Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) Review

Spider-Man_Homecoming_posterScore: 4/5

The superhero element of a – forgive me – “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man” was always present in both the Sam Raimi and Marc Webb franchises but as soon as Spider-Man returned to being just Peter Parker, something was missing.

Then there’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” and finally there was a film with both Spider-Man and Peter Parker.

Sometime after the events in “Captain America: Civil War” Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is back at school. Unlike other iterations of the Spider-Man saga, “Homecoming” does not waste time retelling the origin story. Director Jon Watts knows that the audience will be smarter, which leaves room for a more robust story.

The gap left by the death of Peter’s Uncle Ben is simply implied and not explained by the presence of Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.). Stark knows that Peter has the potential to be a great superhero but is unsure whether he has the maturity. Peter’s need to impress Stark is driven by his lack of a father figure. Note that Stark’s total screen time is in the ballpark of 10-15 minutes, and in that time Watts was able to demonstrate this complicated relationship between the two.

In addition to the petty street criminals, there’s also Adrian Toomes (aka Vulture) who is played by the always delightful Michael Keaton. After the Battle of New York in “The Avengers,” Toomes’ company was hired by the city to do the cleanup. However an Avengers associated government agency takes over, creating deep resentment against both institutions. As a result, he becomes an illegal arms dealer for the city’s criminals.

It’s hard to pinpoint which of the screenplay’s six scribes is the master and commander, and clearly there is a story to be told from that credit. But whatever happened, it resulted in an awesome mishmash of classic Marvel and nostalgic ‘80s films the likes of which haven’t been seen since John Hughes put five teenagers in a library or Ferris took a day off. The addition of Toomes also adds a “Goonies” dynamic to the story. Instead of being an actual threat, Spider-Man is just a meddling kid who’s gotten way too deep into Toomes’ diabolical plan.

Holland does an incredible job of balancing both Spider-Man and Peter Parker in “Homecoming.” He’s equal parts undercover badass and awkward kid from 3rd period Physics. Yes he can beat up bad guys, but he isn’t able to intimidate them.

But kudos is due for the cast of Peter’s social circle. Jacob Batalon is Peter’s best friend Ned. He’s the epitome of the geeky Patton Oswalt-esque nerd of the 21st century, yet he’s totally loyal and totally cool. The mysterious semi-friend Michelle is played by Zendaya who has incredible comedic timing. Tony Revolori of “The Grand Budapest Hotel” fame is Flash Thompson. Choosing to make him a smug rich kid who pops his collar makes him worse than if here just a stereotypical jock – there’s no doubt in my mind that “Flash” is a nickname he insists upon.

At its core “Homecoming” is a teen comedy. Everything else is just razzle dazzle. Peter Parker is just an ordinary 15-year-old from Queens who happens to be Spider-Man. Just because he can scale walls doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the teenage mindset that everything is the most important thing ever in the world. In addition to saving the world one distressed old lady at a time, he has commitments to Academic Decathlon to fulfill, the pressure of doing well on exams and quizzes to get into a good college, and he doesn’t know how to ask Liz Allen (Laura Harrier) to the school dance without looking like a doofus.

Audiences don’t flock to Spider-Man movies to see Spider-Man – though that does help. They go because Peter Parker represents that embarrassing part of adolescence that everyone fears and loathes. “Homecoming” will mean more to those kids who are uncool because Peter Parker is uncool and as Cameron Crowe once wrote, “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else, when you’re uncool.”

The Birth of a Nation (2016) Review

the_birth_of_a_nation_2016_filmScore: 2.5/5

“Birth of a Nation” is the story of Nat Turner and the slave rebellion he led. It is also the title of a 1915 DW Griffith film.

The Griffith film is incredibly racist, implying that African American men were sexual brutes who wanted nothing more than to ravage white women. But the women of the south are saved by the Ku Klux Klan, which means the country is saved – according to Griffith.

By giving his film the same title, director and star Nate Parker has turned the tables. Now, the white slave owner is the lustful predator and the black woman the victim. The heroes in this “Birth of a Nation” is the band of brothers led by Nat Turner (Parker).

Sometimes a film comes out at just the right time and “Birth of a Nation” was a long time coming. The century after Griffith’s film has been filled with racially charged violence and prejudice with whites being the main perpetrators. Romantics thought that it would have all ended when the country elected its first black president, but those tensions just became more veiled.

The refusal to acknowledge the tension coupled with unrest which resulted from a quick succession of police shootings of unarmed African Americans seem to have led up to this moment in cinema.

But that was only how it was marketed. What I saw was a much different film.

The real Nat Turner – as well as the Nat Turner of American lore – was a man who had visions of God telling him to free the slaves and annihilate the white race. By omitting that characteristic of Turner, what is left is a one dimensional hero figure – Beowulf. Parker’s Nat Turner is actually a divine figure. But he isn’t motivated to free the slave, instead he is motivated to protect women from lustful men, slavery for Parker’s Nat Turner almost becomes an afterthought.

In fact, everything that should have been explored in a film about one of the most controversial moments in American history appeared to be treated as afterthoughts. Never mind the complex relationships between free blacks and slaves, rich whites and poor whites and every other possible combination of those four groups. Never mind the intersectionality of race and class. Never mind the economics of slavery. What is important is Nate Parker – yes, I did that on purpose.

It becomes clear that Parker never wanted to make a movie about Nat Turner, instead he wanted to make a movie that would get Nate Parker more name recognition. It’s infuriating to think that “Birth of Nation” talks such a big game but walks such a small and self-serving walk.

The film that needed to exist should have been a character study within an origin story of the root of racial tension – or one of them at least. We need a film to come out that will help us cope with the ugliness that is racial prejudice so we can finally understand each other. If that’s why you want to see “Birth of a Nation” prepare to be disappointed.

Ten Great Movies: The California Experience

Originally posted on saccityexpress.com on May 15, 2016


California is where the world goes to make it in the movie business. The narrative of “making it” in Hollywood is ingrained into the very fibers of every wide-eyed drama student’s brain. But as native Californians, we know there is so much more than the façade that is Hollywood.

The California Experience is not one known idea. It is a collection of individual stories, that when forged together in tenacity and ingenuity, define the Golden State. The idea of California goes beyond the artificial world that Los Angeles socialites portray. Californians are as diverse as the landscape.

Though many movies have been set in California, few have been able to capture the spirit of its people. Here are 10 of them.

“Boyz n the Hood” (John Singleton, 1991): “Boyz n the Hood” quashes the stereotype that everyone in inner city Los Angeles is a thug. Tre Styles (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) had caring parents and good friends. The only thing that makes the police view him as a thug was that he was born in a neglected neighborhood, educated by neglected schools and born black. When Tre’s USC-bound best friend Ricky is shot down in the streets, his brother (Ice Cube) seeks vengeance and murders his killers that same night. The next morning, no reporters cover the three murders, Ice Cube’s character realizes that America “don’t know, don’t show and don’t care what happens in the hood.”

“Boyz n the Hood” is free to watch on Amazon Prime with a Starz subscription.

“Chinatown” (Roman Polanski, 1974): California could not sustain a population of almost 39 million without the complex system of canals and reservoir that make it a land of plenty. In the early 20th century, Los Angeles became too big to be sustained by the L.A. River, and the mayor realized that enough water from Owens Valley could be transported to the city via aqueduct. What ensued was the inspiration for Polanski’s “Chinatown.” It is true that agriculture is king in California, but food can’t grow without water, ergo, whoever controls water is king. Regardless of which resource is most important, what it all condenses down to is greed. If “Chinatown’s” antagonist–L.A. water department head Noah Cross (John Huston)–wasn’t so greedy, then he wouldn’t have been driven to deny water to the farmers of the North Valley, which would have created a domino effect in which most of “Chinatown” would not have happened.

“Chinatown” is free to watch on Amazon Prime with a Starz subscription.

“El Norte” (Gregory Nava, 1983): As xenophobia (unfortunately) takes center stage in the political conversation, I find myself thinking about how we benefit from the fruits of migrant workers. The myth that undocumented immigrants benefit from our tax dollars without contributing anything is blown out of the water in “El Notre.” When thugs kill Enrique and Rosa’s father, they decide to travel to America to seek a better life. The most chilling part of their journey is their mile-long crawl through a sewer when they are suddenly attacked by a swarm of rats. But the rats are not the only danger they faced during their epic journey, Enrique and Rosa came to America seeking a better life, but instead found a land that hated them. It is not until Rosa dies that she finally finds a home.

“El Norte” is available to rent on Amazon Prime and iTunes.

“The Endless Summer” (Bruce Brown, 1966): On the last day of every year of middle school, my classmates and I would all pile into school buses and go to Refugio Beach. In the mornings it was foggy and the water was a dark turquoise, I always remember thinking that I wanted a shirt with that color. When the sun was out, the water still cold, but I still stand by the statement that the best beaches are in Santa Barbara. It is true, that the objective of many surfers is to find the perfect wave and yes, they will literally go the ends of the earth to find it. Bruce Brown’s documentary only follows a group of surfers on their quest. But as far as audiences were concerned, they could have been searching for Shangri La and “The Endless Summer” would have been just as fun and great as it is now.

“The Endless Summer is streaming on Netflix.

“The Grapes of Wrath” (John Ford, 1940): It is a sad truth, but many who come to California seeking success will never find it. When the Dust Bowl destroyed the Midwest–known as America’s “breadbasket”–millions made the epic trek to California with the belief that work was limitless. When the Joads arrive, they quickly discover the truth that it was all a lie. Though the film adaptation ends with more hope for the future than the original John Steinbeck novel, the boundless impact the Okies had on the California landscape and economy is brought to life with the same spirit and anger.

“The Grapes of Wrath” is available to rent on iTunes.

“Milk” (Gus Van Sant, 2008): As California goes, so goes the nation. Since the 1970s, the LGBTQ+ community’s home base was the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco, and Harvey Milk was known as its mayor. His efforts as a civil rights leader and the spirit of San Francisco’s liberal community started the gay liberation movement in the 1970s. Gus Van Sant photographs San Francisco with magnificent style and awe, transporting audiences back in time to when anger fueled protest. The scenes of crowds marching through the Castro seem like archive footage from the era, and the score by Danny Elfman pays tribute to Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America.” Milk believed that politics was theater – and it is – but he also believed that to be free you have to fight, which is what he did.

“Milk” is available to stream on HBO Go and HBO Now.

“Monterey Pop” (D.A. Pennebaker, 1968): During the early hours that marked the final morning of the Monterey Pop Festival, director D.A. Pennebaker used the audio from Country Joe and the Fish over images of the hippie attendants awakening and rising with the California sun. They’re drifters, slackers and most likely higher than the B-52s over Vietnam. To them, the festival was just another way to turn on, tune and drop out as Timothy Leary put it. Little did any of them know was that they were witnesses to pop culture history. To many, the Monterey Pop Festival was a beta release for Woodstock. But some – including music writer Rusty DeSoto – would argue that Monterey Pop was much more important to the development of pop music than Woodstock. Monterey Pop is where many of rock ‘n’ roll’s most influential artists, like Janis Joplin and Otis Redding, would be introduced to the world.

“Monterey Pop” can be bought through Amazon or on the Criterion Collection website: https://www.criterion.com/films/720-monterey-pop.

“Orange County” (Jake Kasdan, 2002): Though Shaun (Colin Hanks) thinks that Orange County isn’t the best place for an aspiring writer to live when compared to the intellectual world of Stanford, he realizes in this film that his friends and family are his inspiration and that stupidity and shallowness are everywhere.

“Orange County” is available to rent on Amazon Prime and iTunes.

“Sideways” (Alexander Payne, 2004): One of the benefits of California’s diverse range of climates is that it has become an excellent region for producing wine. Napa is the most famous, but I – along with Alexander Payne and author Rex Pickett — would argue that the best California wines comes from the Santa Ynez Valley. “Sideways” is a tragicomedy that follows two middle-aged men’s journey through Santa Barbara’s wine country. Payne treats the Santa Ynez Mountains with the same delicacy and sexuality that Federico Fellini used for Italy in his films, creating a fantasy world. Even the natives seem too good to be true. Miles (Paul Giamatti) meets a Maya (Virginia Madsen) who shares his enthusiasm for wine but with greater passion. Maya’s speech about the life of wine is so beautifully crafted, the audience can feel Miles slowly falling in love with her. In that moment it didn’t matter what they were drinking – as long as it wasn’t Merlot.

“Sideways” is free to watch on Amazon Prime with a Starz subscription.

“Topaz” (Dave Tatsuno, 1945): During World War II, Japanese-Americans living on the coasts were taken out of their homes and sent into the interior. No doubt this dark chapter in American history had a great effect on the Japanese American residents living in California. One of these Americans was Dave Tatsuno, who illegally documented his time in the Topaz camp in Utah to make this film. There’s nothing extraordinary that happens in Topaz; it’s mostly daily life. But after the initial shock has worn off, it becomes clear that Americans have the ability to make the best out of the worse situation. Their country told them that they were enemies of the state, but when there are children smiling and ice skating, playing in the snow, and holding baseball games it becomes abundantly clear that they are not enemies.

“Topaz” is available to watch in black and white on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KboirnCzius.

Honorable Mentions:

“Almost Famous”

“Bottle Shock”

“The Debut”

“East of Eden”

“The Graduate”

“Harold and Maude”

“The Right Stuff”

“Stand and Deliver”

“Tortilla Soup”


My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016) Review

Originally posted on saccityexpress.com on April 11, 2016

A letter of concern to Nia Vardalos

greek wedding 2Score: 1.5/5

Ms. Nia Vardalos,

Thank you for “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”

When I was just an awkward middle schooler in Southern California, you came into my life with your unique insight on family, love and happiness.

As Toula Portokalos, you were every person who ever felt as if there was more beyond his or her own family. You showed us the inevitable conclusion that family will always be a part of who we are.

Your confidence and Archaic sexuality stood grounded and strong in the sea of chaos that was your family.

Though I am not of Greek descent and there are more differences than similarities in the Filipino and Greek cultures, I still felt like your family was my family.Your description of the lack of personal time as a result of your family always being in each other’s business struck a chord with me.

I am filled with the great memories of weekly barbecues with my extended family, and Easters in the park, where the men would stand around the pit talking about football, the women would gather around a table and share the week’s gossip, and the kids would run in a massive swirl of energy that never seemed to wane.

Yet when I saw “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2,” your epilogue to your magnum opus, the Nia Vardalos that I knew and loved, was absent. Literally.

I understand that you wanted to show how Toula’s teenage daughter was experiencing the same anxieties of being part of a big family, but why was Toula pushed to the sidelines along with a subplot about trying to create the perfect marriage with her husband? It made no sense for her character.

Without Toula, the Portokalos family has become nothing but a collection of one-dimensional characters. Toula was the glue that held it all together. In “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2,” she is part of the madness.

Though your daughter, Paris, was supposed to be the straight man–a replacement for Toula–she only came off as being a brat.

There were also other additions to “Greek Wedding 2” that didn’t seem necessary or in character. The odd main plot about Gus (Michael Constantine) and Maria (Lainie Kazan) not actually being married clearly only existed because there needed to be justification for the title “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.”

And why was John Stamos in there?

Ms. Vardalos, do not take this lamentation as a criticism, but instead as a warning.

You are too talented to be corrupted by the dollar. “Greek Wedding 2” shows that it’s getting to you. Do not become one of those writers-for-hire, taking whatever project has the highest amount attached.

Your voice is still strong. Use it.

With love and concern,


Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) Review

Originally posted on saccityexpress.com on March 25, 2016

BatmanScore: 2.5/5

In history, defining moments can sometimes be summed up by a great match between great opposites: Persia vs. Sparta, direct current vs. alternating current and Coke vs. Pepsi.

Yet there has never been a match up so anticipated as the one between Batman and Superman. “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” is Zack Snyder’s take on the DC titans’ duel.

The film takes place sometime after the events in “Man of Steel,” which seems to become more and more like a prologue as the blistering hurricanes of time erode. Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) sees Superman as a thorn in the side of his business empire after the Metropolis branch of Wayne Enterprises is destroyed in the battle between General Zod and Superman.

Meanwhile Superman (Henry Cavill) finds it difficult to continue has duties as Clark Kent at the Daily Planet as a result of fighting Wayne’s war against him (proving my opinion that Clark Kent is a terrible reporter).

Like J.J. Abrams and “The Force Awakens,” “Batman v Superman” has been breaking the Internet since its announcement in 2013. The parallels between the two films are undeniable: built-in name recognition, a large fan base, media anticipation, action-packed blockbuster chops. In theory, everything should have been right.

But that’s if the following elements from “Batman v Superman” are omitted from the equation: While Batman had a groundbreaking stand-alone trilogy, Superman had a reboot with mixed reviews. The same director from said reboot returns with greed and intentions to introduce the entire DC universe.

Add to the equation, and it becomes understandable why “Dawn of Justice” would create both an artificial high for die-hard DC fans and a disappointing pit for the casual movie-goer.

The performances, including Affleck and Cavill,  are not at all bad. What makes them falter is that the characters are given odd motivations.

Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is portrayed as a spastic Silicon Valley billionaire with diabolical tendencies. This doesn’t seem right. Wouldn’t it make more sense if Luthor was an old money fat cat, not unlike the Koch brothers or (dare I say) Donald Trump? Wasn’t his unwillingness to embrace change the driving power of his villainy?

Eisenberg isn’t a bad actor, he is just bad for this part. Sure, the filmmakers were just trying to be different by creating a grittier universe. But where is it written that 21st-century comic films have to be gritty and realistic – an oxymoron considering most cityscapes are green screen. Since Christopher Nolan opened Pandora’s box with his “Dark Knight” trilogy, the hero part of “superhero” has become unimportant, while the undesirable brooding and the need to seem relevant have taken over.

In addition to the epic battle between the DC demigods, there are also Senate hearings, a giant blob monster and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) which just goes to show that “Dawn of Justice” came into fruition only because somebody was blinded by giant dollar signs.

The worse part of it all is that movie-goers will buy tickets to this gloomy fruit salad of depression and disappointment. To put it lightly, “Dawn of Justice” has no intentions to be a fun piece of entertainment. It was meant to be a cash cow that will give birth to more cash cows.

The unnecessary introduction of Wonder Woman will surely become a film about her, as well as one for Aquaman (who will be portrayed by Jason Momoa) until it all reaches a dark franchise cake-topper known as “Justice League.”

With that in mind, perhaps the film should re-titled “Batman v Superman: Dawn of the Money Bovines.”

“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” is currently screening in theaters nationwide.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny (2016) Review

Originally posted on saccityexpress.com on March 3, 2016

Crouching_Tiger,_Hidden_Dragon_Sword_of_Destiny_posterScore: 2/5

“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” is a film that can exist only by itself. The artistry and love that director Ang Lee put into the most successful foreign language film of all time cannot be matched nor surpassed.

“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny” has nothing to do with the original film. The only parallels between the two films are both have a mostly Asian cast and the characters are all fighting one another with swords.

The film is about a master of the sword named Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh), who travels to Peking, China, because it is necessary for the story. The sword of destiny in question once belonged to her lover, Li Mu Bai. So important is the sword that many try to steal it.

This weak storyline could be forgiven if the film was well crafted and handled with respect for the martial arts genre. Mercy would be given to the filmmakers  if the performances were multi-dimensional. Unfortunately “Sword of Destiny” has no interest in mercy or forgiveness, and because of this lack of interest, it will receive neither.

But the 800-pound gorilla in the room is what it is trying to achieve but does not: diversity.

Diversity in film is an issue that must be addressed in the 21st century. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 58 percent of California residents identify as being non-white. The largest “minority” demographics are Latinos and Asian-Americans.

Hollywood has had great bouts of progress to become more inclusive. Modern films represent American culture and the changing racial makeup. Yet the Asian-American community, according to Hollywood, consists of two kinds of people: the closed-off, ultra-geek and the fresh-off-the-boat immigrant.

There is also a third category that is just as damaging, though not as mean. That category is that of the exotic warrior.

“Sword of Destiny” populates the screen with exotic warriors who fight over nothing but sword. It is their only drive. They’re barely even human. This is dangerous because it reinforces another stereotype.

“Sword of Destiny” may not be as offensive or outright racist as “No Escape,” but the lack of insight is equal.

If this is supposed to be the film that 2016 chooses to represent Asian-Americans, then it should be viewed as an insult that is ludicrous, sour and toxic.

“Sword of Destiny” is currently streaming on Netflix.

Anderson’s Oscar Predictions (2016)

Originally posted on saccityexpress.com on Feb 27, 2016

oscars-770x437Though the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has come under fire for its lack of choosing racially diverse nominees, predicting the winners is still fun for movie lovers across the globe. To differentiate from my Golden Globes predictions, I have also included a list of snubs for each category. Here are my predictions (listed in bold) for the 88th Annual Academy Awards:

Best Picture (Director)

  • “The Big Short” (Adam McKay)
  • “Bridge of Spies” (Steven Spielberg)
  • “Brooklyn” (John Crowley)
  • “Mad Max: Fury Road” (George Miller)
  • “The Martian” (Ridley Scott)
  • “The Revenant” (Alejandro González Iñárritu)
  • “Room” (Lenny Abrahamson)
  • “Spotlight” (Tom McCarthy): It is one of the most important narrative films of 2015. As Americans continue to yearn for truth, “Spotlight” chronicles the noble search for it. Though it is too early to call, “Spotlight” may occupy the same space as “All the President’s Men” as one of the most iconic newspaper films ever made.

Snubs: “Straight Outta Compton”; “Chi-Raq”; “Inside Out”; “Tangerine”; “Beasts of No Nation”; “Suffragette”


Best Director (Film)

  • Adam McKay (“The Big Short”)
  • George Miller (“Mad Max: Fury Road”)
  • Alejandro González Iñárritu (“The Revenant”): No other director in the 21st century would be able to pitch a Western after making as phantasmagorical of a film as “Birdman” the year before. Iñárritu has made his mark in future film textbooks with his stellar work.
  • Lenny Abrahamson (“Room”)
  • Tom McCarthy (“Spotlight”)

Snubs: Ridley Scott (“The Martian”); F. Gary Gray (“Straight Outta Compton”); László Nemes (“Son of Saul”); Spike Lee (“Chi-Raq”); Cary Joji Fukunaga (“Beasts of No Nation”); Sarah Gavron (“Suffragette”)


Best Actor (Film)

  • Bryan Cranston as Dalton Trumbo (“Trumbo”)
  • Matt Damon as Mark Watney (“The Martian”)
  • Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass (The Revenant): Though Fassbender was unmatched as tech giant Steve Jobs, DiCaprio’s reign as an Oscar winner will begin with “The Revenant.” Like Adrien Brody in “The Pianist”, Hugh Glass is a role that people will bring up whenever they want to talk about method acting.
  • Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs (Steve Jobs)
  • Eddie Redmayne as Lili Elbe/Einar Wegener (The Danish Girl)

Snubs: Michael B. Jordan (“Creed”); Will Smith (“Concussion”); Abraham Attah (“Beasts of No Nation”)


Best Actress (Film)

  • Cate Blanchett as Carol Aird (“Carol”)
  • Brie Larson as Joy “Ma” Newsome (“Room”): 2015 was a strong year for female actors as a result of the abundance of multi-dimensional roles. Cate Blanchett and Jennifer Lawrence are always good, and Saoirse Ronan’s performance is so far the high point of her career. But Sacramento native Brie Larson has broken from the teen genre bubble with an eruption of emotion and scars in “Room.”
  • Jennifer Lawrence as Joy Mangano (“Joy”)
  • Charlotte Rampling as Kate Mercer (“45 Years”)
  • Saoirse Ronan as Eilis Lacey (“Brooklyn”)

Snubs: Lily Tomlin (“Grandma”); Amy Poehler (“Inside Out”); Teyonah Parris (“Chi-Raq”)


Best Supporting Actor (Film)

  • Christian Bale as Michael Burry (“The Big Short”)
  • Tom Hardy John Fitzgerald (“The Revenant”)
  • Mark Ruffalo as Michael Rezendez (“Spotlight”)
  • Mark Rylance as Rudolf Abel (“Bridge of Spies”)
  • Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa (“Creed”): It is a true shame that the Academy has recognized Stallone for a character that he portrays for the seventh time over the superb work of Michael B. Jordan, who was not nominated in the Best Actor category for the title role. But Stallone’s coolness has made him comfortable as Rocky Balboa and it is a deserved homage to the legend that he created.

Snubs: Idris Elba (“Beasts of No Nation”); Seth Rogen (“Steve Jobs”); Jacob Tremblay (“Room”); Michael Keaton (“Spotlight”); Liev Schreiber (“Spotlight”); Nick Cannon (“Chi-Raq”)


Best Supporting Actress (Film)

  • Jennifer Jason Leigh as Daisy Domergue (“The Hateful Eight”)
  • Rooney Mara as Therese Belivet (“Carol”)
  • Rachel McAdams as Sacha Pfeiffer (“Spotlight”)
  • Alicia Vikander as Gerda Wegener (“The Danish Girls”)
  • Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman (“Steve Jobs”): Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine described Winslet’s performance as “glorious,” and there is no synonym available that is comparable. As the no-nonsense, but always loyal Joanna Hoffman, Winslet is the only actress who could portray such a brave soul.

Snubs: Meryl Streep (“Suffragette”); Phyllis Smith (“Inside Out”); Angela Bassett (“Chi-raq”)


Best Original Screenplay

  • “Bridge of Spies” by Matt Charman, Joel and Ethan Coen
  • “Ex Machina” by Alex Garland
  • “Inside Out” by Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley and Ronnie del Carmen: Pixar truly outdid themselves with this charming tale about the inner emotions of a young girl’s mind. There was a chemistry that was perfected by the scribes that cannot be replicated.
  • “Spotlight” by Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer
  • “Straight Outta Compton” by Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff, S. Leigh Savidge and Alan Wenkus


Best Adapted Screenplay

  • “The Big Short” by Adam McKay and Charles Randolph (based on the book of the same name by Michael Lewis)
  • “Brooklyn” by Nick Hornby (based on the novel of the same name by Colm Tóibín)
  • “Carol” by Phyllis Nagy (based on the novel “The Price of Salt” by Patricia Highsmith)
  • “The Martian” by Drew Goddard (based on the novel “The Martian” by Andy Weir)
  • “Room” by Emma Donoghue (based on her novel of the same name): This movie is a triumphant piece on the endurance of the human spirit as a result of being held hostage for years. Instead of looming on the horrors of the situation, Donoghue explores the inner workings of the female victim. Imagine the “Inside Out” characters in the mind of Ma; wouldn’t that be cool?

Snubs: “Steve Jobs” by Aaron Sorkin; “Chi-Raq” by Spike Lee; “Beasts of No Nation” by Cary Joji Fukunaga


Best Original Score (Composer)

  • “Bridge of Spies” (Thomas Newman)
  • “Carol” (Carter Burwell)
  • “The Hateful Eight (Ennio Morricone)
  • “Sicario” (Jóhann Jóhannsson)
  • “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (John Williams): “Star Wars” has always relied on the strength of its score to finish painting a galaxy far, far away. The latest installment of the beloved franchise has awakened with electricity the mind of Master – with a capital “M” – John Williams, who while exploring known themes, discovered new ones.

Snubs: “The Danish Girl” (Alexandre Desplat); “Steve Jobs” (Daniel Pemberton); “He Named Me Malala” (Thomas Newman)


Best Original Song (Film)

  • “Earned It” (“Fifty Shades of Grey”)
  • “Manta Ray” (“Racing Extinction”)
  • “Simple Song #3” (“Youth”)
  • “Til it Happens to You” (“The Hunting Ground”): The song and the film are fueled with powerful titles. “The Hunting Ground” is a documentary about rape on college campuses, and its title strikes what campuses across the country have become for young women. Lady Gaga aids the anger with “Til it Happens to You,” which has been seasoned with betrayal, resulting in a piece that yells furiously. It expresses how no one will ever understand sexual assault unless it happens to him or her.
  • “Writing’s on the Wall” (“Spectre”)

Snubs: “See You Again” (“Furious 7”)


Best Documentary Feature (Director)

  • “Amy” (Asif Kapadia)
  • “Cartel Land” (Matthew Heineman): This chilling documentary about the border between the United States and Mexico plays more like an action film narrative than a documentary. With camera crews embedded on both sides, it creates a rush of adrenaline for viewers.
  • “The Look of Silence” (Joshua Oppenheimer)
  • “What Happened, Miss Simone?” (Liz Garbus)
  • “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” (Evgeny Afineevsky)

Snubs: “All Things Must Pass”; “The Hunting Ground”; “Where to Invade Next”; “He Named Me Malala”; “Welcome to Leith”; “The True Cost”; “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief”


Best Animated Feature Film (Director)

  • “Anomalisa” (Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson)
  • “Boy & the World” (Alě Abreu)
  • “Inside Out” (Pete Docter): The two settings are San Francisco and the mind of a young girl. Yet in “Inside Out” the two seem to morph into one metaphor for change and growth. The voice cast is of the highest order and the quality is quintessentially Pixar.
  • “Shaun the Sheep Movie” (Mark Burton and Richard Starzak)
  • “When Marnie Was There” (Hiromasa Yonebayashi)

Snubs: “The Good Dinosaur”

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