Top 15 Films of 2015, No. 9 – Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs is a biographical drama directed by Danny Boyle, with a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin, which was adapted from Walter Isaacson’s biography of the same name. The film is divided into three distinct scenes, all taking place behind the curtain before three product launches. The film opens up in 1984 before the unveiling of the Macintosh. Next the film shifts to 1988 as Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) prepares to announce his NeXTcube. Finally, the film ends in 1998 with the presentation of the revolutionary iMac.

Jobs4Ever since Steve Jobs’s untimely death in 2011, the film industry has become exceedingly saturated with Jobs-related material. In addition to the numerous documentaries about the head of Apple, Ashton Kutcher gave us an unbelievably subpar portrayal of Steve Jobs in Joshua Michael Stern’s 2013 feature Jobs. I mention this recent history of Jobs-related media to highlight that I understand the public’s hesitation to go see another movie about Steve Jobs. But if you have not seen this yet, I desperately urge you to rent this immediately—this movie hits the mark in nearly every way possible!

Jobs2The real geniuses behind Steve Jobs are director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. Danny Boyle is the filmmaker behind award-winning films like Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours, but for me, Steve Jobs is his best work yet. In this film, Boyle taps into his veteran directing style to carefully craft each scene and get the best performances out of his actors and actresses. Despite Boyle’s own brilliance, Aaron Sorkin is the single piece to this puzzle that is most imperative. Sorkin’s credits as a TV writer include heavyweights like The West Wing and The Newsroom, and his movie résumé is just as impressive, boasting scripts like A Few Good Men, Charlie Wilson’s War, The Social Network, and Moneyball. Sorkin is known in industry circles as a preeminent screenwriter due to his rapid-fire technique, and in Steve Jobs, he has provided us dialogue that I have not seen done so masterfully in years. Jobs3The movie lasts for 122 minutes, and, as I mentioned, features only three scenes—this makes Sorkin’s work even more remarkable. The story is supposed to track in real time behind the scenes of these launches, which does not leave Sorkin much time to execute his oral interchanges—he feeds off that pressure. The film (evocative of a play, which Sorkin has penned many of) thrives off conversation, and with every line, Sorkin delivers hard-hitting discourse. Although the actors execute his plans via Boyle’s direction, Sorkin is at the heart of this film’s success for me, and it is an absolute abomination that the Academy snubbed him for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Jobs5The acting performances in this film are exquisite; both Michael Fassbender (as Jobs) and Kate Winslet (as Joanna Hoffman, Apple’s marketing executive) were nominated for Oscars, and rightfully so. Michael Fassbender is by far one of the top five actors currently working in the film business. He has garnered immense praise for roles in Hunger, Inglourious Basterds, Shame, Prometheus, and 12 Years a Slave, and in Steve Jobs, Fassbender has killed it again. Steve Jobs was a once-in-a-generation kind of innovator, but the skeletons in his closets were always present, feeding off his stressful life. Jobs4Jobs’s professional and personal lives often intersected, and Steve Jobs fiercely examines the crash course that resulted. Fassbender was always the best actor for the role, and with dexterity and intricacy, he owns the many personal and professional faces of his character. Kate Winslet additionally delivers an amazing performance, for which she has already won Best Supporting Actress at both the Golden Globes and the BAFTA Awards. Jobs6Throughout Jobs’s many personal/professional-life debacles in the film, Winslet’s Joanna Hoffman is always the voice of reason that settles these issues. Winslet perfectly articulated Hoffman’s accent (a product of English mixed with her Polish and Armenian origin), and she portrays her as an incredibly strong, independent woman. It is by far one of my favorite Winslet performances of all time. Steve Jobs is rated R for language.

Steve Jobs trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEr6K1bwIVs

Academy Award nominations for Steve Jobs:

Best Actor (Michael Fassbender)

Best Supporting Actress (Kate Winslet)

Previous movies on the countdown of the Top 15 Films of 2015:

  1. Creed
  2. ’71
  3. Room
  4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  5. Beasts of No Nation
  6. The Martian

Best Supporting Actress (2015)

 

This year’s Best Supporting Actress category features a “Who’s Who” of Oscar novices. Only Kate Winslet and Rooney Mara are veterans to the ceremony. Most view this category as a two-horse race: Winslet for Steve Jobs and Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl. Four weeks out from the show, the competition appears to be neck-and-neck between two distinctly different actresses—Winslet a long-time Hollywood heavyweight and Vikander a radiant starlet. The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Actress in a Supporting Role:

WINNER: Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl) 

Vikander 12015 was the year that Alicia Vikander broke out onto American movie screens with a vengeance. 2016 will be the year she cements herself as a perennial contender among Hollywood’s elite. How so, you might ask? By taking home that coveted gold statue on Oscar night for her brilliant role as the real-life Gerda Wegener in The Danish Girl. Right up until I started writing this post, my vote was for Winslet’s performance in Steve Jobs—she really was stellar. But with wins at the SAG and Critics’ Choice Awards ceremonies, Vikander is deserved in leaping past one of film’s greatest actresses for this award. The Danish Girl tells the true-life account of Einar Wegener (who later became Lili Elbe, the first person to undergo sex reassignment surgery) and his wife Gerda. Honestly, I did not enjoy the film much. It looked great (all Tom Hooper films do; e.g., 2010’s The King Speech), but Redmayne did not sell it for me as a viewer. Vikander 2Despite this critique, Vikander stood out brilliantly as the lone bright spot in an otherwise boring movie. As her husband began to struggle with his identity, Gerda, the love of his life, struggled through denial and rage; through sadness and acceptance. Those emotions told the true story, and Vikander delivered each line, each look, and each tear with stunning delicacy—the grandeur of the 27-year-old Swede’s acting was nothing short of moving. Vikander has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.

  1. Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs) 

Winslet 1Kate Winslet did almost everything she could in Steve Jobs to earn my vote for Best Supporting Actress. The only thing standing in her way was the up-and-coming Alicia Vikander’s performance in The Danish Girl. As has been mentioned, this category will come down to these two actresses. Whether she wins or not, Winslet will forever be ingrained in Silicon Valley history with her daring portrayal of Apple’s head of marketing, Joanna Hoffman. Steve Jobs was a tremendous film, but it felt more like a stage play, something I was not expecting. There are only three scenes in the entire film, set behind the scenes at three separate Apple-product launches, and Winslet makes a stunning mark on the entire movie. While Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) struggles throughout with the debacle that is the crossroads of his personal and professional life, Hoffman is always the one by his side to reconcile his troubles. I rarely say this—because it is one of the most pretentious-sounding comments regarding film—but I truly forgot Winslet was playing Hoffman. She was that entrenched into this character. Winslet GifShe mastered the accent (a product of English mixed with Hoffman’s Polish and Armenian origin), delineated the requisite emotions of a strong, independent woman, and even stole the show from Fassbender at times. Never have I watched Winslet shine like this; not since Titanic and The Reader. She won the Golden Globe for this performance, so I would not be surprised if somehow she pulls off the Oscar victory—she would deserve it. Winslet has previously been nominated for six Academy Awards (four for Best Actress and two for Best Supporting Actress), winning only for her leading role in 2008’s The Reader.

  1. Rachel McAdams (Spotlight)

McAdams 1Rachel McAdams has always been one of my favorite actresses, but I never have thought of her as someone deserving of an Oscar nomination for anything in her career; that all came to an end when I saw Spotlight. In Spotlight, McAdams portrays the real-life Sacha Pfeiffer, one of the investigative journalists on The Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” team, which worked to uncover a vile child-abuse scandal within the Catholic Church in the early 2000s. Entertainment Weekly perfectly described McAdams’s difficult role: “[She] plays a woman who is equal parts determined journalist and loyal granddaughter of a devout Catholic.” That personality dichotomy created an oasis of potential for McAdams to explore—she nailed it! One minute, her character is wrought with emotion, as she is on the receiving end of some horrifying details of a rape victim’s story; the next minute, she is shown at mass with her grandmother. The Pfeiffer character is torn with the turbulent circumstances she finds herself in, wrestling to make sense of it all. McAdams hits the nail on the head in what can only be described as a performance built upon subtle nuances. McAdams has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.

  1. Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight)

JJL 1In Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, seven of those eight main characters are men—Daisy Domergue (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh) is the lone woman. She is an outlaw that is being brought in by a bounty hunter to face justice for murder. Daisy Domergue is a truly unique character—the preeminent result of Tarantino’s wild and twisted mind games. She curses frequently, tosses racial slurs around willingly, and yet evokes a faint sense of sympathy for her character as John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) batters her throughout the film. The character is as diverse as she is crude; as complex as she is filthy. And Leigh delivers a memorable performance. I had high hopes for The Hateful Eight, but in most ways the film left something to be desired. However, of the few bright spots is Leigh’s grim, gory, and gnashing portrayal of Daisy. Whether it was her oddly interesting guitar ballad or her bloody façade towards the end of the film, Leigh brought Daisy Domergue to life in all the right ways. Leigh has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.

  1. Rooney Mara (Carol)

Mara 1In Carol, Rooney Mara portrays Therese Belivet, a department-store clerk in 1950s New York City. Belivet falls under the charm of the much-older Carol (Cate Blanchett), and before long, a deep and affectionate love affair strikes. Carol has garnered much attention worldwide for its ardent and amorous take on a taboo subject (given the time period the film is set in). Not only is the film receiving rave reviews (full disclosure: I am NOT one of them; the movie was bland, plodding, and you will not find it on my list of top films), but Blanchett and Mara are also being heralded for their adept performances. While I agree that the Blanchett did wonderful job in her leading role, Mara always seemed the subordinate performer. That is not necessarily an inherent knock on Mara, considering Blanchett is one of the all time greatest in this field; however, I really think Mara delivered the inferior performance in this category as a whole. While she is a tremendous talent in Hollywood, I truly think her uninteresting, unaffecting portrayal is due to a slow year in supporting female performances. If you watch Carol, hopefully you get something out of her performance. I know I sure didn’t. Mara was previously nominated for Best Actress for her role in the American adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011).

The 4th Annual “Countdown to the Oscars” – #WeAllDreamInGold

chris-rock-oscar-art

Welcome back to the Reel Countdown, movie fans! The stage is now set for my 4th annual “Countdown to the Oscars” blog, and I could not be more excited to share with each of you my take on the year in film from 2015. Now that the nominations have officially been announced by the Academy for the 88th Oscars (the full list of nominations is located at the bottom of this post), there are some major storylines. Will Leo finally receive his first Oscar? Can director Alejandro G. Iñárritu repeat for Best Director and/or Best Picture?

I will spend a bit of time seeing any last-minute movies that I need to before releasing any posts. Throughout the next six weeks, I will reveal a variety of such posts that will include both my “Top 15 Films of the Year” list and my own personal Oscars ballot for this year’s major categories. Last year I saw enough films to cast a ballot in 14 of 24 categories, but this year I hope to fill up the sheet on even more! Additionally, I will again be posting a review about the actual ceremony the day after the show.

2005 OscarsThis year, Chris Rock will be hosting the Oscars ceremony. The 50-year-old comedian/actor previously hosted the 77th Academy Awards in 2005. Chris Rock has long been one of the funniest people in Hollywood, and after a rather mediocre performance from last year’s host Neil Patrick Harris, I believe Rock will bring the boom back to the show! Much like during Ellen’s gold-standard hosting performance in 2014, I expect to be laughing throughout the broadcast.

This year, the Oscars will be broadcasted live from the Dolby Theater in Hollywood on February 28th, 2016—that is just 45 days away!

To all of my returning readers, welcome back! To all of my new readers, thank you for joining me during my favorite time of the year! I truly appreciate each and every one of you that takes the time to make my blog part of your day during this awards season. Without further adieu, IT’S OSCAR TIME! #WeAllDreamInGold

88th Academy Awards Nominations

Best Picture

The Big Short

Bridge of Spies

Brooklyn

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Room

Spotlight

Best Actor

Bryan Cranston (Trumbo)

Matt Damon (The Martian)

Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)

Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)

Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl)

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett (Carol)

Brie Larson (Room)

Jennifer Lawrence (Joy)

Charlotte Rampling (45 Years)

Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)

Best Supporting Actor

Christian Bale (The Big Short)

Tom Hardy (The Revenant)

Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight)

Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)

Sylvester Stallone (Creed)

Best Supporting Actress

Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight)

Rooney Mara (Carol)

Rachel McAdams (Spotlight)

Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl)

Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)

Best Director

Adam McKay (The Big Short)

George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Alejandro G. Iñárritu (The Revenant)

Lenny Abrahamson (Room)

Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)

Best Original Screenplay

Bridge of Spies

Ex Machina

Inside Out

Spotlight

Straight Outta Compton

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Big Short

Brooklyn

Carol

The Martian

Room

Best Animated Feature

Anomalisa

Boy and the World

Inside Out

Shaun the Sheep Movie

When Marnie Was There

Best Documentary Feature

Amy

Cartel Land

The Look of Silence

What Happened, Miss Simone?

Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

Best Foreign Language Film

Embrace of the Serpent (Colombia)

Mustang (France)

Son of Saul (Hungary)

Theeb (Jordan)

A War (Denmark)

Best Original Score

Bridge of Spies

Carol

The Hateful Eight

Sicario

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Original Song

“Earned It” (Fifty Shades of Grey)

“Manta Ray” (Racing Extinction)

“Simple Song #3” (Youth)

“Til It Happens to You” (The Hunting Ground)

“Writing’s On the Wall” (Spectre)

Best Cinematography

Carol

The Hateful Eight

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

Sicario

Best Film Editing

The Big Short

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

Spotlight

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Production Design

Bridge of Spies

The Danish Girl

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Mad Max: Fury Road

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared

The Revenant

Best Costume Design

Carol

Cinderella

The Danish Girl

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

Best Animated Short

Bear Story

Prologue

Sanjay’s Super Team

We Can’t Live without Cosmos

World of Tomorrow

Best Visual Effects

Ex Machina

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Sound Editing

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Sicario

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Sound Mixing

Bridge of Spies

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Documentary Short

Body Team 12

Chau, beyond the Lines

Claude Lanzmann: Specters of the Shoah

A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness

Last Day of Freedom

Best Live Action Short

Ave Maria

Day One

Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut)

Shok

Stutterer