Oscar Preview Week – Best Picture and Best Director

Now the two final “big categories.”  I’ll have to skim over some of the other categories, like animated short (expect a heart-warming Pixar cartoon to win over one about the consequences of naked war) and visual effects (Mad Max is primed to sweep most of the technical awards).

Best Picture – The Revenant

Let me be clear.  I, personally, do not feel that The Revenant is the best picture of 2015.  Three of the nominees are definitely better films (Spotlight, Room, The Martian) and three others might be better films (Mad Max: Fury Road, Brooklyn, The Big Short).  I am conceding here that it’s a more compelling movie than Bridge of Spies, but that’s about it.

As my generally positive review makes clear, I think the Revenant is a good film with fine acting and beautiful cinematography.  However, in many ways, it’s a pretty conventional western, like a more gruesome version of Davey Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier (1955).

In contrast, Spotlight uses every tool in the film toolbox to tell a powerful and important contemporary story, Room challenges conventions of genre and perspective. The Martian is equally intense and well-acted, but is actually about something other than “man versus nature.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if Spotlight ends up taking the big award, or even Mad Max: Fury Road.  But as of right now, the smart money is on The Revenant.

Best Director – Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant

Best Director should be a three-way race between Iñárritu, George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road), and Adam McKay (The Big Short).  If this were an award for technical direction, Miller would win.  If it were an award for telling a complex story in an accessible, even humorous manner, McKay would win.

However, given that the Academy usually lumps Best Director and Best Picture together, there’s a very high bar to exceed here.  I don’t think there’s enough ammunition for McKay or Miller to pull off an upset.  Iñárritu it is.

Have fun watching on Sunday night!

(c) 2016 D.G. McCabe

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

Directed by Adam McKay, U.S., 2013

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) is one of the most enduring comedies of the last decade.  Its endlessly quotable jokes are about as easy to avoid as the musk of Sex Panther cologne.  Any sequel to a film that has permeated our culture so profusely has a high bar to meet.

Anchorman 2 doesn’t quite measure up to the standard of the original, but it puts in a yeoman’s effort.  Will Ferrell is back as the title character (Ferrell also co-wrote the script with director Adam McKay) with news team in tow (Paul Rudd, Steve Carrell, David Koechmer).  The news team has split up since the last movie, but Burgundy successfully recruits them to join him at GNN, the world’s first 24 hour news network.  The reunion scenes where Burgundy tracks his team down are some of the funniest in the film.

What follows is some great satire on the modern, 24 hour, action obsessed monster that is cable news.  Everything from the scare mongering stories, pointless car chases, over the top graphics, and patriotic pandering are targets.  The ending of the film is particularly hilarious too, although I won’t ruin it for you by describing it in  detail.

That being said, the film suffers from poor editing.  There is a tacked on romantic subplot that could easily have been cut, including a grating family dinner scene that seems to go on forever.  One sequence is pretty much lifted from McKay and Farrell’s other, somewhat lesser collaboration Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006) and could have been substantially trimmed down or re-worked.  The movie is over twenty minutes longer than the original Anchorman, and it really didn’t need to be.

Still, Anchorman 2 is a solid comedy.  I just hope McKay and Ferrell (and editor Brent White) do a better job trimming the fat on the inevitable Anchorman 3.

You might like Anchorman 2 if: You liked the first Anchorman and are looking forward to catching up with the news team.

You might not like Anchorman 2 if: You didn’t really care for the first Anchorman or you expect Anchorman 2 to be as funny as the first one.

(c) 2013 D.G. McCabe