THE BIG SHORT
OUT IN CINEMAS
Adam McKay / Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling / Comedy / 2016 / 15 / 130mins
For a film with perhaps one of the least imaginative titles going, The Big Short sure does give you one hell of an introduction to the recent banking crisis.
I am the last guy on Earth who's going to understand banks, economics and maths ( I think the statement "I did an English degree" explains all) but the way The Big Short enticed me so was because it was interesting. Most banking films nowadays are comedies because they are visual satires - an overt metaphor mocking the farcical system the global economy once employed. The Wolf of Wall Street mocked the 80s; The Big Short mocks the 00s. Wit pleases the critics, laughs please the fans, and money comes tumbling in for the studio - BOOM.
In an age of postmodern irony, The Big Short fits in rather snuggly. The obvious comparison, as previously noted, is The Wolf of Wall Street, except The Big Short is less funny and more intelligent. It's unique, and a wonderful adaptation of the text, staying true to correct terminology and dialogue. I must say the editing is great: a meta-layered script, with use of pop culture and visual cues of footnotes, diagrams and whatnot making for a cinematic Tristram Shandy - utilising the visual, as well as the audible, to mock the market.
Christian Bale was Oscar nominated for his performance as Michael Burry. Yes, it's outstanding, but Steve Carrell is at least on a par with him. Ryan Gosling goes all out too - a combination of Oscar-chasing-DiCaprio and pure Cagean revelry. He was probably the funniest, certainly the most quotable. Bale was simply the most serious out of the core actors: he plays a man with Asperger's and learned drums so he could, in effect, play 'air drums' (oh, and one scene where he plays drums... one scene). My question is: why does the Academy shy away from comedy? Everyone knows they have a twisted sense of humour given that no black actors have been nominated for the second year in a row. So why can't they appreciate some good irony? Probably because they all have besties on Wall Street - quick, call the conspiracy police.
I wouldn't be surprised if The Big Short scraped an Oscar or two. Best Picture, Director and even Supporting Actor for Bale are all long shots, but editing and best adapted screenplay... who knows?
Financial mumbo-jumbo with fun, facts and lots of swearing.
OUT IN CINEMAS
Ryan Coogler / Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson / Drama / 2016 / 12A / 133mins
Fuck it, I'll just say it: this is easily the best Rocky film.
"But Harry, nothing can beat the original!" Well, Creed just did mate - sorry. Actually, I shouldn't apologise, crack director-actor duo Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan should. Their previous venture, Fruitvale Station, was a surprise critical hit in 2013 and they appear to have continued their form.
What Rocky did was pretty much invent an entire film genre - it was in some ways revolutionary and took everyone by surprise, paving the way for such cinematic greats as Raging Bull, The Fighter and Warrior. Obviously, we remember it for making star out of Stallone, he of the archetype rags-to-riches story. The films that followed led to a downward spiral that even the most diligent fans found hard to accept (let's face it, Rocky IV is just Cold War propaganda). What does Creed bring to the Rocky canon? It brings a return to the original format, akin to how The Force Awakens was similar to A New Hope. It's not too original in the literal sense of the word, but it gives everyone a fresh start without the complications of a reboot.
I like the whole hyperlink cinema thang goin' on. Whenever Adonis Creed comes across a new fighter his stats appear beside him: world ranking, fight technique etc. It reminds me of a video game - it has a contemporary feel that fits in with the internet age, where we learn facts instantaneously. Coogler modernises the franchise with aplomb.
WARNING: Stallone actually acts. Yeah, I know, I was shocked myself. His Golden Globe win is debateable, but an Oscar nom? Hmm. This seems more of a send-off for a man whose last nomination was for the same character back in 1977. Some old fans of his seem to have taken pity on him methinks. Not getting on the #OscarsSoWhite train or anything, but Michael B. Jordan should have been nominated. I thought he was damn good and at least on a par with Stallone. Tony Bellew as Ricky Conlan - the less said about him the better. They've recruited a lairy Liverpudlian and rolled with it because he's got eyes that burn into your soul and the American masses will barely understand a word he's saying - therefore he's evil! Burn him at the stake! Although some might argue that's good stereotype-casting, especially by American standards, and fits the typical Rocky rival cliché, he's still off the pace of those around him.
The shots are great, the choreography is great, and the acting isn't too shabby. It's cheesy, but I enjoyed it - who doesn't love a Rocky film? I doubt it will win any Oscars. But that Golden Globe for Stallone has got me thinking he could nick one.
Reinvents and reinvigorates the Rocky franchise.
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