2016's impending elections have dominated news channels and political blogs, but many of the Academy Award nominations have social agendas that reflect headlines. Aside from Sandra Bullock's "Our Brand is Crisis," few directly concerned campaigns. And, "Concussion" which has a captivating performance by Will Smith, as accomplished pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu who uncovers the truth about brain damage in football players, tallied zero nominations. This is just one instance of the omission of people of color that has buzz brewing over alleged white slanted domination.
Best Actress hopeful Jennifer Lawrence transfers "Hunger Games" tenacity to a women who is an entrepreneurial pioneer (Joy Mangano's Miracle Mop) charging naively into a three ring invention circus on home shopping television. After a revealing introduction to her "You Can't Take it with You" dysfunctional family members, Lawrence spews confidence rage and (momentary) self-loathing as the naive business executive conquering the obstacles of a "man's world" through persuasion, sincerity, and offers to cheats that cannot be refused. Lawrence scores best interacting with her house full of nutsos, which she collected after falling for a wannabe Tom Jones singing sensation who does not gain stardom or enough popularity to make a living. Joy finds Tony Miranda (Edgar Ramirez) a better friend and adviser than husband. Divorced two years, he lives in the basement of her house where she is raising three children and provides living space for her television soap opera-addicted mother (Virginia Madsen) and her dad (Robert DeNiro), a perpetual 1-900 dater.
Two Best Picture nominees surround gender differences in more conservative and prejudicial time frames. "The Danish Girl," set in 1926, follows loosely the journey of Danish artists Lili Elbe, a transgender woman, and her lover Gerda Wegener (Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander). Meanwhile, "Carol," set in the 1950s provides a melodramatic exposition of a relationship between a twentysomething department store clerk (Rooney Mara) and an unhappily married middle age cougar. (IMDB noted that the only actual transgender performers in "Danish Girl" have very small parts.)
Once upon a time the housing mortgage market appeared as solid as a concrete bunker. Enter the new bankers, who valued glitz over caution. They created a profitable mortgage market where nearly everyone would be approved. Of course, when the 'teaser' rate expired, borrowers defaulted. Those foreclosed mortgages were re-packaged into bond hedge funds spreading the good with the broke.
Capitalizing and incriminating, "The Big Short," is a humorous yet enraging and shamful depiction of the housing crash that required government bailouts of big banks and other financial firms that failed to do their homework when loaning money.
One of the film's greatest virtues exposes how snarky, fast-talking, economic lingo allowed the circumstances to worsen as no one bothered to ask questions or do research. It's best "wake up" scene has an investor checking the assets of an alleged solid subdivision portfolio finding abandoned homes (due to expiring teaser rates) and one fella living in a condo owned by his dog.
A top cast spreads good viewing. It includes a disguised Brad Pitt, hilarious Ryan Gosling, emotional pain from Christian Bale, and a barefoot, shorts wearing genius, Steve Carell.
"Spotlight" explores the inquisitive journalistic investigation that exposed a decade long Catholic church cover up. Hailed with the same enthusiasm as "All the President's Men," Michael Keaton ("Birdman") joins the ensemble cast that contains Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Billy Crudup and Stanley Tucci who are part of a tenacious team of Boston Globe reporters digging for truth.
Generating thoughts to challenge at least entrenched conspiracy myths, the protection of the criminal acts of a horde of pedophile priests required sacred Boston institutions that cooperated with the court system to look the other way, and put political pressure on attorneys, media executives and churches.
"Spotlight" has a growing list of "best picture" awards from regional film critics groups from the East to West Coast. It's from the same thread of cultural exposes most recently represented by "Truth," but preceded by a litany of insightful and invigorating norm challenging crusades be it the nuclear workers of "Silkwood" (who are still being radiated by alleged criminal and civil conspiracies within the Department of Energy, private corporations and politicians), "Norma Rae's" garment workers union chant, and "Network's" uncanny predictions of apathetic screen addicted political manipulation. Flash further backward and "His Girl Friday, " "Citizen Kane," "Nothing Sacred," "Deadline U.S..A.," and "Meet John Doe."
BRIDGE OF SPIES
Tom Hanks excels as a corporate attorney determined that a Russian spy has a fully constitutional trial by jury. He finds himself at the front of the gray Berlin Wall negotiating a crucial Cold War swap amidst the mounting fears of nuclear conflict.
The Awards ceremony is Feb 28.
"13 Hours" Messily Depicts Botched Benghazi Blunders
Director Michael Bay states on screen that "13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi" is based on a true story. It adapts a New York Times bestseller written by (among others) members of the annex security team and details the September 11, 2012 attack on diplomatic and classified venues in Libya.
The attack on the facilities led to the death of the U.S. ambassador. Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been castigated for her alleged mishandling of the incident. The film depicts a 'mission' far more bungled and troubled by misinformation than one individual could unravel.
Shot in a fast clip, switch scenes, style that resembles real time horror genre one camera, found-footage perspectives of "Blair Witch Project" and "Paranormal Activity," the resulting production leaves viewers at the very least confused by what they witness. It's good guys against bad guys, but how do you tell the difference? Complicating the allegiance issue, those working at the secret Libya locations face multiple 'who's in charge' and 'who's their superior' rubrics. It's a wonder anyone survived.
This Benghazi uprising supposedly touts the courage and bravery of those fighting against mounting odds. Yet the heroes and corporate contractors all appear as well-oiled patriots offering their under-appreciated driving and protection skills to the diplomatic group and officially non-existent CIA operatives inhabiting two less than secret (for local forces) and fatally insecure outposts.
"13 Hours," both the flick and the botched 'mission' on which it had been based, summoned a brisk reaction from the female perspective, too: "I could have done a better job of organization on this mess," said a viewer referring to the accumulation of misdirected leadership non-actions.
Blasting and repelling fortress invasions have intensity and intimacy, but aside from vehicle barricade showdowns, which spark elevated heartbeats, these "Secret Soldiers" are more comparable to the animated "Transformers" than to Bay's "Rock," "Pearl Harbor" or "Armageddon " live action successes.