Monday, 29 February 2016

2016 Oscars: What Will Win vs. What Should Win

Following on from yesterday's Best Picture ranking, I am making my final predictions on which films I expected to win the six major awards at tonight's 88th Academy Awards. 16 films are represented over the Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress categories and I will take a look at which I expect to win, what I want to win and how strong the category is as a whole.

As ever, make sure you let me know your own predictions, thoughts and feelings before the ceremony tonight. I will update this post tomorrow on how successful my predictions were and overall opinions of the winners. Without further ado, my predictions are as follows;

Best Picture:

The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Room and Spotlight are the eight films gunning for the main award; I've already made my feelings known on the nominees so this is entirely based on what I think will win in terms of reaction, acclaim and goodwill. 

It looks like a three-horse race between The Big Short (Why?), The Revenant and Spotlight with no real frontrunner among them. It's encouraging to see that these three frontrunners are very different - tonally and thematically - enriching this category with a sense of disparity and intrigue. It may just be a way to prepare myself for the worst case scenario, but I have visions of The Big Short being called out as the winner, as it has slowly picked up traction over the past few weeks in particular. Realistically, The Revenant just edges itself ahead of Spotlight in all likelihood, but any of the three could pull it out the bag on the night. It looks like one of the closest races in years.

What Will Win: The Revenant has been an absolute favourite and by sweeping the highest number of nominations, I expect the odds to swing in its favour overall.

What Should Win: Room is the type of film that the Oscars were conceptualised to celebrate and commemorate. Out of the three frontrunners however, I will throw my support behind the captivating Spotlight.

What Did Win: Spotlight managed to pull it out the bag on the night - somewhat surprisingly -which I am invariably thrilled about, having ranked it second on my Best Picture ranking. Make sure you check out my full review of Spotlight - the first winner I had actually seen prior to the win and congratulations to the thought-provoking and captivating journalism drama on the success.

Best Director

Adam McKay (The Big Short), George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road), Alejandro G. Inarritu (The Revenant), Lenny Abrahamson (Room) and Tom McCarthy (Spotlight) all managed to pick up a nomination for Best Director but I can only see one winner. Inarritu directorial flare engaged and compelled in The Revenant, more so than any other factor; in sweeping the award tonight, he would become the first person in sixty years to win back-to-back awards, following last year's success with Birdman. Potentially spoiling that run, nevertheless at quite a distance, is Miller for his rip-roaring work on Mad Max: Fury Road, which arguably reignited the genre.

What Will Win: Alejandro G. Inarritu seems almost set in stone for the win.

What Should Win: Abrahmson's work in Room is stunning, but I cannot recall a cinematic experience quite like the one Inarritu brings to The Revenant's.

What Did Win: No surprises here, with Alejandro Inarritu picking up the Best Director award for The Revenant, making him the first winner in sixty years to win consecutive awards.

Best Actor:

Bryan Cranston (Trumbo), Matt Damon (The Martian), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs) and Eddie Redmayne form the Best Actor category but all expect just one outcome. All his counterparts seem to have been left behind in the race to Leonardo DiCaprio picking up his first ever Oscar win after trying to intently. His work in The Revenant has been widely acclaimed and appreciated and his dedication to the role has not gone unnoticed this far. It would certainly be the biggest upset of the night if he does not finally get his moment. Fassbender might ruin it, or possibly even Redmayne, but I cannot see that ever realistically happen. 

What Will Win: DiCaprio. I'd put the £1.21 sitting next to me on it.

What Should Win: Leonardo for his commitment to art. Redmayne for his subtly and transformation.

What Did Win: In what is arguably the biggest (and most predictable) moment of the night, Leo left his competitors in the dust to pick up his first ever golden statue, offering a moving and emotionally-charged speech.

Best Actress:

Cate Blanchett (Carol), Brie Larson (Room), Jennifer Lawrence (Joy), Cate Blanchett (45 Years) and Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn) create what many - myself included - view as one of the most talented years for the category. Perhaps not as resolute as Best Actor, Best Actress has seemingly pushed Brie Larson to the top of the gifted pack for her hallowing and life-affirming performance in Room. Her emotional vulnerability and unwavering resilience in the face of dangers seems to have struck a chord on the award trail that will see her pick up the golden statue tonight. Saoirse Ronan is her toughest competition, having emerged as a favourite for her work in Brooklyn but Larson seems like the winner to me.

What Will Win: Larson should be locked in here.

What Should Win: No secrets here - my heart will unconditionally lie with Jennifer Lawrence for her sensational performance in Joy, but if the truth is told, with this level of talent, I would also cheer along Brie Larson for a win.

What Did Win: Brie Larson nabbed the award on the night for her first ever Oscar nomination, looking incredible whilst doing it. She's bound to have a dazzling career ahead of her.

Best Supporting Actor:

Christian Bale (The Big Short), Tom Hardy (The Revenant), Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight), Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies) and Sylvester Stallone (Creed) square off for this battle but muddied waters prevent me from seeing an outright winner. All on a pretty even playing field, each of the nominees are in with a shot at the prize but fresh from his BAFTA win is Mark Rylance, so I'll push him to the front. Sylvester Stallone would not at all be a surprise, given the buzz around his performance that has sustained since the film's release last year. Voters may also see it as a way to apologise for not giving him an award for his work in the original Rocky. Ruffalo could edge it, as could Bale but Hardy seems like a stretch. Long story short, this is the most difficult to narrow down.

What Will Win: If needs must, I will name Rylance but Stallone is equally as likely to finish the night with the statue in hand.

What Should Win: Ruffalo's controlled and complex performance in Spotlight was outstanding, so I would like to see him victorious.

What Did Win: Mark Rylance eventually picked up the award for his work in Bridge of Spies, in what I saw as one of the most difficult categories to call.

Best Supporting Actress

Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), Rooney Mara (Carol), Rachel McAdams (Spotlight), Alica Vikander (The Danish Girl) and Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs) make up the most interest and hotly-fought category of the year. A compelling case for Mara and Vikander to be promoted to Best Actress could very easily be made but the respective studios have them exactly where they want them. Maybe because of the significance and importance of their roles they stand a higher chance of winning the award for their impact in the respective films, but Kate Winslet is a favourite on the circuit in general, particularly this year for her work in Steve Job. It's a tough one indeed, but I will lead towards Vikander and see it as the Academy blanketing the win for her incredible work across the year including her high acclaimed performance in Ex Machina.

What Will Win: I'll stick with Vikander but accept the fact this is an incredibly strong category where any of them could win.

What Should Win: Vikander, I think, but once again, I would accept and celebrated any of them picking up the award. On a side note though, how wonderful would it be to see both Winslet and DiCaprio pick up awards? Wouldn't your heart just melt?

What Did Win: Alicia Vikander graciously collected her award for her lead supporting role in The Danish Girl, beating out stiff competition to get her hands on the prestigious statue.

Right then, my predictions for the 2016 Oscars are now over and I will wait with baited breath to see how successful I was. My nomination predictions were 72%, so lets see how much better or worse I do. Enjoy your Oscar night!

Correctly guessing six out of the seven - 86%, which is an improvement on my selection of the nominees - the night was relatively predictable, if throwing us all slightly off for the Best Picture win. Congratulations to all the winners and I'll (hopefully) be back next year.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Spotlight (2016) (Review)

When The Boston Globe's Spotlight team investigate the systematic child sex abuse by Roman Catholic Priests in the Boston area, the scale and extent of their findings is beyond that comprehendible. Directed by Tom McCarthy and starring an ensemble cast featuring the talents of Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams, the biographical drama film has earned critical acclaim and multiple awards, including six nomination at the Academy Awards - but just how does it stack up?

The Pulitzer Prize-Winning investigation tells the real-life discovery of the child sex scandal that was committed by, and later hidden by members of the Catholic Church. Overseen by their new editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton), Sacha Pfeffier (Rachel McAdams) and Ben Bradlee Jr (John Slattery) use their journalist integrity, determination and expertise to expose the systematic violation carried out by a number of priests in the strictly Catholic area of Boston, becoming a proselyte to the greater good, all having been involved with the religion they must scrutinise. Facing multiple barriers in their journey to publicise the scandal, the Spotlight team do everything in their power to bring a voice to the hundreds of victims of this systematic silencing.

Where it could very easily be over exaggerated and become a hyperbolical entity, Spotlight is wise enough to know that the shocking events and subject matter are enough to carry across the films 128 minute runtime, successfully avoiding unnecessary dramatic liberties that would have otherwise undercut the true emotion and response the film elicits. It is thanks to the exceptional cast, solid script and controlled direction from McCarthy that Spotlight is consistent in tone and intensity, rarely veering into areas of explosive and volatile nature that would likely be tempting for a film so aligned as Oscar-bait, realising that the narrative and the true events that shape the film are enough to do that alone. The cast play these often understated individuals with control and poise, particularly Rachel McAdams, who - despite lacking any sensationalised moments - performs with decorum and subtly that is never the melodramatic mess it could become under a different actress. One scene where the realisation of what one of Priests who acted out sexually is actually saying to her is executed with such delicacy and composure that it alone warrants her nomination as Best Supporting Actress at the upcoming Oscars. It's arguably more difficult for an actor to find a balance in these instances, but the five leads do so with such simplicity that you can only commend them for the belief in their performance.

Without question and as previously discussed, the biggest accomplishment of this film is its dedication to realism. It never lionises or rationalises the journalist involved, and whom put everything on the line to convey their shocking finds, treating them - and therefore the audience - with the respect the story deserves, and the grounding that caused for the discovery in the first place; none of these individuals went out to find this scenario, nor do they use it for their own personal gain or appeasement, instead dedicated and motivated by their moral-compass and reasoning to do right by the victims of this haunting tale. It never dramatises the events, or becomes self-indulgent to the pyrrhic victory and outcome of the ordeal, instead electing to illustrate it in the most humane way possible. Even as the film scales up in the impact and scope of the situation - from a handful of bad individuals to that of a corrupt system - it remains constructed from a place of doing just and doing right by those affected by the story, offering a factual and cerebral translation of the story - a trait and action that deserves our admiration and respect. 

While the film does have its faults - on occasions, one may feel that more character depth to these individuals dedicating every waking moment to unveil the unscrupulous system is needed - you can understand McCarthy's take, faithfulness and direction to delineate the story opposed to act as a platform and appraisal to the journalists behind the story. At times frustrating for not opening the scope further - seeing outside the Boston Globe the reactions and response to the building expose - it is difficult to feel callous towards a film that remains so intent on being earnest and concentrated on its difficult and unflinching subject matter.

Never melodramatic and much like its titular purpose, Spotlight is clear and focused, possessing the ability to grab you and absorb you into the investigation with such heart and magnetism that you are rarely off the edge of your seat, despite a more subtle approach and direction from the director. Almost to a fault, the film handles its characters and subject matter in such a humane and compassionate way which is excellent demonstrated by a stellar cast. Even when the credits roll and the lights come up, you are still captivated by the matter and engaged with the story - in fact, those final title cards are an image that will stay with me long after the cinema visit is over. At the moment, it is in my frontrunner for Best Picture...

Summary: Spotlight is captivating for its grounded take on the real life investigative work performed by selfless individuals, which is in turn demonstrated by a cast who never lionise and instead approach with subtly and poise for Oscar-worthy performances.

Highlight: In a film this 'dark', highlight is probably the incorrect word, but the scene that stands out is the montage sequence with a chilling 'Silent Night' playing over the top. That, and the power of the final title cards.

(REVISED - 8.5/10)
(ORIGINAL - 8/10)