The 2016 Biggie Awards (and My Top 10 & Bottom 5 of 2015)

BIG NOMINEES! (listed are all films with at least 3 nominations)

Mad Max: Fury Road – 12 nominations [Picture, Director, Cinematography, Film Editing, Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup, Original Score, Stuntwork, Visual Effects, Sound, Sound Editing]

Only 2 pure action films have ever won my Best Picture prize (Terminator 2 and The Raid 2), but with a field-leading 12 nominations, Mad Max has a decent chance at being the third (and second in a row!).

MM Furiosa handshakeMM Furiosa handshake 2

MM Furiosa lookback
Mad Max thumbs up

The Martian – 9 nominations [Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Film Editing, Art Direction, Visual Effects, Sound, Sound Editing]

Martian Damon on thegroundMartian gotcha.gif

Martian horrible taste 1Martian horrible taste 2

Sicario – 7 nominations [Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Film Editing, Original Score, Sound]

Sicario in peaceSicario you wanna dieSicario glasses guy

Sicario 2aSicario 2bSicario Blunt shoots

Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens – 7 nominations [Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup, Stuntwork, Visual Effects, Sound, Sound Editing]

Only Pirate of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest had more nominations without one of them being Best Director or Best Picture. The Pirates sequel (and best movie in that franchise) was a tech beast in 2006 with 9 nominations. That film still managed to win 4 awards without being recognized in the top categories. Can the best Star Wars movie in 32 years manage a similar feat?

Also, if you haven’t already, I strongly encourage you to read my epic Force Awakens review, which is the blog post previous to this one.

Steve Jobs – 7 nominations [Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Ensemble Performance, Actor, Supporting Actress, Cinematography]

The Big Short – 5 nominations [Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Ensemble Performance, Supporting Actor, Film Editing]

Big Short hey girl

The Hateful Eight – 5 nominations [Original Screenplay, Ensemble Performance, Supporting Actress, Cinematography, Original Score]

H8 taking to hang!H8 overture

Processed with VSCOcam with 9 preset

My program from the 70mm presentation at the AMC Boston Common.

The Revenant – 5 nominations [Director, Actor, Cinematography, Sound, Sound Editing]

Inarritu Dicaprio Variety.jpg

Revenant screamcrawl

Black Mass – 4 nominations [Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor, Makeup]

Black Mass - situp
Black Mass Depp face

Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation – 4 nominations [Supporting Actress, Film Editing, Stuntwork, Sound Editing]

MI5 was verrrrry close to having several other nominations (Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Sound), but 4 is still a great result for any action flick, especially to show up in one of the acting categories. How can they possibly make the sixth film better?

MI5 Cruise hi
MI5 Ferguson stairsMI5 shoes

Bridge of Spies – 3 nominations [Original Screenplay, Art Direction, Original Score]

Not a typical showing for a Spielberg historical drama, but don’t be fooled- Bridge of Spies is fantastic. It’s an important, little-known story (to people under 40 at least) that needed to be told. It just isn’t quite as regal as Schindler’s List, Amistad, Saving Private Ryan, Munich, or Lincoln. And that’s fine. Steven Spielberg is still the most talented filmmaker on the planet. Have I made myself clear?

Bridge would it help 1Bridge would it help 2Bridge SpielHanksBridge frame 2The artistry of Spielberg & Kaminski.

Creed – 3 nominations [Supporting Actor, Original Song, Stuntwork]

I’m so proud of director Ryan Coogler (still just 29 years old) for pulling this off. I keep saying Creed is the best Rocky movie since Rocky. We so desperately need more young black filmmakers, and this was such a leap forward in progression for him from Fruitvale Station. The fact that it was such a big hit also gives him some clout, which is even more important. He’s used that clout to land a coveted Marvel gig, directing 2018’s Black Panther. Keep it up, bruv.

Creed boysThe Creed Boys: Coogler, Stallone & Jordan.

Creed speed bags

Spectre – 3 nominations [Original Score, Original Song, Stuntwork]

This is now 11 total nominations for “Daniel Craig as Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007”. In my view, he’s unquestionably the best Bond ever. Even though Spectre is pretty messy in spots (especially in the third act), it’s a beautifully made movie with awesome action that I really enjoyed. It’ll be a sad day if they announce someone new will play the character in Bond 25.

Spectre helicopter upside down

Spectre ringSpectre Blofeld looks up

Spotlight – 3 nominations [Original Screenplay, Ensemble Performance, Supporting Actor]

Between this and Black Mass, it was a great year for Boston-set dramas. And though I’m from Massachusetts, I was very young when this story broke, so it was fascinating to learn how the Boston Globe uncovered these tragic events. Journalism dramas are one of my absolute favorite subgenres, and Tom McCarthy’s excellent Spotlight ably follows in the footsteps of the likes of Network, All the President’s Men, The Insider, Good Night, and Good Luck., Frost/Nixon, Nothing But the Truth, and State of Play. Spotlight was verrrry close to being up for at least 3 more awards.

Straight Outta Compton – 3 nominations [Original Screenplay, Ensemble Performance, Supporting Actor]

Straight Outta Compton’s success (a massive $60.2m opening weekend and $161.2m domestic gross- in August no less) made me immensely happy. It’s rare that I’m as proud of audiences as I was when this movie broke out. I’d love to see an east coast version of this movie about Sean Combs, The Notorious B.I.G., Ma$e, Bad Boy Records and all those artists, but even I have to admit their stories aren’t as culturally relevant as what the west coast guys accomplished in the 90’s.

Behold Straight Outta Compton’s epic end credits sequence:

People: (anyone with 2 or more nominations)

Christian Bale – 2 nominations [Ensemble Performance, Supporting Actor]

The ultimate team player. This is the fifth time Bale has been part of a nominated cast in the Ensemble category. He’s a 3-time Biggie winner previously, for the ensembles of Batman Begins & The Dark Knight, and Best Supporting Actor for The Fighter.

I love the Faces of Bale in Big Short:

Big Short Bale Face 1
Big Short Bale Face 2
Big Short Bale Face 3!!!

Danny Boyle – 2 nominations [Picture, Director]

Michael Fassbender – 2 nominations [Ensemble Performance, Actor]

This is Fassbender’s 3rd individual acting nom in 4 years, following a Best Actor nomination for Shame in ’11 and Supporting Actor for 12 Years a Slave two years ago. He’s quickly making a strong case for his candidacy as one of the top 2 or 3 actors of his generation. In 2016, he gets his first opportunity to headline his own franchise with the much-hyped adaptation of Assassin’s Creed. Despite his talent, I will reserve judgment based solely on the fact that it’s a video game movie, a genre where I believe Hollywood is still batting .000. I’ll be happy to see a precedent set if they can pull this one off, but yeah, “video game movie” is still an oxymoron in my book.

Jobs not my father 1Jobs not my father 2

Jennifer Jason Leigh – 2 nominations [Ensemble Performance, Supporting Actress]

George Miller – 2 nominations [Picture, Director]

Jason Mitchell – 2 nominations [Ensemble Performance, Supporting Actor]

Not bad for a guy I’d never heard of until this movie opened 6 months ago. We definitely need a bigger pool of young black dramatic actors, and hopefully the Compton cast all have bright futures ahead of them. We need more of these guys, and fewer clowns like Kevin Hart.

Easy E dance.gif

Thomas Newman – 2 nominations [Original Score x2]

Newman, John Williams, Hans Zimmer and Atticus Ross are the only members of an elite club; composers who have been double-nominated in the same year. Newman has now done it twice, while Williams & Zimmer have done it an astonishing 4 times each. Needless to say, I’m a big fan of these fellas.

Brad Pitt – 2 nominations [Picture, Ensemble Performance]

This is Pitt’s 4th nomination as a producer, following The Departed, Moneyball, and a Best Picture win 2 years ago for 12 Years a Slave. Without doing the research, I’m willing to say, based on the evidence, that Pitt is probably the best actor-producer in Hollywood. The man has damned good taste in material. He’s also a decent actor.

Mark Ruffalo – 2 nominations [Ensemble Performance, Supporting Actor]

Ridley Scott – 2 nominations [Picture, Director]

Martian Scott Damon.jpg

Alicia Vikander – 2 nominations [Actress, Supporting Actress]

Vikander double nominee

O, HAI Alicia!

Kate Winslet – 2 nominations [Ensemble Performance, Supporting Actress]

Spectre titles octopus.gif

NUMBER OF DIFFERENT FILMS NOMINATED:  30 (compared to 34 in 2014 and the Oscars’ 28 different nominated films in the same categories this year) – Biggie wins. Again. I’ve got your diversity right eeeeerrreeee!

NUMBER OF 2015 MOVIES I SAW (up to the day I published this post):  73 (compared to 92 in 2014)

THE STUDIO OF THE YEAR:

2015 Recipient:  WARNER BROS. PICTURES/HBO FILMS (releases included Run All Night, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, Mad Max: Fury Road, Magic Mike XXL, Entourage, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Black Mass, Creed, In the Heart of the Sea, Sinatra: All or Nothing At All, The Intern) – Warners takes the prize for the 10th time since I started this award in 2000. From what I can tell, they’ve got a strong 2016 slate that may well see them back here again next year.

CAREER AWARDS

BIGGIES MOTION PICTURE HALL OF FAME – 2016 INDUCTEES

My Hall of Fame recognizes its members’ body of work since the inception of the Biggies in 1989.

in A-B-C order

Christopher Boyes (Orson Welles Craftsmanship Wing) sound mixing god, 4-time Oscar winner

Robert Elswit (Conrad L. Hall Cinematographers Wing) – not a bad consolation prize for being the 6th place runner-up in the Cinematography category this year for his masterful work on Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation

Quentin Tarantino (Epstein-Koch Writers Wing) for more than 20 years of truly original writing, one of the rare talents who may also qualify for the directors wing as time goes on

Denzel Washington (James Stewart Lead Actors Wing) no explanation necessary

Janty Yates (Orson Welles Craftsmanship Wing) costume designer

HONORARY AWARD

Alex Gibney Portrait Session - The 70th Venice International Film Festival

This year, an honorary Biggie is bestowed upon documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney, who directed not one, not two, but three excellent films in 2015. They are Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, and Frank Sinatra: All or Nothing at All.

I don’t watch as many documentaries as I should (and want to), but Going Clear is without a doubt one of the top 3 that I’ve ever seen. It’s an utterly mesmerizing look at a fascinating, mysterious, often dangerous underworld (Scientology, its history, the people who run it, and those have been lucky enough to escape it). It’s also a reminder of just how crazy religion can be, if you even acknowledge these loons as a real religion (and you really can’t after watching this movie).

If, like me, you’re interested in Steve Jobs, 2015 was a fun year for you. Not only was there an excellent cinematic dramatization made by some of the most talented people in Hollywood, but Alex Gibney’s documentary Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine gave us an excellent look at what the man was like in the real world, in both his own words and those of many of his closest colleagues. It portrays him exactly as he seems to have been: the arrogant, scumbag genius who was both inspiring and extremely difficult to work for and with. I’ll never understand the blind Jobs hero worship by Apple fanboys (who must be willfully ignorant about what a menace he was), but given his company’s lack of real innovation since his death, it’s fairly evident he was almost as important as he thought he was.

Sinatra: All or Nothing at All is a 2-part, 4-hour look at basically the entirety of Frank Sinatra’s life and career. If, like me, you really only knew him through his classic musical hits, watching this was a revelatory experience. You learn not only about his music and how it evolved over the decades, but what he was like as a man, and most interestingly to me, his politics. I knew he was friendly with JFK, but I had no idea just how much of a progressive thinker he was, particularly in his support of desegregation in the 50’s and 60’s. I gained a newfound respect for Sinatra after watching this film, and I was also exposed to a lot of his other music, which was nice. It inspired me to delve a little deeper into his library. (FYI: this author’s favorite song of all-time is Sinatra’s “My Way”)

Previously, Gibney won an Oscar for 2007’s Taxi to the Dark Side (about our interrogation and torture programs during the Afghanistan War). He produced the excellent No End in Sight, about the Iraq War, which was one of the 2007’s other Oscar nominees for documentary feature. He also did Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, as well as my favorite of the original 30 for 30 docs on ESPN, Catching Hell, about the infamous Steve Bartman incident at Wrigley Field during the 2003 NLCS. I loved that movie so much that I felt compelled to write about it on this blog. You can revisit that review and reaction HERE. He’s also covered Lance Armstrong (The Armstrong Lie), Wikileaks (We Steal Lies: The Story of Wikileaks), pedophilia in the Catholic Church (Emmy-winner Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God) and American culture for the TV mini-series doc The Fifties for History Channel, among many others. His next film, due sometime this year, is called Zero Days, and it’s about government-sponsored cyber warfare. Count me in.

How Gibney did such amazing work in such a small time frame on 3 very different subjects is beyond me. Quite frankly, I’m jealous. I highly recommend you check out all three films. Going Clear and All or Nothing at All are both available via HBO GO, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Farewell, James Horner

James Horner

I don’t normally do an In Memoriam segment, but on June 22 of last year, we lost a giant to a seemingly random plane accident. James Horner was not only one of the best film composers of all time (#3 on my list, behind only Hans Zimmer and John Williams), but one of the greatest MUSICIANS who ever lived.

Although he composed dozens of quality scores, to me he always had 3 masterpieces; Glory, Braveheart and Titanic (he was a Biggie winner for all 3). 9 out of 10 composers never reach those heights once, let alone 3 times. He hadn’t shown it lately, but Horner at his best was nearly untouchable. Glory is one of the main reasons film scores are my favorite genre of music, and it was one of the first CDs I ever owned. I also firmly believe his music is at least 30% responsible for the success of Titanic. That’s how important a score can be. And of course Braveheart‘s score is what God would have written if there is a god and that god wrote music.

Then there’s Aliens, A Beautiful Mind, Troy, Deep Impact, The Mask of Zorro, Enemy at the Gates, The Perfect Storm, Ransom, Apollo 13, and many many more. Have a look at Horner’s amazing credits on IMDb HERE.

James Horner Oscars
With his 2 Titanic Oscars in 1998.

 

Now try to imagine this scene with any other music:

*Two-time Academy Award winner (Best Original Score & Song for Titanic) and 10-time nominee. 5-time Biggie Award winner (Best Original Score for Glory, Braveheart, Titanic and Troy, Best Original Song for Titanic).

James Horner, gone far too soon at age 61. Fortunately for the rest of us, his music will never die.

While we’re on the subject, here are the other Hollywood deaths of 2015 that impacted me the most: Christopher Lee (who I just assumed would live forever), Alan Rickman, Wes Craven, Leonard Nimoy, B.B. King, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, cinematographers Vilmos Zsigmond and Andrew Lesnie. With the deaths of Lee & Nimoy, we are now seriously deprived in our options for godly deep voiced actors.

Last, but not least, on page 5 I give you my Top 10 and Bottom 5 Movies of 2015…

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