It has been a while since I have seen Carey Mulligan in anything. I remember seeing her in films like An Education, Drive, and Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book The Great Gatsby, but I do not recall anything else of memory. Here, in Promising Young Woman, she may be at the top of her game. If you did not know who this actress was then, you will definitely know her in this! Mulligan’s performance has been making rounds as one of the best that 2020 had to offer, and for good reason. Her character, Cassandra “Cassie” Thomas is clever, conniving, sympathetic, and deliciously wicked all in one package. Here is a woman who has a way of getting back at men who use their statuses to take advantage of the vulnerability of women as well as take down those who are oblivious, albeit ignorant, to the injustices that women face at the hands of men. Promising Young Woman is a revenge tale that the #MeToo and #Time’sUp movements have been waiting for.
It is that time of year again where I talk about the Oscar nominees for ‘Best Picture’. As always, my favorite time of year is awards season, which gives me the opportunity to catch as many nominees as I can before the big night happens. One of the films I have seen over the weekend was ‘Parasite’, a South-Koran comedy-thriller, of sorts, directed by Bong Joon-Ho (‘The Host’, ‘Snowpiercer’, ‘Okja’). It is a twisted, albeit depraved, look at the clash between the rich and poor; a wickedly brilliant satire that welcomes you into its devilish delights. It doesn’t just shock you, it also makes sure you have a good time until you get there.
Like 2015’s ‘Spotlight’, there is no denying that Steven Spielberg’s newest effort, ‘The Post’; a retelling of The Washington Post’s legal battle with Richard Nixon and the hidden accounts of the Vietnam War, was made for the sake of Oscar nominations. You have four Oscar-winners (Spielberg, writer Josh Singer of ‘Spotlight’, Tom Hanks, and Meryl Streep) collaborating on this project, a limited release in December which eventually opened wide in January, and a politically charged story all going for it. Though admittedly, I believe ‘The Post’ is Spielberg’s best Oscar movie since ‘Schindler’s List’.
Thinking about Luca Guadagnino’s Oscar-nominated adaptation of André Aciman’s 2007 novel ‘Call Me by Your Name’, I also reminisce about its beautiful set-pieces and Sufjan Stevens’ Oscar-nominated song ‘Mystery of Love’. I also think of the heartbreak that sneaks through in a place you least expect; haunting you long after the credits roll. ‘Call Me by Your Name’ has still stuck with me this week, and as I anticipate the Oscars coming this Sunday, I still think of its impact. I am not saying that this movie is the best ‘Best Picture’ nominee; there are certain moments that feel graphic in nature. To its credit, it is a sweet portrayal of love and friendship.
Daniel Day-Lewis gives his allegedly final performance in Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Phantom Thread’ (which is also in fact, their second collaboration). Like his character, Reynolds Woodcock, Day-Lewis expects nothing short of perfection in everything he does; both have a method to their madness that can be hard for some to deal with, but undeniably something to admire as the final result becomes. ‘Phantom Thread’ is the perfect goodbye for him, because it feels like a metaphor for his tireless career. While it may be sad to see him retire, we know that Anderson will still be making more stories. I have to admit that I am not a huge fan of his work (except for ‘Punch-Drunk Love’ with Adam Sandler). It is hard to deny that Anderson slips something beautiful in each and every fragment, yet as a whole, his stories take time to digest.
As we get closer to Oscar night (March 4 this year), the time for seeing the nine ‘Best Picture’ nominees is slowly, yet surely, reaching to a close. Whether certain films are still being screened a week or two after that fateful event is up to the studios distributing these films, and how comfortable they are booking more screenings after the winners are announced; which is why I am glad to have finally got a chance to see Guillermo Del Toro’s ‘The Shape of Water’. Nominated for thirteen Oscars including Best Picture, ‘The Shape of Water’ is a romantic fairy tale for adults that only the man who directed both ‘Hellboy’ and ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ could come up with. I especially have heard that this has been a passion project of his for quite some time. It may just be another ‘Beauty and the Beast’ tale, only this time, it is an homage to creature features from the fifties (‘Creature From the Black Lagoon’), and a love letter to the golden age of cinema while somehow being drenched in fifties nostalgia.
Gary Oldman is Winston Churchill in what would be the most thought-provoking movie of the year. Directed by Joe Wright (‘Pan’), ‘Darkest Hour’ is not just the portrayal of Churchill during his run as prime minister, but also a look at the controversy surrounding his election (and last-minute replacement for Neville Chamberlain). It takes place during the Nazi regime and even documents what sounds like real-life sound bytes of calls between Churchill and President Franklin Delanor Roosevelt, and footage of Nazi marches. To its core, ‘Darkest Hour’ also feels like a connection to another Best Picture nominee; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dunkirk’, since it is also a retelling of the decision to bring home the 300,000 men trapped on the sandy beaches.
Oscar Season has officially started; which means that ‘Best Picture’ nominees – besides ‘Get Out’ – are returning to theaters for audiences to give a chance to before that fateful day (March 4) comes. I have only got a chance to see both ‘Get Out’ and ‘Dunkirk’ before ‘Lady Bird’ came out. Now with “Oscar Blitz” happening at one of my local theaters, I finally might get that chance to watch all the ‘Best Picture’ nominees that will screen there – starting with Greta Gerwig’s magnum opus ‘Lady Bird’.
The year was 1941, and two films came out that year that changed film forever; ‘Citizen Kane’, and ‘Sergeant York’. Both films are considered to be not only “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant films” by the American Film Institute (AFI, for short), but were also Oscar nominees running in nearly every one of the same category (Except ‘Supporting Actor and Actress’, which the latter was nominated for). Sadly, both films lost the ‘Best Picture’ Oscar to a lesser-known film called ‘How Green Was My Valley’. (I am still interested in viewing the film for that reason alone.) Despite both films being important to the film industry, only one received more box-office attention than the other. That film was ‘Sergeant York’. While ‘Citizen Kane’ went on to be shown in film schools (and high school classes) in later years as a tool for how to make a great film, ‘Sergeant York’ became the BIGGER deal. Not only was it a major Oscar nominee (winning only two for Gary Cooper’s performance as the real-life Alvin C. York, but for William Holmes’ editing as well.), it also became the highest-grossing film of that year. (Which, if adjusted for inflation, is still one of the highest grossing movies of all time)
Denzel Washington and Viola Davis bring their characters from the revival of August Wilson’s play to the big screen with Washington directing, and Wilson writing the screenplay. ‘Fences’ is less about racial issues in the 50’s and more about family tension and drama. If you thought living in that particular decade was easy, you should be mistaken. It was as hard for the working man as it was for a person of color; the way Washington brings the character of the God-fearing baseball expert Troy Maxson to life is a testament to a man who believes in hard work and dedication, even if it means becoming bitter to his sons (Russell Hornsby and Jovan Adepo). While Davis proves to be a strong force of nature as Troy’s caring wife, Rose.