Sunday, February 21, 2016

OSCAR WATCH 2016: Four Films

SpotlightThere is no doubt the subject matter of this film is heavy and awful. However it is not completely heartbreaking. The subject matter is treated with the respect and dignity it deserves. The church, thankfully, not so much.
Spotlight is more about the investigative journalism team that are working to uncover a story about abuse in the church. The story is more than they bargain for, and it plays out like a thriller that you know the ending of but are waiting for the characters to catch up with. It’s also a great companion piece to All The President’s Men, almost a homage to it in fact. Some shots within the film are almost taken straight from the Redford/Hoffman classic.
Firstly things unfold slowly, but as they do, you feel every little ripple and every little shock as the reporters do. None of this is new, but you cannot not be affected by it. By halfway through the film the ‘thriller’ is cracking, and you are just mad, mad, mad. The lies, the inaccuracies, the cover ups, it’s shocking and horrid and devastatingly revolting. Yet it walks a very fine line in terms of presenting the facts and not weighing it up too much. The subject matter is treated with utter respect and is not used in a saccharine way.
The ensemble cast is outstanding, with Rachel McAdams and Mark Ruffalo being the stand outs.  But really the entire cast is spectacular as their real life counterparts must also have been.
Of course the church comes out as the baddie, that goes without saying. I’m not religious, so I cannot imagine how upsetting this must be for regular people who worship at a church. But I guess it is up to them to shine a light to the standard none of us should ever walk by.
Spotlight is the most perfect film of the Oscar season, without a word of a doubt. And it’s most probably the most important. What I found most shocking was not the crimes committed (that goes without saying) but the fact so many people helped cover these crimes. Other clergy, parishioners, reporters, and lawyers. What gives these people the right to let something so abhorrent continue!? Nothing is bigger than decency and treating people kindly.

Everyone should see Spotlight as a civic duty, but it will be – despite the subject matter – a pleasant duty!
Spotlight is up for 6 Oscars, Best Film, nods for McAdams and Ruffalo in supporting categories, Directing, Screenplay, Editing.
Early thoughts: Deserved of all categories it is nominated in
Steve Jobs
I didn’t know a lot about Steve Jobs going into the film, except he is a genius but rubbed people the wrong way. Yeah, he was a lot of an arsehole it turns out, as geniuses can often be. This was a highly entertaining film, especially given the subject matter. It was shot in a clever way, with most action having the backdrop of a product launch. The tumult and excitement of these events added to the high drama that was the life of Jobs. With each time movement, the launches would change, but the feel of the drama and the person not so much.
Fassbender was great in this role, but it was Kate Winslet that shone as his long suffering personal assistant, Joanna Hoffman. The rest of the supporting cast do a fine job, especially Jeff Daniels as John Sculley and Seth Rogan as Steve Wozniack.
But it was the words of Aaron Sorkin that steal the show, in fact the film showcases those fabulous walk and talks he made famous in The West Wing. Danny Boyle’s direction is also tidy and effective, especially in how he incorporates history and technology.

I learnt lots about Jobs and his early life and it left me wanting more. This is a highly entertaining film.
Steve Jobs is up for 2 acting Oscars for both Fassbender and Winslet.
Early thoughts Kate is very deserved of Best Supporting Actress, but that is a really tough field this year. 
Room is based on the best selling book by Emma Donoghue which was loosely based on the Austrian abduction case. I have not read Room, and braced myself when heading to see the film. It was really well done I must say and while very emotional, nowhere near as bad as I imagined.
The film is set in two halves, the first where Ma (I just realised as I typed this and looked up imdb to find out, you never know her name!) and Jack are hidden, and the second half once they are rescued.
So Jack and Ma are hidden in this teeny, disgusting room with a sky light. We later find out it is a garden shed. It is obviously sound proofed and time sealed locked. Their existence is one of repetition and boundaries, set my Ma, and by the physicality of the room. Ma’s love for Jack is deep and beautiful. Whilst this situation is horrific, there is beauty within and Ma does everything to ensure Jack is well looked after despite the circumstances and he thinks everything is perfectly normal. Sad as this sounds, it comes across beautifully.

As Ma decides it is time to make an escape, I found myself becoming quite anxious. This was heart wrenching stuff.
But it was after their escape, with them back in the arms of their family and struggling to fit into a world so foreign that I broke. This second half is rough, really rough...I think. But so beautifully acted it is worth it. Joan Allen and Tom McCanus are great supports but it is Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay’s film. Jacob was perfect and lovely and annoying and everything a 5 year old should be. But Brie Larson was luminous in a very non-luminous role. She held everything together, this film rests on her very strong shoulders and she is a star. I knew this already in her turn as Toni Collette’s daughter on United States of Tara.
I did want more from the second half, you never really know what Ma or her family think, it is not really articulated. William Macy as her estranged father makes a brief appearance and you want more. I get the book and film is from the child’s pov but I felt that took away from how powerful it could be.

Having said that, this is a stunning piece of film making and acting, very worthy but just remember to take a few hankies.
Room is nominated for 4 Oscars, Best film, screenplay, direction and Best Actress.
Early thoughts are all are worthy, but Brie is the only one who stands a chance, in fact I’d say she is a lock in.
Trumbo is my favourite of the Oscar films and the last I saw. I love this period of film and am well versed on the Hollywood Ten and their blacklisting. What a scrumptious film this is, filled with footage of the era, stars, writers, directors pottered throughout. I was in heaven, and it was well put together too. The set design, the costumes, the films, filmsets, musical scores!
It goes without saying that Bryan Cranston was outstanding, but he had such delicious material to work with. Dalton Trumbo was a genius, and eccentric, and a communist. Really he was a humanist I think. He turned out superb writing and his politics got him in trouble. He was banned from working in Hollywood, along with 9 other writers. Of course many people generally were targeted for similar beliefs at this time. It was awful and parasitic.

We follow Trumbo and his family, including wonderful turns by Diane Lane as his wife, and Elle Fanning as his eldest daughter. We are talking amazing intellectuals here. Of course, the studios are not allowed to employ Trumbo, but many producers soon realise they need a man of his considerable talents and hire him under a pseudonym. He ends up with 2 Oscars for Roman Holiday and The Brave One, but cannot collect them as no one knows it is him.
The supporting cast were wonderful, especially Lane, Fanning, John Goodman, Louis CK, Richard Portnow, Alan Tudyk, Helen Mirren, and Michael Stuhlbarg.
This was funny and joyous and frustrating and dramatic. Highly recommend.

Trumbo is nominated for 1 Oscar for Cranston and he should win but he will not. 1 Oscar nom, this I do not understand!!! Or maybe some of those old douches are still part of the academy, highly likely!!!

1 comment:

Anthony Rochester said...

I really enjoyed your review and Im now really looking forward to seeing this one.I'ce always found the old Hollywood studio system and glamour really fascinating.I guess as someone who grew up in a dreary country town that had all the glitz,glamour,sophistication and charm of a frozen meat pie the movies of the time that played on TV really took me away.Anyways I digress yeh those Macarthur Trials ,the whole Reds under the bed thing is yet another embarrassing moment in Americas history that is not unlike the kinda of thing they say they are fighting against.I was surprised to learn Gary Cooper testified at those hearings against some of those talented writers ,producers ,directors....what a dick