Movie Views: 1-2-3! Catching up on Oscar Run 2018 with 3 Flicks

Movie Views: 1-2-3! Catching up on Oscar Run 2018 with 3 Flicks

This year’s Oscars ceremony is just one week away, and since I last blogged, I knocked off another 5 nominations by checking out three more films this week. As of this writing, I have seen 27 of the 34 nominations which make up what I call the core 6 Oscar categories (Best Actor and Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Actress, Best Director and Best Picture). Five remaining films will deliver the remaining seven nominations, and I’m set to watch one of them this afternoon. (More on THAT one soon…)

 

Holy cow, I think I may actually complete this year’s Oscar Run. I can’t remember the last time I was this close, and in all of the years of doing this fun movie tradition, I managed to complete all of them just once. Fingers crossed, I can locate all five of the remaining films to watch. (So far, I’ve managed to find only four of them…)

 

But this blog is not about those I haven’t seen yet. It is about the next three that I did see. So… first up, I tackled two in one evening for a special double-feature Oscar Run stop last Tuesday starting off with CALL ME BY YOUR NAME. With a screenplay adapted by James Ivory, who has directed some of my favorite period pieces (usually based on E.M. Forster novels), this one has a very different feel than any of those favorite Ivory-Merchant collaborations I adore so much. I’m sure that this is largely in part because the film is directed by someone else (Luca Guadagnino). I went into this film with fairly low expectations. It would not have been a film I would have seen based on trailers, even if I do have quite the crush on supporting cast member Armie Hammer. Sigh. Dopey grin. He has shown on many occasions that he is far more than a pretty face though, and this movie is a great example of the depth he offers onscreen. A special shout out to supporting actor chameleon Michael Stuhlbargfantastic as the lead character’s father Mr. Perlman and appearing in his third Oscar nominated film this season (offering an equally compelling performance in THE SHAPE OF WATER and starring alongside Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks in the disappointing THE POST, through no fault of Stuhlbarg).

 

CallMeByYourName

 

 

The real find is Timothee Chalamet who plays Elio Perlman, a young man still carving out his own identity in the world as the family relocates for the season to the Northern Italy countryside for professor dad’s archaeological digs in 1983. Local young girls show an interest in the young man, and he entertains their affections with soft flirtation but something always seems not quite so settled – for Elio and for viewers getting a candid window into his mind and heart. Enter a handsome stranger, Oliver, played by Hammer, with movie star looks who catches the eye of those same young lovesick ladies and connects immediately with Elio on a level unlike either has experienced.

 

How would I describe this film? Umm…. quiet. Really, really quiet at times. But it always felt right when it would slow down and allow a moment, an emotion or visual to simmer. The pace, though slow, felt so appropriate for this film. The filmmaker was not afraid to let viewers suffer through an awkward moment with the protagonist and savor an enchantingly romantic or sweet encounter between Chalamet and Hammer or a telling conversation between Chalamet and Stuhlbarg that left this viewer choked up with heart aching more than a little.

 

I was pleasantly surprised by how engrossed I became in these characters’ lives. Wonderful ensemble, gorgeous cinematography, great use of dialogue and silence equally. CALL ME BY YOUR NAME was an unexpected treasure this Oscar season.

 

On a scale of 0-100, I give CALL ME BY YOUR NAME an 87. 

 

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After inhaling a salad at the McD’s down the street, I returned to the theater (the exact same theater, in fact — different seat, though!) for I, TONYA starring Margot Robbie as colorful figure skater (literally and figuratively) Tonya Harding and Allison Janney in the much-rewarded (so far) supporting role as her blunt, tough-as-nails mother LaVona Golden. Of all of the films on this year’s Oscar Run, this was one of the films I most wanted to see. I knew the story and characters going into the film so well, that it would come down to performances and movement of the plot. The problem with that is…predictability. My knowledge of the history, scandal and outcome of every event depicted meant there wasn’t a lot to be surprised about. That’s not a criticism of the film – just a fact.

 

ITonya

 

Robbie and Janney were terrific, but I think some of the other supporting cast members deserve some attention, among them Sebastian Stan as now ex-husband Jeff Gillooley and Paul Walter Hauser as her confounding and clumsy bodyguard Shawn Eckhardt, executor of plans to ‘help’ Tonya on her path to success by taking out one of her strongest competitors on the ice, Nancy Kerrigan.  Janney is a strong contender for winning the Supporting Actress award but I think there are far too many others up this year I would prefer to see win. Robbie delivers a full-throttle performance as Harding, and I am thrilled to see she nabbed the nom but she hasn’t a chance to pull off a win, not with award favorites like Frances McDormand and Saoirse Ronan in the roundup.

 

I, TONYA has some memorable scenes but it didn’t captivate me as I hoped it would and unfortunately, I blame much of that on offering material I was simply too familiar with to deliver any surprises or unexpected turns. Good acting but sometimes its showy, talk-to-the-camera confessions felt like more of an annoying gimmick than an asset.  Despite that, Robbie is so believable in the role, that she made it worth seeing for me.

 

On a scale of 0-100, I give I, TONYA an 85. 

 

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Finally, I managed to sneak in a viewing on Netflix at home of MUDBOUND, which stars Academy Award nominee and R&B singer Mary J. Blige in a powerful supporting role as Florence Jackson, a strong, caring mother who will do whatever it takes for the survival of her family. The film introduces us to Ronsel Jackson, a black soldier who returns home from living, loving and fighting abroad to find a very different and far less welcoming environment in post-WW II Mississippi. Viewers meet a white farm owner struggling to survive, supported by members of the soldier’s family, and lives intersect among the families in ways not everyone in the community finds acceptable.

 

Roots

 

I did not enter the film viewing experience with very high expectations. In fact, I honestly thought I would be bored by the bleak, depressing surroundings and cinematography. Instead, I was extremely surprised by how quickly I became engrossed in the various storylines. Blige is very good in the role (though she would not be my choice to nab the Oscar) but I hear little mentioned about a few other compelling performances by Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Clarke and Jason Mitchell who is superb as the soldier.

 

MUDBOUND, on the surface, appears to offer a very dark look at humanity, and I won’t lie to you — there are some very hard-to-watch scenes that are instrumental to the plot’s progression. However, the film also offers some heart, honesty and believe it or not, hope, when you least expect it. I am glad there was a nomination for this film, for I otherwise may never have given it a fair shot. Thanks for reading. ~ Chris K.

 

On a scale of 0-100, I give MUDBOUND an 87. 

 

 

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