My Oscar Choices 2016

Not that it’s going to make any difference in the ballots, as I’m not a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences…however here is the list of winners that I would have voted for – in some cases not the list of whom I actually think will win the awards. Below you’ll also see a final round of reviews for Oscar contenders.

Best Film Editing: Margaret Sixel, Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki, The Revenant

Best Original Screenplay: Alex Garland, Ex Machina

Best Director: 5-Way Tie – George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road / Adam McKay, The Big Short / Lenny Abrahamson, Room / Alejandro Inarritu, The Revenant / Tom McCarthy, Spotlight. They all deserve it.

Best Supporting Actor: 2-Way Tie – Christian Bale, The Big Short / Tom Hardy, The Revenant

Best Supporting Actress: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

Best Actress: Brie Larson, Room

Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant (come on, there’s even a video game to win him the Oscar)

Best Picture: Mad Max: Fury Road

STEVE JOBS

It is said about the film Steve Jobs that people who knew and worked with the man complained that the “Steve Jobs” they knew was not portrayed in accurate detail. This movie however, is not trying to be biographical. In his screenplay, Aaron Sorkin creates the essence of Steve Jobs and plants him in three of his actual product rollouts to compose a concerto on the ideas and thoughts of this technology virtuoso who is a legend of our time.

Sorkin is a “poet” and a “songwriter” in composing his dialogue. His words are accompaniment to the actions and events of Jobs’ life as is a music sound track to a film.

Director Danny Boyle, with a relatively young team, has filmed an engrossing study of the man. Michael Fassbender does such a good job of recreating Jobs’ mannerisms and tone that he makes you forget he’s not the real Jobs. Kate Winslet is almost unrecognizable as the Polish-born marketing guru who became Jobs’ right hand during the difficult years when he was thrown out of his own company and launched a competitive product.

Steve Jobs will not be the last film about this extraordinary and fascinating genius. I’m sure there will be more films exploring the man who helped shape so much of the cultural and sociological core or our world over the last few decades. This is well worth watching, even if you’re not a techie.

Rated R; 122 min., Released Oct.9

Awards Watch: Golden Globes – 4 nominations, 2 wins (Supporting Actress and Screenplay), SAG Awards – 2 nominations, Oscars – 2 nominations.

BRIDGE OF SPIES

What makes Bridge of Spies unusual is that it follows a Cold War political chess game from the point of view of a minor player. The story is based on a real incident involving a simple insurance attorney played by Tom Hanks, who reluctantly became the centerpiece of a drama of huge international scope. By focusing on the outsider, we see the story from a more universal viewpoint. This attorney is able to outplay the politicians precisely because he approaches the situation from a nonpolitical orientation. He applies his understanding of human nature on a personal level to broker a successful mediation between two political giants with opposing belief systems.

Director Spielberg put together a dream team on this movie. Writers Matt Charman and the Coen Brothers have written an engrossing script that never lags. Composer Thomas Newman’s score is perfect, establishing setting and emotion in each scene. Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski has used lighting and muted colors to achieve almost a moody black and white effect in this full color film, and editor Michael Kahn, who has worked with Spielberg many times before, keeps the rhythm moving. Production designer Adam Stockhausen has recreated a poignant atmosphere of Berlin and the Berlin Wall during the Cold War. Hanks as the attorney is wonderful. Mark Rylance shows us the humanity of Russian spy Rudolph Abel. Austin Stowell as Francis Gary Powers and Amy Ryan as Mary Donovan also turn in great performances.

This film is a must for anyone who loves history or great cinema, or both. Spielberg again tells a very important story that has been long overlooked, taken from the vast jigsaw puzzle that is history.

Rated PG-13, 141 mins, Released Oct. 4, Blu-Ray and Digital Release Feb. 2, 2016

Awards Watch: Golden Globes – 1 nomination, SAG Awards – 1 nomination, Oscars – 6 nominations including Best Picture.

CREED

Creed is a new take on an iconic franchise. Director Ryan Coogler, 29 years old with one major feature film under his belt, Fruitvale Station, remembered that the Rocky movies were the only movies during which his Dad would cry. When his Dad fell ill, the younger Coogler contemplated how his Dad’s hero would deal with aging and illness. Thus the idea for Creed was born. Coogler wrote (with Aaron Covington) and directed this new chapter in the heroic “Rocky” saga.

Michael B. Jordan, as Adonis Creed, the son of Rocky’s old nemesis, is now the rising young boxer. He carries the film on his shoulders. Jordan has the credentials for this, having created the stellar roles of “Vince Howard” in the critically acclaimed TV series Friday Night Lights and “Oscar Grant”, in Coogler’s celebrated movie Fruitvale Station.

Sylvester Stallone is incredible as the aging “Rocky”, as the once fiery athlete is struggling with the fact that his body is wearing out. Coogler offered to relieve Stallone of the responsibilities of directing and producing, so that he could concentrate on his acting. The resulting performance is nuanced, introspective and courageous.

The film is dedicated to Robert “Bob” Chartoff, who along with Irwin Winkler produced all the “Rocky” films. Tough, smart and passionate about the business, Bob passed away in Santa Monica in June 2015, while the film was under production.

Coogler believes that so many recent tragedies involving African Americans, including the Fruitvale Station incident, are a systemic problem at their core and that art can play a major role in surmounting the impasse. Creed plants a black man front and center in what was a white man’s franchise – an excellent step in the process.

Rated PG-13, 133 mins., Released Nov. 25

Awards Watch: Golden Globes – Win for Best Supporting Actor, Motion Picture, Oscars – 1 nomination.

TRUMBO

Rated R, 124 mins.

I think of Dalton Trumbo as one of the great American writers of the 20th Century. When I was 9 years old, my “Grandpa Bud” introduced me to Trumbo’s sports stories. As a teen I saw a World War II movie on television that I loved called A Guy Named Joe, written by Dalton Trumbo. I also read his 1939 anti-war novel “Johnny Got His Gun”. Trumbo was definitely one of my inspirations.

Trumbo is a very well mounted biographical story of this great writer. Bryan Cranston in the lead role is very believable. Trumbo’s younger daughter Mitzi served as a consultant on this film about her father, whose career was almost derailed by the McCarthy era government “Black List” witch hunts of the 1950’s and 60’s.

When decisions are made out of fear, either personally or collectively, they almost always carry poor judgment. It’s sadly ironic that our government forces Trumbo to live the type of courageous life endured by some of his heroic characters. He chose to keep writing even though it meant using other people’s names, receiving no credit and very little money for his work. The Black List finally began to break when JFK crossed American Legion picket lines to see Trumbo’s Spartacus, which he wrote under an assumed name.

Awards Watch: Golden Globes – 2 nominations, SAG Awards – 3 nominations, Oscars – 1 nomination.

Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry which is the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people. She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. kboole@gmail.com. For previously published reviews see https://kwboole.wordpress.com/

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