As is our custom , we visited the Best Picture Showcase to catch up on all the films nominated this year. Also as usual, we have already seen most of them so it is a revisit for some of these movies but each day of the showcase this year will feature a movie that is new to us.
Phantom Thread was maybe the most divisive film my family seen this year. My daughter loved it and so did I. My wife hated it, she compared it to “The Tree of Life” a film that I personally also I hated. The film is extremely funny but also extremely tight and I mean that in a literal sense. Daniel Day Lewis’ character is so tightly wound that he could fracture at any moment, he makes Samuel Jackson in “Unbreakable” look positively rubber like. I’m not sure if the film is supposed to be a comedy but it definitely played incredibly humorous.
The story is hard do explain. Reynolds Woodcock is a dress designer at the highest level of passion who has difficulty relating to anything except his own self interest. He finds a woman that he falls in love with for reasons that are hard to understand. Both he and his work are effected by her for her. Everybody experiencing his personality would be incredibly frustrated and angry. If our partners behaved in the manner that either of these two engage in, the relationship would end, but somehow it brings them closer together. I thought that the whole point ultimately was for the film to show how meticulous they are in their relationship, in the same manner that he is meticulous in the dresses that he makes. I can see however why my wife found it frustrating be because it is incredibly slow moving and deliberately paced.
Obviously the dress design are fantastic but the film barely lingers on them instead it focuses on the quirks and idiosyncrasy of Daniel Day Lewis’ character and his relationship with Alma the woman that he may be in love with. It turns out to be one of the most amusing and twisted love stories you will ever see, and it is directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, who knows how to make even a slow moving train [of a gown] look compelling.
Lady Bird So I liked this film much better the second time then I did the first time I saw it. I think I came in better prepared to appreciate the characters and since I knew what the story involved I could pay attention to the details of how main characters interacted instead of worrying about the plot. Both actresses are excellent and Laurie Metcalf especially impressed me more as her character truly does act in frustrating ways but also in very loving ways. I do think that if I were Sacramento I’d be a little bummed out about the way I was referred to by Lady Bird. At the end of the film there is a nice pay off and maybe I could be more forgiving just as Julie is when Lady Bird returns to her and tries to renew their friendship.
Once again my favorite scene in the movie remains the prom moment when the two girls re-established their friendship. It felt real in very satisfying coming of age manner.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri My level of respect for this film went up seeing it a second time and I already thought it was one of the better films at the last year. Francis McDormand is clearly the future Oscar winner. I think Sam Rockwell will definitely win this year is well, which is too bad because his competition includes his costar Woody Harrelson. Harrelson is really excellent in this film and deserve the nomination. I also think that the theme of the movie is a little different on my second go round. While it may be hard to believe, I do think that the movie has something to say about forgiveness. There at least four major character who have to make a decision to forgive something. That act does not come for each character in the same place and for the same reasons but it is critical to appreciating the characters who are not all likable.
I still think the film is about the rage Francis McDormand’s character goes through passions that are conveyed in her eyes and vocal tone. The film does have redemptive arcs but they do not attempt to whitewash the negative characters but rather they are presented as much more complex than we might have thought. “Three Billboards” remains a film that goes in directions that you never expect.
The Shape of Water I suspect this will be the eventual Best Picture Winner. I say that not as an advocate of the film itself but rather as an analyst of Academy tendencies. This fairy tale, told with extreme moments of unpleasantness interspersed with moments of great beauty has the qualities the Academy will want to award. It has a director with a background in foreign films and independent movies, who also happens to not be the least preferred heritage of the moment.
There are several heavy handed moments and a very clunky musical interlude that detracts from the tone the film developed. The imaginary oppression in this film is a surrogate and companion for actual oppression that is shown in the movie. The actors are all very good but their parts are a little too on the nose when it comes to the themes. The production design is really top notch and the movie looks great. If there is a film that will deny Roger Deakins his Oscar, it will be this movie for the work of Dan Laustsen.