The Academy Awards – Who Should Win? 2016 Oscars

Predicting the Oscars has become a game of one or two major categories (this year Picture and Director surprisingly) and figuring out categories no one really knows (Live Action Short). You can find many “experts” to help with your Oscar pool.

Much more fun is to imagine if you had a voting ballot and select who you would vote for. Not who WILL win, but who SHOULD win.

Having seen all of the nominees for the awards below (except one), here are my choices if I could vote in the Oscars.

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Picture – Room was the best film of the year. I’ve heard it made people claustrophobic or uncomfortable or angry. I’ve heard it might not be better than the book. It was still the best picture of 2015.

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Best Films of 2015

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It always takes some time to feel ready to post the best movies of the year. While I get to the Oscar nominees pretty early, there are the dozens of fantastic smaller and ignored films that take some time (and are still coming to DVD or Streaming). There are many left on “to see” list of 2015.

 

This year saw some real entertainment from Hollywood and fewer of the super depressing films they’ve made in recent years. So with no apologies for getting it all wrong, here’s my Top 20 for 2015.

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Mini-Review: Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

R, 122 Minutes, 2015

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About: There was this computer guy who was a jerk, but a genius. You might have heard of him.

Starring: Michael Fassbender, who looks nothing like Jobs (see below), but is brilliant.

Michael Fassbender and Steve Jobs

Directed: Danny Boyle, who has now made a bunch of very different, really solid movies – Transporting, 127 Hours, Millions, 28 Days Later, Sunshine, Slumdog Millionaire

Written: Aaron Sorkin in totally Sorkinesque dialogue. Lots of walk and talks. I once interviewed with a rabbi who couldn’t walk and talk. He had to stop whenever he had to talk. I knew I couldn’t work with him.

Best Thing About It: The cast. Kate Winslet would be unrecognizable if I hadn’t just told you Kate Winslet was in it. Seth Rogen is totally recognizable, but is very compelling as Steve Wozniak. Jeff Daniels has found a new role as an older, friendly, but somewhat insufferable boss (see him similarly as the head of NASA in The Martian). Michael Stuhlbarg is once again amazing. In most films it takes a minute to place him (ex. Pawn Sacrifice), but in every film he displays the incredible talent that was on display as the lead in A Serious Man.

Worst Thing About It: I often complain when the lead character is distasteful. I have to spend two hours with someone I really don’t like. Steve Jobs is like The Social Network – socially incompetent asshole who offends everyone around him, but is an absolute genius. Steve Jobs is more distasteful, but more of a genius than Mark Zuckerberg. While I appreciate what Jobs was capable of doing, it was troubling to watch him throughout the film when all I wanted was someone to punch him in the face. Spoiler: No one does.

Notable Thing About It: In a very original structure, the film takes place in 3 separate real time segments in the 30 minutes of so before three major product launches – the Macintosh (1984), NeXT (1988), and the iMac (1998) [Filmed in 16mm, 35mm, and digital respectively**]. Also, truth be told, I owned 3 of these computers and have exclusively used Apple/Macintosh home computers my entire computer life since my family got an Apple II Plus when I was 10.

Overall: This is an extremely well made film. The creative structure gives the film urgency and keeps it moving. The actors are excellent top to bottom. The ending tries to hard to make things work out. Also, if you somehow have never heard of the success of Apple computers, the iPod, iPhone, etc. you would be baffled that anyone thinks Jobs is a genius by what is shown in the film (2 failures, 1 predicted success). It’s a good film, but not great. But if you loved The Social Network, run right out as I wasn’t as high on that film as the rest of the world (I was rooting for The King’s Speech for the Oscar).

**Info added after initial posting of blog fro Christ Nashawaty’s review of the film in Entertainment Weekly.

Rating: 3 RaMaKs (out of 4)

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Mini-Review: The Martian

The Martian

PG-13, 141 Minutes, 2015

The Martian

About: Astronaut must survive on Mars after being left for dead by accident. NASA must figure out how to bring him back.

Starring: Matt Damon as Mark Watney. Do you know how rare it is to find a protagonist named Mark in the movies? Okay, this site does, but who remembers any of these supporting roles? The Martian also stars like 8 other actors you’ll recognize and like a lot.

Directed: Ridley Scott making up for Prometheus and Exodus: Gods and Monsters.

Best Thing About It: Matt Damon. He is the perfect lead – charisma, humor, everyman. You want him to survive. He is the next generation Tom Hanks, but a little sexier. You want him to be your husband/boyfriend/best friend.

Worst Thing About It: So the book is better. Andy Weir’s novel has so much more depth. More things happen to Watney and to NASA. The science is explained instead of just shown loosely in a montage. And Weir is a first time novelist! Go read the book.

Notable Thing About It: The movie is better. Because it does what movies can do and books can’t – the visuals of Mars are incredible. Seeing Watney’s struggles and successes is very different than reading about them. Go see the movie.

Overall: This is a crowd pleaser. If you can live with a few curse words and one stunt-double’s butt, this is a movie you can take your kids, your parents, your friends. Like Apollo 13, it casts NASA in a heroic light even as it faces a failure. This is a beautifully made, well acted, often funny, exciting, Hollywood movie. It doesn’t break much new cinematic ground, but sometimes it is nice just to be entertained.

3D note: While the swirling dust at the beginning looked cool and the Mars landscapes were richer, like most live-action films, seeing it in 3D isn’t vital.

Rating: 3 ½ RAMAKs (out of 4)

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