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Oscar Roundup Part One: A look back at the 2016 Best Picture nominees

The 2015/2016 awards season will come to an end on Sunday, Feb. 26, when the Oscars are to be presented at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood. In preparation for the big day, let’s look back at the stories that came to life in our theatre screens in 2016 and earned a Best Picture nomination.

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Screen Shot 2016-01-24 at 12.50.00 PMThe Big Short
Featuring a star rich cast (Brad Pitt, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale), this movie tackles the 2007 housing market crash. It is the story of a few men who were able to predict the crash and began “betting” against the big banks ability to handle all the loans and financings accumulated on top of each other.

“The Big Short” is a good movie. It manages to get a dry and boring topic for most of us to work dramatically. This happens because each character is very well developed and different in specific ways, and all of them are played by excellent actors. As a highlight, Christian Bale delivers one of his best roles. The movie also escapes conventions and throws in comic and absurd scenes, such as Margot Robbie in a bubble bath, to explain complicated concepts in unconventional ways.

Deserves to win? No. At the end of the day, “The Big Short” can’t escape the scenes with dry explanations and some situations aren’t portrayed in ways that seem universal. Informative, but not able to capture the imagination as some of the other contenders did this year.

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Bridge of SpiesScreen Shot 2016-01-24 at 12.50.24 PM
Steven Spielberg’s film about a lawyer who is called to defend a spy the whole country is against and then trade him for an American pilot captured by the Soviet Union is an excellent work.

The movie goes against many Spielberg trademarks such as the emotionally overwhelming soundtrack, the grand battles and the heavy loaded special effects scenes. While die-hard Spielberg’s fans may be disappointed, this is the movie to see if you want to experience a different style of the famous American director.

Deserves to win? Maybe. It features beautiful photography and great acting by Tom Hanks. However, I feel there were missed opportunities in better exploring the friendship between the two main characters. Speaking of characters, they are a bit constrained by what is considered good and evil, and I missed a greater grey area in between.

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Screen Shot 2016-01-24 at 12.50.56 PMThe Martian
Ridley Scott knows sci-fi and drama. He shows it again with his latest film, “The Martian”, about an astronaut who is left for dead in Mars and must survive alone with insufficient supplies.

Visually stunning and interesting dramatically, there is never a dull moment in the film. Although Scott doesn’t match his own “Blade Runner” in terms of originality, “The Martian” still manages to make us hold our breath for two hours.

Deserves to win? Yes. Despite the premise not being original, it’s still wonderfully executed. Matt Damon’s performance is stupendous and holds us all film long. When a director can hold dramatic tension for as long as Scott does here and still give us fascinating photography, he has done something right.

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Mad Max: Fury RoadScreen Shot 2016-01-24 at 12.51.37 PM
Another classic director brought action to our screens this year. George Miller revived his Mad Max franchise with Fury Road, which tells the story of a man who recently lost his family in the post-apocalyptic chaos and a woman who is running away from a tyrannical ruler along with his slave wives.

“Fury Road” is nothing short of exhilarating. Big budget action movies are often associated with less than stellar screenplays that are flat and predictable. Miller comes along to show that the action genre can bring as good stories and characters as any drama.

Deserves to win? Yes. “Fury Road” is one of those films that takes your breath away. The film is a long and thrilling chase for hope, freedom and redemption in a world deprived of its most basic human needs and rules. This is an action film that lets the action scenes move the plot forward, instead of cheap dialogue. Almost without words, “Fury Road” is a strong candidate for best movie of 2015, even if it doesn’t bring awards home.