Another Oscar ceremony is now history. I find that I have seen fewer and fewer of the featured films with each passing year. With the many means of watching the movies for far less than the cost of attending a performance at a theater I tend to wait until the films are available for rental. So it was with this year’s contenders, some of which are not yet showing on Netflix, Apple TV or On Demand.
Even though I am loathe to spend my money on first run movies at my local cinema I am still a great fan of the arts and I tend to watch films through the lens of a reviewer. From that perspective I have to say that there was no really breathtaking movie in this year’s offerings, at least from those that I have seen. I loved Game of Spies not just for its story but for the acting. I wonder if there is ever really a time that Tom Hanks doesn’t light up the screen with nuanced brilliance. He has a way of brining out the best in his co-stars as well. It didn’t surprise me at all that Mark Rylance, who played a Russian spy during the Cold War, walked away with this year’s gold in the Best Supporting Actor category. Tom and Mark managed to make their on screen relationship not just believable but relatable. Still the movie itself was far from being in the same league as Best Pictures of the past.
On advice from my daughter I watched Room on Saturday. It was quite happy that Brie Larson nabbed the Best Actress award. I was so moved by the story and her acting that I literally blubbered through the entire film. It was a heart rending story, not the least because the young boy who played Jack, Jacob Tremblay, was incredible in his portrayal of a child born inside a shed where he and his mother had been held captive for years. I still find myself wondering why Jacob did not at the very least earn a nomination as the Best Supporting Actor. The child nailed the essence of his character so well that he literally rent my heart in two. Room was overall a wonderful movie but it requires a level of courage to watch. It whipsaws the emotions like few pictures that I have ever seen. To watch it requires a willingness to run yourself through a wringer but it is well worth your time and effort.
I also caught Spotlight this weekend. Having grown up Catholic, its story was of great interest to me. I could expound on my feelings about pedophile priests, which is the topic of this film, for weeks but that would be a digression unfitting for my theme for today. Suffice it to say that it is a painful subject for me to consider. The essence of the story centers around a group of Boston newspaper reporters who learn the devastating extent of sexual abuse that has been purposely hidden by church hierarchy over the years. The cast is an unusually strong ensemble of some of the very best actors in Hollywood today. The writing is riveting even though all of us already know the story. In spite of my belief that this was not only an excellent picture, but also a very important one, I am still not convinced that it belongs in the hall of the best. Nonetheless, it received the nod for Best Picture and I think that it is quite worthy of viewing.
Leonardo DiCaprio finally received an Oscar after multiple nominations over the years. He is such a compelling actor that he probably should receive a praise each and every time that he completes a film. There are only a few other notable actors like Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, and Denzel Washington who seem to bring gold to every one of their performances. I haven’t yet seen The Revenant but I have little doubt that Leo earned the critical acclaim that has centered on his latest role. He dazzles over and over again with a charisma that marks his every attempt at creating a memorable character.
We got to hear three of the songs nominated for Best Song last night and I have to say that this is one of the few times when I really liked them all and felt a sense of disappointment that only one of them would win. I was particularly moved by Lady Gaga’s offering. She is slowly but surely moving from the ranks of performance artist to genuine diva. She is so incredibly talented that I believe that we are bound to hear even better and better things from her in the future. She obviously pours her talent and her heart into her work which elevates her from the ordinary.
The Oscars always pique my interest in movies that I might otherwise have ignored. I’ll be watching for the release of Brooklyn, The Danish Girl, Mad Max Fury Road, Creed and Joy just to name a few of the films that sound quite worthy of an investment of my time. I’d also like to recommend that you watch The Martian if you haven’t done so already. It’s a fun romp particularly for those of us who grew up during the early days of NASA’s space program. Matt Damon carries his own weight in this movies and manages to exemplify the characteristics of a real live astronaut.
I hear a great deal of criticism of the Oscars each year. Some believe that they have become too political. I tend to laugh at the fabulously wealthy actors and directors who take their opinions so seriously as though they believe that they understand the world just a bit more than the rest of us who toil away like drones. I wonder a bit that we spend so much time both loving and hating them when they are really just people like ourselves, a fact that all too often becomes apparent when they expose their feet of clay. In spite of the negatives I so love the movies. Much like the fairytales that I enjoyed as a child they provide me with a conduit for escaping into other worlds if only for a few hours. I admire the hard work and talent needed to create the stories and the scenes that are living objects of art. Great movies move us to think and to consider alternatives. They create illusions and dreams.
When I watch movies I am reminded of the Saturdays when my brothers and I went to the Fun Club at the Santa Rosa theater on Telephone Road. I think of the times that my mother piled us into the car along with food and drinks to watch the latest pictures at the Trail Drive In. I go back to late weekend nights when we gathered around our tiny black and white television to watch the films of old. My very first date with Mike was to see a movie, The Flight of the Phoenix. Later we would take our girls to see Star Wars and E.T. My good friend Pat and I would often meet to watch chick flick after chick flick.
Movies have always been a happy part of my life and they still are. Mike and I love to settle down after a long day and watch a film that makes us laugh or even cry. We enjoy adventure, drama, mystery, and comedy. There have been some greats over the years to which we return again and again, knowing the story but simply enjoying the excellence of the acting. In some ways I have always been a movie junkie. I can’t imagine not having great films to watch.
I would be remiss if I were to neglect doing one thing the the Academy failed to do yesterday evening. In their In Memoriam segment of the proceedings they honored those who had died during this past year. I suppose that they cannot list every single person associated with the movie industry who passes away but I would like to include a fine man who spent his entire career acting in small parts in some of the most wonderful films ever. So here’s to you, Ken Magee. Your contribution to the world of make believe is indelible. You will be seen and remembered each time someone watches one of your many, many films like Seabiscuit or Shawshank Redemption.
Every single person who contributes to a movie is important. There are thousands and thousands of individuals who toil to make the final product something worthy of greatness. The work is often far more difficult than we might imagine. It’s good that we honor the artists, the engineers, and the business people who give us the great gift of their talents. I can’t wait to see what is in store in the coming year. Somehow the creative geniuses keep luring me back for more.