1. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 - So, unlike most people, I liked the first Mockingjay movie more than I liked the first two films of the series (and overall, I've enjoyed them all). I really liked how much the story evolves and becomes bigger than the "games". However, I do see that the Mockingjay part of the story was really stretched out in order to fill two movies, and this was completely unnecessary. They could have easily made a really solid, concise 2 hour movie - and it could have been fantastic. Part 2 felt so repetitive and slow, which somehow effects my thoughts on Part 1, so it's almost a disservice to the strong film that precedes it. It's also really predictable (and I've never read the novel). I felt like I knew every sentence before Katniss says it, and it was obvious that the whole point was to stop the "cycle" - and it's clear who is keen on continuing this "cycle", and it's not Donald Sutherland (I don't remember his character's name...Snow? Maybe.). As a series, though, this is such a surprisingly incredible tale, with themes of survival, sacrifice, violence and death as a form of entertainment, political upheavals, propaganda, the media's influence on war and politics, love, friendship and so much more. It far exceeded my expectations, and opened up my mind on the potential of YA novels. Jennifer Lawrence is at her very best, and never falters once through all four films. The rest of the cast left very little imprints in my opinion (except maybe for Josh Hutcherson and Elizabeth Banks). It's not that they weren't good, but I just had to keep reminding myself of who they were and how they related to the story. As predictable as the ending is, it is perfectly executed and wraps up the story nicely.
2. Miss You Already - I think it's odd that I didn't really hear anything about this movie. It was an independent movie, but it has a fantastic cast - Drew Barrymore, Toni Collette, Dominic Cooper, Paddy Considine. The only reason I knew anything about it was because Barrymore did promotion for it on The Tonight Show. I think any girl my age loves Drew Barrymore. She was everything when I was a kid (Firestarter was one of my favorite movies when I was young, it also scared the Hell out of me). As an adult, I get compared to Drew a lot (not in looks, obviously, but in personality), which I personally think is super weird and a distorted view of my personality. I'm certainly not the "free-spirit" that Drew presents herself as. I do, however, love to laugh, and I think most people see her as this really awkward, but really confident person - and I guess that is me. The older I get, the more I understand the comparison. Anyway, Toni Collette is one of my favorite actresses. I've never seen her falter. I love this movie for one reason: It's about two best friends who are complimentary of each other. They are not in competition with each other, instead they are supportive. They do not fight over a love interest (this is the plot device in most movies about two female best friends). And they would drop everything to be there for one and other. I felt it was a really honest and true depiction of best friends who are more like sisters. The rest of the movie is a little too sappy for my taste. It's like an modern version of Beaches, but just not as memorable. I really didn't like how the husbands were portrayed, considering how "right" they got the female characters, I don't think either of these women would put up with these assholes. Catherine Hardwicke (the director) is most known for Twilight, which is sad because I had such high hopes for her after Thirteen. I think she can gain her clout back if she does more personal stories like this.
3. Carol - Stunning imagery, sublime performances, absolutely boring movie. I'm sorry, I just don't get the praise for the film, as a whole. And it just moved so slowly. I know people were upset that it was nominated for 6 Oscars, but shutout of Best Picture and Rooney Mara, but I think it's exactly how it should be. The movie looked like a moving Edward Hopper painting (which is a good thing, obviously). Every scene was just so wonderful to look at, so a Cinematography nomination is very well-deserved (and I wouldn't even argue a win). Cate Blanchett is a goddess. She just keeps getting better and better, which seems impossible. She's in a league of her own, at this point - untouchable. There were some surprising supporting performances (Sarah Paulson, for one - who absolutely killed it in The People vs OJ), but Mara is probably the weakest link (and also not really a "supporting" performance). I like Rooney, but I never really agree with the high praise that she receives. She's a good actress, not great. In this film, she looks like she's in pain the whole time (like physical pain, not emotional pain). The part of the movie that I did like is that this woman chooses her daughter over her love interest (yes, it's a horrible position to be put in), but then she ruins it by letting her ex-husband have full custody (he obviously has anger issues and should not have sole custody of a child). I just don't understand the motivation behind that decision at all. So, I'm not fully on-board with the story, either. Anyway, on a side note, how beautiful is this poster?
4. Bridge of Spies - I enjoy some Cold War stuff. For example, The Americans is probably the best show on television right now (it's an extremely close tie with Mr. Robot). However, some Cold War stuff is extremely boring - like Tinker, Tailor, Snoozefest. It's hard to judge a film/tv show based on the theme of the "Cold War" simply because it's such an expansive time period of 40+ years, so for me, I tend to enjoy stuff based on characters, which is why The Americans is so successful. It's an American show that has us rooting for the enemy because we care about the characters. It puts a human emphasis on violence and the impact it has (no matter what side you're on). Bridge of Spies is similar in the way it shows empathy for the enemy. Steven Spielberg is the perfect person to put this story on the big screen and make it feel epic. Tom Hanks is a national treasure, and his performance here is perfectly "Tom Hanks" - and yes, you know exactly what I mean. Mark Rylance deserved the Oscar nomination (I would have voted for Christian Bale for the the win). However, the film, overall, just didn't do much for me. The first hour is excellent, but it starts to trail off and I felt my mind wander. All of the sudden, I realized that I had no idea what was happening with the plot because I couldn't even force myself to pay attention. Then, the ending picks up again, and is super tense. I think it's odd that the end notes that this man (based on a true person) was responsible for the release of 9000 prisoners from Cuba. I mean, that seems like a much bigger story, no?
5. Spotlight - Of all the Oscar nominated films that I missed last year, this is the most disappointing. Probably because it won best picture, I expected it to be, you know, the best picture. It's not (that would be Room, although I still have yet to see The Revenant). It's a good movie, I guess. I just don't really see anything special about it. It's a compelling story, but the impact of it is lost because I don't think anyone in 2016 is surprised by this cover-up. It's all very well-known, so the story about uncovering this needs to have more to it - like depth to the characters, for one. I don't think I could tell you anything about any character in this movie. Aside from the obvious, they are the reporters who uncovered this massive story. I think the only thing that was interesting is that it was pushed into smaller stories because of the "bigger" story (9/11), but that isn't even explored, really. It's just sort of thrown at the audience and then it moves on. I was surprised the most by Rachel McAdam's nomination (because, really, whaaaaat?!), and after seeing the film, I am still surprised. She's not awful (I don't think she's ever awful), just dull. It's a great cast, but I don't think any of the characters were particularly hard or interesting to portray. The film is just very cut and dry - and it doesn't take a whole lot of talent to take a story like this and turn it into a "good" movie.