I went down on Oscars-lane this week, checking off my lost all but one of the best picture nominees (The Post). Who would I want to win? Well, the days of me caring are long gone – if by long we understand two years. All the best picture nominees are pretty good movies, even if they are not necessarily good movies. So here are my winners off the given list:
Best Picture – Phantom Thread
Actor Leading Role – Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name)
Actress Leading Role – Frances McDormand (Three Billboards…)
Actor Supporting Role – Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project)
Actress Supporting Role – Allison Janney (I, Tonya)
Directing – P.T. Anderson (Phantom Thread)
Adapted Screenplay – Call Me By Your Name
Original Screenplay – Lady Bird (pulled this one out of nowhere, didn’t I?)
When in doubt, have two affairs
- The Lovers (2017): Every once in a while a movie comes along with a reasonable metascore (75) and a lowly IMDb rating (6.1) and my mind is instantly set on doing it justice, even if it requires some overcompensating. Here, a married couple, in which each partner is affairing away, suddenly stumbles across long lost intra-martial desire that risks to compromise their conviction of separating. In spite of the nature of their acts, Mary (Debra Winger) and Michael (Tracy Letts) are two likable leads with whom you can easily connect. The first part of the movie takes some getting used to, because we are thrust unto these people who are total strangers to us without anything else but hints of what might have happened in their long, long union. The emphasis in their rekindling is foremost sexual, with a thesis that a healthy sexual life extends beyond the bedroom, in how two people appreciate one another – sex as a cure for apathy, not rage and resentment. It feels strange, because we see so little of why Mary and Michael are a match, beyond the sex and the banter. However, a great last half hour really ties things up and puts a cherry on top, amounting to a great flawed movie with great flawed characters. 8/10
Peter Sellers must be rolling in his grave!
- Black Panther (2018): Trailers rarely get me going, but the trailer for Black Panther was very exciting. Then came the much lauded movie, which sure enough is entertaining and provides some thoughts on racial matters, yet without ever really landing a punch. Lacking in Thor Ragnarok’s humour, BP is a serious, sober superhero movie – which never really works for me, unless it’s Batman. The typical overcrowding of characters in comicbook movies can be observed here as well, obstructing any of them from really taking the spotlight and just…fascinating. So we’re left with sexy appeal and the absolutely necessary in terms of character development. The more I write about it, the more I convince myself of how little I liked the movie, although I had no major qualms with it exiting the cinema. So I’ll stick with my generous 7/10.
There’s not torture like parental torture
- I, Tonya (2017): I’m too young to remember the debacle around Tonya Harding, the figure-skater who supposedly had one of her competitors attacked. This movie, based on her own version of events, finds a good balance around the question of what the truth is and how Tonya ended up in that unfortunate position in the first place. It provides solid context for the miserable, terror-infused upbringing she had to endure growing up. Margot Robbie and Allison Janney are both great, but the characters aren’t always riveting to look at. What made the story stand out to me was the manner in which it highlighted two aspects of sporting life: the veneer with which certain things need to be covered in the public eye, as well as the impression that professional sports seemed astoundingly semi-professional as short a way back as the nineties. Oh, and I enjoyed the music as well, more heavy metal is required to spruce up the world of figure skating. 8/10
- Call Me By Your Name (2017): Director Guadagnino is piling it on with lush decors and feeling, aided by a very strong ensemble cast, in which Timothée Chalamet shines brightly. Set in the Italian 80s, Call Me By Your Name made me wish of another time, for the summer of love I never really had and the quiet passion of years gone by. It definitely reminded me of My Summer of Love (2004), but what makes it stand out is the manner in which it differs from the more ill-natured characters Pawlikowski’s story. There’s a warm glow to everyone here, a bohemian beauty of a post-consumerist age of enlightenment. Or maybe pre-consumerist, in a sense, and by consumption I mean everything: from material goods to human emotion. It provides a beautiful commentary on the rarity of true feeling, on the uniqueness of first loves, and does so set to a soulful musical theme that will transport you. Heck, the movie wasn’t even finished I was thinking of googling “places to visit where there are no tourists”. The paradox, the irony. And yet…I could see all these things, I could feel some of them, but I never fell in love with Call Me By Your Name. It’s not about the same-sex-ness of it, because Chalamet and Armie Hammer make for a passionate couple and the movie captures them truthfully. I guess it eludes me, this failure on my part, to ensure my feelings are on par with my thoughts. That must be why I’m only an armchair critic. That and a bunch of other things. 8/10