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American films do not have the monopoly to be called great. Yet, their wide rich and strong influence to the popular crowd are undeniable. This February, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Oscars) will honor last year’s best of cinema. The Best Picture Award is the highest among all the categories. With this Award, the films are judged based on every element: directing, writing, acting, musical scoring, film editing and other works put in the film. Below is a summary of the reviews we made for each of the nominee. You can click on their titles to redirect you to the main article.

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Bridge of Spies

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An insurance lawyer liaises United States, Germany, and Russia in a mission to save his convicted Russian spy client and two other Americans. The movie is a story on how James Donovan saved lives in an era when death is more inevitable than living – the World War II. Set in an eerily realistic backdrop, Tom Hanks masterfully plays an empathic historical figure. His performance is exact and certain giving depth to the role he plays.

Cinema and its audience are found in an embattled relationship. The former, as a subjective art, is blunt in asserting its principles and ideologies. The latter, acting like a valued customer, denies to be lectured on what is good and right. Bridge of Spies offers a solution on this problematic partnership. It suggests that films forward their lessons through subtlety. Images are presented like enigmas while the audiences interpret them based on their own reading.

Being a Spielberg’s work, Bridge of Spies truly has a lot to prove. But with superb acting, realistic production design, and unique story-telling, the film is excellent on its own. It is confident in its story-telling. It is certain of its production. And it is sure of its story to tell. Without trying too hard, the film captures the approval of the critical movie-viewers.

 

Mad Max: Fury Road

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In this year’s story Fury Road, we follow the journey of the main character Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) and his unending road chase featuring dirt, blood, and mechanics. After being captured by a savage pack, he finds himself on a desert fortress named Citadel ruled by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). It is a land full of fanatics known as war boys who glorify Joe as they await their ascension to Valhalla. As Max tries to escape from his captors, he finds an alliance with a warrior turned traitor Furiosa (Charlize Theron). Together, they try to save Joe’s ‘breeders’ from him while pursuing their personal motives. For Furiosa, it is to find redemption in her former home the Green place, while for Max, it is to gain freedom once again.

Mad Max veers away from the mediocre offering of films these days. It serves as a reminder that movies are to be made with utmost artistry, that viewers demand the best, and that beyond seamless cinematography is the importance of story-line.

The story is complicated with the danger of boring minds that might be too feeble to understand the interweaving concepts of fanaticism, feminism, and environmentalism. The sequence of events inside the fury road can be dragging. But as viewers opt to open their eyes and minds in the metaphors the journey could be both entertaining and satisfying.

 

The Revenant

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Set in the harsh condition of 1820s Louisiana Purchase (now Dakota, USA), a party of trappers met a raging group of Arikara Native Americans who is searching for their chief’s kidnapped daughter. While some of the hunters took shelter in their village, one of them (played by DiCaprio) was left behind. The Revenant records one character’s fight for life against the wrath of nature and men. It speaks of the power of revenge to conquer death and the eventual realization that “revenge is in the hands of the creator.”

To watch an acclaimed movie is to be critical of its cinematic treatment, doubtful of its purpose, and conscious of its mistakes. This movie shall undergo thorough scrutiny for it to win your approval. To watch The Revenant is the same. But with Leonardo DiCaprio’s outstanding performance guided by Alejandro Iñarritu’s brilliant direction, you tend to submit yourself and let loose your judgments. You just begin to enjoy the film and allow yourself to be entertained.

The Revenant’s success comes from its visionary director Alejandro Iñarritu. In an era when Hollywood films are business ventures first before artistic endeavors, we seldom see ambitious filmmakers who experiment and discover for the viewers’ sake. Iñarritu has once again proven to the public that box-office profit comes after delivering a good cine piece.

 

Spotlight

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A group of investigative reporters covers a sexual abuse story involving the Roman Catholic Church. As they unravel one story over another, more and more victims turned themselves in. Their report is not actually a local newspaper story but a global crisis that can wane the foundation of a big institution. These reporters (played by Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and Michael Keaton among others) then turned this story into a personal vendetta providing sensitive documents that could vindicate the sexual offender priests.

Spotlight takes another route and tells its story as is. It turns a repulsing story into an exciting drama sans loud cries and tragic confrontations. This movie allows viewers to focus more on the revelation it is about to unfold rather than on the shimmering images flashed on the big screen.

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