Won 0 Oscars / Nominated for 2 more (Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress)
Steve Jobs has always been a phenomenon in the tech and business world. His popularity skyrocketed even more with his unfortunate death in 2011. After a dismal attempt (from what I have heard) at an Ashton Kutcher-led biopic, Steve Jobs, takes a different approach in that it tells its stories in the moments leading up to a few of Jobs' most important keynote speeches. His life seems to go a million miles an hour 5 minutes before launching the next new product that will change the world. It is a very unique way to tell a story and lends itself to smoothly transition to years in the future, where we get a summary of what has happened in between events through witty banter between Jobs and his family and "friends." Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet are excellent and demonstrate why they were nominated in their respective categories.
Won 0 Oscars / Nominated for 1 more (Best Actor)
Keeping the biopic train rolling, Trumbo highlights the career of Dalton Trumbo, a screenwriter who was blacklisted in the 1950s for having Communist ties. Although I am not the biggest fan of Bryan Cranston, I do think his performance was serviceable. What really draws me into the film is the simple fact that it is a movie about movies. The sheer meta factor of these types of films always hooks me in. I love learning about film history, especially in an interesting way such as a cohesive, well acted drama, such as Trumbo. There is a fine cast of performers here and the plot is very well paced. It is always a win-win situation when knowledge can be gained while simultaneously being entertained throughout. The pacing is a tad slow at times, but the portrayal of how the US government was handling the Red Scare in the 1950s is emotionally charged and gives the victims of this political persecution a personable voice.
Won 6 Oscars (Best Film Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Sound, Best Sound Editing, Best Production Design) / Nominated for 4 more (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects)
The film that took home the most Oscars is one of the most visually distinctive movies in quite some time. Mad Max: Fury Road is a feast for your eyes. Where it lacks in the plot department, it really makes up for in setting, visuals, zany characters, cinematography, and all of the categories of filmmaking in which it won for. The movie constantly kept my jaw open with the impressive effects and the breathtaking filter. When it was daytime in the desert, the screen glowed the warmest yellow from the depths of George Miller's imagination. When the sun went down, the bluest hues radiated into the consciousness of the viewer. When I typically describe certain movies as good escapist fun to turn your brain off because the plot might be simple and explosions are aplenty, this movie almost falls into that category. However, the technical feats that are accomplished has my mind racing as fast as the awesome vehicles in this, the best car chase movie of all time.
Won 0 Oscars / Nominated for 5 more (Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Sound, Best Sound Editing, Best Visual Effects)
The series that dominated my Top Space Movies list (shocker) gains another notch in its belt in 2015. The first Disney-era Star Wars film is, simply put, satisfying. After the dismal efforts of the prequels, with the unwanted space politics and unbelievable romance yarns, J.J. Abrams stab at the series is as refreshing as it could be. He draws heavily from the original trilogy, which left a slight distaste in my mouth at first. However, after letting my opinions simmer, I have come to terms with what he was going for. Taking so many story elements from the revered original trilogy allows newcomers to catch up on what made so many people fall in love with the originals as well as let old fans get absorbed into familiar territory. Now there is new hope that subsequent installments will go down unbeaten paths and make us see what a good Star Wars movie can be, even without an exploding enemy base or an unfortunate death of a mentor. Two great things that this film and hopefully the future titles have going for it are the new characters, especially Rey and BB-8, and the fact that George Lucas is keeping his greasy paws out of the script. Now that Disney is running this star cruiser, there should be plenty of content for years to come. This makes me happy.
Won 3 Oscars (Best Director, Best Actor, Best Cinematography) / Nominated for 9 more (Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, Best Film Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Sound, Best Sound Editing, Best Visual Effects, Best Production Design)
The film with the most nominations at the 88th Academy Awards, The Revenant, was the frontrunner to win Best Picture. Although it wasn't a huge surprise, it was still a little strange to see it not win, considering it won Best Director and Best Actor. This scenario of Best Directing and Lead Acting without winning Best Picture has only happened twice before. There is no denying, however, that Alejandro González Iñárritu is on a roll. A rare repeat Best Directing winner, he continues to awe and inspire moviegoers. His incorporation of Emmanuel Lubezki's fabulous cinematography gives his films a very savoring flavor. Although the constant panning doesn't occur throughout the entirety of the film, like 2014's Birdman, it still happens in many memorable scenes in this picture. It is difficult to say whether Leonardo DiCaprio deserves an Oscar for this particular performance, but he finally gets one that has been well deserved for his career. Like Mad Max, this film doesn't have too much going on plot-wise, but the visuals and beauteous, natural setting leaves no viewer desiring more in the optical department. My only gripe is the CG-bear, but more probably couldn't have been done, short of having DiCaprio get mauled by a real animal.
Won 2 Oscars (Best Picture, Best Writing (Original) / Nominated for 4 more (Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Film Editing)
The big winner of the 88th Academy Awards is Spotlight, a riveting story about investigative journalism focusing on the absurd and disturbing trend of Catholic priests raping young children. The plot is gripping and suspenseful in every twist and turn. We all know about these events because of the journalism of the Boston Globe in the early 2000s and the way the true story is presented here leaves the viewer with a complete experience of the events leading up to the big reveal. What makes the film truly powerful is its relenting pace and above par acting with a cohesive cast of characters in which no one actor outshines another. Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and Stanley Tucci all play their portrayals to a tee and it almost feels like a professionally filmed documentary. Although I was not surprised to see it win, most people thought it was going to come in a close second to my sixth favorite film of the year (see above). It deserves the Best Picture statuette and the impact it leaves is truly something to behold. This is story telling at its finest.
Won 1 Oscar (Best Actress) / Nominated for 3 more (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Writing [Adapted])
What would happen if you were born and raised in small shed with no one to talk to except for your mother? This heart-wrenching film answers this question in spades as it shows what also would happen if you managed to escape after living in the shed for five years. I found this plot point extremely interesting and the execution of the story is simply superb. It all starts with the acting. I went into the film shortly after watching how well Saoirse Ronan performed in Brooklyn (2015) and I did not think she could be topped. Brie Larson gives little doubt, however, that hers is the best performance of 2015. If the Academy combined actors and actresses into one lead category, Larson would still get the award. Her range of emotions in her interactions with her son is impeccable. I could feel what she was feeling by the way she reacted to her son's questions and attitude, from bliss to anger to sadness to shame. Nothing is left on the table. Another great performance comes from nine-year-old Jacob Tremblay. I think he was the biggest snub of the year and should have been nominated for Best Actor over Bryan Cranston or Matt Damon. He also shows a wide range of emotion from curiosity to fear to frustration to confusion. There aren't a lot of seasoned veterans who could match Tremblay's facial expressions and inflection of voice in his performance. This is a must-see for one of the greatest child-acting films of all time as well as one of the best-acted lead actress in general. Objectively, I think this is best movie of the year and should have won the Best Picture Oscar. Was it my favorite Best Picture nominee? See below.
Won 1 Oscar (Best Writing [Adapted]) / Nominated for 4 more (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Film Editing)
My favorite Best Picture nominee is The Big Short. Not only does it have Christian Bale and Steve Carrell in it, two actors that always catapult movies into excellence, but the subject matter is the subprime mortgage crisis in the mid to late 2000s. I was an accounting major and an economics minor in college, so this topic was discussed ad nausea. I always found it intriguing and seeing it presented in this format left me with a smile that was difficult to wipe off. This film is an exceptional educational tool, especially the fun moments that took celebrities and allowed them to break the fourth wall and teach the audience about economic terms. My favorite is obviously Margot Robbie in the bath tub. For obvious reasons. The acting is fast paced and catches the viewer's attention throughout the film. Watching Bale's character decipher what was about to happen in the economy is easily my favorite aspect of the film. His mannerisms and interactions are as engrossing as they are accurate to the real life hedge fund manager. I had the most fun at The Big Short then any other movie for 2015. If you want to both laugh and learn, this film is great tool to do so.
Won 1 Oscar (Best Original Score) / Nominated for 2 more (Best Supporting Actress, Best Cinematography)
My favorite Tarantino movie since Inglourious Basterds (2009), The Hateful Eight is not everyone's cup of tea. Most of the story is told through the patented Tarantino dialogue so if you are not meshing with the story, it can be difficult to stomach. For me, however, I loved the story. Trying to decipher who is telling the truth and who is lying in the suspenseful cramped quarters of Minnie's Haberdashery is rewarding and enjoyable. It also helps that the third act turns up the action to eleven after Tarantino seduces you for two hours of chit chat and flashbacks. The aforementioned dialogue is wonderfully executed by all of the actors, which include Tarantino's usual actors such as Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, and Michael Madsen. The setting is also a highlight. Like his first movie, Reservoir Dogs, most of the film takes place in one room. A great nuance to this room is that the door is broken and can only be shut if it is hammered to the wall due to a blizzard. This makes it so no character can escape and all business has to be taken care of one way or another. Another fantastic aspect of this movie is its phenomenal score. Ennio Morricone finally won an Oscar after scoring some of the most classic soundtracks of all time, such as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) and Once Upon a Time in America (1984). He uses a contra-bassoon in the opening piece to great effect. This is no easy feat and gives the music power and gives the movie character. I am so happy for Morricone and am glad to have one more Tarantino classic to enjoy. It would have been a shame if he ended up not making this movie because his script was leaked a couple of years ago.
Won 1 Oscar (Best Animated Feature) / Nominated for 1 more (Best Writing [Original])
The most creative and thought provoking film in quite some time, Inside Out, explores what happens in our heads. If your emotions were characters, how would they act and more importantly, interact among each other? Pixar is known for its creativity and their films have been lacking that in recent memory. Monsters University (2013) was a step in the right direction but not until Inside Out can I say that Pixar has returned to form. Not only does it explore the emotions inside an adolescent's head, but it also shows the emotions traveling to other parts of her brain. The representations of psychological concepts are beautiful and easily understandable. A couple of moments makes you question your humanity if tears don't start pouring down your face as well. The story and characters tug at the viewer's heartstrings and nothing ever gets stale. The story keeps progressing and the filmmakers keep the awe-factor at the highest setting. Shifting between Riley's head and her actions in the real world has particular impact. Seeing the behind-the-scenes helps explain attitudes and reactions of people. Another magnificent moment comes when we see inside the head of the parents. We then notice that different emotions drive people and everyone is unique in their own way. The movie knows how to ride the roller coaster of joy, sadness, disgust, anger, and fear. The exploration of emotions and memories in an engrossing narrative with perfect voice acting makes this my favorite movie of 2015.