Little Miss Sunshine

Alternate Title: The Family that Plays Together
2006 Nominee

Olive Hoover (Abigail Breslin) gets a chance to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine pageant in California. Unfortunately for her, this means her entire family has to come along for the trek from Albuquerque, New Mexico.
In tow is her dad, Richard (Greg Kinnear), a high-strung motivational speaker waiting to hear whether his book deal is going to go through; her mom, Sheryl (Toni Collette); Olive’s grandpa and coach (Alan Arkin), who snorts heroin and spouts diatribes to the family about how to live well; her selectively mute brother, Dwayne (Paul Dano), who wants to be a pilot in the Air Force and refuses to speak until he achieves this goal; and her Uncle Frank (Steve Carrell), who recently attempted suicide when his male grad student fell in love with someone else.
The family travels across the state in a funny yellow van that develops horn problems and clutch problems to mirror the smorgasbord of problems of the people it carries on the road.

While her dad emphasizes the importance of being a winner and not a loser, Olive and her family get plenty of more lessons in living well than just the ones they hear about from Grandpa.

One of the many things I enjoyed about this movie includes a small Breaking Bad foreshadow cast over the film. The Hoover family is from Albuquerque, just like Walter White and Stan Grossman – the man marketing Dad’s book idea –  is played by Bryan Cranston, Walter White himself. Plus, the family gets pulled over at one point and the officer doing the pulling is Dean Norris…AKA Officer Hank Schrader!

Without getting too preachy about the pitfalls of body comparison and pageantry, Little Miss Sunshine is warm and honest in every possible way.


Now it’s Your Turn…
Little Miss Sunshine was nominated for Best Picture in 2006, but did the Academy get it right?

Room

Alternate Title: Oh the Places We Might Go if We Ever Get Out of Here
2015 Nominee

You might have no room left in your body for emotion after watching this. From the get-go, you are just like Jack (Jacob Tremblay) and your world is almost as small as his, except that you’re watching a movie and you know that room is not all there is to it.

Jack turns five and on this momentous birthday, Ma (Brie Larson, the best part of the show United States of Tara) decides to tell Jack that their Sunday visitor, Old Nick (Sean Bridgers) kidnapped Ma when she was 17. Ma reveals that her name is Joy and that their home, room, is not the universe. In fact, Ma explains that lots of things Jack sees on TV are actually real things and that Ma and Jack have to escape.
Although five, Jack is unprepared for the shock of this news. It takes a little time, but he eventually warms up to the story Ma has told him and agrees to try and help them get out of room.

Everyone knows the heart-stopping stories of young women who have been snatched away, only to return home years later. Few people consider the trauma and heartbreak endured by these women for years – even after the events. It’s not something the media focuses on when the stories are supposed to be about triumph and survival.
The fact is that survival is such a powerful word because it carries with it struggle and sacrifice. Survival implies overcoming a harrowing force. Room paints this picture, but from the innocent viewpoint of a five year-old boy who doesn’t understand the overwhelming danger and beauty of the whole wide world.
Room is a unique take on a haunting story everyone has heard because no one has ever heard it quite like this.

Now it’s Your Turn…
Room was nominated for Best Picture in 2015, but did the Academy get it right?