Spotlight – Tom McCarthy

Spotlight starring Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, and Rachel McAdams. Photo Credit: Kerry Hayes

Spotlight starring Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, and Rachel McAdams.
Photo Credit: Kerry Hayes

At this point most if us know the sex abuse stories, about priests taking advantage of young, scared, impressionable children. It’s both disgusting and shocking and not really something we want to think about. Spotlight puts you at the front of the initial investigation by The Boston Globe that brought the news of this terrible cover-up by the Catholic Church to light in the early 2000’s. The investigative team for the Globe, called “Spotlight” earned the paper a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in  2003. One can only imagine how disturbing this information would have been to come across, especially knowing that the evidence and accusations against the Catholic Church had been around for decades. Spotlight introduces you to the team that was dedicated to uncovering the story and what they went through emotionally trying to piece it all together. The result is a disturbing, yet professional, film that honours the investigators and doesn’t glorify anything. It never undermines the importance of the truth and its responsibility to the audience. It’s no mistake that Spotlight has walked away with six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay.

Just as the investigative team works together and no one tries to outshine the other, the cast of Spotlight is so well-balanced that it’s difficult to say whose performance was better because they were all gripping. However, both Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers, Foxcatcher) and Rachel McAdams (Southpaw, About Time) showed the most emotional range and both have been nominated for Best Supporting Actor Oscars.  Michael Keaton, who received his first Oscar nomination for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) last year is great as the veteran manager of the “Spotlight” team who just wants to “get it right”. Liev Schreiber (Salt, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) deserves some credit for his wonderful (and underplayed) portrayal of the outsider who has just stepped in as editor of The Boston Globe; he doesn’t say much, but his direct delivery can be quite amusing. Finally, Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games, Julie & Julia, The Lovely Bones) is perfection as the untrusting, but dedicated lawyer just trying to do the right thing no matter the cost.

Despite its heavy topic, Spotlight isn’t without humour; but it is completely appropriate and timed just right to help lighten the mood when it is most needed. The ending is not comforting, nor should it be, but you are left satisfied that the journalists did their jobs and that they did it right. The history of the abuse was finally public knowledge that could not, and would not, be ignored any longer.

What actor-turned-director Tom McCarthy (now with 3 Oscar nominations) has done here should be admired. Many would think it a big risk to make a movie about this delicate topic. Spotlight was perfectly unshowy and remained sensitive to the material, all while keeping the audience absorbed in the characters and their main goal. The final punch, the statistics surrounding the sex abuse, will leave you shaking your head and demanding justice. It’s exactly the reaction you should have. Spotlight has done its job.

Spotlight had a limited released in the USA and Canada in November 2015. It has been released in most other countries since January/February 2016.

Update: Spotlight won the Academy Award for BEST PICTURE

Watch the trailer here:

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The Revenant – Alejandro G. Iñárritu

The Revenant starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy. Photo Credit: Everett/Rex/Shutterstock

The Revenant starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, and Domhnall Gleeson.
Photo Credit: Everett/Rex/Shutterstock

This is a movie about pain – mental and physical pain.  Leonardo DiCaprio will make you feel every bit of suffering endured by his character, Hugh Glass, in The Revenant, Alejandro Iñárritu‘s latest 156 min tour de force. If gore and death make you at all squeamish, this is not the movie for you. Arrows cutting through flesh, burning bodies, claws ripping through skin and crushing bone, the disembowelment of a horse, these are just a few things that might turn a lot of people off. But if you can handle it, you’re in for a film experience that doesn’t come around very often.

Fresh off of his Best Picture and Best Director win at the Oscars last year for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Alejandro Iñárritu has directed and written yet another masterpiece, although arguably less, shall we say, odd. The Revenant takes place in the early 19th century American wilderness and tells the (embellished) true story of Hugh Glass, a renowned fur-trapper who was left for dead by the men he was guiding after he was viciously mauled by a bear. The majority of the movie is watching him struggle to survive and watching him try to make his way back to the camp to face the man who ultimately made the decision to leave him (Tom Hardy).

From the group’s first ambush by natives, it’s clear that there will be a significant amount of violence throughout the movie. The scene with the bear is by far the most gruesome and realistic attack by a wild animal ever to be shown on screen; it just proves that there is absolutely no holding back in The Revenant. The horror stories from the set, from the freezing temperatures to the struggles to find the right setting and only being able to shoot an hour a day in order to get the ideal natural lighting, shows the director’s passion and desire to get things perfect. Whether or not you can stomach the brutal violence, there is no denying the fact that it is a visually stunning film. It’s as real as it’s going to get for a movie filmed in this age of technology.

There are incredibly strong performances in The Revenant, led of course by Leonardo DiCaprio in one of his most outstanding immersions into a character to date. This is what acting is. Every moment is a struggle for Hugh Glass and Leo makes sure the audience struggles with him every step of the way. Even though they aren’t getting as much credit as Leo, Tom Hardy and Domhnall Gleeson are just as convincing, albeit with smaller roles (Tom Hardy also has a nomination for Best Supporting Actor). For a movie just over 2.5 hours, there isn’t much dialogue (especially for Leo) but nature and the subtle soundtrack play such strong parts that it doesn’t really matter. What Alejandro Iñárritu has done with this film is nothing short of spectacular. To get the audience to actually feel cold (and a little sore) when leaving the theatre is not an easy feat, and he certainly did his job with the help of the cast.

Nominated for 12 (of 14) Oscars, The Revenant will certainly walk away with a number of wins on February 29th – and it would be an utter travesty if Leonardo DiCaprio did not win Best Actor.

The Revenant saw a limited release in the U.S. at the end of December 2015 and has had a steady theatrical rollout from January 2016 through to the end of February 2016.

Update: The Revenant won Academy Awards for BEST ACTOR, BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY,  and BEST DIRECTOR

Water the official trailer here:

The Big Short – Adam McKay

The Big Short starring Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt.

The Big Short starring Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt.
Photo Credit: Jaap Buitendijk / Paramount Pictures

Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt. Could you ask for a better cast? If the answer is yes, then add Marisa Tomei, Melissa Leo,  Hamish Linklater, and Jeremy Strong and you’ve got The Big Short.  Between six of the lead actors, there are 6 Oscars and 9 Oscar nominations, so it’s not surprising that this movie has already done very well. We’re well into awards season now, and although The Big Short did not walk away a winner, it was nominated for 4 Golden Globes in the two male acting categories, adapted screenplay, and best picture. It still has another chance in late February with its 5 Academy Award nominations (Editing, Screenplay, Actor, Directing, and Best Picture).

This movie takes a very complex topic – the 2008 financial crisis – and attempts to explain it in a way that the average adult can understand. There are so many moving parts and economics isn’t everyone’s strong suit, so it does it’s best (complete with various celebrities trying to dumb it down for us) and mostly succeeds.  Regardless of whether you understand all the intricacies and terminology or not, you’ll still walk away from it feeling sick and cheated – and that’s the whole point.

The movie is centralized around three different groups of men who notice something no one else did – that the U.S housing market was built on a bubble, and that bubble was going to burst. Michael Burry, the one guy who discovered it all is played by Christian Bale. His quick actions sparked the interest of the other teams, who quickly began doing their own investigations. These teams included FrontPoint Partners, lead by Mark Baum (an amazing performance by Steve Carell) and two young guys with a hedge fund start up. They all go about finding a way to make money off of the greed, corruption, and general stupidity of the banks – they bet against the housing market.

The Big Short is filmed in a bit of a quirky way that may annoy you in the first 10 minutes but you’ll quickly get over it and later recognize it for its brilliance. It’s like you’re watching real life unfold in front of you, except you know what’s going to happen. Quick flashes of real images and video serve as a reminder of how things changed so quickly. The script is nothing short of genius and the dialogue is quick-witted and blunt. The fourth wall is broken a number of times, but it works in every case and doesn’t affect the fluidity of the film, in fact, it makes it more real. Steve Carell outshines everyone else and it is likely one of the best performances of his career to date. Unfortunately his performance was not acknowledged by The Academy and Christian Bale was nominated for Best Actor instead. He won’t win, but it’s still a nice nod in his direction. Considering Adam McKay’s previous claims to fame included Anchorman and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, the Best Director nomination is a big step in the right direction for him.

It’s definitely worth a watch, but the target audience for this movie is likely 25+… make that 40+ in order to really identify with what the collapse of the U.S. housing market did to the world. The younger generations will find the fast dialogue amusing, the topic informative, and the forecast for the future slightly troubling, but they won’t have the same appreciation for the utter stupidity that ended up costing tons of people their jobs and their life savings.

The Big Short is still playing in some theatres but is mostly gone from the rotation. It still managed to pull in over $100M (worldwide) since its release in December 2015.

Watch the official trailer here: