I shall start with a little ditty.
Oscar season is here again!
So gather ’round all ye’ old friends!
We’ll watch the show and drink a bit!
And wonder who made all this fantastic art.
Of course, I joke. I do these annual summaries of the best picture nominees out of love and adoration. Honestly. I enjoy the artistry that goes into film. I respect the hard work and effort of the good women and men in the industry. I envy those who can provide entertainment to others for a living. (Obviously this column is not providing much.)
But I was worried this year. During the course of 2015, I went to the theater and saw 2, count ’em, TWO movies! That is 200% more than I have seen in the theaters since I began this project many years ago. And, one of them was actually good-to-great and was rumored to be a nominated for a Best Picture award. But, alas, Minions did not get the nod this year, and I am able to proceed with this column still batting 0 for Oscar nominations. (For full disclosure, the other movie I saw in the theater this year was the surprisingly good, original (if you forget about the early, and underrated, 90s Fox sitcom “Herman’s Head”), and touching Inside Out. That was the film I was worried might get a Best Picture nod.) If either of these two movies had received a Best Picture nomination, my children were going to be forced to write this column! (Which would have consisted of the following: the case for advanced botany studies to defeat future reanimated corpse plagues, the interpersonal dynamics and resulting co-dependence of the Teen Titans, and several jokes about chicken butts.)
Now that has been settled and it has been clearly established that I have, again, seen absolutely zero minutes of these movies, I give you my summaries/reviews of the eight films vying for the Academy Award Best Picture prize.
The Big Short — Peter Jackson has done it again! After working his way through The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit trilogy, Jackson discovered some very rare J.R.R. Tolkien manuscripts to create the story behind this film. Rumor has it this story’s source was discovered by Jackson while digging through Tolkien’s ancient family compost pile, but that has not been confirmed. The Big Short returns the viewer to Middle-Earth, specifically the Shire. However, instead of a grand adventure, the tale follows the day-to-day troubles of Andre, the largest Hobbit who ever lived. Subject to daily ridicule by his less gigantic peers, Andre turned to the rough and tumble world of professional Hobbit wrestling and the occasional acting gig (however, acting was still seen as the less evolved of the two professions in which Andre engaged, despite his proven crowd appeal and draw). Andre spent years defeating many other inhabitants of Middle-Earth and its nearby environs. He had many battles with very ugly Orcs and a grand battle with a super-Elf named Hulk something which is still spoken about in awed tones today. The movie does not sink into despair over Andre’s difficulties living with his overly venti Hobbit body, but instead attempts to show Andre as a sympathetic figure striving for acceptance. Even after the weight of Andre’s incredible bulk (and equally heavy heart) bring about his early Hobbit death, director Peter Jackson provides a moving tribute. The movie ends with a tableau of the many, many incidents of Hobbit graffiti scattered throughout Middle-Earth, displaying Andre’s image and simply declaring “Obey.”
This movie is Hobbitual. (Horrible pun ftw!)
Bridge of Spies — It is strange to have an obvious summer blockbuster on this list, but perhaps the Academy is loosening up a little. This movie is the newest entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, while many of the main characters come from the Marvel comic history, a new bad guy surfaces. This big evil is worse than all the previous Marvel baddies put together. In fact, Lodi couldn’t tie his shoes! And Thanos would wet himself in his presence! This new bad guy is named … The Civil Engineer! After a brief origin story (not to give away any spoilers, but it involved a shaky overpass and a major American highway), The Civil Engineer sets out to resolve society’s biggest issue – its crumbling infrastructure. However, in typical evildoer manner, instead of using materials such as steel and concrete, he captures and sews together Nick Fury, Black Widow, Agent Coulson, the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Agent Carter. And to truly showcase his evil intentions, he uses a very disturbing human centipede design method and construction. Unlike most superhero movies, this one ends in very dark territory. As the camera pans up and up and up and up, the scene illuminates that this “bridge of spies” The Civil Engineer has created is in use solely as a footbridge over a puddle at the end of his driveway. As with most Marvel superhero movies, after the credits roll, we get a bonus scene of The Civil Engineer casually strolling across the bridge of Marvel’s greatest spies to retrieve his mail. That scene has Whedon written all over it.
But much worse, trust me.
Brooklyn — What initially looks to be a fluff marketing piece about professional basketball turns into a harrowing tale of human trafficking, remnants of Cold War politics, capitalism run rampant, and flat-out misogynistic soft-porn. The basic premise of this movie is that a professional American basketball team is purchased by a crazy Russian billionaire, played by crazy Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. Prokhorov has a reputation for being a loud and flamboyant rich guy, so he immediately moves the team (the New Jersey Nets) to Brooklyn, New York. Along the way, he enlists the help of a young fellow just trying to make a name for himself, Jay Z. However, public interest in the lousy Nets does not improve despite Prokhorov’s and Beyonce’s husband’s best efforts. After a night of chugging Red Bulls, the Russian billionaire turns to a controversial plan hatched in the back rooms of an old KGB front. Prokhorov spends the rest of his time in New York attempting to woo and negotiate with fashion model and actress Brooklyn Decker. After roughly 6 minutes of tough negotiating, Prokhorov purchases the soul of Decker. The final third of the movie is dedicated to clips of Nets players dribbling the ball off their feet and bricking shot after shot. All the while, Brooklyn Decker’s bikini-clad image is shown above them in super high-definition on the scoreboard. Disturbing.
The last image of Brooklyn Decker with her soul.
Mad Max Fury Road — Funny story. It seems there was a typo in the movie’s title. This caused way too many people to visit the theaters to watch this film. Obviously the Academy voters were not any of those people, or else they have some severe issues and we should avoid them at all costs. In actuality, this movie is the story of an angry middle-aged man named Maxwell who lives in a gated community. The twist is that this community is inhabited solely by “furries.” According to Wikipedia, furry fandom is defined as “a subculture interested in fictional anthropomorphic animal characters with human personalities and characteristics.” In this movie, that may be true, but angry Maxwell tends to be more interested in having sex with other people who are dressed like animals. Sort of like bestiality without the commitment. But still very, very icky.
I thought the Academy was making a statement and standing up for what they considered to be a brave film about overcoming the stereotypes of cute, talking animals willing to do household chores (a stereotype promoted by basically every animated Disney film, ever), but the truth is that this isn’t that movie. It is just abusive perversion about a bunch of people who get off on animal cosplay. Mad Max Fu(r)ry Road definitely did not deserve a place on this nomination list.
The furries are coming.
The Martian — This groundbreaking movie details the rise and fall of one of Warner Brothers’ greatest stars, Marvin the Martian. Playing like an extended version of VH1’s Behind the Music, the film delves into Marvin’s story with great interest. From his humble beginnings (he didn’t even have a name!) in Bugs Bunny cartoons, to his continued failures to destroy to the Earth (because it obstructed his view of Venus), to his classic conservationist battle with Duck Dodgers in the 24 and 1/2 Century (where he saved Planet X from being raided for its natural resource, Illudium Phosdex, better known as the Shaving Cream atom), through his experimentation with mad science (his allegiance with Gossamer), to his ultimate realization that his weapons supplier cheated him and provided faulty Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulators, Marvin is shown to be truly Martian. The film doesn’t dwell on his days fighting bullies who criticized his ant-like appearance, nor his obvious anger issues (he keeps repeating the phrase “this makes me very angry, very angry indeed”) throughout his career. Instead, we see surprising angles of this complex creature. We get to see glimpses of Marvin the art lover, “Isn’t that lovely?” and Marvin the existential philosopher, “Where’s the kaboom? There was supposed to be an Earth-shattering kaboom!” At the end, we simply feel enriched that we got to spend some time with this one-of-a-kind Martian and his companion K-9. How Marvin did not get a Best Actor nomination, or at least a Lifetime Achievement Award, from this performance is beyond any logic. After all, aren’t we all just a little Martian on the inside?
Admit it, you like him better than Damon.
The Revenant — It seems like this film was due. In an age of zombie revisionism, combined with an age of Hollywood not having an original idea in decades, The Revenant is a reboot of the 1966 classic Dracula versus Billy the Kid. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio in his greatest role (aka “Please please please please please please please please give me an Oscar. Look what a great actor I am. Look at me acting all over the place! Please give me an Oscar. I’ll be your best friend.”), this film takes place in the wilderness of the vast western territories. It also stars a bear. Is it a zombie bear? I am not sure. But I am pretty sure Leo is a zombie in the movie. And that alone makes it worthy of being on this list.
We always knew this was going to happen, didn’t we?
Room — In the spirit of internet legends such as Garfield Minus Garfield and Garfield Minus Thought Bubbles, Room reimagines the Tommy Wiseau “classic” with every demonstrative adjective removed. Instead of The Room, we get Room. See what they did there? Unfortunately, this did not make the movie any better or make any more sense. But as an intellectual exercise, it was definitely there. Vegas considers Room to be the odds-on favorite to win the Oscar, for no other reason than this:
Spotlight — The Academy normally likes to reward at least one avant-garde film each year. This year, Spotlight is the choice. This movie turns the tables on the audience, making them the stars. Special equipment was loaned to theaters across the country to truly experience this movie in its greatest detail. Not to get too technical, the movie screen is replaced with a giant mirrored surface. Then, the film is shown, but the film is translucent. The only thing the audience sees is the reflected light of the projector’s super-bright bulb for three and a half hours. Most film-goers were left permanently blinded by this movie. And most critics think this film has a chance to win Best Picture, but they don’t really care anymore since they can only hear movies now.
Eyesight had a good run.
And those are the contenders for this year’s Academy Award for Best Picture. May the best celluloid win!
Tags: 2016 Academy Awards, Andre the Giant, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Brooklyn Decker, Furries, Herman's Head, Jay-Z, leonardo dicaprio, Mad Max: Fury Road, Marvin the Martian, Oscar, Room, Spotlight, The Big Short, The Martian, The Revenant, tommy wiseau, Zombie