AMC 2016 Best Picture Showcase Recap

It’s the Sunday after the AMC Best Picture Showcase. Which means, among other things, I’ll be spending the rest of my day in a cocoon, unable to hear the word “popcorn” without having terrible flashbacks to midnight and some desperate moves to stay awake. Like hitting that fourth bag of popcorn at midnight.

But we had to do what we had to do.

The Marathon my friends and I attended once again was at AMC Georgetown, where the crew goes out of their way to provide a spectacular event, not just a bunch of movies shown back to back. We get a real show, from a red carpet to pictures in front of a marquee, to prizes and a continental breakfast. They even went out of their way this year to remind people to not use their phones, and to kindly shut the hell up while the movies were playing.

As i do with every year, I’m going to give a brief rundown of the movies and my thoughts on them. Keep in mind, I’m not a professional film critic in that… well, the only real qualification I can see for being a film critic is to watch movies and give opinions on them, so many be I am a film critic, in that I give opinions on movies. But keep in mind, these are my opinions, and just that. If you don’t like them, as a man much smarter than me said… well, that’s just like your opinion, man. This year, I’m using a grading scale for my scores.

As another wise man once told me, all grades are subjective. It’s just an easy guide. Also, I grade these a lot harsher, because they’re Oscar movies.

10:30 a.m. – Brooklyn

After getting settled in and shoving a few people out of the way to make sure we got the seats we really wanted, our first movie was Brookyln. It’s about an Irish woman who seeks a better life in America after escaping her Irish town. The movie itself was very well crafted and it it holds the distinction of having the only scene in all the Oscar movies in which the main character has to use the restroom in a bucket on a ship that is being tossed through the waves. If Leo doesn’t win this year, expect to see him do it next year, too.

I liked this film. It’s a sweet love story: Irish girl meets Italian Boy, goes back to her hometown after marrying Irish boy, gets sucked back in. It’s subtly nuanced in the idea that it is our attitude that can make what is around us. Or something like that. Here’s the thing though… Best Picture? Not really. It’s just that in the end, a sweet story. But it doesn’t innovate, or try to tell a story in a bigger picture. It’s a small story, and quite frankly, while it is still probably one of the best films of 2015, I’m wondering why it got picked over a lot of other movies out there.

Professor Bad Shakespeare’s Grade: B.

12:46 p.m. – The Big Short

Fun fact, I won a shirt with “The Big Short” on it after answering trivia question about Will Ferrell correctly. Take THAT everyone who said that my knowledge of Will Ferrell was useless.

Anyway, this is the movie about the people that predicted the financial collapse in the early 2000’s. As the movie puts it, “the series of oddballs and losers who figured it out.” Of course no one listened to them. What I really liked about this movie was the lengths it went to get you to care about material that is normally dryer than the toast that Elwood likes to eat in the Blues Brothers movie.

I shouldn’t have had to explain it that much. you should see Blues Brothers, too.

Anyway, it uses some interesting ways to explain how these bad deals work, such as Margot Robbie in a bubble bath (which I’m proposing everything be explained from here on out), Anthony Bourdain making stew, and Selna Gomez losing 10 million dollars at the Blackjack table. This is all done to the audience, breaking the fourth wall, including in other innovative ways, like explaining that this scene didn’t really happen, or it really happened that way. Which was bold, but for a movie with a subject matter that was apparently so boring no one cared bout when it took place, and people STILL aren’t caring about despite the fact that it could happen again, it’s pretty interesting.

Also, screw Babadook and It Follows. THIS is probably the scariest movie of the year.

Professor Bad Shakespeare’s Grade: A

3:20 p.m. – Room

Whew, boy. I’m about to get attacked.

I didn’t like Room.

Now, before you bring out the pitchforks and torches, let’s touch on a few things. Adapted from the book, Room tells the story of a young woman and her son who are trapped in a shed. Joy had been kidnapped as a teenager and repeatedly raped by a man only known as Old Nick, eventually resulting in her son who just turned five.

My opinion of it had nothing to do with the subject matter or the performances. Quite frankly everyone involved in that movie should win some kind of Oscar for performances.

My problem is that it’s the safest possible way that you could play that movie. It was an episode of Law and Order: SVU without the moralizing from the detectives tacked on to the end.

What made Room, the book, so interesting was that it was told through the eyes of Jack, the young son of Joy who is the product of this relationship. The book was darker as it told the story through his eyes, forcing the reader to pick up on extra cues, learning how he views things. Room and Old Nick are just facts of life for him, and the terror and tension comes from this lack for understanding. The outside world, again, is presented through this lack of understanding. But the movie spoon feeds as much of the material as quickly as possible to get to the tense parts. Again, I felt that the performances should be lauded. The movie… just kind of took up space from other, better movies that should have been nominated.

Professor Bad Shakespeare’s Grade: C+… for the acting.

After Room was dinner. Which was nice, because our group got burgers and let out our best Leonardo DiCaprio jokes because the next movie was…

6:25 p.m. – The Revenant

The movie tells the tale of pure hatred in the face of being mauled by a CGI bear, then someone killing your kid, then having Native Americans attack. Also something about pelts. There was a lot happening in this movie. I’d like to cover it all, but I don’t have the space (maybe I’ll revisit all of these later) But suffice it to say, Leonardio DiCaprio did act his hardest as Hugh Glass, a man betrayed and left for dead after the aforementioned CGI Bear attack. Which was graphic.

Also, if you play dead and the bear starts to walk away, maybe you play dead a little longer and not invite the bear to attack you again. Just a thought.

Professor Bad Shakespeare’s Grade: B

9:30 p.m. – Spotlight

Here’s where the watching gets tough. Not just because this was about a newspaper covering the Priest Abuse scandal that everyone only remembers through jokes and not a real problem, but because it’s getting late and we’re at the halfway point. The movies are good, but fortunately we have a varied list this year… from small town Irish Drama to post Apocalyptic Thriller.

What was interesting about this movie was in the way it was filmed, I felt that everything was moving forward at all times, which again, isn’t easy with it’s subject matter. Its almost as if a movie like Room thought it could play it safer with the story being told because it was interesting, whereas The Big Short and Spotlight HAD to movie forward in ways that kept people engaged. It forced them to innovate, if forced the actors to work the script in different ways. I liked the risks it took… the way it portrayed the victims, the way it recalled the way people refused to believe this at the time, the subtle adversarial relationship the Cardinal had with the newspaper. It was really well done. So much could have gone wrong with this movie, but this, to me, was the first real contender of the night.

Professor Bad Shakespeare’s Grade: A

Midnight – Mad Max: Fury Road.

Midnight is my favorite part of the movie marathon. The theater is emptying. they always step it up with something interesting… But there’s magic right now. We’ve been watching films for 14 hours, with another 7 to go. I love movies. Marathons like this are a dream come true for me. People ask… How can you do it. I know it’s not an endurance contest, or a great feat. They’re referring to how I can sit passive for so long. But it’s not passive. It’s getting into the film, laughing or gasping with everyone. It’s a shared experience, and once a year I get to live out for a full day with my friends and people I see only once a year. I love this. It is my magic.

I’ve analyzed this movie to death in another post. It’s a beautifully constructed film that deserves to be up in this spot, but too many snobs and critics who have long lost their joy refuse to admit it. I’d love to see this win for so many reasons. From the V-8 symbol of the hands, to the use of color and practical effects, to the film that never makes you feel like you’re stopping… a perfect movie that took risks.

Professor Bad Shakespeare’s Grade: A+

2:25 a.m. – Bridge of Spies.

Spielberg and Hanks. It’s a combination as stable as Charlie Sheen and jokes about how hard Charlie Sheen parties. Sorry, I haven’t gotten much sleep.

It’s a cold war thriller, based on a true story, about the guy that has to do the job no one else wanted, to defend a captured spy so he could be taken into basically a Kangaroo Court while showing everyone that American Justice is the best Justice. Its a job that no one would take today, because, as the film puts it, “[he was] seen as a traitor by the more ignorant part of the population.” I feel that’s too much these days. But it’s about a brave man doing brave things in the face of all opposition. As we all pointed out… Steve Spielberg knows how to tell a story. He knows how to construct and engage everyone from the first couple of scenes. It’s truly remarkable.

Professor Bad Shakespeare’s Grade: A

5:10 a.m. – The Martian

This is the other movie i’ve written about. (And I’ve seen.) I could write further about it, but basically it’s the same: It’s the Anti-Gravity, the movie that was supposed to be groundbreaking about Sandra Bullock being stuck in space. Except this time we get an uplifting story about a man who defies all the odds to survive on Mars, and makes jokes about it. Again, this movie took risks with the storytelling, giving us basically a one-man show of Matt Damon farming space potatoes to live. Worth it to watch him science the shit of of the situation.

Professor Bad Shakespeare’s Grade: A

So, that’s it. 22 hours of movies, endless buckets of popcorn, tons of Leo and bear jokes, and just a great time. What do I think is going to win tonight? I think the movie that the Academy votes for is going to win, which isn’t always the “best.” The Best is a matter of taste and perspective, and even if the Academy votes on 99% of the ballot you have in front of you, the one thing we’ll hear about is the one they got “wrong.” Despite the fact that this is an opinion contest, not a fact contest.

Which one do I want to win? I’d love to see them give it to Mad Max: Fury Road which took real risks with its filmmaking. No adapted story, a large, sprawling epic wrapped up in a small story, a world built within seconds on the screen, no spoon-feeding to the audience, no reliance on pandering through CGI… When I think movies that deserve it, I think movies like this.
Who do I think it’s going to get it? Hell if I know. I’m just a guy who likes watching movies.

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