The eight best picture nominees for the 88th Academy Awards represent a range of genres and tone. One thing they all share is memorable scenes, the type that stay with you long after you see the film.
“The Big Short": Throughout the film, Steve Carell’s Mark Baum curses the injustices of the world as the volatile stock market wreaks havoc on his multimillion-dollar bet against real estate. Carell’s tightly wound performance provides heart-pounding tension even though we’re well aware of the ultimate outcome. An early scene illustrates just how angry (and possibly unhinged) Mr. Baum is.
“Bridge of Spies": Tom Hanks’ attorney-turned-diplomatic-emissary Jim Donovan explains the “rule book” to Scott Shepherd’s smug CIA agent. It’s a civics lesson, a character-defining moment and great example of what makes Tom Hanks so gosh-darned Tom Hanks. Watch director Steven Spielberg’s camera creep in as Donovan verbally smacks the grin off Hoffman’s face.
Brooklyn: In a film that wields emotion without becoming sentimental, Saoirse Ronan plays an intelligent and perceptive young woman dealing with a series of heartbreaks and life-altering choices. In this scene, she returns to Ireland and is quietly reminded of its beauty and quietude.
“Mad Max: Fury Road": While the movie feels like one nonstop adrenaline-fueled chase scene featuring war rigs, motorcycles and vehicles of the apocalypse, the knockdown, drag-out fight between Tom Hardy’s Max and Charlize Theron’s Furiosa is riveting. Director George Miller and editor Margaret Sixel’s brutal slam cuts show just how resilient these two survivors really are.
“The Martian": Much has been made of the film’s inclusion and victory in the Golden Globes comedy category, but it does have some seriously funny moments. Here, Jet Propulsion Laboratory astrodynamicist Donald Glover animatedly explains his idea to slingshot the Ares III crew back toward Mars in order to bring astronaut Matt Damon home, all the while blissfully unaware that Jeff Daniels, whose pen he borrows for the demo, is actually the head of NASA. Even after he tells him.
“The Revenant": The bear attack is getting much of the attention, but director Alejandro G. Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki’s battle sequences are sights to behold. The opening challenges “Saving Private Ryan” for sheer brutality, but this later escape scene breathes the same type of energy into the proceedings.
“Room": Under excruciatingly intimate, claustrophobic circumstances, this drama turns on the relationship between mother and son. The heartbreaking moment when Brie Larson’s Ma explains to young Jack that there really is a world outside spins the film in a whole new direction.
“Spotlight": The film has been described as a journalism procedural, but it is unexpectedly intense and thrilling in its depiction of the Boston Globe editors and reporters chasing the big story. In this scene, Mark Ruffalo’s Mike Rezendes goes head-to-head with his editor, Walter “Robby” Robinson, played by Michael Keaton.