The Big Short, based on the book by Michael Lewis, tells the story of the financial collapse that occurred in 2007-2008. This film sheds light on the 2005 American housing crisis, known to be a trigger for the 2007 collapse, through 3 separate sub-stories.
Michael Burry (Christian Bale), a socially awkward hedge fund manager, predicts that the housing market is extremely unstable because of subprime loans. In other words, people with loans that shouldn’t have them. Banks are comfortable giving these loans out because they are tied to a rocket-sized interest rate. Win-win, right?
This movie’s all about the acting. Kind of an obvious statement, but in the case of Spotlight, the viewer isn’t waiting for any chilling plot twists or cinematic treasures. They’re locked in because Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, and Rachel McAdams make you root for them right off the bat. It takes place in late 90’s and early 2000’s Boston where the Globe is about to bust open a huge story on a pervasive cover-up of child molestation perpetrated by the Catholic church.
That’s a rough subject that keeps you on the uncomfortable edge of your seat, methodically picking at your cuticles. But look at this guy – I would love to work for Michael Keaton. He’s the editor of the Spotlight investigative team, providing the perfect balance of excited encouragement and bust-your-balls demands. A team that’s on the verge of a devastating scoop and all the corroborative pressure that goes along with it. The viewer gets the impression that in most American towns this kind of story would easily burst on the scene and instigate sweeping institutional changes from the offending party. But Boston is a Cat’lick town. Like super Cat’lick. You want to make it to sergeant in the fire department? Better be a consistent contributor on Sundays. Continue reading Spotlight→
Ridley Scott has been nominated three times for a Best Director Oscar, but The Martian is the first time his hat has been thrown into the Best Picture ring. Could be that the Academy finally took notice of the fact that few directors in our lifetimes have been more adept at transforming the movie experience into a journey to another world – an expansive, visual and aural immersion that is as compelling in Ancient Rome as it is in a futuristic Los Angeles. And in an era when folks like James Cameron take full advantage of the technological advances of computer-generated muscle, Scott still finds a way to put those directors to shame.
It is also very likely that the Academy appreciates a film that represents the complete package: a visionary director working with an excellent screenplay, and an inspiring performance by The Martian‘s star, Matt Damon. That appreciation takes the form of Academy Award nominations for both Damon and the screenwriter, Drew Goddard, but, uh… somehow they seemed to have left Best Director off the list. Oversight. Continue reading The Martian→
Bridge of Spies is a historical drama directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Matt Charman and the Coen brothers. It tells the story of American insurance lawyer James B. Donovan, who finds himself defending Rudolf Abel, a captured Soviet spy, in the hopes that giving him a fair trial in court will limit the U.S.S.R. from using his imprisonment as propaganda. Donovan and his family withstand brutal scrutiny by the American people for defending a Communist, and while Abel is still found guilty of all charges brought against him, Donovan is able to convince the judges to grant imprisonment instead of the death penalty. This eventually turns Abel into a bargaining chip for the US government to negotiate release of Francis Gary Powers, an American U2 spy plane pilot being held in Soviet Russia. And who would be the man assigned to carry out such a task? James B. Donovan.
Bridge of Spies has been nominated not only for Best Picture but also Best Supporting Actor (Mark Rylance as Rudolf Abel) and Best Original Screenplay. As a history nerd, I really enjoyed this film. It’s a very well-written period piece that helps convey the widespread fear of Communism in America during the height of the Cold War. Scenes like the one where Hanks’ character Donovan returns home from work to find his son preparing for nuclear armageddon in the bathroom really drive this home. Continue reading Bridge of Spies→
Brooklyn is a film which could have been written, produced, and made during the infamously prudish Hollywood Production Code that Film Studios implemented to stave off government interference. The film is so wholesome, so proudly defending both bold and courageous actions from its heroine, so full of rightness that it seems impossible that it could also be a compelling drama and one of the best films of the year.
Saoirse Ronan stars as Ellis Lacey (pronounced “Aelish”), an intelligent young Irish Woman who leaves her homeland for New York City to work as an accountant thanks to a generous priest from her town who emigrated several years earlier, played by the always delightful Jim Broadbent. A further emphasis needs to be given to how engaging Ms. Ronan’s portrayal of Ellis Lacey is. Her performance makes up half of the screen time of the film and is by far the most interesting and compelling element of Brooklyn.Continue reading Brooklyn: Old-Fashioned Storytelling Done Right→