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Khushrenada's Annual Oscar Thread. 2016 Edition.

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As NWR's pre-eminent film critic, (with only Plugabugz my potential equal) I have seen all 8 of this years Best Picture nominees.

The good news is that this year, there is no weird stinker like Beasts of the Southern Wild or Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close nor is there some overwrought drama like The Imitation Game or The Theory of Everything. Everything this year is pretty solid and worth checking out.

So here's how I would rank them this year.

8. Mad Max: Fury Road

I'm surprised that Fury Road has so much praise this year. It's definitely the best Mad Max movie so far but then I don't think it's that hard to surpass what has come before. Something's got to be last and this year it's Mad Max. Maybe it comes from having watched the 2nd and 3rd Mad Max films in the same week leading up to my watching Fury Road but it didn't strike me as all that different from those films, especially more the 2nd one. For the most part, it just felt like a really long car chase. Visually it looks great and the colors really pop. The world looks more believable and mad than previous films and it has some interesting stunts and action sequences. Yet, the characters are mainly kept in broad strokes and there was one characters changing allegiance that I just never really bought into. For a world that went mad over oil, it's amazing how many vehicles it can keep running after all this time. It's a decent enough action flick though I find myself still preferring the Bourne Trilogy as the action movies to beat and this film did not clear that benchmark. Heck, I'd probably watch Mission Impossible 4 or 5 again before this. It's worth a viewing but not something I plan on returning to anytime soon.

7. Spotlight

Spotlight has been compared to All The President's Men and it is easy to see why with its focus on reporters slowly uncovering a huge scandal and cover-up in both films. The difference is that ATPM is able to create more excitement and tension whereas Spotlight takes a more thoughtful approach allowing the reporters to react and ruminate on the story as it continues to grow. It's understandable that there would be the difference as All The President's Men focuses on a cover-up with the highest source of power in the President of the USA whereas Spotlight is on the cover-up of the sexual abuse of children which doesn't really lend itself to thriller material nor would that be the right vein to take. While it is interesting to see the investigation unfold and how it was all finally brought into the light, the movie is limited scope in that it only really focuses on one town and even then, as the credits reveal, doesn't fully get to the full extent of the problem it would continue to uncover. Thus, it almost feels like an isolated problem in one city when it really is global. The other issue is that it keeps things tempered and not trying to exploit those involved or hype things up, the movie doesn't really make a lasting impression aside from a couple scenes and I keep forgetting that I saw it or that it is even nominated for Best Picture which isn't the best sign for any movie. It's worth a viewing though and its something I could see myself watching on TV again sometime but I don't think I'd actively seek it out. When it comes to a big global scandal, I feel The Big Short did a better job in showing the cause and effects while keeping the large and global scale of it all in the forefront along with the smaller players that would be affected by it.

6. Bridge of Spies

A solid well told tale. My brother summed it up well. He said that Spielberg was able to take a piece of rather insignificant history and make it feel big and important and more exciting than a lot of other directors can do with films that actually deal with big important moments of history. Ultimately, the fact that it is a sort of footnote in the pages of the cold war is what holds me back from fully embracing this movie. I think I'd chose Lincoln over this one as a top Spielberg historical piece. As much as the ads for the film want to make it look like an exciting esponiage mission, the reality is far from that. It is a lot of talking as Tom Hanks character negotiates to the best of his ability to bring about as a favorable result for all as possible while clearly doing the right thing because that's what America's values are. Mark Rylance's spy is the character that will probably stick with you the most even though he's sort of dry and somber. Yet that was the performance we talked about the most. Hanks does his usual good work of the noble every guy thrust into important and thorny situations. The look of the film is more subdued representing more of the drabness of the Soviet era Germany. In the end, I just never could buy into the stakes being that high perhaps in part being 50 years removed from the events and knowing the outcome as well. It's a nice morality play about setting the right example to win over your enemies and because it just may benefit you in the end as well.

5. The Revenant

This is a tough one to rank. It's almost tied with my number 4 pick but as I go back and forth between them, I just feel The Revenant is held back by its style. Watching this movie felt like a mash-up of The New World and Jeremiah Johnson which are two films I'm sure all you NWR users have seen. (But seriously, if you do watch them, I think you'll agree its a pretty good analogy.) As it turns out, the cinematographer, Lubezki, worked on The New World which may be why it triggers up memories of that film. The movie tries or wants to have this spiritual sort of journey wrapped in with DiCaprio's physical stuggles and journey but it doesn't work. It's like Terrence Malik light and even Malik can't always pull it off or 100% succeed when he does it. The spiritual stuff is too vague with very little meat to it that it would have been better to cut it from the film or present the backstory in a more traditional method. That said, the parts that do focus on the various characters actual real journeys are very well done. From the native American and bear attacks, to Glass's sheer determination to survive any way he can, and everything with Hardy, that's when the movie is most engaging. The movie is full of great images. Even at the end, in a sort of western showdown that I wasn't expecting, it's punctuated with an avalanche or the growing rays of sunlight along a stream that just further elevates the material to high art which is what makes such a disappointment when it misfires with the spiritual journey. Despite the misfires, I do highly recommend checking this movie out and I could see myself easily watching it again. In the end, the misfires end up dragging this movie down to 5th place and lessens the great potential this movie had and fulfilled.

4. Brooklyn

I've already talked a bit about this movie in the Rate the Last Movie You Saw thread so I'm mainly going to repeat what I said there. It may also be surprising that I consider it very close to The Revenant in ranking it when The Revenant has some great set pieces and some magical visuals. With Brooklyn, the movie is more subdued. It's not like the movie looks awful but there's nothing in it that I'd say wows the eyes like in The Revenant.

There's really nothing flashy about. Unlike The Revenant, it doesn't really have any major high points or low points. There's nothing that drags but there's nothing that greatly soars in the movie either. I can't say I really felt a lot watching it although it did have moments that made me laugh from time to time. I also thought the conflict that arises late in the film felt rather unnecessary and could have easily been avoided although I do get the motivation for why it takes place. The Revenant doesn't always work but even if I think the late conflict so-so, it doesn't detract or derail the movie but aids in making its ending points. Moreover, I can't really say there's anything that should have been removed or could have been done better (aside from the child actor playing a young outspoken Italian boy). Plus, when the movie spells out its message at the end as the main character talks to another character that reminds them of a time earlier in the movie, it really stuck with me and impacted me.

Despite its seeming subtleness, the movie has stuck with me and I'm still thinking of it from time to time despite having seen it over a month ago now. It might be because I've gone through a bit of that situation in the past year myself with moving to a new place. I just can't figure out how a movie that plays out as unassuming as it does managed to find its way under my skin and stick with me so much. It's a puzzle but a pleasant one nonetheless. And it's interesting to see Emily Bret Rickards from Arrow pop up in other media. For having such staying power and not really suffering from any glaring faults, I give it the fourth spot and could see myself watching this again a few times which is a successful movie in my book.

3. The Big Short

The Big Short is brash, it's smart and it will probably leave you questioning how secure the financial systems of the US/World are. Like most people, I never understood a lot of the details about the recession of 2008 aside from banks giving out bad loans or mortgages. Because it resulted in a lot of people's wealth being wiped out, all manner of industry was affected so it was hard to see how mortgage defaults were the cause. This movie is able to cut through a lot of that complication and jargon and let you understand and follow the paper chase as it were. Christian Bale turns in what might be may favorite performance of the year. It's a personality a bit different from his other work of an awkward socially insecure person who is smart with numbers and sure he is right despite not seeing immediate success for his conviction.

At the same time, Ryan Gosling works pretty good as the narrator of the film and his fratboy/bro banker suggests that this type of role may suit him better than some of his other dramatic work. There's some 4th wall breaking going on with this movie with Ryan Gosling's narration talking direct to the audience. At one point, when two people learn the news that the housing market may not be that stable after all by looking through someone else's portfolio on a lobby table, he informs the audience that this isn't how these characters actually learned about the potential housing crisis and it is for dramatic effect. He then informs us how it actually went down. It seemed like a weird thing to bring up but its payoff is seen later in the film when we see a couple more outlandish type moments but Ryan Gosling informs us that this time, the scene is correct and what we are seeing is the truth this time. By telling us what is true and what is false, it makes the viewer more trusting in the narration. Plus, it helps impress on you how bonkers some of this situation was with the sillier things being true and a more believable scene being false. There's a lot of wild stuff to this story from how most of these guys learned about betting against the financial market to their investigation of the claims and then how the market continued to push on despite the evidence they all had.

At the same time, it's not perfect. The biggest disappointment is probably that the cast never really get to interact with one another. Christian Bale's character is sort of the catalyst that gets everyone else involved in shorting the market but they other characters never meet him. He just exists in his own bubble in the movie. The same goes for the group of John Magaro, Finn Whitrock, and Brad Pitt. They come in last and they have the least interesting narrative although Brad Pitt does deliver a speech that I'll get back to. Carrell and Gosling are the two bigger stars who actually get to collide and interact with one another throughout the film and they end up being our de facto main characters but you do keep hoping they'll all meet up somehow like a banking Avengers Assemble.

As well, the financial crisis affected a lot of people and impacted many. Both good and bad people. Brad Pitt's character gives a brief speech that outlines what the coming financial storm means and that the guys he works with shouldn't be so excited about the potential money they'll be making. That's the fine line the film tries to walk because, while it wants to make you understand the crisis and explain it so that hopefully viewers will be outraged at those responsible, the movie is still about people that profited greatly from the failing of the American Market and who could only succeed from that disaster happening. As such, the movie sort of tries to portray these guys as sort of heroes from getting this financial justice against the banks greed and negligence. Making the banks pay by the only thing they really value. As well, they fuss and stress and express outrage at all the fraud and rampant greed they encounter and see and are shocked by it all, particularly Carell's character. Even when they get their money, they aren't really happy it aside from maybe Gosling's character. All in all, I think they may have overdone that a bit too much. It started making me reject the notion that they are that upset about everything or really fretted about it that much because it felt like they were trying to push this aspect so hard to keep our sympathies with them more than I think it needed to.

Even though this isn't a perfect film and doesn't really have a lot of jokes for a movie billed as a comedy, this is still a strong movie and I really think everyone should see at least once. Of all the Best Picture nominees, this has been the hardest one for me to review and to gather my thoughts on it. Often, I can make a comparison of a movie to another movie but this one feels more original and unique than anything else nominated this year. This a movie that knows what it wants to accomplish and what the challenges it has to overcome to do that are and does very well in keeping the viewer up to speed with everything that's unfolding. Despite knowing what the ending kind of is, it keeps you engaged the whole way and its ending spells out the injustice of the whole situation. With no one from the financial industry having been punished or put in jail, the same forces that brought this crisis are still out there and may be trying the same fraud practices again. Not the funniest ending for a comedy but one that may be as powerful as Spotlight's final endnotes listing the extent of its scandal.

khush youre not dead! ;D

Leo does not deserve an Oscar for his performance in the Revenant.

Tom Hardy did some of his best work in it, though.


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