Ranking 2016 Best Picture Nominees

oscars2017_keyart_statueI don’t know, 2016. As much as I try to be optimistic, I cannot deny what a very bad year you have become. And here I find myself, sighing and shrugging, having watched the weakest bunch of Best Picture nominees in recent memory. I was looking at last year’s list and I’d put half of them on top on this year’s group. I think of “The Big Short” and its high-wire act of realistic absurdity. The unworldly thrills of “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “The Martian.” The galvanizing and simmering power of last year’s winner “Spotlight.” These are apparently too high of a bar for this year.

It’s not that this year’s has been bad, but more middle-of-the-road level of greatness. They have their own big moments and scenes, but not quite ambitious enough, not quite visionary enough, not quite excellent enough to blow me over. I usually did not have trouble picking a movie that resolutely rises to the top. This year, I have trouble ranking them together. My top three could vary in order, depending on the day. I’d be happy if any of them can win Best Picture. But who am I kidding.

The brightest piece of news, at least, is that there is no another repeat of Oscar-so-white. Amen! Amen! Amen! You have Washington, Davis, Spencer, Harris, Patel, and Ali on the ballot. And some of these contenders might actually win. Maybe I’ll anticipate those races instead. Trying to be optimistic. Trying to be optimistic.

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Ranking 2015 Best Picture Nominees

When “Birdman” won last year over my beloved “Boyhood,” I said, “Well, at least, that’s over with. I can’t wait for next year already.”

And here we are, a year later, golden boy Alejandro González Iñárritu is once again dominating the awards circuit with ‘The Revenant.’ Instead of being bitter, I’ll just react with a laughter of disbelief. Ha-haha-haha. A Best Picture-Best Director back-to-back wins for him is a historical achievement. With #OscarsSoWhite also repeating this year, that just shows you how exclusive Oscars can be. Sigh!

But enough of that, this is actually a very good list of Best Picture nominees. I genuinely love the top five and the top three films would have earned A in my book. I wish “Creed” and “The Hateful Eight” could have sneaked in there.

What can I do? I am not an Academy member. I am just a movie fan. I am just grateful to annually discover cinematic gems. So thanks to the critics and yes, even the Academy members. While the TV industry have long surpass you in excellence, you’ll always have a place in my heart. On to the list.

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Nightcrawler (2014)

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Stalk Footage

“I’m looking for a job. In fact, I made up my mind to find a career that I can learn and grow into. Who am I? I’m a hard-worker, I set high goals and I’ve been told that I am persistent.”

In an early scene from “Nightcrawler,” Louis Bloom, Jake Gyllenhaal’s character, seems to be a creepy nobody who sells stolen metal scraps for a living. But when he asserts for work, you realize he crows like a cocky go-getter. Even so, it hardly negates his creepy vibe. His gaunt face, his tunnel stare, his Professor Snape hair. The little angel on your shoulder warns you to stay away from him, but the movie nudges you to follow.

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Ranking 2014 Best Picture Nominees

87th-oscars-posterThe 2014 class of the Oscars is another solid bunch. We’ve got geniuses (The Theory of Everything, The Imitation Game), heroes (American Sniper, Selma), stylistic comedies (The Great Budapest Hotel, Birdman) and coming-of-age dramas (Whiplash, Boyhood). While every year we’re bound to get some Oscar baits, the main event this year is between originally structured films (Birdman vs Boyhood). Even the Best Actor race is exciting between a veteran (Michael Keaton, in a comeback form) and a rising talent (Eddie Redmayne, absurdly good). I also love that the Academy finally recognized long established filmmakers Richard Linklater and Wes Anderson. Two maverick directors who can’t be accused of Oscar baiting. And you’ve got to applaud Bradley Cooper for getting acting nominations three years in a row.

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Ranking 2013 Best Picture Nominees

86OscarPoster_LiquidIt’s Oscar season again and I am way way behind from shilling my two cents on last year’s Oscars. Busy schedule and lack of a permanent residence contributed to my inactivity in 2014. Even that Oscar week, I simply had no time to view all the Best Picture nominees. I was stuck on vacation in St. Maarten (poor me). So this is my first time compiling the list after an Oscar telecast. I actually chose to watch most of these many months after March. I waited for the fickle awards hype to fade so the films can fairly stand on its own merit.

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Ranking 2012 Best Picture nominees

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Yes, I am doing this again last minute, or last day. I don’t have Wifi on my current place so I’m posting this on a public lobby. This is a rushed post and I didn’t have time to properly edit. I apologize in advance to the gibberish you’re about to read. We do have another great group of Best Picture nominees. I enjoyed most, while a few were frustrating. I don’t know if I’ll do this again next year. But my blog is dying and this annual tradition is my way of keeping in touch with great movies. Now, let’s go the countdown.

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Nights of Cabiria (1957)

MARIA FALL FOR GRACE

“Nights of Cabiria” opens with a couple running across a field. It’s a bright sunny day. They laugh, hold hands, and embrace. But any notion of romance plunges when the man pushes the woman into the river. She submerges, then dragged out of the waters by the local men and boys. She remains unconscious and her heroes triy to revive her by … dangling her upside-down. She amazingly awakens, only to walk off the scene ungrateful. She was close to death and yet she exasperatedly calls out for a boyfriend long gone with her money.

At first, I thought this was some coy Italian movie, playfully subverting our expectations. It turns out, as I’d like to see it, the scene is a cunning way to introduce its temperamental and unassuming female protagonist. She is Maria “Cabiria” Ceccarelli and the woman is difficult to warm up to. She can be defensive, acting out against the world for being duped by a lover. Granted she’s in a tough position, but she hardly earns any sympathy or empathy.

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Bus 174 (2003)

BUS OR BUST

A 21 year-old gunman enters a bus, robs the passengers, and then holds everyone hostage. The police surrounds the public vehicle as the TV crews broadcast the event live. The robber points his gun on a woman’s head. He says he’ll kill her if he doesn’t get more weapons and new bus driver to help him escape.

It sounds like the set-up to an action thriller. But it actually happened. It took place in Rio de Janiero on June 12th, 2000.

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Lifeboat (1944)

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A BOAT TIME

A 96-minute movie that all takes place on a drifting boat does not sound particularly interesting. But would you skip the movie had I had told you its skipper is Alfred Hitchcock. That’s right, the famed portly filmmaker dives into the challenge and hence, “Lifeboat” is a cinematic splash that ripples waves of terror into the audience.

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Ranking 2011 Best Picture nominees

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Whew! I actually saw all nine films within minutes to spare before the Oscar show starts. Thank goodness I live in New York because I don’t think I would have seen them all. As one can tell from my blog, I have not been active lately in watching movies. And I owe it to my movie geekery to dive into the nominated movies through a span of few weeks. Typically, I’m strapped for cash and time, but hey, this is the prime time to truly film-indulge. In comparison, I do think last year’s group were significantly stronger. I was a bit let down, but still, they were some greatness to be discovered.

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The Secret in Their Eyes (2010)

The Secret in Their Eyes

PRIVATE EYES

The past is in the past, buried in time and fleeting away. But for former investigator Benjamin Esposito, he can’t move on without dragging with the past along. Now retired, he’s intent to write a fictionalized version of a rape and homicide case he was worked on. He asks his former boss, the American-schooled Irene Menéndez-Hastings, for advice, but she seems reluctant to unearth the 1974 case.

The victim is Liliana Colotto, a pretty 23 year-old schoolteacher. When Benjamin arrives at the crime scene, her corpse is naked, bruised and, thrown off from the bed. Had this occurred today, a swab of DNA might conveniently revealed the perpetrator. Instead, the best deduced estimation is that she probably knew the killer because there was no force-entry on the door. Eventually, a silly hunch breaks the case open. Among Liliana’s photographs, Benjamin notices a suspicious young man leering at the victim. What could possibly be the secret in his eyes?

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A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

The Beatles

THE BOYS IN THE BAND

The Beatles run from a stampede of girls in the opening sequence of “A Hard Day’s Night.” The boy band tries to elude them by hiding inside telephone booths, behind newspapers, and facial hair. It’s a silly scene and it rightly sets the jovial spirit of the film. It’s a welcome attitude compared to today’s grandstanding singers. There is no whiff of self-importance. There is neither cliche proclamation of “living the dream” nor display of bling-blinding indulgence. If one forgets that the Beatles are a cultural phenomena, the film simply shows four mischievous boys, running around as they perform one song after another.

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