What I Think Happens In The 2016 Best Picture Nominees (I Haven’t Seen Them)

With a little over a month to go until the 2016 Academy Awards, I haven’t seen a single Best Picture nominee.  I’m not too worried about seeing all of the nominees, though, because four of them will be released on DVD before Oscar night. Still, I thought it would be fun to take inventory of what I think these movies are supposed to be about before I’ve seen them.

By now we know that all of the 2016 Best Picture nominees are about white people, but what kind of white people? What are the white people doing? What are the white people’s goals, dreams, and obstacles? I don’t know, maybe this stuff:

The Big Short

Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, and Steve Carrell star as white men who – in the grand tradition of white men – were put in charge of important things, causing the sub-prime housing crisis that precipitated the Great Recession. It was 2007, the economy was going down the crapper, and skinny jeans were just starting to become REALLY popular so we were all a bit under-confident about what sort of pants we should be wearing and how long our shirts had to be.

There are a lot of heated phone conversations using old cell phone models that you’ll recognize from when you were in college. Maybe one of these guys – money’s on Carrell, but just kidding, I don’t have money because the economy collapsed – tries to do the right thing and thwart the Great Bubble Bursting of ’08. All of the characters are the intelligent-yet-hopelessly-flawed wealthy types that Academy voters LOVE. Finally, a human face on the credit default swap market.

There’s also a Regular Working Man, maybe a non-white person who serves coffee near their workplace, or a down-on-his-luck cousin who is a mechanic in New Jersey, who symbolizes the real people who were affected. He loses his house and Ryan Gosling thinks LONG AND HARD, oh yes he does.

I can’t picture what Brad Pitt does, sorry.

Bridge Of Spies

It’s the Cold War, and it’s New York City, and everything is filmed in dark, almost sepia tones. A Russian spy gets arrested and it’s up to a down-to-business, gruff yet noble American lawyer to get him out of trouble. The lawyer is Tom Hanks, playing someone more or less Tom Hanks-y. But the whole country is in a Red Panic and doing nuclear bomb drills under their school desks and blacklisting Lucille Ball or whatever, like they are WORKED. THE HELL. UP. about it, so NO, gruff NYC lawyer, they do NOT want to free your Russian spy.

Anyway they want to straight-up Rosenberg him, but then something happens and Tom Hanks has to go to Russia, where more than 25% of the characters are wearing those big fur hats. People wearing shades of brown intercept coded messages on radios left and right. Finally, there’s a big standoff on a bridge in Russia with Tom Hanks, the Russian spy, an American official who doesn’t trust Tom Hanks, a scrappy young pilot, and some Russians or Germans. But who is the real spy? Is he on the bridge? The bridge … of spies? (Yes).

Brooklyn

I’m 1/3 of the way through Colm Toibin’s book, but who cares, here goes. Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) is a young Irish girl who goes to Brooklyn by herself to get a job and gets homesick. But her homesickness is abated as HELL because she meets the hot Italian. This was in 1950 or so when Irish people and Italian people were pretty much different races. Eilis has to learn how to do cool new cultural things like eat food with garlic in it and argue about feelings instead of swallow them under a glut of boiled potatoes.

When Eilis’s mother falls sick, she is called back home … but WHERE IS HOME? Suddenly the town Eilis grew up in feels foreign, sort of like when you get back home from your semester abroad. And just like when you get back from your semester abroad, nobody really gives a shit that Eilis’s whole worldview has changed, and they only have a kind of middling interest in her stories. Ultimately, Eilis must decide whether to return to America to continue building her new life or stay in Ireland. She gets a tender, sentimental letter from the hot Italian and it makes her realize where her heart really lies.

Mad Max: Fury Road

Okay. So. First of all, this is a stand-alone movie, not a sequel to something from 2010 like I keep thinking it is. Well, everyone is in the desert after a major war that wasn’t 100% apocalyptic or anything but was pretty bad. It’s the future, but not so far in the future that people are named things like Glorg. Besides, thanks to the really bad war there’s not a lot of awesome technology or anything. Everyone looks sort of District 12-ish, if you will. They all have dirt smudges and torn clothing, like the Tina Majorino character in Waterworld. There are no superheroes (another thing I keep thinking), but there are humans.

Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy have to escape from someone, so most of the time they’re driving really fast to get away and throwing things at other vehicles, too. Lots of explosions. They pick up some other escapees on the way (after arguing about whether they have enough resources or if the people are secretly bad guys), so it’s like a roadtrip film-meets-action film-meets-dystopian desert film. Think Chris Val Allsberg’s Just A Dream + Hunger Games + The Giver + The Fast And The Furious + Syriana.

The Martian

In this movie, which is not a comedy but maybe you’ll chuckle a few times, it turns out Mars is way more habitable than we thought. You can’t hang out in street clothes or anything, but you could take a spaceship there for sure. Matt Damon is one of those spaceship guys, but he gets Kevin McAllister-ed for some reason and he’s on Mars by himself. He has to get to earth really fast but he’ll have to MacGuyver his spaceship in order to do it. Most of his interactions occur over radio to NASA HQ. Matt Damon has a sweet, teasing relationship with one of the scientists there (Kristen Wiig maybe, but probably someone younger because she’s only 3 years younger than him). During a harrowing moment they confess their love to each other.

In the meantime, Matt Damon has to turn Mars into a home. All of the other scientists must risk their careers and their lives to save him, but he’s Matt Damon, America’s Golden Child, so they do. There is a touching moment with an international (maybe Russian) astronaut and another touching moment viewing Earth from afar. It will make you feel small because the universe is so big; but it will also make you feel big because you matter to the universe. For this one, think Interstellar + My Side Of The Mountain + Castaway.

The Revenant

I heard one side of a phone conversation about this on the bus, so I’ve got this in the bag. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a man from the 1800s who really existed. He gets left for dead in the wilderness but was ALIVE. Then he has to live through so many shitty things that you almost wish he had just died. He gets attacked by a bear but not raped by a bear; no, Drudge Report, no siree he does not.

There are a lot of men wearing animal furs. Lots of giant fuzzy hats, even more than Bridge of Spies. Everyone’s on mountains being rugged. There are gross things Leo has to do to survive, like eating things that aren’t food, probably. It’s got to be way too cold to undress so he probably just pees himself the whole time. They may not show that, but just realize that it’s happening when you’re watching.

Room

Brie Larson, who is not Alison Brie, is locked in a room a la the Josef Fritzl victim or Elizabeth Smart or those girls in Cleveland. She has a son, for whom she creates a stable and comfortable life. When they escape, he has trouble integrating into society – but so does she. People are insensitive and do things like assume she’s turned all Stockholm Syndrome-y or ask why she didn’t get out sooner. At some point she sees an inaccurate tabloid report and that’s pretty upsetting. Her childhood bedroom is a shrine to her former self. One of her parents died, or her parents got divorced, but either way life is totally different. At some point she stares hollow-eyed as her former friends have a giddy, happy gathering. Will she ever make it out of ‘the room’? Yes, because of the triumph of the human spirit.

Spotlight

In Boston, a news reporter is an Irish Catholic guy who went through parochial school and is from Southie and always has a niece’s First Communion or whatever to go to. When he’s assigned to investigate priest abuse, he feels like he can’t do it – but also like he has to do it. After hitting numerous roadblocks, this guy – along with some other reporters – meets a victim who’s willing to talk. The story grows and grows, and the team realizes they’re not dealing with a few bad priests but an elaborate coverup. Eventually they get a sit-down with a high-ranking official who knew about it and he seems repentant but also has that annoying “what can you do” attitude. I’m going to cry though up to 80% of it.

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5 Things You Missed At The VMAs

Missed the VMAs yesterday? Don’t worry, because I got you covered. And it’s probably for the best because there was a good amount of people on the red carpet that I had absolutely NO IDEA who they were. I am old.

Also, before I go into the top moments from the show, can I just share something that’s annoyed me since I started watching this awards show back in the day? WHY is it called the VMAs – as in Video Music Awards? Shouldn’t it be MVAs – Music Video Awards?? Someone from MTV get back to me on that.

Anyways, the storied “VMAs” headed back to NYC and for the first time were held in Brooklyn at Barclay’s Center – aka the place where Jay Z’s basketball team plays. To me, MTV goes hand in hand with New York, probably because of the TRL days, so it’s great that the show was back in the Big Apple.

People are probably going to be talking about things that happened during the show, so here’s a breakdown of the things that went down on Sunday so you can talk to your 20-year-old co-worker/intern about what happened…

5) Amen! Hallelujah! Praise Yeezus

^click for video^

Kanye is on hand (without North or Kimmy K) to sing Blood on the Leaves. He starts off with a red light on his face as he raps into a mic, and then pans out to show just his shadow against this background, and it’s actually really great. Just him performing without all the extra shit. If anyone saw him on Kris Jenner’s show on Friday, he talked about how he went to art school, had three scholarships, and considers himself an artist above anything else. This performance just proved it.

4) Taylor Swift is still an asshat (see here)

So the very first award of the night is for Best Pop Video. Presenting is One Direction, and among the nominees is Selena Gomez. If you haven’t put it together yet, Selena is BFF with Taylor (hence them sitting next to each other) and Taylor used to “date” Harry in 1D (the most famous one with the brown shaggy hair). As 1D was talking, the cameras went to Taylor and Selena, and Taylor said this:

You first.

Selena incidentally won the award, and politely kissed Harry on the cheek.

Later, Taylor won the award for Best Female Video, and said this during her speech:

When winning Best Female Video, Taylor says, “I want to thank the person who inspired this song – who knows exactly who he is – because now I got one of these.”… CUT TO HARRY STYLES LOOKING AWKWARD.

TAYLOR YOU ARE 23 YEARS OLD. GET IT TOGETHER. Even Selena’s over your complaining – look at her face. You always make it look like you’re the victim, but here you are standing in front of the world practically bullying your ex-boyfriend. Just a simple ‘thank you’ would have been sufficient. The girl really needs to learn the art of letting go…

3) Lady Gaga out Gagas Gaga

Gaga opens the show and the very first sight you see of the MTV VMAs is this:

And then this:

 Okay Stefani, you look creepy even for Lady Gaga standards. You look like an extra on a kids’ daytime show like the Teletubbies or something. But if you’re not disturbing by that sort of thing, watch the whole performance.

Oddness aside, I appreciated the fact she kicked off her performance by singing without overproduced beats in the background and just showcasing her voice. But then she broke out into Applause. Through a series of quick on stage costume changes she kind of goes through her discography from Poker Face to Telephone and finally to Artpop. Also all her dancers look like Mike Myers’ Sprockets sketch from SNL.

PS: Another reason to love Gaga despite her odditties – when One Direction won for Song of the Summer, apparently people were booing, and she was not okay with it. She even told the boys themselves.

2) Miley Cyrus twerks with Robin Thicke

click on image for the performance that will damage your brain

First off Vanessa Bayer shows up with her Miley Cyrus impression and it’s the best thing to happen so far (you know, like 20 mintues in). If you wanted more Miley twerking besides that one video of her in a onesie, here it is. Miley’s been toting around this huge stuff bear Boo (like the one in the video), and now the entire stage is filled with bears. Miley breaks out into We Can’t Stop in her furry swimsuit and her mohawk pulled into tiny buns like Gwen Stefani during the Tragic Kingdom days.

Incidentally, this was at the VMAs in 1998

And then she sheds the furry thing off to reveal a bathing nude bikini akin to the girls in the Blurred Lines video, and she begins to twerk on Robin Thicke while they duet on his song. I am uncomfortable, mainly because Hannah Montana should be wearing more clothes and not humping a married man that maybe could be her dad. If Liam hasn’t broken up with her yet, he should now.

But really, the audience reactions were the best. And they were more or less the same.

if your eyes haven’t burned out yet…

Drake bobbin his head, but not being able to actually look at her out of longterm damage

Second hand embarrassment from 1D and high as a kite Rihanna barely understanding what’s happening and if Miley is stealing her moves

Jaden’s face is usually like that, but entirely appropriate for this occasion…

1) Justin Timberlake proves he’s meant to be a solo artist aka *NSYNC reunites

look into JT’s eyes & click the pic for video!

First off, my boy Jimmy Fallon is (fittingly) giving this award to JT. We start off in the lobby and it looks like a love lip dub – and ironically similar to the opening number Jimmy did at the Emmys a few years ago. Basically I just want a posse of dancers to follow me everywhere I go. He then goes into an epic medley of his greatest hits and it is amazing. I had the chance to go to the Legends of Summer tour at Fenway Park in Boston a couple weeks ago, and it was seriously the best concert I’ve ever been to. I think sometimes we forget that JT has so many hits until he sings them in succession and you end up knowing every single word to all his songs. That’s a legend right there. At the VMAs, he spent a minute or two cover a bunch of his hits, making each one seem like its own mini concert.

And then came *NSYNC. Too bad they couldn’t keep that a secret, because it would have been awesome to be surprised when these four other guys joined him on stage. But I get it – they wanted to make sure they got the *NSYNC fans to watch – slash any viewers they could get. Speaking as a Backstreet Boys fan, I even felt like they could’ve been up there longer. But as my friend Meghan (a *NSYNC fan) said, ‘Pretend you hadn’t seen BSB for 10 years. That 90 seconds was well worth it.’ So I suppose the 90 seconds was better than nothing. But at least they came out singing songs I actually liked (Gone, Girlfriend). Chris proved that he should’ve been training for this reunion since the day they broke up because boy needed to keep up with the rest of the group (also, apparently Chris’ trap door failed…). And what was with JC sneaking in a riff at the end? But since JT wasn’t done, the four others went back on their platforms, and slowly descended back down into the pit of being in Justin Timberlake’s shadow.

JT continues his 20 minute medley and the cameras keep showing Taylor Swift singing and dancing in the audience. Okay, so at the Grammys and the CMAs (or country like awards show) they kept doing the same thing and showed TSwift awkwardly dancing. THIS IS A FORMAL PETITION TO START BANNING HER FROM DANCING AT ALL AWARDS SHOWS. NAY, THIS IS A PETITION TO STOP ALL PRODUCERS OF AWARDS SHOWS FROM SHOWING HER IN THE AUDIENCE EVER. I WANT TO SEE AS MUCH JT AS POSSIBLE. GOOD DAY SIR.

Finally it comes to an end and Jim Jam comes back on the stage hyped as ever and legit going to lose his voice from pumping up JT so much. Worth it. Bros ❤ JT is as humble as ever, even thanks his boys of *NSYNC for being the reason why he was up there in the first place. “I don’t deserve this ward but i’m not gonna give it back” Fair.

Honorable Mentions

 – Macklemore and Ryan Lewis promote equality with Mary Lambert and Jennifer Hudson. Those harmonies between the ladies tho.

Katy Perry roars under the Brooklyn Bridge. NGL, I love that song. I felt like I could wrestle a lion after that.

– A collective ‘Who da fuck is that??’ from all the millennials who were tuning in to see the *NSYNC reunion.