Oscars 2016: The Best Picture Contenders

Eight films are up for the big prize this year. How do they fare?

The Big Short
The Global Financial Crisis gets the big screen treatment with Adam McKay’s film about those on Wall Street who saw it coming. Strong performances from an all-star cast including Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, and Brad Pitt, who have all been ripped of their good looks to portray those in the financial world. McKay’s film takes a dig at the complicated jargon involved in finance, with some good-humoured attempts to tackle the audience’s confusion. Alas, for some (read: me) it was all just too confusing to fully appreciate. 3.5 stars
Bridge of Spies
Steven Spielberg returns with a Cold War drama starring his favourite leading man, Tom Hanks. It’s classic Spielberg, but it piles on the patriotic schmaltz a bit too heavily at times. Hanks portrays the heroic James B. Donovan because Hanks = Hero. 4 stars
Did it deserve its nomination over Carol? It’s hard to say. Both lavish 1950s pieces set partly in New York, Brooklyn doesn’t quite break the mould in the same way Carol did. However it still resonates, and its old-fashioned sensibility works well, even though its resolution is more black and white than would be the case for a story set in the present day. Saoirse Ronan dazzles, the film looks gorgeous, and it’s a woman’s story, which is a bolder than usual move for the Oscar seniles. 4 stars
Mad Max: Fury Road
Absolutely spectacular from start to finish. As well as being visually mesmerising it included a kick-arse female lead and a slew of local faces. With Tom Hardy, you’re already winning, but George Miller just took cinema to another level. 4.5 stars
The Martian
If you can overlook that it is NOT a comedy (Golden Globes nonsense) Ridley Scott’s The Martian was a terrific sci-fi piece with brains and broad appeal. YES, IT IS POSSIBLE TO HAVE BOTH. Apparently some audience members were heard asking if it was a true story. I fear for humanity. 4 stars
The Revenant
The film that wins Leo his Oscar. Oh it freakin better be. Alejandro G. Iñárritu is back in contention again after winning last year for Birdman, and here delivers a vastly different piece of filmmaking that will make you feel depressed, horrified, and cold all at the same time. 4 stars
A captivating film about a mother and son, this is not the type of film that ever gets nominated so HALLEJUAH. Lenny Abrahamson directs Emma Donoghue’s film adaptation of her successful novel and gives Brie Larson the chance to shine (and win an Oscar). Terrifying and uplifting, Room is one that will stay with you. It won’t win though because movies about women rarely do. 4.5 stars
If you want to get riled up about the injustice in the world, see Spotlight. Tom McCarthy’s film follows the Spotlight journalism team in their uncovering of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in Boston. That so many pedophile priests were protected is abhorrent and the more people that see this film, the better. Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton and Stanley Tucci bring their A-game (along with a number of other fine performances) and the handling of the subject matter is on point. The end credits made me feel beyond depressed. SEE IT. 4.5 stars
Who will win?
They say it’s between The Revenant, Spotlight, and The Big Short. I personally think the latter is too confusing to deserve it. I want everyone to know about Spotlight so I’m backing it. But at a long shot I’d love to see George Miller and our industry rewarded for Mad Max.

Tune in on Monday 29th February for all the winners.

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