Once Upon a Time In Hollywood
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The Big Short has a remarkable knack for talking damn to it's audience. Not that it would be a bad thing to do so considering the idiocy of it's subject matter. Yes the world wide global disaster that was the Housing Market and the whole shoddy global economic structure. To insult it's audience's intelligence isn't necessarily a bad thing, yet it also requires the intelligence to do so, and that is where The Big Short lacks. Though it may know the details of how the Stock Market and Economy works, it doesn't know quite as much about filmmaking. Oh sure the actors are great, all four of the big names are doing some great work like they always do; however, where the big short fails is having someone who knows how to use the visual medium at all. Adam McKay is a filmmaker who has half of the idea on how a film can be good; the cutaways to celebrities explaining how the business works is a good example of an interesting idea being shoddily done. On the one hand the idea itself isn't bad at all, it reflects social commentary and also does manage to tell relatively boring information in an interesting way of sorts. However, in practice it ultimately comes undone, not just because Adam McKay doesn't have a good idea how to use the camera outside of basic coverage directing (except in this case dipped in semi-"mocumentary" filmmaking), however in practice it's still nothing more than explanation for something you might as well read in a book, or just have explained by the characters since it's basically the same thing, they break the fourth wall so much that having all these cameos are redundant. Ultimately The Big Short works like the Jenga game that Ryan Gosling's character uses in the film, aesthetically it looks interesting, it's a good idea, and it can work if you don't think too hard about it, but much like how the game works in the scene, it ultimately falls apart since in execution it fails, it's construction is ultimately shoddy, and when you look at the details much like the housing market, it ultimately falls flat
Spotlight is a movie that is about information, yes it's also about the infamous scandal within the Catholic Church as well as the brave news team (and paper) that decided to against one of the oldest, most powerful organizations in history, but it's also about information. To clarify, Spotlight feels like a film that feels based around facts and knowledge and discovering them, Aaron Sorkin did this sort of thing with The Social Network, discovering new technology or a new world that most people didn't really understand and bringing us into it. Spotlight is similar, but it takes it in a different direction. Instead it takes us into a world that we have all come to know too well, when the evils that the church was covering up were revealed it became everything from the spark of protests to the butt of jokes. Spotlight is taking us back to when it was discovered but also shows us the magnitude of this scandal, the hidden horrors behind every good cause that can be gigantic. Yet it's not just about discovering information and simply about condemnation, but it's also a story about the importance of discovering information. The film mainly follows the Spotlight team, sparing little expense for their personal lives, how could it when there's so much information that needs to be calculated and compiled into the script which plays out everything we need to know and that we find interesting. It follows along the lines of introducing us to fact after fact that the Spotlight team discovers through many different fascinating methods. The screenplay which is one of the best of this year takes a story of such density and such complexity and brings it to life before our eyes, and it does so in such capable hands. The director clearly had this in mind, McCarthy goes for a straightforward style with his approach within the film, it's pace, stillness, and necessity is what guides his film. It's the kind of story that doesn't exactly requires a straightforward kind of presentation, it tries to tell it as it is through it's visuals rather than tell it's story through them. In most films this would be understand as sloppy, poorly done filmmaking but not so here. Looking at the staging, the choice of camera position, and the urge to (as Sasha puts it in the film) to tell the story right. Guided by a stellar cast with few weak points and Keaton who is making his comeback last more than just an under-appreciated performance but now has thrust himself into a role that's the definition of great acting, he doesn't act but allows himself to be absorbed into the film, he's a human being who is almost indistinguishable from Keaton himself. He heads the acting ensemble despite his lack of leading role and is supported by his fellow cast mates. Putting all of this together we get Spotlight, a deftly written, impeccably crafted showcase of modern filmmaking that is easily one of the year's best.
Steve Jobs was an enigma of a man; I don't think we can draw exact conclusions to who Jobs was or his exact motivations regarding his family and his business. Apple impacted the world in so many different ways, some for worse or better for the computing world, yet the man behind is so vastly different from anyone involved with computers from that time. Was he nothing more than an intelligent businessman taking advantage of the home computer world or was he a genuine innovator in how home computers should be despite his own lack of involvement regarding the actual development of the computers. Steve Jobs (the film) works with whatever it can to give us the best possible image of the man, the film doesn't exactly claim to know all the answers, but it gives us an intelligent look into Jobs' world. Sorkin returns to writing autobiographical films in ways that no one else is currently doing. The screenplay of the film is both it's most fascinating and possibly flawed. The structure which follows through on the three biggest press conferences in Jobs' life is fascinating to see play out. On one hand this limits the film form to explore Jobs' life outside, but then again Jobs was all about his work wasn't he? Danny Boyle here seems to be channeling his strengths and manages to work out some of the flaws he's presented over the years. Once again he has a fantastic time with his cast, he manages to encapsulate Sorkin's style as best as possible (though not as well as someone like Fincher); Boyle manages to work his best gift of making the ordinary seem grand. It's perfect for the structure of the film and perfect for Boyle. It's almost pointless to talk about the acting as it's as good as you may expect. Fassbender, Winslet, Rogen, and Daniels all are outstanding and easily could be up for Oscar Nods. Fassbender fully encapsulates the strange nature and almost lighting fast speed of Jobs' brain as well his megalomania and capacity for caring. The mighty Kate Winslet returns with one of her best performances in a while as Jobs' smart-talking, intelligent, practical Joanna Hoffman, the more humane counter to Fassbender's more universal prattling protagonist. Rogen turns in a relatively short, but emotional performance as Woz which is sure to win the hearts of the audience and give the comedic actor some long due acting credit. Daniels is also in a short but sweet role as the former CEO of Apple who's inability to adapt to the times ultimately leads to something of an undeserving downfall. Overall though, Steve Jobs greatest asset is this blend that is both fantastic to watch but at the same time, lacking in something. Unlike something like The Social Network, which both encapsulates it's main subject as well as his creation, Steve Jobs isn't quite as deft as it's hand reaches out but doesn't grab everything. I still feel like I'm missing chunks of the important part of Steve Jobs (the man) despite knowing so much, I don't feel I exactly know enough to even draw a conclusion exactly. The film itself doesn't feel as intelligent to follow Jobs so we don't get the same fantastic feeling of understanding in Sorkin's previous modern Bio-Pic. As is though, Steve Jobs is still a very good film, not exactly great, but as far as the films pushing for major Oscar campaigns this year, it still will likely be better than most films coming up along with Fassbender's performance which will undoubtedly earn him a nomination and hopefully a win (because I'm sorry, DiCaprio doesn't deserve squat)