FEBRUARY 10 — The big day is getting closer and closer, so in order to not miss out on giving this year’s Oscar season proper coverage, I guess I’d better start writing bit by bit about the many contenders vying for this year’s awards.
People probably say this every year, but I genuinely believe that this year’s Oscar race is proving to be one of the hardest to call yet, with no one clear favourite leading the way.
Unlike previous years, even when the final results can be called an upset, there’s always been a few big films that stand out as favourites, either from their subject matter or their status as a “prestige” studio film, backed by all the marketing might that you’d expect from them being one.
There’s always been a Titanic, a Forrest Gump, a La La Land or a 12 Years A Slave in previous years, but the closest thing we have to that this year is Dunkirk, and yet it’s only been nominated in two major categories — Best Picture and Best Director.
That alone should tell you how small most of the films are in this year’s Oscar race, which also means that a lot of them are right up my alley.
It’s still too early to call right now, so let’s just dive in to examine a few and just enjoy the films, shall we?
Call Me By Your Name
If any film is going to pull off a Moonlight this year, it probably is going to be this beautifully emotional and sensual coming of age love story from rising Italian maestro Luca Guadagnino.
Best known for his similarly sensual I Am Love, Guadagnino is clearly paying tribute to his hero Bernardo Bertolucci by setting the film in the lush Italian countryside and evoking some of the feelings that can be found in films like La Luna, Stealing Beauty, The Dreamers and 1900.
Telling the story of a teenager’s romantic and sexual awakening (with a visiting grad student helping his lecturer father during summer break), what really sets this film apart from most other gay coming of age stories is how spot-on the feelings captured here are.
Anyone who’s ever been in love will be startled by how genuine and true everything feels in this film.
It really is one of the most universal and beautifully told gay love stories in recent memory, which is another way of saying that you’ll still fall under the film’s spell even if you’re straight.
And did I tell you that its final few scenes are some of the most beautifully written and acted this year?
Written and directed by long time mumblecore favourite Greta Gerwig in her solo debut as a director, Lady Bird is one of the most pitch perfect films you’ll encounter this year.
Again, it’s a coming of age film, centred around the high school travails of a young woman who insists that people call her Lady Bird, this one feels like a female version of Rushmore (still one of the most perfect coming of age films you’ll ever see), but with one huge difference — it’s more casual when it comes to narrative beats (making it delightfully unpredictable at times).
But it has wisdom in spades and it will make you admire Gerwig (who’s now only the fifth woman ever to be nominated in the category) even more, because anyone who’s capable of writing scenes and a seemingly endless supply of dialogue that are as insightful and exquisite as the ones in this film deserves a medal.
Word has it that it took less than a year from the time that an early draft of this film’s script got into Steven Spielberg’s hands to it getting played in movie theatres and becoming a late contender for this year’s Oscars.
That’s an incredibly fast turnaround in this day and age where even scripts take longer to write, let alone for a movie (with this many big stars) to be written, shot, edited and released.
In fact, Oscar-winning screenwriter Josh Singer came on board just 10 weeks before shooting started. But Spielberg felt that this film needed to be made, and it needed to be made now.
And judging from the results, he’s right. A bit like All The President’s Men, this one’s also about a bunch of journalists fighting to uphold the freedom of the press (in this case, it’s about The Washington Post and their role in the whole Pentagon Papers drama), but it also holds a massively rousing trump card — by also focusing on publisher Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep in yet another Oscar-nominated performance) and her sort of “coming of age” as her own woman, the movie hits a definite bulls-eye with two different kinds of demographics.
All the bleeding heart liberals will of course be sucked in by the press freedom angle (which is strangely extra relevant in the USA of 2018), but women, especially in the age of #metoo and sexual politics in the workplace, will find Graham’s journey to find herself irresistible.
Heck, even I found it hard to resist, and I’m a guy!
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.