Bridge of Spies surprised me on a few fronts.

I did not know much of the history behind the film before going to see it, which cost me a 25-minute drive to the last theater in Memphis showing the film, but only a $3 ticket (call it a draw). It's a great story, and I thought the writing was crisp, and deserving of the Oscar nomination it has received. I'll be very surprised if Matt Charman and Ethan and Joel Coen hear their names called ahead of Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy for Spotlight - but it has a better chance than I thought it would before seeing the film.

My other surprise was how small Mark Rylance's role is. I heard a lot of buzz regarding his performance, but felt underwhelmed. Not by his acting, but by how little his character - Rudolf Abel - is in the film. I thought Tom Hanks was fantastic as James Donovan, and could have earned his sixth Best Actor nomination if not for a very deep field this year. Additionally, Steven Spielberg could have earned his eighth Best Director nomination if not for a deep field in that category as well. Bridge of Spies didn't crack my top four for Best Picture, but it is still a very good film, as is everything nominated for Best Picture this year. There is not a bad one in the bunch. I recommend seeing all of them.

In addition to Bridge of Spies, I saw Carol recently. If it wasn't for my goal to see all of these films, I would have had zero interest in seeing Carol in theaters. Maybe on TV. Maybe. I probably would have caught part of it - a few scenes here and there. I'm glad that wasn't the case, because I enjoyed the film very much. 

The acting is great, and the story has some surprising payoffs because of the structure that Phyllis Nagy's script presents. Rooney Mara is a growing talent, and deservedly earns a second Academy Award nomination. It would be fascinating to watch Carol and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (her other nominated role) back-to-back. Hair styling, tattoos and piercings aside, it would be hard to pick out that Mara is play both Lisbeth Salander, and Therese Belivet. As usual, Cate Blanchett is phenomenal as well.

Best Picture

1) The Revenant

2) Spotlight

3) Mad Max: Fury Road

4) The Big Short

5) Bridge of Spies

6) The Martian

7) Room

8) Brooklyn

Best Actor (Leading)

1) Leonardo DiCaprio - The Revenant

2) Michael Fassbender - Steve Jobs

3) Bryan Cranston - Trumbo

4) Matt Damon - The Martian

To Be Seen: Eddie Redmayne - The Danish Girl

Best Actress (Leading)

1) Brie Larson - Room

2) Saorise Ronan - Brooklyn

3) Cate Blanchett - Carol

To Be Seen: Charlotte Rampling - 45 Years, Jennifer Lawrence - Joy

Best Supporting Actor

1) Tom Hardy - The Revenant

2) Christian Bale - The Big Short

3) Mark Ruffalo - Spotlight

4) Mark Rylance - Bridge of Spies

To Be Seen: Sylvester Stallone - Creed

Best Supporting Actress

1) Rooney Mara - Carol

2) Rachel McAdams - Spotlight

3) Kate Winslet - Steve Jobs

4) Jennifer Jason Leigh - The Hateful Eight

To Be Seen: Alicia Vikander - The Danish Girl

Best Director

1) Alejandro G. Inarritu - The Revenant

2) George Miller - Mad Max: Fury Road

3) Adam McKay - The Big Short

4) Tom McCarthy - Spotlight

5) Lenny Abrahamson - Room

Best Original Screenplay

1) Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy - Spotlight

2) Matt Charman and Ethan Coen & Joel Coen - Bridge of Spies

3) Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley; Original story by Pete Docter, Ronnie del Carmen - Inside Out

To Be Seen: Alex Garland - Ex Machina, Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff; Story by S. Leigh Savage & Alan Wenkus and Andrea Berloff - Straight Outta Compton

Best Adapted Screenplay

1) Charles Randolph and Adam McKay - The Big Short

2) Phyllis Nagy - Carol

3) Emma Donaghue - Room

4) Drew Goddard - The Martian

5) Nick Hornby - Brooklyn

AuthorJohn Juettner