Garry Gillard > Australasian Cinema > awards > Oscars 2016

Oscars 2016


Spotlight (Tom McCarthy, 2015) prod. Michael Sugar, Steve Golin, Nicole Rocklin, Blye Pagon Faust
I've never thought until now of the possibility of a work of art being efficient. I sat down to watch Spotlight (Tom McCarthy, 2015) without expectations, not being interested in the story, knowing only that the film won the Best Film Oscar in 2016. Two hours later, I knew all about the Boston Globe's exposure of child molestation within the Catholic church. It was a painless experience – but not one of reverence: I had merely seen a job done very well. There was nothing that I noticed that was remarkable in any of craft areas, including, for this argument, acting. I am surprised that both Ruffalo and McAdams won awards. I think that she is to be praised for not over-acting – but that's not quite the same thing as, um, acting. And Ruffalo is a bit too quirky, with some annoying mannerisms that reminded me a bit of Brando. In fact, that was the only distraction from this docudrama getting its story across effectively, and he should have been penalised rather than rewarded.

Other Nominees

The Big Short (Adam McKay, 2015) from the book by Michael Lewis, based on events in 2007 prior to the GFC; prod. Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner
The film I saw most previously that was like this in being based on true events (and real people, in this case) was Spotlight, which, like this, was also an enjoyable tour through unfamiliar territory that I thought at the outset would be of little interest. But whereas the newspaper film was a straightforward, well-constructed drama, this one uses some tricks to maintain interest, tricks like characters' addresses to camera, real-life montages, and even using real people (who are not characters in the film) giving mini-lectures on economic topics. It even manages to be humorous, while dealing with serious matters. The two hours flew by, again.
Both films have an axe to grind - as documentaries often do (tho these films are not). Both end with cards - printed epilogues which point out that the situations they reveal are still current problems. Spotlight gives a long list of court actions against the Catholic church. The Big Short points out that all the big financial players - the banks and so on - came out of the GFC completely unscathed, and are still engaged in dodgy practices like sub-prime mortgages. The news this very morning (3 March 2017) on the Australian national broadcaster was partly concerned with the current housing bubble, particularly in Sydney.

Bridge of Spies (Steven Spielberg, 2015) prod. Steven Spielberg, Marc Platt and Kristie Macosko Krieger
This has a pretty bad title. It's referring (pointlessly) to the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, as well as the historical Glieneke Bridge in Berlin which formed part of the border between East and West Germany, and was used more than once for the exchange of spies, as historically reconstructed here. Berlin's Tempelhof airport is also seen. The film goes to much trouble to get some things right, as this is a dramadoc - a name I've just thought of for a dramatised documentary, a fictionalised version of a piece of history - but it's also knowingly makes things up. Tom Hanks's character Jim has to look out of the train - the S-Bahn - to see people getting shot attempting to scale the Berlin Wall. This is required for a constrasting shot: when back in the US of A he looks out of another train down onto a street where citizens are peacefully going about their daily business unencumbered by walls. Jim Donovan never saw the first view, but Spielberg or his writers (who included the Coen brothers) wanted this rather naive conflation. They also wanted Donovan (and his family) to be seen to suffer a bit more than they actually did.
My big revelation was an actor called Mark Rylance (not his real name). I have somehow got through a long life without ever coming across this wonderful thesp. His performance in this won the film's only Oscar - deservedly. I saw a bit of the next Spielberg/Rylance film, The BFG (2016), but in hospital, when I wasn't able to give it my full attention due to recent anaesthetisation. It looked pretty bad, so I must have been out of it.

Brooklyn (John Crowley, 2015) prod. Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey; Siaorse Ronan
Such a simple, pleasant story. This is my favourite kind of story, the family drama, and this is an outstanding example of the genre.

Mad Max: Fury Road
Doug Mitchell and Dr George Miller, Producers

The Martian (Ridley Scott, 2015) prod. Simon Kinberg, Ridley Scott, Michael Schaefer, Mark Huffam; Matt Damon
This is a science-y film which apparently gets some of the science wrong - tho prolly not the idea that you can grow potatoes using your own excrement as fertiliser - the highlight of this rather tedious film, in which Matt Damon is a bit too bright-and-breezy for someone trapped in planetary isolation.
Is there a 'Robinson Crusoe' genre? I'm thinking, as well as this one, of films like Moon (Duncan Jones, 2009) and Cast Away (Robert Zemeckis, 2000): there must be lots more.

The Revenant (Alejandro G. Iñárritu, 2015) prod. Arnon Milchan, Steve Golin, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Mary Parent, Keith Redmon; Leonardo DiCaprio; suffering and more suffering and more ...

Room (Lenny Abrahamson, 2015) prod. Ed Guiney
Emma Donoghue wrote the novel and also the screenplay - with a lot of help from director Lenny Abrahamson, I suspect, not to mention the actors. Brie Larson plays Joy, the mother who was locked in the room at the age of 17, and Jacob Tremblay plays her 5-yr-old son Jack.
An ideal premise for a novel, I would have thought, with a limited range of elements to manipulate, and some interesting choices as to developments. I didn't think the film version really got to grips with what it might be like to be a 24-yr-old mother and 5-yr-old suddenly plunged into the real world. I was ready for it to be much more stressful and dramatic than Abrahamson seemed to think it would be. I wouldn't go as far as the critic who wrote that it is 'a cowardly film about brave people', but I didn't see this movie taking a lot of risks.
William Macy's brief appearance as Joy's father seemed out of place - in a good way. He was the only actor who seemed to me to want to become really involved in the potential traumas, as a man who cannot accept what has happened to his daughter.
I have been fascinated with this situation (a child isolated from society) since I saw Werner Herzog's film about the Kaspar Hauser story. I'm going to watch Truffaut's Wild Child as soon as the DVD arrives. I hope there will some interest in comparing the films.