I’m currently embarking on a journey to see all of the 2016 Oscar nominees before the awards are broadcast in February. Besides the fact that it was a beautiful holiday weekend, last week I saw the last of the Best Picture nominees, so I was at a bit of a loss this week about where to focus now. So to be quite frank, I’m writing this post the night before it’s scheduled to be published while watching a movie I’m going to review by the end of this post. HOT FRESH TAKES!
One of my favorite things about film as an artform is that there are so many ways to approach making them. Some films, like Spotlight or Bridge of Spies, focus on telling a linear story; others are more about capturing a mood or feeling, like Brooklyn, and Carol. Carol is set in the '50s and tells the story of the meeting and courtship of two lesbians, one the young naive girl and the other the desperate housewife of a controlling husband threatening to take custody of their child. A downfall of films that try to capture a mood or feeling is that they have a hard time being universal. I was a big fan of Brooklyn. Carol, however, did not move me at all. The pace was too slow and the subtlety of the relationship though it made sense for the time, made it difficult to stay invested throughout the film.
Cate Blanchett’s performance was pretty reminiscent of her previous Oscar-winning performance in 2013’s Blue Jasmine. In that film she was channeling a classic '50s type of glamor as a part of her character's delusion, now she is actually playing a glamorous '50s housewife. Rooney Mara was almost unrecognizable from her previous Oscar-nominated performance in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. While I wasn’t a fan of the pacing of the film, the tone was executed well, hence, the nominations for cinematography and costume design. This film may also have been the whitest film I’ve seen so far and given its company of fellow nominees, that is a very impressive feat. There will be arguments about the period and small amount of roles, but for a movie set mostly in New York City and on the road, the lack of people of color, even as extras was disheartening and disconcerting. Given the track record of this Academy, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Blanchett or Mara take home a trophy, but they certainly would not get my vote. Overall, this movie was well executed but entirely forgettable and another notch in the belt for the triumph of the status quo.
Nominations: Actress in a Leading Role, Actress in a Supporting Role, Cinematography, Costume Design, Music (Original Score), Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
Sicario was the most surprising movie I have seen since Room. Emily Blunt has maintained a balance of roles in her career, alternating between comedic and fun roles (The Devil Wears Prada) to more action roles (Edge of Tomorrow, The Adjustment Bureau). This is my first time watching her in a more serious and dark film, so I was surprised at how comfortable she was in the role and found myself shocked more often than not when she pulled off a more dramatic scene.
I won't go so far as to say this film was snubbed, but it was unfortunately overlooked. Benicio Del Toro acted his ass off (that's a technical term used by people in the industry), however, like Michael B. Jordan and many other POC, his performance was passed over because Leonardo DiCaprio slept in a horse carcass. The cinematography was great, the scene in which they enter Juarez was so tense because of the choices made by the crew and not so much by the actors. In a different year with a different Academy, I would predict this film taking home some awards. I don't think that will happen but I am definitely happy that I watched it. Winning awards has never been the true measure of a films worth and it is sometimes easy to forget that.
Nominations: Cinematography, Sound Editing, Music (original score)
There is one week left before the Oscars and we find out who wins. Cynically, I will be rooting for Leonardo so that we no longer have to talk about his lack of hardware. However the lives and careers of the winners are changed, it's important to remember the true reason films are made are to tell stories that reflect the human experience. Both as it is, how it was, what we hope it can become and what we pray it never becomes.
At the end of it all, Harry Potter never won an Oscar so how legit can they be really?