Inside Job – Review

INSIDE JOB (2010) 

Directed by Charles Ferguson. Narrated by Matt Damon.

When reviewing a documentary like this I think it’s fair to make a distinction between the subject matter of the documentary and the actual merits of the film-making itself.

On the subject matter front, “Inside Job” surely deserves all the awards it is receiving (it recently won the Oscar for best documentary too). The film sets to explain the reasons (or arguably, some of the reasons) behind the financial crisis that’s hit the whole world. How did we end up where we are and whose to blame?

It could be a fairly dry and dull subject , and a rather complicated one too, but Inside Job, for most of it, manages to keep it simple and gripping at the same time without dumbing it down too much. Inevitably it ends up focusing more one one side of the argument (the  bankers) as opposed to following the more controversial route (going against the politicians. Though they do get mentioned, the film prefers not to be so hard on them as it is on those corporate people, obviously a much easier target).

And since we are all on the same boat in this never-ending financial crisis and we are, forgive me the term, rather pissed off at the way the whole thing has been carried out and handled, we are perfectly happy to see it all laid out the way it is and eventually everyone will come out it feeling even more angry and frustrated than they were before.

On that respect the film obviously really works.

As a piece of film, “Inside Job” is less interesting.

Its pace is very uneven: sometimes a bit too fast when it should be slow and a bit slow when you just want it to get on with it, for example there are way too many beginnings (one of them is probably there just because it plants the seeds for one of the best jokes  of film later on about the instability of Iceland). Not everything hits home as it probably should and not everything is as clear as it should be. After a while one million begins to sound a lot like 10 millions or 100 millions or even a billion… it’s just a whole lot of money which we’ll never see anyway… It gets slightly repetitive.

In most sequences the documentary unravels like a series lectures of economy: it is mainly voice over driven (read by Matt Damon who seems to be everywhere these days), visualized by unimaginative graphics and straight forward unremarkable archive footage. The real skill here seems to be more in the writing than the actual film-making. That’s by no means a criticism. This isn’t a film by Micheal Moore and, for most of its length, it doesn’t even try to be one: there are no stunts, and, on the surface, no tricks either.

And yet, everyone who has seen this film will most likely remember the last third, which is probably the closest thing to something that Michael Moore would do, and to me, the most interesting part. It is the moment the film-makers turn against their contributors: economists, journalists and professors, who are just as guilty as everyone else.

Watching them squirm in their seats having to defend  themselves when they thought they were just there to give us a history lesson is the most pleasurable part of the film.

And because we all want to point fingers and blame everyone for their greedy needs, we probably fail to notice the slightly biased use of the editing: I’m thinking of all those moments when questions are asked off-camera just so that we can catch the surprised faces of the people who are being interviews, and then the films cuts away to the next sequence, without giving them really the chance to answer.

We really don’t mind though: we hate those people anyway and as long as they look stupid and guilty we are happy with it.

In the end, it’s great to see a documentary like this, on a subject like the big economic crisis, getting all the awards it’s getting and though that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a masterpiece, I hope it does mean we are ready to chance the way people regulate our economy…

7/10

Oscar Winners 2011

The Academy Awards ceremony is over and the statuettes have been given all away exactly to who we thought might win… Once again, Oscar disappoints in originality, courage, boldness, and predictability reigned.  But in most cases what was to be expected was also the best available choice.

If you really asked me Toy Story 3 should have won and Christopher Nolan should have been recognized at least as a screen-writer, or even better as a director for what was one of the most inventive and original film of the year: Inception. Instead the Academy opted for the most obvious Tom Hooper: his directing on “The King’s Speech” was showy, obvious, by number and lacked of any subtlety (you can see read my review, which was written long before the film even got released).

Is this guy really worthy of standing in the same league as Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Peter Jackson, Roman Polanski,Oliver Stone, Milos Forman, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Wise, George Cukor, Billy Wilder, Martin Scorsese, Vincente Minnelli, David Lean, John Ford, Michael Curtiz, just to mention a few?

And yes, of course, Colin Firth was good, but was he really better than James Franco in 127 hours, a film that was entirely dependent on him stuck in a hole? No, he wasn’t. However he deserved the Award last year for “A Single Man” and even Colin himself knows that (that’s why he thanked Tom Ford in his speech).

The Social Network, even though that too was a flawed movie, felt more like a solid piece of film-making.

Well, you can obviously tell I am a bit disappointed…. Oh well, that’s the way it is. The King’s Speech joins the list of Oscar winner crowd-pleasing films, like Shakespeare in Love or Crash, Ordinary People, Driving Miss Daisy and so on. Films that found themselves at the right time in the right place and got away with winning (Let’s face it, even the Hurt Locker last year). Not bad ones, but not that great either.

On the whole this was one of the lamest show in the last few years. James Franco was under-used and Anne Hathaway she felt stiff and was confined by a silly, bitty, and unfunny script.

There was nothing remarkable about the show itself: no glamour, no drama, no surprises… It makes me wonder whether I should have gone to bed earlier and watch the highlights tomorrow…

Few nice moments but that’s about it, just nice: Natalie Portman’s speech, Colin’s Speech (though he has been better before), Melissa Leo cursing and droppping the “F” bomb at one point (hahaha), Christian Bale showing that he has got a heart and that nerd guy who got the Oscar for the short film who said “I should have got a haircut”.

On the whole a pretty forgettable show, with very forgettable hosts.

Here’s the list of all the winners and some comments:

BEST PICTURE

The King’s Speech – WINNER

BEST DIRECTOR

Tom Hooper – The King’s Speech – WINNER

BEST ACTOR

Colin Firth – The King’s Speech – WINNER

BEST ACTRESS

Natalie Portman – Black Swan – WINNER

Beautiful performance and a well deserved Oscar.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Christian Bale – The Fighter – WINNER

A very showy performance, but still a good one. Also Christian redeemed himself for all the bad he did, by getting moved and giving a nice speech.I just hope that beard is there for some reason!

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Melissa Leo – The Fighter – WINNER

I knew it the moment I saw the fighter.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

In a Better World – Denmark – WINNER

I haven’t seen this yet, but it’s winning awards left and right… I’m getting curious.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

David Seidler – The King’s Speech – WINNER

Yawn… How predictable… Poor Nolan

BEST ANIMATION

Toy Story 3 – WINNER

Was there any other choice? This should have got the Best feature film too!!

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Aaron Sorkin – The Social Network – WINNER

Well, of course.

BEST ART DIRECTION

Alice in Wonderland – WINNER

mmm.. Not so sure, really. A tilted tree is really not enough for getting an Oscar. But then again, it was the easiest and laziest choice.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Inception – WINNER

This was a surprise, but a very welcome one. It was certainly a harder film to light that True Grit. However Rogers Deakins will have to win sooner or later.

BEST SOUND MIXING

Inception – WINNER

BEST SOUND EDITING

Inception – WINNER

Both this and the previous award are very very hard to differentiate for me, so it’s good to see them going to the same film.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

We Belong Together (from Toy Story 3) by Randy Newman – WINNER

20 nominations for Randy Newman and this is only his second win. Also it brings the Oscar count to “2” for this wonderful film, so I’m just happy for it.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

The Social Network – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – WINNER

The most original score for sure. Totally deserved!!

BEST COSTUMES

Alice in Wonderland – WINNER

The only redeeming feature of that film.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Inside Job – WINNER

Pity for “Exit through the gift shop” which was an extremely entertaining doc (and it would have been good to see who would have collected the award). But this one was clearly a better one.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT

Strangers No More – WINNER

BEST FILM EDITING

The Social Network – WINNER

Clearly this was some of the best edited film (especially if you’ve seen the special feature on the DVD). 127 Hours was a more flashy one and slightly more interesting, but they say that the best editing is the invisible one.

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM

The Lost Thing – WINNER

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

God of Love – WINNER

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Inception – WINNER

Well, was there really anything else?

BEST MAKE-UP

The Wolfman – WINNER

A lazy Award. I’m sure voters just saw Baker’s name and voted for him. The film was rubbish and in fact it’s impossible to tell what was make-up and what was CGI (including the clip that was shown during the show)

To conclude, the only thing I am pleased about is that a little film like The King’s Speech once again follows the a trend set in the last couple of years whereby small, indie movies do better than Hollywood biggies… But hey, they could have done the same thing just by rewarding “Black Swan” or “Blue Valentine” or even “Animal Kingdom”.

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