Film Review: The Oscar Nominees 2016 - Part I

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It feels as though the Academy Awards has crept up on me this time around but I'm proud to say I managed to tick off all the nominees on my list. As much as I'd love to review every single one, I thought I'd narrow it down to a few favourites across two posts...

This year's Oscars will be the 88th Annual ceremony and will see Chris Rock host for a second time on the 28th February. Whilst it has been surrounded with controversy due to the lack of black nominees, for which I hope Rock will address, I do believe those that did receive nominations were well deserved. Let's take a look...

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Tarantino returns to the directors chair with this beautifully brutal take on a snowy western. In the dead of a Wyoming winter, a bounty hunter, John "The Hangman" Ruth has captured his bounty - Daisy (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a murderer with ten thousand dollars on her head. Chained to Ruth, the pair are in a horse-drawn carriage on route for justice at Red Rock when they encounter our leading man, Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson); a fellow bounty hunter, and Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), a man claiming to be a Sheriff. Despite his better judgement, Ruth agrees to give the pair a lift, stopping off for shelter at Minnie's Haberdashery. Thrown in with four other shady-looking characters, the eight travellers must wait out the storm with tensions running high.

The best way to describe this picture is to say that it is very, very Tarantino from start to finish and utterly brilliant. By that I mean that the film not only pays homage to himself as an auteur and his previous cinematic victories, but it also has fantastic direction, his usual excellent screenplay, a stunning use of cinematography - all supported by a cast of incredible actors. Of all the potential nominees snubbed this year, Samuel L. Jackson was by far the most deserving of a shot at Best Actor. Whilst Russell is tipped as the lead, it is really Jackson that steals the show with a passionate performance which I believe to be his finest yet. Leigh certainly has a strong chance of taking home the gold for Best Actress in a  Supporting Role though, unfortunately, I have a sneaking suspension she may be unfairly pipped to the post by Roonie Mara or Alicia Vikander.

Whilst it was everything I hoped it would be and more, The Hateful Eight is not entirely flawless. I do believe it could have been at least half an hour shorter as most of it can just be seen as a chance for Tarantino to massage his ego. However, shot also in 70mm Panavision, every frame looks visually stunning and oozes nostalgia which makes for easy viewing even when you feel your back start to ache a little bit. Personally, I believe that The Hateful Eight is the rightful owner of the Best Cinematography Oscar and can't wait to see how it does on Sunday.

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The Big Short, based on a true story, follows four groups of traders who discover that the housing loans that are holding up the economy in the early 2000s are built on a series of repackaged, poorly checked loans which will imminently result in a catastrophic collapse of the world economy. A first dramatic film for Adam McKay, who is predominately known for Anchorman (2004) and Step Brothers (2008), The Big Short is a visually brilliant and witty piece of cinema. Whilst it might seem like a strange choice for a comedic director, the story behind this narrative is vital as it emerges just as culturally relevant today as it would have done in the 2000s as it exposes the corporate banks and business man responsible for the devastating effects of their doing. 

Some scenes show some stumbling and the film itself feels a little long in some areas. In order to get across the sensitivity and seriousness of it's story, jargon and buzz words are used heavily throughout which can sometimes make it difficult to understand exactly what's going on. However, this is dealt with beautifully in an inventive and hilarious manor which makes for fantastic viewing. With the use of celebrity cameos, narration and some moving character development, The Big Short is as amusing as it is enraging and necessary. 

Whilst Christian Bale is the one nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (afterall, his performance is excellent), it is actually Steve Carell's character of Mark Baum that really sells it for me. Furious with the corruption and greed, Carell shows yet again his versatility as an actor and performer. Whilst I don't believe it will be taking home a great deal due to it's rivals, I do think that The Big Short could bag Supporting as well as Editing - a huge achievement for Adam McKay. 

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A young computer programmer, Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), wins the opportunity to spend a reclusive week in the mountains with the CEO of his company, unaware that he is participating in a breakthrough experiment in artificial intelligence. When he arrives in the remote utopia and meets a fascinating female A.I named Ava (Alicia Vikander), but when learns more of his boss, computer genius, Nathan (Oscar Isaac), it soon transpires that he is not there by chance.

I truly believe the Oscar Isaac is one of the most underrated actors in the film industry right now. Whilst his CV is certainly impressive, he is one of those who is so diverse and so talented that people often do not realize the scale or level of his abilities. The same may also be said for rising star Domhnall Gleeson who, like Vikander, has had a stunning year in film. Though not entirely without faults, the few faults it has are made up for as they happen - forgiven by the excellent narrative, direction and cinematography which makes this film so easy to engage in. Seemingly unnoticed with a short-lived cinema distribution, Ex Machina has emerged as an underdog of the Academy Awards; a sci-fi cult classic much like Alex Garland's previous creations, Sunshine (2007) and The Beach (2010). Satirically creepy, stylish and utterly tense - it was certainly one of my most loved films of 2015. Though I believe it deserved far more nominations,  including Garland for Best Director, I hope it takes home Best Writing though, sadly, feel it is likely to miss out on Visual Effects. You can read my full review of Ex Machina here. 

In 1823, legendary fur trapper, Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), aids an expedition in the uncharted American wilderness. Having  survived a vicious bear attack, he is abandoned by his hunting team and left for dead. Broken but fueled by vengeance, he treks through the wintry, harsh terrain trailing John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), the former confidant who betrayed him.

The Revenant is ultimately an art piece projected on the glorious silver screen for the masses.  As seen with previous Iñárritu productions such as Birdman: or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance (2014), each shot is visually stunning and a masterpiece. Using only natural light, it captures a bitter yet beautiful landscape which totally immerses audiences in the harsh conditions of the mountains. As such, I find it totally understand as to why The Revenant has received 127 nominations this year, 12 of them being Oscars. Shot by shot it is beautiful whilst the cast are what makes it truly believable and hard- hitting. The narrative itself is not particularly original nor hard hitting but it is the journey that makes it truly intense and utterly suspenseful for the entire 2 hours and forty minutes.

Leonardo Dicaptrio gives yet another stunning performance which is sure to see him take home the golden statue for Best Actor. Unlike previous years where Leo has been up against incredible performances such as McConaughey and simply got unlucky, his performance as Glass really stands out this year by the Academy's standards (not that the other nominees weren't excellent also). Tom Hardy, on the other hand, is likely to just miss out on Best Supporting for this breakthrough performance though he truly deserves to be recognized by the Academy. Not entirely without its flaws, being nearly 3 hours long it did feel it could lose perhaps lose fifteen minutes or so from the running time, it is a favourite of the year so far. The Revenant is an extremely strong contender and I predict it will most likely take home Best Actor, Best Director, Best Cinematography and possibly even Best Picture. You can see my full review of The Revenant here.

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Based on the best-selling novel of the same title by self-published author, Andy Weir, The Martian follows one man's fight for survival when he is left behind during a Mars mission. Believing him dead, his crew and country have mourned their loss and even held his funeral. To NASAs shock, Watney is still alive despite having being impaled and practically buried by sand in a dusk storm. Much like previous sci-fi pieces such as Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón) and more importantly, Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979), this tale enforces a fear of the unknown and advances in technology, in particular space. The ultimate fear being alone, in space where no one can hear you scream.

Whilst Matt Damon as Watney is an excellent performance, I cannot help but feel that his nomination is somewhat out of place compared to the likes of Leo, Eddie Redmayne and Christian Bale - all with a less comic, more serious premise. The Martian was ultimately very enjoyable and certainly another triumph for Ridley Scott, it unfortunately does not make the cut for me in regards to the Academy Awards and, as much as I love and respect Damon as an actor, I believe there were more deserving actors who could of taken this nomination. I predict that at best, it may receive an award for Special Effects or cinematography but I don't think we'll see Matt take home his third Oscar for a little while. You can read my full review of The Martian here. 

Tom Hardy stars in the title role of Mad Max: Fury Road which sees George Miller’s first Road Warrior movie in three decade but this spectacularly great reboot is surprisingly owned not by Hardy but by Charlize Theron in this refreshing feminist action- packed thriller. George Miller decided, instead, to focus the narrative on the portrayal of the female characters and had Eve Ensler (writer of the Vagina Monologues) consult on set to aid him. Set in an apocalyptic future, Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) is king - leading War Boys to fight his battles, withholding his mass reserves of water and crops and owning and milking dozens of female breeders to create his legacy. The air is acidic and rots their flesh and so War Boys search the land for donors whose body parts they can replace with their own in a bid for eternal life - enter Max.

This is exactly the sort of title that gets lapped up by the Academy, and no doubt it deserves to take home some gold this year but, unfortunately, it's unlikely that it'll take home Best Picture but more realistic to receive praise for Styling, Best Costume Design, Sound and Cinematography but not all three. It's fantastic to see a film such as this recognized by the Academy and I have my fingers crossed for it. You can read my full review of Mad Max: Fury Road here.
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Well, that's it for the first half of my Oscar nominee breakdown. What films are you hoping to see scoop up the Oscar gold this year? Have you seen all of the Oscar movies? As always, I love reading your thoughts so please do leave them in the comment section below.

Until Part II, thanks for reading movie lovers!



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20 comments:

  1. So many of these to catch up on!! Keeping everything crossed for Leo on Sunday xxx

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    1. I know! I know everyone is obsessed with him getting one but he really does deserve it for The Revenent, hands down. If he doesn't win then it's a fix for sure. He is the stand out act out of all the nominess and Redmayne was so blah in The Danish Girl. Fingers crossed! xx

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  2. I feel so behind that, apart from Mad Max, I haven't seen any of these yet!
    I definitely need to back away from re watching series of Netflix and back into watching films.
    Have you seen about the Leo Oscar party planned, a big group in Leicester Square to celebrate if he finally wins, I've got my fingers crossed for him!
    ♥ Fran - www.frannymac.com xx

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    1. Nooo you must! So many amazing films this year! The Revenant really does have to be seen to be believe also. I make it my mission every year to see all the main contenders so that when they win/lose I can pass fair judgement haha. Such a nerd. That Leo party sounds amazing! I love the internet. I hope you get to see them and enjoy! xx

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  3. I agree, I really enjoyed Martian but Leo is my fav to win this year!
    Pam xo/ Pam Scalfi♥

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    1. Me too - and not just because of the hype but because he really does deserve that Oscar! :) x

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  4. I've only seen one of these movies so far haha I feel like every year I get more and more behind in movies whoops! I really want to see Mad Max (yes I know how the hell haven't I seen it yet) and Ex Machina :)

    Rai | utterardour.blogspot.com

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    1. Whaaat haha you need to fix that! Mad Max is great, definitely unlike any of the other nominees for sure though. You'll have to let me know what you think when you get round to seeing them! Hopefully you'll have seen some from Part II :) x

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  5. I've not seen Mad Max or Ex Machina but they are on my list! Annoyingly the Hateful 8 only seemed to be shown in certain cinemas so missed that too! Boo!! I love Tarantino so looking forward to seeing it at some point! I wasn't 100% sold on The Revenant, I appreciate the film for the visuals and acting etc and totally think it deserves all the nominations but just didn't really enjoy it as a film. The bear attack though?!? Ouch!! The Big Short was amazing and thought everyone was great in it (wish Ryan Gosling hadn't had such bad hair!) I agree Steve Carell's character was fab, it's hard to think of him as Brick in Anchorman when you see him in something so serious! I also enjoyed The Martian despite my hatred for Matt Damon...I hope your prediction is right and he wins nothing!!! haha! Looking forward to Part II. Xx

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    1. Yeah Ex Machina and The Hateful 8 both seemed to have really short lives at the cinema but they were both amazing! I hope you manage to tick them off soon. Sometimes with the Oscars, they re-release some stuff in the cinema to rinse it a little longer.

      Looks like you got to see some of the most awesome ones still though - even if you didn't like The Revenant ;) xx

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  6. Great reviews! My favourite Oscar movie this season is Spotlight I think xx britishmermaid.blogspot.co.uk

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  7. Ex Machina is amazing! I loved that one so much! I haven't seen any of the others but I can't wait to see The Big Short, Ryan is in it so I'm fine!
    Fix Me In Forty Five - A Beauty & Lifestyle Blog
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    xx

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    1. Aw it really was - The Big Short is excellent and not just because of Ryan Gosling haha xx

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  8. I love the photos you took for this post! All of these movies sound fab!
    -Morgs | www.justmorgs.com

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    1. Thank you :) Unfortunately I noticed someone pinched them for their own blog but hey, it happens. Hope you get to see them :)

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  9. I always look forward to your reviews, Sophie! For Best Actor, I will be happy for Leo if he wins but I was really impressed with Bryan Cranston, which I'll elaborate more on your part 2 post. I don't think The Martian is quite Oscar-worthy but it's a favorite of mine because it shows how people should act (which causes me to cheer) and not how people actually act (which is often so disappointing). Carell and Bale both give nice performances in The Big Short. The Great Recession is one of the most devastating events in recent history that we still need to understand and process it, and so I would like to see more of this subject in film and other media in the future.

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    1. I agree - all excellent actors but it's Leo that truly stands out this year. The Martian for me is not an Oscar worthy movie. Though I loved it, it's just not going to beat the other nominees, I'll be really surprised if it does. Matt Damon is great though.

      Thanks for reading Gill, hope you're having a good weekend :)

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  10. I loved the Revenant even though I thought I'd hate it. I went with my boyfriend and it was excellent. I love Tom Hardy and Leo totally deserved his oscar. Def want to see The Martian and Ex Machina looks well good!

    Aimee ox

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    1. Aw see, aren't you glad you went anyway? Hardy and Leo were both amazing, I thought the film was amazing. You'll have to let me know what you make of the others when you finally see them! x

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