Best Picture (2015)

This year, one of eight nominated films will be inducted into an exclusive society of movies when it receives the Academy’s greatest honor: the Oscar for Best Picture. Some of the films that this year’s winner will be joining include It Happened One Night, The Bridge on the River KwaiOliver!Driving Miss DaisyBraveheartNo Country for Old MenBirdman, and many more. Needless to say, this year’s Best Picture winner will be joining an elite collection of the world’s greatest films of all time. The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Picture:

WINNERMad Max: Fury Road

2. The Revenant

3. The Big Short

4. Spotlight

5. Room

6. The Martian

7. Bridge of Spies

8. Brooklyn

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Best Actress (2015)

This year’s assembly of Best Actress nominees includes women with varying Oscar history. Both Brie Larson and Charlotte Rampling are receiving their inaugural Academy Award nomination. Between the remaining nominees, they have been nominated for a combined ten Oscars, including three wins. The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Actress in a Leading Role:

WINNER: Brie Larson (Room)

This year, I 100% expect Brie Larson to take home the Oscar for Best Actress. My posts are never meant to be a predictor of the winner—they are merely my own personal favorites. But this year, the best performance by a leading lady in my eyes will most definitely line up with the Academy’s vote. Larson 1Brie Larson has already blown the competition out of the water in a range of award shows this season, winning Best Actress at the Golden Globes, BAFTAs, Critics’ Choice, and Screen Actors Guild. She was simply the best, and I am excited to see this up-and-coming actress get her due. In Room, Larson plays “Ma,” a kidnapped mother who goes to any length to ensure the safety of her 5-year-old son Jack, in spite of their imprisonment in a 10 ft. x. 10 ft. “room.” Jack is a curious boy who becomes evermore skeptical of his living circumstances, and as he explores these curiosities, Ma’s once-successful sheltering of him against the outside world starts to wane in terms of effectiveness. This is a pivotal moment in Ma’s life as a mother—it is utterly heartbreaking. Ma must be strong, but at times she cannot hold back the pain and the tears—we as an audience feel for her. Larson 2This is where Brie Larson takes the cake—she is unrelenting in her exposition of a nurturing mother that will do anything to protect her baby boy. As with my review of Room, I do not want to reveal too much about the film’s story. But trust me on this—Brie Larson’s gut-wrenching performance has paved the way for the 26-year-old actress to take home the gold on Sunday. Larson has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.

  1. Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)

Ronan 1This Oscars season, my blog has been void of any mention of Brooklyn, John Crowley’s Best Picture-nominated period piece; this is because in my opinion, it was not that memorable of a film. However, one bright spot for Brooklyn was its leading actress: Saoirse Ronan (her first name, as Ryan Gosling recently pointed out, is pronounced like the word “inertia”). In Brooklyn, Ronan plays Eilis Lacey, a young Irishwoman who immigrates to Brooklyn, NY, during the 1950s. After making the move, Eilis initially suffers from severe homesickness, crying often. However, Tony, a young Italian boy from the area, later courts her at a local dance, and this helps Eilis adjust to her new surroundings. However, due to some tragic news, she is forced to return temporarily to Ireland—she and Tony elope first, though, without anyone knowing. Once she is back in Ireland, she is repeatedly setup on dates with an eligible bachelor in town, and quickly, Eilis’s world seems more confusing than ever. This movie was sweet, and a lot of that has to do with the nimble performance by Ronan in the lead role. I was wildly impressed with her range. Upon falling for Tony, she delineated all of the expected butterflies-in-your-stomach-type feelings with beauty; additionally, she absolutely nailed every vulnerable moment of her character’s life when she is struggling to cope with her move. At just 21-years-old, Ronan already has two Oscar nominations, and Brooklyn was the perfect example of the remarkable abilities she possesses. Ronan was previously nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Atonement (2007), which made her the seventh youngest actress to have ever been nominated in that category (13 years, 285 days).

  1. Charlotte Rampling (45 Years)

Just like Saoirse Ronan’s Brooklyn, 45 Years is another film that has not been mentioned yet this season on my blog. To be honest, the only reason I even saw it was because Charlotte Rampling was nominated for Best Actress. I love British films (they are often my favorite), but this one came and went pretty unremarkably for me. With that said, however, I was quite impressed by Rampling’s performance. Although she is expected to finish dead last in the Oscar race, I think her talents are being starkly overlooked—it was incredibly tough for me to decide between her or Ronan for my No. 2 spot. Rampling 1In 45 Years, the 70-year-old Rampling plays Kate, a woman planning a major celebration in honor of her 45th wedding anniversary with husband Geoff. However, during the final stretch to the big day, the two receive news that authorities in Switzerland have recovered the body of Geoff’s first love who died in a hiking accident before he and Kate ever met. This is the backdrop for the film’s story, and Rampling was unbelievably honest in her role. Geoff spends the days leading up to the anniversary celebration looking at pictures of him with his long-ago love and talking about her incessantly. Kate is visibly shaken but tries her hardest to keep any emotion suppressed, which she does not succeed at most of the time. Rampling’s performance is not showy or filled with vividly emotional moments. But the subtle nuances with which she evokes her emotions paint the perfect picture of her character’s inner struggle. With every look or glance, Rampling is effective. Rampling has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.

  1. Cate Blanchett (Carol)

Carol is getting a lot of attention, as is understandable—it is a good movie. But for me, it simply was not great. The lion’s share of Carol’s praise has been heaped upon its two female stars: Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. I wrote earlier this season about how Mara’s performance really did not do much for me, but Blanchett’s was more believable—the latter was definitely the far superior performer in the film.Blanchett 1 Carol is set during the 1950s in New York City, and it tells the story of Carol, played by Blanchett, as she meets and ultimately has an affair with a woman, Therese Belivet, played by Mara. This movie really bored me, and the only thing that caught my attention at all was Blanchett’s acting. I have long believed she is one of the top three actresses currently working in Hollywood, but in Carol, my belief that she did a good job is limited—I didn’t really think it was Oscar-worthy. Yes, her character is engaging in an affair with a woman that was incredibly taboo for the time period, and yes, Blanchett’s emotions throughout as her husband fights her tooth and nail for the custody of their daughter in light of her lesbian tendencies are skillfully evoked. But for me it was nothing memorable. It was just a good, seasoned performance from a veteran actress. Ten years from now, I will have totally forgotten about this role. Blanchett has previously been nominated for six Oscars, winning for Best Supporting Actress for her role in The Aviator (2004) and for Best Actress for her role in Blue Jasmine (2013).

  1. Jennifer Lawrence (Joy)

To think, just six months ago, I was talking about how much I was looking forward to seeing David O. Russell’s latest film, Joy. In fact, I ranked it No. 8 on my Fall Preview. I was deeply let down. This movie sucks. It just does. It didn’t make me care about the story. It didn’t make me care about the characters. Yes, Jennifer Lawrence did an okay job, but even she couldn’t save it. In Joy, Lawrence plays the real-life titular character, Joy Mangano, a divorced mother of two struggling to find her place in the world. She eventually invents the Miracle Mop and hits it big on QVC.Lawrence 1 I love Jennifer Lawrence. She is definitely the brightest actress of my generation, and I know she is going to continue to have success for the duration of her (hopefully) long career. With that said, her nomination in this category is entirely misplaced. She did not have to do anything that spectacular in this role. She was the same Jennifer Lawrence we have seen for a few years now. And I do not mean she evoked the same acting qualities—I mean she was playing the same character. All of her roles are beginning to blend together for me, and I do not find that worthy of another nomination at this time. Lawrence won the Golden Globe this year for Best Actress in a Comedy, which I think the Hollywood Foreign Press gave to her because of her likability. I usually hold the Academy to higher standards than the HFP, but this year it appears it too threw Lawrence a bone for an average performance. I hate talking bad about Jennifer Lawrence because I loved her in Winter’s Bone, Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, and the Hunger Games films, but in Joy, she did not pave any new lanes. It was all the same stuff. Ehh. Lawrence has previously been nominated for three Oscars, winning for Best Actress for her starring role in Silver Linings Playbook (2012).

Actresses snubbed in this category: Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road), Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina), Carey Mulligan (Far from the Madding Crowd), and Julianne Moore (Maps to the Stars).

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.

Best Adapted Screenplay (2015)

This year (just like the previous two years), nearly every single writer nominated in this category will be attending the Academy Awards for the very first time. In fact, the only writer in this year’s group that has ever been nominated before is Nick Hornby, nominated this year for Brooklyn. The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Adapted Screenplay:

McKayRandolph TBSWINNER: Adam McKay and Charles Randolph (The Big Short)

Adam McKay (also the director of The Big Short) and Charles Randolph adapted this screenplay from Michael Lewis’s 2010 non-fiction book of the same name. McKay and Randolph have never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.

  1. Emma Donoghue (Room)

Emma Donoghue adapted this screenplay from her own 2010 novel of the same name. Donoghue has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.

  1. Drew Goddard (The Martian)

Drew Goddard adapted this screenplay from Andy Weir’s 2011 science-fiction novel of the same name. Goddard has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.

  1. Nick Hornby (Brooklyn)

Nick Hornby adapted this screenplay from Irish author Colm Tóibín’s 2009 novel of the same name. Hornby was previously nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay for An Education (2009).

  1. Phyllis Nagy (Carol)

Phyllis Nagy adapted this screenplay from Patricia Highsmith’s groundbreaking novel The Price of Salt (1952). Nagy has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.

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