Sly’s return to his career-defining role is supremely satisfying. This is an outstanding and heartfelt evolution of one of film’s most endearing underdogs. Stallone’s performance is incredible and well worth every bit of the praise it has received.
Runner-up: Harrison Ford – Star Wars: The Force Awakens Honorable Mention: Alicia Vikander - Ex Machina
Visual Effects: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
A perfect blend of old-school craftsmanship and superlative modern digital effects, the new Star Wars delivered on the franchise’s tradition of exceptional visuals.
Runner-up: Mad Max: Fury Road
Sound Mixing: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
There were several films this award could have gone to. Star Wars comes out on top thanks to its perfect balance. It’s never overbearing, and always engaging. John Williams’ incredible score is given a powerful presence, which also plays a large part in crafting this incredible aural experience.
Runner-up: Mad Max: Fury Road
Sound Editing: Mad Max: Fury Road
Essentially an extended chase sequence, Fury Road’s thrilling action sequences are aided by powerful sound design. The utterly ridiculous vehicular assaults are an awe-inspiring barrage of incredible effects.
Runner-up: San Andreas
Production Design: Mad Max: Fury Road
No 2015 film’s visuals were more essential than Fury Road’s. If I had to describe them, I would have to say ‘bonkers.’ The design is unabashedly outlandish, and unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
Runners-up: The Martian, Star Wars: The Force Awakens Honorable Mention: Crimson Peak
Original Score: Star Wars: The Force Awakens – John Williams
John Williams’ return to Star Wars was just as triumphant as the film itself; loaded with memorable themes and thrilling orchestral power. There’s the exhilarating March of the Resistance, the sweeping theme for Poe Dameron, the ominous, violent brass for villain Kylo Ren, and the utterly gorgeous Rey’s Theme. And that’s not even mentioning the glorious return of Williams’ classic themes from the original trilogy. Even at 83 years of age, Williams remains the undisputed master of film music.
Runner-Up: Jupiter Ascending – Michael Giacchino Honorable Mentions: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (Joe Kraemer), San Andreas (Andrew Lockington), The Walk (Alan Silvestri)
Makeup: Mad Max: Fury Road
The same incredible detail and runaway creativity that fuels Fury Road’s production design also extends to the film’s hair and makeup. The dusty, dirty, often disgusting work adds immensely to the creation of this world and its bizarrely unique atmosphere.
Editing: Mad Max: Fury Road
Mad Max’s editing is a freight train. This is a film that moves from setpiece to setpiece with the same unstoppable force of Furiosa’s convoy. From opening to close, Fury Road is a non-stop adrenaline rush.
Runner-up: Star Wars: The Force Awakens Honorable Mention: The Martian
Costume Design: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Production and costume design has always been an essential part of the Star Wars films. It’s impossible to imagine the saga without its iconic style. The Force Awakens is another outstanding production, with eye-popping designs and rich textures.
There’s something so simple and wonderful about that opening shot of Fury Road. You can practically feel the golden sands of the desert landscape. Filled with style and detail in both its frantic action sequences and its occasional character-driven interludes, this is a visually arresting film in every sense of the word.
Runner-Up: Spectre Honorable Mention: The Martian
Performance: Matt Damon – The Martian
Damon’s performance as lovable everyman Mark Watney is the most magnetic performance of the year. He delivers a hilarious and surprisingly emotional portrait of a man left with nothing but his own scientific ingenuity and will to survive. No other performance was as seamlessly entertaining and powerful as this.
Runner-up: Johnny Depp – Black Mass Honorable Mention: Michael B. Jordan - Creed
Original Screenplay: Ex Machina – Alex Garland
Alex Garland’s directorial debut was one of my favorite movies of the year. Already an accomplished screenwriter, Garland’s Ex Machina feels like the kind of intelligent, thought-provoking genre film he has always dreamed of making. This is a gripping, atmospheric film with a wonderful sense of slow-burning tension. The dialog examining artificial intelligence, and what sentience truly means, is brilliant and among the best screenwriting of 2015.
Runner-Up: Inside Out
Adapted Screenplay: The Martian – Drew Goddard
It’s no small task to adapt a concept so steeped in math and science to the screen, but Drew Goddard’s screenplay achieves excellence while doing just that. As impressive is the film’s wonderful sense of humor. The Martian is filled with endearing characters and genuine emotions.
Runner-Up: The Big Short
Directing: J.J. Abrams – Star Wars: The Force Awakens
J.J. Abrams managed the nearly impossible in helming one of the most anticipated films in history, and exceeding expectations. The Force Awakens is a brilliant production, filled with imagination and wonder, but also with endearing archetypal characters and a great sense of humor. It is everything we could want from a Star Wars film, while still managing to move the franchise forward. Abrams directs the film with infectious energy and a genuine love for the spirit of the original trilogy.
Runner-Up: Steve Coogler – Creed Honorable Mentions: Ridley Scott – The Martian, George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road
Picture: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Call it nostalgia if you must, but no film was more enjoyable than The Force Awakens. This was a supreme reminder of where my love of film came from. This is why I (and so many others) go to the movies. The Force Awakens is triumphant, thrilling, filled with imagination and, above all, fun. Check out my full review here.