Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Wheel Award for Excellence in Motion Pictures

Oscar night is long gone. "Spotlight" was the Academy's pick for "Best Picture." I couldn't say at the time whether it would be my own pick for best movie of 2015 because I hadn't seen most of the nominees at that time. Well, now that it's summer, I've can finally say I've seen all eight Oscar nominees for 2015's "Best Picture" and I can pick a winner. Can I get a drum roll?


My ranking is based on the grades I gave the movies immediately after viewing them. In case of ties, I ordered them by my considered judgment today.

The envelope please. The winner of "The Wheel Award for Excellence in Motion Pictures" goes to...
  • Spotlight: Based on true story. Principled. Important. Suspenseful. Maybe too tailored for Oscar notice, but it still delivers. A-

Congratulations to the runners-up.
  • Room: Woman and son locked in backyard shed for years. Horrific premise, delicately treated. Faithful to novel, if more detached. B+
  • The Big Short: Outsiders bet against housing market and win. Don't blame the poor. Wall Street is rigged. Too many stories here. B-
  • The Revenant: One note survival tale. Live action "Oh, No! Mr Bill!" Oscar for Leo DiCaprio for wheezing and grunting. Great look. B-
  • The Martian: Too far-fetched for serious drama, but mostly fun in a sciency, good way. Spoiler alert: of course he's saved. B-
  • Brooklyn: Irish girl emigrates to Brooklyn in 1950s but home still tugs. Simple, sweet love story. Enchanting look and feel. B-
  • Bridge of Spies: Cold War prisoner exchange. Well-done, paint-by-numbers movie. Tom Hanks in what used to be a Gregory Peck role. B-
  • Mad Max: Fury Road: One long desert car chase with crashes, explosions and grunts. Mind-numbing. Cartoonish. Sexist. "Mediocre." D+

All in all, this wasn't a great year for movies. All the nominees were fine, but none will be remembered as great. For me, the snubs will be remembered more. Neither of these next movies were nominated by the Academy, but if they had been, the first would have received my top award. The second would have been in my top three.
  • Beasts of No Nation: African child soldier. Violent, brutal, dehumanizing, heartbreaking. Powerful film-making. Why no Oscar nom? A+
  • Straight Outta Compton: Straight Outta Compton (2015): I still don't like gangster rap, but I love this movie. Back story of the music and of modern America. A-