Category Archives: Oscar nominated film

Hell or High Water (2016) Film Review

Tanner (Ben Foster) and Toby Howard (Chris Pine) are a couple of guys whose deceased mother’s ranch is about to be foreclosed on by the bank, and they’ve just found oil. Desperate, they start robbing banks. They are chased by close to retirement Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges ) and his partner Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham), a couple of law enforcement men (not sure on which department) who are stubborn.

If you want to see one of those slow-moving films with a whining violin soundtrack that sounds a bit like Warren Ellis (ah! Lookie here, the soundtrack is by Warren Ellis and Nick Cave!), with men who talk slow and have that slow, Texas smarts, this is the film for you. It’s a good film, possibly a great film, though not a really original film. While I didn’t mind watching it, I’d sooner have re-watched No Country for Old Men.

Hell or High Water was nominated for Oscars for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Jeff Bridges), Best Original Screenplay and Best Achievement in Film Editing, as well as nominations for Golden Globes for Best motion Picture – Drama, Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in Motion Picture (Jeff Bridges) and Best Screenplay – Motion Picture. It was also nominated for BAFTAs for Best Supporting Actor (Jeff Bridges), Best Screenplay (Original) and Best Cinematography.

 

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Trainspotting (1996) Film Review

It was 1996, I was living in London, listening to this soundtrack and loving this film. It’s one of those films that I’ve been fearful of revisiting in case it wasn’t as good as I remember…. But it really is. Thank goodness!

So, Renton (Ewan McGregor) is a heroin addict living in Edinburgh and hanging out with his mates: fellow users Spud (Ewan Bremner) and Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), health nut Tommy (Kevin McKidd) and psycho Begbie (Robert Carlyle). Sometimes they are using, sometimes they aren’t. But they are all just trying to get through life and eventually find their way to somewhere. Or not.

It’s a strange film, kind of daggy in ways. I found re -watching that it was far filthier and grosser than I remembered, but it really is a great film. To show how amazing drugs can be and then how terrible an experience using drugs can be with really no strong judgement. And it’s funny and sad and has the most amazing soundtrack. Certainly brought out my nostalgia.

Trainspotting was nominated for an Oscar for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published)

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The Big Short (2015) Film Review

Set in the months leading up to the financial crash in the mid-2000s, The Big Short follows several characters who predicted what was going to happen and used their knowledge to do stuff. I know that sounds vague, but I actually watched this a while ago, and now cannot recall the ins and outs – I just know that watching it, I found it fascinating, and now I recall it being interesting, but I can’t recall the details. The good news is that I’ll be able to watch it again and find it interesting. What do I recall? Steve Carrell playing another weird and fabulous character. Brad Pitt playing another annoying holistic kind of character. Christian Bale being playing an intelligent weirdo. Don’t remember Ryan Gosling in it at all. Right, I am actually going to watch this film again and then finish this review.

Okay, so Christian Bale plays Michael Burry, an oddball character who does a whole heap of research and discovers a flaw in the financial world, relating to bad mortgages and trading on them (technical, technical stuff… blah blah). Then Ryan Gosling plays Jared Vennett, which pushes this on to Mark Baum (Steve Carrell). When Mark and his mates go out to investigate, they discover NINJA loans (no income, no job, no asset) which are being packaged with the genuinely AAA mortgages. Then there are a couple of young guys who get in on it and turn to a retired guy, Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt) which knows a lot about the market and is quite suspicious about what is going to happen to the world of finance. The film sets all of these guys up, and while I may not have understood it all, I knew that it was not good. But the film? That is good. Brain challenging movie.

The Big Short won an Oscar for Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay and was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Christian Bale), Best Achievement in Directing (Adam McKay) and Best Achievement in Film Editing.

 

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La La Land (2016) Film Review

There is a jazz musician, Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) who is a bit grumpy and dissatisfied with life. He makes a living playing wherever he can, with dreams of owning a jazz nightclub. Then there’s an actress, Mia (Emma Stone) who auditions and auditions and never gets through. They meet and fall in love, and then settle into a life that neither are totally happy with, and then have to figure out what to do. All whilst singing.

Yawn. I wanted to enjoy this. this felt like the kind of film that I should love. Songs, style, the fun-time combo of Gosling and Stone. Yet I felt no chemistry between the two, I found many of the musical numbers forced and the end should have been something that I loved. But I didn’t. What it did inspire in me was the interest at watching some good old Hollywood films with great dancing – some Ginger Rogers and the like.

La La Land won Oscars for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Emma Stone), Best Achievement in Directing (Damien Chazelle), Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score), Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song) “City of Stars” and Best Achievement in Production Design and was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Ryan Gosling), Best Original Screenplay, Best Achievement in Film Editing, Best Achievement in Costume Design, Best Achievement in Sound Mixing, Best Achievement in Sound Editing and Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song) “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”.

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) Film Review

 

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I have to admit to a couple of things here; First, I thought this was the next in the series of Star Wars films and was confused for a while. Second, I did sleep through a fair bit of the first part of this film. I was going to not review it until I saw it again – and saw some parts of it for the first time… but talking to several people, apparently there is a lot of slow setup stuff in the first part and so long as I felt I knew what was going on later, it probably didn’t matter missing it. Certainly, I loved the second half, with a whole heap of action and fighting and really cool stuff happening.

I’m not going to pretend that I knew all the plot – just the key stuff. So, the film is about the Rebel Alliance (that’s the same group that Princess Leia and all of them are a part of, against Darth Vader and all of them) attempting to steal the plans for the Death Star as it is being built. It’s important for the world of Star Wars, and it’s very exciting, with a lot of cool people being cool. What I saw, I loved.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was nominated for Oscars for Best Achievement in Sound Mixing and Best Achievement in Special Effects.

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Rain Man (1988) Film Review

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Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) is a yuppie who is running some kind of a scam involving importing luxury cars or something (no idea – it was complex and had to be completed within a certain amount of time which caused Charlie much stress throughout) when his estranged father passes away. Expecting to inherit his father’s fortune, Charlie is left with a beautiful old car and little else. In tracing where the remaining money is going, Charlie discovers that he has an older brother who has been living in assisted care for decades. Raymond (Dustin Hoffman) is autistic and requires set routine. Charlie takes Raymond from the facility, thinking he can blackmail the lawyers into giving him money. But the road trip across the country ends up being more than just a physical journey.

This is really a great film. It’s a little obvious at times, but that’s fine. Hoffman is great as Raymond, and while at times, I felt that Charlie was making choices that weren’t really fitting with his personality, it all allowed both of the characters to grow. It is dated, but in a good way. I just really liked it.

Rain Man won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor in a Lead Role (Dustin Hoffman), Best Director (Barry Levinson) and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen. It was nominated for Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Film Editing, Best Music, Original Score.

 

 

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The Sessions (2012) Film Review

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Mark (John Hawkes) is an academic who spends much of his day in an Iron Lung helping him to breathe. His nurses are able to take him out for hours at a time, but he has very limited movement. After learning about sexual surrogates, people who work with the disable to allow them to have sex, he engages the services of Cheryl (Helen Hunt) and discusses the process with his priest, Father Brendan (William H Macy).

It’s a fairly gentle film, really. There is little drama or action – it almost feels as though the filmmakers decided that it was enough for people to learn that these services exist and can improve the lives of those involved. Having said that, I don’t think that the film would have been improved by adding unnecessary drama; as it was, it was interesting and beautiful and fascinating. And does raise the debate of disabled actors playing disabled roles – John Hawkes is wonderful in this, and is generally quite wonderful in most things that he does, but why not have a disabled person in this role? (Money, for one. John Hawkes is a respected actor who would be a draw to producers. But still…)

Helen Hunt was nominated for an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a supporting Role in The Sessions .

 

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