I thought I would collect my thoughts about the eight Oscar nominated Best Picture nominees that I have watched over the last six weeks.

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The Martian (Apple Movie Rental): More Matt Damon! And so begins the Oscar marathon with The Martian. Great flick: Powerhouse cast and visual effects were the highlight. I’m becoming a bigger fan of Jessica Chastain and Kate Mara with every passing flick and I’ll take serious Jeff Daniels in any movie (I would probably listen to an audiobook of Dr. Seuss as long as he read it dramatically). Barely recognized Sean Bean until the end (Game of Thrones’ Ned Stark). Kristen Wiig and Donald Glover kept it light at times. Watch it – it’s the movie that Gravity should have been… YEAH, I SAID IT.

The Big Short (Theater): Partook in “The Big Short” and I have to say that even given the subject matter, I was engaged throughout. Great use of cameos to explain complex mortgage instruments and star performances from Christian Bale and Steve Carrell made this very enjoyable to watch. Despite a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role in this film, I feel as though Christian Bale is still very underrated as an actor. Oh yeah… and Ryan Gosling as a brunette?

Room (Theater): Two days late… but Room has been watched. Two words: deliberate subtlety. There were two moments where the “low volume” of the film was turned way up and the moments were pretty memorable. Very curious to see where young Jacob Tremblay’s career goes from here. Brie Larson was pretty great but not a performance that I will always remember (like Eddie Redmayne in Theory of Everything or Julianne Moore in Still Alice). A movie that I liked but would never wholeheartedly recommend to anyone.

The Revenant (Theater): Let’s talk about the Revenant now that I’ve fully recovered. Brutal. Bears. Horses. Arrows. Muskets. Words. If Leonardo DiCaprio doesn’t win an Oscar for this performance, he crawled on his hands and knees for a long time for no reason and he’s never going to win one. Can we talk about Tom Hardy though? I went into this one cold (pardon the pun) and didn’t even recognize Tom Hardy – what a performance and honourable mention to one of my current favourites Domhnall Gleeson (Harry Potter, Star Wars, Ex Machina, About Time and Black Mirror among others). Peaks and Valleys this movies has.

Bridge of Spies (Apple Movie Rental): Tom Hanks was my valentine this evening. Bridge of Spies left me feeling similarly to last year’s The Imitation Game. By the end of both films I gained a newfound appreciation for a historical figure who had an important role in history but flew somewhat under the radar (Turing’s impact is obviously much larger, but I’m sure you catch my drift). Tom Hanks was really solid in the role… I’m fairly certain that my heart grew three sizes by the end of the film largely due to his performance. The film’s setting (Cold War era Germany) reminds me that we live in a great time and a great country. One of the things that I’m really liking about watching all of the best picture nominees is that I watch films that I normally wouldn’t. Bridge of Spies is a movie that without this game I would have never watched and I’m appreciative that I got to see this movie, one that’s normally outside of my comfort zone.

Brooklyn (Theater): Lovely. Lovely Lovely LOVELY. Warm and fuzzy. Rich yet subtle. I loved Brooklyn. I believe it’s my personal favourite Oscar Best Picture nominee thus far. The progression of the main character played by 21yo Saoirse Ronan was amazing to watch – truly a breakout performance. Between that, the arch of the story, a great performance by Domhnall Gleeson (who floats through all of his performance with ease, especially the four releases this year that have all had multiple Oscar nominations) and tightly the narrative… do yourself a favour, when this hits your favourite internet box, watch it. You’ll thank me later.

Mad Max: Fury Road (Blu-Ray Purchase): Mad Max: Fury Road. I’m speechless, but not for the reason you’re probably thinking. I don’t think that I’ve seen a big dumb expensive action movie like that in a while. A movie that’s big, dumb and expensive for no reason other than to be big, dumb and expensive. I guess I liked it, I’m just really confused. My eyes were glued to the screen only to see what big action sequence, car, gun or prosthetic’d up character was going to run over/shot/burned next. I feel like I just spent a bunch of words not writing anything. Okay… here we go… a review in fewer words.
Take 2: Mad Max: Fury Road. Do you like hollywood blockbuster action movies? It’s a well-produced, well-directed, well-shot, well-edited, well-scored one of those. May be one of the best I’ve ever seen and one of the best you’ll ever watch. The whole thing just seemed kind of pointless… but I guess that’s the point.

Spotlight (Apple Movie Rental): That’s a wrap! I’ve watched all 8 movies… finishing with Spotlight. Not knowing the history behind this scandal, I kept thinking “there’s no way this can get worse, right” only to have the scandal continue to ratchet up throughout the course of the movie. Keaton and other members of the Spotlight team really helped carry the story along. Richard Jenkins was great as “the ominous, well-informed phone voice in this one” and even though I’ve seen Liev Schreiber in other movies (largely action movies or movies where he had a smaller role), I’ve not seen him in something as memorable, his low-key performance was great. Mark Ruffalo had quite the performance in this one. One scene in particular had me on the edge of seat. I really enjoyed this one. You have to be in the mood for a movie like this – watch it when it hits Netflix.

Thoughts about other nominees that I have watched! I watched the Danish Girl on the final day of the pre-Oscar madness and Eddie Redmayne struck gold again in a very complex, cerebral character. Like the Theory of Everything, he shined but his performance also allowed for his co-star Alicia Vikander to shine in this instance. I had never seen a film like Anomalisa when I watched a few weeks ago. As the Academy’s first Rated R animated feature ever to be nominated, I didn’t know what to expect. Knowing Kaufman’s previous work, I knew I was in for something quite unique. I don’t want to give anything away, but if you’re looking for something different to do over 90 minutes, watch the trailer and see if it peaks your interest. One funny point, all I could think about during a very intimate scene between the two puppets was the sex scene from Team America: World Police. Weird, I know. I watched Sicario with my father on my birthday – simple story, great pacing, well executed. As a huge fan of USA’s Burn Notice, I’ll really watch any action movie or show with Jeffrey Donovan. Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin made a great pair. Finally, Ex Machina was fantastic. Starring a few names you may have seen in the other reviews (Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander), I can’t say enough about this movie. As a huge fan of Black Mirror (season 3 coming soon), this movie hit a a sweet spot in my brain with its take on how far technology has come and how close we are to realizing something incredible, but scary at the same time. Watch the trailer, watch the movie and then thank me later if you’re a fan of any of the following: Black Mirror, Her, Terminator 2, 127 Hours, I, Robot, Limitless. I would put this movie ahead of some of the Best Picture nominees, but that’s just me.

Now for my personal rankings of the eight films nominated for Best Picture. As an amateur movie lover, take my personal take on the list with a grain of salt.

  1. Brooklyn
  2. The Revenant
  3. Bridge of Spies
  4. The Martian
  5. The Big Short
  6. Spotlight
  7. Room
  8. Mad Max: Fury Road

Predictions for the big five? Sure.

  • Best Picture: The Revenant
  • Big Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
  • Best Actress: Brie Larson, Room
  • Best Supporting Actor: Sylvester Stallone, Creed
  • Best Supporting Actress: Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

What are you thoughts? Feel free to comment or find me on Twitter at @JacobMcCourt and tell me your opinion!

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