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Everything You Need to Know About the Oscars

Invited to an Oscar party but haven’t actually had time to watch the nominated movies? Have no fear! Her Campus at UVic has you covered! Our cheat sheet has everything you need to know about this year’s biggest films and is guaranteed to get you through all Oscar-related conversations. Watch out for spoilers below!

Who You Need To Know

Director: Ridley Scott

Screenwriter: Drew Goddard

Novel Author: Andy Weir

Stars: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain and Kristen Wiig

What You Need To Know

While on Mars, a team of astronauts leaves behind one of their crewmembers (Matt Damon) because they think that he is dead. It turns out that apart from an injury that requires him to take his shirt off on camera (not that I’m complaining) and the fact that he is abandoned in outer space, he is actually totally fine. Oops! Fortunately, the guy has food, shelter, and some disco music, so he’s actually doing alright for the time being and he eventually figures out how to contact Earth to let everyone know that he is alive. That’s all good, but apparently it’s inconvenient for NASA to whip up to Mars and pick him up. They have to do a bunch of math and science or whatever and I guess that takes a while. Meanwhile, our buddy on Mars is beginning to run low on food. But wait! He happens to be a botanist! So he grows food on Mars, using his own poop as fertilizer. Yum.

Next, NASA notifies his crew that he is alive. This makes the crew feel pretty guilty, so after some dramatic deliberation they decide that they should probably save him (seeing as they left him on Mars in the first place and all). Of course, the rescue scene is very suspenseful and action packed, but have no fear: our favourite astronaut is eventually saved! He then goes on to teach at NASA. The end!

The Verdict:

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%

Metacritic: 80%

CinemaBlend: 5 stars

My Personal Rating: 88%

Matt Damon is a bombshell, the script is quite funny, the story is interesting and the special effects are on par. All in all, it was a super enjoyable watch for me, but at the same time, I expect nothing less from Hollywood and I felt that I had seen the astronaut-needs-saving story before.

Who You Need To Know

Director: John Crowley

Screenwriter: Nick Hornby

Novel Author: Colm Tóibín

Stars: Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen and Domhnall Gleeson

What You Need To Know:

We are looking at a fairly simple storyline here. It’s the 1950s. Girl leaves home in Ireland to seek a better life in America. It is hard at first. She cries a lot, lives in a boarding house and sucks at her job. But when she finds love, everything changes. (Shocker).

At this point, life is all lollipops and rainbows for her, so of course something bad has to happen. And it does. Right after she secretly marries her new hubby, her sister dies. So back to Ireland she goes for the funeral. In Ireland, she is reminded of all the attractive qualities of her old town.

Now she is torn between returning to Brooklyn (and her husband) and staying in Ireland. At first it looks like she will choose Ireland, but of course, love will prevail and she leaves her home again. The film ends with a good ol’ freeze frame of the lovers’ romantic embrace and we may presume that they live happily every after!

The Verdict:

Rotten Tomatoes: 98%

Metacritic: 87%

Cinemablend: 5 stars

My Personal Rating: 80%

I was not blown away, but it is a good movie. The acting is great, and the set design and camera work is tasteful, but the story could definitely be more original and less predictable.

Who You Need To Know:

Director: Lenny Abrahamson

Screenwriter/Novel Author: Emma Donoghue

Stars: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay and Sean Bridgers

What You Need To Know:

Our main characters are a woman and her son, and they have been trapped in a garden shed that they call “Room” for years. In fact, the son was born in in the shed and has never seen the outside of it. Seriously, the kid thinks that “Room” is all there is and that outer space is directly outside. It is crazy stuff! Eventually though, the mother devises an escape plan. The plan involves faking her son’s death, rolling him in a carpet and having him taken away in their kidnapper’s truck. After some suspense and a dramatic pause while the kid looks at the sky for the first time, the plan is a success! The little boy eventually finds help and the police free his mother as well. The next half of the film shows the boy’s adaption to the world outside of the shed and the mother’s struggle to deal with the trauma caused by years of captivity. In the end, though, we are left with hope that they will get through it together!

The Verdict:

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%

Metacritic: 86%

CinemaBlend: 5 stars

My Personal Rating: 92%

I thought that this film was fantastic! First of all, I was very impressed by the acting, especially that of child actor, Jacob Tremblay. Next, it was great to see so many strong female characters in one film. I also appreciated the cinematography and editing because it was dynamic and noticeable. Finally, I was pleased to be presented with a story that was different from most well known films. It could have ended with the main characters escaping captivity and the presumption that they live happily ever after. Instead, it showed us the everlasting effects of the traumatic event, making for a more realistic and touching story.

Who You Need To Know:

Director: Adam McKay

Screenwriter: Charles Randolph and Adam McKay

Novel Author: Michael Lewis

Stars: Christian Bale, Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling

What You Need To Know:

This movie is about the people that made money off of the financial crisis of 2007. Each of the characters has a unique back-story, but what they have in common is that they all predicted the demise of the bubble and took action in order to profit from it. I’ll be real with you; there was a lot of financial talk that I was not following throughout the film, but what I can tell you is that the film is a series of paralleled stories and in each, the characters deal with the guilt of gaining while others lose, but they also justify their actions by saying that the information that they had was available for anyone to see.

The Verdict:

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%

Metacritic: 81%

CinemaBlend: 4 stars

My Personal Rating: 85%

This movie has a lot going for it: a great cast, a good director, and a subject that has affected many people. I enjoyed how the story brought a cast of diverse underdogs together, and I thought all of the actors gave entertaining performances. Was it anything new or special? Not really, but it was a strong and entertaining movie.


Who You Need to Know:

Director: George Miller

Writers: Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris

Stars: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult

What You Need To Know:

Picture a post-apocalyptic desperate future: a desolate landscape where water and gasoline are scarce and equally coveted. Enter Max (Tom Hardy), a man running from his past and almost anyone else he meets, who is captured by the War Boys, the army run by the tyrannical Immortan Joe, and taken to Joe's Citadel. When one of Joe’s lieutenants, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), sent in the “War Rig” to collect gasoline, goes rogue, it is discovered that she has helped Joe’s five wives escape in an attempt to make it to safety. The safe location they are headed for is known as “the green place.” Joe and his army begin the pursuit, along with Max who, despite an attempt to escape, is being used as a blood supplier for a War Boy named Hux (Nicholas Holt). The story follows the chase. When Max and Furiosa join forces, nothing can stop them from defeating Immortan Joe and his reign of fear.

The Verdict:

Rotten Tomatoes: 97%

MetaCritic: 89%

CinemaBlend: 4.5/5

This movie will kick you in the teeth from start to finish. With no previous knowledge of Mad Max films, you might miss out on a little bit of extra info, but it does nothing to take away from the story or film itself. Instead, it says, “Hey! If you want to know what’s happening, pay attention!” The film is essentially the chase, with almost no pit stops, and filled to the brim with action. It never gets boring. All action sequences in the movie are different, with no repeats. The action itself almost becomes a character of the film, which showcases the characters’ individuality as they overcome each complication. I know what you’re thinking if you haven’t seen this movie: “why do I want to watch a movie about a bunch of people fighting over gasoline?” Well, because it’s about survival, hope, female empowerment, vengeance, and redemption. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie: the characters, the action, and the plot. It’s solid nomination for this year’s Oscars.

Who You Need To Know:

Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu  (Director and Screenplay)

Screenwriter: Mark L.Smith

Novel Author: Michael Punke

Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy and Domhnall Gleeson

What You Need To Know:

Set in the 1820’s, this movie is a story about Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), a man who seeks revenge for his half-Native son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), when John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) kills the boy. They are part of a fur trapping party in Canada who are attacked by the local tribe of Native people named Arikara. Severely outnumbered, the hunting party’s captain, Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson), decides to follow Hugh Glass as he guides them through the harsh Canadian wilderness to their outpost, against Fitzgerald’s protests. Along the way, Glass gets mauled by a bear, forcing the hunting party to leave him behind with three volunteers who will be compensated handsomely if they can get him the rest of the way to the outpost. The volunteers are Glass’ son, Fitzgerald, and Jim Bridger (Will Poulter). Fitzgerald, only wanting the money, attempts to smother Glass, but Hawk interrupts him. Fitzgerald stabs Hawk and hides the body while Bridger is gone. The next morning Glass scares Bridger into leaving Glass to die. But Glass survives, barely, and begins the hunt for revenge. Throughout the story we witness the brutality of the climate and Glass’ own hallucinations of his wife and son on his journey through the wilderness.

The Verdict:

Rotten Tomatoes: 82%

Metacritic: 76%      

Rolling Stone: 3.5/4

This movie is definitely worth all the praise it has been receiving. All the actors delivered strong and compelling performances. Leonardo DiCaprio was phenomenal. With little dialogue he allowed his actions and expressions speak for themselves. The story was uniquely told; however, the story itself wasn’t what really stood out to me. Shot in twelve different locations, the vast landscapes and breathtaking shots brought their own character to the movie. It was an extremely difficult and bold filming process because of the severe weather and the fact that all the scenes were shot in natural light, raising the stakes for each take because of the limited daylight. I respect The Revenant for the feats that it took to create the film. 

Who You Need To Know:

Director: Tom McCarthy

Screenwriters: John Singer and Tom McCarthy

Stars: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams

What You Need To Know:

Spotlight tells the true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the scandal and cover-up of child molestation in the Catholic Church. When the Boston Globe newspaper hires a new editor, Marty Baron (Brian D’Arcy James), he convinces Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton), editor of the “spotlight” team, and a small group of journalists who write investigative articles that take months to complete, to research the story of a lawyer Mitchell Garabedian (Stanley Tucci). Garabedian says that Cardinal Law (the Archbishop of Boston, played by Len Cariou) knew that priest John Geoghan was sexually abusing children and did nothing. They follow the trail and find that it isn’t just the story of one pedophilic priest but of many priests who have been moved around several times to hide their history of sexually abuse, enabled by the Boston Archdiocese. They learn that there are ninety abusive priests in Boston, and through research compile a list of eighty-seven names and look for victims to back up their story. They print their story in 2002, along with documents that expose Cardinal Law, and a phone number where victims can come forward and tell their story.

The Verdict:

Rotten Tomatoes : 93% 

MetaCritic: 93%

IMDb: 8.2./10

While I personally didn’t get to watch the film, it has had many great reviews. A friend commented that it was eye-opening and well done. The acting showed no weak links in the cast. It is a movie that stays with you, and leaves you lots to think about. The story pushed boundaries with it’s taboo subject. It is a story that needed to be told, as the Spotlight team received a Pulitzer Prize for their efforts, and with such high reviews might just win an Oscar too.

Who You Need To Know:

Director: Steven Spielberg

Screenwriters: Matt Charman, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen

Stars: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance and Alan Alda

What You Need To Know:

Meet James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks), an insurance settlement lawyer, whose company asks him to defend KGB spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) in a fair trial, to stop the Soviet Union from turning the trial into malicious propaganda. When he mounts a defense for Abel's acquittal he is met with hatred and death threats from the American public. Despite his best efforts, Abel is found guilty, with Donovan convincing the judge to decide on thirty years in prison rather than a death sentence, so that Abel may one day be used as a bargaining chip with the USSR. When Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell) is captured in a U-2 sortie into the Soviet Union, Donovan gets a letter asking for a prisoner exchange. Negotiations begin, but when Donovan hears of another American prisoner, Frederic Pryor (Will Rogers), an economics graduate student, he barters for a two-for-one exchange. As tensions arise between the USSR, who have the pilot and East Germany, and the US, who have Pryor and Donovan, the deal threatens to be thrown off. But Donovan’s resolve pulls them through and allows all three men to be released.

The Verdict:

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%

MetaCritic: 81%

IMDb: 7.7/10

Personal Rating:

Although I did not get to watch the film, it has Tom Hanks, who has always delivered in his roles, and was directed by Steven Spielberg, who has time and again produced great movies. People have said that this film showcased the mindset of America during the Cold War, and the fear that was so relevant during that time. It is the story of a man who is tested and compelled to turn away from his values and beliefs, but resolves to keep them.

Congrats! You are now Oscar party ready!


Leah Smith

U Vic '20

Coming from Edmonton, AB, Leah is a writing student in the Fine Arts Department at the University of Victoria. She enjoys all things story related including but not limited to TV, movies, and books. She is a die-hard fan of Peaky Blinders, Mr. Robot, and Jane the Virgin. She loves desserts and when she has time enjoys baking and hanging out with her family and friends. She is easy-going and with an avid love for music and hopes to be a screenwriter.
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