“I’d forgotten how bad things were in Ireland.” Jim Broadbent’s jovial priest mutters into his chin from the safe distance of Brooklyn. Ireland has a tragic history, commemorated in this year’s centenary of the Easter Uprising and what better companion piece than this evocation of the emigrant experience. Sadly, across its history, Ireland has often been a country to leave. Unless, of course you are the British… Saoirse Ronan (The Grand Budapest Hotel) is spell binding as Wexford red head, Eilis, who crosses the Atlantic in search of pastures new. Leaving the Emerald isle, her heart is torn to shreds caught in the crosshair of lovers both American and Irish. Kudos to Domnhall Gleeson who gives a less martial, more marital performance compared to his recent Star Wars turn. A lovely film, but surely too light for the panel’s taste. It is an interesting inclusion considering Carol’s omission.
by Rory McInnes-Gibbons
Bridge of Spies
Bridge of Spies isn’t a film that will surprise you. The now legendary Tom Hanks/Stephen Spielberg partnership offers a very reliable mix of drama and intrigue that undoubtedly pushes all the Academy’s buttons. Nevertheless, this Cold War thriller lacks a degree of verve its subject matter permits. Part of the problem is Tom Hanks’ portrayal of lawyer James Donovan. He’s too – for the lack of a better word – Tom ‘Hanksy’. In stark contrast, Britain’s Mark Rylance, in playing Rudolf Abel, the Soviet spy represented by Donovan, has the freedom to deliver an intimate character study. His mesmerizingly reserved performance, littered with shrewd one-liners and offbeat quirks, dominates proceedings. A little bit too sanitized, a little bit too neat, not enough Rylance, Bridge of Spies won’t offer much competition to more controversial titles such as Spotlight and The Big Short. Rylance really should be nabbing Best Supporting Actor but it looks like Stallone will beat him to it this year.
by Hugo Harris
Mad Max: Fury Road
Nominated for 10 Academy Awards, Mad Max: Fury Road is an explosive blend of fantasy, western, and high octane action that sets the bar high for future action releases. It is the truest vision of Miller’s world so far, having hardly deviated from the outline written on an aeroplane in 1997. Covering themes of religious fanaticism, class, and feminism, it is relevant today. Furiosa (Charlize Theron), the Five Wives and the gun-slinging women of the Vuvalini stand as characters in their own right and not as female accessories to Hardy’s starring role as Max. Its failure to snag the Producers Guild of America award or the Golden Globe for Best Picture is a significant blow to its chances of winning the Oscar. An outside bet, with a film intensely action-heavy on the surface unlikely to be to the Academy’s taste based on recent record. However, with the Oscars so open, anything could happen if this film’s depth is recognised.
by Vivek Khattar
Comedy? Drama? Who knows – the important thing is that The Martian, telling the tale of an astronaut stranded on Mars, is shortlisted for Best Picture. Its director, Ridley Scott, amassed a terrific ensemble cast: Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Jeff Daniels to name a few. But make no mistake, this is Matt Damon’s film and he keeps the tone remarkably as the sols (days) his character (Mark Watney) spends on the red planet begin to take their toll. Disco tunes provide some hilariously on point musical cues, even if it’s still a mystery why Bowie’s ‘Life on Mars’ wasn’t used. The Martian is enjoyable, but in playing up the comedy it sacrifices dramatic heft. The film, adapted from the novel, is said to be very accurate scientifically, but the audience won’t necessarily feel that it has earned the breakthroughs Watney achieves. Not really in the running, but who cares when you have a film that combines ABBA and hydrazine combustion.
by Hugo Harris
Room has received four Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Actress, Director and Adapted Screenplay. Brie Larson is almost certain to win for Best Actress – going into the BAFTAs, usually the best indication of how The Academy will vote, her odds of winning were listed at 1-4. Her failure to win would have been the biggest upset in the awards’ history. With her win there, an Oscar seems inevitable. Unfortunately, it seems highly unlikely that Room will be a contender for Picture or Director – both awards seem destined for Alejandro González Iñárritu and The Revenant, whose ambition and scope is far more to The Academy’s taste. Fifteen men have previously won an Oscar for adapting their own source material, but Emma Donoghue would be the first woman to earn this accolade should she be successful. However, this seems unlikely as The Big Short, which won the BAFTA, is considered the favourite, with Carol in second place.
by Zoë Boothby
On February 28th Leonardo DiCaprio will land his first Oscar. Guaranteed. The conditions the actor subjected himself to in the making of The Revenant (a term for someone who returns from the dead) appear so extreme in this two and half hour epic that it is inconceivable the Academy will not acknowledge his grit. That performance and The Revenant’s visceral fight scenes are huge positives. It is thus a shame that the weaknesses to Alejandro González Iñárritu’s ambitious window into the life of a 17th Century American frontiersman were very much self-inflicted in the editing suite. Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography of sun stricken, snow-capped peaks beggars belief, but Iñárritu depends upon it far too heavily. Moreover, when DiCaprio’s primary antagonist (a boisterous Tom Hardy) is bereft of significant screen-time, The Revenant lacks a sense of momentum its thread-bare plot requires. For these reasons, it is better to put your money on a DiCaprio rather than a Best Picture win.
by Hugo Harris
The Big Short
The Big Short is nominated for 5 Academy Awards. These five nominations are minor compared to other contenders, particularly The Revenant with twelve. Although The Big Short missed out on a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture to The Martian, it is firmly in contention for the coveted Best Picture Oscar due to its win at the Producers Guild of America awards. This has been a reliable predictor of Best Picture wins in the past, using the same voting system as The Academy. Spotlight is the frontrunner, winning the Screen Actor’s Guild award for Best Ensemble. Moreover, The Revenant won both Best Picture and Best Director at the Golden Globes. Nevertheless, The Big Short has a good chance to succeed on the night. The film does not deliver the same cinematic intensity as other contenders The Revenant, The Martian and Mad Max: Fury Road, but as a boardroom drama it doesn’t need to. However, given the controversy surrounding the Oscars this year, The Academy really could go in any direction.
by Phoebe Kitchen
Spotlight is the Bookies favourite. Set in 2001, we follow the Boston Globe’s investigation into child sex abuse within the Catholic Church. Director, Tom McCarthy balances the voracious appetite of the journalist with the respect the church demands, taking on the style of a documentary rather than soapy sensationalism. Mark Ruffalo shows he is more than just gruff, leading Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams on their pursuit for truth through a malaise of church spin and troubled victims. The fate of Cardinal Law, removed from Boston to the safe haven of the Vatican, despite his pariah status within America, is a lesson that remains relevant with the recent news of the Catholic Church telling newly ordained bishops that they have no obligation to report sexual abuse. Watch Spotlight to understand the necessity of this course of action. Respectful, yet still compelling Spotlight is a worthy winner. Despite its recent success, it remains an outside bet. Unless you’re a gambling man…
by Rory McInnes-Gibbons
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