There’s no way to make the ‘best’ film. It’s not like sport –
art can’t score points like a team or be measured like a javelin throw, because
creativity is subjective. The thought of actors and other filmmakers competing
against each other is kind of sad really. It’s not like we only have to watch
one film ever again – there doesn’t have to be a winner. A lot of great films
and filmmakers never won an Oscar, never even had a look in. Not to mention all
the politicking behind the scenes that probably really decides who wins, and
the well-known diversity issues over the years. So the Oscars are kind of dumb.  

But you know, having said all that, I’m sure it’s an amazing
honour to be nominated or win such a prestigious award. And there’s nothing fundamentally
wrong with an industry celebrating itself and certainly the film industry isn’t
alone. Moreover, the Oscars especially give (Hollywood) filmmakers something
else to strive for apart from box office success. A lot of films wouldn’t get
made if the only impetus was making money, so awards celebrating the craft of
filmmaking are beneficial for both filmmakers and audience. Even when we all
know a film can’t really be better
than another (in the competitive sense) we all still like some more than others or thought they were more successful in achieving
their aims. So the awards season is kind of important and kind of fun.  

The problem I think comes when people focus too much on
either of the arguments I just presented. The Oscars (and by extension all
other artistic awards) can be both important and silly. They’re not the be all
and end all of filmmaking but they don’t have to be dismissed entirely either.
Just because the Academy gives the award to Leo or snubs Leo, does it really
affect his performance or your enjoyment of it? I think it’d be nice if he won
but I’m not exactly upset if he doesn’t because ultimately the award doesn’t
matter more than the work. Sometimes shitty films win awards and sometimes
nobody ever watches great films. So it doesn’t really matter. When it comes to
awards, I take some interest, and I know it sets some sort of benchmark, but in
the end, good art is what’s important.

And quickly on the racial diversity issues regarding the
Oscars at the moment – it would be silly to think that the only ‘award worthy’
actors for two consecutive years happen to be white. That’s just stupid. But I
don’t know if this is necessarily purely the fault of the Academy. Surely
Hollywood in general has to take some blame regarding the dearth of
opportunities given to non-white actors. I’m certain some actors are explicitly
discriminated against because of their skin colour but I wonder how many more
are just not even considered – do white people often just think of other white
people first?

However, I also kind of hate talking about ‘Hollywood’ as if
it’s just two or three guys who sit around making all the decisions. It’s a big
corporate machine, more interested in staying financially successful and
culturally relevant than it is concerned with subjugating actors of different
ethnic backgrounds. And of course, Hollywood exists in the racially conflicted
world of the United States of America – is it surprising that the film industry
is not immune to the same racial problems that plague the whole country?

So while I think the boycott has merit and I welcome a
discussion on race in Hollywood, I think some of the debate has missed the mark
so far. But then again no one’s really asked what I think so how can I expect
them to know what’s right and wrong yet?

Anyway here’s what I think about the films nominated for Best
Picture this year.

Not many spoilers I don’t think. 


 I’ve never claimed to know much about economics. My time on this earth so
far has been occupied with other, more important things (watching films,
eating). So when a film arrives all about the financial crisis of 2008,
automatically I’m wary and a little confused. But the best quote I’ve ever read
about films is that it doesn’t matter what
they’re about; rather how they go
about it. So a story can be about anything and it can be compelling, if done
well. And I think The Big Short is
done pretty well.

The Big Short actually counts
on its audience being ignorant of the finer economic points of the crisis. It
makes a good showing of explaining in detail what led to the collapse of the
housing market, employing any number of different techniques to dumb down the
complicated numbers. Some work better than others. I liked Ryan Gosling explaining
things with jenga rather than the bit with Margot Robbie in a bath (what a
sentence that is).

But while I felt like I understood the processes while watching, I’d
probably struggle to go into detail now. That’s the point of the film. It isn’t
supposed to make sense, both because it’s an entertaining story, not a
university lecture, but also to show how the downfall was allowed to happen.
It’s all just a little bit too confusing for most people to really grasp.
That’s how the crooks swooped in and suddenly nobody’s got any money.

Anyway, the narrative techniques – breaking the fourth wall, narration,
information interludes, celebrity cameos – I mean, they’re kind of cool and
help dull the information overload, but I got the impression it wasn’t very
focused. The filmmakers just threw in everything they could think of and hoped
some of it stuck. Kind of like how Adam McKay makes the Anchorman films though, I suppose. Adam McKay, Oscar nominated
director. Who would have thought? Not a criticism, because again I quite liked
this one, but still. Wow.  

It’s an interesting sort of film, how it’s structured. There are three
stories going on: Christian Bale, Steve Carrel and Ryan Gosling, plus Brad Pitt
and friends. I thought they were maybe going to meet up or something but they
stay pretty much separate. I guess they’re showing different sides of the same
story. It’s kind of funny: our ‘heroes’ are shown as the only ones noticing all
this immoral behaviour by the big banks so we like them – but they are directly
benefiting from the debacle as well. Interesting positioning. Interesting film.


Steven Spielberg could probably make a film with his eyes closed and man
I really want to make that happen now. Bridge
of Spies
isn’t his best film by any margin and probably won’t be remembered
that glowingly. I mean, there’s nothing bad about it, really; the performances
are great, it’s shot well, the story is fascinating, it’s championing a
noteworthy philosophy (doing what’s right isn’t easy or popular, especially
when it means defending a foreign spy in court, but it’s still important). And
thinking back on the film now it sounds great and everyone should probably see
it (not that I’m doing a great job of convincing you right now). But overall
it’s just not really outstanding. Maybe there’s just not enough tension, I
don’t know, but it didn’t knock my socks off. Maybe it’s the sense that
Spielberg and Hanks and everyone involved weren’t really challenged. Or maybe
they’re just so experienced it looks like they’re doing it with their eyes
closed. Mark Rylance is terrific though and if there’s any one reason you
should really go see Bridge of Spies it’d
be his performance.


Yeah I like the girly melodrama the best. Sue me. Brooklyn is a spectacular film. Not a particularly original one or
one with high stakes but a remarkable film nevertheless. It reminded me of the
immigrant journeys so many of my ancestors had to have made in order for me to
be sitting here in Australia right now. It’s almost unfathomable to me.

I liked how Eilis wasn’t successful because she was a predestined “chosen
one” or especially special in any way, and that she wasn’t travelling to
America to become a movie star or musician. She was just smart and determined,
and her big dream was to become an accountant. Some would say this is boring
but I found it refreshing.  

I know predictability was one of my complaints about Bridge of Spies but here it didn’t bother me. There’s something
classy about Brooklyn. The script
doesn’t put in place any contrivances; it just glides along with humour and
melancholy. I just respected the decisions that Eilis had to make about her
future. She was lucky to have a choice but it doesn’t mean she would make the
right one.  

Saoirse Ronan is just magnetic and I was blown away by Emory Cohen as
Tony, the Italian plumber with a heart of gold. And Domhnall Gleeson is
reliable in his small role – he’s the villain in a sense, but not in a bad way.

I could have happily watched more (I hear there’s talk of a television
spin off, sans the main cast) but I was happy with the ending. I like being
surprised when a film ends, startled by the final image, and I was delighted


I saw The Revenant the day it
was released. The theatre was almost full. We were all getting ready for a
visceral experience. We’d all read the horrific accounts of the shoot. At the
very least most of us would have seen a trailer or read a preview or heard that
media reports Leo was maybe raped by a bear.

The woman next to me stood up after twenty minutes, announced that she’d
seen enough and promptly left the theatre. I guess most of the commentary
around the film has passed her by. I understand wanting to see a film with
fresh eyes but still. And I don’t blame her. If she didn’t like the first few
minutes, she would have hated the rest.

Me, I was in awe of the film in a lot of ways. Much like with Mad Max: Fury Road, I’m amazed it was
filmed how it was. That it was made at all is supremely extraordinary. The
cinematography and choreography just astounded me. I actually felt cold, like I
was in the winter. Revenge is one of the best motivators and I was quite
invested in Leo and his journey. Tom Hardy is a hard ass dude.

But after it was over I felt kind of empty. I’ve not any great desire to
watch it again (although I probably will one day). I don’t know what it is –
maybe the film tries a bit too hard to be mystical at times or maybe after such
a filmic assault of the senses, once it’s all over it’s just hard going back to
reality. The emotional appeal and resonance really good films have just wasn’t
there for me.  

I wouldn’t be upset if it won Best Picture because it’s definitely an
achievement of unique filmmaking, but I’m not sure it’s really the definition
of the best of filmmaking. And I know
of at least one woman in Toowoomba who agrees.


I recently had a discussion about whether films should be pure
entertainment or whether they should be thought provoking. I say I had a
discussion, I was at a party and people were talking around me and I didn’t
really get involved, but it was interesting. While I sympathise with people who
just want to kick back and not think for a few hours, I do see an important
place (particularly for cinema as the dominant art form of our times) for art
to challenge us. On this issue, like many others, I’m the little Old El Paso girl – Why don’t we have

Anyway my point is, if you’re looking for a few easy laughs, some light
entertainment, Room isn’t for you.
But it is one of the best films I’ve seen this year and if you’re willing to
stick with it, one of the most enlightening.

I don’t want to go into too much detail, partly for spoilers, partly
because it’s just too hard. I’ll just say the human spirit is a tremendous
thing and people can be both wonderful and evil. Just watch the film.

There are no easy roles in this sort of film but Brie Larson makes it
look easy. Jason Tremblay is the rarest thing imaginable – a likeable child
actor. Look forward to his future. I’m about to read the novel so I’m keen to
gauge the adaptation. But yeah. Wow.


Again, like Room, Spotlight is unlikely to play at many
sleepovers. It’s about Boston Globe investigative
reporters chasing down a story about child abuse in the Catholic Church, the
first big case that launched a new look at child abuse around the world. It’s a
very adult film for adults. It reminded me a lot of Zodiac in how it goes into depth recounting the mundane aspects of
an investigation while also showing the depth of fixation such a case
inevitably creates.

I’m no fan of any religion so I’m not very sympathetic to the Catholic
Church here. It’s horrific when any organisation puts its reputation above the
protection of children. It’s even worse when said organisation holds itself as
moral guardians for the rest of us. I know a lot of Catholics are nice people
and do good but shit like this has really gotta make you question your faith.

Anyway, the film. It’s exceedingly narrowly focused on the case. I
couldn’t tell you many things about the characters outside of their
relationship to cracking the case. But other things don’t matter. This isn’t
about the characters going on a journey. This film is the journey. There’s no fat to the story. It’s a difficult
tightrope and different to most films – usually we complain we don’t know
anything about the characters and so we can’t be excited for their story.
That’s not to say these characters aren’t compelling, it’s just that we don’t
know more than we need to. It’s like we’re their co-pilot, another reporter,
piecing it together with them. It wouldn’t always work but it works here and
that’s the main thing.

My girlfriend pointed out something after we saw the film. So many shots
had a church in the background or something religious somewhere, watching. The
church is ubiquitous in Boston and this film. They’re everywhere. So how do you
find the truth?

The film ends with the names of other places around the world where abuse
scandals have been uncovered. My hometown in regional Australia was on the
list. It’s everywhere. And not just within the Catholic Church. It’s
heartbreaking really.

I’ve despaired at the many abuse stories around the world. How can we be
a functioning 21st century society when we can’t even protect our
children? Spotlight isn’t trying to
answer those questions, but it does shine a light on the beginning of change.  



I’ve already reviewed Mad
on here and I somehow missed out on The Martian – apparently it’s really good though. I swear I’ll see
it soon and won’t disappoint you ever again.

So there you have it. It doesn’t matter what wins or loses at
the Oscars. If you liked the film or it spoke to you in some way, that’s all
that matters. The Academy is definitely skewed when it comes to racial
diversity but they’re more of a symptom than a cause. America (and the world)
has a way to go when it comes to race so it’s only logical that the Oscars are
no different. But they should aim up. And a lot of the nominated films made me
sad this year. Spotlight my pic to
win but wouldn’t be surprised if The Revenant
pulls a swifty.  

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