For the past few years I’ve make it a mission to see all of the Best Picture nominated films. I’m pretty good about it. This year proved no exception. And now that I’ve created a blog (EDITORS NOTE: co-created, asshole) which is, at least 50% of the time, interested in films, I can share my thoughts with people who aren’t my parents. Because let’s be honest, they’re tired of hearing my spiel about “The King’s Speech.”
So here, in reverse order, are my favorite films of the 2016 Oscar Best Picture nominees.
No. 8: “The Revenant”
Listen, I’ve made enemies here already. I know that. And it’s fine. But listen: this is a solid, well-made film. We’ve talked about it on our podcast (self-promotion!) and if you listen you’ll hear some of our thoughts there. But let’s be honest for a second with each other. “The Revenant” is DiCaprio. It’s Iñárritu. It’s the cinematography. The lighting. But that’s lipstick on a pig. Minus a few breath-taking sequences (see: the opening escape sequence) “The Revenant” drags. It’s a good movie, sure. I’m not sure I’ll watch it again. It’s my least favorite of the group.
No. 7: “Brooklyn”
A love story. Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) moves from her life in Ireland to a life in Brooklyn, where she finds residence in a boarding house with a few other women. Soon she meets an Italian boy at an Irish dance and the romance begins. There’s a lot of chemistry between Ronan and Emory Cohen as Tony Fiorello, but circumstances force the Lacey character back to Ireland, and the life she left behind. Only things are different. Overall, I found myself wishing for more conflict. The romance, to me, never felt in question, even when things were played otherwise.
No. 6: “Bridge of Spies”
I was fully prepared to hate this. But that’s why we watch these movies. You like things you wouldn’t expect. Late period Spielberg has been missed on me, I think. From 2008’s “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” through “War Horse” and “Lincoln,” his films have been technically impressive but ultimately dull. “Bridge of Spies” isn’t that. Scripted partially by the Coen brothers, the film is an intense but understated historical picture that benefits greatly from its lead performances. It’s a little predictable but I liked it.
No. 5: “The Martian”
We’ve talked about this before on the podcast (find it here) but this was a well-crafted, feel-good popcorn flick with some heady yet digestible science. Matt Damon plays the “dark” comedy here well and is a joy to watch. The story is surprising, well-paced, and though there are moments of eye-rolling (the whole subplot involving Kate Mara) overall it’s a joy to watch. One of the more rewatchable films this year.
No. 4: “The Big Short”
This was my pick for best picture and though I was proven wrong (shout out “Spotlight”) I adore this movie. First, it’s hilarious. Ryan Gosling absolutely slays and the ridiculousness of the entire banking system is ripe for skewering. Steve Carell plays the smart, morally righteous center of this film and you buy it. He’s understated but biting; Gosling is boorish and grandiose. They play well together for two-hours. It’s worth your time.
No. 3: “Mad Max: Fury Road”
Yes, it won a ton of technical Oscars. It’s a technically brilliant film. It’s also batshit crazy. There are people called “The Bullet Farmer,” “Rictus Erectus,” and “Keeper of the Seeds.” It’s post-apocalyptic fever dream of color, sound, and effect, and an entertaining one at that. You’ve never seen a film like this and you probably won’t again. Go see it already.
No. 2: “Spotlight”
Of all the films nominated for an Oscar, this is the one I saw first. At the end there was a Q&A with The Washington Post’s film critic Ann Hornaday and the paper’s Editor-In-Chief Marty Baron, played by Liev Schreiber. There’s no story. I thought you might think that was interesting. On to the film: it’s powerful and gripping and holds you in a kind of magnetic grip until the credits roll. The performances are wonderful, the writing excellent, and the direction well-done. I’m glad it won best picture over the others ranked lower on this list. It deserved it.
No. 1: “Room”
Again, listen to our podcast on this lit to lens adaptation here. I enjoyed “Room” more than any other film I saw this year, and the novel was one of my favorites as well. I wrote a whole post on it for our recurring series, Word Crush Wednesday. I’ve never been so crushed, or uplifted, or nervous in a film. Ever. I thought I was going to lose consciousness at one point my heart was beating so quick. I can’t say that about any of the other films this year. None made me cry like this. None made me smile like this. It just hit me so hard that to put any other film at this level feels wrong. So “Room” it is.