There were 8 films nominated for Best Picture this year -- Brooklyn, The Big Short, Room, Spotlight, The Revenant, The Martian, Bridge of Spies, and Mad Max: Fury Road. I haven't seen Brooklyn (no appeal to me), Room (looks very difficult to watch, but I will try to catch it on TV) or Bridge of Spies (there is some appeal, I plan to catch on TV). Of the others, I liked them all, actually, but if I were to rank them in order, my least favorite was Spotlight, which not only won Best Picture but also was positively reviewed by just about every single person who saw it. It was really tough to even find a negative review, although a few mentioned that it played out a bit like a glorified TV movie, which it sort of felt like to me. Not that I didn't enjoy it, my review would have been positive too, but I wasn't quite riveted by the story (which I kind of knew all about) or at least not about the reporters uncovering the story, rather than the priests and the victims, which seems the more compelling story to me, and alas, I actually fell asleep in the theater before the ending. Which yeah, maybe that keeps it from being such a positive review. In my defense, it was a drinking theater with comfortable chairs and it was after midnight but yeah, something tells me I wouldn't have fallen asleep under those conditions in Mad Max.
My favorite movie of 2015 wasn't in the Best Picture race, though (which sets it apart from 2014, where my favorite three films -- Whiplash, Boyhood, and Citizenfour -- were all in the Best Picture or Best Documentary race). I had hopes that The Revenant would take the mantle and when I finally watched it last week in Los Angeles's amazing ArcLight Cinemas experience, I was pretty convinced 20 minutes in this would be the greatest movie I ever watched. That opening sequence, shot in just a few long continuous shots, was brilliantly executed and immediately riveting and those perfectly placed arrows zipping through the necks of the fur-trappers under attack by misplaced Indians, on a big screen with the sound to match... wow, just wow. That's the brilliance of the moviegoing experience in a nutshell. And right up to the point that - spoiler alert, but I can't imagine you haven't heard of this - Leo is attacked by the bear, it's just a perfect, momentous action flick. Sadly, it doesn't quite sustain that momentum through a bloated middle and some unnecessary dream sequences that took me out of the film and I kind of couldn't wait until the climactic battle I knew had to be coming, some 2 1/2 hours in. It's a great film, don't get me wrong, but with a few more edits (something Inarratu isn't known for) I think this could have been brilliant. Alas, it's not my favorite Best Picture nominee, nor my favorite film of the year. Read on for that list and a spoiler-free review of 10 Cloverfield Lane.