Film, List, News, Opinion

OSCARS 2016

So, the Oscar’s are over for another year. The 88th Academy Awards, hosted by Chris Rock, was an eventful night filled with some the usual safe bets and surprises, but the night was owned by Leonardo DiCaprio, who finally brought home an Oscar, simultaneously breaking the hearts of GIF creator’s the world over.  

Rock was a strong host, hitting the ground running with an opening monologue that tackled the #OscarsSoWhite scandal that has dominated awards season head on, introducing the Academy as the “white people’s choice awards.”

Comedy has long been an effective means of exploring serious issues and Rock did so wonderfully. His speech was effective and well needed, addressing the nature of institutionalised racism and also tackling the calls that he himself resign as host, quipping that he didn’t want to “lose another job to Kevin Hart.”

But what about the actual awards? Here is the lowdown of the big wins from the night…

Best Picture:

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source: E Online

Winner: Spotlight

Nominated: The Martian, The Revenant, Room, Bridge of Spies, The Big Short, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Picture was a strong category this year and there have been various favourites over the course of the season, but it was Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight that came out on top.

The film is deserving of the top award – a sobering look at the true life child abuse scandal uncovered by the Boston Globe’s spotlight team in 2001. It would have been a shame to see a film that feels so undoubtedly important go home empty handed, and whilst more understated than some of the nominees – The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road being the obvious examples – the film packs an emotional gut punch.

I was holding out on futile hopes for underdog Brooklyn, my personal favourite from the nominees, but I don’t think there can be any real qualms about Spotlight’s deserved victory.

Best Actor:

Winner: Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)

Nominated: Matt Damon (The Martian), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs), Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl), Bryan Cranston (Trumbo)

Could it really be anyone else? The six-time nominated Leonardo DiCaprio has been the hotly tipped favourite to win for months now, and his long-awaited win for his lead role in The Revenant delivered on the promise.

At the end of the day, he deserved it. He should have received one years ago, and The Revenant shows the actor take on yet another challenging role that required him to push himself more than ever before.

His speech was fantastic, a testament to the fact that DiCaprio genuinely seems to be a very humble man. From his shoutout to “my brother in this endeavour” Tom Hardy to the passionate conclusion where he homed in on the climate issues that got him interested in The Revenant, the speech was one of the highlights of the night.

The reception from the crowd spoke volumes – DiCaprio received a standing ovation when he was announced as the winner, and the camera showed the reactions of his comrades as he made his speech. Particularly lovely was the pride on Kate Winslet’s face and the pure unadulterated glee from Hardy.

Had it been another year, I believe Bryan Cranston could have been in with a real chance for his fabulous turn as Dalton Trumbo, but this year was all about DiCaprio, meaning that the strong performances from the other nominees have been somewhat lost in translation.

Best Actress:

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source: E Online

Winner: Brie Larson (Room)

Nominated: Cate Blanchett (Carol), Jennifer Lawrence (Joy), Charlotte Rampling (45 Years), Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)

Another fully deserving winner, Brie Larson was incredible in Room. Playing a young woman who was kidnapped as a teenager and has a child (Jacob Tremblay), fathered by her captor, that she attempts to shield from the horrors of their reality, Larson gave without a doubt one of the standout performances of the cinematic year.

Every actress gave a great performance, but it was Larson who stuck out as the most raw and emotional of the lot. Her speech was also hopelessly endearing, as is her cute friendship with young co-star Tremblay.

Best Supporting Actor:

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source: Forbes

Winner: Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)

Nominated: Christian Bale (The Big Short), Tom Hardy (The Revenant), Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight), Sylvester Stallone (Creed)

Probably one of the biggest surprises of the night (to me at least) was Mark Rylance scooping the Best Supporting Actor award in an insanely tough category that included Tom Hardy, Christian Bale and Mark Ruffalo.

Whilst I haven’t seen Bridge of Spies and am sure that Rylance gave a great performance, I can’t help but feel that the award is out of a sense of obligation that any film by Steven Spielberg should not only receive nominations but must win something.

Every actor in this category gave a performance that stood out in some way – Ruffalo and Hardy in particular really could easily have won – but the nostalgic choice would have been to honour Sylvester Stallone for his turn in Creed, 40 years on from his win for the original Rocky.

Stallone delivered his best performance in years and was genuinely as deserving of the award as any other nominee, and the romantic in me would have loved to see him take it home. Congratulations to Rylance, but I feel this may be a choice that will be looked back upon with befuddlement in the future.

Best Supporting Actress:

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source: Variety

Winner: Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl)

Nominated: Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), Rachel McAdams (Spotlight), Rooney Mara (Carol), Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)

The Danish Girl really wasn’t that good, but without Alicia Vikander I am pretty sure it would be near unwatchable. The drone fest, which does no justice to the interesting characters it is based on, is such because of Tom Hooper’s uninspired direction, but Vikander is extremely strong as Gerda.

I still feel she should have been a contender for Best Actress as she is undoubtedly a main character, but she probably would not have been victorious in that category. Vikander brings nuance and emotion to her performance and the Oscar win is the perfect pay-off to what has been an incredible year for the actress (she also appeared in the critically acclaimed Ex Machina and fun caper The Man From U.N.C.L.E).

I would have liked to see Jennifer Jason Leigh get some love for what was a sensational turn in The Hateful Eight, but it is hard to begrudge Vikander’s thoroughly deserving win (even if the film itself isn’t great).

Best Adapted Screenplay:

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source: NY Times

Winner: The Big Short (Adam McKay and Charles Randolph)

Nominated: Brooklyn (Nick Hornby), Carol (Phyllis Nagy), The Martian (Drew Goddard), Room (Emma Donoghue)

The Big Short has been somewhat divisive, with many of the directorial choices McKay made being what some loved and others reviled about the film, but there aren’t many who can claim that it isn’t well written, condensing immensely complicated financial jargon and presenting it in an interesting way. McKay, who has been known for his comedy work until this point, used his acceptance speech to get political, saying:

“If you don’t want big money to control your government, don’t vote for candidates that take big money from banks, oil or weirdo billionaires.” 

Best Original Screenplay:

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source: CBS Local

Winner: Spotlight (Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy)

Nominated: Ex Machina (Alex Garland), Bridge of Spies (Matt Charman, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen), Inside Out (Josh Cooley, Pete Doctor, Meg LeFauve), Straight Outta Compton (Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff)

A well deserved winner, and one of Spotlight’s two wins of six nominations. The strength of the film lay in the writing – the very nature of investigative journalism made it a challenging story to bring to the screen and Singer and McCarthy crafted a script which communicated the story effectively without ever feeling like it was spoon feeding the audience.

The Revenant:

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source: The Verge

Nominations: 12

Wins: 3 – Best Actor, Best Director, Best Cinematography

Leading the pack with 12 nominations, The Revenant seemed like a sure-thing for winning plenty of awards, but the decision to grant Mad Max: Fury Road the majority of the technical categories meant that the film ended up only taking home three Oscars.

The three wins were fully deserving – Emmanuel Lubezki took home his third consecutive cinematography award following his work on Gravity and Birdman – and high profile. The lack of awards could also be down to the fact that the films Oscar campaign has mostly been focused on finally bagging DiCaprio his (fully deserved) award.

Alejandro G Inarritu won Best Director for the second year running, and whilst The Revenant may have failed to take home Best Picture there is no doubt that his dedication and attention to detail made him fully deserving of the statuette.

Mad Max: Fury Road:

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source: Metro

Nominations: 10

Wins: 6 – Best Costume Design, Best Make-Up and Hair Styling, Best Production Design, Best Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing

In terms of number of awards, Mad Max: Fury Road was the winner of the night after receiving a surprising 10 nominations and scooping up six of them. It is great to see the Academy open its mind to the action genre, and whilst I haven’t seen the film it has been lauded as a genre best, so it is fitting that it did so well.

Some will be disappointed that director George Miller didn’t scoop Best Director for his meticulous work, but the gratitude and respect bestowed upon him in the acceptance speeches for each award made it clear how revered he is amongst those who made the film. With such a strong Best Director batch this year it was always going to be difficult to secure a win, but the nomination should not be taken lightly considering worthy candidates such as Todd Hayes didn’t make the cut.

A particular highlight was Miller’s wife Margaret Sevel receiving the Best Editing award and whilst the film may not have scooped any of the bigger awards, it is a positive step to see that the Academy did not ignore a summer blockbuster in the way it has tended to in the past.

Best Original Song:

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source: The Guardian

Winner: Writing’s On The Wall – Spectre (Sam Smith and Jimmy Napes)

While the latest Bond theme wasn’t welcomed by all fans, it shot to the top of the UK charts – a first for a Bond song – but it is hard not to find Sam Smith’s acceptance, which he dedicated to the LGBT community, endearing.

That said, Writing’s On The Wall is a decidedly weak entry into the Bond repertoire (which was going to be the case for anything that came after Adele and Skyfall), so whilst the win was unsurprising it would be a stretch to say it was deserving.

Empty Handed…

The Martian, Carol, Star Wars: The Force AwakensBrooklyn, SicarioSteve Jobs were just some of the films to go home empty handed in what has been, for better or worse, an extremely strong year in cinema. Until next year!

What did you think of the Oscars 2016? Share your comments below! 

 

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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.

Chris-Rock-Promo

Oscars.go.com

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 REVIEW: SPOTLIGHT

spotlight-pic-2Making a good film about journalism isn’t easy, but when done right can be great. The defining example, in what will come as a surprise to no-one, is the 1976 film All The President’s Men, and the golden rule of such films (and of journalism as a whole) is that journalists tell the story, they don’t make themselves the story. It is the steadfast sticking to this rule that makes Spotlight, the latest film from Tom McCarthy, such a resounding success.

Starring an ensemble cast including Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams, the film depicts the true life events that occurred in 2001 when the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team uncovered a child abuse scandal within the Catholic church. The team won the Pulitzer Prize for their work, and the story is a shocking one. The film has been nominated for a total of six Oscars, making it a surprise success during awards season.

McCarthy’s direction is reminiscent of police procedural shows, perhaps unsurprising seeing as he penned the script with Josh Singer, who is known for his work on various shows including Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. McCarthy opts for a relatively straightforward form of filmaking, allowing the story to speak for itself in the starkest form.

Spotlight-462365831-largeThe cast are intrinsic to the films success, with Ruffalo and McAdams picking up Supporting Actor/Actress Oscar nominations respectively, though it is a surprise that Keaton did not pick up a nomination for the second year running for his phenomenal turn. Ruffalo is certainly the moral conscience of the film, picking up some of the best lines, but Keaton’s more understated performance is just as affecting.

McCarthy and Singer’s script manages to make quite a dense topic accessible without oversimplifying it, and they also avoid the traps of exageratting the true story for dramatic effect or over-relying on use of the victims to get their point across. This means that Spotlight remains fully grounded in the facts, which are shocking enough on their own. The film is a slow burner, which makes sense considering investigative journalism is built around slowly bringing the jigsaw pieces together.

The film pays enormous detail to its 2001 setting and is hugely convincing in its portrayal of journalism before technology took over. McCarthy has said that at its core the film is about the power of journalism, something he believes has been lost in the present day as we are constantly bombarded with information. It’s a strong message and it raises some interesting questions about the power of the media and how, especially before the rise of social media, select people were in charge of what information went out to the masses.

Spotlight is everything that a film of its sort should be, with a fantastic cast and a story that will make you stand up and take notice, there is a good chance that the underdog at the Oscars could turn out to be a real frontrunner next month.

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JANUARY 2016 IN FILM 

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Happy new year! 2016 is finally upon us, and it promises to be one of the biggest years in cinema yet. January is an exciting month, with the UK finally getting to see some of the major oscar contenders that have been out in the US for months. Here is the lowdown of what will be coming to screens this month…

The Danish Girl:

the-danish-girl-posterOut: January 1st 2016

Directed: Tom Hooper

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Ben Wishaw

What’s it about?: Tells the story of the marriage of Gerda and Einar Wegener, the latter of who became one of the first gender reassignment patients in 1920’s Copenhagen. The film is based on the book by David Ebershoff, a fictionalised account of the real life couple.

Will it be good?: In an oscar-baiting way, undoubtedly. Whilst The Danish Girl is a film that has been trying to get made for over a decade, it has been released in the midst of the biggest ever dialogue about trans issues, and is sure to make good of its two leads.

Vikander is an up and coming star who well and truly broke out into mainstream consciousness last year with Ex-Machina and The Man from U.N.C.L.E, whilst Redmayne scooped an oscar for his transformative performance as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything – a film which also, incidentaly, portrays a marriage in unusual circumstances.

British director Hooper won the Best Director oscar back in 2010 for The King’s Speech, and his latest film is sure to tick a lot of the boxes that the Academy look for, so The Danish Girl is not to be missed if you want to know what everyone’s talking about come February.

Joy:

Joy-PosterOut: January 1st 2016

Directed: David O Russell

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro, Bradley Cooper

What’s it about?: Loosly based on the true story of Joy Mangano, the inventor of the Miracle Mop. The film tells the story of her rise to prominence and as a matriarch of her family.

Will it be good?: Russell must know that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, because he has reunited his triangle of talent for the third time with Joy, and there is no denying that its a talented trio. Lawrence is arguably one of the biggest names in Hollywood at the moment, and she is riding high on the conclusion of the much loved Hunger Games series at the end of last year, whilst DeNiro is a living legend, and no amount of questionable roles (more on that later) will change that. Cooper has also proved his worth in recent years, moving further away from romcoms and comedies to take on some really interesting roles – whatever your view is on American Sniper (2014), you can’t deny his ability.

Russell has also proved himself a skilled filmaker, particularly with a string of generally well recieved releases since 2010’s The Fighter, but there is still the feeling that his work has a hollow quality that is difficult to put into words. American Hustle (2014) for example, was a great and enjoyable film on first viewing, but it feels empty upon repeated watches, holding it back from gaining any lasting status. That said, Joy will be hard to ignore this month, and is sure to be worth seeing based on Lawrence alone.

The Hateful Eight:

the-hateful-eightOut: January 8th 2016

Directed: Quentin Tarantino

Starring: Samuel L Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh

What’s it about?: A snowstorm in the heart of a Wyoming Winter leaves eight individuals taking refuge at Minnie’s haberdashy in post-civil war USA.

Will it be good?: Almost certainly. Tarantino fans will be falling over themselves to see the latest from the director, which is set in the same universe as 2012’s Django Unchained. It looked like the film may never see the light of day when the director shelved it following a script leak in early 2014, but its finally here and it is sure to be glorious.

Tarantino has cited The Thing (1982) and Resevoir Dogs (1992) as the two main influences on the film, and this fact alone is enough to send excitement levels into overdrive. The idea of eight shady people being cooped up together in a tavern is an interesting premise that could go in any direction, and The Hateful Eight should be one everyone’s must-see list this month.

Creed:

creedpostersmallOut: January 15th 2016

Directed: Ryan Coogler

Starring: Michael B Jordan, Sylvester Stallone

What’s it about?: AKA Rocky VII – Former heavyweight champion Rocky Balboa becomes mentor to Adonis Johnson, the son of his former rival and late friend, Apollo Creed.

Will it be good?: When Creed was first announced there was a collective sigh from anyone who had ever seen a Rocky movie – what were they thinking? Stallone had managed to bring the series back and end it on a high in 2006 with Rocky Balboa, but in the process he had provided an appropriate end for the chracter, why ruin that? But against the odds the film has actually been very well recievec in the states, moving the story along by introducing Creed and placing Stallone in the mentor role.

It is the first Rocky film not to be written by Stallone, and also the first where Rocky doesn’t fight. This allows Rocky Balboa to maintain its definitive end of an era vibe whilst also allowing the series to continue in a way that doesn’t feel increasingly ridiculous. The up and coming Jordan also seems like the perfect candidate to play Creed, and the film is a must-see out of curiousity if nothing else.

The Revenant: 

revenant-leoOut: January 15th 2016

Directed: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domnhall Gleeson

What’s it about?: Set in the 1820s. the film tells the story of Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) – a frontierman who survives being mauled by a bear and sets out on a quest for revenge against his confidant John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy).

Will it be good?: It is set to be a technical marvel above all else, and it is looking like it will cement Gonzalez Inarritu as one of the most inventive filmakers working today. The follow up to Birdman, which won big at the 2014 oscars, the film had a well-documented troubled production, largely due to the fact that it was filmed on location and using only natural light, meaning that only a few hours could be filmed per day.

The film will live or die by DiCaprio, who gave everything to the role and said it was one of the toughest of his career. Sure, this opens him up to a lot of jokes about how far he is willing to go to try and finally bag an oscar (he ate a raw bison’s liver, in spite of being vegetarian), but it also proves why he is one of the best in the business. He turned down Steve Jobs (2015) for this, and it looks like it has paid off. The film has already been recieving rave reviews and is another strong oscar contender, as well as the type of film that was painstakingly designed to be appreciated on the big screen, so make sure you don’t miss it in cinemas.

Room:

Room_PosterOut: January 15th 2016

Directed: Lenny Abrahamson

Starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay

What’s it about?: A mother and her five year old son live out their lives in a 10 by 10 feet room, where the mother works hard to keep her sons imagination alive before they decide to try and break out into the real world.

Will it be good?: It has been getting excellent write-ups, with Larson’s central performance gaining the majority of the praise. It is an interesting concept, based on Emma Donoghue’s novel, which she wrote after hearing about the5 year old Felix in the Fritzl case. A film of this sort can only work if the performances are good, and all the indacators are pointing towards this being the case, with an oscar nomination even being mentioned for Larson. Anyone interested in the awards race will have to add this to the already crowded must-watch list.

The Big Short:

tbs_1-sht_teaserOut: January 22nd 2016

Directed: Adam McKay

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

What’s it about?: Tells three seperate tales about the mid 2000s mortgage housing crisis in the USA.

Will it be good?: Bar seeing the trailer, I haven’t heard a lot about this film, but I am banking on it being good based on the stellar cast. McKay is much better known for his comedy work, and this is the first film of his not to feature Will Ferrell, but the trailer looked like the film had a comedy-drama vibe that should suit the director well.

Carrell proved he can do dramatic well with Foxcatcher (2015), and his comedy talent is untouchable, so he seems like a perfect fit for the film, whilst it is great to see Gosling back on screen following his break from acting since 2013. Bale and Pitt are also industry stalwarts, and bringing the four talents together has the potential for brilliant storytelling – it all hangs on McKay’s ability to maintain the more dramatic elements.

Our Brand is in Crisis:

Our-Brand-Is-Crisis-posterOut: January 22nd 2016

Directed: David Gordon Green

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Mackie

What’s it about?: Based on the documentary of the same name (available on Netflix), the film depicts a Bolivian politician who hires an American political analyst in a bid to win the 2002 election.

Will it be good?: The film, produced by Bullock and George Clooney, has every chance of being good, yet for some reason I’m not sold. It might be the poster, which makes it look like a generic thriller starring Liam Neeson. It might also be the fact that it is basically just remaking a documentary that I could easily watch on Netflix from the comfort of my own bed.

That said, Bullock, Thornton and recent Avengers addition Mackie are all strong performers, and it isn’t fair to write a film off totally because of poor marketing, so Our Brand is in Crisis could turn out to be that excellent film that I didn’t bother to see.

Ride Along 2:

file_612412_ride-along-2-poster-640x1013Out: January 22nd 2016

Directed: Tim Story

Starring: Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, Olivia Munn

What’s it about?: Ben’s (Kevin Hart) wedding is looming, and he accompanies his soon to be brother in law James (Ice Cube) to Miami to bring down a drug dealer.

Will it be good?: Granted I have never seen the first Ride Along (2014), but hopes aren’t particularly high for this one. With Straight Outta Compton (2015) coming out last year, it has reminded anyone who may have forgotten of the greatness of N.W.A, which just makes it seem even stranger that Ice Cube – the man responsible for Fuck Tha Police – is playing a police officer. There isn’t anything wrong with it per se, it’s just weird. Hart on the other hand is funny, but he has also appeared in a fair few lacklustre comedies, and I’m willing to bet that is the category Ride Along 2 will fall into.

The 33:

the33_1sht_main_dom_2764x4096Out: January 29th 2016

Directed: Patricia Riggan

Starring: Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro

What’s it about?: Based on the 2010 incident which saw 33 Chilean miners being trapped underground for 69 days. The film is based on the official account of events as depicted in the book Deep Down Dark.

Will it be good?: If handled right, yes. Films of this sort can be extremely effective, but the impact is based on the director’s ability to make the audience experience the trapped feeling of the characters. Mexican director Riggan doesn’t have a gigantic backlog to go from, and other work includes TV Movie Lemonade Mouth (2012) which was shown on the Disney Channel, so she clearly doesn’t have experience in this genre. That doesn’t mean it should be written off – it is an intriguing incident and if handled well it will be an affecting watch. So far it has recieved mixed reviews from critics, some of whom have noted that it relies too heavily on formula. It is hard to gage, but the film probably won’t take precedence in my choices for the month.

Dirty Grandpa: 

dirty-grandpa-posterOut: January 29th 2016

Directed: Dan Mazer

Starring: Robert DeNiro, Zac Efron, Audrey Plaza

What’s it about?: A young, engaged lawyer is tricked into attending Spring Break with his Grandfather.

Will it be good?: Remember earlier when I said nothing could tarnish DeNiro’s legacy? This is what I was talking about. Over the last decade or so, it seems a bit like he has thrown caution to the wind and decided to have some fun (or the more cynical and probably more realistic view is that he has decided to make some real money), and that has led to some…questionable choices. Dirty Grandpa, like a lot of the comedies DeNiro has put his name on in recent years, is the sort of film that looks like it would have been a lot of fun to make, and it is sure to be enjoyed by any number of teenage boys, but that’s about it really. See it at the weekend if you’re looking for some gross out, easy viewing.

Spotlight:

2B89064B00000578-0-image-a-25_1440115471750Out: January 29th 2016

Directed: Tom McCarthy

Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams

What’s it about?: The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered child molestation allegations within the Catholic Church.

Will it be good?: Without a shadow of a doubt. The filmm has already recieved critical acclaim in the states, and it looks set to repeat the feat over here. Made with co-operation from the Boston Globe and looking like it is going to have a very All The President’s Men (1976) feel to it, this is one of the films I have been willing to appear in UK cinemas ever since I first heard about it months ago. As a journalism student myself, it is a subject that I find fascinating, as will many others.

My own personal excitment aside, there is a lot to look forward to here, most notably an excellent cast. Keaton, Ruffalo and McAdams are all excellent in their own right, and the ensemble is sure to be something special. Spotlight looks set for awards glory and is THE must-see film of the month.

Youth: 

youth-posterOut: January 29th 2016

Directed: Paolo Sorrentino

Starring: Michael Caine, Henry Keitel, Jane Fonda

What’s it about?: Fred (Michael Caine) is a retired composer and Mick (Harvey Keitel) a film director are old friends staying at a hotel in the Alps when Fred gets a request to compose for Prince Phillip.

Will it be good?: In a word, yes. Caine is another living legend, and Sorrentino wrote the film with him in mind as a main character, so it is sure to be a treat. Going by the trailer it looks like an understated, visually striking film which could be some of Caine and Keitel’s best work in years, whilst it will be great to see Fonda back onscreen. That said, with such a jam-packed month it might be hard to fit it in!

As you can see, it’s a jam packed month of awards contenders, and it could prove difficult to fit them all in, but the five films I will be making sure to see are:

  • Spotlight
  • The Hateful Eight
  • The Revenant
  • Creed
  • The Danish Girl

(I will probably be checking out Joy, Youth and The Big Short for good measure)

Which films are you looking forward to seeing this month? Let me know in the comments section!

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