Of Anticipated Films and Oscar Nominations

            Well it’s been two weeks since my last column, which has a lot more to do with my slow struggle to release my top 10 lists for 2015 than with a busy life schedule.  I really wanted to get The Revenant in (my most anticipated film of 2015) before finally releasing my Top10 Films of 2015 list, which delayed everything a bit.  Speaking of Most Anticipated film lists, I struggled mightily to create a top 10 for 2016 films.  This looks like it’s going to be a rather dry year as I’m really only looking forward to Rogue One and Knight of Cups (at this point I get really excited for any Terrence Malick project).  Of course I anticipate anything with Jessica Chastain so The Huntsman: Winter’s War and The Zookeeper’s Wife both found their way onto the list.  However, I really struggled to find a #10 film.  I ultimately ended up throwing Everybody Wants Some!! on there.  The trailer isn’t really inspiring but when Richard Linklater is on he’s really on and using baseball as window dressing rather than a plot point seems to be an interesting direction for a sport that is very cinematic when it isn’t done in the cut and dry fashion that it so often is.

            Now let’s get onto the main news of the day: THE OSCAR NOMINATIONS!!!  The thing that immediately caught my attention is how awesome those supporting categories are (especially actor).  Tom Hardy finally got his due.  Christian Bale adds another nomination to a great career.  Mark Rylance gets rewarded for a great 2015, and Sylvester Stallone’s nomination for Creed is one of my favorite Oscar nominations ever.  Then you look at supporting actress where you have three really strong performances from Rooney Mara, Alicia Vikander and Kate Winslet.  The nominations weren’t without their set of disappointments, though.  For the first time since 2008 (as in the awards rewarded films released in 2008), my favorite film of the year wasn’t nominated for Best Picture.  Although, I can’t complain too much as Star Wars: The Force Awakens received 5 nominations in total, which is a strong tally, and a Film Editing nomination isn’t something to be disappointed in.  Speaking of Film Editing, how did The Martian not receive a nomination in that category.  You cannot find a better-edited film this year.  Sure, you can say Mad Max, but The Martian had to juggle multiple storylines and still had a pace that got close to Mad Max, a much trickier accomplishment than that film.  Also Mad Max!?!?!?!?!  Out of all of the blockbusters to finally breakthrough in this era of the Oscars it’s Mad Max: Fury Road to do it.  I was not a fan of the mix of outlandish world building and intensely serious action and since when did the guy whose entire career has been directing Babe, Happy Feet and Mad Max films become such a critical darling and respected auteur!?!?!?!

            I could go on and on with the nitpicking (which, let’s be honest, everything mentioned above is), but the true disappointment of this set of nominations is how many of the nominations are dominated by such a small pool of films.  One of the joys of Oscar season is checking in on all of the nominated films I haven’t seen yet.  This year there isn’t much left to watch outside of the shorts, foreign, animated and documentary nominees.

            Overall, this was a solid year for my predictions.  I went 34 for 43 in the main categories for a respectable 79.1%.  That’s down 6.9% from last year (although I had a really good year last year) and 7.3% down from my personal best 2 years ago.  I also went 92 for 121 in all categories, which is good for a strong 76% (which is down 2.5% from my personal best last year).  I also correctly predicted all of the nominees in the Lead Actor category, Live-Action Short category, Cinematography category and Sound Mixing category.

So now onto what I’ve been watching since my last update:

Testament of Youth= 7/10 = I think the main selling point here is that Alicia Vikander delivers another powerful performance in a year that has her coming close to Jessica Chastain’s 2011.  Other than that though I think this film had great material but didn’t make the most of it.  The direction is dry and Kit Harrington’s supporting but integral supporting performance is even drier.

The Big Short = 8/10 = I found acclaimed documentary Inside Job to be an insufferable brain twister so it was a breath of fresh air to see this film do much better with similar material.  The script finds a great balance of comedy and drama (the use of celebrity cameos is a real standout), and the ensemble is up there with The Force Awakens as the best of the year (Ryan Gosling using his persona to great effect being my personal favorite among the cast).

Carol = 8/10 = Stylish.  Well-Acted.  A tiny bit bland.  There’s really not much to say about this one.  It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great and I will gladly watch Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara and Kyle Chandler act all day. 

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared = 8/10 =This was a fun combination of Forrest Gump and Parks and Recreation.  Obviously, this film doesn’t have the direction of Robert Zemeckis or the wicked smart political critiques of Parks and Recreation, but it does capture the energy of both and uses them to great effect.

Meru = 8/10 = This film has a lot of similarity to the little seen HBO documentary The Crash Reel.  However, the better production values of this film certainly help it standout.  Also it’s hard not to like a film that has Jon Krakauer as a talking head and uses music from Eddie Vedder.

Amy = 7/10 = Much more ballyhooed than Cobain: Montage of Heck, but no difference at all in quality.  It’s intimate nature is admirable, but its sprawling nature causes it to have an up and down sense of quality.

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