It was a strange year for movies. You can tell because the nominees for Best Picture at the 88th Annual Academy Awards is a pretty strange crop. The 7,000 person membership that makes up The Academy is being asked to crown a champion of movies from a pool of mainstreamed sci-fi flicks, harrowing stories of isolation, glamorized corruption, and a movie called Brooklyn that thankfully isn’t about latte artists with sailor tattoos.
While the full constituency of the Academy will determine who is worthy of walking out with the Best Picture statue, those voting are still people. While it is pretty close to impossible to guess what 7,000 people will do, it is a little easier to guess what a minimum of 876 (the minimum number of votes one of the eight nominees would have to get to win by one vote) people may do. It’s best not to overthink it, so let’s take a look at the nominees in the simplest terms to see if we can narrow down the choice.
Based on all the internet buzz I’ve consumed and with a dash of personal bias, here are the nominees and their reasons to win the big one:
PRO: A stunningly filmed odyssey of revenge
CON: Two and a half hours of drawn out rage with anxiety inducing long takes of a pulverized Leo DiCaprio.
BIG QUESTION: Should the best picture be fun to watch?
PRO: A very well acted popcorn sci-fi movie that doesn’t alienate its audience with science fiction or science faction
CON: Lots of this movie is Matt Damon farming on Mars.
BIG QUESTION: Is a surprisingly funny space-opera-blockbuster really the best movie of the year?
PRO: Amazing performances by Brie Larson and Jacob Tremley in a harrowing story of love and survival under impossible circumstances.
CON: A nightmare situation come to life that is unfortunately a little too real.
BIG QUESTION: Can a limited plot premise undermine amazing performances in a best picture nominee?
Mad Max: Fury Road
PRO: The innovator of the post-apocalyptic wasteland comes home to redefine the genre.
CON: Bleak on fleek.
BIG QUESTION: Is this nomination a real nomination or a “thank you” to George Miller?
The Big Short
PRO: Strong performances by an A-list ensemble cast
CON: A huge reminder of the 99% vs 1% war that is still raging that has seen very few villains given their comeuppance.
BIG QUESTION: Has enough time passed since the 2008 financial crisis for audiences to relive and enjoy a movie about it?
PRO: A beautifully acted portrait of an Irish immigrant’s search of the American dream.
CON: It might be a little boring in comparison to the dire circumstances in every other movie nominated.
BIG QUESTION: Can a great “story” beat a good “movie”?
PRO: An ode to journalism, Spotlight is a brilliantly acted by an outstanding ensemble cast, Spotlight is a truly remarkable narrative about shedding light on a truly horrible scandal.
CON: A movie about the aftermath of tragedy doesn’t resonate as starkly as a movie about tragedy as it unfolds.
BIG QUESTION: Did Spotlight come out too early in the year to be remembered during award season? Can the best executed movie beat the most overtly executed movie?
THE ROUNDER OUTERS
Bridge of Spies
PRO: The Oscar Dream Team gets back together as Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg tackle the cold war.
CON: The Oscar Dream Team gets back together as Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg tackle the cold war.
BIG QUESTION: Haven’t we heard this song before?
The 88th Annual Academy Awards take place on February 28th. Next week, we’ll discuss how to win your office pool.