December 29, 2017
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
Every time the holiday season rolls around, I get super excited. Yeah, yeah, I like the hanging with the family and seeing old friends and giving gifts and all that stuff. But what really gets me going is Oscar season and the opportunity to take in a bunch of movies before nominations are announced. So early in December, I made my list of must-see movies and vowed to watch as many as I could before 2018 rolled around… and I’m happy to report I did pretty well! Here was my initial list:
I kicked my own personal Oscar season off with The Killing of a Sacred Deer. Haven’t heard of it? Yeah, that’s probably okay. It stars Nicole Kidman and Collin Farrell in a truly weird… no, I mean TRULY WEIRD scenario that I’m still trying to figure out. I guess it was about a teenage lunatic — possibly possessed — who curses him family (Farrell and Kidman are the father/mother). The deranged kid blames Farrell’s character, a surgeon, for killing his dad. In response, he inexplicably strikes Farrell’s children with degenerative illnesses and ultimately forces the doctor to choose which of his children or his wife to kill. If he doesn’t decide, they’ll all die. It’s so bizarre. The dialogue is delivered in a robotic, emotionless way. It was an insane movie that I couldn’t quite take my eyes off. I didn’t hate it, but I also didn’t love it… just kinda creeped out by it. You could make a case for a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Kidman, but that feels like an outside chance.
The movie I was least interested in seeing was the second one I watched: All The Money In The World. This is the flick that originally starred Kevin Spacey as J.P. Getty, but the studio reshot all his scenes with Christopher Plummer after allegations of Spacey’s inappropriate behavior were made public. I knew virtually nothing about this movie before seeing it, and I think that was a good thing. It was based on the actual kidnapping of Paul Getty (JP’s grandson) in 1973 and his grandfather’s refusal to pay a $17 million ransom, despite being worth in excess of $1 billion. It was a heart-pounding but often frustrating story that I’m surprised to say I really enjoyed. I did a little post-movie research and discovered they took a lot of liberties with the story, which sort of sucks, but sometimes you’ve got to manufacture some extra drama. Michelle Williams should be nominated (but not win) for Best Actress and Plummer could earn a nomination of his own.
Last weekend, on a whim, I decided to take in a matinee of The Shape of Water. Again, I knew almost nothing about the movie, and again I’m glad because this thing blew me away. I absolutely loved it. It was directed and co-written by Guillermo del Toro, the same guy who did Pan’s Labyrinth… a movie I had zero patience for. But Shape of Water was an amazing, totally over-the-top story that captivated me from the first frame. The lead actress is Sally Hawkins — somebody I don’t recall seeing anywhere ever before. She plays a mute — spoke about 17 words in the whole movie (in a dream sequence) — and now I’ll never forget her. Give this woman an Oscar. You can also give supporting noms to Octavia Spencer and Michael Shannon, one of the best truly evil guys I’ve seen since No Country for Old Men. The set designer and visual effects peeps should also win for the most visually stunning movie of the year, and if I were an Academy voter, Shape of Water might get my vote for Best Picture. So good.
I was afraid my next movie would pale in comparison to Shape of Water, but that was surely not the case. Call Me By Your Name is near the top of many critics’ lists this year, and for good reason. It stars Timothée Chalamet as a teen who falls for his father’s (a professor) visiting student… a not-teenage man played by Armie Hammer. Over the course of two hours, you watch this kid (Elio) struggle with his feelings as his connection to Oliver (Hammer) grows into a full-blown, yet doomed, romantic relationship. The whole cast is fantastic in telling a fairly complex, multi-layered story – not just the central love story, but how Elio’s affair affects his parents and a girl he leads on while denying his real feelings. Chalamet should win the Oscar for Best Actor this year. He was so good… so believable. The end credits play over his face as he grapples with his unrequited feelings — that alone earned him an award IMO. Hammer should probably win for Supporting Actor, too. And Italy, where the movie is set, should win something, as well. The entire film made me want to move there, like right now.
And finally, on New Year’s Day, I took in Lady Bird. Once again, I knew very little about the movie other than it was directed and written by Greta Gerwig, in a kind of homage to her teenage years. For about 94 minutes I watched the insufferable namesake of the movie, played by Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird is the character’s self-given nickname), being a seriously annoying high school senior. She’s such a snot… funny at times, but frustrating beyond words because she’s so selfish and self-centered. I found myself rooting for her to get into college and earn a role in the play, but simultaneously hating her for ditching her BFF Julia (who is awesome and hilarious) and lying to virtually everybody. Her mom, played by Laurie Metcalf (who I loved on Roseanne in the ’90s), is the highlight of the movie, spending the entire hour-and-a-half at wit’s end with this POS daughter she’s trying to raise. Despite how difficult she is to watch, by the end, Lady Bird redeems herself to the point I realized I actually liked this girl. It leaves you with the feeling that after everything this kinda rotten girl did, her poor mom’s efforts may eventually pay off. Give a nomination to Ronan for Best Actress and give the Supporting Actress statue to Metcalf, whose every emotion you could feel throughout the movie… even if she wasn’t exactly likable.
And that’s it. While I still need to see Three Billboards and Darkest Hour, my list of movies to see has grown since I first made it. I’ve added:
I’m no Siskel or Ebert, and I have little business reviewing movies. But I love them. And I love the Oscars. For me, movie awards season is kind of like being in a fantasy football or baseball league — seeing the nominated movies in advance makes me feel like I have some skin in the game when the awards are passed out.
As for the five I’ve seen so far, I would genuinely recommend seeing all of them (Killing of a Sacred Deer only if you’re in a super weird, trippy mood), and I’m betting there are several more worth seeing. One other prediction: I have a feeling we might have another #OscarsSoWhite on our hands. Despite all the good flicks in theaters this year, sadly, diversity has not been in abundance. Here’s hoping next year is much better.
Are you a movie buff? What do you plan to see this season?