Posts Tagged ‘Oscar nominee’


Room is a heartbreaking story that is great despite being depressing from beginning to end.

As you can imagine, a movie titled Room is a restricted narrative. Nearly the whole first half of the movie takes place inside a single room with basically two characters. Brie Larson plays the main character, Ma—who was kidnapped when she was 17 years old and repeatedly raped by her captor. Her real name is Joy, which is not very fitting considering her awful situation. Joy gave birth to Jack—who turns 5 years old during the movie and he has never stepped outside. Jack doesn’t understand that there is a world beyond the walls. The outside world to him is outer space. Jack doesn’t know that other human beings are real. His exposure to the world is through the fake pictures on television. Jack only knows his mother and his mysterious kidnapper (given the devilish moniker Old Nick).

This movie works because of Brie Larson as Joy and Jacob Tremblay as Jack.

Brie Larson

Brie Larson is tasked with the heavy lifting and she rises to the occasion. I first fell in love with Brie Larson a few years ago after Short Term 12—a bonafide 5-star movie still streaming on Netflix. Brie Larson is absolutely sweet, charming, and endearing. People are expecting her to experience a similar career surge as Jennifer Lawrence if she wins the Oscar for Best Actress this year. She’s the prohibitive favorite and deserves the distinction. And she’s a much better actress than Jennifer Lawrence.

Personally, I think Jacob Tremblay was snubbed for Best Supporting Actor. Maybe his nomination would have interfered with the orchestrated plan to retroactively honor Sylvester Stallone for Rocky. This little kid was much better than Sly mumbling along as a brain-damaged boxer—quite a stretch for Stallone and convenient that his character had a built-in excuse for his inability to speak. Jacob Tremblay’s acting was shocking for someone so young. Of course you want to root for these two characters to escape. However, it’s also natural if you want to throw the kid across the fucking room at times.

Jacob Tremblay

One missed opportunity is the failure to define Old Nick. You don’t have any idea as to his motivation and the man has no discernible character traits. I’m not asking for much, but I would’ve been better served with Old Nick having some purpose beyond needing to fuck every night. As written, Old Nick is a standard, one-dimensional bad guy. It’s understandable if you might find it difficult to maintain your interest through such a bleak plight, but I was on the edge for the whole movie.

Room is emotionally captivating. This movie places the audience in these claustrophobic confines and you feel what the characters feel. The depression would be incapacitating and overwhelming. Brie Larson’s character is just trying to hold everything together for as long as she can. When shit breaks down, it’s incredibly tense because you can’t help but scream and squirm in your seat.

Very few quibbles could be had with the construction of Room. There are no windows in this room, unless you count an annoying skylight—which I do. The skylight gives them a glimpse of the outside world. It represents hope while simultaneously torturing them with what they can’t experience. In this situation, it’s hard to imagine having much hope. However, the skylight is a frustrating element that demanded addressing. This young woman and her 5-year-old son are being held captive in a shed with a door locked by a passcode. Padding on the ceiling muffles sound, but the characters still scream at the top of the lungs during their daily routine in an attempt to draw anyone’s attention.


Why the fuck wouldn’t they try to shatter the skylight glass? You could yell for help or even try to crawl up to the roof of this small 10×10 shed. I’m fine with the route that Room took, but there needed to be an attempt or at the very least some throwaway mention that it’s shatterproof glass (unless I completed missed that). It’s a relatively minor nitpick in an otherwise phenomenal film.

Room separates itself from being standard kidnapper genre fodder by focusing on the aftermath. If you could somehow survive this situation, would you want to? What makes life worth living? I don’t know how you could cope with being raped every night for 7 years. This movie is based on a book of fiction, which I found somewhat surprising since it seems like an amalgamation of true events. You feel like you’ve heard a similar story. Lenny Abrahamson (who also directed sleeper hit/cult favorite Frank last year) deserves credit for keeping the pace brisk. Although this should have been reduced by about 15 minutes, the third act is full of emotional moments that make the room rather dusty.

Room deserves your adulation. This year’s Oscars is an extremely crowded group for Best Picture, but Room is in its rightful place among The Revenant and The Big Short (though Mad Max: Fury Road is unparalleled in its greatness). Brie Larson will likely be the major recipient of this movie’s well-deserved praise—especially after she wins Best Actress. But I’ll also watch the next movie with Lenny Abrahamson at the helm. Coming off the unique and largely unforgettable experience of Frank, I’m certain that Room is not just a one-and-done case of Stockholm Syndrome with Brie Larson.

Thank You

4.5 out of 5 stars



The Martian is a good movie. That much is not in question.

However, the extent to which it is a good movie is up for debate.

Critics and the audience share an identical 92% approval rate for The Martian on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s not a 92 out of 100 rating (you’d be surprised how many people misunderstand Rotten Tomatoes), but it is indicative of the fact that most people enjoyed their experience. For me, a crucial factor in differentiating between good and great movies is the degree of re-watchability.

Similar to The Revenant, The Martian is not a movie I want to visit again.

I can recognize that this is a worthy motion picture, but get the hell out of here with talk of this movie earning awards for Best Picture or Best Actor. Matt Damon is great in this role. He’s believable and personable—you want to root for him. Even if you haven’t watched The Martian, you should be familiar with the basic premise that astronaut Mark Watney is stranded on Mars trying to survive long enough to be rescued. Or to put it in the parlance of our times, he has to “science the shit out of this.”

Science Shit

The Martian premiered all the way back in October, and I have been putting off seeing it since then.

That’s not meant as an insult to this movie. I just knew what it would be—without ever reading the source material. It’s very, very familiar territory. Call it Space Castaway if you want. At least it’s better than the insufferable, interminable bore that was Gravity. But it’s damn sure not in the same stratosphere as Moon (starring the superior Sam Rockwell). The Martian just has no lasting effects.

Perhaps the most resounding impact of this movie will be that it’s finally another win for Ridley Scott. In the last 7 or so years, Prometheus is probably his best movie and even that is incredibly polarizing in terms of popularity. Coming off the suicide of his brother (and director) Tony Scott, Ridley’s latest movies were The Counselor and Exodus: Gods and Kings—both extraordinarily, exceptionally awful. Maybe not being nominated for Best Director will result in the Prometheus sequel(s)/Alien prequel(s) being better movies. One can dream. My hopes aren’t incredibly high because The Martian is far too bloated and fatty, which is likely why this wasn’t nominated for Best Director or Best Editing.

Matt Damon

While the visuals are stunning and Matt Damon carries the movie impressively, The Martian still left me feeling lacking after 144 minutes. Through the first hour, the pacing is impeccable and the cuts to NASA are interspersed appropriately. But that momentum grinds to a halt in the second half. I don’t know the exact breakdown, but it feels like almost a half-hour of the movie is without Matt Damon as Mark Watney. I didn’t give a fuck about any of the other characters. It was necessary to introduce certain key players in order to propel the story, but those sequences should have been tightened. The Martian suffered in each scene whenever Matt Damon wasn’t on the screen.

Everything involving Matt Damon’s character was compelling and interesting.

With this movie basically considered a comedy, it was a weird shift to play too heavy on the drama. The audience understands the movie must end a specific way. No major studio picture was seriously going to consider shuffling things up a bit. If that would have been taken into consideration, then the comedic elements could have been played up more against the backdrop of beautiful Mars desert imagery.

I think they (Ridley Scott and/or the movie studio) were afraid to be too funny to be taken seriously.

Ultimately, The Martian is an enjoyable, cookie-cutter space romp. There aren’t any memorable scenes or standout moments, but it’s a very serviceable sci-fi adventure comedy. While The Martian seems like it would have been more astounding to see on the big screen, I’m glad I waited to see it at my leisure—which helps with such a long runtime. The Martian is a worthwhile one-time experience.


3 out of 5 stars


By and large, The Big Short is a movie about the awful things done by rich old white men with money and power, and the desperate lengths they will go in order to protect that money and power. Maintain the status quo. Consequences don’t exist for these people. This story would be too far-fetched and unbelievable if this wasn’t actually based on true events. Our economic system is a cycle of greed and abuse. The future is traded against the present and no one learns anything from the past.

Co-writer and director Adam McKay deserves credit for telling this story in an accessible manner. However, I also felt like my intelligence was being insulted. The scenes where celebrities explain an aspect of this financial situation (the housing bubble) in some clumsy comparison are weird and wholly unnecessary. I have no idea why Anthony Bourdain is in this movie. It felt like they wanted to shoehorn in some sex appeal by having Margot Robbie and Selena Gomez appear to re-state the same point. I’m surprised they didn’t have Margot Robbie stand up from her fucking bubble bath.

Fuck Off

In a sense, forcing the audience to pay attention by repeating a point with celebrities is fitting. The American public is/was too distracted by meaningless shit like celebrity culture to realize the many ways in which they are being fucked on a daily basis. The practice of predatory lending by banks is one piece in our house of cards. The evil fucks in charge didn’t care about the ramifications because they knew they would never really face any punishment. And thus, the cringeworthy term “too big to fail” was born.

The Big Short does a decent job describing this particular time period. But I would have liked it to go further—descending deeper to highlight more of the plight of the American people who suffered as a result. The movie gives us a taste, but everything is far too superficial.

The Big Short is a drama that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Almost to the point of being a straight comedy. It’s an odd tone to strike considering the subject matter—but it works well enough.

There are some incredibly funny scenes in this movie, which helps give the actors room to breathe. You get to see Christian Bale act amazingly weird with a fake eye and pound drums to the beat of Pantera. Ryan Gosling gets to shriek “I’m jacked to the tits!” and rock a perm while acting like a jackass. It’s rather shocking how much Brad Pitt resembles Robert Redford the older he gets. Steve Carrell has a horrendous haircut, but he revels in playing the role of cynical prick. No one here is likeable.

Jacked to the Tits

Despite very limited interaction between these characters, they all own a portion of the movie. Each actor chews their fair share of scenery. However, I found them all annoying and grating in their own way. These people could only be described as the “good guys” in this particular twisted story where faceless institutions acting without any accountability represent the true evil.

I thoroughly enjoyed the acting performances. Most people probably won’t like The Big Short as much as I did. I can be enthralled with a movie that has a mid-level/sub-par story if there are great actors being great—i.e. Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano in There Will Be Blood.

Creepy Bale

The Big Short isn’t in the same echelon, but it belongs in the same categorization. Unfortunately, it is a touch too stupid for a movie focused on a few incredibly smart people who gazed into the void and gambled against the facade. I think this could have been a much better movie in different hands.

Maybe it’s not necessarily a bad thing that The Big Short is fun and breezy.

Whatever your reaction is after watching this movie…just don’t fucking dance.

Don't Fucking Dance

4 out of 5 stars

Definitely mark The Revenant in the category of Good Movies I Never Want to See Again.

The Revenant is a beautiful movie. I can recognize and appreciate The Revenant as another technical achievement by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. It is very well-directed, but the story itself is rather lackluster. This is an endurance test that exceeds 2 hours and 30 minutes.

It’s almost a shame that The Revenant is the performance that will finally get Leonardo DiCaprio his first Oscar for Best Actor. The outcome has been preordained, which seemed like the intention from the outset. DiCaprio is solid as Hugh Glass, but he’s constantly overshadowed at every turn by the phenomenal performance of fellow superstar actor Tom Hardy. While John Fitzgerald is a one-dimensional bad guy, Tom Hardy brings an undeniable spirit and charisma to this shitbag.

However, you can never forget that Hugh Glass is Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s hard to blame DiCaprio. Leo delivers everything written in the script, but the man doesn’t exactly melt away into a character. For a vast majority of the movie, DiCaprio does his classic What’s Eating Gilbert Grape Face where he juts his lower jaw and chin out while breathing heavily and slobbering all over himself.


The only humor in The Revenant comes from the racism of Tom Hardy’s character and the unintentional comedy of Leonardo DiCaprio’s nonverbal acting. Without any real dark humor or additional entertainment value, The Revanant is (at times) an arduous slog. I could have really gone without the philosophical/existential flashbacks—especially those scenes filmed at the burnt church. It was all too reminiscent of Gladiator. After the opening hour, it’s an exceedingly dry revenge thriller short on thrills.

But holy shit, The Revenant is incredible for that first hour. Inarritu is a visionary director, which should be evident from the marvelous, hypnotic camera movement in the opening action sequence. It is violent in the most visceral fashion. You can feel the desperation of those trying to stay alive.

About 20 minutes into the movie, an amazing thing happens—one of the most astonishing scenes I’ve ever witnessed occurs. Leonardo DiCaprio gets raped by a bear…or so some idiots would lead you to believe. What you do get to experience is a realistic bear mauling. I don’t know how they managed to pull off such a stunt with a blend of practical effects and an impressive CGI grizzly bear.

Bear Attack

Unfortunately, it was mostly downhill from there. The next half hour of Hugh Glass’ struggle to survive that vicious bear attack is surprisingly engaging. I think a lot of actors would have been just as capable, but DiCaprio does a great job portraying that emotional journey. It just gets to be way too much after the initial hour since there’s still another hour and a half left of the same shit.

I understand The Revenant was designed as an epic, but I can’t help believing this would be much improved by shortening the second and third acts with a more direct cat-and-mouse routine between DiCaprio and Hardy. After the first hour, these characters don’t really share any screen time together until the very end. I don’t know how the last-minute reshoots impacted the final cut, but the second half of the movie feels like it could have been entirely different at one time in production.

Tom Hardy

I wish there was something more to hang onto than just solely beautiful visuals and those two great scenes in the beginning. Granted, those scenes were unparalleled in their greatness. But I wanted a tighter narrative and more room for these phenomenal actors to breathe.

While I can enjoy this movie and appreciate its place in the grand scheme, I cannot envision a scenario where I will ever watch The Revenant again. This movie might even win Best Picture. DiCaprio will probably win Best Actor and at least Tom Hardy is nominated for Best Supporting Actor. None of that changes the fact that this story is largely bleak and dreary—making it difficult to endure.

DiCraprio Jaw

Coming off of Birdman, my expectations for The Revenant were probably too high. Apparently, Inarritu was prepared to exceed expectations. His insane idea (at least initially) to set the bar high was to film this movie in the same single shot style. Inarritu had enough difficulty with an exploding budget and frozen conditions that made so many staff members quit. It would have been an unbelievable feat, but it would have merely been another layer to an already well-directed movie.

I admire the ambition. Unfortunately, the subject matter doesn’t quite match Inarritu’s ambition. Ultimately, The Revenant fails to be transcendent because of the storyline—not the execution. This movie is missing an element to the story that makes it re-watchable. Years from now, I doubt most will remember this for more than the movie that got Leonardo DiCaprio his Oscar. Hopefully the 22-year-old blonde model-sized hole in his heart will be filled with that goofy gold statue.
Oscar Handjob

3.5 out of 5 stars


Holy fuck. Those are the only two words that will come out of your mouth after watching Sicario. An early favorite for Best Picture at the Oscars, Sicario is well-crafted with amazing acting performances from Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, and Josh Brolin. If there’s a better movie coming out later this year, I can only imagine it being double the pleasure, double the fun with Tom Hardy playing twins in Legend.

Calling Sicario a tense action thriller is an understatement.

My breath was hastened. There was a weight on my chest. Sprawled out in a cozy recliner, I squirmed around uncomfortably. This fucking movie gave me anxiety. Trust me, I’m familiar with the feeling. Somehow, merely driving through the streets into Mexico and back across the border managed to become insanely intense. No need to fret, there’s a payoff for all that fierce tension too.


From the very first scene—a raid on a suburban home in Chandler, AZ—you know you are in for a ride. It is bumpy and uncomfortable at times. The stakes are established early. This is the war on drugs where raids and busts are simply scratching the surface. But be careful of what you might find when you go deeper. This is awful people doing awful things—the stuff white of people’s nightmares.

A veritable game of chess, the important pieces like kings and queens are kept out of sight. For the most part, everyone we see are pawns in one army or another. On the American side, there are Department of Justice advisors Matt Graver (played by Josh Brolin) and his mysterious partner Alejandro (played by Benicio Del Toro). However, the audience experiences the action through the eyes of FBI agent Kate Macer (played by Emily Blunt). Just like Kate, we’re along for the ride through this hellscape.

Emily Blunt

Emily Blunt is predictably fantastic, which you should expect if you watched her in Looper and Edge of Tomorrow. You see Blunt’s vulnerability and feel her emotional state deteriorate the deeper they delve into the business of the drug trade. Any normal person would have broken down a long time ago.

In my own personal game of recognizing actors from my favorite TV shows, Jon Bernthal (Shane from The Walking Dead) pops up in an extended cameo. As usual, Bernthal is just grand and he brought more to the role than the flat character that was written on paper. From the Fifteen Million Merits episode of Black Mirror, Daniel Kaluuya plays Reggie Wayne, friend of Kate and fellow FBI agent. Kaluuya is surprisingly enjoyable as the skeptic. The supporting cast elevates the content even in mundane scenes.

Benicio Del Toro

With such an incredibly well-rounded movie, even the cinematography demands your attention with its dramatic presence. I live in Arizona and the only Southwestern landscape that I find breathtaking is the red rocks of Sedona. But the wide angle shots of the desert and barren wasteland along the border are beautiful in this movie. The framing of several scenes depicts a strong sense of foreboding.

The doom is impending for a reason. And it is always inevitable.

Sooner or later, it all catches up to you. The river of shit is unavoidable. In a sense, that’s a recurring theme in Sicario. Although Emily Blunt’s character Kate wants maintain her moral compass, it’s hard not to spin out of control when you realize that the most effective response to terror is terror. Hidden bodies in a suburban home is just the beginning. Moving beyond the surface only reveals more evil. The water in the deep end is dark and murky. While everyone else is doing whatever necessary to get the job done, all Kate wants to do is follow procedure. In this world, following procedure will get you killed.

Sicario is sick and twisted, but it is wisely infused with some levity.

Josh Brolin

Josh Brolin’s character Matt Graver is shockingly humorous with his dickish persona. You never quite trust him, but he still comes off as likeable. Benicio Del Toro is sneaky great with a raw, mysterious performance. Everything—writing, casting, acting, directing—works together harmoniously. The score made my heart pound during the right moments. At this point, I’ve only watched Sicario once, but it won’t stay that way for long. I look forward to uncovering more nuances in future viewings. Sicario doesn’t have the same philosophical underpinnings as No Country for Old Men, but it belongs in the same stratosphere of great movies. Director Denis Villeneuve has a phenomenal piece of art here with Sicario.

Expect Sicario to at least garner Oscar nominations for Best Cinematography, Best Director, and Best Picture this year. Emily Blunt could be in the competition for Best Actress and there are other fitting categories as well. Sicario excels by giving its stars the room to breathe in their roles.

If Sicario is any indication, the war on drugs is an unbreakable cycle of horror. There’s no winning. We are all losers in this game. You might want to take a shower after this cinematic experience.


5 out of 5 stars


Foxcatcher is as enjoyable as a stuffy nose. It is dry and dull, and you can do nothing aside from suffer until it mercifully ends. Sit back and strain through more than two hours of sweaty man love.

It’s no secret this movie exists essentially as a showcase for Steve Carell. Kudos, the Oscar bait snagged a nomination, but Carell has no chance of reeling in the Best Actor award. Comedic actors cast in dramatic roles is nothing new. Regardless of public perception, Steve Carell has some serious acting ability and people need to give him his due. While Carell is rock-solid as eccentric rich guy and awkward wrestling enthusiast John E. du Pont, the character isn’t interesting enough to captivate your interest.

Golden Eagle

By offering money to train in the top-notch facilities at Foxcatcher, John E. du Pont interjects himself into the lives of U.S. Olympic wrestling gold medal-winning brothers, Mark Schultz (played by Channing Tatum) and Dave Schultz (played by Mark Ruffalo). John E. du Pont claims his friends call him “Golden Eagle.” It doesn’t take long to realize that du Pont is a bit of a creep with delusions of grandeur.

Serving as a time capsule of the era, Foxcatcher is firmly grounded in the 80s.

While training for the Olympics, Mark Schultz scrapes by eating ramen noodles and making money from speaking at middle school assemblies. It’s sad and pathetic. It’s also true for most no-name Olympic athletes who insanely dedicate themselves to the relentless pursuit of one specific goal.

Mark Schultz is not a likable character. In this movie, he’s a one-dimensional meathead. Channing Tatum is incredibly believable at acting dumb. This role is no different. Showing his acting chops, there’s a scene where Channing Tatum hits himself in the face and smashes his head through a mirror.

Head Smash

Only, it wasn’t acting. It was the most honest aspect of this movie. You can clearly see his big blockhead crashed too far through the mirror and into the wall. He made him bleed his own blood. There’s also a scene where Mark Schultz is struggling to memorize a short speech with big words, but I’m 99.9% certain that was just Channing Tatum genuinely stammering and stuttering through his lines.

Forget about Steve Carell and Channing Tatum. Mark Ruffalo is the true star of this movie. Despite a cartoonish, unspeakably bad hair makeup, Dave Schultz is the only authentic human being in this movie. Neither John E. du Pont nor Mark Schultz has a pulse. On the other hand, Ruffalo portrays a conflicted character with self-guilt and obligations to his family, but ultimately he too has a price. Everybody’s got a price. And everybody’s gonna pay. Because the Million Dollar Man, always gets his way!

Without Dave Schultz, Foxcatcher would be without a moral compass.


At the end of the movie, the only character you have any sort of emotional investment in is Dave Schultz. Although the narrative was intentionally constructed in that manner, it’s a credit to Mark Ruffalo that you manage to care at all. Maybe some still won’t even care about Dave Schultz.

Foxcatcher is a very understated movie that implies motivations instead of revealing them. In almost every instance, the audience is unaware of the reasoning behind a character’s action. I don’t need to be told everything, but I need to be told something. What’s the point of all this?

Anything is a more satisfying answer than America.


2 out of 5 stars


Why do people like this movie so much?

Currently sitting at an 8.1 rating on IMDb and 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, Captain Phillips is garnering way too much love and attention for what I think is merely an average movie. Don’t get me wrong, I can recognize Captain Phillips as a highly polished product, but it has plenty of faults and fails to justify its Best Picture nominee at the Oscars. With Tom Hanks in the title role, Captain Phillips is a movie tailor-made for old white folks. For most of this movie, Tom Hanks is just there—not much range is displayed and he looks like he’s just going through the motions. And that’s not even mentioning his terrible Boston accent.

However, the end of Captain Phillips is an impressive display of Hanks at his best.

We all know the story or are at least familiar with (on some level) the hijacking of the American cargo ship Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates. In particular, I remember the impressive display of US military prowess in how the situation was resolved. But you aren’t provided a glimpse of that action until the audience is forced to endure nearly 2 hours of unbearable boringness away at sea.

Before even boarding the ship, the opening 10 minutes displays Captain Phillips and his wife (played by Catherine Keener) having a horribly dull, hokey conversation about how this world is different than the one they were born into while Hanks drives to the airport. If you weren’t aware, the life of a Somali pirate isn’t exactly extravagant. But holy shit, Barkhad Abdi does a phenomenal job portraying the primary pirate.

Film Fall Preview

If you didn’t already know anything about the real-life hijacking, the studio wasn’t going to let you walk into the theater without knowing how the story would unfold. I applaud anyone who somehow managed to avoid their awful marketing scheme because the trailer literally showed every major moment in the movie.

Once you’re aboard with Captain Phillips, it thankfully doesn’t take very long for the pirates to show up. However, that also presents a significant issue because the first hour of Captain Phillips deals with the hijacking of the Maersk Alabama while the next hour focuses on the kidnapping in the lifeboat. Although the intent is to build tension, the director stays fixated on certain points for far too long.

Captain Phillips is not necessarily a bad movie, but I found it ultimately forgettable and largely uninteresting. Without any emotional investment into any of the characters, this movie fails to capture anything more than the action. Unfortunately, there was more to mine in this story than just the actual hijacking itself. But the corporate greed or other motivating factors that resulted in Somali pirates being able to successfully hijack the ship are never truly addressed.

Despite the movie being named after Captain Phillips, you never learn anything of value about the man or any other character because this movie seems afraid of achieving depth. Captain Phillips is the movie for you if you’re looking to spend (or waste, depending on how you look at it) more than 2 hours drifting aimlessly as a fly on the wall during a hijacking.

Only half of this movie works, and it’s not surprising that those parts involve both Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi. Without those performances and shared scenes, Captain Phillips is a complete zero. Although this movie will not win Best Picture, Barkhad Abdi stands a solid chance of winning Best Supporting Actor.

In what country could someone win an Oscar in their debut performance?


“Maybe in America, Irish, maybe in America.”

2.5 out of 5 stars