We at rEvolution love sports. Duh. But we also love pop culture and entertainment in general, and we’re suckers for a good live event – so it makes sense that we’d be looking forward to this Sunday’s Oscars ceremony. Sure, it can be an outdated and flawed system that fails to recognize meaningful contribution from the world’s more diverse artists while continuing to reward a tiny group of pre-ordained “cool kids” … But those dresses!
Collectively, we spent a ton of time at the movies this year – here are our picks and pans, and a review for each of this year’s Best Picture nominees (and a bonus round for the Oscar-nominated shorts).
Meredith Lester on Room
Room was the only movie this year that completely blew me away. The subject matter is just about as dark as it gets, and I didn’t just tear up – I straight up cried. Brie Larson is famazing and will hopefully win Best Actress, and I think that 9-year-old Jacob Tremblay got snubbed – he should have gotten a Best Supporting Actor nom. Anyways – Room is certainly not your family-friendly flick (its subject matter is dark, but worth keeping secret for #spoiler reasons), but if you like dramas and want to see something that will make you feel all the feels – this is for you.
Kevin McGraw on The Revenant
The Revenant is, in a lot of ways, the movie equivalent of a $45 “gourmet” burger. Sure, there’s truffle aioli on it and the Yelp reviews are all five stars. But it’s just a burger. And like you’ll leave the table at the artisanal burger spot convincing yourself the 2-hour wait and $85 tab were worth it for “just a burger,” you’ll leave The Revenant convincing yourself that all the phenomenal acting from Leo and Tom or the direction Iñárritu were able to dress things up enough to elevate the film beyond what it is. And it isn’t much more than a period piece and a singularly brutal revenge film, plodding slowly for three hours towards its inevitable conclusion. The Revenant will probably win this year’s award for Best Picture, but it shouldn’t. Don’t believe the hype, there are better burgers out there.
Joe Shannon on The Big Short
What made The Big Short different from finance movies in the past was Director Adam McKay’s decision to appeal to the masses and not to the already financially savvy crowd. He accomplishes this primarily through asides – a technique defined by actors delivering lines directly to the audience that other characters do not hear. Multiple times throughout the movie when difficult financial terms and ideas are discussed, McKay interrupts the flow and offers entertaining metaphors and interjections to explain the economics at play. This engaging approach, along with a stellar classic including Christian Bale, Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling created an instant classic that absolutely deserves its Best Picture nomination.
Peter Wiese on Mad Max: Fury Road
Being a parent of a toddler, I’m pretty much allotted one or two movies a year to see for myself. Beyond that, I’m watching Frozen – which according to Henry is still the only movie that exists. From the first 5 seconds of the trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road, I knew I had to see it. One of my favorite things about this movie is the lengths they went to in order to use practical effects! Sure, almost every shot had some VFX added to it – whether set extensions, sky replacements, or whatever, but the fact they built those vehicles and did all of those stunts still blows my mind. The storyline wasn’t the best, but it’s enough to keep you invested in the characters the whole time. Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but I always feel like I’m watching a video game if the VFX are too computer generated… I’m looking at you, Avatar. So it was those practical effects, combined with insane camera work and devotion to keeping stylistically in line with the original films that made me an instant fan of Fury Road. Now, where’s my silver spray paint? I gotta get some work done around here…
Alfred Chu on The Martian
What a fun and exciting ride of a film! I cannot say enough about the performance of Matt Damon and his co-star, Mars! If The Martian can get a nom for Best Movie in the Comedy category – at the Golden Globes – then Mars should definitely get a nom for Best Supporting Actor! Joking aside, I haven’t seen a performance from an actor, who’s basically talking to himself the entire movie, so commanding since Tom Hanks from Castaway. Damon was able to be personable and witty and make an unimaginable situation believably human. From the supporting cast on Earth, to the crew that’s trying to rescue our hero, the cast and plot kept me riveted and engaged the entire time.
Erin Jelm on Brooklyn
What makes Brooklyn so great is that, in many ways, it is timeless. America is a nation shaped by immigrants, and the courage, independence, and resilience that is, as a result, engrained in our cultural psyche is beautifully portrayed here in the story of Eilis Lacey. Eilis leaves her home and her family in Ireland for the prospect of a better life in 1950s Brooklyn, New York. The first months are very difficult as she deals with homesickness and tries to find her way in her new life. Just as Brooklyn starts to feel like home, a family crisis pulls her back to Ireland, where she is then forced to choose between two countries and the life that she has made in each. Definitely a breakout role for Saoirse Ronan, who has earned a well-deserved Best Actress nomination for her portrayal of Eilis.
Kelcy Hale on Spotlight
Spotlight is the story of a team of journalists in Boston who uncover one of the Catholic Church’s biggest scandals over the course of a year of digging into past (and present) claims of child abuse. I was stunned to watch the evolution from a group of people doing their work to cover a local issue, to a scandal with global implications and massive cover-ups. What makes Spotlight most impactful is that the movie is based on true events, and that the real-life Boston Globe won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service based on their coverage of the scandal. The acting was great (does Michael Keaton age? Is there a “Ben” in every newsroom? Where did Rachel McAdams get all those terrible lady-business khakis? How does Stanley Tucci transform himself for every role?) and the story itself was simply enthralling.
Second Opinion from Amelia Zukowski
Spotlight does a great job of heightening what it feels like to be on a deadline, but I found Rachel McAdams – who played Sascha Pfeiffer, to be a bit one note. I’m glad she’s moving into more dramatic roles, but she didn’t have the acting chops without her typical Nicholas Spark-dialogue and sundresses to pull it off.
Megan Grubbs on Bridge of Spies
Written by the Coen brothers, Steven Spielberg takes this Cold War spy story (inspired by actual events) and creates a fairly authentic feeling movie that resonates well with the current terrorist paranoia of today. Without being a spoiler, what I appreciate most is the mutual respect the two main characters have for each other. Because of that respect for human dignity, greater things were done. What if we showed this more in our everyday lives?
Second Opinion from Lissette Ordon
I loved it! Any time you watch Tom Hanks perform, you’re in for a special treat! And his co-star, Mark Rylance, should win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar – he brought the right touch of deadpan comedy to his role, very hard to achieve in such a serious drama.
BONUS ROUND! Lee Meredith on the Oscar Nominated Short Films
Best Animation Pick: Sanjay’s Super Team
This is a delightful and poignant story of an Indian-American family, in which a bored son blends the mythology of his beloved superheroes with his father’s revered religious figures. It showcases what Pixar does best – telling a great story through interesting animation, without the need for dialogue. I would love to see this blown up to a full length feature.
Best Live Action Pick: Stutterer
In a group of Live Action Short nominees loaded with misery and violence, this film is the lone bright spot. What starts as a look into the isolated world of a man with a crippling speech impediment ends surprisingly and as charmingly as you could hope. The use of sound and soundtrack defines the anxiety of someone who makes his living focused on letters – as a typographer – but cannot use his own words.