Although there are some of the typical overtly violent movies among the 2015 Academy Award nominated movies, there are some well-done movies as well.
Here are my picks to receive the Oscars:
Best Picture – “Spotlight” and “The Big Short”
Both are excellent and are actually about something rather than gratuitous violence. As a journalist, I was thrilled to see a journalism investigative team have the time and money to delve into a complicated subject, the sexual abuse of Catholic priests in the Boston area.
On “The Big Short,” what a great topic for consumers. When I heard about the film, I didn’t think I’d like the humor used in parts of the film. However, it’s complicated to try to explain the financial instruments that led to the collapse of the housing market and the Great Recession of 2008.
“Brooklyn” also is excellent as is “Bridge of Spies.” “The Revenant” is terrible. Way too violent. I could hardly wait until it was over. I don’t see how it received the most nominations. Also awful are “The Hateful Eight” and “Mad Max: Fury Road,” due to excessive violence.
“The Martian” is great. As the clerk at Safeway said, it’s a good story, which could have been boring. “Room” is a tough movie about a woman held captive for five years and her son, whose father is her captor.
Actor in a Leading Role – Bryan Cranston in “Trumbo”
Matt Damon also does a good job in “The Martian,” where he is in so many scenes. “The Danish Girl,” with its nomination of Eddie Redmayne, is a tough movie. Spoiler alert: Set in 1926, his character dies following the first sex change operation.
Actress in a Leading Role – Saoirse Roran in “Brooklyn”
Roran does a great job in a period film, about an Irish woman immigrating to America in the 1950s. “Joy” is pretty good movie, but gets outshined by so many other good big films. I didn't see "45 Years."
Actor in a Supporting Role – Mark Ruffalo in “Spotlight”
I didn’t see “Creed.”
Actress in a Supporting Role – Kate Winslet in “Steve Jobs”
Winslet does a good job. It was surprising to see that Jobs was such a tyrant, although I’m a fan of many aspects of Apple products.
Animated Feature Film – “Shaun the Sheep Movie”
My daughter-in-law raises sheep, so I liked it. I wasn’t that impressed with “Inside Out.” I didn’t see the other nominees.
Cinematography – None
I didn’t see anything that I thought was beautifully filmed. “Sicario” was just too violent for me to like anything about it. However, it is about drug violence in the United States and Mexico, not made-up violence. Most of the other movies in the category are too violent to enjoy the cinematography. “Carol” is a well-done film, but didn’t seem to me to have outstanding cinematography. Maybe it's because I sat too close.
Costume Design – “The Danish Girl” and “Cinderella”
The costumes are outstanding in “Cinderella,” a highlight in this old fairy tale where they tried a few new things in an attempt to spruce it up.
Directing – “The Big Short” and “Spotlight”
Both excellent movies.
Documentary – Feature – “Amy”
“Amy,” about the life of jazz singer Amy Winehouse, is tough to watch. It’s easy to like her in the film, but difficult to watch her life spin out of control, especially when two people close to her learn about her bulimia, and say they think it’s a fad that will pass. I didn’t see the other movies nominated.
Documentary – Short Subject – None
I didn’t see any of these.
Film Editing – “The Big Short”
It’s a complicated topic and skillful editing helps tell the story.
Foreign Language Film – None
“Mustang” is good, but, spoiler alert, it seems unbelievable that young girls could successfully run away from a rural home in Turkey to Istanbul. “Theeb” is another “home-alone” type story about a child doing unbelievable things. A young Bedouin boy survives in the desert in the Middle East during World War I after his older brother is killed.
Makeup and Hairstyling – None
It’s amusing that “The Revenant” is nominated here. Everyone’s hair looked dirty. I think that reflects the era better than clean hair, and it’s probably good that they wanted to make it look more realistic to the time. I would have given nominations to “Brooklyn” and “Bridge of Spies,” because they’re period films needing specific hairstyles. However, one thing that bothers me about these and other period films, especially those from the 1950s and 60s, is the use of wigs. I lived in those eras, and hair blew around and curls got limp through the day. “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared” has a number of flashbacks with famous world leaders. Maybe that’s why it was nominated.
Music – Original Score – “Bridge of Spies” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
Music – Original Song – “Simple Song #3” from “Youth” and “Til It Happens to You” from “The Hunting Ground”
I liked “Simple Song #3,” although the movie was disjointed, and I think “Til It Happens to You” is an important song. “Writing’s on the Wall” from "Spectre" is O.K. I didn’t have time nor did I want to see “Fifty Shades of Gray.” I read the books so I could write about how terrible they are in promoting violence against women. I just couldn’t stomach the idea of watching a woman being hurt during sex on the big screen, so I listened to the song nominated from the movie, “Earned It.” I also listened to “Manta Ray” from “Racing Extinction.”
Production Design – “The Martian”
They did a good job of creating sets here, on Mars, and in space.
Short film – Animated – “Bear Story”
Short film – Live action – None
All five films were depressing. A father kidnapping his daughter, a man with a heavy stutter, Serbs killing Albanians in Kosovo, Jewish settlers on the Sabbath needing help from silent Catholic nuns after they wreck their car, and a female Afghan-American interpreter trying to deliver a baby. I didn’t like any of them.
Sound Editing – None
Most of the movies seemed overly loud. When “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” started, it was just too loud.
Sound Mixing – None
Visual Effects – “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “Ex Machina”
I selected “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” although I thought a number of the aliens look unreal, just like big plastic blobs rather than things that could be living. The robots in “Ex Machina” are excellent and look real.
Writing – Adapted Screenplay – “The Big Short”
It’s an excellent movie. Every consumer should see it. This is the kind of movie that should be made in America, not two hours of gratuitous violence that we see again and again.
Writing – Original Screenplay – “Spotlight”
“Bridge of Spies” also is excellent. I think it’s more like what being a spy is like – quiet subterfuge – rather than the movies and TV shows we see that are violent gun battles, car chases, and explosions. “Straight Outta Compton” is too violent. I thought it was a stretch to nominate “Inside Out,” an animated film about characters who control your emotions and memories, in this category.