Oscars: my take on some of the films in the running

- “The Revenant” = gripping, enthralling, beautifully shot, Di Caprio totally convincing, but… should it really get all the big Oscars?? Shout outs to the young Brit Will (“Son Of Rambow”) Poulter who is fast becoming a bit of a star and Domhnall Gleeson (“About Time”, “Frank”, “Ex Machina”, “SW:TFA”…) as the dignified, morally upstanding Captain Henry. SPOILER ALERT….. The key fight, a woozy, almost slow motion combat between Di Caprio and Tom Hardy, is a brutal, unflinching showdown between two wounded stags, each already on the point of exhaustion and death. I love this comment from Robbie Colin in “The Guardian” - “The whole project is a bizarre blend of arthouse and frat-house: an episode of Jackass as envisioned by Terrence Malick.”

- “Room” = tough, tough subject matter but dealt with incredibly sensitively, brilliantly acted + written, a beautifully moving, at times overwhelming film, though totally unmanipulative and without a hint of mawkishness. Final scene = just a perfect, perfect ending, had me in floods of tears. Much more about mothers + sons, about growing up and experiencing the world for the first time than it is about the abuse that created the situation. Brie Larsen WILL get the Oscar for Best Actress, but it should also get Best Film and Best Everything Else! (But it won’t). And Jacob Tremblay is a little genius! His relationship with Ma (Larson) is just so totally believable and brilliantly judged.

- “The Martian” = a rip-roaring Boys’ Own tale anchored by a likeable, wise-cracking turn from Matt Damon that contrasts nicely with his less likeable space jockey character from last year’s “Interstellar” (Saw the latter for the 3rd time recently. Seems to get better each time as I become more and more forgiving of the “Basil Exposition” moments and allow myself to be swept along by the story and the spectacle. Another film about a convincing parent/child relationship, but this time in blockbuster trappings.) “The Martian” is itself a film that does what it says on the tin and delivers on what the tantalising trailer suggested: action, emotion, humour, and the best disco soundtrack since “Guardians Of The Galaxy”. Ridley Scott + top-notch script = top-notch movie. Simples!

- “Bridge Of Spies” = lovely, old school espionage Spielberg-style, Tom Hanks in full charm attack mode (and as usual immensely likeable), Brit stage giant Mark Rylance a beautiful, introverted, minimalist foil to Hanks’ Yank exuberance. Their scenes together are wonderfully playful and a delight to watch.

- “Spotlight” = again, tough subject matter, dealt with in an honest, no nonsense way, the wonderful Mark Ruffalo’s key speech the only moment that really plays to the emotions and it’s all the more powerful because of that. He and Rachel McAdams’ character are the film’s moral heartbeat.

- “Mad Max: Fury Road” = great fun, with old school in-camera stunts. Worth seeing for Charlize Theron, for the flame-throwing electric guitarists and other "war boys" swinging around on bendy poles whilst the vehicles they are attached to are doing 60+mph on bumpy desert roads. Certainly mad… but, a bit over-rated too.

- “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” = a big cheesy grin of a film, the closest I will ever come to experiencing the same young-boy-in-man’s-body feeling as Tom Hanks’ character in “Big”. The 3 young leads, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega + Adam Driver, together with the slightly not so young Oscar Isaac, deserve immense credit for making light of the weight of expectation and doing so with such charm and grace.

Films yet to see that I hope to catch up with soon:
“Beasts Of No Nation” (Netflix - in the UK) - got lots of nominations (+ awards) elsewhere, but not at the Oscars
“Ex Machina”
“Steve Jobs”
“45 Years” (Curzon Online - in the UK)
“A War”

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