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Oscar Films Worth Watching from 2015 

By: Michael McCarrick, Lion’s Eye Writer, mqm5415@psu.edu

There are times when the Oscars do not determine the best movie of the year. “Citizen Kane” is widely regarded as the greatest American movie ever made, but did it win Best Picture at the Oscars. It lost to some movie called, “How Green was My Valley,” which has since faded into obscurity. It’s not about what audiences look back as the most memorable and entertaining movie, but rather the most well-made and mature film that pleases critics. In fact, the only Best Picture winner that a majority of students reading this can say they saw is, “The Lord of The Rings: The Return of The King.” Advice for students who want to become filmmakers: if you want to win an Oscar, make a movie about making movies, as three of the last four best picture champions have had some relation to the entertainment industry in “The Artist,” “Argo,” and “Birdman.”

There is also the issue of black Hollywood stars and filmmakers boycotting the Oscars because most of the nominations feature white actors. An example of their racial prejudice case is the fact that “Creed” star Michael B. Jordan did not get nominated for Best Actor while his white co-star Sylvester Stallone was nominated for Best Supporting Actor supposedly because the studio made a bigger push for his nomination.  Some will argue that the Academy and the studio have a prejudice about nominating for black actors. Maybe the most likely explanation is that Hollywood has failed to create roles and films for black actors and actresses that are worthy of Oscar consideration.

The times of Sidney Poitier, Morgan Freeman, and Denzel Washington are beginning totransition to a new generation of black actors such as Michael B. Jordan and John Boyega from “Star Wars.” Soon those actors will be given roles that are Oscar worthy—and the need for this outcry will fade away. Nevertheless, for film fanatics it’s still fun to watch some of the best actors and filmmakers in the world come together and celebrate the year in movies. Whether it’s the performances of the best song nominees, the in memoriam segment, the memorable speeches or the fashion, The Oscars always have something memorable. In preparation for the big show, here are the films that will be celebrated this year at the 88th Academy Awards on February 28 at 8:30 p.m. on ABC. Expect host Chris Rock to make some hilarious remarks about the social situations the Oscars are experiencing.

“The Revenant”
Winner of Best Drama, Director, and Actor at the Golden Globes, “The Revenant” is primed to clean up at the Academy Awards with 12 nominations this year. And it might finally end the drought every film fanatic has been waiting for: Leonardo DiCaprio winning an Oscar. The film is a tale of survival and revenge in the 19th century with remarkable cinematography and incredible snowy landscapes.

“Spotlight”
Based on a true story, this is a dark and intriguing look at a group of reporters investigating Boston priests of child-molestation allegations. With a star-studded cast featuring Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, and Mark Ruffalo, this drama gripped viewers with the shocking information these reporters uncovered.

“Creed”
In Philadelphia sports, there are no dynasties, except for Rocky. The much beloved “Rocky Balboa” franchise that started in 1976 has been passed down to a new generation with “Creed,” which tells the story of Apollo Creed’s illegitimate son Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) moving to Philadelphia to become a professional boxer like his father before him, having the old man himself (Sylvester Stallone) train him. Stallone’s performance has already won him a Golden Globe and might give him his second Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, the first he won for writing the original Rocky.

“Mad Max: Fury Road”
The unlikeliest of Oscar contenders, “Fury Road” is a reboot of the violent “Mad Max” series made popular in the 1980s with Mel Gibson. Tom Hardy takes the reigns as Max, but it’s Charlize Theron’s performance as Furiosa that steals the show. What makes this film a cinematic masterpiece is the incredible shot action and spectacular practical effects from director George Miller, who filmed the original “Mad Max” films. Nicholas Hoult also has a great performance as the deformed Nux. Expect this to be the movie to take home all the technical awards such as visual effects, cinematography and sound.

“Bridge of Spies”
What’s more Americana than a Cold War era movie starring Tom Hanks and directed by Steven Spielberg? It’s like Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr working their magic together in the first Super Bowl. This time Hanks plays a lawyer who has to defend American soldiers accused of becoming spies for Communist Russia. The trial takes place in one of the most dangerous parts of the world at that time–East Berlin.

“Brooklyn”
Best Actress nominee Sairose Ronan, who is just old enough to be a senior in college, has already been nominated for an Oscar when she was a mere 13-year-old for “Atonement.”  In this film, she plays a 1950s Irish immigrant who comes to America to live on her own; she is quickly torn between staying in her homeland and making a new life for herself in Brooklyn.

“Carol”
Cate Blanchett is becoming as royal to the Academy as Meryl Streep, as she and her co-star Rooney Mara are both nominated as lesbian lovers during the early 20th century. Blanchett plays Carol Aird, a housewife who is threatened with losing custody of her daughter because of her relationship with another woman (Mara). Kyle Chandler and Sarah Paulson are also featured.

“Straight Outta Compton”
One of the most popular movies of the year, “Straight Outta Compton” tells the true story of the rise and fall of one of the most famous and influential rap groups of all time: N.W.A. This rags-to-riches story follows members such as Dr. Dre, Ice Cube (played uncannily by his son) and Eazy-E. Themes of police brutality and minority suppression ring true with audiences today, making it the perfect time to tell the story of N.W.A.

“Room”
This gripping drama is about a young woman (Brie Larson) who was kidnapped and incarcerated for years while giving birth and raising her son. When the two finally find a way to escape, they now have adapt to the world outside, especially the boy, whose whole world thus far was confined to one room. The talented Larson is a favorite to win Best Actress.

“The Big Short”
Any movie featuring the team of Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling and Steve Carell is bound to attract attention at the Oscars. The film takes a look at the beginning of the 2008 housing market crisis and the uncovering of the Wall Street brokers corruption that led to its collapse, all foreseen by Bale’s genius character. The film is fast-paced with snappy dialogue and brutally honest humor.

“The Martian”
The winner for Best Comedy/Musical at the Golden Globes, “Alien and Blade Runner” director Ridley Scott returns to science fiction. Scott adapts the best-selling novel about an astronaut (Matt Damon) being left behind on Mars and forced to survive relying solely on his wits as he awaits rescue, which takes a couple years. Both humorous and dramatic, “The Martian” is a rare sci-fi movie, not based on a film-franchise, that has become a classic.

“Joy”
Fans of “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle” will probably be a fan of “Joy” as the stars and director of said movies have reunited to make another run at the Oscars. Jennifer Lawrence plays the titular character who goes through some rough patches to find success as the inventor of the Miracle Mop in spite of her overbearing family, including her father (Robert De Niro). Bradley Cooper also co-stars with Lawrence again, though not as her romantic partner, but as her boss.

“The Danish Girl”
Last year, Eddie Redmayne won the Oscar for Best Actor for his performance as Steven Hawking in “The Theory of Everything.” This year, he’s campaigning for a repeat, as he portrays an artist in the early 20th century who decides to become a woman. His wife, played by Alicia Vikander, is also nominated for Best Actress for the film and Best Supporting Actress for “Ex Machina.”

“Inside Out”
The slam-dunk for Best Animated Feature seems to be this film. “Inside Out” dives into the mind of a young girl’s brain, showing her emotions of happiness, sadness, anger, fear and disgust personified. It’s up to them to give her the right balance of emotions in order for her to be a functional human being. Pixar’s latest classic does what it does best —humor and entertain both children and adults… and make them cry.

“Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens”
The only movie on this list that a majority of students saw last year, “The Force Awakens” rejuvenated the biggest pop culture phenomenon in the world by being visually stunning, emotional and genuinely fun. Nominated for five Oscars, it won’t win a lot of awards, but it’ll be remembered as the movie everyone went to see and loved in 2015. The other nominated films were well-made, but “Star Wars” was a movie that had the “Wow!” factor.

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