As the 88th Academy Awards loom into view across the scrappy wasteland of diversity rows and mediocrity, here are a few of my thoughts on the films I’ve managed to view before Sunday’s event.
NB I still haven’t gotten around to Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s The Revenant which I’m sure is going to clean up across the board…
Set in 2001, this is the true story of the Boston Globe’s investigative department who uncovered the despicable coverup of child molestation by Catholic priests from the government, the church and the press itself.
With a truly fantastic ensemble cast of actors who are always reliably watchable; Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Stanley Tucci and Birdman himself, Michael Keaton this is quality acting at it’s best.
As a modern descendent of All The Presidents Men, the benchmark of all investigative journalism drama, this all about the hunt for the truth, the fight against a corrupted community and the pure excitement of poring through data files in libraries and jamming ones foot in the door. Directed by Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent) it doesn’t really have much visual flair but that’s not necessarily a bad thing as we focus on what is most important; the story, the script and the acting. It’s an intelligent and sharp film and its understated tone means that it doesn’t cry out ‘Hello Academy. We are being very serious here, give us an Oscar please!!’ Which is another fine reason to love this very fine film.
I’m very happy about the fact that Brooklyn has done so well. It is a beautiful little film about being both homesick and lovesick which is carried from good to great by Saoirse Ronan’s tender yet distant performance and Nick Hornby’s thoughtful adaptation. Like the, in my opinion, superior Carol it is a 1950s set New York melodrama featuring utterly gorgeous costumes and set design and it seems to have stolen people’s hearts in a way that Carol, despite all the critical acclaim, has not.
Mad Max: Fury Road
This is a surprising and immensely refreshing addition to this years awards season. A bombastically outrageous action film with an indie heart, which, despite the fact that it was released last May people are still excited about. The idea of it drowning out the turgid mumblings of the Academy’s otherwise dreary tone with its heavy metal madness is frankly, thrilling. Good for you George Miller. Bravo.
Bridge of Spies
Directed by Spielberg, starring Hanks (or as he frequently signs off on Twitter, Hanx) written by the brothers Coen, this was going to be a difficult film to get wrong, but as solid as it is and as much as I enjoyed it, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations, stupidly high as they may have been. I wanted more Cold War tension, more spying, more drama. Mark Rylance is, of course, superb and the production design is spot on. Yet I couldn’t help but compare it with Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy which I still believe is up there as one of the best spy dramas ever made. That said though, it’s still an easy film to enjoy and always great to see Hollywood’s finest on top form.
At last! Ridley Scott has made a good film after a 13 year stint of bloated rubbish. I don’t think The Martian is a great film but it’s a helluva lot of fun. From Matt Damon’s charismatic hilarious schtick to the superbly excellent soundtrack. It’s pure entertainment.
Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay are remarkably convincing in Emma Donoghue’s heartwrenching adaptation of her own novel, directed by Lenny Abrahamson. Although Donoghue’s story, about a woman and her son held captive in a room, was inspired by the hugely disturbing Fritzel case, this is not at all about the captor and isn’t nearly as harrowing as it first appears. The narrative comes from the boy, Jack, as we see his vision of the room, his whole world, through his imagination and his mothers loving protection. This reminded me in its tone of the 2012 release Beasts of the Southern Wild, which also portrayed a sad, tough life through the magical realism vision of the child narrator, which I was blown away by on first viewing.
Room is a beautifully crafted film with excellent central leads and careful, clever direction. I was moved to tears on a number of occasions but if I had managed to avoid the trailer, which annoyingly told me the whole goddam story, I would have found the sense of apprehension and tension even more palpable.