I use hands to help my fellow man / I use hands to help with what I can / But when I face an unjust injury / Then I change my hand into FIST OF FURY

Oscar Preview 2018

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.

DARKEST HOUR

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.)

DUNKIRK

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.

GET OUT

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.

LADY BIRD

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.

PHANTOM THREAD

A really interesting and weird and exquisitely made movie that I am growing to like even more from our discussion here. My review.

THE POST

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.

My review

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.

my prudish review

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.

here is my review

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.

LEAD ACTRESS

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.

OTHER CATEGORIES

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.

* * *

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.

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81 Responses to “Oscar Preview 2018”

  1. The only one I haven’t seen yet is Darkest Hour, but my thoughts (I’ll try to be brief)

    Call Me By Your Name – I agree with your review, and all of your qualms, completely, save for that Stuhlbarg monologue. I thought it was about Stuhlbarg having a chance for a gay affair in his youth, but he didn’t pursue it. Stuhlbarg’s so great in that scene that it made me wonder if I had misjudge the first 100 well-acted-but-dull minutes. I also thought the closing credits were kind of unique, with Chalamet going through those emotions.

    Lady Bird and Get Out – two of my favorite debut films in a long, long time. In the same year!

    Phantom Thread – Liked it when I saw it, and have thought about it ever since. I think that one will grow in stature over time.

    The Post – Terrifically entertaining. An incredible cast, directed by Spielberg. Woo!

    Dunkirk – I’d say my 3 faves of the year are this, Lady Bird and Get Out. All three of them perfectly executed what they set out to do, imo.

    Three Billboards – kind of the opposite of Phantom Thread. Liked it in the moment, thought the performances were great, but like it less the more I think about it.

    The Shape of Water – It’s good, but dang THIRTEEN nominations?! I love Del Toro and have enjoyed some stuff a lot of people don’t like, but it’s really surprising to me that this is the one that’s connected with people. This is my wife’s fav movie of the year, and we usually have nearly identical tastes. Maybe I need to see it again.

  2. You should throw in a few last minute viewings of stuff you wouldn’t normally watch to make the other categories more interesting, and broaden your viewing horizons. It probably won’t win, but The Breadwinner is at least as deserving as Coco for Best Animated. I bet you’d like most of the documentary nominees, Face Places being my favorite, and while half of the foreign films are tough to track down still, On Body and Soul is on Netflix and very good.

  3. As usual I haven’t seen any of the big Oscar contenders yet, but at least LOGAN and GET OUT hit pay TV recently (together with a string of last year’s, like MOONLIGHT or LION), so I might catch up on that.

  4. LES MISERABLES???!??!? Never mind how terrible that movie got by the 3rd act and how Russell Crowe can’t sing, how can you like a movie that abuses closeups that much? If everything is a closeup, it means nothing. /rant

    Those aside, good reviews and entertaining reads. I think Italy and repeated bike riding bias are somehow giving CALL ME BY YOUR NAME a boost. It’s fine, but I don’t see what makes it great.

    It’s going to be weird to see liberal movie review sites and others call THE SHAPE OF WATER safe and traditional tomorrow, but I’m guessing that is what will happen since I think it wins. I’m rooting for GET OUT however.

  5. Haven’t seen COCO yet but I can say that THE BREADWINNER is amazing and one of the bet I’ve seen this year. Too bad the serious members of the Academy think it’s only good enough to compete against BOSS BABY.

  6. the legal age of consent in Italy when there is an age gap of more that three years between the sexual partners is 16. i’m not saying that knowledge would have changed how the film was received if the gender role of Elio’s character had been swapped but i think it does bear mentioning.

  7. I’d back Day-Lewis all the way for best actor, but the other Daniel is brilliant in Get Out and should absolutely be in with a shot. I think it isn’t clear on paper just how tough that role is, and it is the type of low-key but technical performance that doesn’t usually get nominated. I think it’ll leap out at you more on second viewing.

    I think ebert.com’s matt zoller seitz was right when he said it was impressive how he ‘had to be 100% credible as a guy you could meet on the street AND be an emblem of 400 years of oppression, AND anchor a SF/horror/paranoid thriller, AND join the comedic and dramatic aspects of GET OUT. And do it subtly.’, and for how ‘when he snaps at the end, the rage that comes out of him isn’t hot. It’s cold. Methodical. Like he’s solving a math problem. The cliche actor would have gone “hot” with it, spittle everywhere, veins bulging. And the pain was still present.’

    It’s the opposite of Day-Lewis really. You could imagine a lot of people doing Get Out and having a good run with it, but DK managed to push it a little further with a restrained, non-showy, not at all fussy performance.

    Shame it’ll go to Gary Oldman in a fat suit tho.

  8. Gotta say, it’s an unusual Oscars when I’d feel pretty good about any of the nominees for Best Picture, Best Actor, and best Actress winning. These are all very strong films with great performances. Wish MOTHER was nominated, but you can’t have everything. And maybe OJKA. But other than those two, the Best Picture list is pretty damn similar to my best picture list from 2017. How often does that happen? Or am I just getting old and lame?

  9. SPIOILERS

    I’d also like to say that I’m not 100% convinced that Stuhlbarg’s monologue at the end of CALL ME BY YOUR NAME is him coming out as gay. I can definitely see how you would get that from it, but I choose to read it more as he wishes he’d had a really intense love affair in his late teens with someone nice enough to teach him a little something about life. I prefer that interpretation because it makes the “does mom know” “you know, I don’t think she does” about Chalamet, not about Stuhlbarg — in other words, being a predictably self-occupied teen, he’s completely missed the fact that Mom not only 100% knows about him being gay, but has been actively facilitating their relationship. Of course the teen thinks he’s totally fooling everyone, when in fact he’s fooling no one. I think that’s a funnier and more interesting interpretation than that Dad is gay too, which seems like a pretty unlikely coincidence.

  10. The Undefeated Gaul

    March 2nd, 2018 at 2:15 pm

    I think of it like this though. If you are going to eat a peach, you would enjoy it more if you knew nobody had fucked it.

  11. I’d like to point out that this is a piece of writing in which the writer wishes a murder suicide to a baby and a rabbit. And nobody objects to it, because it’s absolutely understandable.

  12. I’ve seen all the best picture nominees so my take would have to be that:

    Phantom Thread should win but the pressure’s off as it has no chance in hell of doing that. I can happily root for a few others because this is just so very much not a picture that can win. It doesn’t need it. PTA might be one of those directors where one of his future films becomes a total lock for best picture regardless of the competition that year just because it is a joke that stuff like this didn’t get a look in. His last 5 movies would’ve been credible winners IMHO.

    Lady Bird is definitely the one I’m rooting for to win, thought it was going to be really good going in, but it was better than that. I dunno how much of a lock Frances McDormand is for best actress, and it isn’t like Saoirse Ronan would’ve been robbed if she doesn’t win, but it is a surprise to me how much FM seems to have swept the awards ceremonies so far as SR is excellent in this. The hot take industry is already gearing up to shit on this one, saying that it makes light of being poor cos the family in this aren’t poor enough, but I really cannot be arsed with that. I think this is a future classic TBH.

    (Also Stephen Henderson in this, along with Sandy Martin in 3B, makes me want them to introduce a category for the academy to recognise amazing performances in roles slightly too small to justify a ‘supporting’ nom.)

    The Post is great, the way that movie is being discussed online really makes me feel people are sleeping on Spielberg atm, his 2010s have been really stellar even by his standards, and that standard is, like, that of one of the greatest popular filmmakers of all time. Feels like no one is expecting this one to have much a shot, and yeah it’s only my third choice, which speaks to how great a year this has been.

    Three Billboards is excellent as well. If I was putting money on it I’d say this is still the likely winner. I almost rooting against it because probably the worst thing that could happen to this movie in terms of its future reputation is that it wins. I think the backlash will become an article of faith for people, and a lot of discussion about the 2019 best picture would be framed in terms of which constitutes the best apology for this. I’m not american, and I’m white, so I’m not best placed to judge how much rope to give it in terms of how badly it plays the race thing. I do think a lot but not all of the backlash is speaking to the growing online tendency to try to take films as literally as you possibly can, and to punish ambiguity. I think the thing that worked for me in this movie is that I liked that it was essentially a vulgar take on Flannery O’Connor’s style of storytelling. I don’t think she’d have liked it though.

    Get Out is good. I wouldn’t say it was one of the ten best movies I saw this year, but it is a well made example and the sort of stuff that doesn’t usually get nominated. I’m kinda rooting for it just because of how unlikely a win feels, and it is also hard to deny that it did really resonate and more or less became the de facto film of the year regardless of whether it actually pulls off a win.

    CMBYN is extremely pretty but that’s about it for me. That scene with his dad doesn’t do it for me cos it feels a bit like some guy sat in a chair summarising the theme of the movie for you, no thanks because I’ve been sat here the whole time and saw the movie with my own eyes, it literaly only just happened. FWIW the original screenplay that it sounds like they had to tone down to make a big and accessible pitch to general audiences sounded more interesting to me.

    Shape of Water is.. errrr.. I love Del Toro but this one isn’t amazing. I was expecting to love it. It sounds great on paper, but I thought it was so much old toss really. The dialogue was rough, the visuals are off (I don’t know the technical language of filmmaking at all but it felt to me like it was lit and designed for a different sort of camera than they ended up using, cos the lighting looked over-done and fake as hell to me, like a student film in places, and the sets had that kind of over-weathered and grimy look that I associate more with horror films from 2006 than the classic movies he was invoking. It was a pastiche of movies with much better atmosphere in my view, and it is disappointing to say that cos I thought Crimson Peak was his best film, and one that looked absolutely stunning. I wish that one had been the one with the best picture nomination.

    Dunkirk is well made but not what I go to the movies for.

    Darkest Hour is the worst of these movies and shouldn’t have been nominated. It probably is a bit more of a personal reaction against it, cos I’m from the UK, but the film is so bizarre and over-ripe (that introductory shot of Churchill alone) and, given the state of British politics over the last few years, this definitely fed into the sense that we need to start having more honest conversations about our history and national politics. Oldman was playing Winston like Santa Claus, and yeah it is hard for me to view this is a film, cos it points to something so rotten and absurd about Britain in 2018.

  13. Subtlety – (CALL ME BY YOUR NAME SPOILERS) – That’s how I took it. The other interpretation was pointed out to me when I was in the midst of making fun of him for being the world’s most understanding dad about his son having sex with an adult man but it not occurring to him to bring it up to his wife.

  14. Like most recent years, I haven’t seen the vast majority of these movies and don’t really have much interest in them. I liked GET OUT like everybody else but can’t see how that is the best movie of the year. I think BOYKA got robbed.

    The only other one I saw was Three Billboards. Really good but not outstanding. I do hope it wins though to annoy people that hate this movie for no reason. I don’t think it was tone-deaf about racism, mainly because it was not ABOUT racism.

  15. You know, I put up a good front about this Oscar shit. I try and look down on all these middlebrow movies with their feelings and their drama and their Important Things To Say. I think the truth is I just don’t have it in me to put myself through all that shit. I believe that every story is a fantasy, and people are attracted to the kind of fantasies that fill a hole in their lives. Some people fantasize of power, of catharsis, of romance, of transgression, of escape, of adventure, of passion, of meaning, of community, of purpose.

    There’s no part of me that fantasizes about drama. About emotion. Those are not things I need more of in my life. I have a hard enough time keeping my emotions at a somewhat stable level on a daily basis. I’m gonna be real with you fellas: I am not a well person. I do not need other people’s drama added to that. Movies, to me, are a release valve. They present a fake problem and a fake solution, and the brain, which doesn’t know that what it’s seeing isn’t really happening, gets a feeling of achievement. Life is complicated; movies are simple. It’s what I like about them. But these Oscar movies fuck up that equation by being difficult. Too difficult for me to want to endure 99 times out of a hundred. I want some artifice in between me and the realness. That’s why I like genre. It takes something too big to behold in full and synthesizes something small and manageable out of it.

    Maybe the rest of you guys are much more comfortable with your emotional balance than I am. I act hard and puff my chest out, pretending I don’t like these Oscar movies because they’re for wieners, but the truth is, I’m the wiener. I can’t handle this shit. It’s too real. It’s too much. I’ll watch a hundred people get their eyeballs cored out with an ice cream scoop before I watch one about someone going through a real hard breakup. When it comes to horror, I’m as hardcore as they come, but when it comes to feelings, I’m a lightweight. That’s a deficiency in me, not the movies.

    I’m glad everybody got a good crop of Oscar shit this year. I’m not gonna talk my usual smack about it. I’m through advertising my weaknesses as though they were strengths.

    Thanks for listening, everybody. It’s been a rough week.

  16. A well used response from me to “horror movies and the people who watch them are sick” or such, is always “Do you watch dramas? What makes you wanna watch a movie that is designed to make you sad? Have you seen Schindler’s List more than once or own it on DVD? Why? I could never see myself go to my DVD shelf, thinking that today is a nice day to rewatch a sad movie about the Holocaust! Ot looking at the TV guide, thinking “Hey, SCHINDLER’S LIST is on! I know how I’m gonna spend my Saturday evening!””

    (Note: I don’t have anything against dramas/sad movies and it’s part trolling, part questioning how the world works, but I need to be in a real certain mindset to be able to watch tragic tales of sadness, even if they have a happy end, so I understand where Mr M comes from.)

  17. Hey, Hey, hey… pull over and stop, you emotional snakeoil salesmen! What’s this?! After all these years, some of them in the trenches, I don’t want to go to bed tonight feeling sorry for you two. Tell me right now that you’re drinking champagne from womens shoes while waiting for your Kobe steaks and private live show from Bill Murray, right now! If we can’t keep up our fronts online we’re all doomed!!!

  18. The Undefeated Gaul

    March 3rd, 2018 at 12:26 pm

    Still though, movies gotta make you feel SOMETHING. Some emotion. Otherwise whats the point? Even if what you really want is escapism, simple stuff, action, horror… you want to feel attached to the characters. I mean, I can relate, the Oscar stuff is not for me, none of it. The joy I gain from a well done action film… there’s nothing I value more. But emotional attachment is what separates the great ones from the good ones that “merely” have excellent action choreography/editing/scoring etc.

  19. Very insightful and honest post, Majestyk. Thank you. And hang in there, whatever you’re going through. I hope you know we have your back.

    HALLSY – But it is about racism in the sense that it takes place in a town that is infamous for a racist cop torturing a black man, and yet is primarily concerned with the same police force not being able to do enough to help a white woman, and the most loveable character is the chief who laughs off the idea of it being possible to even do anything about institutional racism. It may not being trying to have a message about racism, but I think it ends up saying something anyway.

  20. Gaul: Of course. I need some kind of emotional connection to really like a movie. That’s my problem. I’ll shed a tear at a goddamn FAST & FURIOUS movie, and that shit is ridiculous. I only need small, concentrated doses of feels to do the job. A whole movie of that shit? I’m not saying I never watch pure drama but it’s exceedingly rare. I am extremely picky about what art I will allow to attempt to touch my soul.

    Vern: Thanks, man, I appreciate that. I’m not going through anything at all like what you’re going through with your mom. It’s just 40 years of ignoring my depression and hoping it will go away has finally caught up with me, and some weeks it seems like more than I can take. Knowing I haven’t managed to piss off everybody here with my bouts of freewheeling rage and joylessness means a lot.

  21. Right on, Majestyk. Knowing yourself is strength, something you seem to be well aware of. Your contributions to this community are something I value, and I know I’m not alone there. Thanks for doing what you do. (You have maybe forgotten about this already, but I also want to take this opportunity to say I’m sorry for being a dick about your joke re: that thumbnail pic of Luke and Rey on the Last Jedi review. it totally does look sexual, and I was being salty and defensive because the el locos of the world had already succeeded in getting under my skin about my enjoyment of that movie. hope there’s no hard feelings there)

  22. Look, I’m an old man. Older than anybody here, I think. I’ve been married half my life and I have three grown up sons. I’ve been through a lot. Maybe I come across as cold at times, but believe me I have a lot of empathy for you guys.

  23. Vern – I wrote a lengthy rant on this subject but decided to delete it rather than post it as I don’t what to come across as combative. The gist of it was that I disagree but I think it is a minor point which should not detract from anyone’s enjoyment of the movie. To me, that is a specific issue that this movie was not even trying to address – and I think the movie does indirectly say something about racism in America but not what you think it does (kinda the opposite).

  24. i cried at the end of COCO

    complete unashamed

    let it out Vern, teach those pimple faces manliness is not stoniness

  25. I have nothing to say about this Oscar shit.

    However I just saw ANNIHILATION and it was kind of lousy. In my opinion. It just seems like yet another one of these movies that throws random semi interesting ideas at the screen with little effort to tie them together or make a real plot. It’s trying to be 2001 plus CONTACT plus STALKER plus PROMETHEUS but ends up mostly like the last one. Don’t expect any answers.

  26. Due to personal reasons I haven’t been able to visit the cinema much recently, so the only nominees I’ve seen are GET OUT, DUNKIRK (both quite a while ago now) and THE DARKEST HOUR. DARKEST HOUR is pretty much what you’d expect, but I was amused by how it played like a gritty, but self-aware Churchill reboot. “Ooh, they’re picking a new Prime Minister, I wonder who it could be…oh, there’s his iconic hat!” “Ooh, Neville Chamberlin is conspiring against dear Winston!” “Ah, that’s where he got the famous V for Victory sign from!”

    And I liked THE BOSS BABY. Some of the usual Dreamworks excesses, but there was a real 50s UPA/Warner Bros quality to its design and the best of its gags. Not Oscar worthy, but definitely a lot better than recent animated fare like SING and SECRET LIFE OF PETS which didn’t raise eyebrows as quickly with their conceits.

  27. Five noms for BLADE RUNNER 2049 should earn it a few wins, but the movie should of course have been nominated for the big prices. It’s easily the best movie I saw last year.

  28. Thanks for the support, guys. I should add that it’s not like I sit there weeping when I try to watch dramas. It’s just not a headspace I enjoy staying in for too long. It’s either unpleasant (if I’m engaging with the drama) or just boring (if I’m not). Life’s too short for that, even when it feels like it’s taking forever.

  29. I’m pretty much the same way. A drama has to be pretty special for me to use 90-120 minutes of my time on it. It’s not that I can’t handle it, but I’m pretty much set in my ways and I have yet to find a movie that has something to say that concers me and my life. Sure, it’s a peak into other peoples daily life, but not really. Mostly it’s an idea some writer got and sold to a producer. True stories are the worst, because you know that even if it started out as one some comittee has polished and tweaked it so much that none of the involved will recognise it. Give me genre movies any time!

  30. Back to Oscars: I would love to watch them live, but because of timezones, they always air at 3am over here. Unless there is a movie that I REALLY root for (like FURY ROAD from a few years back), it’s usually easier for me to just record them and watch the next day without commercials. (I don’t really care about spoilers, since the headlines usually only talk about big categories, but I also care about the technical ones.)

    A few years ago (2011 or 12?) I was hosting a live watching Google Hangout with some internet friends. Griff was there, if I remember right, don’t know who else. It was fun, but also super exhausting for me. I would love to do that at some point again. But not this year.

  31. How do y’all feel about the plagiarism allegations against SHAPE OF WATER?

  32. Usually the plagerism things are bullshit so I don’t care.

  33. hey vern I actually think the peach scene in CMYBM is pretty artistically justifiable.

    The plucking of ripening fruit is a pretty hoary old metaphor in the context of a sexual coming-of-age type of story. But by having Elio pluck his own fruit – and fuck it – it reinforces that he has just as much agency in the relationship as Oliver. It’s good.

  34. They put in Romero but left off Hooper? Damn.

  35. As cool as it was to see Romero, Seijun Suzuki, and Haruo Nakajima on network television, I’m not too pressed about the omission of Hooper – false reverence from an auditorium full of millionaire rapists and CIA propagandists is not a fitting way to honor the outlaw master who made fucking EATEN ALIVE, c’mon.

  36. #OscarsSoFishfucking

  37. Nice to see Deakins finally getting some love.

  38. CIA Propagandists?

  39. I’m gonna be honest, the only dog I had in this fight was BABY DRIVER for Sound Editing. And of course it lost.

    I’m in a reconciliatory place with these Oscar movies but not the Oscars themselves. They can continue to go fuck themselves. When my lamewad local newspaper critic can accurately predict 90% of the winners, you start to feel like the fix is in.

    And obviously America finally catches up with Del Toro right after I give up on him. That’s how finger-on-the-pulse I am. I guess it’s a good thing that the movie by a Mexican director where a lady fucks a fish is considered the safe choice.

    But has anything ever been more preordained than GET OUT winning Best Screenplay, which should be a big deal but always feels like a consolation prize for the movie that’s too interesting to ignore but too provocative to honor? These cowards should just call it the Pulp Fiction Award to let everyone know that the winner is the real best picture of the year.

  40. The CALL ME BY YOUR NAME-themed dessert at the Oscars house party I went to last night was “Peaches ‘n Cream” and I’m not too proud to laugh at that.

  41. Well last night’s big win gives me an excuse to post this again:

    Already made my opinion known on modern Del Toro. Same as Mr. M’s. He has not made a good or even watchable movie in 12 years but everyone is pretending like he just keeps getting better. Still I kinda love that the beastiality movie won and another movie where a dude fucks a peach and another dude eats was nominated. Kinda gives you hope in the future. Or just makes you laugh.

    I for one was shocked when COCO won Best Animated Feature.

    -sees someone mentined BABY DRIVER… must.keep.mouth.shut…

  42. I mean, there are plenty of reasons to like or not like BABY DRIVER as one sees fit, but regardless you have to admit that it’s a movie that lives or dies by its sound editing. In that particular area it is working on a level of difficulty and precision an order of magnitude beyond anything else released this or any other year. So of course they give it to the war movie because golly those bombs were loud, weren’t they? I’m not saying DUNKIRK’s sound wasn’t top notch, but it’s nothing I hadn’t heard before in various TRANSFORMERS movies. BABY DRIVER used sound editing as a vital component of its storytelling. In the way that PHANTOM THREAD was a lock for costumes because it’s a movie ABOUT clothes, so should BABY DRIVER have been a lock for the sound categories. The premise of the film allows for the work to be so much more interesting, innovative, and impactful than the usual set-piece soundscape bombast.

  43. What do you mean with “finally catching up with del Toro”? Don’t pretend that he was still a little known geek favourite director, until last night. PAN’S LABYRINTH was a huge award favourite back then, even if it was just dumped into the less prestigious “best foreign language film” slot. (It got an nod for writing, though) Not his fault that the Academy wasn’t into his follow ups HELLBOY 2, PACIFIC RIM and CRIMSON PEAK.

  44. SHAPE OF WATER is now a breakout mainstream hit and a Best Picture winner. That makes Del Toro a little more than internet famous now. It puts him in the “Your mom knows who he is” category.

  45. Wasn’t HELLBOY already a breakout mainstream hit?

  46. I can’t get behind much of the Oscar Monday-morning quarterbacking these days. Ever since they expanded the number of best picture nominees, and especially in the last five years, the number of actually good movies up for the big prize has been heartening. Sure, middlebrow crap like The Imitation Game or Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close still get through, but they also nominate some genuinely great film that are in fact some of the best of the year. (By contrast, look at the nominees throughout the eighties and nineties. Some years are like a goddamn wasteland.) Like Majestyk said, when a movie about bangin’ a fish man is considered the “safe” choice, you know that times have changed.

    And although I haven’t seen The Shape of Water yet (I’ve got an eight month old running around the house that prevents me from going to the movies these days), I really am glad to see Guillermo Del Toro get a win. Hopefully this will give him enough clout to get the other eight gazillion projects he’s working on off the ground.

  47. CJ: No, not at all. It was a middling success at best. Mainstream audiences ignored it completely. Breakout hits don’t get rebooted one movie away from completing their trilogy.

  48. I wasn’t dispariging BABY DRIVER for it’s sound nomination. I agree it should have won it and it was a well-made movie. It’s just going to be one of those movies that I’m curesed to be THAT GUY with and must learn to not give into negativity and let everyone else love it. But that is a work in progress and I need to let a little out at least (without stepping on other’s toes and enjoyment). So sorry about that, I guess it’s a little similar to how BLACK PANTEHR is with you. I wanted so bad to love it and everyone DID so when I saw it and learned I had to part ways with Edgar Wright like I did del Toro it made me sad.

  49. For a movie that was ignored by audiences, it sure is on TV often.

    Anyway, in different news, if everything had worked out “logistically and financially”, we would have gotten a musical appearance by Vin Diesel last night.

  50. I don’t know what to tell you, CJ. It’s a movie that was so financially unspectacular that, despite a decade of pleas from the creative team and fanbase, they rebooted it with some dude from a TV show. If you think that’s the same kind of success and fame Del Toro is enjoying now, as a guy who just accepted cinema’s two highest honors in front of an audience of like a billion for making the highest-grossing Best Picture winner in half a decade, I can only assume our definitions of the words are very different.

  51. No, GET OUT was the big moment. That shit seemed destined for THREE BILLBOARDS.

  52. Vern, let me ask you this: Do you really think, in this year of all years, the Academy was going to let GET OUT go home empty-handed? And if so, what other award do you think they would let it win? The Best Screenplay Oscar always means “We appreciate what you were going for but it’s not really our thing.” THREE BILLBOARDS already had the acting categories on lock, so there was no need for the Academy to give it a consolation prize, especially for telling a story that many people have found demonstrably unwoke enough to protest. I actually could have seen LADYBIRD taking that slot, this being the year of #MeToo, not #OscarSoWhite, but not THREE BILLBOARDS. That movie’s acting wins meant the Academy got to praise it without actually standing by what it’s saying, whatever that is.

    Basically I’m saying that any correlation between these awards and actual merit is purely coincidental.

  53. Also, why the hell didn’t anybody tell me Mary J. Blige got an Oscar nomination? I have gone on record as despising the sound of her voice but I respect her as somebody who’s been through some shit and come out stronger. Shouldn’t this be the feel-good human interest story of the awards season?

  54. I have long thought of the original screenplay as the hipper one that I wish would win best picture, going back to PULP FICTION. And there are many examples of this (LOST IN TRANSLATION, ETERNAL SUNSHINE, JUNO, DJANGO UNCHAINED, HER). But it doesn’t always go that way. Many times it’s just the same thing that wins best picture, even if that movie’s totally square: SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, AMERICAN BEAUTY, CRASH, THE KING’S SPEECH, BIRDMAN, SPOTLIGHT. THREE BILLBOARDS seemed like the frontrunner for best picture since it won the Golden Globe and the BAFTA. More importantly it’s a very writerly movie by a playwright, where dialogue and structural twists are emphasized.

    GET OUT did win the WGA award, but at the time that seemed to me like a miracle. I mean, it’s a fuckin Blumhouse horror movie! I’m glad I was wrong. But take note that in this year of all years they did let the movie directed by a woman go home empty-handed, and gave awards to two men who have been accused of assaulting women. It can’t really be as calculated as we tend to imagine.

  55. She actually got two nominations, original song and supporting actress, which no one has done in the same year before.

    I still haven’t seen MUDBOUND. I don’t know what it is but the easy access of being straight to Netflix makes me way less likely to see a movie. For example I went out and paid money to see WORLD OF WARCRAFT on opening night just because it was Duncan Jones, but his next probly much better movie sits for free on Netflix for weeks and I can’t be bothered to get to it. Doesn’t seem like a real movie to me. Too stuck in the past I guess.

  56. You have a point, but I think that comes down to box office. GET OUT was a major hit and a cultural moment. LADY BIRD was a solid success for what it was but did it even open in most of the country? I doubt half the Academy even watched it.

  57. I do feel you on the streaming conundrum. One of my rules for storytelling is “Nothing easy is every interesting,” and I think that goes for viewing convenience as well. Like, if GERALD’S GAME had come out in theaters, I’d have made it a case to be there opening morning, but since it’s just sitting there waiting for me to watch it at my leisure, I still haven’t gotten around to it. There’s something about having to work to see a movie that makes it more special.

  58. That’s how I was for OKJA. Big fan of the director and was really looking forward it. Didn’t watch till Vern reviewed like a month or two after it came out. I absolutely loved it and arguably my favorite movie of the year (or at least in the top 3) and after that I decided to try and be more proactive in seeing stuff. I have not done too good after making that choice thus far.

    I only saw CLOVERFIELD PARADOX because of an aqauintance really wanting my opinion on it. If not for that I would have let it collect digital dust.

    I rewatched WARCRAFT before MUTE came out and learned I liked it way better than I thought. Still have not seen MUTE. It’s not like I haven’t been on Netflix either… while you all were watching the Oscars I was watching AEON FLUX…

  59. MUDBOUND is a Netflix production, but it played in some theatres. I know it’s hard to realign one’s view of what constitutes a “real movie” now, but the same thing is happening with TV series vs. streaming service series, I guess. Someone corrected me for referring to ALTERED CARBON as a TV show, but that’s what most people consider it to be.

    Anyway, it has its issues, and something big happens in it that doesn’t feel completely earned, but you should check out MUDBOUND, Vern. It seems like a movie you’d like.

  60. Mudbound is actually pretty good. There was a brief window where it seemed like Netflix was going to give exciting directors money and freedom to do what they want, but it no longer looks like that’s going to be their strategy. Now it looks like they’re just going to throw money around to load up on content. At best, it seems like they come out with a few films each year that’s worth watching, which is about true for most studios. But most studios are trying to support cinemas and the filmgoing experience, not tear it down.

    I think this is partly why I find myself rooting a little more for a big industry gala like the Oscars these days. I want to keep movies and cinemas around. It really isn’t the same experience watching even a good movie like Mudbound at home. It’s not as immersive. And I want cinemas to be home to more than just big CGI spectacle.

  61. I know Amazon basically said they’re done with producing Indie-darlings that everyone loves and they want to get into the blockbuster business. With BRIGHT supposedly doing good despite no one really liking, wouldn’t be surprised if Netflix follows suit. At least we can look back at the like two years where both studios were producing and supportikng interesting stuff.

    I agree though, I love me some spectacle and escapism but I also wish we’d get smaller and mid-range movies as well. Heck I’d even take some different kind of spectacle to what they typically produce these days (yes I’m becoming an old man who talks about how much cooler MY childhood was and will soon only be watching TCM and have a Film Struck account).

    I love the cinema itself but I hate going. I wont waste you guys time by telling my theater woes AGAIN but regardless I used to argue with people about the importance and awesomeness of the theater going experience and thanks to a combination of the theaters just not caring and asshole-movie-goers, it’s now damned near impossible to get me to go out and watch something in theaters anymore. I don’t want that to be the case but the few exceptions I’ve made in the last six months reinforced my stance of waiting for iTunes. I still love how cinema is way more immersive with the screen and sound system* but I really need the theater chains to care again and everyone else who goes sees movies to go away.

    *Been trying to go to those Dolby Cinema screens and LIMAXes to make it more special but assholes find a way to premium priced shit too.

  62. I wonder if Guillermo Del Toro’s Best Picture and Best Director wins means he’ll finally get AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS off the ground?

  63. Damn Majestyk, your writing is gold. Your initial post here was heartbreakingly poignant and had me laughing out loud at the same time. Depressed or not, you gotta find an outlet for your writing talent. Posting comments here is fine but you got more in you. Don’t let it go to waste.

    Vern, I wouldn’t worry about SHAPE OF WATER being passed over for best makeup because it *was* nominated for best costumes. I still haven’t seen the flick, but based on the clips I’ve seen I’d call Fishman a costume rather than makeup.

  64. I think the only Netflix Original Movie that I have ever seen was the one where Kevin James was mistaken for an Assassin. The problem with those streaming-exclusive productions, is that they, unlike the licenced stuff, won’t disappear from the respective sites, so there is no need to hurry for me. And since everybody stops talking about them after a week, I also quickly forget about their existence (same with many of their series).

  65. Oh man, shows are even worse. I absolutely love The Get Down and still haven’t finished part 2. When there’s one episode a week I can keep up. When it’s up to me to watch the whole fucking thing on my own schedule forget it, it just will not happen. And people are always telling me about new shows and they’ll sound good but I have to be honest and say there is like a .005% chance I will ever watch it.

    Gonna try to watch Happ and Leonard though.

  66. You should, Vern. DAMNATION, CASTLEVANIA, SANTA CLARITA DIET and LONGMIRE are also good examples of Netflix spending their money well.

  67. I watched the first season of H&L and enjoyed it for the most part. Neither of the two leads are anything at all like my versions of the characters (My Hap is more hillbilly and haggard—I picture a circa 40-year-old Geoffrey Lewis who’s in good shape for his age. Leonard, meanwhile, is just Terry Crews in my head.) and both of them are about as Texas as a hot mug of Darjeeling, but they nailed the chemistry and mindsets of the characters who, not for nothing, are my two favorites in contemporary fiction. I was really concerned about this English guy they got impersonating Hap but an interview I saw with him and Lansdals put me at ease. Turns out he grew up slopping hogs across the pond and is just the kind of sophisticated redneck that Hap is, despite looking like the kind of guy you hire to play Roman nobility. Michael Williams is of course a great actor and a badass presence but I pictured someone more flamboyant for Leonard. The deadpan coiled spring approach works too. Too bad the spring doesn’t really get sprung this season. The main problem with the season isn’t really the show’s fault. They just chose to adapt the first book, and that’s not really a great intro to the H&L world. It’s mostly Hap’s story, and a pretty not-so-tall one by Lansdale standards, so Leonard doesn’t get to do much. He spends most of the season either on the outs with Hap (something nobody wants to see) or tied to a chair. I haven’t seen the second season yet (It’s out, right?) but I see no reason why the show won’t improve as the stories get more absurd and Lansdalian.

  68. I liked the first season better than the second. The bad guy was better and the violence more to my taste.

  69. There’s a third season starting this week, by the way.

  70. I don’t even know what HAP & LEONARD is, but I think I saw its name on Amazon Prime Video once.

    In terms of Oscars, I’m watching the show right now (As much as I love them, it’s so much easier to get through if you can skip all the commercials) and I never expected the image of Guillermo del Toro entering a movie theatre with a giant sandwich on his shoulders to bring me so much joy.

  71. HAP & LEONARD is the TV series from the STAKELAND/COLD IN JULY team based on the series of novels by cult author Joe Lansdale (BUBBA HO TEP, also COLD IN JULY). It’s about a couple of lifelong East Texas friends, one a sensitive bleeding heart honkey who feels bad about all the ass he has to kick, one a black gay Republican who’d rip both your arms off for looking at him funny and then sleep like a baby afterward, both masters in sarcasm, dick jokes, hapkido, and other fucking-people-up arts and crafts. It is my favorite currently running book series and high in the running for favorite of all time. It’s outrageous and vicious and hilarious and bittersweet, all told with a dry wit and a grasp of heightened vernacular that verges on outlaw poetry. It’s what the cavemen sitting around the campfire invented stories for.

  72. Oh, and hey, Curt, I just saw your comment. That’s really nice of you to say, man. I am, in fact, a writer, both professionally and in my own time, and I have my own series character that I’m always writing something for when I get the time. I either gotta finish his first novel-length adventure (a years-long process) or write a couple more novella-length “short” stories (As anybody who’s seen the bricks of text I pump out on this sight will tell you, nothing I write is short) to fill out a collection and then I’m gonna shop the series around. And you’re absolutely right about having a creative outlet. I don’t know much about why I periodically fall into these deep dark holes, but I know I always feel better when I’m telling stories. I am not a person blessed with an abundance of faith or purpose, but I know in my bones that that’s what I’m here for. I haven’t gotten to work on any of my own stuff in a couple months because of actual paying gigs and such but I’m gearing up to start up again soon. Thanks again for the concern and the support. I appreciate it.

  73. I don’t have the patience or self dicipline to write long pieces. I got a short story published a long time ago, but even the newspaper critic who wrote about it called it mini short story.

  74. Remember when we talked about GLOW and we had this whole thing about sex in the first episode. You all may be right. I think there must be a clause that says every shows first episode shoukd have a sex scene in it. There was no reason for Mind hunter to have that sex scene other than the Netflix execs are creepy.

  75. For those of you who are fans of Mr. M’s writing, he had an old movie review site you should check out. It is very good.

  76. I love that photo. It looks like Dwight Yoakam in one of his sleazy bad guy roles!

  77. Sternshein:

  78. Ok and?

  79. I just found this Vern comment from the 2015 Oscars post and it made me chuckle (no offense, Vern!):

    “I think it’s interesting that Inarritu, Cuaron and Del Toro are known for their friendship, now Cuaron and Inarritu both have best director Oscars and a couple of Oscar nominated movies under their belts. But Del Toro is the better known one and it’s hard to imagine him ever making an Oscary movie. Though he would make a great speech if he did.”

  80. Didn’t take long! And he didn’t have to make an Oscary movie to do it.

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