So this time tomorrow, we here at Black Ribbon will be fully stocked up on coffee, energy drinks. those small cocktail sausages from Asda and perhaps the contraption that keeps Malcolm McDowell’s eyes open within A Clockwork Orange in a brave attempt to keep awake during the early hours to which the latest incarnation of the Oscar ceremony will no doubt take place unto. For now however, it is time to examine the last and perhaps most important category of the 88th Academy Awards; the Best Picture category, a category which features a wide range of brilliant cinematic achievements, all of which have shocked, thrilled and stunned audiences across the world over the course of the past cinematic year, ranging from the all-out action craziness of Mad Max: Fury Road to the understated drama of Spotlight, two completely different movies, but both exceeding in critical acclaim nonetheless with the former being the favourite film of last year for two of Black Ribbon’s leading contributors.
As for the bookies, The Revenant is all set to continue its’ success at the BAFTA’s and walk away with the prestigious award yet it may face stiff competition from The Big Short and Spotlight, the film I believe deserves to win. There is no doubt that The Revenant is an excellent piece of cinematic achievement but Spotlight is a film that arks back to the fundamentals of film, one that believes telling a story in a straightforward fashion with a superb ensemble cast on top form is the most organic way to achieve true drama. Much like Whiplash last year, Spotlight is a film nominated for best picture and one that I hope wins against all the odds. We shall see. As for those who may have been overlooked, Inside Out, although odds on to win Best Animated Feature, should have been part of the Best Picture nominations, whilst films such as Sicario, Macbeth, The Gift and Straight Outta Compton all would have been on my own personal Oscar list for their achievements but in the eyes of the “prestigious” Oscar voters (See Link Below) such films were not worthy of Oscar stardom. Anyhow, I hope you enjoy the ceremony as much as we will, and for the last time until this time next year, here are the nominations;
Mad Max: Fury Road – George Miller
The Revenant – Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Spotlight – Tom McCarthy
The Big Short – Adam McKay
Room – Lenny Abrahamson
Bridge of Spies – Steven Spielberg
The Martian – Ridley Scott
Brooklyn – John Crowley
After last years’ predetermination at the BAFTA’s, with Julianne Moore winning the prestigious Best Actress award for Still Alice, a film that hadn’t hit UK cinemas at the time of the ceremony leaving the choice of winner solely in the hands of preview-screened critics, the Oscar’s soon followed suit and awarded Moore with her first award after many nominations for films such as Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights and Far From Heaven. Completing this years’ nominations is a variety of talent ranging from rising stars to cinematic gems with each film definitely getting the vote of confidence from here at Black Ribbon, even Joy, the newest release from David O. Russell, which although features a riveting leading performance from Jennifer Lawrence has been regarded by many as a limp entry into the impressive canon Russell has already established, with The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook doing particularly well at the prestigious ceremony in previous years. Could his and Lawrence’s success at the Oscar’s continue this year? Let’s ask the people in the know.
In the wise eyes of the bookies, Brie Larson is set to carry on her success at the BAFTA’s with her being odds on to pick up the Oscar for Best Actress in Lenny Abrahamson’s simply brilliant Room, a film which manages to carry the balance of the dark and the twisted yet ultimately proclaims itself as a life-affirming drama, featuring a world-class performance from young Jacob Tremblay who along with Larson brings the brilliance of the film to light, resulting in the rare occasion whereby I completely agree with the Academy. Sure, Cate Blanchett is rather flawless in Todd Haynes’ Carol and Saoirse Ronan continues her streak of being perfect in every way possible (CRUSH INCOMING) within the beautiful Brooklyn, but Larson is the stand-out, pulling in a performance that those at the Oscar voting table love; no make-up and a lot of crying. It might just be the start of something magical. Cringe.
Next Time: Best Director
Top Films of 2015: 20-11
What a resounding year it has been in the world of cinema. Not only have we had the grand-scale return of beloved franchises such as Bond and of course, STAR WARS, but we have also been treated to a vast range of quality independent movies that although may have gone slightly under the wide-appeal radar, haven’t shied away from deserved critical acclaim. Although it is nearly impossible to catch up with every single release each and every week of the year, Black Ribbon has worked extensively to provide weekly reviews of the newest releases throughout 2015, and here is the first part of my own personal top films of the year, starting with numbers twenty through to eleven…
20. Ex Machina
Remember how good 28 Days Later was? Well after taking on the infected in the streets of London, writer Alex Garland takes on directorial duties for Ex Machina, a creepy, claustrophobic thriller focusing on the concept of artificial intelligence, nodding ever-so slightly into the realms of Blade Runner, but resulting in a solid first outing for the talented Garland and reasserting the talents of both Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander. If it’s creepy sci-fi chills you are after, Ex Machina is definitely for you.
In Enemy, Denis Villeneuve goes full-out Lynch mode, even so far by casting Blue Velvet actress Isabella Rossellini in a minor, if rather significant role, but the real masterwork of Enemy is the way in which questions are left without straightforward answers without ever feeling self-indulgent or being created for the credit of being linked to the work of Lynch himself like this years’ terrible Lost River. Spooky, weird, and featuring the creepiest ending to a film this year, Enemy is another win in the ever-growing back catalogue of Canadian Villeneuve.
A rather late addition to the floor, but within Carol, we witness director Todd Hayne’s beautifully elegant and incredibly delicate portrayal of forbidden romance and social acceptability with Oscar-worthy performances from both the radiant Cate Blanchett and the all-eyes spectacle that is the brilliant Rooney Mara. Carol is not only a great film, it is one that has been made with pride and admiration and wants the viewer to sit back and let the film simmer in its’ beauty and marvelous attention to detail.
17. Montage of Heck
21 years after his death, Kurt Cobain is still undoubtedly one of the biggest household names when it comes to the reinvention of the rock genre during the grunge outbreak of the 1990’s with Montage of Heck a comprehensive insight into the star’s early childhood, his rise to fame, through to the endearing legacy of Nirvana’s impact on the musical industry during their way-too short stint on this beloved planet. Although the film does dwell on the presence and influence of Courtney Love a bit too much, Montage of Heck is a insightful and creative window into the world of music’s most tragic hero.
16. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
Talking of David Lynch, Ana Lily Amirpour’s noir-influenced genre horror takes the Lynchian recipe book and creates a masterpiece of vampiric mythology, resorting to long takes of silence and intrigue and bursts of violence representing the best bits of the age-old vampire story and producing a eerie and compelling drama of love, lust and desire, all incorporated around a equally eerie soundtrack. Think Let The Right One In meets Eraserhead, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is a real triumph.
15. A Most Violent Year
Featuring two of my favourite acting talents in this current cinematic climate, A Most Violent Year focuses on Oscar Isaac’s Abel Morales’ attempts to further advance his Oil Company whilst battling external violent pressures and the threat of continual hijackings, all the while being guided by his femme-fatale of a wife played by the majestic Jessica Chastain. Brilliantly acted and directed, A Most Violent Year produces tension in areas that in other films would only be trivial in a vein similar to that of the master of suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock.
14. Bridge of Spies
Only extending Steven Spielberg and Tom Hank’s remarkable partnership is Bridge of Spies, a tremendous cold-war thriller focusing on American attorney James Donovan’s attempts to negotiate the exchange of Mark Rylance’s Russian spy Rudolf Abel for two American captives in Soviet Russia. If the spectacle of the ice-cold cinematography of Germany and the captivating supporting performance from Rylance aren’t enough to keep you entertained for two hours or so, then nothing will. A gem of an entry into the ever-growing back catalogue of entertainment auteur, Steven Spielberg.
13. Straight Outta Compton
Flawlessly acted and bouncing with style and substance, Straight Outta Compton focuses on the rise and fall of N.W.A, the notorious hip-hop group featuring the likes of Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and Eazy-E. With uncanny re-recorded takes on the groups musical back catalogue, F. Gary Gray’s choice to focus primarily on the relationships rather than the social spectacle presents an interesting and compelling drama that fulfilled and exceeded any expectations proceeding it.
12. Steve Jobs
If double-billed with the equally fabulous, The Social Network, Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs would showcase a masterpiece of cinematic writing from Aaron Sorkin whose latest screenplay is undoubtedly one of the best produced this year with it being filled with quick one-liners, snappy dialogue, and a tendency to think everyone is as clever as he is. Fassbender does a great job in the lead role, with kudos too going to the likes of Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen and Jeff Daniels, but Steve Jobs belongs to Sorkin. It’s rather good.
Amidst all the craziness of superheroes and dinosaurs this year is Brooklyn, a wonderful romantic drama penned by Nick Hornby and starring Saoirse Ronan in a leading performance that is set to bring a rafter of nominations and awards after being universally acclaimed for her portrayal of the alienated-Irish wanderer who begins a new life in the United States only to question where she really feels at home. Wonderfully costumed and acted almost too well, Brooklyn is a real treat and deserves all the praise it hopefully gets in the coming months or so.
Part Two Coming Soon…
“Homesickness Is Like Most Sicknesses, It Will Pass…”
Within the midst of spies, dystopian uprisings, and that gangster crime-lord caper with that guy from those pirate flicks in, all of which are set to hit or possibly miss within cinemas across the country over this week and the next, has been Brooklyn, a film so meagerly advertised and highlighted within both cinemas and TV spots, that such a distinct change from the rather familiar fashion of the many propaganda-esque ways in which certain flicks force themselves on audiences today, suggests a rather distinct lack of faith on the film’s standing against its’ cinematic rivals, most of which are either worn-out sequels or money-making blockbusters. Yet for the case of Brooklyn, a film which on the face of it seems rather low-key and inherently straightforward, it manages to encapsulate something that most of it cinematic contemporaries fail to grasp; a deep sense of heart and soul, powered fundamentally by a simply mesmerising performance by Saoirse Ronan, an actress who already sits high in pedigree in my own eyes but excels herself in one of the best dramas of the year so far.
When young Ellis Lacey (Ronan) leaves her homeland of Ireland for Brooklyn, US of A, for purposes not only focused on that of a career path but a fundamental change of scenery, she quickly falls for Italian-American Tony Fiorello who helps Ellis recover from her severe strain of homesickness away from both her mother and sister. Settling strongly into her new way of life, Ellis soon hears of tragedy from her homeland, forcing her to return back to Ireland where she soon realises there more have been more to life back home after all, resulting in Ellis making a hard choice regarding whether to stay in her beloved home of Ireland or return to her newly found way of life and love for Tony and the city of Brooklyn. What makes Brooklyn so magical is that within all its’ straightforwardness in terms of its’ plot and story-line, is a straight-faced way in which the film attempts to tell a tale without need for an over-zealous use of dramatic set-pieces or particular scenes that can be singled out as possible key scenes or memorable moments of magic. Instead, Brooklyn chooses to play out its’ tale of romance, alienation and choice in rather low-key fashion, something of which differentiates itself from most of its’ cinematic contemporaries in which action and epicness comes first whilst plot and characterisation comes second.
At the heart of Brooklyn is a truly spell-bounding performance from Saoirse Ronan, an actress who has impressed me in all of her back catalogue in which I have seen so far, with last year’s The Grand Budapest Hotel being the standout Ronan role so far alongside acting pedigree such as Ralph Fiennes, Willem Defoe and Bill Murray, yet Brooklyn is a true testament to her acting abilities and skills, with her emotional range well and truly being tested in a role that if gone to someone else, may have resulted in a film that may have not been as engaging as it is with Ronan in the lead role. Maybe it’s just that Irish accent that results in a strange sense of affection for her, but Brooklyn, if anything, is the annual example of a low-key film being that good that to not be noticed from some sort of awarding body would be criminal, not that such an award would particularly matter in any sense with Brooklyn being a fundamentally wonderful movie, but to be recognised by the highest honours out there would be a testament to the film’s overall greatness. In the mood for overblown action, messy plot lines and lack of characterisation? Go watch The Hunger Games. In the mood for a downright damn good drama? Seek out Brooklyn, it’s really that good.