We here at CLTure were recently approved as media to screen major motion picture releases in the Southeast. As a music and food blog based in Charlotte, North Carolina, this was new territory for us. Our fearless film editor, Dan Cava and contributing writers have had some memorable experiences, from a private screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, to interviewing the real soldiers from 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. As we honor the best films of 2015 tonight with the 88th Academy Awards, we look back at some of our favorite films we’ve seen in 2015 that have been nominated for an Oscar.
The Revenant is a grueling and gorgeous film. Fresh off of his directing Oscar for Birdman, Alejandro Inarritu decided to spend his once in a lifetime “next movie” award cred on a big-budget movie art experiment in mixing the beautiful with the battering. The movie is relentlessly cold, unnervingly physical, and openly spiritual. It’s long and serious and, in case I haven’t mentioned it, cold. All of this hypnotic harshness is presented to us with immersive sound design and absolutely jaw-dropping large-format digital cinematography. Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy gives a pair of incredible and uncompromising performances, mesmerizing as much for their endurance as for their artistry. The Revenant’s single-mindedness is sure to divide audiences, as it is anything but casual. Some will certainly find it punishing. I found it breathtaking. – Dan Cava
It’s an intricate and tender work of extraordinary insight, boundless invention, and perfectly calibrated creative choices. The rainbow of visual splendor that director Pete Docter has created yields one delight and thrill after another. Eleven-year-old Riley’s internal mental landscape is both warmly familiar and dazzlingly new. All of the complex psychological notions that underpin the idea of personifying our five basic emotions are masterfully realized and clarified by a thousand interlocking ideas, ideas whose connections are so seamless they seem to have been discovered rather than imagined. There are the perfect number and variety of characters. Everything makes sense. Every joke lands. Every tear sheds. But the real truth is that I fell for this movie, from first swell of Michael Giacchino’s delicate score to the parting sight gag of cats having cats for emotions. Inside Out is at the top of this list because I’m me and I couldn’t help it. I saw it and I loved it. I went and saw it again with my family, and I loved it. I saw a whole bunch of other movies, and I saw/heard it dozens of times as my kids watched it, and I loved it. I still do. Inside Out is my favorite movie of 2015. – Dan Cava
Spotlight isn’t the fast and furious Facebook feed version of the Boston Globe’s reporting on the Catholic Church abuse scandal; it’s patient and prestigious, with a perfect cast steadily weaving together a labyrinthe of journalistic discovery into a tight web of process and detail. It’s not just about the information, it’s about the breadth and width and depth of the information. Spotlight is an extraordinary testament to the messy but lasting value of the Fourth Estate, of professionals who will take a long, hard, dispassionate look at things until they’ve found everything there is to find. As Boston’s urban onion is peeled back and layer upon layer of neglect and cover-up are revealed, we realize that underneath the weight of all those handshakes and court documents and hushed agreements are hundreds of wounded people. I take back what I said earlier — Spotlight isn’t fast but it is furious. And heartbroken. Because it is informed. St. Paul said we should “be angry and sin not.” Spotlight reminds us when our man-made institutions prevent us from following the apostle’s advice, the truth will set us free. – Dan Cava
Bridge of Spies
Bridge of Spies is wonderful because it is wonderfully old fashioned. It’s not an intense movie, but rather, a drama about people engaged in tense situations. The movie is not so much gripping as, perhaps, coaxing and relentlessly so. Steven Spielberg has given us some of the finest pieces of overwhelming entertainment in movie history; but here as in his Lincoln, he is content to the methodically lay out this Cold War story one piece at a time, from start to finish, and that’s it. Tom Hanks plays our hero (and there’s no postmodern doubt about it, he’s our hero) with the settled gravitas of a Hollywood leading man, and his co-star Mark Rylance gives a master class in meaningful minimalism. Spielberg’s camera is perfectly placed as always, and only seems to move when it has to. The script, written by British playwright Matt Charman and polished by cinema savants Joel and Ethan Coen, is fascinatingly un-showy with dialogue that is rhythmic and direct. Bridge of Spies hits every old-school goal it aims for, and is as solid a piece of vintage Hollywood moviemaking as we’re likely to see anytime soon. – Dan Cava
I’m an avid reader, but The Martian is the rare instance where I’m glad I saw the movie first. Everyone I know who read the book complained that “they left so much out,” but in my self-inflicted ignorance, I noticed no such loss. Director Ridley Scott’s adaptation of the Andrew Weir’s grassroots nerd classic never sacrifices its crowd-pleasing elements on the altar of accuracy, nor its scientific sophistication on the altar of mass appeal. Scott’s vast visuals, Drew Goddard’s agile script, and Matt Damon’s infinite approachability make The Martian the big-idea blockbuster of the year. – Dan Cava
Aaron Sorkin’s ambitiously structured script for Steve Jobs pushes hard on all fronts. When it’s good, it’s better than most movies; and when it’s great, which is most of the time, it’s nirvana. – Dan Cava
The Big Short
Adam McKay’s brilliantly caustic adaptation of Michael Lewis’ nonfiction instant classic really belongs on the top ten list, but as this agitated retelling of the 2008 financial crisis is the slightly lesser of the two outstanding journalistic movies this year, sacrifices had to be made. But it’s great. – Dan Cava
The 88th Academy Awards will air live from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on Sunday, February 28, at 8:30 p.m. EST on ABC.
More CLTure Film