Best Picture Showcase Day One

This year there are only seven of the nine films nominated because Netflix did not make The Irishman and Marriage Story available for exhibition.  Day one of the Showcase features Ford v Ferrari,  Joker and Little Women.

Ford v Ferrari

I loved this movie when I first saw it and my opinion has not changed.  This is a great story with several terrific performances.  Matt Damon literally chews the screen because he is either eating or working a piece of gum in 90% of the scenes he is in. Christian Bale is the real star, the physicality of his performance is amazing in those shots set in the cars he is driving. There are several racing scenes and he manages to match the tension in each of them with just enough to not oversell it. It’s a shame the Academy could not find room for him among this year’s lead actors.

Two other things impressed me even more as I was rewatching the film. The editing of the movie is very effective at showing the characters and building excitement into the story. The music was also a strong asset to the storytelling,  I liked how it created an aura of the 1960s without using source music.

Joker

This film gave me conflicting reactions when I first saw it. The story bravely confronts the stigma of mental illness and shows that society is Ill equipped to manage it. It is also a bit of a cheat since we can never be sure that what we are seeing isn’t just the mental machinations of a disturbed mind. That bothered me far less on a second viewing,  I had an idea this time about how the inconsistency might work , so when an incident is shown I could look at it two ways more readily.

I’ve seen some criticism of Todd Phillips directing nomination, but he is the one responsible for the composition of the shots, some of which mirror traditional comic book iconography,  but there are others that subvert them in various ways. This is a patient film that doesn’t rush to simply get to the thrilling parts. The performance by Joaquin Phoenix is even more impressive on a second viewing because you can get past the physical transformation and watch the emotional wreck that Arthur Fleck is, and see the stewing eruptions with nice subtlety. The music for this movie is also hauntingly disturbing,  as it should be.

Little Women

For the life of me I have a hard time understanding how Greta Gerwig isn’t nominated as director, this film looks great,  the performances are top notch and it is emotionally satisfyingly. She did a retooling of the story to make the three love stories work better than they have in the earlier versions.  The final sequences also allow the film to have it both ways in regards to Jo and her Independence.

The only problems I had were a couple of tin eared woke lines that drew attention to themselves.  The interactions with the Mr. Dashwood character worked well enough on its own to convey the frustrating perspective that women Submitted to a century and a half ago.

These were all fine films but I suspect that the big contenders will be in next week’s line-up.

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