By the end of the weekend at this year’s Oscars, one of eight nominated films will be added to an eternal list of Academy Award-winning Best Pictures. This year’s nominees run the gamut of genres. There are two films detailing modern scandals (Spotlight, The Big Short), two “based on true story” historical set pieces (Bridge of Spies, The Revenant), one little international indie film (Brooklyn), a deep emotionally wrenching drama (Room), a film about someone lost in space… again (The Martian), and a kick ass action thrill ride (Mad Max: Fury Road). Are these the actual best films of 2015? Well, that depends on personal preference and opinion. Based on box office, this year’s nominees weren’t close to being the most popular films. Only one — The Martian — finished in the top 10 grossing films of the year, and only three total were in the top 21.
So if the eight nominees aren’t your cup of tea, here are the Top 10 films of 2015 NOT nominated for Best Picture…
- Concussion – The Will Smith vehicle was an eye-opening film for football fans, peeling back the truth about the NFL and their problem with their athletes and head injuries. Smith delivered an Oscar-worthy performance, and as a football fan, I was fully engaged.
- Jurassic World – Sure, I’m not expecting Oscars here, but if you want 2 hours of “turn your brain off” fun, then it doesn’t get much bigger or better than this best sequel to the original Spielberg classic, Jurassic Park. Chris Pratt continues his run to the top as the new “It” guy in Hollywood, and their was an inert coolness to the trained raptors, Seaworld-style attractions and T-Rex vs. Indominous Rex final battle.
10. Magic Mike XXL – In 2012, we were introduced to Magic Mike (Channing Tatum) and his crew of stripper friends. But while there was fun to be had there, the movie got bogged down in cliche and unnecessary drama. They fixed the issues in this no-nonsense, no-drama sequel that was 100 minutes of awesome, sexy fun as Tatum and the gang head to a stripper convention. The highlights here include Joe Manganiello stripping in a gas station store to the tune of “I Want it That Way” by The Backstreet Boys, as well as the big number that (pun much intended) climaxes the movie.
9. Anomalisa – Nominated for Best Animated Feature, and the best one of the year in that category (sorry Inside Out), Anomalisa is a poignant and moving original film from one of the most creative minds in the industry, Charlie Kaufman. Kaufman, writer of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich, wrote and co-directed this stop-motion film about a customer service author Michael Stone, and speaker at a hotel for the night before a big presentation. He is miserable in his marriage and spends his night trying to rekindle an old flame, and ignite others. His misery is distracted by Lisa, a woman there to hear his speech. She is shy, awkward, and self-deprecating and yet Michael finds her totally charming… she is an anomaly… his “Anomalisa.” Only three actors lend their voices: David Thewlis as Michael, Jennifer Jason Leigh as Lisa, and Tom Noonan as everyone else, male and female.
8. Trumbo – Bryan Cranston is nominated for Best Actor for his portrayal of blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. The film is fantastic in every phase, featuring great supporting performances from Elle Fanning, Louis CK, and John Goodman. As a history teacher by day/movie buff by night, this was the perfect storm for me. While the film truly does the topic of Cold War paranoia justice, it all echoes sentiments to modern times, with insights to some of the paranoia being stirred up by many of the Presidential nominees.
7. Creed – The best Rocky movie in 40 years, Creed is not just a boxing movie. Michael B. Jordan steps into the lead as Adonis Johnson Creed, son of Apollo who despite an upper-class upbringing from Apollo’s widow, can’t fight his desire to prove himself in the ring. Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky makes another successful Oscar-nominated return to help train Adonis when he comes east to Philly. Hitting all the right strides and connecting on all the right punches, Creed was truly one of the year’s best. And just try not to get motivated to work out when Adonis is running the steps in the hospital as Rocky battles cancer.
6. The Hateful Eight – I am a Quentin Tarantino devotee, and I loved his eighth film, an old-fashioned Western confined to a snowed-in haberdashery in the mountains of Wyoming some time after the Civil War. Amongst the motley crew are Hangman John Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his Oscar-nominated prisoner, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Civil War hero Marquis Warren (Samuel Jackson), and an assortment of Tarantino regulars like Tim Roth and Michael Madsen. Tarantino’s script, as always, is the star here and despite the running time near 3 hours, The Hateful Eight never gets boring. Plus, there’s a pretty cool Tarantino-esque plot twist in the middle, as well as one of the best monologues in recent memory from Sam Jackson to Ex-Confederate General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern). The cinematography rivals that of The Revenant and Ennio Morricone’s nominated score might net him an Oscar.
5. Kingsman: The Secret Service – The single most fun film of 2015, and the answer for people sick of superheroes and James Bond becoming way too uber serious, Kingsman is loud, bombastic, features amazing fight sequences and special effects, and has a hilarious script as well. Colin Firth used to be my mother’s favorite actor… then came the “Church Scene,” probably my favorite scene in YEARS, and yet another phenomenal use of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s classic “Freebird.” Samuel Jackson was great as the Bond-style villain, and Taron Egerton’s big-time debut will surely catapult him to a top-notch star.
4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens – The most anticipated and biggest movie of the year (and all time), this seventh Star Wars film wiped away the terrible memories of the prequel trilogy, Jar Jar Binks, Hayden Christensen, and awful CGI. Director J.J. Abrams injected new life into the series, created great and diverse characters, seamlessly intermingled old favorites, and most importantly made fans happy. I saw it 5 times in theaters with every member of my family and I got the same goosebumps at the same spots each and every time. Plus, it sets up an entire new universe of sequels and prequels to come.
3. Straight Outta Compton – Those looking at the Oscars as being “too white” can look at the omission of Straight Outta Compton from major nominations; it’s lone nomination is for Best Original Screenplay. Compton, directed by F. Gary Gray, is two ferocious hours detailing the meteoric rise of rap’s original gangsters, N.W.A. The cast is scary good, partly because they look and sound almost exactly like the actual rappers (O’Shea Jackson Jr. is a dead ringer for his father, Ice Cube). The stand-out was Jason Mitchell who plays Eazy-E, the group’s leader, who eventually succumbs to AIDS in 1995 at age 30. N.W.A.’s seminal anthem, “F*ck The Police,” was written based on the artists’ experiences growing up in LA and dealing with seemingly unending racism. For many people of color, the song is as prevalent today with the Black Lives Matter movement going strong in response to a growing number of cases of apparent overreach and brutality by police against unarmed minorities. The film serves as a history lesson about one of the country’s most important musical groups, but also is a sobering reality of the problems that still exist in society today. This was a film that needed and should have received more recognition.
2. Ex Machina – The best and most original sci-fi movie in years, Ex Machina (like my number one pick) felt like a stage play, with a small cast of terrific actors working from a phenomenal script. Writer/director Alex Garland is nominated for an Oscar for his original screenplay, and the story is so simple. Billionaire inventor Nathan (the always great Oscar Isaac) invites a lucky young programmer Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) to his resort home to test out his latest technology, a realistic synthetic humanoid robot, Ava (Alicia Vikander). What transpires over the 100+ minute runtime is brilliant, with both Nathan and Ava tugging at Caleb from both sides and Gleeson is so convincing in having a crisis of conscience. Where is the line between real and realistic? Genius and monster? Seriously, with the limited cast and set, put this on Broadway and I’m spending big bucks for this show. This was such a great movie; it’s currently free on Amazon Prime… just go watch it!
1. Steve Jobs – Combine an Oscar-winning director in Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire), an Oscar-winning screenwriter in Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network), and perhaps the most captivating actor on the planet in Michael Fassbender and you get what was far and away the best movie I saw in 2015, Steve Jobs. Like Ex Machina, this felt less like a movie and more like a stage play as the film eschews the standard biopic tropes and instead focuses on three specific product launches for Jobs at, after, and back at Apple. It’s a series of monologues, conversations, arguments, and standoffs between Jobs and his current and former co-workers, bosses, partners, ex-girlfriends, assistants, and one young daughter. At every launch, Steve’s interactions with these people changes, the tones are altered. They’re hopeful and excited about the release of the “revolutionary” Macintosh. They’re contrary and cynical about his NeXT Cube. And they’re revitalized and refreshed by the iMAC. The ensemble was simple perfection, an Oscar-nominated Kate Winslet, Jeff Daniels, and a shockingly outstanding Seth Rogen. But the movie lives and dies through Michael Fassbender, who is simply hypnotic in the lead, and should win (he won’t) Best Actor.
So there you have it… The 10 best movies of 2015 that were not nominated for the Best Picture honor. It is proof that you don’t have to get the big noms to be the best pictures. With the ten movies listed above, you get fun, tremendous acting and screenwriting, special effects, originality, and of course, male strippers.
Next up, my final Oscar preview, as I countdown the 8 Best Picture nominees and tell you what WILL and what SHOULD win Best Picture of the Year. Watch for that here at Geeks Of Doom this weekend.
The 88th annual Academy Awards will air on Sunday night, February 28, 2016 on ABC.