Oscars Countdown 2015 - Nightcrawler

Ensign Lestat's Oscars Countdown, 09/02/2015

Nightcrawler

Nominations - Best Original Screenplay

It's the middle of the night, and a shadowy figure is attempting to cut through a chain gate. When a cop accosts him, he attacks him viciously. Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is not a man to be trifled with.

Ferociously intelligent and determined, but anti-social and desperate, Bloom doggedly pursues his obsessions as and when they arise - and his passion soon turns to news coverage - crime news coverage to be exact. He adopts the role of a nightcrawler, hence the title of the film, and sells his wares to KWLA News Director Nina (Rene Russo). What starts out as a fluke, becomes his USP - gritty, realistic footage that takes the channel's coverage to a whole new level. But as Bloom strives to exceed expectations, the lines between right and wrong begin to blur.

'Nightcrawler' is the most compelling film of this year's Oscar season, and it has only managed to bag itself a Screenplay nomination. Now, I'll admit the moment I read the word Nightcrawler I can only think of the X-Men character, but this film is far removed from superheroes. The trailer was tantalizing and the film continues the same trait. It is irresistible and suspenseful. There are so many hair-raising moments full of tension. We don't want to be in Bloom's shoes; he's impulsive, sliding down a slippery slope that he's not even interested in getting off.

You can't hardly keep your eyes off this film, each moment is of great significance. I concentrated on the writing of this film because of its sole nomination. Truth be told, there's a host of nominations, even wins, this film could have got - Best Picture (along the lines of 'The Departed'), Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor for Riz Ahmed, Best Director for debutante director Dan Gilroy and perhaps for Cinematography. But we have to settle for Writing because anything slightly intelligent seems to frighten away Academy voters.

The following may contain spoilers.

I enjoyed the diversity in this film - it's a small cast - and it has a much older woman as not only a powerful woman but also as a love interest, a black female detective and an Asian-origin actor.

Riz Ahmed plays Bloom's hapless, downtrodden assistant Rick. He's utterly convincing as the frightened, brow-beaten and ever-whinging guy taken along for a ride. I don't think I've seen any of his other work, but he was startling in this one, in a quiet and subtle way.

Gyllenhaal is at his finest when he's getting lost inside a character. The way he holds himself and his physical transformation suit Bloom perfectly - he embodies Bloom's obvious psychological issues with wide crazy eyes. He's mesmerising for the most part. It's very disappointing that some of the best performances of the year have been foregone for a couple of mediocre ones - granted there are only five nominees, but at least make them count!

This film is beautifully plotted; it hinges on the unknown and on its characters. We don't need motivations, we just understand these characters. We've all had moments of compulsiveness, and shades of us can be seen in all of the characters.

Only at two points in the film did I feel the writing failed us. As a debutante director and husband of the incredible Rene Russo, Gilroy takes some liberties with his characters. It's a stretch to imagine that Bloom, someone so intent on beating out his competition in the nightcrawling business, would risk it all with his, presumably, sole news partner by intimidating her into a relationship. Russo and Gyllenhaal have no chemistry, and it corroded the co-dependent, albeit toxic, relationship the two of them had developed over the course of the film. Their conversation at the Mexican restaurant dragged on too long - it could have been wrapped up in quarter the time had it focused on the real reason Bloom had called her - to get a steady gig with KWLA by mutually upping the ratings and giving Nina's profile a boost. Their relationship is so chaste on-screen that it's laughable when Bloom insinuates that the Mexican restaurant discussion led to more shenanigans later that night.

The other time the writing faltered was the death of Rick (hey, I did mention there would be spoilers!). Where we could have, and should have, seen an incredulous and even angry Rick, breathe curses at Bloom's betrayal with his dying breaths, we get a desperate tète-a-tète between the two of them as Bloom is allowed to explain why he betrayed him - uh, we already know why; Bloom's a twisted, sick SOB, who can't let anything jeopardise his obsessive success story. He is also not a man to be trifled with - did I mention that? This fact has been established in the beginning of the film, and the semi-cryptic discourse between the two of them just seemed like the writer didn't have enough faith in his audience.

'Nightcrawler' is the kind of film every intelligent movie-goer longs for. Too often mediocre fare with gratuitous violence and worse are thrown at us in lieu of smart cinema. Of the ten writing nominees this year, 'Nightcrawler' is the only one that grips you and keeps you at the edge of your seat. In an ideal world, this film's genius would win it it's only award of the night, but considering its fellow nominees are all up for the big prize, this one's pretty low down on the pecking order. I'm pretty sure the lone gunmen of the two writing categories are unlikely contestants - though, where 'Nightcrawler' excels, its Adapted Screenplay counterpart 'Incoherent Inherent Vice' fails. 'Vice' is the only major nominee of this season that I was unable to write a log about, because seriously, what the hell were they saying/doing/acting/smoking? Pretentious films like that always leave a bad taste in my mouth - and I'm hoping the Academy decides to ignore it on Oscar night.

I would have watched 'Nightcrawler' irrespective of its nomination. And that is what I believe the Oscars are constantly missing out on. They celebrate cinema that only they, a very small handful of non-diverse people, enjoy. There is such a sameness in the majority of the films that are nominated. Each one falls into a predefined pattern. The ratings, whether they rise or fall, are not based on who presents the awards that night or hosts the ceremony, it's that they do not cater to the majority of movie lovers. The people who actively pursue the joys of films are an afterthought - people of colour and the women of this world. The Academy is quick to shut them out. It's time for them to wake up and diversify. Don't cater to the lowest common denominator. Cater to the paying public who respect the art and love it.

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