2016 AMC Best Picture Showcase, Day 2

2016 AMC Best Picture Showcase, Day 2

This year is the 10th anniversary of AMC’s annual event, the AMC Best Picture Showcase. On two successive Saturdays, the theater chain runs all of the nominees for the Best Picture Oscar (at selected locations). With eight nominees this year, they’re running four movies on February 20th and the remaining four on the next Saturday, February 27th. The Oscars, of course, are on Sunday, February 28th.

So, what did I think of the movies that played on Day 2?

Brooklyn: Saoirse Ronan plays Eilis Lacey, an Irish girl who immigrates to America in the 1950’s and ends up in Brooklyn. Finding romance in America, she soon has to decide which world she really belongs to: her new life in Brooklyn or back in Ireland. A beautifully filmed character study of both a woman and an era.

Spotlight: A driving film about the journalist team that broke the Catholic molestation scandal as not just a couple of bad priests here and there, but rather as a systemic problem within the Church. A powerful film with a strong ensemble cast.

The Martian: When an accident occurs on the first manned Mars mission, the crew is forced to abandon their base and leave the planet. What they don’t know is that astronaut Mark Watney, presumed dead in the accident, is actually still alive and stranded on Mars. What ensues is a harrowing tale of survival on a hostile planet. An excellent, riveting movie with a good dose of humor. The screenwriters did an excellent job taking a scientifically dense novel and turning it into a terrific movie.

The Revenant:Leonardo Dicaprio plays Hugh Glass, a fur trapper in 1823. When he is mauled by a bear and left for dead by other members of his hunting party, he expends every effort to survive and gain revenge on those who wronged him. A little long, but very moving. Features some of the best outdoor cinematography ever seen in a film.

I liked all of these films. Each one is highly worthwhile in diverse ways. My pick for the day was The Martian, an uplifting film backed by real science.

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2016 AMC Best Picture Showcase, Day 1

2016 AMC Best Picture Showcase Day 1

This year is the 10th anniversary of AMC’s annual event, the AMC Best Picture Showcase. On two successive Saturdays, the theater chain runs all of the nominees for the Best Picture Oscar (at selected locations). With eight nominees this year, they’re running four movies on February 20th and the remaining four next Saturday, February 27th. The Oscars, of course, are on Sunday, February 28th.

So, what did I think of the movies that played on Day 1?

Bridge of Spies: A beautifully filmed Cold War story about spies from director Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks (in his fourth movie for the director). It’s a little slow-paced, with excellent cinematography and some nice touches of humor to leaven the seriousness of the topic. It’s a good film, but not really in the same class as such Spielberg films as Schindler’s List or even Saving Private Ryan.

Room: A young mother tries to build the best possible life for her five-year-old son, even though they’re trapped in a single, small room with no access to the outside world. Interestingly, the film is told from the viewpoint of Jack, the five-year-old. It’s a devastatingly powerful film, with riveting performances by Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay (playing 5-year-old Jack in the film).

Mad Max: Fury Road: Action. Action. Action. With just enough plot to keep the action in a meaningful context. And with real stunts, not that CGI stuff. It’s an adrenaline rush, but not really an Oscar contender in my mind, despite the feminist thread that surprisingly runs through the film.

The Big Short: News flash. There are greedy people on Wall Street who will do anything to make money. It’s a good story about complex money matters, and the creators pull out every stop to make it as interesting as possible. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t love it. It made me mad at Wall Street, of course, but I’m already cynical enough to realize that the Wall Street money chase is a rigged game.

My pick for top movie of the day was Room.

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AMC Best Picture Marathon 2014, Day 2

AMC Best Picture Showcase 2014, Day 2

Yesterday was awesome! I attended Day 2 of the AMC Best Picture Showcase, which featured the last five of the nine films nominated for the Best Picture Oscar award. They were shown in the order listed above in the picture. Day 1 of the marathon was last weekend, February 22nd, and featured the first four nominated films.

Nebraska was a real sleeper of a movie. Meticulously assembled with awesome performances from everyone involved, and often very funny. Clearly a labor of love on the part of the producers. It was the film I was least interested in, but it turned out to be a perfect little gem of a movie.

Captain Phillips was a riveting battle of wits between the captain of a cargo ship, the crew and some Somali hijackers. Incredible direction by Paul Greengrass and top-notch performances from Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi.

Her was an unusual film. Frankly, I wasn’t sure what to expect. In the near future, a man, played by Joaquin Phoenix, who has recently split with his wife installs a new operating system on his computer. The OS features an artificial intelligence (AI) that learns from experience, and he falls in love with this new “person” in his life. Director Spike Jonez manages to make the romance believable. The AI, Samantha, is admirably played by Scarlett Jonhansson, with a voice-only performance that makes her character seem real despite never appearing onscreen. The story also function as a solid science fiction extrapolation of the potential cultural impact of AI technology. If I have a beef with it, it’s that I’d expect the future to include 3D immersive worlds where Samantha could have easily appeared as an avatar.

Amercian Hustle was a good movie, with excellent performances, but a bit of a sprawling, hot mess. It’s a story of a con man and his female partner forced by the FBI to entrap corrupt politicians during the ’70’s. It featured some excellent performances, but had a few too many twists and turns, and an ending that was just a little too abrupt and convenient. A good film, but not a great one.

Finally, Gravity, in 3D. An excellent, pulse-pounding, ground-breaking film, and a testament to Alfonso Cuaron’s vision. I can pick out some simplifications and lapses in the science, but the film did a miraculous job of catching the intensity of a life-and-death crisis in space.

For me, the clear winner of the day was Gravity, followed by Captain Phillips.

So, for the Oscars, I’m predicting Twelve Years a Slave for Best Picture, with Gravity for Best Director and various technical awards. Her is a serious contender for Best Original Screenplay. Dallas Buyers Club to take both male acting awards.

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AMC Best Picture Marathon 2014, Day 1

AMC Best Picture Showcase 2014 This is the 8th year of a great tradition from AMC Theaters — the AMC Best Picture Showcase. Beginning in 2007, movie buffs around the country have had the opportunity to see all of the movies nominated for the Best Picture award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for one great price.

I’d heard about this event two years ago from my friend and former boss at General Dynamics, Jessie Link. This is the first year I’ve been able to attend the annual movie marathon, which AMC provided as either a 1-day, 9-movie marathon, or a 2-day, 4-then-5-movie marathon over two weekends. I chose the 2-day option, along with my friends Cheryl Baker and Narayanan Doraswamy.

Day 1 of the marathon was an awesome way to see the Best Picture nominees. My winner for the day was “Philomena” with it’s heart-felt mix of humor, tragedy, anger, and forgiveness. “12 Years a Slave” was riveting, but too brutal for comfortable viewing. “Dallas Buyers Club” was surprisingly uplifting. And “Wolfie” was about a bad boy who never really learned from his mistakes — interesting and crisply directed but not a contender.

I’m really looking forward to Day 2 of the marathon, which will be next Saturday, March 1st (the day before the Oscar Awards). This will be the first time ever that I’ve had a chance to see all of the Best Picture nominees prior to the Oscar Awards.

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