As I said before, it has been tougher than usual - but I've finally made it: even this time I have seen all the movies nominated in the six major categories. And while it's not like in the recent past there haven't been terrible films even in the Best Picture race (remember The Blind Side? Seabiscuit? I certainly wish I wouldn't), Best Picture this year is one of the worst ever. I can't find anything truly impressive there - so of course making a list in order of preference is quite complicated. Anyway...
1. Spotlight. It definitely hasn't the bite - or the urgency - of similar movies made in the 70s which it has been wrongly compared with. And you don't feel the "emotional context" - they talk about it, but you dont feel it. But the story is interesting, it touches a number of relevant issues (some of those even too quickly), and the cast is generally well-directed.
2. Brooklyn. A "little" movie made with grace and sympathy, and about themes which may be more important than they seem at first sight. I'm not sure that I especially like its glowing look, and it ultimately might be too "soft" for my tastes, but it's quite pleasant and even unusually perceptive at times.
3. The Big Short. It tries a bit too hard to be "brilliant", but in such a year I don't find it necessarily a bad thing. Its energy is a welcome relief from such a lethargic slate, the actors are well-used and it's about things I (wrongly) have never been much interested in and didn't know much about, so in a way I can say that I learned something. It doesn't happen often at the movies anymore.
4. The Martian. Definitely not my kind of movie, but a good and not idiotic example of THAT kind.
5. Room. I liked its mood, and the fact that it's seen from the point of view of the child - and not the typical child we see in American movies. But narratively it goes from the unrealistic (the escape plan) to the forced (the attempted suicide) to the psychologically banal (the grandfather refusing to talk to the child - only in America, really!).
6. Bridge of Spies. A movie I wished I'd like more. As far as films of this type go, it's not The Spy Who Came In from the Cold.
7. The Revenant. The problem is - it's not as epic as it wants to be. It's a (simple, too simple) revenge story which Italian B-cinema (or C-cinema) of the 60s used to make with much less money and, I'd say, more content (though sub-textually, of course).
8. Mad Max Fury Road. I surrender.
1. Adam McKay. Ok, we got it - you are smart. But in a year so lacking in strong individual traits, even excess can be good.
2. Lenny Abrahamson. I liked him better than his movie - does the best he can with a flawed script.
3. Tom McCarthy. Discreet to the point of being invisible. But smooth and unobtrusive - he can certainly tell a story.
4. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. Big, Latin, "grand" - but size isn't everything, it's the way you use it.
5. George Miller. A good, efficient technician, surrounded, I am sure, by even better and more efficient technicians. But this isn't enough to make a movie A MOVIE.
1. Michael Fassbender. The (weak, soulless) script damages the movie itself - but one can't deny that his role is strong and showy, and that he does it justice. I can't say that I know much more about Jobs the man than I did before, but this isn't his fault.
2. Bryan Cranston. He acts too much, but at least he acts.
3. Matt Damon. He makes acting seems easy, which is something I like but which rarely gets prizes. A nice turn.
4. Leonardo Di Caprio. Charisma isn't enough when you haven't a character to play. Despite all the physical efforts, the performance is basically lazy.
5. Eddie Redmayne. Maria Schell's acting also was mostly about smiles, but at least she was beautiful.
1. Cate Blanchett. Great character, great performance, and movie-star radiance. Rare - and not just in this year.
2. Charlotte Rampling. In real life, I've been once at the receiving end of her famous, austere look. It's more pleasant in movies, and THIS movie uses it very well. She's clearly a master in the art of close-ups.
3. Saoirse Ronan. I'm not sure that she's already a very good or an extremely expressive actress, but she carries her movie with empathy and gracefulness.
4. Brie Larson. From a performance so universally praised I expected a bit more, frankly. Many other young actresses - if well-directed - could have done as well as she has. I won't be desperate when she wins her Oscar though.
5. Jennifer Lawrence. Dreadful, irritating movie, absolutely unremarkable performance.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
1. Mark Rylance. Reserved and subtle. A solid, professional turn - and for once you FEEL that there's a very good actor behind it.
2. Christian Bale. Better here than in the movie he won an Oscar for.
3. Mark Ruffalo. Too intense for the part he has to play. He's an obviously talented actor, but he still has to find his signature role.
4. Tom Hardy. A one-note performance - that it's intentionally one-note doesn't make it better.
5. Sylvester Stallone. Anyone else giving such a performance in such a movie would go unnoticed.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
1. Rooney Mara. Except for the fact that she's a lead, by far the best in this race.
2. Jennifer Jason Leigh. She seems to enjoy acting in a way she rarely seemed to do when she was younger. And we viewers share her joy. It may not be enough to call it a "great" turn, but it sure works.
3. Kate Winslet. I should check, but this might be her best (or second-best) Oscar-nominated performance ever. Still not enough to make her a winner by my standards, but in case she wins I will be pleased.
4. Alicia Vikander. She's not exactly bad, but her role and the movie she's in would prevent anyone from really giving a great performance.
5. Rachel McAdams. She's everywhere in this movie, and she's competent maybe - but the role just isn't the most interesting or complex ever.