Back in December, we asked Judy Goldsmith to share her short, sweet and to the point (and never with any spoilers) brand of movie reviews for our readers who were heading to the theater over the holiday season. It was a hit! So with the Academy Awards only a week away, we had to know who she thought should be taking home an Oscar (or two, or three) this year. Take it away Judy…

Since 2010, I’ve mostly ignored the Academy Awards. That was the year The Hurt Locker beat out Avatar for best picture. It was such an egregious error that it has colored my perception of this iconic Hollywood self-congratulatory party. Therefore, it is with trepidation that I present my BEST PICTURE list (in no particular order). These are my personal favorites from a year of uneven movie making. And while I hope that they will get the recognition they deserve on the big night, win or no win, these are the films of 2015 that I highly recommend everyone see. I’d also like to note that as of this writing, I have not yet seen Son of Saul.

Cinderella

It would seem that there are no new ways to produce this story, and yet this movie was wonderful. Lily James was a perfect Cinderella and the whole cast was great. I will definitely watch this again because it was just so perfectly done.

A

Ex Machina

I was completely enthralled with Alicia Vikander’s performance, and together with good work by Oscar Isaac, this sci-fi futuristic movie was compelling and thought provoking. If she isn’t nominated for a best supporting Oscar, I will be surprised and disappointed.

A-

Mad Max: Fury Road

The effects, make-up and vehicles were so cool I honestly didn’t know what to look at first. Charlize Theron shines but will probably be overlooked at the Oscars, which is a shame. See this on the big screen and be prepared to be amazed.

A+

Love and Mercy

I absolutely adored Love and Mercy — a gut wrenching journey into Brian Wilson’s life. Enjoy the amazing performances by Paul Dano, John Cusack and Paul Giamatti.

A

Inside Out

I simply loved this clever portrayal of how our emotions work. Definitely not for children under the age of 10. In fact, I need to see it again as it speeds along and I missed some of the snappy dialogue.

A++

Straight Outta Compton

It took me a day to process Straight Outta Compton — tons of “n” and “f” words and violence. That being said, it is a good movie and does a nice job dramatizing a compelling story. At 2 hours and 27 minutes it’s a bit long, and it’s not for everyone, but if rap is your thing, you’ll like it.

A-

Meet the Patels

Meet the Patels is a culturally rich film that will hit home for all religions and backgrounds. It’s funny and sweet and not to be missed— despite having one politically incorrect line.

A

Grandma

A tiny, adorable story about commitment to those we love. See it for a wonderful performance by Lily Tomlin and for a beautiful story about selflessness.

A-

The Martian

Pure science… pure fiction … pure Damon… pure magic.

A

Sicario

Sicario is a dark drama. Expect lots of blood and dead bodies. Otherwise it’s decent to watch, but not necessary right now. Stream away.

B+

Bridge of Spies

Bridge of Spies combines the intrigue of past cold war films (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy or The Spy Who Came in From the Cold) and does a good job of telling the story of this scary time in world history. See it for the compelling story, fabulous casting, acting and cinematography…and for the Oscars it will receive.

A

Brooklyn

One of the best movies I’ve seen about the immigrant experience and one of the best films this year. Saoirse Ronan was ethereal and her performance was perfection; the rest of the cast were wonderful. You’ll no doubt be hearing about this gem at the Oscars.

A+

Anomalisa

If you are a Charlie Kaufman fan, you will thoroughly enjoy Anomalisa. If not, skip it. You wouldn’t think an animated (stop action) film could be so human, but it is. This is an adult film exploring the human condition in a fresh and unique manner. The film zips by and at the end you’ll want to see more.

A-

Spotlight

I am a sucker for journalism movies, and Spotlight doesn’t disappoint. This film purports to be about the child abuse scandal in the Catholic church, but it is really about investigative journalism at its finest. Ruffalo and Keaton, along with Slattery and Schreiber, keep this movie humming along. It will definitely be on someone’s Oscar list.

A-

Joy

True to its title, the movie Joy will bring you pure happiness. It’s wonderfully written and so well cast you’ll be totally engrossed. Watch for a fun performance by a well-known soap opera actress and solid work by Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro. I’d watch this gem again.

A

Star Wars VII

A movie that definitely needs to be seen on the big screen, and you won’t be disappointed. Perfectly cast, flawless script, great new characters and a sense of humor. The Force Awakens will cause many, including me, to see it at least twice.

A+

The Hateful Eight

Strap yourself in for another wild Tarantino ride…and definitely skip the popcorn because eating during The Hateful Eight is nearly impossible. In his latest exploration of new ways to blow peoples’ heads off, Tarantino presents a two hour and 47 minute foray into the wild, and I mean wild, west. There are twists and turns, as expected, and in the end you may find yourself wondering “was it worth it?” I concluded yes. It feels like an old time western, and yet, not at all. There are two potential Oscars here — Jennifer Jason Leigh and Samuel L. Jackson.

B+

The Revenant

I had to look up the word “revenant” and in doing so I decided it was a perfect monicker for the latest Iñárritu production. I really enjoyed this unorthodox western, and I won’t see it again because it was exhausting to watch. But DiCaprio’s performance was flawless and he may earn an Oscar. Go with the expectation that you will have to look away from the screen a few times but the beautiful cinematography and solid casting make it a worthwhile.

A-

Concussion

Keeping with the football theme, the movie Concussion had four distinct “quarters.” The first and second were quite compelling, third was a bit slow and the fourth was good. Will Smith’s performance was near perfect, and one of my favorite male performances of the year.

B+

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