve Jobs. What’s more, the movie takes on a unique approach to portraying a chunk of his life story by chronicling Jobs’ social and professional turbulence at three different moments in his life: right before his presentation of the Mac, the Black Cube, and the iMac.

  1. The Big Short: ★★★ ½

The Big Short is a dazzling portrait of the individuals with the ability to foresee the collapse of the housing market in the few short years leading up to 2008. It is engrossing and entertaining to the nth degree, and it harbors a wide array of cast members who make the relevant proceedings that much better.

  1. The Martian: ★★★

While not quite as impactful as 2014’s Interstellar, The Martian is a bona fide sci-fi entry into this year’s Best Picture nominees. It is fueled by Matt Damon’s dedication to his craft and it is a heart-racing, supremely entertaining two hour and some minutes.

  1. Joy: ★★★

Joy is, without doubt, among director David O’Russell’s most engrossing and straightforward films. He doesn’t meander, and he doesn’t lose focus for a second. With a moving performance by the O’Russell regular, Jennifer Lawrence, the movie is a well told, important slice of life. Nothing more, nothing less.

  1. Straight Outta Compton: ★★★

Straight Outta Compton is a long, well made biographical film about the rise and fall of the N.W.A (Ice Cube, Eazy E, Dr. Dre) and it boasts a particularly good performance by Paul Giamatti, playing the group’s producer. While slightly overlong and weakened by a repetitive (but still impressive) screenplay, it is an important movie that ultimately addresses the roots of a large aspect of American culture.

  1. The Hateful Eight: ★★★

The Hateful Eight is among director Quentin Tarantino’s most undisciplined, most cynical work. That said, it’s also among his most mysterious, hilarious, and exciting. If the second half of the film went exactly the way the first half did, we’d have a movie of Pulp Fiction’s Caliber. (Needless to say that, instead, it indulges in cynicism and drags the proceedings out over an unnecessarily long running time of 167 minutes).

  1. The Danish Girl: ★★ ½

Despite two moving performances by Redmayne and Vikander, The Danish Girl is a boringly conservative telling of a compelling life story. Every scene plays out exactly the way one would expect, and director Tom Hooper directs exactly the way one would expect him to as well.

Written by Cole Pollyea

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