Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

09 February 2017

Oscar Noms 2017: 7 of 13

Part 1 - La La Land, Moonlight, Arrival
Part 2 - Manchester by the Sea, Hacksaw Ridge, Lion
Part 3 - Fences, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, Jackie
Part 4 - Florence Foster Jenkins, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Passengers, Rogue One
Part 5 - Deepwater Horizon, Kubo and the Two Strings, Moana, A Man Called Ove
Part 6 - Captain Fantastic, Elle, Loving, Nocturnal Animals

Part 7:

The Lobster
1 Nomination
  • Original Screenplay: Efthimis Filippou & Yorgos Lanthimos
Director: Lanthimos
Cast: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Léa Seydoux, John C. Reilly, Olivia Colman, Ben Whishaw, Angeliki Papoulia, Garry Mountaine, Ariane Labed, Jessica Barden, Imelda Nagle Ryan

I am a big fan of The Lobster and I am so happy that it was nominated in this category. Lanthimos's work is so interesting, and his voice is truly unique. This is a complicated, funny, extremely weird movie that – the more you think about it – isn't really all that weird. It's one of the best movies of the year and not to be missed. Come to think of it: you know, the original screenplay category is often where the Academy really shines. It chooses some of the oddest scripts in this category, but really can shine a light on new voices in filmmaking. Just look back through some of the films that have been nominated in this category – Ex Machina, Straight outta Compton, Nightcrawler, Her, Margin Call, A Separation. It really is a category the Academy can be proud of, I think. And this year's choices (except for La La Land, really) are all very deserving.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #12 out of 92

20th Century Women
1 Nomination
  • Original Screenplay: Mike Mills
Director: Mills
Cast: Annette Bening, Greta Gerwig, Elle Fanning, Lucas Jade Zumann, Billy Crudup, Allison Elliott, Thea Gill

This was my #2 film for the year. I absolutely loved this movie. I loved its central performance by Annette Bening (she was robbed of a nomination), but actually 20th Century is a true ensemble piece with five great performances at its center and lots of memorable smaller characters. I loved 20th Century's exploration of a different kind of motherhood than we're used to seeing. I loved that it was a coming-of-age film that wasn't through the kid's point of view, and then wasn't a coming-of-age film after all. It's a movie about parenting that doesn't pretend to be a movie about growing up! (I'm looking at you, Boyhood.) But it's also this amazingly feminist movie about the decisions our mothers make as they raise us and how someone might go about raising a boy so that he doesn't grow up to be a jackass. And it's about the connections we make with people in our lives that last only for a little while but can have an enormous impact on us. It's about getting old. But it's also about living in a world of uncertainty, trying to make sense of a world that doesn't really make sense anymore, trying to understand the way our kids see the world even though we don't see it that way at all. And at the same time, 20th Century is this portrait of a woman who doesn't always tell the truth, who has lots to hide because she is afraid of a lot of things, but who still wants to be open and generous with this kid she loves and wants to raise as best she can. It's so complex and beautiful and funny and quirky, and I absolutely loved it.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #2 out of 92

1 Nomination
  • Cinematography: Rodrigo Prieto (Brokeback Mountain)
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Kubozuka Yōsuke, Issei Ogata, Tsukamoto Shin'ya, Adam Driver, Asano Tadanobu, Liam Neeson, Ciarán Hinds, Komatsu Nana, Yoshi Oïda

I didn't really dislike Silence, per se, but this film does not work. It's beautiful, of course, and this is due in large part to Rodrigo Prieto's nominated cinematography here. The production design of the film is also beautiful, and the acting is moving and intriguing (Garfield's performance here is surely one thing that pushed him over the edge for his nomination for Hacksaw). But Scorsese's film makes some very strange – even awkward – filmic choices. Much of the film involves speaking to a god who does not speak back (this is the eponymous silence, the god's silence after a prayer), but then, surprisingly, at a point late in the film the god does speak to Garfield's character. What? Something shifted in me when this happened and the film sort of lost me. It felt like a rule that had been set up for the audience over the long hours of the film had been suddenly and inexplicably broken for a reason I couldn't really understand. One of the reasons I found this choice so troubling is that the majority of Silence is about ethics: What are the choices I should make when faced with terrible violence? What are the choices I should make to save others, even though my decision might force me to do something I wouldn't normally do? What is my duty to my fellow man vs. my duty to my faith? But once the god does talk to a person, those questions are easily resolved. Can't the god just tell you what to do? And why has the god been silent for so long when it had the power of speech up its proverbial sleeve the whole time? This is, perhaps, the film's oddest choice, but there is yet another! The film's third act (which is structured like an epilogue), is actually quite a lengthy plot entirely its own that could be a film in its own right. We jump forward in time several times, and the film's central character, with whom we have spent so much time and whom we understood so well, makes a series of decisions that do not accord with what we know of him. For this third act, the film keeps its distance from the main character, never inviting us into his thoughts the way the first two acts did. This is so weird. We are not asked to dislike this character, we have followed him for too long for that,we are only asked to watch what he has done, but are no longer let into why. In fine, Silence is a complex, very long film that is interesting in its exploration of ethics, but awkward in its execution. Lots to recommend, lots to fault.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #55 out of 92

Hail, Caesar!
1 Nomination
  • Production Design: Jess Gonchor (True Grit) & Nancy Haigh (True Grit, Dreamgirls, Road to Perdition, Forrest Gump, Bugsy, Barton Fink)
Cast: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Channing Tatum, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Veronica Osorio, Jonah Hill, Allison Pill

This is so much fun. I can't recommend this enough. It is a silly little film, slight even, but it is so good at its own nonsense that it succeeds perfectly. This is a film set in old Hollywood that is really neither ironic nor nostalgic. It is a send-up of Hollywood, but not an ironic one. Instead, it's a fond send-up of Hollywood, one that genuinely loves Hollywood and can laugh at its silliness while taking pleasure in it at the same time. The stars, the glamor, the backstage gossip! The Coen Brothers' look into this is a kind of Chekhovian bit of brilliance that laughs at it all but can't help loving it. Best in show – amid a large number of great actors – turns out to be the relatively unknown Alden Ehrenreich, who is hilarious as an action star who can't act his way out of a paper bag. It's laugh-out-loud hilarious. This is also a really smart movie that involves a surprise cameo from a member of the Frankfurt school and an articulation of some of the goals of twentieth-century American Communism but with a Coen Brothers spin, off course. It's so much fun. Trust me.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A