On Sunday night, Hollywood will get together for its biggest party of the year, the 88th Annual Academy Awards, otherwise known as the Oscars. The night promises laughs, shocks, and plenty of controversy as for the second straight year all 20 acting nominees are white. With comedian Chris Rock hosting, expect some jabs directed at the Academy.
I love the Oscars, even when I hate them. Movies are my passion and the biggest night in movies has become a holiday akin to the Super Bowl. Every year, I try earnestly to see all the films nominated for top honors, and I went over and beyond this year. Not only did I watch all 8 nominated films, but I watched 19 of the 20 of the ranked Oscar performances (sorry Charlotte Rampling). Since this is my first of several Oscars 2016 columns to come, I thought it best to start in the same way the big show begins”¦ no sorry, not with a huge musical number. Nearly every year, they open the awards distribution with a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Last year, JK Simmons accepted his trophy for playing the deliciously malicious orchestra leader in Best Pic nominee Whiplash. Simmons, much more resigned than his ferocious role as Fletcher, encouraged everyone to call their moms.
So without further ado, let’s introduce the Best Supporting Actor and Actress nominees, and then move on to the Best Actor and Actress nominees. I’ll tell you who will likely will win”¦ but more importantly, who I think should win.
More than any other year this decade, 2015 had a sufficient amount of prestigious films that had distinct narratives about women being considerably perplexed and troubled with their particular situations. Perusing the films on my list, I started to realize that a vast number of them contained women longing to attain an ideal, a passion, or a faint semblance of hope that the future can and will be brighter. From all over the globe these individuals sought love and respect only to encounter threatening obstacles, some that could be overcome and others that could barely be comprehended, let alone endured.
The atmosphere that Harley found herself in in Heaven Knows What was beyond volatile and dangerous, but it didn’t prohibit her from dreaming of a better existence for herself and her lover. A lethal assassin is summoned back to her homeland to carry out a murder but is unable to do so due to her growing consciousness in The Assassin. Two women who fall spellbindingly in love in Carol each possess desires to create a lasting bond with each other despite society’s unbending morality. Looking to move up in the ranks of the FBI and make a name for herself, Kate unquestionably steps too far out of her comfort zone where she quickly meets the most ruthless of men in Sicario. And the women of Mad Max: Fury Road are acquainted with an impossible to comprehend evil but are willing to go through an unrelenting gauntlet to attain their ideal.
The annual ritual of narrowing down hundreds of titles to just 10 is a cruel but necessary discipline as a film critic. Over the past 12 months, I’ve seen 100 new releases. I spent a combined eight days watching movies this year, and I’m happy to report that 2015 has been a pretty great year for cinema.
We saw new work by visionary filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, Ridley Scott, Todd Haynes, George Miller, and Denis Villeneuve. We witnessed noteworthy performances by Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Oscar Isaac, Michael B. Jordan, Saoirse Ronan, and Brie Larson. And we were entertained and awe-struck by blockbusters like Mad Max: Fury Road, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.
I saw some truly great movies that renewed my love for cinema and kept my cynicism and negativity buried beneath joy and optimism this year. Here are the ones that did just that: 10 films that moved, inspired, and reinvigorated me.
Carol Director: Todd Haynes
Screenwriter: Phyllis Nagy
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Kyle Chandler, Jake Lacy, Carrie Brownstein The Weinstein Company
Rated R | 118 Minutes
Release Date: December 25, 2015
“My angel, flung out of space…”
Directed by Todd Haynes (I’m Not There, Far From Heaven) and written by Phyllis Nagy (Mrs. Harris), Carol is based on the novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith.
Set in 1952 in New York City, the movie follows Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara), a twentysomething shop clerk, and her relationship with Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett), an alluring older woman going through a divorce. An aspiring photographer, Therese is working in the toy department of a Manhattan department store when she is approached by Carol, who purchases a model train set for her daughter as a Christmas gift.