Alan’s Oscar Picks
by Alan F. Zundel
Here’s my picks from the nominees for the top Academy Award nominations this year. No predictions, just my own preferences.
It makes no sense to have separate categories for Best Picture and Best Director, so I’m combining them. The director of the best picture must be the best director, and the best director would have made the best picture. It makes even less sense to nominate a movie for Best Picture but ignore the director, which happened for nearly half of the movies this year. I list unnominated directors in italics. Click on a movie title to see my full review (if I have one).
Room (Lenny Abrahamson). My top pick. Engaged me, surprised me, and moved me. Brie Larson merits the attention she is getting for her showcase performance, but it takes a great director to get a truly natural performance from a child actor (Jacob Tremblay). This could have become just another exploitation film, like those TV movies about women in danger, but instead it’s an inspiring depiction of triumph over trauma.
Brooklyn (John Crowley). Also at the top of the list. This one is more subtle, just a story of a woman leaving home, falling in love, and wrestling with choices. But director John Crowley and actress Saoirse Ronan beautifully render a universally human experience through a specific, carefully portrayed character. Really stayed with me.
Spotlight (Tom McCarthy). Not the best of the year, but a very good movie nonetheless. A team of investigative reporters uncover the child abuse by Catholic priests in Boston. Perfectly paced, fine ensemble performances, intelligent script, and fitting conclusion. Didn’t grab me emotionally as much as the above movies, but eminently watchable.
The Big Short (Adam McKay). Funny and smart rendition of the financial meltdown from the perspective of a set of underdog winners. Scattered its energies across too many characters to get me to care about them, but Christian Bale does a great job humanizing his character.
The Revenant (Alejandro G. Iñárritu). Beautiful cinematography garnishes a simple tale of survival and revenge. Entertaining and impressive, but not as deep as it pretend to be.
The Martian (Ridley Scott). This one doesn’t even pretend to depth. A good scifi flick elevated by the presence of Matt Damon, but what’s it doing on the Best Picture list?
Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller). Haven’t seen it. A dystopian action movie is not one I’d deliberately seek out, but this one has been getting so much buzz it’s piqued my curiosity. If it wins the Oscar, I will definitely make the effort to see it.
Bridge of Spies (Steven Spielberg). Haven’t seen this one either, although an intelligent spy movie IS the kind I would seek out. Missed it when it was in the theaters, but now that it’s on DVD I will make the trip to Redbox.
Best Actress in a Leading Role
Brie Larson (Room). She takes a showy role and makes the most of it, running the gamut of human emotions in a fully believable performance. She deserved the Golden Globe and other awards she reaped, and I will step out on a limb and predict the Oscar will join them.
Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn). Understated performances don’t get the same attention, but they continue to haunt you long after the movie is over. Ronan is perfect in this one.
As for Cate Blanchett (Carol), Jennifer Lawrence (Joy), and Charlotte Rampling (45 Years), I haven’t seen these movies yet but hope to get around to them.
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant). I don’t know if this is a great performance or not, but it sure was fun to watch Leo grunting and glaring his way through the movie. I guess that’s one definition of great acting.
Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs). Fassbender captivates your attention as the scarily smart and scarily ambitious Jobs, but too much of the movie keeps him on the same note. Impressive performance but he needed more dimension to make the man come fully to life.
Matt Damon (The Martian). Matt is Matt here, charming, funny, down to earth (ha!). But the movie just doesn’t ask enough from him to let him truly impress us.
I haven’t seen Bryan Cranston (Trumbo) or Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl).
So that’s my picks. What are yours?