*Methinks I’ll do pieces on each of the Big Oscar Contenders, seeing as I have already done pieces on Trumbo, FURY ROAD, The Martian, and The Revenant, as well as mentioned that little gem Spotlight. Expect a CREED review soon, as well as something on Room, The Big Short, and possibly Bridge of Spies. No promises on the latter.
As far as the Academy Awards go, one of the easiest ways to impress the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) is to tell a unique, simple story really well, in a memorable way. Take as an example a movie about ambassadors trapped in a hostile country that have a fake film crew organized by the CIA to rescue them: Argo, the Best Picture winner from 3 years ago. A small-time boxer and low-rent enforcer overcomes his station in life to go the distance to spar with the heavyweight champion of the world of boxing, and finds romance along the way: 1976’s Best Picture and beloved franchise kick-starter ROCKY.
Now, I assume some readers presume the worst in me since I have been touting the praises of Mad Max: FURY ROAD since its release back in May of 2015, and could not be happier to see it as a big Academy Award contender. As an avid fan of genre films and the director’s work, I will chalk up a lot of my hype for the film as fan-boyish glee, knowing that one of my favorite things about film and fantasy is being recognized by the star-making industry event that is The Oscars(tm).
And while I hope it sweeps the technical categories (visual fx, sound, designs) instead of the STAR WARS juggernaut and possibly takes one of the Big 5 (Picture or Director) away from the clear favorite The Revenant, I don’t presume to call FURY ROAD the winner out of the gate, since I’ve been disappointed too often before by the powers that be.
And to those readers who curl their lips to my feelings on defending my post-apocalyptic ice-cream sundae of artistic chaos, I offer a concession: If the Oscar doesn’t go to FURY ROAD, I hope it goes to BROOKLYN.
BROOKLYN is a film I would refer to as the “little movie that could”. ‘Tis the dark horse of a most competitive Best Picture race. The small-scale romance movie tells the tale of Eilis (pronounced AY-lish) a young lady who moves to the United States in the early 1950s to escape the droll life she leads among the gossips and the matrons of Enniscorty, a small village in southeast Ireland. Leaving her mother and sister behind, after a slightly harrowing boat ride, she arrives in New York, passes through Ellis Island, and finds quarters at a boarding house in the titular borough, with some lively boarders including some shopgirls who help her get her start in the busy world of American life. She connects with a kindly Irish priest, who starts her in a night class to learn bookkeeping. At a community dance, she meets a handsome, slightly shy Italian boy named Tony, and the two quickly fall into love with each other.
We as an audience proceed to follow a delightful little treat of a romantic journey between two adorable people and the trials that come up between them when Eilis suddenly has to return to Ireland to deal with a bit of family drama. Once she arrives back to the land of her birth, she is courted by another young man and is expected to settle down in her old community for the sake of her little village standing. Eilis must make tough decisions that could decide her life’s journey for the better. And it is beautiful.
What most people don’t know about me, judging solely on what I present to the world, is that while I give off the air of a desperate, sardonic adrenaline junkie and hardcore action man, I am a hopeless romantic at heart. And I love a good romance movie. None of that rubbish that Nicholas Sparks sells in his recycled works, not the uncomfortably by-the-numbers that pass for romantic comedies these days, I mean a true blue story about human beings, not stereotypes, who fall in love, and the sometimes harrowing emotional journey that love takes them on.
Confession time: My favorite movie of all time is SUNRISE: A Song of Two Humans. The story concerns a farmer, tempted by a woman from the city, who becomes convinced he should murder his wife in order to move to the city with his mistress. It tells a low-key, low-stakes story with graceful storytelling, careful performances from its two leads, and gorgeous photography that influenced modern filmmaking all the way back in 1927.
Fun fact that few people know or remember: At the first Academy Awards in 1929, they gave out two Best Picture Awards. AMPAS gifted SUNRISE the second one, titled “Unique and Artistic Production”, but scrapped its legacy by retroactively declaring the other winner, the war drama Wings, to be the better picture that year. I have seen both films, and I have to say, like too many times, the Academy is Wrong.
BROOKLYN reminded me heavily of the romantic tale at the center of Sunrise. I, along with other audiences and critics worldwide, was caught up in the beautiful story of love that blossoms among the backdrop of the big city, and the youthful tenderness that accompanies early love. The performances by the whole cast is superb, from Julie Walters as the head of Eilis’ boarding house to accomplished character actor Jim Broadbent as the friendly priest that Eilis confides in. Even Actor of the Year Domhnall Gleeson is enjoyable to watch as the bashful suitor awaiting Eilis back in Ireland.
But undoubtedly the heart of the film is the two leads, Saorise Ronan, (pronounced SIR-shah) and Emory Cohen. Ronan is charming to boot as the feisty young lady determined to make her own way in life with or without the aid of others, though she continually receives it because she’s just so adorable and admirable to those around her. And as much as I applaud the awards buzz Ms. Ronan is receiving for her darling role, the Academy missed out not nominating Emory Cohen for Supporting Actor. As Tony, he obviously aches for Eilis whenever she isn’t around and exudes an old-fashioned chivalry that transcends his humble roots as a poor plumber’s apprentice. To add to that, Indiewire included him on their list of the 16 Best Characters of 2015, among the likes of Furiosa from FURY ROAD, and Jack, the little boy from Room, another approaching Oscarwatch subject.
I adored this little movie, and am most happy to have caught it while it was still humbling its way around the theatrical circuits. Catch it if you can while the Oscars are still promoting it, at the likes of Woodland mall, where you can see it for only $5! Peace and Love, y’all.