With the Oscars are right around the corner, here are our rankings of the eight films up for the best picture Oscar. For more in depth analysis on all of these films, you can read the full in depth reviews on this website for each one. Now on with the list…
This was the nominated film this year that I really expected not to like, but ultimately did. Saoirse Ronan is great, and Emory Cohen and Domhnall Gleeson are both rock solid in support of her. That being said, it’s a cutesie romantic drama and nothing more, paling in comparison to the heavy hitters (Spotlight, Revenant). The film had the same fatal flaw as Bridge of Spies did; a lack of an interesting, high pressure climax. An entire hour and a half worth of build up led to absolutely nothing, and poor writing led to a very anticlimactic ending. Other than that, it is a cute film that will be remembered as Ronan’s coming out party.
Brooklyn has been highly regarded for its central lead performance by Saoirse Ronan as an Irish Immigrant coming to New York in the 1950s as well as its script by Nick Hornby. And both are deserving of this praise, giving this character a subtle yet powerful arc that you do not realize how strong she has become until the end. With that being said, the direction is very standard and a bit cliched at points (despite selling the 1950s look thoroughly) as well as its central female characters over dependence on men. But despite these flaws, including a performance by Emory Cohen that set me off at points, Brooklyn is a sweet and charming period piece.
This film kind of came out of nowhere for me, or so it seemed. I did not anticipate that The Big Short, a film that is kind of the middle ground between Inside Job and Wolf of Wall Street, would be as exciting and riveting as it was, mainly because of its subject matter. That being said, the stellar trio of Christian Bale, Steve Carell, and Ryan Gosling give the film a really strong ensemble, each of whom deliver great performances as men discovering the financial crisis in separate situations. What makes the film so good, however, is not just the performances, but Adam McKay’s stellar direction. He recognizes the fact that the terminology of the financial world is almost impossible for an everyday audience to understand, and uses this to make the film interesting. He interrupts the flow of the story by breaking the fourth wall to actually explain these terms, even using celebrities to do so. The overarching message of the film is that the reason this crisis occurred in the first place is because of the ignorance of the general public— no one understood what was going on. That message is mirrored in the film as the audience has no idea what is going on due to the complex nature of finance. It is easily one of the best films of the year, even if it is one of the more confusing.
Spotlight is one of the most subtle and restrained Oscar contender movies I have seen in years, and it is successful because of it. It tells the true story of a number of journalists at the Boston Globe uncovering multiple cases of sexual assault of minors by catholic priests. I say it’s restrained because it doesn’t hit you with a bunch of Oscarbait, dramatic moments but solely relies on its story, giving every piece of the journalists encounters and not dumbing it down to the audience. This is the power of its screenplay by director Tim McCarthy and Josh Singer, which is a shoe in for the best original screenplay Oscar. It’s direction by McCarthy is also held back until a poignant montage at the end that is so earned that is incredibly effective. And finally, the cast of journalists is what keeps you so invested in the story. Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton, and Liev Schreiber amongst others are all great, but it is Mark Ruffalo’s performance that I was most struck by, playing the savvy journalist that does everything to find all of the parts of this story, seeing the passion behind his eyes. So go check out Spotlight already; it is an important film that will most likely leave you affected afterward. It is also the only film besides The Revenant that I would say has a chance at the best picture Oscar.