Oscar Bait – Spotlight / The Big Short

Annual/regular updates to the lists that I follow for this bucket list blog are both the best and worst thing about them. I know that for most of them I am far away from finishing, but it can be rather vexing to see the numbers go down every now and then.

The Best Picture list is a rare case. No film will ever be stripped of its award, but the list continues to grow. As such, I usually try and watch as many of the (predicted) nominees as possibly in the months leading up to award.
So, in the interest of crossing the eventual winner off (as well as some future 1001 films) there will be four posts this week with a round up of the films I managed to watch before I the ceremony on February 28th.

spotlightTitle: Spotlight
Director: Tom McCarthy
Year: 2015
Country: USA

Spotlight is the nominee I was looking forward to seeing the most with the exception of Room. As such it was the first of the eight that I went to see.

My takeaway message from this film is one that haunts me as I write this down. In the movie they give the estimate that 6% of Catholic priests at some point molest/rape children. I, as I mentioned in January, used to work in a Catholic school. The possibility that I would be teaching someone who could have suffered at their hands had never really occurred to me. Now, I am terrified that the law of averages dictated that I did.

That is the power of Spotlight. Think of it as a modern All The President’s Men, but with better pacing and a more gripping subject (as a non-American). The central three of Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Michael Keaton are the beating journalistic heart of the movie. Ruffalo in particular shines as the rather twitchy and singular minded Michael Rezendes.

The impressive thing is that we know how this ends. We may not know the details, but even on this side of the pond we were able to feel the repercussions. Yet, every twist and turn is able to keep you on your seat and swearing at the utter shittiness of everyone involved in the huge cover-up.

This would be a worthy winner.

bigshortTitle: The Big Short
Director: Adam McKay
Year: 2015
Country: USA

How the hell did the director of Step Brothers create this? This is arguably the smartest of all the movies nominated this year and is, by far, the funniest. Going into The Big Short my understanding of the financial crisis was pretty basic. I mean I had never heard of CDOs – synthetic or otherwise. Thanks to some well executed-acts of fourth wall breaking and Margot Robbie in a bubble bath I am glad to say that I understand things a bit more.

What I fail to understand/wish I did not understand is how long it took before the banks to put their hands up. There are moments in this film where you find yourself just staring blankly because you can’t quite come to terms with the sheer amount of greed on display.

For me this is typified by the scenes in Florida. All the warning signs are there, but since the collapse of the housing market had never happened before no one (bar a select few) thought it would ever happen.

The biggest shock for me, however, is right at the beginning where we are brought to the nexus of the idea that would bring about the downfall of the US housing market and, as an unfair consequence, the rest of the world. The fact that it was a pretty innocent and safe idea that got abused and mutated… just wow.

Should this win? Probably not. Should this be shown in economics classes for years to come? Most definitely.

Current Rankings
1) Spotlight
2) The Big Short


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