"Spotlight" is a love letter to journalism, required viewing for any student thinking about mass media as a career, and a middle finger to establishment organizations like the Catholic Church for covering up for pedophiles. It may also be the most important film of the year. We are at an interesting moment in human history. Huge corporations are gobbling up media outlets and merging them together. As they do, the editorial power of these newspapers, television stations, magazines, and websites is called into question. Do they still possess the ability to speak about those in charge, if they are constantly concerned about offending someone? This film displays better than any other on the subject why the division between the editorial and advertising departments is so crucial. We, as citizens and voters, need the media to ask tough questions and investigate tirelessly, all in an effort to better inform us.
#2 “The Revenant”
"The Revenant" features two Oscar winning performances; one from Leonardo DiCaprio and one from Mother Nature. What is baffling to the mind about this movie is that it once again makes Leo worthy of the award and, in my estimation, he will win without uttering more than a 100 words during the entirety of the film. Which is more than fine, because the scenery does the talking. Thinking back on all the movies I have ever seen, I have never watched a movie that so evenly paints a fair picture of both nature’s beauty and her violence. Most movies paint the wild as something to be tamed. This film does the opposite and shows the great outdoors as unrelenting and unforgiving. This portrayal is so well done that the environment becomes a character to be survived and conquered. Mr. DiCaprio must act against and with it. For his effort, he deserves his first award from the academy.
#3 “The Danish Girl”
"The Danish Girl" is groundbreaking and pioneering cinema that changes you for the better. Good cinema should entertain you. Great movies should propel you from the theatre as a different person. After finishing this film, I felt as if I had a greater grasp on the struggles of the transgender community. I was able to empathize in ways like never before. More than anything, I felt ready to advocate when necessary and offer kindness to those may need it. I am lucky. I have had the great fortune of being born into the gender where I feel most comfortable. Many have not. After this experience, I am finally ready to help wherever I can.
#4 “The Martian”
One of the great challenges for any actor is commanding the screen alone; think Tom Hanks in "Castaway" or James Franco in "127 Hours." Matt Damon flexed his muscles in "The Martian" and showed us another side of his acting abilities. While all three films are different, they each required something similar from their leading man; an ability to make the environment a character. What makes Matt Damon’s role different is none of us can relate. We’ve never been stuck on a deserted and uninhabitable planet. Mr. Damon had to convey a sense of loneliness, intelligence, desperation, defeat, loss, bravery and triumph. In regular fashion, he accomplished all of that and much more. He put us in his shoes and made us feel something for a situation none of us will ever find ourselves.
"Feminist" is a beautiful word and Jennifer Lawrence in "Joy" proves it. For most of the film, you spend your time debating the strength of our leading woman. Is she destined for a life of greatness; a life she has been promised since birth? Or, is she meant to live a life of mediocrity? As she tries and fails, your heart breaks. It breaks, because of another superb performance by Lawrence. Few actors or actresses are capable of her string of successful movies. For finally showing us what a powerful woman looks like, this movie deserves any recognition it might receive.
Be good to each other,