(By the way -- if anyone knows the names of the casting director/sound department/makeup department of the Korean films The Beauty Inside/Northern Limit Line/The Throne, do drop me a line so that I may give the credit where it's due)
BEST ENSEMBLE5. Straight Outta Compton
A great mix of knowns, unknowns, and familiar faces, anchored by the lead trio -- O'Shea Jackson, Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell. In choosing between acting ability or biographical resemblance, the filmmakers score a coup with an ensemble that can be both. And bless Paul Giamatti, who fits right in.
Sean Baker/Chris Bergoch
First of all, the chemistry between Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor is perfection, the kind of comic sparring that made iconic films out of It Happened One Night, or anything with Abbott and Costello. But they're joined by a game supporting cast, starting with Mickey O'Hagan as Kiki's "real fish" rival, all the way down to Clu Gulager's cameo as a taxi passenger.
3. The Beauty Inside
Give it props for casting 123 different people and pulling off the conceit that they are, indeed, all one person. Everyone has electric chemistry with Han Hyo-ju, one of the most natural actresses you've ever seen in a fantasy-romance. And a special shout-out to Shin Dong-mi, hilarious as Han's boss.
The mark of a great ensemble: you can easily imagine each of these characters living lives outside the movie. Whether it's the girls of the boarding house, Jessica Paré's department store floor manager, or the Irish gossip back home.
Kerry Barden/Paul Schnee
A generous ensemble -- like true journalists, the A-List actor -- Ruffalo, McAdams, Keaton -- cede entire scenes over to the character actors making up the witnesses, victims, priests, cops, officials. But it is all about the newsmen (and women) at the center, working as a team...a true ensemble.
Best Costume Design and more, after the jump....
BEST COSTUME DESIGN5. Love & Mercy
I could talk about Giamatti's awful Miami Vice imitations, Paul Dano's SoCal look, any of the period-specific looks from the 60s or 80s...but come on, people. Elizabeth Banks' ensembles are to die for, the best she's ever looked.
Certainly has the feel of verisimilitude. Somehow manages to impress without calling attention to itself. Look at Marion Cotillard when she's mourning her child -- then look at her as a queen. Those looks should, by all rights, become iconic.
Ruth E. Carter
Has great fun with the warring colors, on both the men and the women. Teyonnah Paris' Lysistrata should be the epitome of sex appeal -- her outfits, be they for street seduction or "armed" abstinence, are a part of that. And, of course, double snaps for Wesley Snipes' eyepatches.
Builds Eilis's character in subtle ways -- it's not until you see her New York wardrobe in her native Ireland that you realize just how far she's come. Those cat-eye shades!
Delectable. Builds the mousy quiet of Therese and the lusty glamor of Carol.
BEST SOUND5. The Revenant
Lon Bender/Martin Hernandez/Randy Thom, supervising sound editing/designCrunching through snow; wading through rushing, icy water; riding on horseback as arrows whoosh by war yelps; screams choking in blood; silences and whispers.
4. Northern Limit Line
Im Hyeong-ju, recording
When a movie centers around an epic sea battle, both the mix and editing better be on point. The magicians on NLL make us hear every individual bullet striking steel and flesh. Would make a great companion with Fury on hearing the agony of war...but would you believe, this battle took place during peace time?
3. The Assassin
Chu Shih Yi/Tu Duu-Chih/Wu Shu-yao, soundA quiet movie, its silences build the suspense. A rustling of a curtain here, a sudden footfall there -- sounds are suggested, even when it's two swords clanging against each other. And it's this lack of volume that allows the audience to meditate on what's happening...and more accurately reflects the soundscape of the real world.
2. Mad Max: Fury Road
Ben Osmo, production sound mixer
Chris Jenkins/Gregg Rudloff, re-recording mixers
Scott Hecker/Mark Mangini/David White, supervising sound editorsA not-very-quiet movie. Not at all. Roaring cars, rat-a-tat bullets, explosions, an electric guitar spewing flames, the guttural amplification of Immortan Joe's masked face, the score carefully moving from bombastic to a whisper.
1. Straight Outta Compton
Willie D. Burton, production sound mixer
Luke Gibleon, foley supervisor
Frank A. Montaño/Jon Taylor, sound re-recording mixer
Greg Hedgepath/Mark P. Stoeckinger, supervising sound editorAlbert Gasser, sound effects editorPerfection, from that very first drug bust sequence to the differences between recording a song in studio and performing it in front of a live, loud, rabid audience. The off-screen gunshot in one concert is especially well-done, seeming to come from nowhere and everywhere -- a brief moment that convincingly creates chaos.
BEST ACTOR5. Hugh Bonneville as Mr. Brown
He's perfectly sincere in his silliness. You never doubt for a moment the reality of blustery Mr. Brown, with his caution and impatience. But he makes sure (assisted by the great script, of course), that you see the Mr. Brown that attracted a pretty cool broad like his missus, and what makes him capable of keeping a Paddington in the first place.
4. Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass
Yeah, yeah, bison liver, real horse innards, blah-blah-blah. I'm here for the sincere pain in his eyes when he pulls himself out of that grave. I'm here for that hoarse, agonized whisper as he plans vengeance. I'm here for the quick but vital connection he makes with the boy playing his son. I'm here for Leo, and he delivers.
3. Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs
Who cares if this is anywhere close to the real Steve Jobs? He possesses the necessary traits of the one in this movie -- he's quick to react and blunt with his opinion, but he's not speaking thoughtlessly. He's genuinely excited, vocally and physically. He carries himself with the certainty of a leader. And he's disarmingly charming.
2. Michael B. Jordan as Adonis
Is there anyone he doesn't have chemistry with? Does a fine balance of anger and petulance, believably communicating humble origins that may be long past but are not forgotten. Watch as he grows from a stubborn wannabe boxer to a fighter, building his relationships with Stallone and Thompson quietly. Surprises us, and himself, in many ways throughout, and convincing us that he could ably steer any genre you give him.
1. Song Kang-ho as King Jeongjo
He might have stayed at number two, honestly. Song nails Jeongjo's rigid adherence to the old ways, while also showing the careless way in which he makes exceptions for himself. He also finds ways to make repeated actions both comic and tragic, depending on the scene. And all that was well and good -- but for me, what carries this performance over into the realm of Best was his last scene with Prince Sado. The way his voice breaks as, for the first time, he lets his guard down for his dying son gutted me. You have not seen a tragedy until you've heard this man tell his flesh and blood that history will remember him as insane. And Song has slowly built to this moment, allowed us to see both the King and the father go from pride to disappointment -- in himself as well as his son. What a performance!
5. Ryan CooglerCreed
As careful with his character scenes as he is with the action ones. The single-take first fight is beautifully choreographed, intense to watch. But equally so is any scene between Adonis and Bianca, navigating the yes-and-no of their relationship; ditto for any scene between Adonis and Rocky. Coogler gets the push-pull of independent people sizing one another up before they can lean on each other. As delicate a dance as any fight.
4. Sean BakerTangerine
Not only does he grab perfect performances from a mostly amateur cast -- he makes sure to bring as many of them together in scenes/shots/plot points as he can, as often as possible. And no matter how outrageous the proceedings get, he never mistakes them for anything but real people. The kind of underground wonderland you expect from LA.
3. Todd HaynesCarol
Remarkable, the way he can capture the stylized approach of a film from the era, yet still bring a modern sensibility, without becoming anachronistic. He once again works wonders with his actresses -- Blanchett the cool lioness, Mara the secretly sensual lamb. Can communicate an entire conversation without dialogue. And the way he stages the opening scene, then its re-visit later on, transforming our understanding...oh, what a wonder!
2. Céline SciammaGirlhood
My entire reasoning in my Top Ten says it all: "There's a great scene in Girlhood where the members of a girl gang don their five-finger-discount dresses in a hotel room, dancing and singing to Rihanna's "Diamonds". And in this moment, they're not gang members, but just teens having fun. ...[O]ur heroine...finds solace with the role of gang member -- it gives her power and respect. But she's still just a teenage girl, trying to make it in the French projects. "Shine bright like a diamond," indeed."
1. Tom McCarthySpotlight
Subtle with his tension, allowing the story to unfold naturally, but with a quiet poison gaining strength. Holds back from the histrionics, until it's necessary. And you know how I said it's a generous ensemble? He keeps it that way. And through all that quiet, a very real anger that sweeps you up by the movie's end.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY5. Steve Jobs
based on the biography by Walter Isaacson
A life in three chapters, told entirely through the behind-the-scenes goings-on of three seminal product launches? Sounds crazy. Sounds stagey. It shouldn't work. It does. Beautifully. An audacious and successful experiment.
4. The Beauty Inside
Kim Sun-jung/Park Jung-ye
based on the 2012 social film directed by Drake Doremus
Miraculously works, thanks to a screenplay that actually takes the time to delve into the implications of the situation -- a man who wakes up with a new body every day, be it male, female, child, adult, fat, thin, white, black, Asian -- and not just superficially. The scenes with the mother are particularly done to perfection, by which I mean I sobbed 'til I couldn't breathe.
based on the novel by Colm Tóibín
Love the subtle way they progress Eilis's character from the shy immigrant to a real New York Woman -- and we don't even realize it until she's among her old circle. Indeed, the changes that occur both outside and in happen quietly and convincingly, but you still understand why she might entertain the idea of "going back". Thinks highly of its ensemble, too.
story by Paul King/Hamish McColl
based on the character created by Michael BondA genuinely funny and heartwarming film that makes itself accessible to adults without compromising its innocence. No dirty wink-winks sneaking in here -- real emotions, real wit. At its brisk pace, one almost worries that a character or three in its sizable cast may get lost, but they don't: everyone has their time to shine, and seeming non sequitur asides become plot pay-offs. Pure.
based on the novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
Communicating so much interior life, feelings unexpressed, thoughts unsaid...sans voiceover! Allows economic dialogue and deliberate action to drive the story, something that should be a given in cinema, but also something that is all too rare. What dialogue there is, is beautiful, poignant, memorable...and not torn directly from its source material!