Tag Archives: The Oscars

Oscar Fever: Inside Job

Another film about the greed of financial industry? What does this film give us that Michael Moore’s CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY doesn’t? Well, quite a lot actually.

It seems lazy to compare this film by Charles Ferguson to the Michael Moore picture but please bear with me. An earlier picture of Ferguson’s, NO END IN SIGHT which is a searing post mortem of the decisions and mechanics surrounding the US invasion, and subsequent occupation of Iraq could be said to be the serious, more studious cousin of FAHRENHEIT 911. NO END IN SIGHT took $1,431,623 at the box office, FAHRENHEIT 911 grossed $119,194,771 (Source: IMDb)

Michael Moore pulled in $14,359,793 for CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY and as it stands, INSIDE JOB has grossed $3,985,635 to date.

More people are going to see Moore’s flicks. Which is damn shame. People should be viewing both.

The prominent differences between Ferguson and Moore’s work are style and approach. Moore infuses his anger with comedy and his films can be viewed as entertainment. Entertainment with a message but entertainment all the same. Ferguson takes an analytical, clinical look at his subject matter. His talking heads are of an extremely high calibre and give essential gravitas to the work. This IS serious stuff after all and, as much as I can get behind Michael Moore (For his heart is surely in the right place) it’s obvious that this is the type of documentary that will sacrifice the laughs in an attempt to flick a switch within the viewer.

Ferguson does not appear to be subject to the level of backlash Moore experiences. It could be there’s no point lambasting him as he doesn’t have Moore’s popular appeal and is therefore seen as less of a threat, another reason could be that Ferguson’s research and sources are so tight that there’s no point…… because he’s pretty much on the money.

And talking of money……..

This is a film designed to make you angry. Deregulation in the financial markets allowed sharp suited money brokers to gamble on stock fluctuations with YOUR money. Yeah, that’s right. You go out to work, pay your tax, pay your national insurance and bills etc but somewhere, someone you’ve never met is putting your hard earned into sometimes ridiculously risky investments. And if those investments go bad (as they inevitably did) then it’s goodbye to your savings, pension and maybe even your job.

Ferguson focuses on Iceland initially which is a nice analogy as the over borrowing from a once self sufficient stable economy which seduced by the prospect of incredible growth was a key driver in its downfall. This, of course, is the same carrot that was presented to the ordinary consumer. “Buy your own house, watch its valuation rocket, don’t worry if you can afford it or not”

The last point is the detail everyone forgot. If you have someone with a history of bad debt, are they likely to pay a mortgage they can’t afford? And if Wall St and the rest of the world’s markets are neck deep in derivative investments that rely on those debts being paid, what’ll happen when Mr And Mrs Jones, and millions of others decide to give up and have their house repossessed? You know how the story plays out.

It’s all a huge, horrible mess based on greed and unrealistic speculation.

The film is riveting however, whether you come from a financial background or not, mainly because this “crisis” has touched everyone in the civilised world. It’s also pleasing that the flick scooped the Oscar. Well done Mr Ferguson, for the award, and a finely crafted film.

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Oscar Fever: Gasland

With the Oscars a mere 15 days away it’s maybe time to start casting our eyes over the flicks in the running. Last night I looked at the Best Documentary Feature nominee Gasland.

The USA is an energy hungry place, everyone knows that. The question is, how far will they go to secure and extract their own resources? Josh Fox’s film goes some way to providing the answer, and it’s not an answer that will give comfort to anyone with environmental concerns.

America’s desire to move away from it’s reliance on foreign energy (they’re maybe getting sick of all that expensive fighting) has led to the discovery and subsequent extraction of natural gas reserves held beneath US soil. The scale of these reserves are huge and although no timescale is given as to how long this bounty will last, the map coverage of the gas is immense and covers most of the US landmass.

So this is a good thing, no? Cleaner than oil and obtainable without treading on the toes of nations who don’t like you. This is surely the best option? Well, you would think so, until you witness the impact the extraction process is having on the people who live close to the wells.

Natural gas is tricky to get out of the ground and requires a process called Hydraulic Fracturing, or “Fracking”. This involves drilling into shale beds deep beneath the ground and pumping vast amounts of chemical laden water into the ground to literally fracture the shale surrounding the bore hole. This violent rupturing releases the gas. Landholders across the US were contacted and offered money by the energy companies to lease their land for drilling. For most, the promise of zero environmental impact and thousands of dollars was too tempting to pass up.

Josh Fox was also offered a deal to put a well on his land. New York state plans to start drilling and this was the catalyst for his voyage of discovery. Visiting houses with wells on their doorsteps he is shown example after example of environmental devastation. Water that comes out of the tap brown and sludge-like. Water that stinks of chemicals and is undrinkable. Water you can literally set on fire.

It’s difficult to see how they’re going to repair the damage.

And that’s to say nothing of the fumes from the drill sites. Fox meets numerous people who have respitory and brain ailments, all of which were never aparent before the drilling started.

“Prove it was caused by us” say the energy companies………

It’s an incredibly subtle, powerful piece of work. Ordinary people recount their experiences with incredible humility. There is precious little vitriol which is astounding considering what these people are going through. Every story told is a small piece of a HUGE, disturbing picture. Just like each small gas well (for there are 10’s of thousands) is a small part of a terrible problem.

The scale on which the United Stated is undertaking this programme is staggering and, thanks to George Bush and Dick Cheney (Ex CEO of Halliburton of course) the work was passed with exeptions from the clean air and water laws. Laws designed to not only protect the people, but the earth and it’s life giving commodities.

Will this film win the Oscar? Probably not. It is a fine example of direct action filmmaking though. Catch it if you can.

Trailer:

The Oscars (better late than never)

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It’s been a busy few weeks but the intention HAD been there to do an Oscars prediction post. Good old Matt had inspired me in his own inimitable way to take in the films and, with the exception of THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON (and THE READER…. hmmm), I’d managed to see the top contenders for the main awards in good enough time to make a set of, maybe not predictions, but bold claims on who should win.

So here we go, who won and who (I think) should have won…….. I didn’t do incredibly well in terms of agreeing with the academy. I’ll only cover the big 6 or I’ll be here all night….

BEST PICTURE
SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE

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Now I’m gonna be honest here. I knew SM would get the nod. It’s a very well made, entertaining, beautifully shot, acted and directed work from Danny Boyle. I have to say though, and I can say this with confidence even though I’ve not seen THE READER, FROST / NIXON was the picture from the bunch that had me absolutely transfixed from start to finish. Whether that was purely because of the extremely interesting, non fiction subject matter or not, the fact remains, it moved and consumed me in a way SLUMDOG couldn’t.

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Sean Penn: MILK

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“This was undoubtedly the shock of the night” said numerous red carpet commentators and I think, as most people probably do, that Mickey Rourke was robbed. That’s not to take anything away from Sean Penn, he’s by far the best thing about the MILK film and you totally forget you’re watching him act. Mickey Rourke however, gives a depth of performance that maybe only comes along once a decade far less once a year. You could tell there was a lot of himself in that role which lent such honest weight to it without it being a case of pitying the guy. We’re with him for the whole picture, when you witness him dragging his battered body into the ring for another pounding you can almost feel the pain he’s going through.

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And let’s not forget the Rourke of circa RUMBLEFISH.

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BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Kate Winslett: THE READER

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Kate Winslet?? Best Actress???

I had Meryl Streep for this one and my reasons are irrefutable. Firstly: Streep is amazing in this film. Secondly: It was the only movie in this category I saw so who else was there to choose? CHANGELING was the only other picture I would pay to watch from this group. Film critic Mark Kermode thinks that Winslet deserves the award, just not for this film, in his opinion she should have got it for REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, another movie I’ve yet to see. Does anyone concur with this take?

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Heath Ledger: THE DARK KNIGHT

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It was always going to be the case and I agree with it completely. There’s no way on earth this is purely a sympathy vote. Philip Seymour Hoffman is great, Josh Brolin is good but I think if anyone from MILK got nominated it should have been Emile Hirsch for his utterly convincing and compelling performance as Cleve Jones. Heath Ledger, however, creates this heaving, magnetic, mesmerising character you can’t take your eyes off. When The Joker leaves the screen, you want him back as quickly as possible, you want to see more disapearing pencils, he’s the bad guy you fell good routing for. Ledger completely abandons himself in this role and leaves you with a dark presence long after the credits have ended. Truly amazing and thoroughly deserved.

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Penelope Cruz: VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA

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My initial thought when I heard the results was that Marisa Tomei should have got this for her role as Cassidy in THE WRESTLER. I revisited VCB last night though and now agree with our friends at the Academy. Penelope Cruz is rather good isn’t she? I was going to do a Cruz double by sticking on VOLVER after it but then I would run the risk of starting to like the woman. It’s a compulsion I’m determined to fight for no good reason.

BEST DIRECTOR
Danny Boyle: SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE

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Yep, you’ve gotta hand him this one without any real complaint. There were other movies in the Best Picture category that held my attention more the SM but the sheer audacity, energy and skill with which this film was made should be applauded long and loud. I’m a big fan of Danny Boyle, as a director he’s always pushing the envelope and never takes the easy route. There is a sincerity in his films that clearly reflect the man himself, he’s one of these guys that when you hear them talking about cinema, you know they mean it from the heart and you can’t help but take serious notice. Scorsese is another one. Well done Danny. Here’s hoping the British film industry realises finally that it’s not America’s runt brother.