Film, List, News, Opinion

OSCARS 2016: WHO WILL TAKE HOME BEST PICTURE?

The Best Picture race is closer than ever this year. The 88th Academy Awards will take place on the 28th of February, hosted by Chris Rock, and it is one of the tightest competitions in years.

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From surprise nominations (Mad Max – the Academy very rarely acknowledges action) to controversial snubs (the #OscarsSoWhite scandal, but also Todd Haynes’ Carol among others), it’s been a dramatic year, but which film is going to be crowned Best Picture?

With just over two weeks to go, a clear cut winner has made usually itself clear by now, but with the bookies favourite changing like the weather, it’s hard to predict who will come out on top.

Here are the nominees and a breakdown of their chances…

THE BIG SHORT:

Directed: Adam McKay

Starring: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt

Other nominations: 4 – Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing

Bookies odds: 11/10

Adam McKay’s take on the housing crisis is the current favourite to win after scooping the Best Picture prize at the PGA Awards.

The PGA has predicted the Best Picture Oscar winner for the past eight years, so things are looking pretty promising for the film, which was previously an underdog.

It’s the sort of film that falls into the ‘love it or hate it’ category, but I think it is wholly deserving of its nomination.

McKay, best known for his comedy, brings a surprising amount of dramatic heft, particularly from Carrell, who is the closest the film has to a moral compass – this is a film about guys who made money off of the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, remember.

Will it win? It really is hard to tell. The PGA win is strongly in its favour – films such as Birdman (2015) and The Hurt Locker (2010) only became front-runners (and eventual Oscar winners) after the PGA’s after all.

The Big Short would be a perfectly deserving winner, but whilst it has more chance than some of the true underdogs, I wouldn’t be surprised if it ultimately goes home with one prize in the form of Best Editing.

Read my review of The Big Short here.

BRIDGE OF SPIES:

Directed: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance

Other nominations: 5 – Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Score, Best Production Design, Best Sound Mixing

Bookies odds: 125/1

It feels like Bridge of Spies has almost slipped through the cracks in the frenzy of this years Oscar buzz.

Directed by the living legend that was Spielberg, co-written by the Coen Brothers and starring America’s favourite Everyman Tom Hanks, on paper the film seems like a ready-made classic, instead it is a good, solid entry into Spielberg’s filmography, but it fails to reach the heights of his most beloved work.

It is basically a given that anything Spielberg makes will scoop up a few nominations – he is, as I said, a living legend, but the chances of Bridge of Spies taking home the Best Picture prize are next to non-existent.

Other than Rylance’s nomination in the Best Supporting Actor category, the film hasn’t picked up nominations in any of the big hitters – even Tom Hanks failed to get a nod due to the fierce competition for Best Actor.

That said, never underestimate the Academy’s ability to get it wrong – Crash robbed Brokeback Mountain of the prize back in 2005 in one of the more recent and dramatic examples – so never say never, especially with a Spielberg film.

BROOKLYN:

Directed: John Crowley

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson

Other nominations: 2 – Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay

Bookies odds: 100/1

If it were up to me, Brooklyn would take home Best Picture. It would also be nominated for a lot more than just three Oscars (three? come on!). Without a doubt my favourite film in the race, Brooklyn is a beautiful period drama about an Irish immigrant.

Everything about the film is subtle, from Ronan’s pitch perfect central performance to the narrative, and it won’t be for everyone, but I think it is an understated masterpiece.

But enough gushing, is it going to win Best Picture? Alas, it is very much in the underdog position at the moment. The film opened to critical acclaim and Ronan has received a fair few awards for her work, but the buzz has somewhat died since.

Pair that with the fact that it only received three nominations, which didn’t include Best Director, and Brooklyn’s chances are pretty low.

Hopefully it’ll take home one of its other nominations, with Ronan and screen-writer Nick Hornby both fully deserving, plus it would be a real shame to see the film go home empty handed.

Read my review of Brooklyn here.

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

Directed: George Miller

Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult

Other nominations: 9 – Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing

Bookies odds: 40/1

With 10 nominations, Mad Max: Fury Road was without a doubt the biggest shock when the nominations were announced last month.

The Academy is notorious for snubbing blockbusters and action flicks, meaning that George Miller’s latest installment in the Mad Max franchise, whilst garnering critical acclaim, was almost sure to be excluded from the Best Picture line up.

It is great to see the inclusion of the film on the list, and it has cleaned up in technical nominations, which seems fair considering it has been placed on a pedestal by many as one of the best action films ever committed to the screen.

I can’t really comment from a personal perspective, having never seen the film or any of the others in the Mad Max franchise, but I guess that the Academy probably won’t go so far as to award it Best Picture – they probably feel they have ‘done enough’ by nominating it.

However it is a pretty open race this year, and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise for a film with so many other nominations take home the big prize, though I’m willing to bet it’ll split the technical prizes with The Revenant.

THE MARTIAN:

Directed: Ridley Scott

Starring: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain

Other nominations: 6 – Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Visual Effects, Best Production Design, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing

Bookies odds: 33/1

The Academy may be depressingly predictable in many ways (here’s Kate Winslet explaining how in Extras), but they have surprised everyone by including not one but two blockbusters in the 2016 Best Picture line up.

The Martian is a glorious return to form for Scott after a few middling flicks, and it is fantastic to see that the 78 year old veteran filmmaker is still capable of making excellent films.

Matt Damon carries the film, which tells the story of an astronaut who is assumed dead and left on Mars, and is fully deserving of his Best Actor nomination, but the real star of The Martian is Scott’s direction.

His depiction of Mars is a visual treat, and he veers away from traditional scoring and employs a disco soundtrack, which only makes the film stand out more.

If it were any other year, The Martian would be a real contender across the board, but with the technical mastery of The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road, as well as a packed Best Actor roster, the chances of any big wins are significantly reduced.

Here’s hoping the aforementioned films won’t totally dominate and The Martian will take home a statuette – though I’m pretty sure it won’t be Best Picture.

THE REVENANT:

Directed: Alejandro G. Inarritu

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domnhall Gleeson, Will Poulter

Other nominations: 11 – Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Visual Effects, Best Film Editing

Bookies odds: 4/1

It was going to take something pretty bad to tarnish Alejandro G. Inarritu’s reputation after he won Best Picture and Best Director for his work on the critically adored Bridman at last years ceremony.

He has arguably topped himself with The Revenant, an intense, technical masterpiece in film-making. There is a real danger of the director becoming over-hyped, but credit where credit is due – The Revenant is excellent.

The film scooped the most nominations with a total of 12, so the chances of it taking home a lot of them are almost a given. It’s long been one of the favourites to win, but with such a strong selection it won’t be an easy sway.

Leonardo DiCaprio also looks set to finally win Best Actor, which he deserves, but which will also spell the sad end of some pretty funny GIFS and memes (hence why I had to include some of my favourites here, we could be running out of time people).

*Brief interlude for funny Leonardo DiCaprio GIFS and memes*

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An article by The Independent is also suggesting that Tom Hardy’s lack of appearances in the films Oscar campaign may also be hurting the films chances – it’s idealistic to assume that the prize is based on artistic merit, after all.

Birdman also only took home four of its nine nominations last year, so there’s a chance the insane hype might fail to translate into Oscar wins.

The Revenant is one of the most likely candidates to take home Best Picture, with it’s real competition coming in the form of The Big Short and Spotlight.

ROOM:

Directed: Lenny Abrahamson

Starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay

Other nominations: 3 – Best Actress, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay

Bookies odds: 33/1

Room is utterly haunting – telling the story of a young woman who was abducted and is forced to live out her existence in a small room, with only her son, fathered by her captor, keeping her going – it is a far from an easy watch.

Larson is fantastic, anchoring the film and in a Best Actress worthy performance, but the film generally falls into the same category as Brooklyn in that it doesn’t have many nominations under its belt.

With multiple nominations comes increased momentum, and Room just doesn’t have that – it’s a great film that is hugely deserving of any plaudits, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to do well on Oscars night.

Also going against the film is that the nominations it does have are in extremely tough categories – Larson has a real chance with Best Actress, but so does Ronan (Brooklyn) and Cate Blanchett (Carol), meaning there is no clear cut favourite.

Room is the sort of film that could have done very well if it were a different year, but unfortunately for all those involved it’s 2016 and it’s probably going to be (arguably unfairly) overlooked.

SPOTLIGHT:

Directed: Tom McCarthy

Starring: Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, John Slattery

Other nominations: 5 – Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Original Screenplay

Bookies odds: 6/5

Spotlight’s Oscar campaign has been a tale of highs and lows – it was a bit of a slow burner, but it slowly built up to becoming favourite to win, but then the hype died down and has been replaced by The Big Short.

The film, which focuses on the Boston Globe’s investigation into child molestation in the cities Catholic Church, has received critical acclaim for its ensemble cast and accurate portrayal of events.

I really enjoyed Spotlight, and I think the attention to detail McCarthy has put into recreating the story is impressive. I was also very taken with the cast, particularly Mark Ruffalo, who has been nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category, and Michael Keaton, who arguably also should have received a nomination.

If the awards had been held a month ago, Spotlight would almost certainly have scooped Best Picture. Now? I’m not so sure – It’s in my top three favourites to win alongside The Big Short and The Revenant, but whether it will come out top in the extremely close race will only become clear on the night.

Read my review of Spotlight here.

Which film do you think will take home the Best Picture Oscar this year? Let me know in the comments section!

Check out the trailers for the Best Picture nominees here:

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Film, List, Opinion

2015 IN FILM

Looking back on an amazing year in cinema. 

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The end of the year is almost upon us – and what a year it has been for cinema. My Cineworld Unlimited card was put to good use over the past twelve months and I managed to cram in an impressive number of viewings. Whilst there have been a few disappointments along the way, there were also plenty of high points, and even a couple of masterpieces. I have compiled here my top five films of the year – no easy task – with a few honourable mentions for good measure. Let me know what your cinematic highlights were in the comments section!

TOP 5:

BROOKLYN

Director: John Crowley

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domnhall Gleeson

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It feels like every year cinema is getting bigger and as the MCU and other superhero worlds dominate the box office the human element can be left behind. Richard Linklater reminded us of the extraordinary power of the ordinary with Boyhood last year, and John Crowley has followed suit with Brooklyn – based on the novel of the same name by Colm Toíbín – adding a period setting for good measure. Brooklyn is an understated masterpiece, blending gorgeous visuals with a simple and powerful story, alleviated to near perfect status by the incredibly apt casting  – Ronan has been scooping awards for her central role, and oscar glory is well within reach come February.

On a more personal level, Brooklyn resonated with me much more than I expected it to. The film is about a girl close to my age being torn between her desire to be home with her family and to forge a new life in America, a common struggle that transcends time. Brooklyn is a welcome reminder that a film doesn’t have to have superheroes or CGI to impress.

Read my review of Brooklyn here.

ME, EARL AND THE DYING GIRL

Director: Alfronso Gomez-Rejon

Starring: Thomas Mann, Olivia Cooke, RJ Cyler, Nick Offerman

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After the smash hit success of The Fault in our Stars last year, another John Green adaption was a safe bet, and sure enough Paper Towns came along this summer. The film was marketed on Cara Delevingne, who was mostly absent from the largely forgettable flick. However, the genre had some life breathed back into it by Alfronso Gomez-Rejon, who took a script from Jess Andrews (author of the book of the same name) and came up with Me, Earl and the Dying Girl, a film that avoided cliche whilst still packing an emotional punch.

I was not initially hopeful  – the marketing made the film look like a quirky Fault in our Stars rip-off – but it stood out due to its rarely static camera work and the incredibly funny script – it reminded me of 50/50 (2011) in that it manages to be a film about cancer that is funny without being crude. Add this to strong leads, a brilliant supporting turn from Nick Offerman and an incredible soundtrack (which I discussed here), and you have one of the most memorable films of the year.

LEGEND

Director: Brian Helgeland

Starring: Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, Taron Egerton, Christopher Eccleston

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Trailer Addict

Based on The Profession of Violence by John Pearson, Brian Helgeland takes on the Krays in his biopic, which sees Tom Hardy in the dual role of Reggie and Ronnie. The gangster genre is overcrowded, so its hard to nail the genre in a way that stands out, but the Krays are hugely interesting source material and this film is worth seeing, if only for the technical wizardry of seeing Tom Hardy fight himself.

Legend is not without faults – Emily Browning’s character Frances is used as a narrative device to get to the story of the twins and is criminally underwritten as a result – but it still stands out as one of my favourite films of the year. Mixing the funny with the violent, Legend brings a distinct sense of Britishness to the gangster genre, and is all the better for it.

STEVE JOBS

Director: Danny Boyle

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels

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There is a good chance that audiences – particularly those in the US – are getting Steve Jobs fatigue. Since the Apple founder and CEO passed away in 2011 there has been a slew of material on the man, but it would be foolish to pass on this latest effort from Danny Boyle, with a script by Aaron Sorkin.

With a theatre-like three act structure, Steve Jobs is a far cry from the done -to-death biopic structure, and Sorkin’s razor sharp script blends perfectly with Boyle’s unique eye for visuals, and Fassbender manages to inhibit the character despite not physically resembling him. It’s Fassbender’s film through and through – as the title would suggest, he is the focal point of the entire film – but he is surrounded by a stellar supporting cast with Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels and Kate Winslet all providing fantastic turns in their own right.

Read my review of Steve Jobs here.

KURT COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK 

Directed: Brett Morgen

Starring: Kurt Cobain

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Since his suicide in 1994 Kurt Cobain has been somewhat of an enigma, the voice of dissatisfied youth, and the wealth of unauthorised material produced on the man did little to dispel any of the myths that arose. However, Brett Morgen’s documentary – the first to be done with the agreement and co-operation of Cobain’s family – cuts through the cultural obsession to look at the man. Morgen stated in an interview that the film aimed to:

“….present an American icon – a revered American icon – in a completely naked and honest manner. Without tearing him down and without building him up, but where we can look him in the eye.”

Blending animated segments with interviews, Montage of Heck is a welcome departure from the typical over reliance on talking heads in documentaries, and is without a doubt the definitive account of who Cobain was. The only thing missing is an interview with Dave Grohl, as a member of Nirvana he seems like a crucial person to talk to about that period in Cobain’s life, and his presence is missed.

Whilst it is at times unsettling to see how deep-set his issues were, and knowing what happened to him makes it all the more upsetting,  Montage of Heck is essential viewing for Nirvana fans, and an enjoyable watch regardless.

RUNNER UPS:

DOPE 

Dope manages to be a crime caper, a comedy, a drama and a coming of age story all rolled into one excellent script. Rick Famuyiwa’s film tells the story of Malcom, Jib and Diggy, three geeks obsessed with 1990s culture who accidentally end up with a rucksack full of MDMA. The lead performances are fantastic and A$AP Rocky even shows up for a supporting role. The film is one that is designed to make you think about the role stereotypes continue to play in society, and it will stay with you long after the credits roll.

MISTRESS AMERICA

Director Noah Baumbach and star Greta Gerwig, who penned the script together, are at their best in Mistress America, a screwball comedy that allows Gerwig to shine. Their collaboration, which worked so well in Frances Ha (2012) has been honed to perfection here, and the film is full to  the brim with laughs, as well as raising some interesting questions about the self obsession in the age of technology.

SUFFRAGETTE 

Undoubtedly one of the most important films of the year, it’s hard to believe UK women’s  fight for the vote had not already been committed to the screen. Starring Carey Mulligan and Helena Bohem Carter, with an appearance from the ever-fantastic Meryl Streep, Suffragette is a fantastic period drama made all the more emotive by the fact that it is based on true events.

MOST PROGRESSIVE: 

SPY/MAD MAX:FURY ROAD

It would be madness not to include Mad Max: Fury Road in talks about progressive depictions in cinema, but I have not yet seen it, so alas my comments cannot extend much further than acknowledgement of what is by all accounts an incredible film.

However, I genuinely believe in years to come Paul Feig’s Spy could be looked back upon as a landmark in comedy. Spy is a sign of progress – perhaps the most notable since Bridesmaids (2011) – with women who are capable, independent and not used as the butt of jokes. The film turns everything that is so awful about James Bond on its head – here we have men that are inept, being helped along by badass women (not a damsel in distress in sight) – and it’s about time.

It seems real change is finally on the horizon, and as ridiculous as it is that it is only the case in 2015, that can only be a good thing. Misogynists need not worry too much – Spectre brought the already questionable James Bond back a few steps in the progressive stakes (read more on that here). You win some, you lose some I guess.

BIGGEST LETDOWN:

KILL YOUR FRIENDS 

Based on John Niven’s (who also penned the script) novel of the same name, Kill Your Friends had the potential to be the British American Psycho (2000), but turned out to be a hollow disappointment. Despite the best efforts of the cast, led by an appropriately stoney Nicholas Hoult, the script feels empty and you’ll be hard pressed to remember the film long after viewing.

Read my review of Kill Your Friends here.

BEST ANIMATION:

INSIDE OUT 

A true return to form for Pixar, Inside Out shows the studio do what they do best – blending beautiful animation with innovative storytelling that tackles big themes in a way that is accessible to all ages. The casting is incredibly well sourced – Phyllis Smith was born to voice sadness – and the timeless concept is one that has already solidified Inside Out as a modern animated classic.

WEIRDEST:

THE LOBSTER 

The english language debut of Greek director Yorgos Lanthinmos, The Lobster is without a doubt the most unique film of the year. A hilariously deadpan story about a hotel where single people go and if they fail to find a partner in 45 days, they a turned into an animal. The film satirises social constructs in a hilarious manner, and whilst there is no doubt that it won’t appeal to everyone, I found the film to be one of the funniest I saw all year.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS:

Not forgetting Macbeth, Ant Man, Trainwreck, Ex Machina, The Martian, Man Up, Mr Holmes, Danny Collins, Jurassic World, Irrational Man and so many more…


 

I’ve shared this video before, but it’s so good that I’m going to share it again. Ben Zuk created a 2015 Salute to Cinema on Vimeo, incorporating 164 movies into a wonderful montage that reminds us just how great movies can be. Enjoy!

 


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/147217969″>2015 Salute to Cinema</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/benzuk”>Ben Zuk</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

What was your favourite film of 2015? Let me know in the comments section below!

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