The 86th Academy Awards Preview – And The Winner ISN’T….

oscar It’s that time of year again, when the film industry’s great, good and obscenely wealthy get together for a gigantic piss-up, with a few shiny trophies thrown in. Women in bad dresses they didn’t pay for strut their stuff along the red carpet at the Kodak Theatre, while the fellas are doomed to shuffle along in the customary tuxes they hate. Everybody smiles their perfect Beverly Hills smiles at the waiting paps who, for the rest of the year, they’ll be scrapping with outside restaurants and nightclubs. By 8pm, they’ll all be seated in an orderly fashion, secretly bitching about each other’s fashion choices, before settling down to enjoy the biggest night of the year, and a breathless display of vote-rigging which would make the Eurovision Song Contest look fair.

Welcome to the 86th Academy Awards.

I stood outside the Kodak Theatre once. It was very hot, and my friend Chris and I were debating whether to join one of those cheesy “See Where The Stars REALLY live” bus tours around Mulholland Drive, or go for a pint. The latter won out, but I never forgot just gazing up at the facade of that building, thinking “one day…one day…”. Obviously, the whole ‘Oscars’ thing is a load of luvvie rubbish, determined by politics, pots of cash, and who’s sleeping with who. So, not that different from life in general. You’d never catch me watching any other awards show, for those very reasons – they mean bugger all at the end of the day. But it’s the starry-eyed kid in me that has forever held a little torch for all things Oscar. I used to stay up until 2am on Oscar night, so I could watch the whole thing live, but I don’t do that anymore, since a) the event went to Sky and b) I got rid of the telly.

So now my ritual is to watch all of the Best Picture nominees and tell my diary what I really think of them. As I’ve got older, I’ve become more cynical, especially since I’ve learned a lot about how and why certain films get nominated, which is usually nothing to do with whether they’re any good or not. But I love films, it’s that simple, so I thought I’d share my completely objective opinion (*cough*) on this year’s Best Picture hopefuls. I even just spent a whole half hour jigging up a little graphic for my “Osc-o-Meter” to give each film a score out of five. This is what Sundays are for.

Just as I like to do with Eurovision, I’ll stick my neck out and say which film should win, which is rarely the film that does win. So, in no particular order…..here are the nominees for Best Picture.

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hustle

Pretty impossible to miss this, as the trailers bombarded us in all forms of media, telling us how “outstanding” and “awesome” it was. Except it wasn’t. It was OK, it passed a couple of amusing hours, and there were some very funny lines, but that was about it, which probably means it’ll win everything it’s up for.

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Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) are the Bonnie & Clyde of the late 1970s New Jersey grifting circuit. Bale put on about 10 stone to play Irving, which doesn’t seem to deter Adams’ character from becoming his mistress. Sydney is the brains of the operation, and uses a “British accent” (whatever that is) to fool their marks into thinking she’s an English aristocrat, so they hand over all their money to her. Adams’ accent slips into Australian too many times to be believable, so it’s incredible that anybody at all falls for the deception.

At home, Irving’s barking mad wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) makes his life a misery, but he is reluctant to divorce her because he doesn’t want to leave Rosalyn’s young son, Danny, whom he has adopted. Enter Bradley Cooper as FBI agent Richie DiMaso, who catches Irving and Sydney during one of their cons, and blackmails them into helping him nail some corrupt politicians whom DiMaso has been after for ages. And so the big sting begins…

The story is loosely based on the FBI’s ABSCAM operation of the 1970s and 1980s, when the Bureau used a fake sheikh to entrap corrupt senators along the East Coast. The film is billed as a ‘comedy drama’, and it’s true there are some very funny moments. The hair and make-up, however, is bizarre, even for a film set in the 1970s, and I was never sure whether the campness of the whole thing was deliberate, ironic, or entirely serious. It was hard to watch without knowing if the awful toupees were supposed to be awful toupees, or genuine ’70s hairstyles. Anyway, among the implausible TEN Oscar nominations this film has received, one of them is for Best Costume Design.

There are some great performances, especially Christian Bale, who’s rightly up for Best Actor, and Lawrence, who steals every scene she’s in and also deserves her  nomination. Cooper, though, is just OK, as he usually is, and Adams is perfectly competent, terrible accent notwithstanding. Neither Oscar nomination for those two, seems particularly deserving, though, and if it wasn’t for the industry’s constant salivation over Cooper and Lawrence, then I doubt this film would have received half the acclaim it has.

Verdict: Funny in parts, sparkling ensemble cast, a good Saturday night DVD.

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dallas

In 1985, Texas rodeo wannabe and rampant homophobe, Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConnaughey), goes to the doctor after losing a significant amount of weight and generally feeling like crap 24/7. To his horror, he is told he is HIV-positive, probably a result of his own promiscuity and habit of sleeping with drug addicts. This being the 1980s, Ron’s “friends” quickly disown him, and even try to burn him out of town, so they don’t ‘catch’ the virus simply by association, or witchcraft, or something equally logical.

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Given 30 days to live, Woodroof refuses to accept his fate, and goes in search of new drugs, clinical trials, anything that will save his life. Despite the best efforts of a sympathetic doctor (Jennifer Garner), it seems Ron’s only hope of survival lies with another doc – a dodgy one down in Mexico, who is having some success with an experimental drug. Woodroof  hotfoots it across the border to meet with the doctor, who tells him the drug is a gamechanger, but the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) refuse to sanction it. So Woodroof embarks on a smuggling operation to get the drug into the States, not just to treat himself, but also to help out other HIV sufferers who would otherwise die.

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Among them, is transvestite, Rayon (Jared Leto), who helps Woodroof set up what becomes The Dallas Buyers Club- where AIDS sufferers pay Woodroof a monthly subscription to receive as many drugs as they need. Rayon is a sweet but streetwise cookie who forces Woodroof to confront not only his own prejudices, but also his own mortality.

McConnaughey is excellent as Woodroof, but it’s Leto who really stands out. His portrayal of the unshakeable, yet ultimately tragic Rayon is genuinely moving – it’s just a shame he doesn’t get more screen time. Having said that, Leto still doesn’t win the award for Best Screen Tranvestite as, anyone who’s seen Sons of Anarchy will know, that honour goes to the incomparable Walton Goggins, as Venus Van Damme…

Venus Van Damme - Best Tranny Ever...

Venus Van Damme – Best Tranny Ever…

Oscar history tells us that any film about AIDS, or which has famous names dressing up in women’s clothes, is a sure fire bet to win, so to have a movie with both, should see Dallas Buyer’s Club walk away with something, at least. The Best Actor category is very strong this year, but McConnaughey has a legitimate shout with this performance. Leto, for me, may as well take his statuette home right now.

Verdict: A bit slow to get going, but ultimately very moving, especially when Leto arrives on the screen. 

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Gravity

OK, I’ll admit I was never going to rush to the cinema to see this, and it’s true, I didn’t. But I wish I had.

Science and spacey stuff doesn’t really do it for me, even in 3D, so I ended up watching this on my laptop. I can hear certain people screaming at me already for such sacrilege, but honestly, I was never going to have the spare £15 or however much it would have cost to see it ‘properly’, anyway, so…

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Having said that, now I’ve seen it, I would love to watch it on the big screen with those stupid glasses. LOVE to. For me, a great film has to stand on its own, story-wise, regardless of what costumes, effects, car crashes etc you shove in there. Gravity is rightly up for Best Visual Effects, but even without the bells, whistles and flecks of space dust coming right at you, this is simply a very, very good film.

I’ve always liked Sandra Bullock, and I think she’s underrated just because she’s ‘kooky’ and, worse, ‘girl next door’. But nobody’s going to get away with being the only person on screen for 80% of the film, if they’re crap.

As we open on the Space Shuttle crew repairing the injured Hubble Telescope, there’s great banter between Bullock’s rookie medical engineer, Ryan Stone, and her fellow spacewalkers and radio comms (who we never actually see). Enter George Clooney as experienced astronaut, Matt Kowalski, zooming past Stone in his rocket-propelled spacesuit, as she tries to concentrate on fixing the darn Hubble. For ten minutes, then, it’s all very nice, safe and funny. Who knew space could be so cuddly?

But then the useless Ruskis go and mess up a missile strike on a disused satellite, sending deadly debris hurtling through the blackness towards the open Space Shuttle. Stone and Kowalski manage to evade being hit, but their comrades, and the Space Shuttle, are sort of obliterated. After another close encounter with the orbiting debris, Kowalski realises that only one of them has enough power and oxygen to make it to the International Space Station – 800 miles away.

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Ever the gentleman, Kowalski sacrifices himself in order to save Stone, who then has to tackle everything from more debris strikes, fire aboard her escape pod, and a burning re-entry, before eventually making it safely back to earth by the end of the film. There’s a quasi-theological backstory concerning Stone’s dead daughter, and whether there really is a heaven up there, consolidated by Stone having a dream visitation from the now-dead Kowalski, giving her instructions on how to fly the escape pod.

Personally, I don’t think the story needed the “Is there a God?” bit, it was strong enough without it, and the two hours flew by as I really did get involved with the isolation and fear Stone was experiencing, being stranded hundreds of miles above the earth. I was surprised how much I enjoyed this film, and will definitely be saving up for when it returns to the cinemas in a couple of weeks time after collecting numerous Oscars, to see it in the way it was intended, even if it means confronting my phobia of sharing the cinema with other people.

Verdict: Gripping, absorbing, claustrophobic, and all on a 10.5 inch laptop. On the big screen, it would probably scare me to death.

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slave

This is the one that’s had all the critics wetting themselves constantly for the past few months. It’s the the true story of Solomon Northup (and based on his own memoir), a respected black New York carpenter and violin player (and a free man) –  who was kidnapped in 1841  by slave traders and smuggled to the Deep South where he remained in servitude to white landowners for 12 years before being rescued. The subject matter is hideous, and it’s still difficult to comprehend how human beings can behave so cruelly to one another, but it’s a compelling story which shouldn’t be hidden away. At least, it should be a compelling story. And therein lies the problem.

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I haven’t read Northup’s memoir, but I’m familiar with the story. I expected graphic scenes such as the beatings, lynchings and general abuse suffered by black slaves in 19th century America. But I also expected to become attached to the characters, to become absorbed in the period, to feel a smidgeon of Northup’s suffering as he endured twelve long, hard years separated from his wife and children, just fighting to stay alive. Sadly, I felt little of this.

Chiwetel Ejiofor is an excellent actor, as anyone who’s seen Dirty Pretty Things or The Shadow Line will know. But it’s the script and the indulgent direction which lets this film down. There are far too many long, hard stares into the sky or the sunset or, worse, the camera, which eventually grow tiresome and a little bit patronising. This was obviously a labour of love for director Steve McQueen, but there were occasions when I thought there was too much spoon-feeding and general, well, staring going on. Ejiofor has a very expressive face, but even he struggled with the interminable thirty-second long glares into the distance, which I think were supposed to illustrate Northup’s isolation, desolation and wonderment that such a thing was even happening to him. I’d much rather he’d been given more dialogue, or something else to help me empathise directly. At times, I wasn’t sure if McQueen was actually trying to tell Northup’s story, or wanted to bombard us with emotive tableaux that would convey everything by osmosis.

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If we’re talking basic acting, then the star was not Ejiofor, but Michael Fassbender as the psychotic, cotton farmer, Edwin Epps. Sarah Paulsen as his equally vicious wife was also spectacular. Special mentions go to Paul Dano whose small role as a bitter, cruel overseer ignited the screen, and Lupita Nyong’o, whose portrayal of sexually abused slave, Patsey, was truly heart-rending. Benedict Cumberbatch was totally miscast as a kindly landowner who may have treated Northup well, yet still didn’t hesitate to sell him to Epps, knowing what kind of life the slaves would face there, while Brad Pitt popped up near the end as the anti-slavery builder who ultimately saves Northup’s life and reunites him with his family.

The biggest bugbear, however, was the complete absence of any concept of time. Northup was supposed to be enslaved for 12 years, yet it only felt like he’d been captive for one summer. There was no indication of seasons changing, of anybody growing any older, of time moving forward, no matter how insufferable that time was. One minute, Northup is picking cotton in a field, the next he’s on his way back to New York.

Ultimately, I’d expected much greater things from this film, but ended up frustrated and disappointed. It had more of a mini-series feel about it, and it was almost as though McQueen realised halfway through that “oh, I don’t have enough running time to fit 12 years in, let’s just send him home”. But because the critics are falling over themselves (slavery, like AIDS, is a voting winner), I expect this to win big.

Verdict: It looks spectacular, but there are too many flaws for it to stay in the memory as long as it should do.

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nebraska

And now for something completely different. A road movie about a father and son trying to reconnect. It’s a simple premise that’s been done a hundred times, but this film really is such a gem, it would be a crime not to see it. Shot in black and white, it’s a mix of Woody Allen and the Coen Brothers, with exquisite performances all round. There’s an emotive soundtrack which really evokes the dust, motels, mountains and endless roads of the American MidWest, plus familiar themes of family estrangement, social awkwardness, the fear of getting old, and the beauty of fantasy, all intertwining to paint a quite marvellous portrait of broken dreams, hopeless ambitions and painful reality.

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Bruce Dern is flawless as Woody Grant, a cantankerous old curmudgeon, who is found wandering on a Montana freeway, hellbent on walking the 800 miles to Lincoln, Nebraska, to pick up the winnings from a million dollar ‘lottery ticket’. Woody is collected from the police station by his long-suffering son, the tired and newly-separated David (Will Forte), who tries to tell his father that the ‘lottery ticket’ is simply a magazine subscription scam and not real. Refusing to believe him, Woody, takes off again, much to the consternation of his opinionated wife, Kate (June Squibb), who has spent the whole of their married life telling Woody how useless he is.

Knowing his father is only going to keep disappearing, David talks to his older brother Ross (Bob Odenkirk) – a local news anchor – and agrees to drive their father to Lincoln, to prove that the ticket is not real. On the way, David and Woody stop at Woody’s childhood home in Hawthorne, where they stay with Woody’s brother and his dysfunctional family. Despite David’s warning to his father to keep quiet about the ‘lottery ticket’, Woody lets slip that he is a millionaire, and it isn’t long before all his old ‘friends’ come out of the woodwork, trying to milk money out of the old man.

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Among them is Woody’s old rival, Ed Pegram (the superb Stacy Keach), who accuses Woody of owing him thousands of dollars. David finds himself having to protect his father not just from Pegram, but his own extended family, all of whom want a piece of the ‘fortune’. As David gets to know a bit more about his dad’s life in Hawthorne, their estrangement begins to thaw, and bridges are built. Kate and Ross also come to Hawthorne, where Kate joyfully  tells Woody’s greedy family to “go f**k themselves” (and we also realise how much Kate actually does love Woody), before David and Woody finally make it to Lincoln, where Woody is indeed told that there is no money.

The film is primarily about family relationships, and the hardships of getting old. Dern’s performance is outstanding, providing yet more heavy competition in the Best Actor category. Will Forte – better known for his comic roles –  is a revelation as the harassed son, and it’s a huge injustice that he wasn’t even nominated for Best Supporting Actor, especially when you see the others who have. But it’s 84-year old June Squibb as potty-mouthed Kate Grant, who steals the show. She’s hilarious and touching in equal measure. She’s up for Best Supporting Actress – deservedly so – but I doubt she’ll win.

Verdict: A sublime film, storytelling in its purest form. Both painful and heartwarming, it’s the oldies showing us how it’s done.

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wolf

From the sublime, to the downright ridiculous. Let’s get one thing out of the way. If Martin Scorsese had not directed this film, it would have been in the bargain bin at Blockbuster two weeks after release. Words cannot express how much I hated this film, and here’s why.

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Based on the true story of fraudulent American stockbroker, Jordan Belfort, the film is a three-hour tribute to everything that was wrong about 1990s capitalism. Belfort was an arrogant, smooth-tongued slimeball who engaged in securities fraud on Wall Street in the years following the 1987 stock market crash. Basically, Belfort and his ‘mates’ conned hundreds of people out of their life savings, in order to make themselves rich, whilst lording it up in fancy yachts, monstrous mansions, barrels of cocaine and a phone directory of prostitutes. He treated everyone around him like s**t – especially women – and had a face you want to punch until it explodes. Think Gordon Gekko on speed, but without any of Gekko’s charisma or talent.

When Belfort was eventually arrested and jailed, he decided to write his memoirs about what a clever little cretin he was (nobody got their money back, by the way),  which went on to become an international bestseller. Fast forward a few years, Belfort gets out of jail and – get this – he becomes a motivational speaker, earning thousands of dollars to stand on a podium and tell a room full of fawning idiots how great it is to be the spawn of Satan.

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As if that isn’t enough, Leonardo DiCaprio buys up the rights to Belfort’s story, for $1m, and drags Martin Scorsese onboard to direct the movie that “everyone wants to see” (people are still waiting for their money, by the way). Belfort does a press tour for his book, charging journos for the privilege of interviewing him, and trying to convince the rest of the sane world that he’s a changed man and he’s ‘sorry’ for what he’s done. So quite why anyone would want to make a film about this odious little man, is beyond me. Oh wait, there’s Leonardo DiCaprio.

So, to the actual film. Even if I were objective about the subject matter, which I’m plainly not, there is so much to dislike about this movie, it’s hard to know where to start, so I’ll just reel it off in a stream of consciousness and see what happens.

Firstly, Leonardo DiCaprio can’t act. Ever. OK, I’ll give him Gilbert Grape but, seriously, he has to be the most overrated actor of his generation. But he doesn’t need to act for this film, he’s just being himself after all. There is scene after scene of him shagging random women, snorting cocaine, shouting a lot and staring with those wild eyes of his as he swans about being a twat. I think we are supposed to “go along for the ride” as Jordan Belfort cuts a swathe through Wall Street, wheeling and dealing and shafting everybody and everything he comes across. He ditches his ordinary wife and takes up with a blonde bimbo played by Margot Robbie who, I have to say, has gone so far down in my estimations for even doing this film, I don’t want to ever see her again.

Yes, there is a lot of sex, a LOT, and even more drug-taking, which actually gets boring each time it happens. But it’s not that there’s sex and drugs – I have no morals to moralise with –  it’s that it’s pointless sex and drugs. If you’re going to show it, have a reason for it. Sure, Belfort’s world was a world of excess, where anything went and it usually did. But after watching the 694th line of coke being cut on a mirror with a razor blade, I was ready to reach into the screen and use said razor blade to slit my own wrists with.

Margot Robbie’s entirely gratuitous masturbation scene was cringeworthy and utterly devoid of anything resembling erotica. Even with the story setting, all that scene actually does is stereotype her – and I mean her as an actress, not the character –  as a sex object. Robbie might kid herself that she was just acting according to the personality of the character, but that’s rubbish, and she knows it. She’s willingly contributed to one of the most misogynistic films I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen a few), on the pretext of something like “oh, but we’re just showing you what happened…”). But I doubt Ms Robbie cares, now that her asking price is now ten times what it was when she was doing that crap called Pan-Am.

With the minor exception of Jonah Hill’s amusing American idiot, Donnie Azoff, there wasn’t a single character to like or care about in this film – not one. Not even Joanna Lumley, who popped up as Robbie’s English aunt (complete with red London bus and the Houses of Parliament in the background to emphasise SHE’S ENGLISH…yawn). So without any characters to give a toss about, it was hard to give a toss about any of it. Even anti heroes should have charisma, something to make us want to know what happens to them. It’s a filmmaker’s biggest crime to give us characters we’re ambivalent about. Make us feel something.

The real 'Wolf': SLAP!

The real ‘Wolf’: SLAP!

Knowing the story, I at least expected the film to play out the natural justice angle – to show us Belfort getting jailed, to show us he got his comeuppance, to show us that being such a jumped up little s**t does not always lead to nirvana. Instead, Scorsese chose to gloss over the actual capture part, and we jumped straight to present day, with Belfort about to go onstage to present one of his motivational seminars. At which point the film ends. Those are three hours (yes, I know…) that I CAN’T GET BACK!

And just for one final twist of the knife, the real Jordan Belfort even gets a cameo role as the guy who introduces Leonardo DiCaprio onto the stage. If you manage to sit through it, watch out for him, and tell me that’s not a face you want to punch until it explodes.

Verdict: Scorsese’s worst hour. A terrible film that actually makes me want to kill the people responsible.

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captin

After watching Leonardo DiCraprio, it’s almost a relief to sit down to ever-dependable Tom Hanks. He’s no great actor, but at least you know what you’re going to get (ask Forrest). Another true story, this time it’s the hijacking of the Maersk Alabama cargo ship off the Somalian coast in 2009. See, a proper pirate movie.  I don’t need to say much about this, except Hanks is capable and the story is suitably and impressively dramatic and taut in equal measure. The rest of Captain Phillips’ crew don’t say or do much (some of them don’t do or say anything), but maybe the budget ran out after they hired those warships and drones to come to the rescue.

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What does need to be highlighted, is the astonishing performance of Barkhad Abdi as Somali pirate chief, Abduwali Muse. He looks terrifying, and his acting was an authentic mix of natural hesitations (many of the scenes between him and Hanks looked and sounded improvised) and perfectly timed threats. I couldn’t take my eyes off him, and the menace which pervaded the film was largely down to Abdi’s presence. In fact, the whole pirate ensemble were superb, I absolutely believed their malevolence, as well as empathising with the reasons they led the lifestyle they did.

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If you remove the  occasional line of dialogue cheese, and the  stock American heroism (only the SEALs could have saved the day, and the UK were rubbish when asked for help, obviously), then Captain Phillips is a pretty good thriller.

Verdict: What Hanks does for breakfast, lunch and dinner, every day of the week.

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philomena

Good to see a fair mix of films up for the Best Picture Oscar. I’ll mention the one, glaring omission from the list, later – an  absolute travesty, by the way. In the meantime, meet Philomena. She’s a sweet, elderly Irishwoman who is persuaded by her daughter to tell a journalist about the trauma of having to give up her baby boy for adoption, when she became pregnant out of wedlock in 1950s Ireland. We flash between present and past as we follow young Philomena’s tragic tale – giving birth, having to slave away in an Irish laundry for four years to ‘pay’ for her stay there after giving birth, the heartache of finding out her child has been given away…..then we follow Philomena’s searches for her son, which takes her to America.

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Peerless as ever, Judi Dench, as Philomena, tugs at our heartstrings and we believe every line on her face, every squint, every quivering lip and glistening tear that wells in her eyes as she recounts her tale. Steve Coogan is good enough as ex-BBC journo Martin Sixsmith (remember him?), but he’s still ‘being Steve Coogan’, complete with one-liners even Partridge would be proud of (well he did co-write the screenplay, which is also nominated).  A bit like Russell Brand, Coogan can be a bit Marmitey, and there were times when I wanted him to stop being Coogan and start being Sixsmith.

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There are a plethora of Catholic-bashing films out there (this one reminded me of The Magdelene Sisters), and at times I did feel like the ‘Baddie Nuns’ were a little bit cliched and I’d seen all of it before. But the film always managed to save itself at the last minute from becoming too drenched in pathos. The most satisfying parts, were seeing Philomena meet with those who knew and loved her son (he’d ended up being adopted by a wealthy American family, but had died of an AIDS-related illness several years before). Although a tragic end to Philomena’s search, it was not a downbeat ending, far from it. The theme of forgiveness which was always going to be the denouement, didn’t feel as twee as I’d imagined.

This isn’t going to win the ‘big one’, but it’s an encouraging nod towards those films at the lower end of the Hollywood budget.

Verdict: Typical Irish heartpuller with a failsafe sprinkling of Dench magic dust.

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her

We end on the token ‘kooky’ entry; a Spike Jonze film which has really divided critics (for a change). Some call it “sweet and soulful”, others call it “indulgent egotism”. Me, well it made me smile and I could empathise with a lot of it, but it wasn’t ‘amazing’, just something a bit of the wall and different. Which is OK. I’m just not sure what marks this ‘quirky’ film different from any other ‘quirky film’ of last year.

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Set in 2025, Theodore Twombley (Joaquin Phoenix) is a lonely soul, separated from his wife Catherine (Rooney Mara). He works as a virtual letter writer for a company whose clients are unable to find the words they wish to express. After reading the client’s brief, Theodore speaks into a computer, the computer prints off the letter in the authentic-looking handwriting of the client, and the letter’s posted off, with the recipient none the wiser.

Sick of feeling lonely, Theodore tries to find replacement company with a talking computer called Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), to whom he tells all his dark thoughts, fears, hopes and secrets. Through Samantha, Theodore gets the confidence to go on a blind date organised by his best friend, Amy (Amy Adams), but it doesn’t work out and Theodore continues to confide in the virtual Samantha.

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It’s obvious he’s falling in love with the computerised Samantha, and so she arranges to simulate herself through a sex surrogate – Isabella –  so she and Theodore can be intimate. At the same time, Amy leaves her bullying husband, and becomes ‘close’ to the virtual operating system her husband left behind on his computer. Ex-wife Catherine is horrified when she finds out Theodore is having a relationship with a computer, and tells him how inadequate he must be if he can only feel comfortable with a machine, not a human. Theodore then rejects Samantha/Isabella, embarrassed by Catherine’s words, but then tries to reconcile, unaware that Samantha has already begun a virtual relationship with another computer. Theodore then finds out that Samantha, and all computers like her, have thousands of relationships on the go, and that they have now evolved beyond humans. Theodore lets her Samantha go, and he and Amy meet to discuss their respective failed human relationships.

Yes, it’s all very weird, but the issues are the same – love, relationships, intimacy (or fear of it), and self-discovery. But it doesn’t explain why this is up for Best Picture. It’s a lovely film, but ‘lovely’ doesn’t win Oscars, does it?

Verdict: Quirky, red-splashed weirdness, a great date movie, but only if you see it with someone as strange as you.

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august2

And the Oscar for “Glaring Omission From A Best Picture Nominations List” goes to….August: Osage County, a simply breathtaking film, full of acting powerhouses, in a story of family angst, tragedy, forbidden love, sultry heat and utterly absorbing drama. For it not to be nominated in the Best Picture category, is completely baffling.

Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts dominate a very high calibre cast in this adaptation of Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer-winning stageplay about a drug-addled matriarch who has driven all her children from their rural Oklahoma farmhouse, with her bullying and general nastiness. The grown-up children are forced to return to the fold years later when their father goes missing, setting the scene for many confrontations, home truths, skeletons escaping from various closets, and lots and lots of plate smashing.

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It’s wonderful, with some simply flawless acting masterclasses from Streep (as you’d expect) as the Mother from Hell, and Roberts as the headstrong daughter. It’s easily Roberts’ best role to date, and I really do hope she wins the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. Streep, too, is nominated, but the film itself is not, which is quite remarkable.

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The only complaint I have about this gem, is the woeful miscasting of Benedict Cumberbatch (again…) as an Oklahoma misfit, and Ewan McGregor as Roberts’ estranged husband. I fail to see why the casting directors thought actors as recognisable and physically unique as Cumberbatch and McGregor – who clearly are NOT American – could pass for MidWest yokels. Their accents are so bad, it nearly ruined the whole film for me. No need for it. Anyway, this film is the best I’ve seen in years, and I’m still at a loss as to why it’s not getting the plaudits, or publicity, it so clearly deserves.

PREDICTIONS:

So, to business. Of the six main categories, here is a list of what I think should  (S) win, versus what I think will (W) win.

BEST PICTURE:   Nebraska (S),  American Hustle (W)

BEST DIRECTOR:  Alfonso Cuaron (S),  David O.Russell (W)

BEST ACTOR:        Matthew McConnaughey (S),  Chiwetel Ejiofor   (W)

BEST ACTRESS:  Meryl Streep (S),  Cate Blanchett     (W)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:  Barkhad Abdi (S), Jared Leto (W)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:  Julia Roberts  (S), Julia Roberts (W)

Final note: If THE WOLF OF WALL STREET wins anything, I shall give up scriptwriting entirely, no joke. What would be the point in carrying on?

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One response to “The 86th Academy Awards Preview – And The Winner ISN’T….

  1. So you got 2 “should”s and 2 “woulds” out of 6, I think! More importantly, you don’t need togive up scriptwriting!

    Like

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