Best Director (2015)

In this year’s Best Director category, just two nominees are receiving their inaugural Oscar nomination (Adam McKay, who is also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay; and Lenny Abrahamson). The other three directors have combined for twelve previous Academy Award nominations. Of those twelve, four are Oscar wins (three for Alejandro G. Iñárritu and one for George Miller). The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Director:

WINNER: George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Miller 1George Miller is the Australian director behind the original Mad Max trilogy, as well as Happy Feet and Happy Feet Two. During this awards season, George Miller has already garnered the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Director. Miller was previously nominated for four Oscars: Best Original Screenplay (Lorenzo’s Oil), Best Adapted Screenplay (Babe), Best Animated Feature (Happy Feet), and Best Picture (Babe). Of those four nomination, Miller has just one Oscar win: Best Animated Feature for Happy Feet.

  1. Alejandro G. Iñárritu (The Revenant)

Inarritu 2Alejandro G. Iñárritu is a renowned Mexican filmmaker—he is the visionary behind the Oscar-winning film Birdman and the celebrated “Death Trilogy” (Amores perros, 21 Grams, Babel). During this awards season, Iñárritu has already won the BAFTA and Golden Globe for Best Director. Iñárritu has been previously nominated for seven Oscars: twice for Best Foreign Language Film (Amores perros and Biutiful), twice for Best Director (Babel and Birdman), once for Best Original Screenplay (Birdman), and twice for Best Picture (Babel and Birdman). Of those seven nominations, he has won three Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay for Birdman.

  1. Lenny Abrahamson (Room)

Abrahamson 1Lenny Abrahamson is an Irish film director—he has previously directed What Richard Did (2012) and Frank (2014). In addition to his nomination for Room, Abrahamson has additionally been nominated for Best Director at the Irish Film & Television Awards and Satellite Awards. Abrahamson has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award in any category.

  1. Adam McKay (The Big Short)

McKay 1Adam McKay is an American filmmaker, renowned for writing and directing critically acclaimed comedies, such as Anchorman, Talladega Nights, Step Brothers, The Other Guys, and additionally producing such comedies as The Campaign, Tammy, Welcome to Me, and Get Hard. In addition to the Oscars, McKay has been nominated for Best Director at the BAFTAs and Directors Guild of America. He has also earned nominations in the Best Adapted Screenplay category at the Oscars and Golden Globes, while also winning the award at the BAFTAs, Critics’ Choice Awards, and the Writers Guild of America Awards. McKay has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.

  1. Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)

McCarthy 1Tom McCarthy is an American actor, writer, and director. In his acting capacity, he is best known as Dr. Bob Banks in the Meet the Parents trilogy. He is a critically acclaimed director for films such as The Station Agent (2003) and The Visitor (2007). Additionally, he is an accomplished writer, penning scripts for the previously two named films, as well as the Oscar-nominated Up (2009). In fact, Up is his lone previous Oscar nomination (Best Original Screenplay). This awards season, McCarthy won the Best Director award at the Satellite Awards.

Top 15 Films of 2015, No. 12 – Room

Room is a drama directed by Lenny Abrahamson, with a screenplay by Emma Donoghue, which she adapted from her own New York Times best-selling novel of the same name. The story follows Jack (Jacob Tremblay) and his “Ma” (Brie Larson) as they endure an incredibly atypical set of circumstances—Jack and “Ma” are confined to a shoebox of a room, measuring 10 feet by 10 feet. Although Jack has come to love “room,” the only world he truly think exists, his curiosity grows about what is outside of the four walls he has come to know for his entire life.

Processed with Rookie Cam

Director Lenny Abrahamson has crafted one of the finest films of 2015 in Room. Before I delve into my review, I must admit, I wish I could have put this movie closer to the top of my list. Despite its riveting story, incredible acting, and beautiful cinematography, the last third just simply got a tad too boring for me; that is the film’s only fault in my opinion. Room is not the first film I have seen from Abrahamson; in 2014, he released Frank, a movie about an eccentric musician (Michael Fassbender) who goes through life wearing a papier-mâché head. Although Frank received rave reviews from critics, I simply did not connect well with it. I did enjoy some of Frank’s music, but other than that, I found the story a bit too dry and plodding. In Room, however, Abrahamson has given me reason to believe the hype surrounding his filmmaking: he truly is a force to be reckoned with. Emma Donoghue has penned an exquisite script, and Abrahamson’s direction thrives upon it. Even though half of the film takes place inside a 10-x-10 space, Abrahamson creates a vast universe, making it feel more like a penthouse than a prison cell. Donoghue delivers an inimitable setting and Abrahamson capitalizes on that in a superb manner that breathes air into the characters’ story.

Room2Abrahamson’s greatest feat, though, is his ability to command two of the greatest acting performances from the entire year. Brie Larson as “Ma” is by far the best performance from any actress in all of 2015. Larson portrays “Ma” just as Donoghue always intended: she is an incredibly nurturing mother to Jack, and her devotion to protecting him from the horrors of the “real world” is both venerable and heartbreaking. Not knowing when or if she and Jack will ever escape the dreadfulness of “room,” “Ma” creates an entirely fictional understanding of the world in order to shelter her son from their circumstances. Room1However, in every passing moment of Jack’s ever-so-curious life, we see cracks in her armor. He is curious; he wants to know more and begins questioning the entire concept of life inside and outside of “room.” In these heartrending and frustrating times for “Ma,” Larson shines; as adults, we feel her pain and want to cry with her, if not for her. Larson is unrelenting in her portrayal of “Ma,” and her beautifully crafted performance will most surely earn her an Oscar.

Room6Jacob Tremblay delivers a performance as Jack that is absolutely unbelievable considering his young age. His nuanced adeptness is evocative of other critically acclaimed performances from young actors in recent memory, such as Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit (2010) and Quvenzhané Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012). Although those two actresses were nominated for Oscars, somehow Tremblay was not. Room7I believe Tremblay delivered the best performance by a child actor since Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense (1999) or Abigail Breslin in Little Miss Sunshine (2006), who were, just like Steinfeld and Wallis, nominated for Academy Awards. With all the talk of Oscar diversity (or lack thereof) and snubs, I truly believe Tremblay is the one with the most worthwhile beef—his performance was one for the ages. His depiction of Jack’s frustration, curiosity, and love for his “Ma” was perfect—absolutely perfect. Although the Academy snubbed him, Tremblay did end up taking home the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Young Performer, in addition to being nominated for Best Supporting Actor by the Screen Actors Guild. Room is rated R for language.

Room trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_Ci-pAL4eE

Academy Award nominations for Room:

Best Picture (Ed Guiney, producer)

Best Actress (Brie Larson)

Best Director (Lenny Abrahamson)

Best Adapted Screenplay (Emma Donoghue)

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

  1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  2. Beasts of No Nation
  3. The Martian