The Big Short
This isn't as bad as some of its detractors make it out to be, but it's not as good as its fans think either. The main issue on display is the insecurity of McKay's direction and script. He is talking down to the audience , adding unnecessary dramatics, and distracting with inept arty directing choices. Given his recent output this film is no surprise, but frankly McKay has already handled the banking crisis better with The Other Guys. There is a nugget of a great film here with some simple restructuring and a bit more confidence in the audience in understanding the material. Just a quick example to show where the film succeeds and where it fails. The first scene between Gosling and Carrel is great and besides two useless fourth wall breaks it succeeds in turning banking into tense drama that is informative of the specific pieces of the crisis. The master of the scene handles CDOs well with the Jenga blacks so the cutting to the CNN food guy undermines the film. Just get rid of it and boom you have a great scene. We also really did not need the plot with Jesus Pitt. In fact the scene introducing his plotline is the worst of the film. We have a perfectly okay scene scripted to show how these guys found out about the default swapping scam which gets broken up to explain how the scene actually happened in real life which leads to the question of why McKay bothered to script the scene this way if he is just going to call it out as false. It's dramatically stupid, adds nothing to the audience's understanding of banking, and makes McKay look incompetent next to Michael Bay of all people who took a similar approach to the truth and made it world dramatically in Pain and Gain
. This isn't a bad film, but it could have been significantly better and there have been better examples made then this attempt to turn a Michael Moore doc into a fiction.
Bridge of Spies
This is Spielberg (and everyone else really) coasting with a light take on his serious style and it's really enjoyable as that. Rylance embodies this the best giving an enjoyable performance which succeeds as drama while not bothering to get too complex. The film on the whole stands in the middle of the road in this group of simple films, but I guess that just highlights how well this year was for Oscar friendly films.
Crowley does a good bit of work with a bit of added enjoyment to the throwback nature the story s told in (too bad though it's a throwback to the worst '50s genre in the form of the social drama). It uses a few modern techniques regularly and is a fair bit more open about stuff like the bathroom, but the core of the throwback is handled well (certainly better than the fraudulent The Immigrant
). Everything is play by the numbers to such a slavish degree that it only can reach to the level of okay, but thanks in no small part to Ronan, who continues to be just the best, it's the best okay film I imagine this story could be. Nothing more nor less than simple and sweet.
Mad Max: Fury Road
This is a cool, stylish film, but the ecstatic response to it speaks more about the dearth of quality english language action cinema rather than anything about the film itself which in terms of action, social commentary, and even general weirdness doesn't hold a camera to even many middle of the road action films out of Asia and the pacific islands. The social commentary in particular is really flawed through an incoherent expression and a nonsensical ending which if one dares to think past its chipperness undermines much of the film's themes. Very beautiful though.
This is a pleasant enough film (which is a phrase I could apply to nearly all of the films nominated) though compared with the other pieces of big adult sci-fi, particularly Interstellar which it shares a few cast members with, it fails to live up to its possibilities. Instead the film plays out like a lazy Sunday afternoon. If it's any consolation though this is easily Drew Goddard's best work only occasionally trying too hard to appear cool and witty and almost never failing. In fact Damon gets to be rather dorky and lame in a way that gives him more character then emphasizing his wit would. Also it has the second best instance of surprise Donald Glover I've seen recently.
This is a fair bit more flawed than Birdman
which remains AGI's best film, but that's because the experiment at hand is much tougher to pull off. The two are bit like seeing if the car runs and then seeing if it can run on a course. The extant to which he pushes this digital Sam Fuller intensity alone is worth applauding. The film has failures though they are rather limited (the bear attack for example just feels off and some dialogue scenes feel like a video for a theme park ride) and the successes have that intense power captured earlier in Emma Stone's big monologue in Birdman
. DiCaprio affords the film some artiness owing to magical realism, but it is with Hardy the film and the style shines. There's something about Hardy's slurred speech and visual humour grown onto a Juan Rulfo inspired madness which marries to the style perfectly. The film becomes at its best like the version of Ford that Jean Marie Straub sees.
I hate this kid almost as much as Brie Larson does. Though that's not even the biggest problem. This film is so lazily staged that to claim it is anything but the most incompetent film nominated for best picture is decades would be too kind. For example the big escape scene is just ridiculous.
The kid stands in the truck for so long that it takes the villain that long to see him is crazy. Then after all of that with him clearly knowing what would happen to him if he's caught he just leaves the kid out on a lawn instead of taking him back to the shed?
That is stupidity in a way just to force the narrative along and could have been easily cured by better staging. This exact problem hits the film over and over and over again with the whole affair just being this lazy nonsense. This is a BAD movie plain and simple and no one should watch this especially with the far superior 10 Cloverfield Lane
This was a lot better then I was expecting. It's no Alan Pakula, but Mark Ruffalo's hammy annoyance aside (so of course he gets the nomination out of this great group) it plays as a far superior The Verdict
. In a somewhat generic way it's exactly what you want out of a best picture winner. It's mature without being portentous. The acting is all variety of show off, but with the one exception fits naturally in the world carved out so that their dance is exciting without becoming distracting. And of course most of all the plot motivated source of seriousness is actually relevant and multi-faceted in a way that could lead to some good discussion. I do wish more attention was paid to Liev Schreiber's side of the story than the actual investigation as that is far less tread territory and thus was much more compelling than the investigation. Also it is just nice to see Rachel McAdams have a good role again. It seems like forever since she got something this meaty.
My Vote: The Revenant