oscars

OSCARS 2015: THE RESULTS…

How about a post from 30,000 feet?

OSCARS 2015: SURPRISES AND RELIEFS!

SURPRISES:

 SURPRISE: Birdman as Best Picture.
OK, yes, we picked it. Birdman had gained incredibly momentum over the last few weeks and seemed the likely winner. Having said this and predicted it ourselves, it was still surprising that Boyhood would not take the Oscar home. Between the high emotional stakes of the film and the time dedicated to it (not just from he Director, but from all involved), we had perhaps hoped that this would be enough to win big. Unfortunately, it just didn’t happen. This leads us to…

SURPRISE: Alejandro Innaritu as Best Director.
Now, this isn’t really a surprise, and the award is not undeserving. His creative lead ensured that Birdman was one of the most original pieces from the last five years. Much like the ‘Best Picture’ award, though, it is disappointing that this wouldn’t go to Richard Linklater. It really seemed like his time after beautiful films like Before Sunset, and a 12 year investment isn’t easy. We were sorry to see him walk away without one of the ‘big two’. 

SURPRISE: Grand Budapest Hotel winning in both Costume Design and Makeup/Hairstyling.
The production design for this movie was brilliant: the entire film was an array of colour and sound (somewhat of an assault on the senses: very ‘Wes’) However, when faced with tough competition from the likes of Guardians Of The Galaxy (Zoe Saldana being painted green anyone?!) it came as quite a surprise that Grand Budapest would reign supreme. 

SURPRISE: ‘Best Picture’ winner falls short in acting categories.
This seems strange. Generally when we have a film win both ‘Best Picture’ and ‘Best Director’, there are additional victories within the acting categories, either for lead or supporting performances. Yes, Birdman backed up their win with many technical accolades, but to not see any performances recognized is interest
ing. Perhaps this simply proves that Birdman was not reliant on it’s actors, and thing could be a good thing?

RELIEFS:

THANK GOD: Eddie Redmayne as Best Actor.
Yes the competition was tight, with an absolutely stellar performance from Michael Keaton hot on his heels, but Redmayne was the standout winner this year. And what a cherry on top that Stephen Hawking reached out to Eddie to congratulate him on doing such a fantastic job. When you make your subject proud, you know you have done a good job!

THANK GOD: Birdman wins Best Cinematography.
This shouldn’t really need explaining. When is the last time we had ‘single take’ cinematography running through an entire film?! This not only made Birdman a joy to watch, but really got in behind the theatrical undertones of the film and drove them home.

THANK GOD: JK Simmons for Whiplash.
Definitely our tempo.

THANK GOD: Patricia Arquette wins for Boyhood.
As with our surprises above, we are super relieved that there was recognition for Boyhood, and Arquette was an incredibly worthy recipient. Arquette also made the second actress over 40 who took home an Oscar last night, truly silencing those who say there are no roles for older women in Hollywood.

What were your surprises and reliefs? Is there anyone you wish hadn’t won? Or had?! Let us know!

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OSCAR PREDICTIONS: BEST DIRECTOR & BEST PICTURE

Best Director:

download (2)Nominees:

Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman)

Richard Linklater (Boyhood)

Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game)

Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher)


The Films:
The difficult thing about the Academy is that they do not split genres into Comedy/Musical and Drama. This means that we have to take and analyze many films from different genres and different styles of  directorial effort.It is difficult to put a film like The Grand Budapest Hotel right next to Boyhood or Foxcatcher, and ask which Director did their job to better effect. The reality is, though, that Richard Linklater embarked on a 12 year journey to create one of the most authentic films we have seen, and that gives him a standout advantage. Having said this, Birdman has been gradually gaining steam, with nothing but praise being heaped upon Alejandro G Iñárritu. It seems that the other three nominees will unfortunately be left behind which seems a shame. Foxcatcher was a labor of love for Bennett Miller, and one he has been trying to pull together for almost as long as Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’. Wes Anderson finally gained critical reception with Grand Budapest, although this caused him to lose many of his loyal followers. 

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Who Should Win?
Richard Linklater. It’s close to call between him and Iñárritu, but Linklater’s long term dedication should see him snatch it. Perhaps them most impressive part of Birdman is the cinematography which should still be recognized. 


Who Will Win:
 
Richard Linklater. And it is about time, too!

 

SNUBS: Christopher Nolan (Interstellar), Ava DuVernay (Selma), Jean-Marc Vallee (Wild)

Best Picture:

The Nominees:

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Birdman

The Grand Budapest Hotel

American Sniper

Whiplash

The Imitation Game

Selma

The Theory of Everything

The Films: Possibly the most underwhelming batch of ‘Best Picture’ nominees we have seen in a while. The Academy really didn’t feel like taking any risks this year. All of the films have been received well both by the public and critics, and have received awards consistently throughout 2014-2015. Having said this, it really is a two movie race this year. Despite previous wins, Grand Budapest Hotel likely won’t win any of the big five awards this year, nor will Selma or The Imitation Game. Theory of Everything will succeed in the Acting category but nothing else. Whiplash is probably one of the most deserving films, but is also historically one of the lowest grossing to ever be nominated for Best Picture, which slims down it’s chances of success. Really, the only films that are going to be successful enough in majority of categories to justify a ‘Best Picture’ win are Birdman and Boyhood. And between these two it is a super tight race.

Who Should Win? The ‘Best Picture’ winner is not always the film that is universallyAMERICAN-SNIPER-4-1940x812 enjoyed. Think back to last year’s winner ’12 Years A Slave’ – how many of you actually enjoyed the experience of watching it?! Many have felt the same about Birdman, which put it as a bit of a frontrunner, particularly because of it’s spread of nominations in other categories. Having said this, Boyhood still carries a lot of weight and is a true feat of cinema. We’re going with Boyhood on this one as the more deserving recipient.

Who Will Win: Birdman. Yep, we’re calling this one. Birdman has been gaining so much momentum lately it seems unstoppable. We wouldn’t be surprised if Boyhood can hold on, but at the moment it seems it is being edged out. 


SNUBS: Interstellar, Wild, Nightcrawler, Foxcatcher.

OSCAR PREDICTIONS: BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR & BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Best Supporting Actor:

ethan_hawke_horizNominees:

Robert Duvall (The Judge)

JK Simmons (Whiplash)

Ethan Hawke (Boyhood)

Edward Norton (Birdman)

Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher)

The Performances: This is difficult because so many (well, all) of these performances were spectacular. A seventh Oscar Nomination for Robert Duvall indicates that it could be his turn, but with a lack of nominations for The Judge in other categories makes it seem unlikely. JK Simmons seems like a hot contender but could be deemed irrelevant to the Academy (much like Bruce Dern’s snub last year for Nebraska). The sad reality is, one of the strongest performances here is Mark Ruffalo, but much like The Judge, ‘Foxcatcher’ hasn’t garnered enough attention to warrant an Oscar. Which leaves us with two…

2015_golden_globes_68614Who Should Win? We can’t decide. Edward Norton is reliable as ever, but really actually struggles to stand out in such a talented cast. Hawke has a much better opportunity to shine in Boyhood and make a lasting impression…

Who Will Win: Ethan Hawke. Especially if Patricia Arquette takes Best Supporting Actress. It seems a shame for Norton and Birdman, but Boyhood is going to reign supreme this year.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

patricia-arquette-3d6f32076e34b922The Nominees:

Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)

Emma Stone (Birdman)

Meryl Streep (Into The Woods)

Laura Dern (Wild)

Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game)

The Performances: It feels like a few of these nominees were padding for the category. Don’t take that the wrong way: all of the performances were good, but some are clearly more Oscar worthy than others. Critically all performances have been praised, however Dern’s total lack of screen time doesn’t instil great hope that the Academy will bestow this on her. What we have to look for are performances that are not overshadowed by their fellow cast members which points to three notable contenders: Streep (because it’s the Oscars), Stone, and Arquette. What is interesting is that in any other year, Emma Stone would probably be a shoe in especially with Birdman doing so well in other categories. Her real competition (Sorry, Meryl) comes from Patricia Arquette: with Ethan Hawke being hot tipped to take away Best Supporting, it almost seems fated: two award winning supporting performances driving a film is what it should be!Emma-Stone-Golden-Globes-thumbnail

Who Should Win? Patricia Arquette. Just little enough screen time to be billed as a support, but put it enough of herself to be the leading lady of Boyhood.

Who Will Win: Patricia Arquette. It could be snatched from her by Stone, but she is a dark horse. Also, Stone is young: The Academy are more likely to go for Arquette as (much like with Julianne Moore) it is more her ‘turn’.

SNUBS: None worth noting.

OSCAR PREDICTIONS: BEST ACTOR & BEST ACTRESS

Best Actor:
72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards - Press Room

Nominees:

Steve Carrell (Foxcatcher)

Bradley Cooper (American Sniper

Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game)

Eddie Redmayne (Theory Of Everything)

Michael Keaton (Birdman)

The Performances: Strangely enough this year we had a few of these performances surrounded in controversy. Steve Carrell’s role in Foxcatcher was protested by Mark Schultz, the film’s subject, for being too homosexually oriented. Bradley Cooper’s portrayal of Chris Kyle was also objected by those claiming that the character was not true to life, and the film glorified war. Another really interesting thing is that 4/5 nominees are playing “based on true life” characters and we know that these are always shoe in for any major awards. We also deal with a few major topics: Mental illness in show business and sports (Carrell and Keaton;, Homosexuality (Cumberbatch); War (Cooper); and terminal illness (Redmayne). All of this makes it really hard to call. Both Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne have been snatching up awards left and right, but despite strong performances many of the others are yet to get lucky.  Eddie-Redmayne

Who Should Win? Eddie Redmayne: the intensity and emotion in his performance is closely rivalled but ultimately unmatched this year.

Who Will Win: Eddie Redmayne is going to take this one home, too. Not only was his performance absolutely stellar, but between physical training and time spent with Hawkins himself, he has really put in the legwork. Additionally, the Academy loves a good biopic, especially if the subject is still living and is happy about the end result.

Best Actress:

moo-jan12The Nominess:

Felicity Jones (Theory Of Everything)

Julianne Moore (Still Alice)

Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)

Reese Witherspoon (Wild)

Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night)

The Performances: This really is a mixed bag this year. All performances were well reviewed, but we are dealing with players in psychological thrillers, romantic dramas, and biopics. Felicity Jones gives a strong performance, but is overshadowed by her male counterpart in Theory Of Everything and doesn’t really give us enough ‘Oscar Moments’. The same can be said for Rosamund Pike. Marion Cotillard is a bit of a wildcard here since ‘Two Days, One Night’ didn’t even really get a wide release: many were surprised by her nomination but we have to understand that we are dealing with the Academy here and they have their favourites. Which leaves us with two…
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Who Should Win? This one is hard to call, but we are inclined to say Witherspoon. Her performance was one of the most mature she has ever delivered and almost felt documentary-style. Flashbacks littered throughout meant she had to play two entirely different characters and mould them together: when not made in chronological order this makes her performance all the more impressive.

Who Will Win? Julianne Moore. Much like Redmayne she delivers a performance of intensity and emotion dealing with a very real disease. The attention on Alzheimers and spread of the disease means she has touched many people worldwide. Moore will triumph over Witherspoon on the ‘relatability’ card. 

SNUBS: Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler) , Jennifer Aniston (Cake)

FILM REVIEW: ‘BIRDMAN’

‘Birdman’

Written by: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Starring: Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Zack Galifinakis. 

Story: A washed up actor once famous for playing a superhero has to battle family, colleagues and ego to get his career back on track.

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When is the last time you watched a movie and thought: “this is what cinematic art really is.”? It is difficult to say this, because so called ‘art films’ have such a bad rap. ‘Birdman’, too, has divided audiences and seems to be the kind of film that you are either going to love or hate. 

There are many stunning elements to ‘Birdman’. The cinematography adopts a ‘single-take’ style which is nothing short of miraculous. It creates a beautiful sense of continuitiy and creates a time frame in which the audience can process at the same pace. We are running in real time for these people – or are we? Perspectives are skewed (see Emma Stone’s face in her now famous  monologue) and abstract angles are taken to make the whole film seem theatrical. Thats right, theatrical. And isn’t that the point?

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Along with the cinematography we are treated to  a drum beat that helps us keep pace with the characters. We are supposed to be overwhelmed with the pace of the camera, the sounds, the emotions of the characters: After all, for these characters their two day ordeal is also pretty overwhelming.

Michael Keaton is the embodiment of our Birdman. His performance is as emotional as it is bizarre and an interesting review of mental illness. Oh, to live the showbiz life with all of it’s pressures! 

Keaton is overshadowed, though, by his supports, namely Edward Norton and Emma Stone. Norton is back to his ‘Fight Club’ best with a show stopper performance. There is a hint of sarcasm to the way Norton plays this part: as if he has a sense of exactly what he is saying about the hand that feeds him. His portrayal is approachable and most of all funny.

Norton is about all there is to humour in the film though, which is bizarre given that it was billed as a “Comedy or Musical” by many award associations. 

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Emma Stone is as we have never seen her, and perhaps her best performance yet. She is the epitome of the cruel, junkie world that she has come from. What is disappointing perhaps is that she doesn’t get as much screen time as her fellow leads, even though she brings what is perhaps the strongest performance. 

The really interesting thing about Birdman is the plot, which we are not going to delve too far into because we certainly don’t want to just give you a synopsis. ‘Birdman’ is a commentary on mental illness, addiction, desperation, loneliness, and fame. Birdman is not perfect: it is interesting and different and refreshing, yes, but not perfect. There are a few pacing issues and scenes that drag. If you are not prepared for what it is, also, it can take you by surprise. And, obviously, if we have preconceived notions of what a film will be and it doesn’t fulfill those then we will most likely be disappointed.

It is difficult when a film has so much hype, but try to leave your expectations at the door with Birdman, and you will be pleasantly surprised. 

Rating: 7.5/10

FILM REVIEW: ‘THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING’

‘The Theory Of Everything’

Written by: Antony McCarten (screenplay), Jane Hawking (book)

Directed by: James Marsh

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones

Story: The story of famous physicist Stephen Hawking as he struggles with work, marriage, and his deteriorating health.


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Every awards season, we come across films that are wonderfully put together, flawlessly executed, and not very fun to watch. It is not an issue with the film because you know that the film is good: the reality is, the subject matter is not really that you would expect for ‘entertainment’. The Theory of Everything is a shining example of this style of film. The story itself is interesting, however watching the decline of a spritely and charming man into a one who cannot take care of himself or function as normal is incredibly difficult to see. When reviewing the film, we do have to take this into account as it can, for many, retract from the entertainment value that they take from watching it. If you are one who watches a film and expects to enjoy the process of watching it, then perhaps this is not the film for you.

Having said this, The Theory Of Everything is absolutely stellar. 

The film is paced well, with a running time of two hours that feels like just about two hours. We must consider here, that we have Hawking’s entire life so far to cover. The only perhaps disappointing facet of the content of the film is the lack of science. Do not be fooled: this is a romance movie. This in itself is a little upsetting since Hawking’s life is one of scientific triumph (not just his works, but his survival). Theory Of Everything tends to brush over with very simplistic explanations of his theories and almost completely ignores this most notable aspect of his ife. Hopefully one day we will get a film that looks more closely at his work than his romantic life. For now we have to make do.

the-theory-of-everything-image-eddie-redmayne

Eddie Redmayne is spectacular and heartbreaking in his portrayal of Hawking. Not only does he look like Hawking, but he embodies the kind of charming curiosity that we would expect from him in person. His performance is certainly Oscar worthy, and he will most likely take the trophy home this year. It would not be leaving in the wrong hands.

Redmayne is supported wonderfully by Felicity Jones as Hawking’s wife Jane. The two have an undeniable on screen chemistry which will appeal to really any audience. The beautiful thing about their relationship and story here is the simplicity of it. They live rather the normal life, despite everything.

The cinematography and score are both wonderfully done, creating environments that we can melt into: from 1960s Cambridge to 2014 London. Scenes of the young Hawking are captivating and visually arresting, and can tend to start to feel like travelling back in time. 

With everything combined we have a film that perhaps falls short of it’s true direction and proves to be less enjoyable than it’s potential, but is still beautifully moving and inherently good.

Rating: 7.5/10

FILM REVIEW: ‘UNBROKEN’

‘Unbroken’

Written by: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen (Screenplay)

Directed by: Angelina Jolie

Starring: Jack O’Connell, Takamasa Ishihara, Domhnall Gleeson

Story: The true story of Louis Zamperini, a US Olympic Athlete who was detained in a Japanese POW Camp in WWII.

unbroken-movie-poster-2

There has been much ado about ‘Unbroken’, and for various irrelevant reasons. First there was a hurrah about the fact that the film was directed by Angelina Jolie (so of course the paparazzi were all over the Australian set as soon as shooting began). Secondly, there were the various award ‘snubs’ that the film received, despite being made by a Hollywood darling. Third, Jolie was branded as a ‘racist’ and it was declared by many infuriated Japanese natives that she would not be welcome in their country because of the depiction of the Japanese in the film.

All of this fuss really does have to be left at the door when you decide to watch ‘Unbroken’. What we have to do, as with any film, is leave the fluff at the door and take the movie at face value. And, at face value, ‘Unbroken’ is a decent film.

The script itself is well paces, and divides itself really nicely between Zamperini’s early life, his life in the war and after the plane wreck, and then his life in the POW camp. These are not three distinct parts of the film but all mould together as one rather seamlessly. What we have to note is that the story that ‘Unbroken’ proclaims to tell is that of Zamperini’s life throughout the war. Of course, his life afterward is incredibly rich and meaningful, and this is undeniably glazed over. It would of been nice to see a lot more of that, but the film itself does tend to start to drag at around the 1hr40 mark so any additional time really would of been felt by the audience. Perhaps later down the track someone will decide to expand on this further, and that will truly be welcome.

Jack O’Connell does well to portray Zamperini, and his emotional scenes are performed to a good standard. The real issue here is that these emotional scenes are so few are far between. The real beauty of Louis Zamperini was his constitution: his belief that dealing with short term pain will eventually lead to long term gain. This belief and his ability to empathise and understand others is what kept him alive throughout the story (and for the many years after the war), yet this remains undiscovered. It is hard to know, with a performance like this, whether the shallowness comes from the script or the actor.

unbroken-movie-jack-oconnell

Technically, ‘Unbroken’ is beautiful. The cinematography is exceptionally put together and creates the feeling of a war epic. The sound mixing is a nice compliment which makes the film itself a pleasure to witness.

The ending of the film is neat, but as previously mentioned it does leave much unexplored. Perhaps it would of been more powerful for the Coen brothers to cut some of the start of the film and study Zamperini’s life post-war. Perhaps this is another deep area of exploration which should be put aside for another instalment. Either way, it does take something from the film: we invest in our lead character and do not see much of his emotional redemption.

All in all, ‘Unbroken’ is a movie worth seeing. It is not a movie worth investing in, or studying, but it does make for an enjoyable afternoon.

Rating: 7/10

FILM REVIEW: ‘CAKE’

‘Cake’

Written by: Patrick Tobin

Directed by: Daniel Barnz

Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Sam Worthington, Anna Kendrick, Adrianna Barraza

Story: Fascinated and haunted by her suicide, Claire befriends the widowed husband of a woman from her chronic pain support group.

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Jennifer Aniston is here to let us know that she is not simply a comedic actress. From time to time this does happen: a traditionally comedic actor will take on a role that is much more dramatic, much more complex. Often it pays off, and almost just as often it doesn’t. For Aniston, she strikes gold.

‘Cake’ is not a dessert. It is a rich and savoury main course which will leave you feeling full. This is an intense and moving exploration of the way in which we can forgive and move on from tragedy in our lives. For Aniston’s character Claire, she has suffered a tragedy which has taken everything she has from her: everything but her mother figure which she finds in her hired help Silvana. The empathy that Adrianna Barraza brings to this role is mature and measured. She plays off Aniston extremely well, and between the two of them there is some sort of familial electricity. We are assured through Silvana’s presence that Claire is always going to be OK – she is always going to get by. The beauty in this is that with Aniston’s performance, we want Claire to do more than get by. We want her to thrive.

Aniston comes into this role with a sense of wisdom and intense vulnerability that you would be hard pressed to find in many other actresses. When watching ‘Cake’, it is clear that she has approached this role with both passion and caution, and not too much of either.

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The screenplay is finely put together and incredibly well paced. When watching this we have to be prepared for heaviness and deep character study. If this is not the type of movie for you, then do not watch it. Many things are explored but some are left unsaid: this is a fine quality in a script and Patrick Tobin should be commended.

One is tempted to say that ‘Cake’ is worth watching for Aniston alone, however strong supporting roles from Adriana Barraza, Sam Worthington and particularly Felicity Huffman it would feel unfair to say. Her role is small, but Huffman becomes an integral part of this story, providing a certain optimism that we could perhaps lack at times when trying to process Claire’s journey.

Mature and understated, Cake might just be one of the most emotionally intelligent films you watch this year.

Rating: 9/10

FILM REVIEW: ‘FOXCATCHER’ [2014]

‘Foxcatcher’

Written by: E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman

Directed by: Bennett Miller

Starring: Channing Tatum, Steve Carrell, Mark Ruffalo

Story: Brothers Mark and David Shultz, Olympic wrestling champions, move to Foxcatcher Estate to train with millionaire John Du Pont resulting in an unexpected circumstance.

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When we start to talk about Foxcatcher we really have to bear in mind that this is actually based on a true story, and that fact has been highly publicised in marketing the film. The line “based on a true story” has often been used particularly in the realm of sports films and has given way to some classics such as ‘Cool Runnings’ and ‘Remember The Titans’. In the case of Foxcatcher, there have been many people who have spoken out to tell their ‘side of the story’, which induces us to perhaps say that Foxcatcher is lightly based on a true story, and some circumstances may have been indulged or exaggerated slightly for entertainment purposes.

The movie itself is a true sports film. While anyone will be able to enjoy it and appreciate the incredible performances offered, it is the real wrestling fans who are going to take the most from this movie.

The pace of the film is slow, with a running time of just over 2 hours you do feel every second of it. Many scenes are dialogue laden and don’t really have too much action to keep us engaged, however this is a character film: it is a tale of guts and glory, it is not a ’shoot em up’ or ‘race for the gold’ type of experience. It is more internal.

Steve Carrell offers the performance of his life as the demented John Du Pont, fixated on patriotism and serving the good of America to ‘get it back to where it was’ in the glory days. He is a typical rich man with mommy issues, alcohol issues, and a desperate need for approval. Du Pont is depicted as almost ‘collecting’ these wrestlers. After all, he is a bird stalker and a fox hunter, and he makes this very clear for us from the start.  He sees Mark Shultz as a possession and exercises his right to authority over him. There are a few scenes that make us slightly uncomfortable and perhaps even hint at a sexual undertone in his relationships with these wrestlers, but this alone has been the cause of some controversy and it perhaps left unexplored.

Tatum offers a solid performance but fades when on screen with Carrell and Mark Ruffalo, who much like Carrell offers possibly his best performance to date. Ruffalo’s Dave Shultz is a beacon of hope to rescue his little brother from Du Pont’s grasp, however his own weakness against corporate America leads to his demise. Ruffalo is understated and warm throughout the film and will be a clear audience favourite.

Foxcatcher is most certainly worth watching, not only for the performances but for the story itself. It is a psychological warfare made up of building blocks of passion and ambition. Look out for this film in Oscar nominations.

Rating: 8/10

 

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