2016 Oscar Preview Part 1: Best Picture

Here we go again, time for all the back-slapping at an event which is becoming more rigged than Eurovision, but I still love it and can’t help spewing out a few pages of drivel about all the runners and riders, like it’s the Grand National or something.

I’m splitting this year’s preview into five parts: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. I didn’t have time to do Best Original Screenplay (booo) and I’m ditching Best Adapted Screenplay because, without reading the books those films are based on, I have no idea how well they’ve been adapted.

So if you fancy a flutter and you have absolutely nothing better to do, here’s my tuppence ha’penny worth…

WARNING!: SPOILERS, SPOILERS, SPOILERS!!

SPOTLIGHT

spotlight

A drama centred around the 2002 Boston paedophile priests scandal, which revealed the existence of systematic child abuse (and high-level cover-ups) within the global Catholic Church, Spotlight is a film which follows in the cinematic footsteps of other such celebrated exposes like All The President’s Men and JFK. Spotlight is the name of the investigative team of journalists at the Boston Globe newspaper who chipped away at the dirty surface of a story which turned out to be one of the biggest scandals of modern times.

The action revolves around the real-life investigative team led by Spotlight editor, Walter ‘Robby’ Robinson (Michael Keaton), with journalists Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), Matt Carroll (Brian D’Arcy James) and Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), overseen by the Globe’s overall editor, Marty Baron (Liev Scheiber, doing his ‘Boston thing’ again). It’s a good drama, as each of the team chase their own leads and slowly piece together a jigsaw of lies and abuse which, it quickly becomes apparent, is much, much bigger than anybody had anticipated.

Their investigation won them a Pulitzer Prize but, even though there’s no denying the drama of the subject matter, this is about the film itself. Is it a great movie? No, not really. It does its job and takes us on a worthy journey of exposing the bad guys and giving a valuable platform for the voices of victims to be heard, but there’s nothing about the film that a good documentary couldn’t have done, and I’m surprised it’s a ‘hot favourite’ to win the gong. I’m even more surprised that Rachel McAdams has a nomination for Best Supporting Actress, because she doesn’t do anything remotely remarkable at all. She says her lines, completes her character’s journey and is a capable, lone female foil to her colleagues, but Oscar-worthy? Sorry, nowhere close. But more on her in Part 5…

Mark Ruffalo, on the other hand, fully deserves his own nomination as he’s the only one who really stands out in a decent, solid, but ultimately underwhelming ensemble cast. Schreiber delivers a subtle turn as editor Baron (which makes him even more watchable) and Keaton capitalises on last year’s Birdman success with a good performance as crusader Robinson, but none of it is enough to elevate what I honestly think is just a mediocre film. But it ticks all the Oscar prerequisite boxes of worthiness, political correctness and moral crusading to ensure a high number of votes from an Academy too scared to ‘not’ vote for it.

7/10 – The front page doesn’t really need holding for this

THE REVENANT

I’ll try and keep this shorter than the film, but it’ll be difficult, there’s so much to say. It’s no secret that I’m not a Leonardo DiCaprio fan. Aside from the superb What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? (1993) which I still think was his finest hour, the thing with DiCaprio is that I always know I’m watching DiCaprio. It doesn’t matter what character he’s playing, he never manages to convince me that he’s anybody other than DiCaprio, stuck with his permanently-15-year-old face and those eyes which always look so angry. It’s the same with The Revenant.

Very loosely based on the true story of 19th century fur trapper and frontierman, Hugh Glass, who was (allegedly) attacked by a bear and left to die by his mates as they tried to flee a marauding band of nasty old Native Americans, it’s an epic drama of survival and revenge with minimal dialogue and a glorious gallery of sweeping panoramas and ethereal lighting (cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki is really good at his job…).

But what should, on paper, be a gripping tale of Man v Wilderness = Revenge, turns into the type of mess only Hollywood can manage. I mean, why would you stick to the amazing truth when you can ruin it all with made-up stuff? This is a true story, remember (although contemporary accounts of what happened were supposedly exaggerated), but it wasn’t exciting enough for Hollywood, was it? Apparently, a guy who survives a scrap with a pretty big bear, is abandoned by his campmates and then faces an epic 200-mile crawl across a desolate, unforgiving icy frontier with nothing but his wits, snow, roadkill and the desire for revenge to keep him alive, is too dull, so they had to throw in some extra heroics to spice things up a bit.

And so we have Leo getting up to all kinds of derring-do while trying not to die from some pretty serious injuries. He saves a Native American woman from being raped by some horrible Frenchies (part of a needless subplot); survives a breathless river ride over rapids whilst wearing a 10-ton bearskin which turns out to be surprisingly buoyant; and enjoys a brief friendship with a Pawnee Indian, if just to show us that not all Native Americans were murdering bastards (unlike the French, it seems). It’s silly, cliched tinkering like this which distracts from what could have been an incredible, but straightforward, tale, and they should have left well alone.

The highlights are actually when DiCaprio is nowhere to be seen. Tom Hardy as antagonist Fitzgerald – one of the fellas who abandons Glass to his surely-inevitable fate – is on deliciously wicked form, even if you can’t understand a word he’s saying. Fellow Brit, Will Poulter, is also a scene-stealer as the naive Bridger, who hates himself for turning his back on Glass. Both are great, but it’s almost like there are two films going on, and I was more interested in the Fitzgerald/Bridger one, than the Hugh Glass one.

There are two major problems with The Revenant: firstly, they over-dramatised a story that simply didn’t need it (woman in peril; Leo to the rescue; crazy river ride etc). They even changed the ending (I won’t spoil it entirely…) even though the truth would have made for a more powerful denouement.

“I’m suffering here, you know!” Yeah, you’re not the only one…

Secondly, it’s way too long at two and a half hours. Shave off forty minutes of cringeworthy cliches like the hallucination at the “church”, the twenty seven sunlight-through-the-clouds ‘God-moments’ (yawn) and the very, very annoying dead-wife-voice-echoes spurring Leo on every time he nearly gave up on life. God, I wish he had, and saved us an hour. With a $140m budget, however, I suppose they had to wring out as much material as possible to make all the ‘suffering’ worthwhile.

Oh yeah, the suffering, did you know about all the suffering? What do you mean you haven’t read about all the suffering in just about every interview Leo’s done in the last two months? OK, so the cast and crew went ‘through hell’ for their art; filming on location in truly miserable conditions, eating (and vomiting back up) real bison liver and all the other nasty bits and bobs, but it’s hard to feel any sympathy when they’re all earning a bloody fortune. But this isn’t I’m A Celebrity, and an audience doesn’t really care how you made the film, they just want to be entertained and absorbed by the end result.

During all this suffering, however, they forgot to make a great movie. Yes, it’s beautifully-shot and some of the special effects were truly incredible (the infamous bear scene is a masterpiece), but that doesn’t make up for the film’s biggest sin in that it’s, quite simply, dull for much of the time. As a National Geographic nature film it would win every award going, but this is not an Oscar-worthy movie, which pretty much guarantees that it’ll win everything it’s nominated for.

Oh, and can I just ask, how on earth did a man whose body and organs are supposed to be lacerated beyond repair, manage to expertly tailor a bearskin coat to his almost exact measurements while being battered by a snowstorm? Where did he get the needle, or the thread, or the means by which to cut up the bloody hide? Why, Hollywood, why? Oh I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep this short…

6/10 – Cinematic Nytol

ROOM

Adapted from Emma Donoghue’s 2010 Booker Prize-shortlisted novel (she also wrote the screenplay), Room is a drama about a 5-year old boy, Jack (Jacob Tremblay), and his mother, Joy (Brie Larson). Snatched from the street when she was 19 years old, Joy has been held captive in an outbuilding for seven years by the man she calls Old Nick – Jack being the product of one of the almost daily rapes she is subjected to. But despite the nature of his conception, Joy is dedicated to Jack, who gives her a reason to stay alive and hope that, one day, they will know freedom.

Having never seen or set foot in the outside world, the ‘Room’ is the only universe young Jack has ever known. They have an old TV but, to Jack, everything he sees on it is fabricated, even nature documentaries; the only reality being the four walls around him and what’s inside. Joy tries to stoke his imagination with story telling, and shields him from Old Nick’s attentions by hiding the boy in a wardrobe every time he comes around. So far, so depressing, right? Except it’s not, it’s actually quite uplifting, seeing how Joy manages to create a happy world for her son – the only way she can cope with her own tragedy.

The first half of the film is very claustrophobic, and deliberately so – Joy and Jack are the only two people we see as they get on with each day in their prison; Jack seeing wonder and goodness in almost everything, whether it’s watching the blue sky through the only (high up) window, getting washed in the filthy bathtub, doing stretches in the cramped 10ft x 10ft space, or making snakes out of strung-together eggshells. For Joy, it’s obviously a different story, as she struggles to keep her sanity while coping with her kidnapper’s daily assaults and also trying to keep Jack safe. It’s harrowing stuff so, when a miracle happens and Joy and Jack are rescued, it would be easy to think that their suffering is over but, for Jack at least, it’s only just beginning.

Watching him try and cope with a world he never even knew existed, from tiny things like never having seen stairs before, to having to wear a face mask because he simply has no immune system, is heartbreaking to watch. For Joy, too, freedom comes with a price, not least the discovery that her traumatised parents have long since divorced and her father cannot even look at little Jack without seeing his daughter’s rapist.

The book was inspired in part by the case of Josef Fritzl, the Austrian man who kept his own daughter captive for 24 years and fathered seven children by her. It’s disturbing, but this film isn’t really “about” the kidnap and imprisonment of Joy and Jack, it’s about nurturing, it’s about the redemptive power of love and it’s about the very nature of imprisonment, both physical and mental (after Joy and Jack are “freed”, their torment increases). Watching a confused and frightened Jack plead to be taken “back to Room” rather than stay in the spacious – but unfamiliar – house of his grandmother (with dozens of paparazzi camped outside), had me in actual tears, and that is not an easy thing to do to someone who laughed when Bambi died.

The success of this film 100% relies on the relationship between actors Larson and Tremblay, and it has to be said that, while Larson absolutely deserves her Best Actress nomination, it’s incredible that Jacob Tremblay has not been afforded the same recognition for what has to be the best performance by a (very) young actor since Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense. He is phenomenal, often uncomfortably so, because it’s just not normal for any 8-year old child actor to convince me he’s not just a child actor. It’s the Leo Factor all over again. But this lad, well, make the most of him because, in a few years time he’ll doubtless be hooked on heroin and falling out of Vegas brothels every other night. With Leonardo DiCaprio, probably.

9/10 – Not pretty but some of the best acting you’ll see this year

BROOKLYN

Another one-word title, this is a film about…well, yes, obviously. Anyway, based on the book by Ireland’s unofficial patron saint of literature, Colm Toibin, and adapted by Nick “High Fidelity” Hornby, it’s the tale of young Irish girl Eilis (pr. Ay-lish) Lacey, who emigrates from her sleepy Irish town to the dizzy heights of Brooklyn in search of a better job, better prospects, better life etc. It’s the 1950s, so for the first act we have lots of chocolate box Irish scenery, immaculately-pressed clothing, hairstyles which make women look thirty years older than they are and, of course, the prerequisite Catholic priests, matriarchs and small village gossips that we’ve seen a million times before.

When Eilis eventually gets on the boat, it’s another cliche-driven ten minutes of seasickness, (more) Irish-girl-naivety and wide-eyed wonder once she reaches the magical shores of New York, but at least this is where we get to meet Julie Walters, as the boarding house ‘mother’, and Jim Broadbent as the priest who facilitated Eilis’s passage.

The rest of the film concerns Eilis’s battles with severe homesickness and guilt as she settles into her new life, a life which doesn’t stop her copping off with a handsome, if insecure, Italian, Tony (Emory Cohen), who she secretly marries before her life suffers a further seismic shift when her beloved sister dies and she finds herself sailing back to Ireland. Once home, Eilis strikes up a friendship with local lad, Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson) and begins to question where her life is actually headed. It’s all very twee, formulaic and, if she was still alive, then Catherine Cookson could have some legitimate plagiarism, complaints. I haven’t read the book, not that it should matter, but even though I know you can’t mess with a story that has already been decided, John Crowley’s direction and Hornby’s script made it all feel just a little bit too Sunday-night-telly instead of Oscar-worthy feature film (it’s a BBC Films/Irish Film Board co-production, after all).

There’s nothing wrong with the film, as such, it’s just that I felt like I’d seen it so many times before. Tales of naive Irish people leaving tiny villages to move to New York, falling in love, making new lives, enduring a spot of drama, then finding some kind of inner peace in the very place they forgot to look all along, played out against a backdrop of fiddles, Catholics, cold winters and fumbled first-time sex…it’s just one long cliché, and no attempt was made to avoid it.

There was even a cloying Christmas scene with Eilis serving dinner to the Irish-American homeless while a scruffy navvy with an angelic voice sang a haunting Gaelic lilt as the snow fell gently on the streets outside. Maybe that exact scene was in the book, too, but it just felt contrived and, well, boring. Saiorse Ronan as Eilis is luminous, indeed there isn’t any actor who does a bad job with the material they’ve been given. But I’m genuinely surprised that Brooklyn is being lauded as one of the best films of the last five years, when there’s very little that sets it apart from the myriad other Irish immigrant films like Gangs of New York, In America, Angela’s Ashes etc. But the Americans love films about the Irish, it makes them feel as homesick as Eilis about a place they’ve never been to and never will go to, so maybe that’s why they’re all falling over themselves to throw awards at it.

7/10 – Punching way above its weight

BRIDGE OF SPIES

No, they haven’t made a rock opera about T’Pau’s marvellous 1987 album (pity). Instead, this is a Cold War epic (2.5 hours!) written by the Coens and Someone Else, and directed by Steven Spielberg. And it’s got Tom Hanks in it. So far, so Oscar. The story concerns the 1960 diplomatic crisis between the US and the Ruskies, when stupid American pilot Gary Powers got him and his naughty spy plane shot down over the Soviet Union. Despite his pre-mission orders to commit suicide should such an unfortunate event occur, Powers allows himself to be taken captive, thus causing a bit of a headache for President Roosevelt, who’s due to have peace talks with Krushchev in a fortnight’s time.

Hanks is the hero lawyer sent to negotiate for Powers’ release, using the US’s own captive, alleged Soviet spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), as a swapsie. As Donovan himself defended Abel during his trial years earlier, he is the natural negotiator. It’s classic John Le Carre territory, except it’s all real – well, the basics are real, but this is Hollywood, so a lot of liberties have been taken with the story (see The Revenant).

Being a Coens script, I expected some dark humor, which should have been a given in a film set in the Cold War. So I was surprised to find little irreverence but mountains of cliches instead, including a considerable spoonful of schmaltz, the likes of which the Coens, especially, would usually have a field day mocking. Hanks’ Donovan is a stand-up lawyer of Atticus Finch proportions who, even though he’s having to defend an alleged Russian spy, is determined to make sure Abel gets a fair trial. He is subsequently targeted by the ignorant general public, who take potshots at his house to protest at the Commie sympathiser living amongst them – cue a long Hanks stare past the camera which is obviously meant to tell us “Hey! I’m a democratic, fair-minded American and, by God, I’m going to show you what that means!”

Donovan also has a perfect family, which means he gets to have nice little chats about stuff like nuclear war and what it means to be honorable and open-minded about things we don’t know. Amy Ryan plays dutiful wife, Mary, and it’s she who’s the boss at home, which I guess was supposed to show us an ironic contrast between Donovan’s peerless diplomatic skills in tense, political situations, against his total ineffectiveness at home, where his kids don’t even notice when he’s around and his wife is forever scolding him about something.

That dynamic didn’t really work, though. The family scenes felt forced and contrived, like the film was being put together by numbers. Every cliché in the book is rolled out – Donovan being followed home by shadowy figures; tense verbal sparring between Donovan and his sinister counterpart over a glass of good Scotch; Donovan being stopped in Berlin to have his papers checked (will he get through??? Of course he will!!) etc etc. There’s also a scene where Donovan, on an overhead Berlin train, witnesses men being shot as they try to get over the newly-built Wall (this never happened to Donovan in real life). Obviously Donovan is horrified. Then, at the end of the film, back home, Donovan watches from another train as some kids playfully scale neighborhood fences – the contrast between Communism and Democracy, geddit! Duh. It’s spoonfeeding like this which really annoys an audience, and I expected better of the Coens, and Spielberg.

The best scenes are always those between Hanks and Rylance. I do like Hanks, even if he can be dull sometimes, but when Rylance is with him it’s like a chess match to see who can deliver the best line in the best way. They have a natural chemistry which is magnetic to watch, so it’s a shame we only get to see Rylance at the beginning and the end, with not much in between.

Overall, Bridge Of Spies is your standard Cold War spy drama, but not even the Coens could elevate it to something a bit more multi-layered. Sure, there are several tongue-in-cheek lines which, I’m assuming, are supposed to offset all the cliché, but the aim misses by miles. There’s one scene in particular which really irked – when Soviet negotiator Schischkin picks up the wrong ringing phone and smiles at Donovan in an almost Carry-On comedic way. Obviously some kind of Coen in-joke, it feels completely out of place, almost as though it’s a blooper which somehow made its way onto the final edit. Unfortunately, that final edit doesn’t deliver with the panache, style or sense of drama its makers made us expect.

Trivia: Gary Powers’plane was a U-2, and the girl playing Donovan’s daughter is Bono’s own daughter, Eve Hewson. Another Coen in-joke?

7/10 – The spy is still out in the cold

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

A big surprise for a Best Picture nom, as action films just don’t get nominated, despite the huge amount of skill and imagination which usually goes into making them. I’m not a big action film fan, myself, but there’s always a place for them, and I was a bit of a Mad Maxer back in the day, because of my teenage Mel Gibson obsession. Because of that, I was reluctant to watch this in case it ‘ruined’ the Mad Max world I was used to.

Happily, the film stands alone and you don’t need to know anything about the others to watch this one. I wasn’t sure what to expect, apart from the usual crash, bang, wallops and some unintelligible Dystopian dialogue. Ticks on all counts. But I was surprised at how absorbed I became, even if it took a good hour to get there. You know the story, because it’s the same as every other post-holocaust story: the world is a wasteland and survival is the only thing that matters. Water and other resources are scarce and whoever controls the water, controls the world, in this case Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne).

Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy), who is now alone having lost those close to him in the holocaust (and who carries the guilt of not being able to save them), is captured by Joe’s soldiers and used as a blood donor to feed Joe’s army of War Boys. Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), kidnapped as a child and trained by Joe to become one of his lieutenants, defects, taking with her five of Joe’s slave wives, with the intention of leading a new life in “The Green Place” – a lush paradise Furiosa remembers from her childhood. Escaping from the War Boys, Max joins forces with Furiosa to defeat Joe and end his tyranny.

Basically, Fury Road is one long action sequence, with sparse dialogue, yet it still manages to weave a story that takes you along with it. Although the set pieces are undeniably impressive (and I didn’t even see it in 3D), I did find them tiresome, too. Seen one multi-vehicle pile-up, seen ’em all. Also, this isn’t actually Mad Max’s film, it’s Furiosa’s, she’s definitely the lead character, it’s her story, her journey, and Max is only a supporting role. In fact, it’s an all round feminist flick – it’s the women who consistently kick ass, usually with clever forward thinking as opposed to strength and firepower, while the fellas do their best to keep up.

I’m not sure whether a Best Picture nomination is merited (although you can’t deny them the other categories it’s up for), strengthened by the fact there are no acting nods – unusual, as one usually triggers the other – but then again I’m disappointed by the general quality of the films which have been nominated anyway. Some of those which made the longlist but not the shortlist were infinitely better movies.

Mad Max: Fury Road was a rollercoaster two hours of entertainment, but not sure it’s as laudable as everyone else seems to want to make out.

7/10 – Overhyped to the Max

THE MARTIAN

An adaptation of Andy Weir’s bestseller, The Martian concerns the desperate attempt by stranded astronaut, Mark Watney (Matt Damon), to survive alone on Mars for A Very Long Time while NASA attempt to get him back. On the original mission, Watney and his fellow astronauts from Ares III are caught in a fierce storm, during which Watney goes missing, all indications suggesting he has perished. Commander Melissa Lowe (Jessica Chastain) then has to make the difficult decision to leave Watney’s body behind as she tries to save the rest of the crew by hot-footing it out of there.

After an outpouring of grief back on Planet Earth, it’s only when the Mars mission director Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) notices satellite movement at the Mars base camp, that he realises Watney is alive and NASA launch a rescue attempt. However, they don’t tell the other returning astronauts (whose flight back is scheduled to take over a year), fearing it will jeopardise their concentration. When the crew do find out, thanks to some benign interfering by Ares III boss, Mitch Henderson (Sean Bean, whose dialogue was probably subtitled in US cinemas…), Lewis and her crew are unanimous in their decision to turn the ship around and go back for their buddy.

Meanwhile, on Mars, Watney (the crew’s botanist) spends his days rigging up ingenious rudimentary equipment to allow him to grow potatoes and expand his food supply. He does this while listening to Lewis’s stock of disco music (which is very funny) and recording a daily video log. He manages to establish regular contact with Earth, who guide him on the final preparations for his rescue, over 15 months later.

It’s basic “lost in space” fare, but of course the underlying themes are nothing to do with space, or Mars, or growing potatoes, but about the strength of the human spirit, the basic survival DNA we all possess and, most importantly, the fact that NASA astronauts never leave one of their own behind (except when they did…).

I wasn’t expecting to like this, as it’s not my “thing”, and I haven’t read the book either, but despite the usual, cliché-ridden space-disaster run-up, once Watney was left alone to fend for himself, it actually got very interesting. It’s kind of changed my opinion on Matt Damon, too, as I’ve previously considered him a pretty overrated, just middle of the road, dependable actor, but really nothing special. To hold a film almost solo for such a long time, though, was impressive, and the wry humour he injected into Watney was clever and moreish.

For some reason, this film was categorised as a “musical or comedy” when it came to the Golden Globe awards (who separate films according to genre). I can only think that this was done to give Damon a better a chance of winning a Best Actor award (which he did). Had the film been entered as a drama, which it should have been, then he’d have been up against Leo and Eddie, and the producers obviously didn’t fancy their chances. Yes, there are funny bits, but The Martian is not a comedy.

That anomaly aside, The Martian deserves all its plaudits, and Ridley Scott is obviously back on form after some dodgy recent offerings, Prometheus especially (sorry, Lee…). In fact, you could have taken all the NASA and buddy stuff out completely and just been hooked on Watney vs Mars for another hour, at least.

8.5/10 – Mars attacks

THE BIG SHORT

I know nothing about finance, ask my bank manager. So a comedy-drama about something as serious and obliterating as the global financial meltdown of 2007-08 wasn’t something that was drawing me to the cinema. Fortunately, you don’t need to be Bernie Madoff to follow the action, and the result is an absorbing, and very hilarious, satire on the arrogance of bankers and the pitfalls of engineered capitalism.

The very brief synopsis is: American mortgage lenders were giving money to homeowners who they knew could not keep up repayments. They spread these mortgages across millions of bonds which, on the surface, were valuable (triple-A rated), and which investors were happy to buy up, because the property market was, supposedly, one of those bankable things which would never fail. ‘Hiding’ the growing number of unstable mortgages inside the bonds (there are hundreds of thousands of mortgages which make up one bond), is illegal, but the arrogance of the industry means that those actively doing this are flying under the radar.

In 2005, a slightly loopy hedge fund manager called Michael Burry (Christian Bale), realises what’s happening and begins betting against these bonds (called ‘shorting’, hence the title). Word inadvertently gets out to a few other traders like the cynical Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) and also-slightly-crazy Mark Baum (Steve Carrell), who also begin throwing large amounts of money into the big short. The big banks laugh these guys out of every meeting, but still take the trades, arrogantly assuming that it’s easy money because nothing at all is ever going to happen to hurt the property market in the US.

The inevitable eventually happens and, as millions of homeowners begin defaulting on their mortgages, the credit bubble bursts and global hell breaks loose. Burry et al end up making billions of dollars (albeit they don’t feel good about it) while the banks go bust, thousands are laid off, millions of Americans lose their homes (and jobs) and yet the bankers responsible for the collapse all walk away scott-free. Sound familiar?

It’s a brilliant film, brilliantly made and has a great small role for an unrecognisable Brad Pitt (who produced it). I didn’t understand a lot of it but, knowing this, the script breaks the fourth wall and throws in a lot of tongue-in-cheek asides to camera, to explain some of the more complicated banking jargon. Example – Ryan Gosling’s character, Vennett, is trying to tell us about some background to what’s happening, but instead just says “OK, so here’s Margot Robbie naked in a bathtub to explain sub-prime loans….” Another celebrity cameo is “international pop star” Selena Gomez sitting at a casino table to explain to us what “collateralized debt obligations” are.

It’s irreverent, stylish, fast-paced and very, very funny, almost Tarantino-esque in some of the snappy dialogue that just flows along so seamlessly, it’s almost improvised. Bale is great as the real-life Burry, a borderline Asperger-genius who works barefoot in jeans and t shirt as he plays with other people’s money, but the comedy standout is actually Steve Carell as the highly strung Baum. He’s just hilarious in every scene, and it really should have been him who got the Best Supporting Actor nod, ahead of Bale.

Out of all the Best Picture nominees, only this and Room actually deserve to be on the stage, but everyone keeps telling us this is the Year of The Revenant. The BAFTAs will be a good indication as to where awards are likely to go, but if there’s any justice (which is a stupid hope to have), then The Big Short should win.

9.5/10 – Dazzling but don’t bet on it to win

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