Ladies and gentlemen, I have officially seen every single Best Picture nominee for 2015. You know what that means? It's time to rank them all. As is the case with every year, it's intriguing to see what exactly makes these films far more noteworthy than the hundreds of other titles competing for the top prize. In all honesty, this may be one of the better years in recent times, solely because while there's still racial diversity problems, this year featured an impressive mixture of genre diversity, which is something that has always felt like a problem. Where 2013 had only one part of the year and 2014 had only one sex, this year reflects a solid variety of what the year in film had to show. The following is my personal ranking with additional thoughts. If you wish to share your own ranking, please feel free to share in the comments.
I really didn't expect this to happen (no really, I didn't), but the fact that director George Miller's long overdue sequel in the Mad Max franchise has somehow not only become a Best Picture nominee, but is one of the front runners in nominations. It's one of those strange nominees that is itself a welcomed surprise because of how effective it is as pure adrenaline cinema. In an era where franchises and car movies dominate the box office, it's intriguing to see one of the genre's maestros return with a film that is more energetic and creative than anything made by anyone half of his age (he is 70-years-old). This is a film likely to live on for quite some time thanks to its rabid energy and the surprising amount of attention it has gotten over the past awards season. If nothing else, it's the most exciting (tonally) nominee of the year and possibly of the decade, sans Gravity.
I don't know how you could possibly call Steven Spielberg an underdog, but I do believe that his latest collaboration with Tom Hanks has qualified during this awards season. With one of his best films, he attacks the Cold War with all of the humanity and technical prowess that shows up in the best of his work. While the film isn't shy of having some nominations (including a deserved Best Supporting Actor spot for Mark Rylance), it's strange to see this film largely be absent from this awards season. It's one of Spielberg and Hanks' best work period, and the story feels more timely than most of this year's nominees. If nothing else, this is a film that encompasses the two sides of Spielberg (spectacle and drama) better than any film that he has done since Saving Private Ryan. While I don't expect it to come up big, I do hope that it gets more credit than it has been getting over the past few months.
|Scene from Room|
I am still baffled how a film like this made it into the Best Picture race. It's largely because of how unconventional it feels when in comparison to the prestige dramas that normally populate these lists. It's an uncomfortable, powerful, heartbreaking drama with two amazing performances from Jacob Tremblay and Brie Larson that is more than worthy of its acclaim. The film's inexplicable emotional cues are a fascinating alteration to the normal Oscar film and helps to create one of the best films of the year. The fact that Tremblay didn't get nominated is itself one of the biggest crimes of this year's Best Actor category. He doesn't just give one of the year's best performances, he gives one of the best child actor performances period.
|Scene from Spotlight|
With the film expected to win Best Picture, it makes sense why The Academy would fall for a film like this. For starters, the film is unfortunately a relic of how American journalism works. In a society of clickbait and Buzzfeed-style reporting, the value of truth doesn't feel as prominent as it once did. Spotlight manages to tackle a taboo subject with an unbiased lens while telling the story with a thorough and engaging story that reflects why director Thomas McCarthy has a gift for casting. The entire cast is strong and the story manages to reflect the complicated nature of why a touchy subject can have when it tears apart at your beliefs. It's a powerful film, though likely only one that will appeal to the journalism students who are nostalgic for the process that feels irrelevant now more than ever.
5. The Martian
I was honestly ready to give up on director Ridley Scott after a string of films that were more enjoyable than good. However, he somehow managed to knock out an impressive sci-fi film that takes realistic science and applies it to a survival story on Mars. While its humor may be overstated (it's a drama with comical moments, not the other way around), it's arguably one of the best NASA propaganda tools that we have right now, filling a hole left by the now 20-years-old Apollo 13. The Martian is a film that is very much about the science, but accessible in a way that makes it look exciting and fresh to audiences who don't have an ear for complicated mumbo jumbo. Matt Damon also delivers one of the year's best performances while basically talking to nothing but a computer. It's beautiful and technically impressive in ways that sci-fi films usually aren't allowed to be.
|Scene from Brooklyn|
While the above five Best Picture nominees are all powerful and challenging films in their own right, I really enjoy Brooklyn for being a sweet and simple experience. With a solid performance by Saoirse Ronan, this film about an Irish immigrant moving to America is full of great moments that reflect why Ronan is an underrated talent. The film may not offer much beyond an enjoyable, lighthearted story, but sometimes that's all that's necessary to make a good film. It is also great to see a film embrace Irish culture so openly in ways that feel often reserved for Italian culture. Even if this film doesn't manage to have the levity of its peers, it more than makes up for it with sheer earnestness.
What director Adam McKay goes for in this film isn't necessarily an awful idea. What the film achieves is an impressive attempt at making economics sound cool and resonant. By adding what can be described as pop-film making, McKay's vision of the housing collapse colorfully mixes movies, music, and culture that was relevant to the era in ways that make economics feel more familiar. With a strong sense of humor thrown in, the film is an impressive achievement in tone, though is also a film that manages to feel immediately dated in the process. The various cameos and style techniques are not going to age well and while the information that is found at the center of the film is resourceful, it doesn't have much else that's necessarily engaging for those who couldn't care about hearing con artists tell you how they ripped you off.
8. The Revenant
In case you weren't aware, I think that this one of the best looking films of the year while also being among the worst. It's masochism disguised as art, and Leonardo DiCaprio's performance doesn't deserve an Oscar so much as we need a Best Stunt Performer category. The film lacks any real plot and while its breathtaking visuals is enough to get by for the first 45 or so minutes, it quickly devolves into DiCaprio grunting across the cold white plains of Canada. The film is not good, and only deserving of technical Oscars. Why everyone loves this boring, unnecessarily masochistic movie is beyond me. My one hope is that The Academy doesn't take suit after The Golden Globes and give this turkey a prize that it doesn't deserve.