Saturday, February 27, 2016

Seven Out Of Eight Ain't Bad!

Stopping just short of the finish line has always driven me crazy. Why start anything if the intention is not to finish?

Although, there are circumstances when certain conditions are out of your hands and a goal can't be completed - sometimes that 1,000 piece puzzle (that you spent DAYS completing) is missing a few pieces (curses!), or your legs cramp up before you can scale the top of that mountain (and you have to scoot back down the incline on your butt), or a certain movie leaves the multiplex before you can see all the Best Picture nominees.

Yeah, I get it Regal Cinemas, you had to give like a zillion screens to Gods Of Egypt 3D, but there are some people who still want to see The Big Short! (Those theaters would be better suited for an Oscar movie, since **COUGH** no one is seeing Gods anyway...)

With endless movies coming out every week, nothing is guaranteed to be out for months, so it's really a "snooze you loose" situation. I snoozed and thus continued my tradition of never seeing all of the Best Picture nominees before The Academy Awards. It's almost become a joke now, because every year since I could get into R rated movies on my own, I tend to either see almost none of the nominees or get ridiculously close to seeing them all.

It looks like I've come this close only one time before - in 2011 I saw nine out of ten best picture nominees. Wooo five years ago me, you deserve a pat on the back!

Even if The Academy Awards are always striving to give statues to the best of the best for any given year, it is more likely that all the nominees will not be loved by everyone. In other words, just the Best Picture category alone is bound to feature one real stinker; something that is a real bore to many people. These may be controversial choices, but don't even get me started on having to slog through watching previous nominees like, Inception, Lincoln, Babel, Sideways, Gangs Of New York, and Gosford Park, just to name a few.

That's why it is surprising that for the first year that I can remember, I found every Best Picture nominee that I saw very enjoyable in their own way! It's difficult even to rank them because I loved them all almost equally. Each one has different strengths, but they all feature amazing storytelling and are worthy of representing the year of film in 2015.

The Academy Awards are often viewed as frivolous, but what people forget is that acknowledging specific moments of our culture makes it so we take note of certain things in the time that we are living. It is important to use the arts as a way to keep track of how we were feeling, looking, and thinking. That's what makes the Academy Awards entirely fascinating to me - it's a very specific record of what people enjoyed, who we were as people, and also, partly, what issues we found to be important.

Looking back through Oscar winning movies through time you will notice that this has always been the case. Just as an example, during WWI and WWII, many of the winning movies were focused on the fears of war or people fighting in the war (All Quiet On The Western Front, Mrs. Miniver, The Best Years Of Our Lives). Much like those movies,  a win for Spotlight or The Big Short this year would secure acknowledging a story that mirrors timely issues and fears, and also what kinds of injustice people are angry about in today's world.

In the end, if we think of the Academy Award as historical record, which  movie should represent the year 2015 in history? Which is the one you'd be obnoxiously yelling about in the streets and telling everyone to jet out and see?

My answer to this question keeps shifting back and forth, because I am an indecisive person when there are too many great options. But, I am still forcing myself to make a final decision. Based on my love of journalism and heart for social justice, there is really no other choice I can pick for Best Picture:
This movie features a remarkable cast who suffered through unglamorous 2001 hairstyles (the George Clooney Julius Caesar haircut on Mark Ruffalo was a highlight) and fashion (a sea of khakis) to tell, what should be, the unbelievable true story of Boston Globe journalists uncovering the details of child abuse in the Catholic church.

In a world where people would rather read Top 10 lists than long features, we've come to a time when this form of journalism depicted in Spotlight, where small groups of people dig into a stories for years, is sadly dying out. I'm hoping that what comes with the acclaim of this movie is more people realizing the importance of unbiased journalists out there working to uncover the secrets that we all need to know. This is a job that we all should fight to support, since biased propaganda is not positive for anyone.

Spotlight should be the movie to represent 2015, but the six other nominees that I saw also had important, emotional stories to tell. I've ranked the other nominees as follows (I'll have to wait and see where The Big Short falls in line):

The Revenant
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
Bridge Of Spies

I've already said a lot about my appreciation for Room (see previous post)

The Revenant is the most beautiful looking movie I've ever seen and shows all the guts and glory of Leo.

Brooklyn features a lovely,  emotional story (I cried through almost the whole thing, including a moment featuring the performance of a haunting traditional Irish ballad), that also shows us (through amazing costumes) how glamorous the 1950s could be (and how much I want to go to Ireland).

 Mad Max: Fury Road proved that even when you think you've seen it all, a guy playing a guitar is strapped to the front of a truck and a two hour car chase becomes the most visually stunning and imaginatively told movie this year - movie creativity is far from dead.  

The Martian reminded me why Matt Damon became a charismatic movie star, as he, delivering the lines from a wonderful script, had us all laughing and crying while trying to make it back to Earth.

Lastly, Bridge Of Spies was a movie that I had zero expectations for, so I ended up genuinely enjoying sitting through almost all 142 minutes of it - the surprisingly magnetic supporting performance by a guy I've never heard of, Mark Rylance, totally helped make up for the literal bridge...of...spies that actually pops up in the movie.

These nominees really do represent many of the great movies I saw in the last year. However, I did watch another one recently, that could have qualified, and should have featured a nominee in the Best Actress category.

The movie, Grandma, featuring a fiery and hilarious performance by Lily Tomlin, is one of those movies that is all talking and story, but it never hits a boring moment. That might have something to do with the short, yet perfect 79 minute running time. More movies should just be short and sweet. 

No moment is wasted as a grandma (played by Tomlin) drives off with her granddaughter on an odyssey type mission through L.A., visiting old friends and partners trying to drum up some needed cash for an important medical procedure.  It's a real gem. Tomlin earned a Golden Globe nomination for her role, but this is just another example of non-showy, more "comedy" leaning movies getting overlooked by The Academy. 

The Oscars  won't ever be able to cover it all, but hopefully, with the tweaks that are being made after the #OscarSoWhite controversy this year, a different range of films will be acknowledged. That way a wider voice will be represented as films captured in this type of historical record. 

To see if those changes have an impact, we will have to wait until next year, but until then we can focus on this year's nominees. Which movie will win Best Picture? Is Leo REALLY going to win? Will someone go streaking? All will be revealed tomorrow at 8:30 p.m. Eastern/5:30 p.m Pacific on ABC. Or tune in all day (like I will, duh) for that red carpet coverage. Here's hoping some ladies really go for some wacky ensembles. The only guarantee is that Cate Blanchett will slay.

Better get those ballots filled out soon! I've sure got some guessing to do, since I just calculated an even more staggering statistic. There are 57 films nominated for at least one award -  I've seen 15. And I thought I saw a lot of movies! Sheesh. Well, I have way more watching to do - how about you?

Until next time.

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