The Oscars are coming up Sunday. Yes, I know it doesn’t matter who wins, but I enjoy watching the awards and I think they’re a good reflection of the aspirations and values of the people in this business we follow because we love (some of) what they create.
For a few years now I’ve made it a tradition to watch all of the nominated best pictures. This year, mostly by accident, I also saw all of the best actor and best actress nominees, which I don’t think I’ve ever done before. So I wanted to put together links to the ones I reviewed and thoughts on the ones that I didn’t.
BEST PICTURE NOMINEES (alphabetical)
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME is one of the ones I didn’t review. I considered it, and honestly I was a little scared. This is a well made, universally acclaimed movie, a sunny nostalgic memoir of a brief affair between a seventeen year old boy (Timothee Chalamet, INTERSTELLAR) and a grad student (Armie Hammer, THE LONE RANGER) who comes to stay with his professor father (Michael Stuhlbarg, everything) one summer. It reminded me a little bit of STEALING BEAUTY in its glamorous depiction of lazy days sitting outside drinking wine and talking about art and intellectual shit and having amorous feelings awakened. Chalamet has been deservingly praised and nominated – he doesn’t look much different from in LADY BIRD, but comes off as an entirely different person, a sort of gawky nerd with more of a sense of humor. And honestly I think Hammer deserved a nomination as well. He is outstanding and, more than ever, makes it clear that George Miller picked a hell of a Bruce Wayne!
But yeah, I gotta admit, I had questions. The movie really, really emphasizes the age difference between these characters. There are closeups to juxtapose Chalamet’s skinny, hairless legs with Hammer’s manly super hero muscles. Physically and emotionally, this is a child and a man. I don’t know what to think of this. I completely believe that the experience probly didn’t screw up this kid, and in some ways helped him, as he may live a life open about himself while the older man is doomed to a repressed and closeted life. I guess I’m just confused why in this time when people are so sensitized to young women being taken advantage of by older men this is unquestioningly celebrated as a beautiful love story. Literally the only person I saw bring it up at all was the homophobic right wing hypocrite that Hammer told off before the movie came out. So I kinda feel like an asshole bringing it up, but it is on my mind.
I am positive that if this was about a skinny 17 year old girl who lives with her parents and the adult man from MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., admitting that he purposely touched her bare shoulders to show his sexual interest, that there would be at least some backlash. I’m less positive that there’s not a difference. Maybe it is different in gay relationships. I don’t know.
One reason why I might not be able to assess it properly is that the scene where SPOILER his dad has a talk to him about it went completely over my dumb head. In subsequent conversations with more observant filmgoers I understood that the dad was telling him he was gay and wishes he hadn’t been repressed about it. This understanding makes the scenes with the girlfriend character, having been taken aside and explained the situation, really cool. But at the time I read the speech as this father being the most understanding dad ever about his adult student fucking his son.
By the way SPOILER there is a long graphic scene where the kid fucks a peach and cums in it and the older man almost eats it on purpose. It was so worth it for the woman in the back of the the theater who angrily proclaimed how disgusting it was, but I cannot explain or defend it on an artistic level. Again, something that would not be acceptable in a female-male romance. In fact I think it would become BROWN BUNNY level notorious after its film festival debut. But that’s just speculation.
My main feeling about CALL ME BY YOUR NAME was that it was pretty good but just not for me. But I did continue thinking about different aspects of it for days afterward, making me think I liked it more than I realized at first.
This was this year’s entry in the “movie I wasn’t planning on seeing but I did it for completist purposes” series. That’s one of the reasons I watch all the nominees, because I really liked BROOKLYN and (to my total shock) LES MISERABLES, and there’s no way I would’ve watched them otherwise.
You can’t win ’em all though. DARKEST HOUR is fine. It’s what you expect. Gary Oldman is as outstanding as you’ve heard as Winston Churchill, and it’s kind of fun seeing all his little quirks in his personal life and this version of his story. I don’t know shit about it so I learned some things. Ben Mendelsohn plays that king from THE KING’S SPEECH but in this one he just has a lisp instead of a stutter. I mean, don’t they know which one it was? That was weird. Some parts feel like total bullshit, as happens in these dramatized history movies. The way this movie tells it, he really wants to get in the war but a couple people around him tell him he has to stay out of it, but later he goes on the subway and asks a bunch of regular folks and they’re like “Dude, we gotta get those Nazis!” and then he announces that’s what he’s gonna do and everybody starts cheering so maybe he should’ve gotten out more and he would’ve known. (As phony as the subway scene feels, it’s also maybe the most entertaining part of the movie.)
I’m not as worshipful of DUNKIRK as many people but I think it’s a great technical achievement by Nolan and I prefer his opposite-of-DARKEST-HOUR approach. It’s all thrusting you into a cinematic experience, no explaining any context. Here’s my review.
I just think it’s incredible that a horror movie, a low budget one, a fuckin Blumhouse movie, directed by a guy from Key & Peele, got nominated for best picture! That just doesn’t happen. I don’t mean to diminish its importance to black directors and subject matter and the things its story says about racism, but I am a Fangorian, I gotta be happy for this achievement.
I also think it’s ironic that all my life people have complained “the Oscars never go to the type of movies regular people like me watch” and then when a low budget horror movie gets nominated it’s “I like that movie but it’s not really an Oscar type movie.”
anyway, my review.
Loved it. Like GET OUT, I thought it might get a screenplay nomination at the time I saw it, didn’t expect director and picture. Good for LADY BIRD. My review from earlier today.
A really interesting and weird and exquisitely made movie that I am growing to like even more from our discussion here. My review.
I feel like nobody takes these Spielberg Oscar type movies that seriously, but this is one of the best of them. I kinda loved this one. It’s a movie anybody else could make and you’d think “yeah, that is about important stuff” but Spielberg actually makes it thrilling.
THE SHAPE OF WATER
This is a good movie and I’m happy for Del Toro getting all this acclaim. Also I am totally befuddled that this is the one that’s the awards-getter. I wish I could get past my hangups and be moved by it the way the rest of the world is. I wish that monster was like the Cary Grant or George Clooney or Prince of monsters instead of just seeming like she’s fucking her pet. But I’m glad you guys love it so much.
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
I feel weird about this one. When I reviewed it I mentioned some misgivings about the way it handles race, which I saw as a white guy who’s not American not really getting the seriousness of systemic racism in this country. At the time I had only seen praise for it and didn’t know that would become a major point of contention. Much of the subsequent criticism I’ve seen I feel like goes overboard and is ridiculously dismissive of the movie’s drama and humor and great performances. But especially now that it’s up against GET OUT I will feel really bad if a movie I feel is tone deaf about race in America wins best picture.
What do I think will win? I don’t know. What do I want to win? I also don’t know. I guess for the reasons mentioned above, GET OUT would make me the most excited, but it feels like a long shot to me for those same reasons.
LEAD ACTOR NOMINEES
Chalamet in CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, as I mentioned, is really good. It’s weird when someone so young gets nominated, and I think “well, he will probly go on to so many other things he could win for, but on the other hand maybe he’ll never get another chance?”
Day-Lewis in PHANTOM THREAD, of course, is always great, and the movie would be totally different if Anderson had gone for his first choice of Mark Wahlberg or his second choice of Owen Wilson. That is not true. But this is a movie carefully molded around Day-Lewis’s performance.
Kaluuya is very good in GET OUT but to be honest his performance didn’t jump out to me as one of the highlights. I was more excited about Betty Gabriel as Georgina, a person inside striving to escape. But I need to see the movie again.
Oldman in DARKEST HOUR, yeah, that’s one of those show-offy Oscar type roles, he’s wearing makeup and I think a fat suit and he’s doing a voice and imitating a historical figure. It’s one of those but it’s a great one of those.
Denzel Washington in ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ. – I had heard bad things about this movie and honestly only got to it because I realized it would make me have seen all of the lead acting nominees. It’s a pretty good movie though, not as compelling as the same director’s NIGHTCRAWLER, but kind of an oddly zigging and zagging story about a righteous activist lawyer who decides to sell out and a you-would-expect-sleazy white lawyer who doesn’t get that he’s selling out and tries to help him do good for the world. I never knew where it was going and Denzel deserves credit for playing kind of a schlubby, socially awkward weirdo.
I assume Oldman will win. Maybe Day-Lewis. Any of them would be fine.
Hawkins in SHAPE OF WATER, obviously good. A dialogue free performance, and you don’t really think about it that way, or at least I don’t.
McDormand in THREE BILLBOARDS – I loved her. A tough, angry asshole. Funny and mean despite having a good motive. A little bit of a BAD SANTA role.
Robbie in I, TONYA. I’d be excited if she got it. Whatever weaknesses the movie has, she’s outstanding. I’m impressed by her meteoric rise.
Ronan in LADY BIRD. She’s always so good but come to think of it have we seen her in this kind of assertive, dialogue heavy, comedic-timing type of role? I probly take her greatness for granted.
Streep in THE POST. I am surprised but I am kind of rooting for fuckin Meryl Streep. She’s the heart and soul of this movie. Excellence for her is so commonplace now that nobody gets that excited about it. But credit is due.
I’m thinking it will go to McDormand, which I would perfectly happy with.
I haven’t seen ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD, so I don’t have full knowledge of the category, but I’m hoping Willem Dafoe wins supporting actor for THE FLORIDA PROJECT (an unforgettable movie I thought was gonna get the low-budget-indie best picture nomination slot). Such a great character and amazing how he blends in with all these naturalistic first time actors.
I have seen literally one of the animated feature nominees (COCO) and it was pretty good and at the end I realized I was more emotionally invested in it than I realized (hard not to be, everybody has family members who have died or will die) and I had to look away at a key moment because it was a crowded theater and I was sitting next to some thirteen year old boys and I was worried I was gonna cry in front of them. For what it’s worth, I succeeded. I am still a man.
I have not seen THE BOSS BABY but from the trailers I dearly hope that the Boss Baby and Peter Rabbit die soon in a murder-suicide.
Adapted screenplay: I assume CALL ME BY YOUR NAME has to win, but I’m so happy LOGAN was nominated. That would be a best picture nominee if it were up to me. For original screenplay I’m happy for THE BIG SICK, a very good romantic comedy.
Makeup and Hair: What is the deal with SHAPE OF WATER not getting nominated? It got nominated for, like, every category except for the main one it’s a no-brainer for. My only theory is maybe people thought the fishman was CGI?
Visual effects: WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES probly won’t win, and I don’t understand how. That movie is incredible. Apes together strong.
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That’s all. Thanks everybody. Have fun watching or not watching.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.