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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