The Alternative Winner is…
Oscars shmoscars! The votes are in and we can reveal which films the Wilderness team think have been unfairly snubbed by this years’ Oscars.
Alternative Best Film: ‘Weiner’
‘Directors: Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg.
‘Weiner’ is a cautionary tale about public figures in the social media age. This astonishing political documentary follows Democrat congressman, Anthony Weiner, as he attempts to restart a promising political career derailed by the infamous Twitter ‘sexting’ scandal that engulfed him in 2011.
The film picks up with Weiner and his wife (and Hillary Clinton advisor) Huma Abedin as they attempt to move on from the scandal, then follows the ever-bullish Weiner as he tries to kick-start his 2013 campaign to become Mayor of New York City.
The directors (Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg) were granted seemingly unlimited access to Weiner and his young family. There are excruciating moments in the film — including the inevitable slew of follow up scandals involving Weiner — where the audience keep expecting the camera will cut away, but it never does.
We see the stoicism of Huma Abedin against the harsh glare of the media. Then, as new strands to the original scandal reemerge, we see how her resolve gradually starts to ebb away, as she is forced to relive the very public humiliation her husband has brought upon them.
The directors effectively managed to get under the skin of their subject. At the film’s outset we see Anthony Weiner, the tough talking New Yorker — brash, combative, charismatic — but by the end of the documentary what we are left with is a portrait of a deeply flawed, thin-skinned man, who never truly seems to be able to admit when he’s wrong. What an appropriate political film for this year.
The Nice Guys
It’s set in Los Angeles, stars Ryan Gosling, and makes you laugh all the way through. I can hear your screams already: “not another La La Land review!” Nope, no singing or dancing here, just an appreciation of one of the most underrated films of 2016: The Nice Guys.
Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe are an unlikely comedic pairing — I can’t look at Crowe without thinking he’s about to launch into a speech about how he’s a Commander of the Armies of the North, and loyal to the one true Emperor — but it works. They have great chemistry, and are ably aided by a script that is punchy and keeps the film ticking. The 1970s setting adds to the slapstick nature, with moustaches, big hair and flares galore.
The Nice Guys doesn’t tackle a hard-hitting subject, move you emotionally, or have a budget in the 100s of millions of dollars. What it does do is transport you to a better time, less polished and more naïve, and makes you forget just for a moment how bizarre 2016 has been.
It’s probably easier to list the films I DIDN’T see this year. Looking back at everything of note that hit the cinema in 2016 it’s a what’s what of films I wanted to see but didn’t. Swiss Army Man? Nope. Paterson? Didn’t see it. Everybody Wants Some!!? I do want some but still haven’t gotten round to getting any*. At least I can console myself with the fact that I DID manage to see Ira Sachs’ Little Men — a film that has been criminally overlooked come awards time.
When Greg Kinnear’s struggling actor moves his family into the Brooklyn apartment he inherited from his recently deceased father he also inherits the tenant who has been running the shop underneath the family home for years. Paulina García’s dress-maker has been paying rent way below the market average due to her friendship with Kinnear’s departed father so when her new landlord proposes an enormous increase in rent she decides she won’t go without a fight.
Against the backdrop of this dispute over the cost of prime Brooklyn real-estate the two young sons the warring parties (newcomers Michael Barbieri and Theo Taplitz) begin an instant and firm friendship. The central performances by Barbieri and Taplitz are utterly captivating and shot through with emotional maturity way beyond their years. As their parents’ feud threatens to tear their friendship apart the two young actors never falter and deliver emotionally wrought performances that many veteran actors can only dream of. The fact that the film has been overlooked by all the major awards is a travesty — not least for the two young leads — but not surprising. Writer/Director Ira Sachs’ previous film Love Is Strange was one of my favourites of 2014 and was equally absent from the mainstream award ceremonies.
*I mean I haven’t seen Everybody Wants Some!!
With all the bad things that happened in 2016, you wouldn’t be blamed for wanting to head out into the wild and leave society to it. Captain Fantastic definitely gave me that feeling of wanting to escape to the woods, get fit and learn to fight off bears, leaving behind worries of whether I can afford Pret for lunch. This being said, I particularly enjoyed the film because although it does paint a negative view of technology and the capitalist world it also shows the flip side. When their Mum dies the children are exposed to the outside world for the first time and soon realise that they have no idea how to function in this environment. It shows us that the society we live in does have its benefits and can teach us some valuable things, it’s just important to get the right balance between being completely detached from it and being completely sucked in. Captain Fantastic was my film of the year because I think we all needed to be reminded that although civilization can be pretty rubbish at times it isn’t all that bad.