Issue 121
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We watch a lot of movies - almost all of them in fact - which is helpful to you because this Sunday is the 88th Oscars and, come Monday morning, you're going to want an opinion. All bar one of the eight films vying for Best Picture can still be seen and here's where, complete with our popcorn-powered reviewer's thoughts.
It may do everything it can to attract awards bar waggling its touche in front of Oscar voters - but this is visceral filmmaking that’s a million miles away from staid trophy bait. DiCaprio stars as a fur hunter in the 19th Century US wilderness who’s left for dead after being mauled by a bear. Repeated sequences of Leo looking freezing get repetitive, but there are scenes of such brutality you won’t forget them in a hurry, and the photography is among the best ever put to cinema.
Chance of winning: The bookies’ favourite, and you never go against the bookies – as we found out that time we got our legs broken in Macau.
THE BIG SHORT (mac Birmingham)
It turns out Anchorman director Adam McKay’s years spent pointing a camera at Will Ferrell improv-ing was excellent prep for getting loose performances from heavyweights like Brad Pitt and Christian Bale. In the film’s true story a bunch of hedge-fund types make a mint by seeing the crash coming and making their bets accordingly. You might be surprised to hear a fun, poppy flick has emerged from the complex financial wreckage wrought by Wall Street, but the amiable half-smile means the satire hits home.
Chance of winning: Funny flicks rarely take home the big prize. Unless you count Crash.
Steven Spielberg, one of the great American filmmakers, teaming up with Tom Hanks, one of the last genuine movie stars, and Mark Rylance, don of the British stage – what could go wrong? Nearly nothing. Rylance is an enigmatic spy in Cold War New York who’s captured on operations, and Hanks is (of course) a decent lawyer fighting to get him a fair day in court.
Chance of winning: Hasn’t received half the buzz of the other nominees, because neither Spielberg nor Hanks have anything to prove, and are too old to leap about begging for a statue. DiCaprio, looking at you bro.
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (Cineworld)
The Mad Max series occupies an odd place in history: it’s ripped off so much that newcomers can find the originals underwhelming. Still, they carry enough cachet to be granted a belated fourth instalment and at last there’s enough money on the table to fully realise director George Miller’s insane idea of how a car chase should look. This is a welcome reminder of just how powerful real people doing real stunts can be. Chance of winning: In a just world, this would be continuously projected on the moon so the entire world could bask in its glory. Alas, this isn’t a just world, people.
Some outrages hide in plain sight because the community they take place in just doesn’t want to know. The long-running abuse of children by priests sheltered by the Catholic church is just so, and its uncovering by a team of Boston journalists is here presented in devastating detail. This is tough stuff at times, but the cracking cast bring their A games, and the precise, unfussy delineation of how they find their proof is quietly thrilling.
Chance of winning: Good. Hollywood types love films about journalism, probably because it's the only profession to match them in [*cough*] handsomeness, glamour and wealth.
BROOKYLN (The Electric)
This adaptation of Colm Tóibín’s novel can feel like your mum’s new favourite film – but not every movie needs a decapitation. Saoirse Ronan continues her ascent to the A-list, here as an Irish immigrant to 50s guess-where, who becomes embroiled in a transatlantic love triangle. It's at times very Sunday-night – you’d be forgiven for expecting to spot the cast of Call The Midwife in the background – but there’s a lack of sentimentality about the Irish culture of exile that is refreshing, and the acting is stunning.
Chance of winning: It would be heart-warming if it did, but if it beats The Revenant Leo might unleash his bear, and nobody wants that.
THE MARTIAN (Cineworld)
Horrifyingly, it won’t be long before there are adults who can barely remember the space shuttle, but this cracking film should inspire a whole new generation to dream of space travel. Matt Damon turns on the charm as an astronaut accidentally abandoned on Mars who grits down and gets busy with surviving. It’s not the sweaty nightmare of Gravity – Damon’s main problem seems to be only having disco records to listen to – but the visuals are outstanding, the science is reasonably realistic, and the film’s cheery optimism about human ingenuity is infectious.
Chances of winning: At odds of 150/1 it's a dark horse that's worth a modest flutter.


We've made our feelings about the destruction of the Central Library abundantly clear, by howling with hurt and sobbing loudly in the faces of terrified passersby every time we step within 50 metres of the doomed building. Less unattractively, though, we've also had this pin badge made for all those who wish to remember the divisive ziggurat long after the last concrete slab is lost to time. Teaming up with the wonderful Birmingham badge kings Pin Game and the designer behind our much-loved logo, Clare Hartley, it's a charming and ever-so affordable nod to John Madin's top-heavy landmark. And even if you never loved the old library we bet you know someone who does and for just £6 (with free postage) you can pin this fitting tribute to their shoes. Or their lapels, if you're going to be utterly unoriginal. 
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Venue: Bar Opus, One Snowhill; B4 6G; website 
Choice: Cassoulet (£9) Chooser: Manager

It’s the morning after the night before and we’ve stumbled into the city centre bleary-eyed, foggy-brained and broken. Salvation dawns with the brunch menu at Bar Opus offering a New York bagel with smoked salmon, avocado, scrambled duck egg and truffle oil, and a spider steak (Includes: marbled fat. Doesn't include: spiders) served with fried eggs and sauté spuds. But the undisputed champion’s choice is the cassoulet, that traditional, slow-cooked, French tomato stew, packed with hangover healing meat and beans. This one’s been given a twist with chunks of north African merguez lamb sausage and a fat wedge of bone marrow butter - the sort of intensely rich, calorie crammed substance you could survive on a mere sniff of if you found yourself stranded up K2 for a week. Wash it down with a £12.50 bottomless Bloody Mary. Soul soothing, belly filling, hangover annihilating goodness.


Colmore Food Festival, the biggest food event in the city's calendar, just got considerably bigger with the help of this humble e-mag. The annual Victoria Square gastronomic knees up usually lasts two tum-filling days in July, but this year will come complete with five foodie fringe events, starting in April and concocted with the help of I Choose Birmingham. The food labs of UCB will be weirding you out with sensory taste tomfoolery, four top hot dog purveyors will be going head-to-head in the city's first ever gourmet Dog-Off, The Old Joint Stock will be doing a food and film pairing (clue: Mrs Lovett's pies) and for one weekend only we'll be boldly declaring the British Sunday roast dead. Keep your eye on the Food Fest's Facebook page and right here, on I Choose Birmingham.


Like the vengeful rescue mission that finds its way into every Liam Neeson film, Hamlet is a theatrical phenomenon that needs no introduction. Reassuming its position at the RSC's Stratford-upon-Avon HQ from March 12, the tale is described by director Simon Godwin as a play that "transcends genre - it’s part ghost story, part family tragedy, part dark comedy". Taking on the title role is a man quickly becoming a staple of both stage and television, Paapa Essiedu, who, if you're experiencing a sense of deja-vu, was in Utopia. In what's being billed a contemporary take on the unshakeable classic, music for the production is composed by Jamiroquai percussionist Sola Akingbola. Tickets prices vary but start at £16. On until August 13.
  • New to Brum, street food vendors Cafe Horchata are making their first appearance at the Gunmakers Arms tomorrow (Feb 26), 4pm to 8pm
  • Liquor Store's Spring/Summer collections at both their men's outlet and their women's store, are now available. We likey
  • The people behind Moseley's most excellent Prince of Wales pub have just acquired the British Oak in Stirchley. Cue immediate improvements
  • With six interactive performances from March 12, Theatres of Conscience offers audiences the chance to experience a WWI community tribunal
  • On Wednesday (March 2, 11.30am to 11pm) Zizzi, Brindleyplace, are offering all classic pizzas for just £1 (takeaway or dine in) with all proceeds going to Stand Up To Cancer. 
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"Google can bring you back 100,000 answers, a librarian can bring you back the right one." - Neil Gaiman
WORDS: Katy Drohan, Mary Griffin, Andrew Lowry, Tom Cullen
PICTURES: Jas Sansi (CBD Food Festival)

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