The Academy of Motion Picture And Sciences recently announced the nominees for the 88th annual trophy handout that arouses the movie critic in each of us. Come the awards show on February 29 (Manila time), everyone will be talking about the 2016 Oscars, specifically the winners and if they deserved it.
But who has time to watch all of that pseudo-intellectual junk these days? Okay: Us. So we reviewed it for you to help you choose your torrents pick who you'll be rooting for carefully. The best part, we kept each review relatively short and direct to the effing point, because we know how hectic your lives are, you go-getters!
Warning: Possible spoilers up ahead!
Best Picture Nominees
A popular meme goes, "America has spent a lot of money trying to retrieve Matt Damon." This time in The Martian, Matt is an astronaut who was left for dead after being impaled during a martian storm. He survives because part of the NASA training is to perform surgery on yourself.
And for the sake of plot convenience, he is a botanist! He grew potatoes on Mars and kept a detailed vlog. NASA and the world thought he was a goner but a night shift employee was doing her job well (playing spot-the-difference with Mars satellite photos). It would take NASA about two years to rescue him but thanks to Donald Glover, maybe he wouldn’t have to wait that long.
To be honest, it’s really just like: The Last Man on Earth or Cast Away except it’s on Mars
But you should really see it because: It’s got a good mix of science and heart, plus tips on how to make it on your own if you ever find yourself needing to survive on another planet.
The film is a loose, cinematic survival account of folk legend but widely unknown Hugh Glass. He seems important from an American frontiersman's POV but for the rest of the world, he only matters because Leonardo DiCaprio plays him. Leo is mauled by a bear and was left for dead by the crew (seriously, what’s up with crews leaving men behind?) but survives because it might finally be worth an Oscar. He spends the rest of the movie trying to make it back to civilization and his family, all the while plotting revenge against the buff Tom Hardy, his personal Judas in the story.
To be honest, it’s really just like: Into The Wild: Go Pro except here we have the real Leo and not some bootleg version of him
But you should really see it because: The camerawork and editing are amazing and you’d feel like you’re in it. Hopefully it comes out on 3D.
Room's harrowing premise makes it seem like a difficult film to watch. There are no buts. It really is a challenge to sit down and keep your focus when your eyes are constantly wet. It does not help that the movie is narrated by and presented in the point of view of a child, because that's a surefire way to manipulate viewer emotions.
Brie Larson was abducted by a psychopath, was impregnated, and raised her child—who looks like the spawn of Tarzan—inside a 10x10 room for about five years. One day they had the opportunity to escape, but it kind of morphed into a depressing beginning instead of a happy ending.
To be honest, it’s really just like: Blast From The Past but the complete opposite of funny
But you should really see it because: Sometimes you want a good, ugly cry to see if your heart still works. So grab a pillow and a blankie.
Bridge of Spies
Tom Hanks plays James Donovan in this tense Cold War thriller. Donovan is an insurance lawyer who represented a Russian spy captured in the US, Abel. He lost the case but was later tasked to negotiate a prisoner exchange—Abel for an American pilot—after the KGB shot down a US aircraft.
Plot twist: The Germans have another American prisoner, and the negotiation becomes a two-for-one trade. Everything else is on Wikipedia. It’s a Spielberg so we also expected dinosaurs. There’s a lot of talking it could be a podcast.
To be honest, it’s really just like: Every other Tom Hanks movie
But you should really see it because: The dialogue is sharp and far from a bore, thanks to the contributions of the Coen brothers (they wrote the screenplay).
Hollywood’s best Batman, Michael Keaton, leads a team of investigative journalists in an expose of a massive cover-up on child sexual abuse by Catholic priests. The team is made up of Mark Scruffy-lo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci, and the guy from Sex and the City who was into golden showers. Billy Crudup plays a creepy, corrupt lawyer whose face you just want to punch. The scandal is but a background to the real story that the movie Spotlight wants to tell: what the journalists went through to get the job done.
To be honest, it’s really just like: The Newsroom but with Michael Keaton and some other A-Listers
But you should really see it because: The Wikipedia entry for "Catholic Church sexual abuse cases" is too long and it shouldn’t be like that.
The Big Short
The Big Short has decided that the global financial crisis of 2008 is now a matter of laughter and entertainment as long as you tell the story with handsome and funny people. The movie takes you through the events leading up to the recession of 2008-2012, with the help and guidance of four charming white guys. The real twist to this movie is that they all have weird haircuts. It would be a cakewalk had you sat down and watched the documentary Inside Job prior, otherwise it’s just a bunch of guys saying "hedge fund."
To be honest, it’s really just like: Too Big To Fail with handsome actors OR The Wolf Of Wall Street 2.0 OR Ocean’s Eleven with just Brad Pitt
But you should really see it because: It sheds some light on the great financial collapse that affected the whole world just eight years ago.
Hipster hero Nick Hornby has finally turned in a screenplay that landed him an Oscar nomination. In Brooklyn, we follow the story of Eilis, a cute Irish immigrant seeking a more fulfilling life in America and also because her sister already got dibs on the most eligible bachelor in Ireland. She then meets an Italian in New York whose family is eager to teach her how to eat spaghetti. In the midst of her Coney Island fun and Italian romance, she’s called back home for a funeral. She runs into a local cutie who made her go, "Hmm, maybe I should stay after all."
To be honest, it’s really just like: A less whimsical Amelie but equally charming
But you should really see it because: It would be nice to forget what Saoirse Ronan did in Atonement.
In 2015, dads everywhere were thrilled to take their children to the movies for something that isn't Star Wars. In Fury Road, Tom Hardy reprises his role as Bane or Dominic Toretto and tries to stay relevant while sharing the screen with babes like Charlize Theron and Rosie Huntington. Furiosa (Theron) tries to illegally immigrate Immortan Joe’s (Hugh Keays-Byrne) five wives because the Citadel is becoming a truly gentrified community of extremely white people. But Joe wants to keep America diverse so he and the rest of his army set out to chase after Furiosa’s war rig. From there we see a lot of paint huffing, Slash, and Cirque du Soleil.
To be honest, it’s really just like: The Fast And The Furious on an acid trip
But you should really see it because: It is easily the most visually stunning film of this entire bunch. It's an action flick that does not alienate women. Witness it.
Anomalisa is a stop-motion animated film for the depressed. The hero of the film, Michael, suffers from perpetual boredom. Lonely guy, lonely guy, lonely guy. We see the glamour of business travel and hotel life: rolling luggage, room service, spelling out a salad, meeting strangers. Everyone Michael meets has the same voice and the same face probably because paying voice actors and molding more faces in clay costs money (the movie was initially funded in Kickstarter). At one point she hears the voice of a woman, a co-star! This is Lisa. Michael thinks he’s in love.
To be honest, it’s really just like: Lost In Translation in stop-motion
But you should really see it because: Animated sex. Other than that, it’s poignant and sometimes sadness can be beautiful.
Carol begins with an elaborately shot seduction scene featuring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. In fact, the whole thing is just a bunch of longing gazes between two lovers. Carol wants out of her marriage to the coach from Friday Night Lights, but he’ll take away their daughter if she leaves. He’s not anti-LGBT, just extremely jealous and perhaps couldn’t talk his way into a threesome.
To be honest, it’s really just like: Cate Blanchett for Armani. Flawless, flawless skin.
But you should really see it because: It doesn’t end in tragedy unlike many LGBT films that make it to mainstream theatres.
In the early '90s, our heroes were fellow kids who defied the rules of sport because it tells a good story (what's up, Mighty Ducks?). Nowadays, as if real life Revenge of the Nerds, cinematic inspiration comes in the form of nerd biopics. A hunky Michael Fassbender assumes the role of late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. Like an iPhone, this is just the latest iteration of a Steve Jobs biopic since he died. It’s better than the last but the best is yet to come.
To be honest, it’s really just like: Gandhi but with a turtleneck and nerds for followers
But you should really see it because: The one with Ashton Kutcher was really awful.
In true Mr. White fashion, Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo worked under pseudonyms and released some of his best creations anonymously. Trumbo was later recognized by the Academy for Roman Holiday and The Brave One. Now Bryan Cranston is an Academy Award nominee and we all know he’s the one person who deserves an Oscar for a TV show. Anyway, Trumbo got in trouble for being a communist. He was jailed, blacklisted by Hollywood, and took on ghostwriting because writers gotta write (and eat).
To be honest, it’s really just like: Kissing Dalton Trumbo’s ass
But you should really see it because: Louis C.K. is delightful to watch, alongside John Goodman and Helen Mirren. Despite the circumstances surrounding the life of Trumbo, the film is light-hearted without discarding the significance of Trumbo’s fight.
From Turkey comes Mustang, a story of five orphaned sisters all in line for arranged marriages. These girls are all about innocent fun but the weird adults surrounding them watch too many episodes of Girls Gone Wild. The sisters were grounded for the long term and were married off one by one. The youngest one keeps stating the obvious and has a lot to learn about the art of film narration.
To be honest, it’s really just like: The Virgin Suicides dosed with #realworldgirlproblems
But you should really see it because: Girls are often sexualized at an age when they don’t even bother to think about sex, and in the movie we see how marriage arrangements affect the lives of girls who want nothing more than to live their lives the way they want to. Mustang definitely takes #girlproblems to a whole new, devoid-of-humor, eye-opening level.
45 Years may just qualify as a horror flick because of its dreadful preview of what marriage could be after, well, 45 years. A couple about to celebrate their wedding anniversary is disturbed by news from an unmentioned past: dead ex-girlfriend’s body found preserved in a glacier in the Swiss Alps. The relationship is rattled in the days building up to the anniversary party and we see two oldies deal with some high school drama. The jealousy is also a little hard to understand if you do a quick search on Charlotte Rampling from 45 years ago.
To be honest, it’s really just like: The Notebook without Alzheimer’s
But you should really see it because: Very rarely do old married couples get that kind of excitement so late in life.
The Hateful 8
The latest addition to the Tarantino movie universe is unfortunately another Western. To make it stand out, he added snow. He brags that the movie was shot in 70mm film. People do not understand nor care. The story is about eight weirdos trapped in a bed and breakfast during a snowstorm, four of which did not make reservations online. They kill each other because of this, but also because of racism. QT insists on telling the story in chapters because it’s stylish but ends up with a three-hour film.
To be honest, it’s really just like: Django Unchained and Inglorious Basterds. With snow.
But you should really see it because: The action scenes are some of the most violent, bloody, and gruesome of Tarantino’s films.
In what appears to be the third instance of Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper effecting movie magic, we follow the misadventures of Joy, an uninteresting protagonist portrayed by one of Hollywood’s hottest commodities. Joy, bored with life, invents on a mop and successfully markets it on TV. Aaaand...that’s it.
To be honest, it’s really just like: A modern day entrepreneur Cinderella
But you should really see it because: J-Law.
Creed’s only nomination was scored by Rocky himself with Sylvester Stallone for Best Supporting Actor. It's a story about Rocky’s opponent’s son: Adonis. Having never met his dad, he goes after the next best thing and signs Rocky up to be his personal trainer. As Michael B. Jordan showcases the complete opposite of dad bod, Rocky gets cancer. He wants to give up but if movie montages ever taught us anything, it’s that we don’t quit because the main event is coming up.
To be honest, it’s really just like: Rocky, Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV, Rocky V, and Rocky Balboa
But you should really see it because: Rocky has passed the torch, and Southpaw is just too depressing.
Son of Saul
Son of Saul is a kind of Holocaust drama that could drive Hitler to drink poison. We all carry a sick fascination towards one of the worst events in human history, and added personal drama only amplifies the interest. Saul’s life is basically an episode of Dirty Jobs: He cleans up the dead bodies. While working for the executioners of his own people, he believes that he found the still-dying body of his bastard son. Talk about feel-bad movies.
His personal mission now is to find a Rabbi and give the boy the most decent burial possible. But Saul is pressed for time because the rest of his colleagues are plotting an escape. What a time to be stubborn.
To be honest, it’s really just like: Being down in a hole and wanting to cry but no tears come out anymore
But you should really see it because: There is some real drama here, almost driving the Holocaust to a mere background. Son of Saul reinforces the notion that the best of humanity can still be flawed especially when surrounded by pure evil.
Animated movies are the ones that make us cry these days. They have a knack for tugging at our heartstrings just by dissecting the most basic of emotions. Inside Out is all about the feels but tears did not come a-rollin' this year. It's a story of how Joy (Self-Important), Sadness (Blue Velma), Anger (Danny Devito), Disgust (Bitchy Tinkerbell), and Fear (Voice of Bill Hader) control the behavior of their human, Riley, relieving her of all sorts of responsibility and accountability for her actions. A horrible thing to teach the kids. Everything is a visual metaphor that gets old easy.
To be honest, it’s really just like: A rough draft of a Pixar movie. It's not the most aesthetically pleasing Pixar movie out there.
But you should really see it because: It provides a birds-and-the-bees explanation of human feelings and you can blame stuff on imaginary people in your head.
In Ex Machina, a robot prototype (Ava) that looks exactly like a robot prototype is being tested against a human subject (Caleb) in a secret lab/house filled with furniture from Muji. Virgin nerd Caleb develops a crush on Ava, and he believes the feeling is mutual. They spend a week doing experimental trysts showing us what we already know: Natural Language Processing has come a long way. But Ava is shrouded in mystery and would drop hints about wanting to see the outside world or being abused by her creator, Nathan. Sentiments that pander to virgin nerds' desire to be a hero and get into her pants (you can).
To be honest, it’s really just like: Her, with a body
But you should really see it because: There is a well-choreographed dance number, and the movie does provoke a good amount of thought on humanities, gender, and ethics.