Evaluating the nominees.

For the films of 2015
Big Magilla
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Re: Evaluating the nominees.

Postby Big Magilla » Sat Feb 06, 2016 3:34 am

Bridge of Spies may not be as good a film as Carol, but it was far and away the best mainstream studio film of the year. It was hardly a celebration of Americana. In its subtle way it was as much an indictment of the suffocating 1950s as were Far from Heaven and The Hours. Those stupid duck-and-cover exercises genuinely terrified school kids who were brainwashed into thinking the Russians were going to try to bomb us out of existence at any minute. That "nice lady" at the end of the film was anything but. She was no different than the passengers who gave Donovan dirty looks when he defended Abel, her thinking molded by the power of the tabloid press. Donovan, in real life by this time was no longer a practicing lawyer, he was Vice President (later President) of the NYC Board of Education. He would later go to Cuba after the Bay of Pigs and use his wits to charm Castro into freeing not only those arrested in that incident but over 900,000 political prisoners, far beyond what anyone expected. He ran as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate in 1962, losing to Republican incumbent Jacob Javits. He died of a heart attack in 1970 at the age of 53, yet his story, and only part of it at that, took all these years to reach the screen.

The only problem I had with it was the depiction of Donovan's kids who didn't age during the course of the film.

Otherwise I'm in general agreement with Uri's acerbic take on the Oscar nominated films, but my ranking is a wee bit different:

1. Spotlight
2. Brooklyn
3. Room
4. Bridge of Spies
5. The Martian

It would be a cold day in Hell before the remaining nominees would make my list with Carol and Ex Machina the most egregiously overlooked, but thankfully Trumbo, The Danish Girl and Suffragette failed to make the cut, the latter quite correctly denied any nomination at all.
“‎Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” - Voltaire

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Re: Evaluating the nominees.

Postby anonymous1980 » Fri Feb 05, 2016 10:00 pm

Bog wrote:
anonymous1980 wrote:It's clear that most of the films nominated every year are not to your taste. Why even bother doing it?


This comment has a smidge of the air of "oh Bridge of Spies was nominated and Carol wasn't?...the former must be a better film!"

I'm not saying you meant it that way...but this place is (in my opinion) the epitome of the antithesis of your comment. I'd expect (read: hope) every regular poster on here to convey almost a carbon copy or at least gist of the opinions expressed by Uri...having seen a multitude of films each Oscar season.


That isn't what I meant at all. Unless Uri makes his living as a film critic or a culture writer, I don't think he has any obligation to see the Oscar-nominated films since year after year since he dislikes or at most lukewarm to most of them. That's perfectly fine. It's his opinion. But since it''s clear that most films Oscar pays attention to year after year is not to his liking, why bother? I generally don't watch films I sense I'm not going to like unless it's free or I'm being paid or something.

I do see a lot of films in a given year. Even though I mostly disagree with Oscar's choices of what constitutes the "best" of the year, I generally like most of the Oscar-nominated films.

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Re: Evaluating the nominees.

Postby Okri » Fri Feb 05, 2016 7:25 pm

Oh wow, I actually read it the exact opposite, Bog. I don't think you can assert that anonymous said anything of the sort, actually.

Uri's mostly negative thoughts, while always fun to read, paint a picture of an institution that he really has no time for. Which is fine, but why bother engaging then? Italiano, I don't think passive agreement is the answer by any means, but surely this isn't binary either.

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Re: Evaluating the nominees.

Postby Bog » Fri Feb 05, 2016 5:57 pm

anonymous1980 wrote:It's clear that most of the films nominated every year are not to your taste. Why even bother doing it?


This comment has a smidge of the air of "oh Bridge of Spies was nominated and Carol wasn't?...the former must be a better film!"

I'm not saying you meant it that way...but this place is (in my opinion) the epitome of the antithesis of your comment. I'd expect (read: hope) every regular poster on here to convey almost a carbon copy or at least gist of the opinions expressed by Uri...having seen a multitude of films each Oscar season.

Of course my opinion is very similar to Italiano's: maybe if you use the Oscars as a template for a film-going experience you'll find some gems...but mostly your whole filmic existence will look like Uri's post...and you'll be very sad. If the Oscars weren't to be looked at as a cultural phenomenon, but as the referee of artistic expression, I refuse to believe Sly would be in line for a statue and that Leo would have had one in his backpocket for the past year..sight unseen.

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Re: Evaluating the nominees.

Postby Uri » Fri Feb 05, 2016 6:56 am

Sonic Youth wrote:
Uri wrote: And a dead horse as a symbolic giant vagina? Really?



How delightfully Bunuelian.


Call it a faux Bunuelian and you're bang on the money.

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Re: Evaluating the nominees.

Postby ITALIANO » Fri Feb 05, 2016 5:28 am

But also I don't understand why one who's interested in an institution (or, say, a period of history, or anything else actually) should passively agree with it. Confusing one's intellectual interest with intellectual acceptance (one could never analyze the Holocaust then) is a big mistake, and one, let me say it, typical of those who can't think individually, who always have to follow the latest trends, the biggest groups.

And I really think that not just today, but always, the Oscars are even more interesting as a cultural and social phenomenon than as a ever-reliable verdict on the Art of Cinema.

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Re: Evaluating the nominees.

Postby Uri » Fri Feb 05, 2016 12:28 am

anonymous1980 wrote:I don't know why you keep doing this, Uri. It's clear that most of the films nominated every year are not to your taste. Why even bother doing it?


Megalomania, I guess.

Why are we here, anyway? Is there still anyone who believes the Oscars are the benchmark for excellence? I personally was disillusioned decades ago, but I’m still fascinated with them and especially with the tension between what I find to be worthy and the actual choices of the Academy. And while I love following the predictions phase of this game, what I’m really in for is the post-mortem, since I look at the Oscars as a truly intriguing barometer which unintentionally indicates certain undercurrents and trends in an unexpected way. So a bunch of bad films being honored can be as interesting to dissect as good ones for what they tell you about the world we’re living in ( which, unfortunately, seems to be a world in which no good Oscar Films are being made anymore). Or to beat the metaphor to death - performing a post-mortem on an illness-ridden corpse or a brutally mutilated one if far more informative that that of a perfectly healthy, pristine one.

Just look at this all whitewash hoopla – the (probably objectively quite justified) absence of one pompous person’s spouse from a silly list of 20 names unraveled a fascinating and even urgent social discussion. That’s what great about the Oscars.
Last edited by Uri on Fri Feb 05, 2016 11:50 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Evaluating the nominees.

Postby anonymous1980 » Thu Feb 04, 2016 9:43 pm

I don't know why you keep doing this, Uri. It's clear that most of the films nominated every year are not to your taste. Why even bother doing it?

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Re: Evaluating the nominees.

Postby Sonic Youth » Thu Feb 04, 2016 5:38 pm

Uri wrote: And a dead horse as a symbolic giant vagina? Really?



How delightfully Bunuelian.
"What the hell?"
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Evaluating the nominees.

Postby Uri » Thu Feb 04, 2016 3:50 pm

So – as Marco might say, no one seems to be speaking Latin anymore. In other words, current popular cinema, as is well indicated by this year Oscar crop, seems to be operating within a close cinematic bubble, as if the only points of reference used in making these films are other films and well established films conventions and clichés. It’s a narrow minded pov, with hardly any wider sense of history, culture, politics, art, sociology, psychology or even just plain common sense based on, you know, the experience of everyday real Life. Or rather, all this aspects are not addressed directly but instead by addressing previous cinematic representations of them by people who only learned about the world by watching movies. So it’s fitting that we have on this list a film by Spielberg, the Godfather of this mentality.

This can be done consciously - Tarantino made a career out of playful distillation of this approach, but The Hateful Eight is not one of his best – and without real panache and wit to dazzle us, the end result reveals a basic futility. Still – this I can, at least theoretically, respect. The bigger problem is that most of the time it’s done without this kind of awareness, by people who think they’re frankly addressing some hoity toity issues while automatically relaying on familiar narrative and imagery patterns. And even worse - there's an expectant that the viewers should unconditionally succumb to these devises.

At the end of Mad Max there a moment when The Shane looks meaningfully at The Charlize and says “My name is Max” – and I knew I was supposed to have some kind of an emotional reaction since – since what? These are the nominal male and female leads hence they are bound to connect? Nothing in the film was done to evoke this notion. Or - Leo is indestructible for no other reasons other than he’s the star of his film. The Big Short finds the one particular angle which allows telling a story of triumphant people - it is to the 2008 crash what Schindler’s List was to the Holocaust. The solid, non sensationalistic Spotlight can’t resist showing its crusader of a journalist (and of course this relative misfire of a role and performance is the one celebrated). All of Creed. And my favorite, The Danish Girl is ending, just like 95% of Hollywood films, with the formation of a traditionally attractive heterosexual couple (once the freak is out of the way).

Oh yes, Happy Endings are mandatory too – audiences must have an uplifting mental image in their heads going back to their humdrum existence – Leo is one with Nature. Cute boy having is girly locks cut and becoming normative. No more pedophile priests in Boston. Steve Carrel with a 200 millions $ check in his pocket. A sympathetic lady warmly acknowledges Tom Hanks heroism. Saoirse Ronan finely wearing flats when reuniting with Emory Cohen. water Water WATER and The Charlize rules. (And yes, Matt is seeing a little weed budding in the gravel. But this one I like, so no irony here, thank you). Life is just fine in the bubble.

This cinematic bubble is becoming more and more hermetically closed and is collapsing inward. And on this sunny high note – roll on the drums – let me present to you this year edition.


My rating: A- the ultimate best of the year, B- very good, would make a decent, worthy winner, C- a nomination should suffice, D- not necessarily bad, but not award material, F- a failure.


Best Picture
1. The Martian – C. A happy film (which doesn’t mean it’s a comedy, btw).
2. Room – C. It’s like a guide book on how people should conduct themselves in this kind of situation. Other than one character that’s brought in briefly to demonstrate how not to behave, all the rest of the characters seem to be doing whatever one is supposed to do. Yet – the story is powerful and the overall levelheaded way in which it’s being told combined with good performances all around turn this into a rather effective film.
3. Brooklyn – D. Twee, but in the nicest possible way. Really. And you know Eilis and Tony had some great key parties with their Long Island neighbors in the ‘70s. (What? Am I the only one who realized this is the prequel of The Ice Storm?)
4. Spotlight – D. A decent docudrama. I went in expecting to like it – form wise, my cinematic taste is rather conservative and I have fond memories of The Station Agent and The Visitor was, well, decent - alas, artistically, there’s not much there there.
5. The Big Short – D. Form wise, my cinematic taste is rather conservative, yet I do believe this one should be a shoo-in for best picture. Of 2007. A smug film.
6. Bridge of Spies – D. It starts in 1957 and ends in the early ‘60s. By that time films like The Manchurian Candidate were already made, yet this one is firmly stuck in the ‘50s (or is it the ‘30s?) with its wide-eyed glorification of Americana.
7. Mad Max: Fury Road – D. A great part of the appeal of the original was the low key, low tech, low pretentions quality which corresponded well with the post apocalyptic theme. Here the audiovisual extravaganza, the fashionable pc feminist and ecologic stuff and lack of humor all seem like a desperate attempt at respectability. But it’s just a western on acid, with a non-entity Ton Hardy as, what’s his name, Max and The Charlize, being her usual Amazonian self, riding a car with seven-little-girls-sitting-in-the-back-seat for two hours. Oh, and postmenopause dykes on bikes. And semi naked guys dipped in flour. I was exhausted.
8. The Revenant – D (for the film itself, F as an Oscar frontrunner). Gravity on Ice. The marriage of hipper-realism and total lack of probability is not a happy one. As it goes along, it turns more and more into a fucking cartoon, yet it believes itself to truly be a serious piece. And a dead horse as a symbolic giant vagina? Really?

It’s a shame since they did have better options right in the mix. Firstly of course, this should have been all about Carol. And Steve Jobs is a more intriguing effort than all of the actual nominees. Oh well.

Best Director
1. Lenny Abrahamson – C. Yes – I think “levelheaded” is the right term to describe Room and his work here. And it’s a good thing.
2. Tom McCarthy – D. Yes – I think “decent” is the right term to describe Spotlight and his work here. And it’s not such a good thing.
3. George Miller – D. I read this in the newspaper yesterday: “Choosing Miller, who specializes in directing action films which incorporate science fiction as head of the jury of the Cannes film festival might indicate that the veteran festival is targeting a wider, less elitist audience”. If the mighty have succumbed how shall the weak emerge unscathed?
4. Adam McKay – D. And the difference between making a huge profit out of people losing all they have and having it made into an oh-so dynamic, narcissist movie is?
5. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu – D. Last year I commended him for lightning up. But his savior complex is just too strong for him to escape for too long.

Best Actor
1. Michael Fassbender – B. Maybe even an A. A few years ago there were these two dueling magicians movies, the one with Norton and the one with Bale and Jackman. Steve Jobs is far better at depicting a very similar hocus-pocus universe – that of bravura showmanship, hall-of-mirrors realm, back-stage franticness, fakeness and imagination - then both. And Fassbender makes one hell of an illusionist – sly, self centered, charismatic, targeted and totally capable off losing himself in his own, self created virtual reality.
2. Matt Damon – B (That’s C for doing just fine, acting wise, in a not that challenging role, A+ for the charisma).
3. Eddie Redmayne – D. He really cracked it – he turns each role he plays into a loveable puppy – he was one in My Weak with Marilyn, in Les Miserable, so was his Steven Hawking and now this – and et voila – he’s the most decorated actor of his generation.
4. Leonardo DiCaprio – D. He tries really hard, bless his soul. Beside the boot camp elements which he managed to go through successfully I guess, when it comes to actually acting, he fails to deliver. As unfair as it may appear to be, he just doesn’t pass as a real mature man, regardless of his age. It’s like having Mickey Rooney playing Stanley Kowalski. When Streetcar was produced, he was the right age too.
5. Bryan Cranston – D. The Academy is willing to honor veteran Plebeians (aka established tv actors), but only, it seems, if they supply a really large amount of ACTING in return – think Felicity Hoffman, Melissa Leo, J.K. Simmons (and they passed on Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ lovely but low key turn last year). It doesn’t necessarily mean the performances are bad, but unfortunately, this time it’s not a good one. One only need to see the real Trumbo in the clips shown at the end of the film to get how heavy-handled, witless and crass this performance is.

Best Actress
1. Cate Blanchett – A. The film is all about deceptive fronts and hidden truths and the sharp contrast between Carol’s assured, stylistic, almost arrogant public image and her inner fragility and insecurities is strikingly and devastatingly captured in Blanchtt’s masterful turn. Great.
2. Charlotte Rampling – B. Isn’t it amazing that the kinkiest icon of the ‘60s and ‘70s is so good now at personifying middle class wifehood? And while there may be more technically skilled actors, few have such a commanding hold of a cinematic frame.
3. Brie Larson – C. She’s playing a rather saintly character, yet she manages to breathe real Life into it. It’s an impressive, mature turn, yet while I get that she’s seen through the eyes of her little boy, I wish she was given a more complex role – it seems she would be able to handle it.
4. Saoirse Ronan – C. She is her film, and she delivers everything it needs to prevent it from slipping into Mills and Boon territory. She keeps it real and she has that period face. (And she seems like she may indeed grow up to be Joan Allen – and that's a compliment too.)
5. Jennifer Lawrence – F. I nearly posted this without elaborating on her. I really have nothing to say – it’s a vacuum of a performance.

Best Supporting Actor
1. Mark Rylance – C. A sympathetic and respectable portrayal of a Russian spy in an American movie. How daring. His acting, as one would expect, is perfectly fine.
2. Christian Bale – D. This time, I must admit, his usual scenery chewing intensity fits better into the oh-so intense fabric of the film he’s in.
3. Mark Raffalo – D. Five years ago, after years of fine service, he was finally admitted in and was filed under “M.R. – a dependable supporting player”, so now, every time he’s in an awards magnet film, he’s a player. He’s the new Ed Harris. And just like Harris and his nod for The Hours, this time Raffalo is in even for one of his weaker efforts.
5. Sylvester Stallone – D. There’s something so basic, almost naïve about Creed and about his performance – and about this nomination - I just can’t be mad at it. Criticizing it would be like kicking a harmless, somewhat slow dog. As long as they don’t go all mushy and actually give him the trophy, I don’t mind this. (Although this is such an unremarkable field, I’m afraid I wouldn’t really care if they do).
5. Tom Hardy – D. Other than twirling his moustache, he does cover the full villains’ repertoire accumulated through the history of Cinema (as well as Pantomime – he is British, after all).

Best Supporting Actress
1. Rooney Mara – A/unranked – she’s a lead. The combined effect of her off screen awkward persona and the minimalist nature of her acting here should not blind people to the complexity and (surprise!) warmth of this performance. She beautifully mirrors Blanchett – her timid, mousy front covers an acute observation, strength and vitality. On her first nomination I wrote I had no idea whether she was a good actress or bad. This time she’s good. Very Good.
2. Kate Winslet – B. The Globe she won for being KATE WINSLET with a brunette wig, glasses and an accent, but actually, she’s not bad at all. She’s always been good at embodying emotional realness and she’s very effectively does exactly that here. And she’s just spot on as Fassbender straight-man sidekick. They're really great together.
3. Alicia Vikander – D/unranked – she’s a lead. She is filed under “A.V. – must-have fresh face”. It’s the puffy cheeks, pouty lips and lovely complexion, you know. Baby fat melts the hardest of hearts. Her Hosannas inducing turn in Ex Machina was all about this innocent freshness being at odds with the soulless nature of the “character”, which was conveyed by the script rather than by any spectacular display of acting (and I’m well aware that “spectacular” may indeed be manifested subtly). Oh, yes - she is indeed “the best thing about The Danish Girl”. For what it’s worth.
4. Jennifer Jason Leigh – D. I dig this nomination. She is the only girl in an otherwise all boys film, it is an extreme role, her performance is over the top and she does have a kind of a cult following of those who believe she should have been recognized by the Academy long ago. I’ve never liked her as an actress (to put it mildly) and this turn did not convert me, but she does fit well into the realm of Tarantino’s film. I’ll give her that.
5. Rachel McAdams – D. She’s ok in this film. Saying that - HOW ON EARTH DID THIS NOMINATION HAPPEN? There is nothing about the role, the performance or her resume to suggest this. Yes, she is the only girl in an otherwise all boys film, but still.


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