Truth, Brooklyn, Room, Spotlight, Concussion, The Martian

I have a new blog/life project in the works but I did want to recap some of the movies I saw last year before moving on to my new venture. These movies are among my favorites of 2015 and are making the rounds on critics’ top 10 and award contender lists.

The performances in each of these films stood out for me and I think the way actors took on the characters in the films based on true stories should be the source of recognition as awards season continues.

In no particular order …

Truth

tru2Movies about journalism and the news business make me happy. They make for good drama and a peek into a world that informs us of what’s going on. Journalism has changed a lot, so films about “old school” reporting on true events to build a story and the following success or fallout are especially interesting to me. In Truth, Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford star as producer Mary Mapes and CBS News Anchor Dan Rather in the time leading up to his resignation. That time includes their investigative report and broadcast about George W. Bush’s military service as well as the career-changing aftermath it caused for Rather and Mapes and their reporting team. In addition to learning more about the facts of the story in the early to mid-2000s as it played out on screen, I found myself enamored with Blanchett and Redford’s performances and I think they really made this movie. The supporting cast has its highs (Elisabeth Moss) and lows (Topher Grace and sometimes Dennis Quaid) but I think this film is overall underrated. Some scenes were a bit over-the-top but Blanchett and Redford always brought it back and their moments alone together really honing in on what they were trying to accomplish and why, away from all the drama, put the story into perspective. Truth doesn’t have a strong presence on the awards circuit (at least Blanchett’s hairstyle should be nominated) but I think it’s worth watching for newsies and film buffs alike. It will be out on DVD Feb. 2.

Room

room_stillIf I ever write a movie, Brie Larson will need to be in it. She’s having a moment right now, which I expect will continue for some time, so I am sure she will be game to star in my rom-com that has a plot no one has ever used before. Brie, call me.

Larson has range from working in dramas and comedies and in Room takes on a role where I imagine she needed to combine those skills to play her character, Ma. Room tells the story of a mom and her son, Jack, locked in a garden shed for several years after Ma was kidnapped as a teenager.

A good part of the film is Ma and Jack together trying to maintain a normal life in one room with, seemingly, no way out. If you see Room only once it is a drama and suspense, if you see it twice — which I did — it turns into more of a character-driven story about a family trying to rebuild their life and relationships. Ma’s parents come into the picture in the film as well and what happens to her is an avenue for them to focus on and rebuild their relationships with Jack at the center of it all.

I didn’t read the book the film is based on, which I think is a good way to go into this particular film, but if you did I still think watching it on screen will present a dynamic and unexpected telling of the written story.

Room is probably one of the strongest award contenders on this list, in addition to Spotlight, and I just hope Larson will still star in my movie after she wins. Seriously, call me.

Brooklyn

brooklyn

Brooklyn is a perfect movie. It ends the way you want it to end, Saoirse Ronan is just compelling to watch and it presents a complete picture of her character’s dilemma to build a new life in Brooklyn or stay in her hometown in Ireland.

In some ways I felt myself wanting more conflict in the end and to be left with a dissenting opinion about Eilis’ (played by Ronan) life decisions – but then Brooklyn wouldn’t be a perfect movie.

It is not often I find myself with little to write about a film — and this does not mean I didn’t like Brooklyn — it’s just that good and I think it’s probably a story all audiences will like.

I will say Ronan’s performance stands out in this film and I would like her to be in my movie with Larson. Saoirse, call me. If you want to hear more of her lovely voice (and life story) I recommend listening to her 2013 interview with Chris Hardwick on The Nerdist.

Spotlight

S_09159.CR2

Spotlight is another movie about the news business – this time about print journalism and The Boston Globe’s coverage of abuse in the Catholic church. It is directed and co-written by Tom McCarthy and includes top character performances by Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo (who could also join my movie if they would like) as well as Rachel McAdams and Liev Schreiber.

This NPR story focuses on how the cast, mainly Keaton as Walter Robinson, took on who their characters are as much as depicting how the Spotlight team uncovered and reported on the story of the Catholic church scandal in Boston.

I actually want to see Spotlight again but as it stands now I think the acting carried the film as much as — if not more than — the telling of the story it is based on.

Concussion

concussionTell the truth! Doug Loves Movies fans out there will know that Doug Benson has been working on his Will Smith character impersonation for the past few weeks when he asks his guests about their favorite movie that the actor stars in.

What’s interesting about Concussion is you will lose sight of the fact that it’s Will Smith playing Dr. Bennet Omalu not long into the film. Omalu, a pathologist performing autopsies, very thoroughly, comes across a disease affecting football players that can really only be detected after they die. Concussion is another true story and character-focused plot and Smith excels at playing a man fighting keeping his reputation and career as a doctor intact while trying to bring the truth out and ultimately help people while the NFL tries to silence him. It presents a well-rounded telling of the story but one that could be pretty forgettable without Smith’s performance.

The Martian

The-MartianI know I raved a lot about The Martian from the moment I heard about it and I am finally getting to writing about it now, months after I saw the film. It is nominated for Golden Globes in the best picture, directing (Ridley Scott) and acting (Matt Damon) categories. I think it has some strong competition as far as awards go and I’ve heard some critics pan it because they are sick of space movies and found The Martian didn’t live up to the hype. I, overall, liked the film and felt (despite all my bias about Damon) he did well acting alone for much of the film. While Damon (as Mark Watney) is stuck on Mars trying to survive, Scott and the film’s writers (including novelist Andy Weir) did well mixing in the story of people on Earth trying to save him or “Bring Him Home.”

You may or may not know what happens, but I like how understated the very end of the film was and overall how the narration by Damon as Watney (which I didn’t like very much in the book) played out on screen.

There are a lot of movies to see this year, but I wouldn’t mind revisiting The Martian. It is out on DVD Jan. 12.

In the meantime, I am starting out my year in movies by seeing Mustang today and I’m pretty excited for what’s to come.

Also Matt Damon, call me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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