Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

02 February 2016

Oscar Nominees 2016: Part 5 of 11

45 Years
1 Nomination
  • Actress: Charlotte Rampling
Director: Andrew Haigh
Cast: Rampling, Tom Courtenay, Geraldine James, Dolly Wells, David Sibley, Sam Alexander, Richard Cunningham

I loved 45 Years. It is one of my favorite films of the year. It still hasn't been released everywhere, so this means it is coming to a theatre near you soon. Make sure you get out to see it. It is deeply, deeply troubling. This film follows a (straight) couple who, a week away from a big 45-year-anniversary party that they're planning, gets a letter that says the authorities found the body of a woman the man loved before he met his current wife. They've been married 45 years, but the man is deeply affected by this discovery, and the woman doesn't really understand. Slowly more and more information comes out (or at least seems to come out), and both characters begin to unravel. Charlotte Rampling is astounding in this movie. It is probably the best performance in a film by anyone this year. Rampling has gotten awards buzz a couple of times – for Under the Sand and Swimming Pool – but it is a little odd that an actress this good and this dependable is only now getting her first Oscar nomination. But it is a well-deserved one. I've been thinking that maybe Rampling could actually win this award; I figured that once people saw the movie they were just going to need to vote for her. I don't think that is really true anymore – it's Larson's to lose – but hopefully this nomination does mean that Rampling gets more roles like this one and we get some more great performances in the future. It's worth noting, by the way, that Tom Courtenay, who plays her husband is also superb in 45 Years, and Andrew Haigh, the director also does an excellent job. This was in my top ten for the year: it's a great movie, not just a vehicle for a single actor.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: Actress
My Rating: #8 out of 64

1 Nomination
  • Actress: Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle, Silver Linings Playbook, Winter's Bone)
Director: David O. Russell
Cast: Lawrence, Robert DeNiro, Diane Ladd, Virginia Madsen, Isabella Rossellini, Édgar Ramírez, Dascha Polanco, Bradley Cooper, Elisabeth Röhm Jimmy Jean-Louis

This movie is a lot like David O. Russell's other recent films, American Hustle, The Fighter, and Silver Linings Playbook, which means that it is poorly scripted but delightfully character-driven, so that we don't really mind that the movie isn't about anything because we're having so much fun with the characters and their different goals. There are two very big differences between Joy and these movies, though. First of all, Joy is really only about one character. It seems like we are also going to follow Bradley Cooper's character and Édgar Ramírez's characters, but then we don't. We only really follow Joy herself as she makes, what seemed to me, ridiculous move after ridiculous move. The other big difference between Joy and other David O. Russell movies is that this one is no fun at all. Everyone in it is miserable for the entirety of the film. To be fair, he cast the always-serious-in-films Jennifer Lawrence, and she plays the role like every role she plays, as though she's never had a happy day in her life. I also can never shake the feeling that Lawrence is playing dress-up in movies. She never seems to relax into a role. She's never ever had a confident performance. I always get the feeling she's hoping we won't notice something. In the final (absurd) scenes in this movie, which has jumped forward many years, Lawrence is supposed to be a confident businesswoman and executive who has tons of power and money, but she still plays the part as though she's terrified she's gonna get chosen for the Hunger Games. Her total inability to relax, and the fact that she looks nothing like a fifty-year-old executive would have made this last sequence in the film laughable if it weren't so boring. I am not being hyperbolic when I say this, so take me seriously: I honestly think that every adult part played by Jennifer Lawrence in the last four years or so would have been played better by an actress like Kate Hudson, someone who has a lot more of a range than Lawrence, an actor who only seems able to frown. (This convinces me that Lawrence really should do a romantic comedy. Maybe she'd loosen up in one of those.) In any case, Joy is one of the worst movies of the year. Avoid.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #62 out of 64

1 Nomination
  • Actor: Bryan Cranston
Director: Jay Roach
Cast: Cranston, Michael Stuhlbarg, Diane Lane, Helen Mirren, David James Elliott, Louis C.K., Elle Fanning, John Goodman, Stephen Root, Christian Berkel, Dean O'Gorman, Richard Portnow

And just slightly better than Joy but still awful: Trumbo. I have already written about how terrible this movie is, so I'll let you read that rather than reproduce it here. We should all be glad, at least, that this movie only got this one nomination – the Academy ignored its art direction, script, costumes, and the absurdly phoned-in performance of Hedda Hopper by Helen Mirren. But even this Bryan Cranston nomination is too much. Cranston's nomination squeezed out much more deserving performances by actors this year: Abraham Attah in Beasts of No Nation is only the most egregious example, but while I'm talking about this I want also to mention Géza Röhrig, who is amazing in Son of Saul, and Michael B. Jordan in Creed. Any one of these three actors belongs in this slot; Cranston, who is actually quite a good actor, does not. If you don't need to see Trumbo, trust me, you do not want to. Avoid.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #61 out of 64