The 2016 Oscars are on Sunday, plagued by the controversy over the All-White nominees that called for a boycott by some. Plagued, also, by the fact the acting categories are more about the training days of Leo, for example, than it is about acting. And the eight films nominated in the main category, best film of the year, are certainly not a great batch.
The Oscar nominees are not bad films on their own terms but we get our tiring traditional share of feel good movies, Room and Brooklyn, predictable but tight knitted and efficient investigation films, Spotlight and The Big Short, that get things done well in every department without reinventing the wheel.
Blockbusters are in the contest with Mad Max: Fury Road & the Martian. Both works are beautiful empty spectacular routine shows as it is the case for The Revenant. Iñárritu’s film Oscar potential is under attack for being empty. I’ve never been a fan of his work, where all the technical tricks hide the emptiness, and I maybe naive but, isn’t that what too many films are made of today, emptiness? With a western (because that’s what it is) you want minimalist wildlife antagonism, basic pain, basic pleasure, large scale scenery, creative cinematography. It’s exactly what it provides. Why should one of the contemporary countless kitchen melodramas disguised as art films, be better… or worse than The Revenant, a film that does the job? They also have long shots serving most of the time no purpose except to show the crew is capable (except in The Revenant it’s pretty spectacular). Most of these films have endless theater-like dialogues reflecting heavily about life with three penny psychology, delivered by the actors with a sad tone, written by an auteur who’s take on a subject is far from being right. The Revenant is a minimalist improbable violent and mean vengeance movie. It works on the level.
When Oscar season comes, there’s always a Steven Spielberg film around. Bridge of Spies is not his best, it is old fashioned (well, he’s not young anymore!) but it’s well done. Efficiently scripted, good acting, great camerawork especially in the opening at the train station where the camera follows every exchange and movements with a Hitchcock perfection that is almost gone today. Tom Hanks is Tom Hanks and actor Mark Rylance gives the best performance of all the nominees in the acting categories (https://cinetalk.net/2016/02/10/oscar-nominee-best-actor-in-a-supporting-role/). Love it or hate it, at least with Mr Spielberg we have a cinematic point of view. It is not the best film of the year, but, if we’re honest, it is the best made of the nominated films.
As far as the best film is a real concern, you should go foreign category. Even though it is a strange category as the nominees being decided by committees and the criteria are obviously different from the other categories. As a result there is some sympathetic nominations – Theeb (Jordan), A War (Denmark), Mustang (submitted by France) – that reflects more a contemporary interest in the state of the world than great cinematic achievements. Hungary’s Son of Saul, a great film that is, should win over this category and Colombia’s Embrace of the Serpent is an interesting contender.
Some films that were submitted to the Academy by their respective countries (but were not retained in the final group of five nominees) had great things to offer. From the America’s let’s name Brazil’s The Second Mother (Que horas ela volta?) Chile’s El Club (https://cinetalk.net/2016/02/18/el-club/) and Canada’s Felix & Meira. From Europe came great imageries from the likes of Belgium’s The Brand New Testament, Iceland’s Rams (https://cinetalk.net/2016/02/24/rams-iceland-2015/), Romania’s Aferim and Sweden’s A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence.
The Italians Paolo Sorrentino (Youth) and Matteo Garrone (Tale of Tales) could not compete having shot their films in English
You can access the link for the Best films of 2015 here: https://cinetalk.net/2016/01/16/the-7-films-of-2015/
Brazil’s The Boy and the World (O Menino e o Mundo) directed by Ale Abreu is the Best Animated feature. Follow the link for the article on this animated film: https://cinetalk.net/2016/01/28/the-boy-and-the-world-animation/
DOCUMENTARIES : The Look of Silence by Joshua Oppenheimer is the Best nominated documentary. Follow the link for the article on the nominees- Best Documentary, here : https://cinetalk.net/2016/01/22/best-documentary-the-oscars/
For Best Cinematography: https://cinetalk.net/2016/02/24/oscar-nominees-2016-cinematography/
For Best Score: https://cinetalk.net/2016/01/17/best-original-score-the-oscars/