88th Academy Awards: Best Picture Rankings   2 comments

titlecard

This has been some sort of a tradition here at Tit for Tat, wherein I rank all the Oscar Best Picture nominees. This is the closest I can come to filling out a ballot, so imagine how yours would look like. It’s also rather unfortunate that the best American film of the year (among those that legitimately has a chance to get nominated) was criminally snubbed. In case you didn’t get the reference, that was for Todd Haynes’ Carol. The other snub this year is Pixar’s Inside Out, getting lost in the shuffle once guild and critics season began. That said, this season also has the widest Best Picture race since 2006, so that makes up for it at least.

Moving on, in 2012, it was Michael Haneke’s “Amour” which ended up as my #1. The following year, Spike Jonze’s “Her” was my top pick for 2013. Last year, Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” was my personal choice among the 2014 nominees. Which film will join the list? Here’s my take from The Big Short to Spotlight.

The Martian

08. THE MARTIAN (Ridley Scott, director)

Decent popcorn thriller, yup. But Oscar Best Picture caliber it ain’t. In what is deemed as the “comeback” of Ridley Scott to form, we find Matt Damon growing potatoes in space. Of course, it’s really much more than that, and one thing that made The Martian work was how it managed to make its case separate from the two other “space” films of this decade (Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity and Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar). In hindsight, this light approach also ended up as a double edge-sword as it was so pedestrian in its predictability. There isn’t really anything to hold your attention here because the movie didn’t have anything at risk. With all the talks about how this was Ridley’s comeback, I’d make a case on how it was more of Matt Damon’s comeback. He’s certainly the star of this show, and the film bogs down whenever he’s not on screen. It’s a performance that relies heavily on an actor’s charisma, and he sure brought a lot to Mars in it. Anything outside of him suffers (all the NASA scenes in particular) and whoever thought that Donald Glover’s character suddenly saving the whole NASA group would surely make Abed from Community shake his damn head off. Even the big ‘saving’ scene in the end pales in comparison from all the other space films. Let’s just be thankful Matt Damon didn’t have a backstory so at least in that aspect, they’re redeemed. The Martian is as direct as one can get that it’s hilarious when it tries to present ‘conflict.’ For that alone, I’m good with its Comedy placement at the Golden Globes.

2.5/5

Brooklyn

07. BROOKLYN (John Crowley, director)

Home is where the heart is, but in Brooklyn‘s case, heart is where the home is. John Crowley’s Brooklyn goes straight to the point in its simple tale of a young immigrant coming to America in the 50s. There is so much heart in it that you can’t help but be swept away by the old-fashioned approach of the movie. But its simplicity is not without flaws. To an extent, it tends to go overboard with its saccharine sweetness. I also had issue with the film’s uneven pacing where there is a clear divide between acts with the last part losing the previous ones’ momentum. I’m also a tad bothered by the faux green screen in some scenes (especially the one in the liner. That said, Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan is a very gifted actress, and her performance is an integral part of why this film worked. Co-star Emory Cohen was such a delightful surprise though; at times, even providing the scene stealing performance in the movie.  With Brooklyn, simplicity is beauty and boy did it elevate that simplicity to certain heights.

2.5/5

The Revenant

06. THE REVENANT (Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu, director)

As for starters, let me say that I’m really not a fan of Iñarittu’s previous works in general, but I really have some conflicting thoughts about this. Suffice to say, Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography remains to be the highlight of it. It’s ironic that a film as “gritty” as this can look so glowing, thanks to Chivo. The Revenant started out really strong with its first 15 minutes or so, but as the movie progresses, so do the themes it tried to tackle. There’s revenge, there’s survival, there’s spirituality and it would have benefited by trimming at least one of those. Leonardo di Caprio’s physical commitment in the film is really admirable, but when you think of the works he has churned out in the last ten years alone (such as his underrated work in Shutter Island, or in Revolutionary Road and The Departed) or against his previous nominated performances in The Wolf of Wall Street and The Aviator, winning for this is a bit anti-climactic. But then again, it is probably for the better as we can finally put a rest to the internet’s claim on how he is the most overdue actor for an Oscar. Also, rearranging Tom Hardy’s name would lead you to DORTY HAM which is probably what he was serving in his performance. As much as the film has impressive moments here and there, my usual gripe with Alejandro’s works is present yet again, as he can’t seem to avoid the overindulgence in his movies.

3/5

Room

05. ROOM (Lenny Abrahamson, director)

There are those films that bring such discomfort while watching them that you find it real hard to revisit, and to a certain extent, Lenny Abrahamson’s Room fits the bill. Based from Emma Donoghue’s novel of the same title, the film is about a young mother and her son trapped and living in a small.. well.. uhm… room. The movie wasted no time in making the audience feel what was going through with Ma and Jack (played to perfection by Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, but more of them later) that you’re already invested with the film and their situation. A film like this benefits from having these very detailed small scenes later building up to a huge bubble of emotions just waiting to explode, and as a viewer, there’s just no turning back anymore. At the risk of not being a spoiler, I’d leave the rest of what has happened in the movie, but let me say that this was gut wrenching throughout in a way that isn’t manipulative or forced (except for the musical score in some key scenes which were overdone). Brie Larson is expected to win the Best Actress Oscar at the end of this month, and deservedly so. Her performance is one you’d appreciate not right off the bat, but moreso for its lasting impact. And while I usually have reservations with performances from child actors, Jacob Tremblay is simply a revelation. What a find. Seeing his personality this whole awards season and that being so different than what was showcased in the movie can also be credited to the focused direction by Lenny Abrahamson.  Room is a film that resonates well even after the credits rolled already, and its effect lingers with you.

3.5/5

The BigShort

04. THE BIG SHORT (Adam McKay, director)

I’m probably one of the last persons to be personally affected by the American financial crisis back in 2008, but Adam McKay’s The Big Short was a joyride to watch from start to finish. Where the film’s main strength lies is its energy, outpouring with its quick cuts and use of loud soundtracks and memories of the 2008 fiasco that even if you’re not totally aware of the subject matter, it easily lures you in. What it makes up for its technicality with all its economic jargon thrown here and there are random celebrities ranging from Margot Robbie in a bathtub up to Selena Gomez breaking the fourth wall explaining to you what was really happening. From there, it’s a confident piece of work from someone who probably knew that a film whose theme is as heavy as this must be done in an opposite yet still skillful approach. That’s why when the film suddenly tries to go all in on the dramatic aftermath of the tragedy, the impact, while still there, stales a bit. Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street, a film many has compared to this one, has done a much better job in injecting the balance to its energy. The ensemble was good and serviceable, with no one having a huge standout moment (except for the horrible wigs). The one thing that The Big Short excellently accomplished is that it delivered this relevant, thought-provoking message from a tragic time in America by simply capturing your attention to look in it.

3.5/5

Bridge of Spies

03. BRIDGE OF SPIES (Steven Spielberg, director)

When you’re a director as accomplished as Steven Spielberg, sometimes you’d wonder if they still have anything left to prove. Then there will also be those instances when you know they just want to tell a story. That’s how I viewed his Cold War drama Bridge of Spies. This latest Tom Hanks starrer is something that we’ve seen already many times in the past, but Spielberg puts his touch in it and turns into a solid and engaging time at the movies. It’s traditional, but it’s definitely the approach that this film needs. If this was done in the 90s, it probably would have won Oscars for everybody. It was solid and safe throughout from your usual Spielberg staples: Kaminski’s cinematography, Hanks in the lead role. I even find delight in the screenplay written by the Coens, as the output of line readings were enjoyable. If anything, I somehow missed John Williams’ score here (Thomas Newman just doesn’t cut it for me).  Oh and if anything, Mark Rylance was such a hoot, giving the classic supporting actor performance in the movie. Like The Martian, this is a film where you already have an idea on how it will play out in the end, but unlike that one, Spielberg makes it compelling all throughout the duration of the movie. But, he really just can’t help it with the last scene though, no?

3.5/5

Spotlight

02. SPOTLIGHT (Tom McCarthy, director)

Call it whatever you like — straightforward, text book approach, procedural, by the numbers. But these aren’t really negatives when it comes to Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight. As a matter of fact, rare is such an instance when someone manages to make these words sound great in the context of a movie. Spotlight is compelling in its topic, its scope, screenplay and its direction but what made it more effective is the restraint it had to avoid obvious tropes just to make it preachy and over dramatic. I understand, however, that this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and what I might consider as good can be someone else’s serviceable. The movie also benefits from its ensemble of actors, from Michael Keaton’s low-key subtle leader to the team’s newest member Liev Schreiber. There’s also Oscar nominee Rachel McAdams (oh boy I love saying that!) contributing to the whole group. The only one who stands out differently for me was Mark Ruffalo, and while I feel that there are really people like his character, it’s a bit too outlandish for this usually dependable actor. Having the interest in journalism back from high school also appealed to me and probably is a factor with how I like Spotlight, but one can’t deny that it’s a assured, smart, and tight piece of powerful work.

4/5
Mad Max Fury Road

01. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (George Miller, director)

Only few films take you into one helluva ride, and George Miller’s comeback along with the Mad Max series just sweeps everyone off its feet, dusty sands and all. It’s really insane that a franchise as dated as this one can breathe life even topping its predecessors (though one really doesn’t need to watch all the previous films to identify with this one). As for starters, it’s a visual spectacle on all levels, with its attention to the details a highlight — making you feel as if you’re a part of the whole journey with them. THE.FUN.JUST.WON’T.STOP. But more than anything else, it presents a very important take on feminism (with Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa on the forefront) in this time and age when Beyonce has probably overused the same word to death already. Mad MaxFury Road never gets contented with just fulfilling our visual hunger with its polished colors, guitar players, and endless car chase scenes one after the other; with it, it also thrives to weave moments of tender sincerity and proclaim bold statements both in the world where these characters existed and to the audience’s as well. Everything about this projects seems risky on paper, but it all paid off. Indeed, it’s one of the best moments in cinema this past year (and of the decade too).

4.5/5

So how does your ranking look like? How many have you seen from this year’s batch? Which are your favorites? And who would you be rooting for come Oscar night? Talk to me about it by tweeting me:@nikowl

Advertisements

2 responses to “88th Academy Awards: Best Picture Rankings

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. My personal ranking;

    8.) Bridge Of Spies
    7.) Brooklyn
    6.) The Revenant
    5.) The Big Short
    4.) Spotlight
    3.) Mad Max: Fury Road
    2.) The Martian
    1.) Room

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: