Dirty Grandpa

Laughter, joy, and loneliness, and sex and sex and sex and sex.
★★½
Movie Review #1,051

dirty_grandpa

Lionsgate
Comedy
1 hour, 42 minutes
Rated R (crude sexual content throughout, graphic nudity, and for language and drug use)
Released January 22, 2016
Directed by Dan Mazer
Screenplay by John Phillips
Starring Robert De Niro, Zac Efron, Julianne Hough, Zoey Deutch, Aubrey Plaza, Jason Mantzoukas, and Dermot Mulroney
With a cameo from Danny Glover

“You look like the keynote speaker at a buttf–king convention.” – Robert De Niro to Zac Efron in “Dirty Grandpa”

“Dirty Grandpa” is filled with–to quote a Stones song–laughter, joy, and loneliness, and sex and sex and sex and sex. Okay maybe not the loneliness part, but the rest of it applies. Boobs and penises dominate the script; aside from that, it’s a creative melange of cocaine, marijuana, and feces. What I’ve quoted above is a typical line in “Dirty Grandpa”. Crass, but funny and memorable. That description applies to basically anything Robert De Niro says in the movie, and seemingly, it also applies to the movie itself. “Dirty Grandpa” offers some of the lowest form of humor we could ask for, but the way it so eagerly delivers is often downright hilarious.

A young, busy Georgia lawyer, Jason (Zac Efron), is getting married in one week and doesn’t have the wedding fully planned out yet. To make things more hectic, his grandmother has just died. His grandfather (Robert De Niro) convinced him to take him down to a place in Florida where he had gone with his wife every year until her death. He claims it’s what she would have wanted for him. However, this turns out to be a ploy to get Jason to loosen up and have a little fun.

The story isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. It’s basically a hard-R buddy comedy, except it’s not quite as memorable or zany as “The Hangover”, nor is it as dark or depraved as “Horrible Bosses”. This is lighthearted fun that relies on a run-of-the-mill script to make its way through. As a result, the sub plot concerning the wedding dilemma presents the usually-talented Julianne Hough, as nothing more than a character so obnoxious, we seriously wonder why Jason decided to marry her. Furthering the feminist argument about flat female characters in modern-day Hollywood, all she seems to be concerned about is her wedding. She seems to completely miss the truth that Jason is out having fun, no matter how many different ways it’s presented to her. I guess that’s supposed to be a joke in and of itself, but it didn’t seem to work out in the end.

Robert De Niro and Zac Efron are a good screen pair. Honestly. I don’t appreciate Efron much as an actor, but I do see him and De Niro working together on more projects. If it means seeing the two of them together again, then I could certainly go for a sequel. It’s De Niro’s one-liners, paired with Efron’s all-too-serious attitude throughout the movie, that makes “Dirty Grandpa” an entertaining watch. Not to mention, that scene where Efron wakes up on the beach after smoking crack, which kept me laughing for several minutes after the scene ended.

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Anomalisa

Creative, but dreary and unpleasant.
★★
Movie Review #1,050

anomalisa_ver2

Paramount Pictures & Paramount Animation
Animation, Comedy, Drama, Romance
Rated R (strong sexual content, graphic nudity and language)
Released January 22, 2016
Directed by Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufman
Written by Charlie Kaufman
From the play by Francis Fregoli
Starring the voices of David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Tom Noonan

“Anomalisa” an odd film. Strangely and vividly animated, surreal and dreamlike, but perhaps even more resemblant of a nightmare. Like every film Charlie Kaufman has written or directed, “Anomalisa” is deep, dark, weird, and original. Unfortunately, it’s also very unpleasant. If you’re hoping to be more engaged than revolted by its ultra-bleakness, then you’d better have uppers on hand.

The cast consists of three voices. The two leads, Michael and Lisa, are voiced by David Thewlis and Jennifer Jason Leigh, respectively. Every other man, woman, and child in the film is voiced by Tom Noonan. It’s not uncommon that one performer will voice so many characters, but Noonan delivers them all in the same, plain tone. Initially, I was sure that this was a stylistic touch, meant to enhance the feeling of mundanity that surrounds Michael’s life. Even so, the effect is too creepy to simply ignore. Only when Kaufman twists his script entirely, during the last 20 minutes, does the effect seem to gain some meaning.

“Anomalisa” is a heavy exploration exploration of the mundane life of a white-collar traveling man. He meets Lisa, and although she seems to add some spunk into his life, she doesn’t quite do the same for the film. The most memorable portion of the film arrived just after Michael has met Lisa. He invites her back to his hotel room, and she brings him to tears with her rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just to Have Fun”. Then she proceeds to sing an Italian version of the song that Sarah Brightman had apparently recorded. The sequence is awkward and uncomfortable, but also somewhat amusing, so it’s pretty much an extension of how everything else in the movie plays out.

“Anomalisa” is meant to reflect the reality it depicts, but there’s still moments that don’t feel very realistic. It’s only an hour or two after Michael meets Lisa, who seems otherwise in complete control of herself, that the two of them start having sex. Aside from the improbable nature of this scene, it’s also extremely awkward. It’s two, three, maybe four minutes long, and the only purpose it serves is to test our patience. How did the MPAA had the nerve to let such a graphic, discomforting sex scene like this pass with an R rating, when they flagged “Team America: World Police” with an NC-17 over a far shorter, far less revolting sex scene?

After that scene, the script takes a bizarre turn into true Kaufman territory. Irresistibly dark, weird, imaginative, and brilliant. It’s an outstanding climax, which leads to a terrific, haunting finale. It’s just a shame that Kaufman waited until the last 20 minutes to ignite his genius.

Note: This August, I celebrated the 1,000th review posted on Cinemaniac Reviews. That included 50 reviews by my contributing writer, Red Stewart. Therefore, this review is the 1,000th that I have written on my blog. I can’t tell you how proud I am of this.

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Room

A divine cross between a tense thriller and a contemplative drama.
★★★★
Movie Review #1,049

room_ver2

A24
Drama
1 hour, 58 minutes
Rated R (language)
Released November 25, 2015
Directed by Lenny Abrahamson
Screenplay by Emma Donoghue
Based on the novel by Emma Donoghue
Starring Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Sean Briders, Joan Allen, and William H. Macy

If only the Tommy Wiseau film “The Room” did not exist. Not only because it’s universally agreed to be one of the worst films ever made, but also because it’s easy to confuse that film with Lenny Abrahamson’s “Room”, thanks to the similarities of the titles. And unlike Wiseau’s 2003 film, Abrahamson’s “Room” is one of the most outstanding films of last year, and one of the greatest films of the decade.

I love the title “Room”. It’s simple. Four letters that speak volumes. The title succinctly depicts the story on a concrete, literal level as well as a more abstract, emotional level. You don’t realize just how much you appreciate that one word as an encapsulation of the film, until you’ve actually seen the film. And I strongly encourage you all to do so.

“Room” is a divine cross between a tense thriller and a contemplative drama. Brie Larson plays a single mother who has raised her son Jack (Jacob Tremblay) inside one room for all five years of his life. Ma brings Jack up as if they are the only two people in the world, as if Room is the world. But at five years old, she decides, he is old enough to know the truth about why he has spent his whole life in Room, and old enough that he and Ma can escape to the outside world.

Indeed the sight of mother and child finally escaping to the world beyond Room is liberating, but it also adds an element of uncertainty to the film. It’s tough to say that things will only improve after they’ve left Room, and that’s why their escape is seen only forty minutes into the film. In fact, nothing seems to get better. Ma can’t shake away the traumatic experiences she has endured daily for her five years in Room, and Jack has grown too attached to Room to simply up and leave it after five years. What’s worse, the two of them are losing the bond with each other that they shared every day they spent in Room.

If there is any film that “Room” did remind me of, it’s “Trainwreck”, simply because I recall Brie Larson’s performance in that movie too. I thought she did really well as a supporting character in that film, but her lead in “Room” leads you nearly to forget that she’s the same actress. Much like Emma Donoghue’s screenplay, an adaptation of her 2010 novel, Brie’s performance turns one of the most bizarre plots and settings into something that feels engaging and real.

For all the times I’ve heard people complain about the declining quality of movies, it boggles my mind that only a small audience will actually notice an extraordinary work of originality spiraling toward their faces like a frying pan. “Room” has been out since early November, and started expanding to a wide release in early January. Yet it hasn’t even broken $10 million yet. If there’s any film that doesn’t deserve that kind of nominal sum, it’s this one. If atypicality is perfection (and it certainly is a factor), then “Room” is astonishingly perfect. The number of movies I’ve seen in my life so far floors me; it’s more than likely somewhere around 1,500, and it might be even larger than that. But it floors me more that “Room” is so beautifully original, that I struggle to recall a film that’s even remotely similar.

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The Big Short

So incendiary, it’s irresistible.
★★★½
Movie Review #1,048

big_short_ver2

Paramount Pictures
Biography, Drama, Comedy
2 hours, 10 minutes
Rated R (pervasive language and some sexuality/nudity)
Released January 8, 2016
Directed by Adam McKay
Screenplay by Charles Randolph and Adam McKay
From the book by Michael Lewis
Starring Ryan Gosling, Rudy Eisenzopf, Christian Bale, Marisa Tomei, Brad Pitt, Melissa Leo, Karen Gillan, Steve Carell, Tracy Letts, Rafe Spall, Hamish Linklater, and Byron Mann
With cameos from Margot Robbie, Anthony Bourdain, Richard Thaler, and Selena Gomez

“The truth is like poetry, and most people f–king hate poetry.” – overheard at a Washington, D.C. bar (at least according to a title card in “The Big Short”)

There’s two sides to every story, most especially in politics. Director Adam McKay presents his side of the 2008 mortgage crisis with striking conviction. You may agree with what “The Big Short” as to say. You may disagree. Either way, you’re guaranteed to leave the theater pissed off, either at the banks depicted or at how the banks are depicted.

Let’s not forget, even “Amadeus” was a complete lie and still a damn good movie. In an all-too-similar sense, “The Big Short” is worth seeing, no matter who you think is to blame for the mortgage crisis. Not since “Fahrenheit 9/11” has any American filmmaker presented such a divisive political matter in such a fashion. McKay keeps even the most dissenting viewers hooked until the very end.

“The Big Short” does at times feel slightly exhaustive. Let’s be honest, it doesn’t matter how much financial jargon you understand; it’ll get to your skull either way when you’re hearing it for two hours. But to the same effect, the movie is a lot more engaging than we’d expect. The screenplay, written by Charles Randolph and director McKay, presents the crisis from the inside out. The film sets up like a documentary and mostly maintains that candid style for its entirety. Thus it’s not just the characters who break the fourth wall here; the film itself seems to be constantly speaking to us. Subtitles appear on the screen to explain economics terms that are unfamiliar to the average American. When things start to feel a little too complex, the narrator (Ryan Gosling) pauses and lets us enjoy a brief economics lesson. There’s three of these sardonic bits throughout the film: one from Margot Robbie in a bathtub, one from Anthony Bourdain, and one from economist Dr. Richard Thaler and actress Selena Gomez. At one point, there’s even a scene where Gosling’s character brings a Jenga tower into a meeting room at a bank, and uses it to metaphorically explain the importance of low-rated bonds. It’s obvious that McKay and Randolph are satirizing the fact that Americans care more about simplicity and entertainment than we do about economics. It would have only been natural for the approach to feel downright condescending, had it not been so clever and humorous.

The cast delivers that excellent script formidably. Steve Carell’s performance seems to embody the word “seriocomic” to a T. The man is a bumbling, high-strung hypocrite, wobbling on the line that separates candidness from caricature. Brad Pitt, as always, seems to be playing himself, but he does a fine job at it. Christian Bale is at the top of his game in his performance as the single most interesting character in the movie: a man with a glass eye and an M.D., who prefers to work in stocks than in medicine, who listens to death metal in his office at full volume, who has a slight lisp, who drums on his legs constantly (with drumsticks), who bets $1.3 billion against the economy, despite that he’s the only only one convinced that the housing market will collapse. Bale’s spot-on performance as the completely off-kilter individual is a pretty major asset to the zaniness of the movie.

Perhaps for those who have a thorough understanding of economics, “The Big Short” may be too didactic. But for the rest of us, it’s a terrific and heavily engrossing film. Again, whether you agree with its message is surprisingly irrelevant. Its demeanor is downright incendiary, and at that, it’s irresistible.

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The Revenant

Further proof that Alejandro G. Iñárritu is an auteur.
★★★★
Movie Review #1,047

revenant_ver2

20th Century Fox
Adventure, Drama, Thriller, Western
2 hours, 36 minutes
Rated R (strong frontier combat and violence including gory images, a sexual assault, language and brief nudity)
Released January 8, 2016
Directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Screenplay by Mark L. Smith & Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Based in part on the novel by Michael Punke
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Forrest Goodluck, Paul Anderson, Kristoffer Joner, and Joshua Burge

“The Revenant” is the second film in just over a year, following “Birdman” in October 2014, to prove that Alejandro G. Iñárritu fits the very definition of an auteur. Despite this being his first studio production, his artistic control is greater than ever. Iñárritu’s realization of the Western epic is akin to a method actor’s realization of his role; essentially, it’s method filmmaking. Save for the bear that mauls frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) in the story’s defining moment, not a dime of the film’s $135 million budget is CGI. Iñárritu shot every last scene of the film in chronological order, on location in Canada and Argentina, using only natural lighting. Winter weather conditions were extremely harsh, and production days had to be very carefully planned in order to shoot in the proper setting. These difficulties led to an 80-day production schedule that took place over a whopping nine months. To make matters worse, many of the crew members either quit or were fired on the spot. But it all paid off in the end. “The Revenant” is the epitome of realism in modern cinema, a film whose romantic qualities make it feel real, a film where beauty exists within brutality, or perhaps brutality within beauty.

The cinematography here is glorious. To Emmanuel Lubezki, the camera is a rod with which he reels us in irrevocably. His long, artful takes, dollying in on the action, don the effect of approaching the characters at hand. It’s part of what turns the film into an illustriously sentient experience. Only to enhance the experience is the sound, engineered in heavily realistic form. During one particular scene featuring a campfire burning in the background, my eyes darted briefly toward the exit sign near the front of the theater. For a split second, I was convinced that there was a fire burning somewhere around me.

Iñárritu is a director like no other. His most recent work is realistically, brutally violent, disturbing and revolting, but utterly engrossing. It’s a film that, like “Birdman” before it, defies convention in every way we’d immediately think of. “The Revenant” takes a genre like the survival tale and reimagines it in an unorthodox and utterly cinematic fashion. His script for “The Revenant” is terrific, but what’s made of it is 20 times better. Tom Hardy’s performance is brilliant, his character increasingly detestable. But he’s nothing compared to the caliber of the lead actor. Leonardo DiCaprio is intense and captivating in his role as Hugh Glass. This isn’t him getting up on rooftops and shouting “Give me an Oscar already!” But if that doesn’t happen, there really is no justice to the film.

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Winners: The 4th Annual Cinemaniac Awards

I’m not sure how to preface this, other than to say that picking these winners required making a lot of close calls.  Like I’ve said many times before, 2015 was a really great year for movies.  That’s pretty difficult to represent with awards.  Just take a look at the Oscars. Carol and Straight Outta Compton were two of the best films of the year, and they were in the runnings for Best Picture, but when it comes to the nominees, you can only single out eight of the years best films.

It’s even more difficult when choosing the winners, because you’re not just choosing the best of the year; you’re choosing the best of the best.  For a year like 2011, this would have required little to no thought.  But for a year like 2015, naming just one film the best of its category requires some serious contemplation.

As you can see, I’ve finished my contemplation, and I have settled upon my choices–the winners of the 4th Annual Cinemaniac Awards.  Let’s start off with the non-competitive categories, which I did not introduce when I announced the nominees on January 8th:

OUTSTANDING FILM OF THE YEAR: Spotlight

OUTSTANDING ANIMATED FILM OF THE YEAR: Inside Out

OUTSTANDING DOCUMENTARY FILM OF THE YEAR: Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck

OUTSTANDING NON-AMERICAN FILM OF THE YEAR: Youth

OUTSTANDING FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM OF THE YEAR: Two Days, One Night

And now, without further ado, the competitive categories for the 4th Annual Cinemaniac Awards:

OUTSTANDING DIRECTOR:

The Nominees:

CINEMANIAC AWARDS

Lenny Abrahamson, Room

Danny Boyle, Steve Jobs

Xavier Dolan, Mommy

Clint Eastwood, American Sniper

Todd Haynes, Carol

Tom McCarthy, Spotlight

George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road

Ridley Scott, The Martian

Paolo Sorrentino, Youth

Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight

The Winner:

Ridley Scott, The Martian

BEST LEAD ACTOR:

The Nominees:

CINEMANIAC AWARDS1

Bradley Cooper, American Sniper

Matt Damon, The Martian

Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs

Will Smith, Concussion

Jacob Tremblay, Room

The Winner:

Bradley Cooper, American Sniper

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:

The Nominees:

CINEMANIAC AWARDS2

Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation

Walton Goggins, The Hateful Eight

Michael Keaton, Spotlight

Jason Segel, The End of the Tour

Sylvester Stallone, Creed

The Winner:

Michael Keaton, Spotlight

BEST LEAD ACTRESS:

The Nominees:

CINEMANIAC AWARDS3

Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night

Brie Larson, Room

Rooney Mara, Carol

Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

The Winner:

Brie Larson, Room

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

The Nominees:

CINEMANIAC AWARDS4

Elizabeth Banks, Love & Mercy

Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight

Rachel McAdams, Spotlight

Kristen Stewart, Clouds of Sils Maria

Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

The Winner:

Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight

BEST SCREENPLAY:

The Nominees:

CINEMANIAC AWARDS5

American Sniper: written by Jason Hall; based on the book by Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen, and Jim DeFelice

Carol: screenplay by Phyllis Nagy; based on the novel “The Price of Salt” by Patricia Highsmith

Inside Out: original story by Pete Docter and Ronnie Del Carmen; screenplay by Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, and Josh Cooley

Love & Mercy: written by Oren Moverman and Michael Alan Lerner; based on the life of Brian Wilson

Mad Max: Fury Road: written by George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, and Nico Lathouris

The Martian: screenplay by Drew Goddard; based on the book by Andy Weir

Room: screenplay by Emma Donoghue; based on her novel

Spotlight: written by Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy

Steve Jobs: screenplay by Aaron Sorkin; based on the book “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson

Trainwreck: written by Amy Schumer

The Winner:

Steve Jobs: screenplay by Aaron Sorkin based on the book “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson

BEST SCORE:

The Nominees:

CINEMANIAC AWARDS7

Brooklyn (Michael Brook)

Carol (Carter Burwell)

The Hateful Eight (Ennio Morricone)

Inside Out (Michael Giacchino)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (John Williams)

The Winner:

The Hateful Eight (Ennio Morricone)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY:

The Nominees:

CINEMANIAC AWARDS8

Beasts of No Nation (Cary Fukunaga)

The Hateful Eight (Robert Richardson)

Mommy (André Turpin)

Mr. Turner (Dick Pope)

Youth (Luca Bigazzi)

The Winner:

The Hateful Eight (Robert Richardson)

BEST FILM EDITING:

The Nominees:

CINEMANIAC AWARDS9

American Sniper (Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach)

Carol (Affonso Gonçalves)

Mad Max: Fury Road (Margaret Sixel)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Mary Jo Markey and Maryann Brandon)

Steve Jobs (Elliot Graham)

The Winner:

Steve Jobs (Elliot Graham)

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN:

The Nominees:

CINEMANIAC AWARDS11

Beasts of No Nation

The Hateful Eight

Mad Max: Fury Road

Mr. Turner

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The Winner:

The Hateful Eight

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS:

The Nominees:

CINEMANIAC AWARDS12

Jurassic World

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Terminator Genisys

The Winner:

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

BEST SOUND EDITING AND SOUND MIXING

The Nominees:

CINEMANIAC AWARDS13

American Sniper

Amy

Beasts of No Nation

Love & Mercy

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The Winner:

Beasts of No Nation

BEST COSTUME DESIGN:

The Nominees:

CINEMANIAC AWARDS14

Brooklyn

Far from the Madding Crowd

The Hateful Eight

Mad Max: Fury Road

Mr. Turner

The Winner:

The Hateful Eight

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING:

The Nominees:

CINEMANIAC AWARDS15

American Sniper

Cinderella

Concussion

Mad Max: Fury Road

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The Winner:

Mad Max: Fury Road

***

Agree?  Disagree?  Comment!

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The 88th Academy Awards – Nominations

You may or may not have read my post last Saturday, where I predicted the Oscar nominations.  I have to say, I’m pretty impressed with myself.  I made those predictions a day before the Golden Globes and several days before the Director’s Guild Awards, and I still managed to pin more than three-quarters of the Oscar nominees.

I’d like to say that the nominees are accurate this year.  A lot of them are.  But there’s also a very surprising number of snubs this year.  Below is a list of the nominees in all 24 categories for the 2016 Oscars.  For each category, I’ve included my thoughts.

And now, without further ado, the nominations:

BEST PICTURE

“The Big Short”
“Bridge of Spies”
“Brooklyn”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”
“Room”
“Spotlight”

What I’m rooting for: “Spotlight”, all the way.
Surprises: “Room” has been falling behind a little in the recent weeks of the Oscar race, but it’s an excellent film, so I’m very glad it was nominated.
Snubs: I refuse to accept that “Carol” was not even nominated.  Per a new rule in 2009, the Academy can nominate as few as 5 and as many as 10 films for Best Picture, depending on how strong the support is for the potential nominees.  It shocks me that “Carol”—one of the most acclaimed films of the year, with a Palme d’Or and an extremely rare 96% on Metacritic—did not find enough support from the Academy.

BEST DIRECTOR

Lenny Abrahamson, “Room”
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, “The Revenant”
Tom McCarthy, “Spotlight”
Adam McKay, “The Big Short”
George Miller, “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Who I’m rooting for: Again, “Spotlight”.  It’s an amazing film, and if you haven’t seen it, you’re really missing out on something spectacular.
Surprises: Again, I’m surprised but glad to see that “Room” landed a nomination.  Also a little surprised that Adam McKay landed a nomination.  (Side note: Even though I’m going to continue to avoid “The Big Short”, I’m still proud to see that someone from my neck of the woods got a nomination.  I’ve actually competed in academic team matches at McKay’s former high school!)
Snub: Ridley Scott was the frontrunner here for “The Martian”.  But I guess the Academy looked past him, somehow.

BEST ACTOR

Bryan Cranston, “Trumbo”
Matt Damon, “The Martian”
Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Revenant”
Michael Fassbender, “Steve Jobs”
Eddie Redmayne, “The Danish Girl”

Who I’m rooting for: Matt Damon.  But it doesn’t even matter, because there’s pretty much a consensus that Leonardo DiCaprio is finally going to win his first Oscar this year.

BEST ACTRESS

Cate Blanchett, “Carol”
Brie Larson, “Room”
Jennifer Lawrence, “Joy”
Charlotte Rampling, “45 Years”
Saoirse Ronan, “Brooklyn”

Who I’m rooting for: Most definitely Brie Larson.  The performance she gave in “Room” is one for the ages.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Christian Bale, “The Big Short”
Tom Hardy, “The Revenant”
Mark Ruffalo, “Spotlight”
Mark Rylance, “Bridge of Spies”
Sylvester Stallone, “Creed”

Who I’m rooting for: Sylvester Stallone!  And I want him to shout, “I DID IT, ADRIAN!!” in his acceptance speech.
Snubs: I really wanted to see Michael Keaton earn his second consecutive nomination.  He was great in “Birdman”, and now he’s outdone himself in “Spotlight”.  Alas, the Academy looked straight through him this year.  Also, where is Idris Elba in this category?  He actually kept me awake during “Beasts of No Nation”, which doesn’t even seem possible.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Jennifer Jason Leigh, “The Hateful Eight”
Rooney Mara, “Carol”
Rachel McAdams, “Spotlight”
Alicia Vikander, “The Danish Girl”
Kate Winslet, “Steve Jobs”

Who I’m rooting for: I really, really, really want Rooney Mara to win.  But I’d also really love it if Jennifer Jason Leigh won.
Snubs: Rachel McAdams for “Spotlight”, and Alicia Vikander for “Ex Machina”, even though she was nominated anyway for “The Danish Girl”.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

“Bridge of Spies”
“Ex Machina”
“Inside Out”
“Spotlight”
“Straight Outta Compton”

Who I’m rooting for: Once again, I’d like to see “Spotlight” win this one.
Surprises: “Straight Outta Compton”.  It was an outstanding film, but I didn’t expect to see it earn a nomination on its screenplay.
Snubs: “Trainwreck”.  I got really excited seeing that one make its way up in the Oscar race.  Such a letdown that it missed its nomination.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

“The Big Short”
“Brooklyn”
“Carol”
“The Martian”
“Room”

Who I’m rooting for: “Carol”, probably.  Or “Room”.  I can’t choose.
Snubs: Excuse me, but why wasn’t “Steve Jobs” nominated?  That almost doesn’t make sense.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

“Anomalisa”
“Boy & the World”
“Inside Out”
“Shaun the Sheep Movie”
“When Marnie Was There”

Who I’m rooting for: “Inside Out”, of course!
Surprises: Not sure what this “Boy & the World” film is, but I guess it must have been good enough to earn a nomination.
Snubs: “The Good Dinosaur”, anybody?

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

“Embrace of the Serpent” (Colombia) in Spanish
“Mustang” (France) in Turkish
“Son of Saul” (Hungary) in Hungarian
“Theeb” (Jordan) in Arabic
“A War” (Denmark) in Danish

Who I’m rooting for: I haven’t seen any of these yet, but given that it’s been the frontrunner for a few months, I’d be surprised if “Son of Saul” didn’t take home the Oscar.

BEST DOCUMENTARY — FEATURE

“Amy”
“Cartel Land”
“The Look of Silence”
“What Happened, Miss Simone?”
“Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom”

Who I’m rooting for: “Amy” is the only one of these that I have seen, and it was amazing, so let’s go with that one.

BEST DOCUMENTARY — SHORT SUBJECT

“Body Team 12”
“Chau, Beyond the Lines”
“Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah”
“A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness”
“Last Days of Freedom”

Who I’m rooting for: I’m hoping to watch the Oscar nominated shorts this year, but until I do, I don’t really have any say.

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

“Ave Maria”
“Day One”
“Everything Will Be Okay”
“Shok”
“Stutterer”

Who I’m rooting for: Again, I don’t really have much of a say, but “Everything Will Be Okay” sounds reassuring, so let’s go with that.

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM

“Bear Story”
“Prologue”
“Sanjay’s Super Team”
“We Can’t Live without Cosmos”
“World of Tomorrow”

Who I’m rooting for: Disney often distributes their movies with short films that play right beforehand, and for “The Good Dinosaur”, that short film was “Sanjay’s Super Team”.  I didn’t like it, but it’s the only one I’ve seen, and it’s the frontrunner, so I guess I’ll just hop on the bandwagon and go with that one.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

“Bridge of Spies” – Thomas Newman
“Carol” – Carter Burwell
“The Hateful Eight” – Ennio Morricone
“Sicario” – Jóhann Jóhannsson
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” – John Williams

Who I’m rooting for: Ennio Morricone’s score for “The Hateful Eight” was a wonder to behold.  I’m kind of caught between him and John Williams though, because John Williams (along with Steven Spielberg) was the one who made me love movies for the first time, back when I was in fourth grade.  That’s also why I do not, by any means, want “Bridge of Spies” to win for Best Original Score.  Steven Spielberg has done more than forty films, and “Bridge of Spies” is his second film (after “The Color Purple”) to not be scored by John Williams.
Surprises: Didn’t expect to see “Sicario” here.
Snubs: No “Inside Out”?

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

“Earned It” from “Fifty Shades of Grey” – Belly, Stephan Moccio, Jason Daheala Quenneville, and The Weeknd
“Manta Ray” from “Racing Extinction” – Antony Hegarty and J. Ralph
“Simple Song #3” from “Youth” – David Lang
“Til It Happens to You” from “The Hunting Ground” – Lady Gaga and Diane Warren
“Writing’s on the Wall” from “Spectre” – Jimmy Napes and Sam Smith

Who I’m rooting for: I loved “Youth” quite a bit, but unfortunately, I don’t remember that song.  I’m stuck between “Earned It” and “Writing’s on the Wall”, both of which, in my opinion, are underrated.
Surprises: I’ve been following the Oscar race for a while now, and I haven’t heard of “Racing Extinction”, nor have I heard of that “Manta Ray” song from it.
Snubs: That final scene in “Furious 7” where we heard “See You Again” could make a grown man cry.  I guess there really aren’t any grown men in the Academy.

BEST SOUND EDITING

“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”
“Sicario”
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

What I’m rooting for: “Mad Max: Fury Road”.  I saw it in Cinemark X D on opening weekend, and let me tell you, it sounded pretty darn awesome.
Surprises: “Sicario” only appeared to be a major contender in the Cinematography race, so I’m pretty impressed to see it earn a nomination for Sound Editing.

BEST SOUND MIXING

“Bridge of Spies”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

What I’m rooting for: Again, “Mad Max: Fury Road” has my heart in this category.

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

“Bridge of Spies”
“The Danish Girl”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”

What I’m rooting for: At two hours, “Mad Max: Fury Road” was the longest chase scene I have ever seen, and by far the most artfully beautiful.
Snubs: No “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” or “The Hateful Eight”?

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

“Carol” – Ed Lachman
“The Hateful Eight” – Robert Richardson
“Mad Max: Fury Road” – John Seale
“The Revenant” – Emmanuel Lubezki
“Sicario” – Roger Deakins

What I’m rooting for: Roger Deakins and Emmanuel Lubezki are my two all-time favorite cinematographers, but I haven’t seen “Sicario” or “The Revenant” yet, so I can’t exactly root for them.  Anyway, “Carol” and “Mad Max: Fury Road” were both gloriously filmed, but I really want “The Hateful Eight” to win this one.  Robert Richardson’s cinematography captures Quentin Tarantino’s vision of the film sublimely.
Snubs: Cinematography had quite a terrific year this year, and as a result, there was a whole lotta snubbin’ goin’ on.  Cary Joji Fukunaga for “Beasts of No Nation”, Mike Gioulakis for “It Follows”, Yves Bélanger for “Brooklyn”, Hoyte van Hoytema for “Spectre”, Darius Khondji for “Irrational Man”, Charlotte Bruus Christensen for “Far from the Madding Crowd”, Dariusz Wolski for “The Martian” and “The Walk”, Yorick Le Saux for “Clouds of Sils Maria”, Rob Hardy for “Ex Machina”, Dan Mindel for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, Robert Yeoman for “Love & Mercy”, and Luca Bigazzi for “Youth” – all of them were snubbed.

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

“The Hundred-Year-Old Man who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Revenant”

What I’m rooting for: “Mad Max: Fury Road”, the only nominee in this category that I have seen.  And given how great the makeup in the movie is, I really do hope it wins.
Surprises: What on earth is “The Hundred-Year-Old Man who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared”?  Is that a sequel to “The Englishman who Went Up a Hill but Came Down a Mountain”?
Snubs: “Mr. Holmes” had some pretty darn good makeup.  The hairstyling was pretty great, too.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

“Carol”
“Cinderella”
“The Danish Girl”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Revenant”

What I’m rooting for: “Mad Max: Fury Road”.  (Did you expect something else?)
Snubs: No idea why “The Hateful Eight” was absent in this category, not only for the nominees, but virtually in the entire Oscar race.  In my opinion, it was by far the best costume design of the year.

BEST FILM EDITING

“The Big Short” – Hank Corwin
“Mad Max: Fury Road” – Margaret Sixel
“The Revenant” – Stephen Mirrione
“Spotlight” – Tom McArdle
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” – Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey

What I’m rooting for: “Spotlight”.  But “Mad Max: Fury Road” or “The Revenant” will probably win.
Snubs: No love for “The Martian”?  How brutal the Academy can be.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

“Ex Machina”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

What I’m rooting for: There is no question about it, I am rooting for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”.
Surprises: I’m really glad to see that “Ex Machina”–an independent British film–was nominated over dumb Hollywood eye candy like that “Avengers” movie.
Snubs: I’m all alone here, since I’m the only one who liked “Terminator Genisys” even remotely, but I was kind of blown away by how well Arnold Schwarzenegger’s physique was digitally transformed to make him look three decades younger in that film.  I was convinced that footage had been salvaged from the original “Terminator”, but apparently it was all visual effects.

Agree?  Disagree?  Comment!

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Steve Jobs

Intense, captivating film about the man, the myth, the legend.
★★★½
Movie Review #1,046

steve_jobs

Universal Pictures
Biography, Drama
2 hours, 2 minutes
Rated R (language)
Released October 23, 2015
Directed by Danny Boyle
Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
From the book “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson
Starring Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg, Katherine Waterston, Perla Haney-Jardine, Ripley Sobo, and Makenzie Moss

2015 was one of the best years for film in a long, long time. Even so, Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay for “Steve Jobs” still seems to tower over every other screenplay of last year. From its very first moment, Sorkin is lobbing at us one barrage after another of heated, rapid-fire dialogue, laying the groundwork for an atmosphere of pure tension that pervades the film. In translating any of his scripts to film, the editor is Sorkin’s best friend; you simply can’t drag out anything he writes at a slow pace. Choosing editor Elliot Graham for this duty sounds like a daring move, as he hasn’t worked on a major motion picture since 2008, but as it turns out, he and Sorkin are on the exact same page. Graham delivers the script at a pace that’s so aggressive, it challenges us to keep up with it. He most certainly does not ease us into the film, and as a matter of fact, the only reason we manage to keep up with the film is that we’re so darn intrigued.

Sorkin doesn’t spend his whole script going through the subject’s entire life story. He’s aware that most of us know who Steve Jobs is. He divides the script into three separate acts, which we see woven together in the distinct style of director Danny Boyle. Act I follows Jobs as he introduces the Apple Macintosh in 1984; Act II, the NeXT Computer in 1988; Act III, the Apple iMac in 1998. Each act not only delves into how Jobs’s ego affected his career, but also how it affected his relationship with his daughter Lisa. That’s a major component in showing Jobs to us from an emotional standpoint. For the most part, it works out superbly. However, the offerings of this subplot have grown a bit too sentimental by Act III. The ultimate result is a finale that just feels too schmaltzy to belong in a movie this great.

Michael Fassbender doesn’t look a thing like the real Steve Jobs, but he does a damn fine job in the role. He develops the character purely as a manifestation of his own ego, demanding both admiration and loathing from those watching. On one hand, he’s goal-oriented and idealistic, but at the same time, he’s extremely dogmatic, reserved, and thrives on having control. This performance is matched by Kate Winslet’s. It’s likely you won’t even recognize the actress. Even behind her Polish accent and her strange attire, she still embodies Joanna Hoffman to her fullest. I had not heard of Hoffman until seeing the film, and I’m sure few of us have. She was integral to marketing products of both Apple and NeXT through nearly all of Jobs’s career. It’s safe to say that without her efforts, Apple might not be the juggernaut that it is today. But for the film’s purposes, that’s not important as the fact that she was one of few who could have a civil, adult conversation with Jobs. She stands by him as more of a mentor than a business partner.

“Steve Jobs” is the second dramatic account of the subject in just over two years, following “Jobs” in August 2013. They couldn’t be more different from each other, and that’s due to one monumental disparity. “Jobs” was too simple a film. It was a moment-by-moment account of Jobs’s life that connected us to the character roughly as much as a bullet-point biography. Essentially, it answered the whats and hows of Jobs’s life–Jobs’s co-founding Apple with Steve Wozniak and how he did it. “Steve Jobs” thinks different, so to speak. It’s relatively unconcerned with the whats and the hows. It instead presents Jobs in terms of the who and the why.

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Oscar Nominations: My Predictions

The nominations for this year’s Oscars will be announced this Thursday, January 14th.  Just waiting for them feels like waiting for paint to dry.

In the meantime, I’ve been gathering my predictions, which I have decided to post today.  The Golden Globes aren’t until tomorrow, and the nominations for the Directors Guild Awards aren’t until Tuesday, so it’s a pretty bold move on my part.  But bold people tend to make bold moves, don’t they?

Anyway, below are my final predictions…drum roll:

Best Picture:

The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn
Carol
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Spotlight

If there are 9 nominees: Room

If there are 10 nominees: Straight Outta Compton

Best Director:

Alejandro G. Iñárritu, The Revenant
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
Ridley Scott, The Martian
Steven Spielberg, Bridge of Spies

Other contenders:
Todd Haynes, Carol
Adam McKay, The Big Short

Best Actor:

Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Matt Damon, The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

Other contenders:
Johnny Depp, Black Mass
Will Smith, Concussion

Best Actress:

Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Other contenders:
Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road
Lily Tomlin, Grandma

Best Supporting Actor:

Christian Bale, The Big Short
Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation
Michael Keaton, Spotlight
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Other contenders:
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Michael Shannon, 99 Homes

Best Supporting Actress:

Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara, Carol
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Other contenders:
Helen Mirren, Trumbo
Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina

Best Original Screenplay:

Bridge of Spies
Ex Machina
The Hateful Eight
Inside Out
Spotlight

Other contenders:
Straight Outta Compton
Trainwreck

Best Adapted Screenplay:

The Big Short
Brooklyn
Carol
Room
Steve Jobs

Other contenders:
The Martian
Trumbo

Best Cinematography:

Bridge of Spies
Carol
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Sicario

Other contenders:
The Hateful Eight
The Martian

Best Costume Design:

Brooklyn
Carol
Cinderella
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road

Other contender:
The Hateful Eight

Best Film Editing:

The Big Short
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Spotlight

Other contender:
Bridge of Spies

Best Makeup and Hairstyling:

Black Mass
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant

Other contenders:
Concussion
Legend
Mr. Holmes

Best Production Design:

Bridge of Spies
Carol
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Other contender:
The Danish Girl

Best Original Score:

Bridge of Spies
Carol
The Hateful Eight
Spotlight
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Other contender:
Inside Out

Best Original Song:

“Love Me Like You Do” (Fifty Shades of Grey)
“See You Again” (Furious 7)
“Simple Song #3” (Youth)
“Till It Happens to You” (The Hunting Ground)
“Writing’s on the Wall” (Spectre)

Other contender:
“Earned It” (Fifty Shades of Grey)

Best Sound Editing:

Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Sicario
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Other contenders:
Bridge of Spies
The Hateful Eight
Inside Out

Best Sound Mixing:

The Hateful Eight
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Other contenders:
Bridge of Spies
Jurassic World

Best Visual Effects:

Jurassic World
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The Walk

Other contenders:
Ant-Man
Ex Machina

Best Animated Feature:

Anomalisa
The Good Dinosaur
Inside Out
Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet
Shaun the Sheep Movie

Other contenders:
Minions
The Peanuts Movie

Best Documentary Feature:

Amy
Cartel Land
The Hunting Ground
Listen to Me Marlon
The Look of Silence

Other contenders:
Best of Enemies
Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief
He Named Me Malala

Best Foreign Language Feature:

The Brand New Testament (Belgium)
Labyrinth of Lies (Germany)
Mustang (France)
Son of Saul (Hungary)
A War (Denmark)

Other contenders:
The Embrace of the Serpent (Colombia)
Theeb (Jordan)
Viva (Ireland)

Agree?  Disagree?  Comment!

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Nominations: The 4th Annual Cinemaniac Awards

It’s that time of year again: awards season.  The Oscar nominations are announced in less than a week.  Today, the far-less-prestigious (but just-as-fun-as-the-Oscars-hosted-by-Ellen) Cinemaniac nominations are announced.

This is my fourth time nominating movies for the annual Cinemaniac Awards.  I saw far more movies released in 2015 than I have any other year, so I have quite a number of films to nominate.  I’ve been drafting my list of nominees for about two or three months now, and let me tell you, it’s not easy.  2015 was an amazing year for movies.  Particularly with actors, actresses, and cinematography (this was the year for amazing cinematography in movies, in my opinion), I’ve had to make some tough calls.

Some of the nominations you’ll agree with, some of them you won’t.  I’d love to hear where you stand on as many of these as possible.  I doubt you’ll have seen all the films here, but if you get the chance to, please do.  They’re all nominated for a reason.  Even two films (Beasts of No Nation and Mr. Turner) that bored me to freaking tears still had some qualities that I could not resist nominating.

So without further ado, I give you the nominations for the 4th Annual Cinemaniac Awards:

Outstanding Director:

CINEMANIAC AWARDS

Lenny Abrahamson, Room

Danny Boyle, Steve Jobs

Xavier Dolan, Mommy

Clint Eastwood, American Sniper

Todd Haynes, Carol

Tom McCarthy, Spotlight

George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road

Ridley Scott, The Martian

Paolo Sorrentino, Youth

Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight

Best Lead Actor:

CINEMANIAC AWARDS1

Bradley Cooper, American Sniper

Matt Damon, The Martian

Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs

Will Smith, Concussion

Jacob Tremblay, Room

Best Supporting Actor:

CINEMANIAC AWARDS2

Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation

Walton Goggins, The Hateful Eight

Michael Keaton, Spotlight

Jason Segel, The End of the Tour

Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Best Lead Actress:

CINEMANIAC AWARDS3

Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night

Brie Larson, Room

Rooney Mara, Carol

Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Best Supporting Actress:

CINEMANIAC AWARDS4

Elizabeth Banks, Love & Mercy

Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight

Rachel McAdams, Spotlight

Kristen Stewart, Clouds of Sils Maria

Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Best Screenplay:

CINEMANIAC AWARDS5

American Sniper: written by Jason Hall; based on the book by Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen, and Jim DeFelice

Carol: screenplay by Phyllis Nagy; based on the novel “The Price of Salt” by Patricia Highsmith

Inside Out: original story by Pete Docter and Ronnie Del Carmen; screenplay by Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, and Josh Cooley

Love & Mercy: written by Oren Moverman and Michael Alan Lerner; based on the life of Brian Wilson

Mad Max: Fury Road: written by George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, and Nico Lathouris

The Martian: screenplay by Drew Goddard; based on the book by Andy Weir

Room: screenplay by Emma Donoghue; based on her novel

Spotlight: written by Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy

Steve Jobs: screenplay by Aaron Sorkin; based on the book “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson

Trainwreck: written by Amy Schumer

Best Score:

CINEMANIAC AWARDS7

Brooklyn (Michael Brook)

Carol (Carter Burwell)

The Hateful Eight (Ennio Morricone)

Inside Out (Michael Giacchino)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (John Williams)

Best Cinematography:

CINEMANIAC AWARDS8

Beasts of No Nation (Cary Fukunaga)

The Hateful Eight (Robert Richardson)

Mommy (André Turpin)

Mr. Turner (Dick Pope)

Youth (Luca Bigazzi)

Best Film Editing:

CINEMANIAC AWARDS9

American Sniper (Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach)

Carol (Affonso Gonçalves)

Mad Max: Fury Road (Margaret Sixel)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Mary Jo Markey and Maryann Brandon)

Steve Jobs (Elliot Graham)

Best Production Design:

CINEMANIAC AWARDS11

Beasts of No Nation

The Hateful Eight

Mad Max: Fury Road

Mr. Turner

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Visual Effects:

CINEMANIAC AWARDS12

Jurassic World

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Terminator Genisys

Best Sound Editing and Sound Mixing:

CINEMANIAC AWARDS13

American Sniper

Amy

Beasts of No Nation

Love & Mercy

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Costume Design:

CINEMANIAC AWARDS14

Brooklyn

Far from the Madding Crowd

The Hateful Eight

Mad Max: Fury Road

Mr. Turner

Best Makeup and Hairstyling:

CINEMANIAC AWARDS15

American Sniper

Cinderella

Concussion

Mad Max: Fury Road

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Agree?  Disagree?  Comment!

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