We don't watch many movies, and we go to the theater to see movies even less often. We have access to On Demand (Comcast) and Amazon Prime movies, but we seldom find movies there that we would want to pay $4 to $6 for.
At Academy Awards time though, it is different. Movies are a part of our culture, and I like to be up on our cultural literacy. For the last five or more years we have tired to watch as many of the nominated "Best Picture" movies as we can, and also some of the best actor movies. This year we saw seven of the eight nominated movies, skipping only "Mad Max: Fury Road", which we have no intention of seeing.
Post-apocalyptic movies are not our thing, with all of the bloody battling of the evil forces. There are plenty of real evil forces right here and now, and in our recent history, to battle. In fact three of the nominated movies, plus one that should have been nominated, do just that. I call them the important message movies of the year.
"The Big Short" exposes some of the greed and gambling with our futures that went on, and continues to go on to a certain extent, on Wall Street. It is fast paced, not easy to follow, and revealing. It is a very good movie.
"Bridge of Spies", set during the cold war, reminds us that not all enemies are evil but fear mongering can make us lose our reasonableness and decide that they are. One man's courage and humanity accomplishes more than shows of force can, and shows us that the "bad guy" spy isn't really a bad guy at all.
"Trumbo", not nominated, but perhaps my favorite, is also set during the cold war. Dalton Trumbo is a Hollywood screenwriter who was one of the "Hollywood Ten", behind-the-scenes movie men who had joined the Communist Party in a movement that started in the Depression years. In 1947, Russia was our enemy, so these Communists, who were really socialists, had to be investigated. It is a shameful time in our history, where again, fear mongering, lies and deception on the part of politicians led to forcing people to take sides.
"Spotlight", which won Best Picture, is another really good movie. Spotlight was the name of a small team of investigative journalists who spent years delving into the claims of sexual abuse against priests of the Catholic Church in Boston. Their revelations led to nationwide investigations. While much abuse was revealed, few were punished, and charges and cases are ongoing.
Then there are what I call the Personal Struggle movies. "Brooklyn" is a sweet movie about a young woman who comes to New York from Ireland in the 1950's seeking opportunity. This is a gentle film with a happy ending.
"Room" is heart wrenching. A young woman who has been abducted and held in a shed as basically a sex slave gives birth to a child. The child is five years old as the film takes place and it is that little boy who gives the woman reason to finally brave the attempt to escape her capture.
"The Martian" is a very entertaining movie about an astronaut stranded on Mars. Played by Matt Damon, he is so charismatic and clever and ingenious that you root for him as he attempts to stay alive until he can be rescued.
There is nothing fun about "The Revenant". Leonardo DeCaprio deserved his Oscar for this never ending struggle to stay alive the harshest of conditions. We did not like this movie and felt it was over-the-top for its brutality. There may have been a message - Revenge can keep you alive, or revenge doesn't pay, or just "keep breathing". You'll have to decide, just like you will have to decide the ending.
"The Danish Girl", with a best actor nomination for Eddie Redmayne, was another movie of personal struggle, this time of a man who should have been a woman at a time when transgender issues were treated as insanity. It is compelling and charming and sad.
We watch a lot of television in the evenings, with at least one hour long drama each night, except on Saturdays. Fortunately we still have a few more quality movies we can now see at home for our Saturday nights: "Carol", "Steve Jobs", "Youth", "Joy" and "Grandma".
Do you have anymore to put on our list?