Film Review: The Oscar Nominees 2016 - Part II

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The day I look forward to all year is almost here! There's just a day remaining until we see Chris Rock host the 88th Annual Academy Awards and I could not be more excited to see who takes home the gold. Continuing on from Wednesday's Oscar post, here's Part II of my rundown of the nominees...

Based on Walter Isaacson's best-selling Steve Jobs biography and set entirely in a backstage environment over 14 years, Steve Jobs confronts the both technical and personal dramas of Apple's CEO and icon, Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender). 

Shot in three different formats, starting in 16mm and then on to 32mm and finishing in digital to mirror the decades, every shot, prop and line has meaning - everything perfectly and strategically placed for effect and to aid the development of the narrative. The film starts, backstage where Jobs does not appear on stage at all, as an employee of Apple. As the narrative builds, he edges ever closer to the stage but still never yet appearing himself in front of a real audience. In our finale of course, he has his time on stage - a standing ovation to a vast crowd and a stunning end to a beautifully constructed piece of cinema. With an outstanding cast, visually stunning cinematography, excellent writing and with an award-winning Boyle algorithm, Steve Jobs was inevitably going to receive a nominations despite it's short-lived cinema distribution. Both Fassbender's nomination for Best Actor and Winslet as Best Actress in a are unlikely to take home the gold, however for a number of reasons. Fassbender, in particular is due to his competition up against Leo whilst Winslet already has two Oscars and this is rare that they would award a third for such a role as this. I would love to see Fassbender take home an Oscar, however, as I truly believe he is currently one of the greatest actors of our generation. You can read my full Steve Jobs review here.

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Five year old Jack (Jacob Tremblay), knows life only inside the four walls of Room, a squalid shed he shares with his mother, Joy (Brie Larson). Unaware he is captive, when he and his mother are suddenly freed, he is forced to discover a strange new world outside of the one he has become accustom.

Having been kidnapped as a 17 year old girl, Joy is now 24 and being held against her will in a small shed with only a skylight for glimpse at the outside world. Her and Jack share a bed in a tiny room with only a TV, rudimentary kitchen and wardrobe. Jack's father, 'Old Nick', has kept her captive against her will and routinely enters the shed every night. Despite her suffering, Joy is determined to create an optimistic and fulfilling life for her son; teaching him that there is no real world outside of Room. Overcome with depression and growing weak from malnutrition, Joy decides now is the time to escape but this proves far harder for Jack who has never known the world outside of Room.

Frank (2013) director, Lenny Abrahamson, returns with yet another skillful masterpiece but this with a far darker narrative but told through the eyes of a child. Opening to Jack' morning greeting of their lamp, plant and sink, a constant theme throughout the narrative is innocence. For Jack, Room is not a bad place for it is all he's ever known and his home and so, for him, leaving Room is a traumatic ordeal. Essentially, the film focuses more on Jack's entry in to the outside well, his adaption to life outside of Room and Joy is a side character even if she is the center of Jack's world. The scenes of Jack's first moments outside of Room are incredibly moving and sometimes tear jerking. Simple moments such as seeing a dog for the first time, meeting other human beings and making a friend are all made powerful and pivotal in his development. 

Of all the nominees for Best Actress this year, I believe Brie Larson to be the most deserving and my favourite to win this year. Along side Tremblay, she shines as a talented actress and displays such diversity in her abilities. I find it astonishing that Tremblay did not get a nod this year given this stunning performance. For sure, he has a huge career ahead of him. Whilst I don't see Room taking home the award for Best Picture this year, it remains a strong contender and is truly worthy of all it's nominations. Room is as harrowing as it is beautiful and I hope to see it do very well this Sunday.

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Based loosely on the lives of artists Einar and Gerda Wegener comes The Danish Girl (2016). Born a male named Einar (Eddie Redmayne), and with the loving supporting of his wife, Gerda (Alicia Vikander), a young Danish artist prepares to undergo a sex change operation to become Lili. As the first of this case, Lili went on to be a pioneer of the transgender community. 

Starring Oscar winning Eddie Redmayne, with a somewhat controversial subject matter and directed by Tom Hooper; the man we have to thank for The King's Speech (2010) and Les Misérables (2012), The Danish Girl had Oscar-bait written all over it. The film features a moving though somewhat over romanticised narrative as we follow the transition of Einar as he becomes Lili. However, it is truly Vikander who steals the show, outshining Redmayne with a touching portrayal of a woman mourning the loss of her husband and coming to terms with her new relationship with the person left in his place. Whilst it is stunningly shot and there are some heartbreaking, incredibly powerful scenes created by Hooper, I feel this film did not quite live up to my expectations. Redmayne gives a fairly modest performance compared to that of The Theory of Everything (James Marsh, 2015) which saw him take home his Best Actor Oscar just last year. As such, I still maintain that Leo's win is in the bag whilst Vikander could very well scoop up the prize and earn herself Best Actress. Overall, The Danish Girl is a tremendously important film which, although it is a period drama, showcases a powerful message that it just as relevant and meaningful in today's society.

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Marty Baron (Liev Schrieber), of The Boston Globe, assigns an investigation to a team of journalists regarding allegations against John Geoghan, a disqualified priest who stands accused of molesting more than eighty young boys. Led by editor Walter "Robby" Robinson (Michael Keaton), reporters Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Matt Carroll and Sacha Pfeiffer interview the victims and try to piece together evidence, unsealing sensitive documents and making it their mission to provide proof of a cover-up of sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church.

Based on actual events, Spotlight wastes no time and is not afraid to name and shame because it's message is important. Sexual abuse within the Catholic church is nothing new yet Spotlight appears to be one of the first major films to fully explore real life cases and, more importantly - hold certain people accountable. The narrative itself is about the build up of the investigation, much like that of Gone Baby Gone (Ben Affleck, 2007) or Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007). Whilst the story is not fast paced and none of the crimes are discussed particularly in depth and certainly not seen, the evidence is enough to chill audiences and make an impact; bringing to light and reminding us that this is just as much of a problem today as it was then and little appears to have changed. That's the real story and something Tom McCarthy handles brilliantly.

Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo both give excellent performances yet I can't help but feel that Rachel McAdams' act fell a little short. Whilst she does not do anything wrong and I do not consider her a bad actor by any counts, I do not believe that this particular performance is anything to write home about and certainly not Oscar worthy. And, though I desperately hope to see Ruffalo take home a golden statue one day, I don't believe this will be the occasion for it either. Overall, Spotlight was harrowing and excellently executed and I hope it does very well. Although due to the nature of it's narrative (the likes of which often are praised by the Academy), I still believe that The Revenant will take home Best Picture. Ruffalo for Best Supporting Actor!

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As a child, Joy Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence) longed only to create and to be a successful inventor. Fast-forward a decade and, defying all the odds and despite the constant crushing blows from her well-meaning family, adult Joy pins all those hopes and every cent on a self-wringing mop which changes her life forever.

Joy Magano is a working mother of two, supporting her ex-husband, housing her grandmother and divorced parents under the same roof whilst battling her estranged half sister. Sat at the kitchen table with her childhood friend, she wonders what became of her life and predominantly - her childhood. Undeterred by the unbearable weight of her family and money worries, Joy constructs a self-wringing mop which transforms her life and makes her a day-time TV celebrity. Told through the eyes of her  ever-supporting grandmother, Mimi (Diane Ladd), this is a tale of innocence lost and, ultimately, the story of how a woman with nothing to lose became a matriarch in her own right.

In true David O. Russell style, Joy combines duo Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence amongst a stylised, vintage backdrop. As we've seen with Russell's previous victories such as American Hustle (2013), he is certainly one for cinematography and mise en scene. Thankfully, Joy is careful not to let style come in the way of substance and instead, focus on the sometimes heartbreaking story of Mangano in an excellently executed way. However, it is not entirely without it's flaws, Russell does tend to make his films around thirty minutes longer than he needs to, not to mention that there are a few dodgey scenes which seem unnecessary and back tracked; in particular, I'm talking about the flash backs and soap opera scenes. Overall, Joy is very enjoyable, empowering and often moving. Beautifully shot and with another fantastic performance from Lawrence (not to mention all involved) and possibly one of the best cast roles for Joan Rivers (Melissa Rivers) to date. Lawrence has already deservingly bagged herself 4 Oscar nominations during her short career but with competition running so high this year, unfortunately I cannot see this being her second win. 

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Thirty years after the defeat of the Death Star and Lord Vader, the galaxy faces a new threat in the form of the First Order and the evil Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). When a rogue storm trooper, Finn (John Boyega), escapes the Star Killer base, he crash-lands on desert planet, Jakku, and meets Rey (Daisy Ridley), a tough scavenger harbouring a droid containing a top-secret map. In order to hide from the First Order, the young duo join forces with Han Solo (Harrison Ford) to make sure the Resistance receives the intelligence concerning the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), the last surviving Jedi Knight.

Blockbuster films such as this do not tend to get nominated for leading roles nor script writing. If they get nominated at all, it is often for Original Score, Sound or Visual at most and so to bag 5 nominations at this year's Academy Awards is quite an achievement - something which hasn't been managed since A New Hope (George Lucas, 1977). Nominated for all the usual categories, I believe The Force Awakens may manage to take home a couple of those it's tipped for and deservingly so. Whilst we all know it doesn't fit the canon of what it takes to be an Academy recognized film, the release of Episode VII was a historical moment for film shown by it's box office success. Abrams has set a standard for not only Blockbuster movies but for the franchise as a whole. Though not entirely without it's flaws, it completely embraces the nostalgic qualities of the original trilogy whilst paving the way for a new generation. Outstanding! Good luck to it this Sunday.

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Like I said, I would have loved to have reviewed more but I don't think my hands could take much more typing. Ones missed off the list include British favourite, Amy (Asif Kapadia, 2015), my bet for best documentary - The Look of Silence (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2014) and of course Bryan Cranston's stunning performance in Trumbo (Jay Roach, 2015). Most importantly though, I'm rooting for you, Leo!

Well that's it from me for this year's Oscars. Which films will you be rooting for this year? Will you be tuning in to see who wins? The 88th Academy Awards starts 28th February at 11.30pm for the Red Carpet with the ceremony kicking off at around 1.30am. Wish me luck staying awake and, as always, I love reading your comments so please do leave me lots of lovely ones below. 

Until next time film fans, 



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8 comments:

  1. I am rooting for Leo to win but I was very impressed by Bryan Cranston in Trumbo which is based on a true story. For anyone not familiar with it, it's about a screenwriter in mid-twentieth century America who was denied the ability to make a living under his own name because of his political activity and beliefs. This happened because of the communist hysteria of that time. We have to be careful as we tackle complex issues of today like immigration and terrorism that we don't get into the same type of hysteria which can ruin people's lives. Now (as then), there are unscrupulous people who will fear-monger these subjects to further their own personal agendas.

    I also admire Spotlight for showing how a news organization investigated for years before releasing a story that was of huge importance (the Catholic Church and pedophile priests). With news organizations being cut and turned into entertainment organizations, we need to celebrate people who do this type of journalism.

    I'll also be happy if Brie Larson wins for Room, which was devastating to watch. I thought Fassbender and Winslet delivered some great performances, showing how difficult and unique a person Steve Jobs was. I still have to watch Joy and of course I agree that The Force Awakens was just wonderful. Have a great time watching and I hope you aren't too bleary-eyed tomorrow, Sophie!

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    1. It was inevitable - not just because he's been in the industry for so long but because if anyone gave a performance like that they'd deserve to win hands down. I'm such a fan of Bryan Cranston though and I'm so glad he's be recognised for his talents in film now.

      I don't think Spotlight should have won Best Picture although it's definitely a great film. Personally, I think The Revenant should have taken it's place but it was ultimately very powerful and an important film.

      Again, Brie Larson was the stand out performance so I was very pleased with her win :) Didn't think this year was as emotional as past years but loved it all the same and managed to stay awake all night haha.

      Were you pleased with the results, Gil? Hope you're having a good week so far :)

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  2. I'm watching it as we speak, Sophie! 100% agree with your predictions I'm very much enjoying the choices so far. Chris Rock is excellent. I hope you get to stay awake as I had no idea it started so late for you Brits. Good luck XD

    Ashley Christie
    imamovienerd.wordpress.com

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    1. Aw amazing - what did you think of the results? It was inevitable that Mark Rylance was going to win (even though I personally think Mark Ruffalo should win all the awards haha). I think there's definitely a system each year for sure. Managed to stay up all the way through and couldn't get to sleep afterwards haha x

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    2. I thought the winners were all very well deserved and in particular Brie Larson and Leonardo DiCaprio. I was very pleased for Mad Max and Spotlight. What did you think, Sophie? xx

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    3. Aw definitely although I loved Mad Max, I didn't expect it to take home as many as it did. Tbh, it won the standard awards like Costume etc but still good I guess. I thought the Revenant should of won best film for sure but I did enjoy Spotlight x

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  3. I was so happy for Leo! I love Tom Hardy to though. Is it bad that I haven't seen any of these yet? Don't hate me lol ox

    Aimee ox

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    1. Yeah its a shame in a way cos it was so obvious that he was gonna win that when he did, it wasn't as emotional as it should have been haha. You need to go see them and sort it out haha x

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