The Taylor Awards 2016

Academy_Award_trophy

The Oscars are upon us once more, which means another iteration of my own list of favorites from this last Oscar season/year. I have bolded my favorite selections from this year; those that do not have a bolded entry were simply too close to call. Multiple bolded entries signify a tie. Any films that I have done posts for will be linked, so just click on the title if you’d like a refresher on what I thought of them. Once again I must put the disclaimer that I probably forgot a few films/performances or I simply haven’t seen them, so sorry to those famous/creative minds who read this and are saddened by their exclusion, I still hope we can work together/be best friends someday.

Now without further ado!

 

Best Picture – Academy-esque Films

Beasts of No Nation

The Big Short

Carol

Creed

The Danish Girl

Ex Machina

Macbeth

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

Room

Sicario

Spotlight

Steve Jobs

Straight Outta Compton

 

This has been another tremendous year for film. Beasts of No Nation broke me with its unflinching portrayal of a child soldier’s life somewhere in Africa. The Big Short showed us the ins and outs of the 2008 financial crisis in a way that was both satisfying and infuriating to the layman. Creed returned the Rocky franchise to greatness by placing Rocky into a supporting role and reorienting its focus onto Apollo Creed’s son: a troubled young man who must forgive his father for his absence and persevere over adversity to become worthy of the name that has haunted him his entire life. The Danish Girl gave life to an important historical, transgender figure whose story of self-discovery still inspires people to this day. Ex Machina delivered an unnerving exploration of the idea of sentience and humanity’s place in a rapidly developing technological landscape. Macbeth is, in my mind, the quintessential version of the famed Scottish play about a would-be king’s descent into madness following a fateful decision. Mad Max: Fury Road roared into theatres, giving us another (and in my opinion, the best) Mad Max adventure as well as one of the greatest female protagonists of all time in the form of Charlize Theron’s unforgettable, Imperator Furiosa. Room showed us the depthless nature of a mother’s love for her child, even under harrowing circumstances. Sicario offered a chilling portrait of the politically complex and morally corrupt drug war taking place upon the border between the United States and Mexico. Spotlight told the story of a crack team of investigative journalists who discovered the horrifying cover-up of countless sexual abuses perpetrated by priests and other officials in the Catholic Church. Steve Jobs gave us a three-act character study that explored the complex, conflicted brilliance of one of our most important modern figures. And finally, Straight Outta Compton depicted one of the most important chapters in modern music history, following the rise, fall, and resurgence of the members of N.W.A., the socially conscious and incendiary rap group whose influences continue to be felt to this day.

These films are uniformly excellent, filled with memorable performances, eye-popping cinematography, imaginative direction, awesome art/production design, and masterful writing. However, The Revenant stands above them all. It is pure cinema; a relentless, unforgettable experience that, like Mad Max: Fury Road, could very well play out in complete silence and still be just as moving. Bolstered by Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy’s incredible performances as Hugh Glass and his embittered foil, Fitzgerald, The Revenant is stark in the simplicity of its premise. It is a revenge tale, beautifully told; an exploration of timeless, human concerns like life, death, morality, and purpose. Directed with aplomb by Alejandro González Iñárritu and lensed with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki’s distinct eye, The Revenant is a masterfully crafted work of art and without a doubt, a seminal film.

 

Best Picture – Science Fiction or Fantasy

Ant-Man

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Crimson Peak

Deadpool

Ex Machina

It Follows

Mad Max: Fury Road

Star Wars: Episode VII, The Force Awakens

 

            A list bursting with creativity and imagination, this year was filled with great science fiction and fantasy films; from Star Wars’ return to greatness to the perfection that is Mad Max: Fury Road, you’d be hard pressed to find anything more sensational this year. That being said, my pick for ‘Favorite Science Fiction or Fantasy Film’ has to be Alex Garland’s quietly thoughtful and entirely unsettling, Ex Machina. Writer of the excellent, underrated films 28 Days Later, Sunshine, and Dredd (where’s my sequel, damn it?!), first time director Alex Garland is no stranger to the sci-fi genre, but Ex Machina is a different beast entirely. At its heart, it’s a bottle film centered on three characters: a brilliant scientist, a human guinea pig, and a sentient A.I. creation called Eva. The layers of philosophical discourse, exploration of what it means to be human, and the complex relationships between these three characters showcase the strength of sci-fi as a genre: it is a platform for the dissection and discussion of important themes through fantastical circumstances. Garland’s film plays like the very best episode of The Twilight Zone, raising pertinent, timely questions while also offering a fascinating, unpredictable story that will keep you mesmerized until the very last frame. It’s a film that demands to be seen.

 

Best Action Film/ Best Films that Happen to Have Great Action Scenes in Them

Ant-Man

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Deadpool

Furious 7

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Mad Max: Fury Road

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

Star Wars: Episode VII, The Force Awakens

 

It was a great year for action films. Though I’m not sure anything can reach the hand-to-hand heights of last year’s The Raid 2: Berendal, we were treated to some truly memorable, wildly-imaginative action scenes and set-pieces. Beyond the superhero antics we have come to know and love (who dislikes seeing the Avengers crew get together?), this year saw Tom Cruise once again give his insurance rep heart palpitations as he hung onto the side of a cargo plane during take-off in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation  – and that was only during the first ten minutes! – while Kingsman provided perhaps the most politically-loaded, darkly satisfying sequence of the year which not only took place inside a church tearing itself apart, but was also set to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird. Furious 7 gave us a touching send off to Paul Walker while also providing all of the outlandish, heart-pounding thrills we have come to expect from Dom and the family, including a string of unforgettable sequences (i.e. jumping a car from one skyscraper, to another, to another) that escalate in spectacular fashion. Meanwhile, Star Wars provided all of the lightsaber-clashing, laser-blasting joy for which we have hungered these last ten years. Given the raw, grounded vitality of Star Wars’ climactic lightsaber battle, it’s difficult to imagine any sequence more thrilling in a film this season; that is until you count the entirety of Mad Max: Fury Road.

Think about your grandpa. Now imagine a cooler version of him named George Miller. The original director of the Mad Max films returns to the genre he made famous with one of the greatest action films of all time. Featuring death-defying practical stunt work, clear, crisp editing, beautiful cinematography, and clever choreography, Mad Max: Fury Road is the action film all action films should aspire to be. Most importantly, it seamlessly integrates its action into a story grounded in a world dripping with atmosphere and history. Nothing happens without purpose and each set-piece serves to propel the plot forward, culminating in an unforgettable car-chase-fight sequence that puts most action films to shame. Truly, a triumph of action cinema.

 

Best Director

Lenny Abrahamson – Room

J.J. Abrams – Star Wars: Episode VII, The Force Awakens

Danny Boyle – Steve Jobs

Ryan Coogler – Creed

Cary Joji Fukunaga – Beasts of No Nation

Alex Garland – Ex Machina

F. Gary Gray – Straight Outta Compton

Tom Hooper – The Danish Girl

Alejandro González Iñárritu – The Revenant

Justin Kurzel – Macbeth

Tom McCarthy – Spotlight

Adam McKay – The Big Short

George Miller— Mad Max: Fury Road

 

A tough choice for me, but in the end I had to go with George Miller. Mad Max: Fury Road is a cinematic masterpiece and a labor of love for Miller who spent over ten years in development hell trying to get this film made. The sum total of his efforts is a breathless film that is perfectly paced, stylistically consistent, and full of potent themes and satisfying action. Without Miller, this film would not be half the movie that it is.

 

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett – Carol

Emily Blunt – Sicario

Brie Larson – Room

Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn

 

I loved all three of these performances, but Brie Larson’s portrayal of a mother in a hopeless situation floored me. Larson imbues so much heart and depth into her character that it is impossible not to sympathize with her horrific situation. Powerful, powerful stuff.

 

Best Actor

Abraham Attah – Beasts of No Nation

Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant

Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs

Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl

 

I love Leonardo DiCaprio. I love him dearly, but Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of Steve Jobs’ has to be my pick for best performance. Twisting his way around Aaron Sorkin’s rapid-fire dialogue, Fassbender is still somehow able to instill pathos and depth into a character that could have easily come off as caustic and cruel. I loved every moment of it.

 

Best Supporting Actress

Rooney Mara – Carol

Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl

Charlize Theron – Mad Max: Fury Road

Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs

 

Alicia Vikander is the heart of The Danish Girl; her portrayal of a woman struggling with accepting her husband’s situation, and her subsequent support and friendship with Lilly Elba is absolutely stunning. Vikander is wholly deserving of this award, even in a category populated by sterling performances.

 

Best Supporting Actor

Christian Bale – The Big Short

Idris Elba – Beasts of No Nation

Tom Hardy – The Revenant

Michael Keaton – Spotlight

Sylvester Stallone – Creed

Mark Ruffalo –- Spotlight

Benicio del Toro – Sicario

Jacob Tremblay – Room

 

Christian Bale remains one of my favorite actors. His quirky, yet grounded performance in The Big Short literally carries half of the film. His The Dark Knight Rises co-star Tom Hardy, is likewise brilliant as the gruff, almost nihilistic Fitzgerald in The Revenant. If either won the Oscar, I’d be happy.

 

Best Cinematography

Adam Arkapaw – Macbeth

Roger Deakins – Sicario

Danny Cohen – The Danish Girl

Cary Joji Fukunaga – Beasts of No Nation

Emmanuel Lubezki – The Revenant

John Seale – Mad Max: Fury Road

 

Film Editing

Hank Corwin – The Big Short

Margaret Sixel – Mad Max: Fury Road

Stephen Mirrione – The Revenant

Chris Dickens – Macbeth

Tom McArdle – Spotlight

Elliot Graham – Steve Jobs

 

Writing – Adapted Screenplay

The Big Short – Charles Randolph, Adam McKay

Carol – Todd Haynes

The Revenant – Alejandro González Iñárritu, Mark L. Smith

Room – Emma Donoghue

Steve Jobs – Aaron Sorkin

 

Writing – Original Screenplay

Ex Machina – Alex Garland

Mad Max: Fury Road – George Miller, Brendan McCarthy

Spotlight – Josh Singer, Tom McCarthy

Straight Outta Compton – Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff

 

Music – Original Score

Carol

The Hateful Eight

Mad Max: Fury Road

Macbeth

The Revenant

Star Wars: Episode VII, The Force Awakens

Sicario

Spotlight

Steve Jobs

 

Visual Effects

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Ex Machina

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

Star Wars: Episode VII, The Force Awakens

 

Most Majestic

Unfortunately, Richard Armitage was not in a nominated film this year.

 

Best Film Insecure Men Completely Misread

Mad Max: Fury Road

 

Other Great Films This Year

Black Mass

Brooklyn

Carol

Dope

The Martian

Me and Early and the Dying Girl

Southpaw

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