Best Picture Countdown #6: Phantom Thread

“I cannot start my day with a confrontation. I simply have no time for confrontations.” – Daniel Day Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock, Phantom Thread (2017)

Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps, Lesley Manville
Runtime: 2hr 10min
Rating: R

A period drama set in London during the 50’s, Phantom Thread follows the turbulent relationship between fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock (Day-Lewis) and young waitress Alma (Krieps). Their romance teeters precariously between love and loathing as they struggle to adapt to and learn to understand each other’s differences and contrasting perspectives.

Phantom_Thread.pngThis is a slow-burning film and I found myself theorizing about it and connecting all the dots for a long time afterward. There are so many pieces to put together, different scraps of cloth that must be interwoven to complete the full garment, that the film almost comes across like a mystery or a thriller as well as a drama. It’s a film that makes the viewer think; to wrack their brain and try to understand the character motivations, the inner-workings of their psyche, and the root of their emotions. Most of the film I was expecting DDL’s character to end up being a serial killer, or there was going to be an incest twist, or something a little more macabre. Fortunately, neither happen, and the film brilliantly subverts expectations and keeps the viewer invested through subtleties in character traits, dialogue, and visual cues. However, at the “big reveal” near the end of this film, my mother and I turned to one another and simultaneously said, “What the *bleep*?” Not in a confused way, however – the ending does make sense – it just comes across as kind of left-fieldish at first, so the film might not land with viewers who seek a more conventional movie experience. It’s an artsy, cerebral film, which not everyone will enjoy.

Phantom Thread isn’t so much a standard movie as it is an exploration into the complexity human relationships, as the two leads come together and fall apart in a strange, whimsical dance of ever-shifting emotion carried by the lead actors, Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps. Their chemistry – in all aspects of their passion for each other, whether it be positive or negative – is palpable, and their tumultuous bond is like the dresses Reynold’s envisions, slowly crafted into form, then torn apart before being stitched back together with some alterations. Watching their relationship unfold is mesmerizing, and their ups and downs are often difficult to watch and equally as difficult to predict.

DDL is one of those actors who can really do no wrong, so his nomination for Best Actor comes as no surprise – but as far as this performance goes in comparison to the competition, I’m not predicting a win for this celebrated actor’s alleged last outing. I was actually more compelled by Krieps performance as Alma, as she wove a more mysterious and difficult to decipher portrayal of her character, which gave the ending more of an impact for me. Also stellar is Manville as Cyril, Reynolds’ sister, whose cool, calculating demeanor and crisply savage dialogue sends chills through the screen and up the spine, and was powerful enough to earn her a Supporting Actress nod. However, I have never wanted to flick someone in the forehead more than DDL in this film, which is a testament to just how stellar his performance is. He takes finicky to a whole new level. Definitely forehead-flick worthy. Though the way Alma eats made my skin crawl, and I wanted to launch myself through the screen and slap the spoon out of her hand.

Visually, Phantom Thread is breathtaking. I’d put money on it taking home the Costume Design award, and wouldn’t be opposed to it taking home Best Original Score or Supporting Actress. Anderson has proven himself a visionary and exemplary director many times already (There Will Be Blood, anyone? I still think of DDL every time I drink a milkshake) but I think the competition might be too fierce this time around for him to take the gold for Best Director, though his eye and vision is part of what makes this film so fucking chic.

It’s bizarre, beautiful, and I will never look at mushrooms the same way again. However, as far as the Best Pictures race goes, I’m not predicting Phantom Thread to take the top spot. But in such a stacked category, that does not diminish just how brilliant this film is.

Oscar Nominations:
Best Picture
Best Actor (DDL)
Best Supporting Actress (Manville)
Best Director (Anderson)
Best Original Score (Greenwood)
Best Costume Design 

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Best Picture Countdown #7: Get Out

“I mean, I told you not to go in that house…”Lil Rel Howery as Rod Williams, Get Out (2017)

Dir: Jordan Peele
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener
Runtime: 1hr43min
Rating: R

Get Out follows black photographer Chris Washington (Kaluuya) as he goes on a weekend trip to meet the family of his white girlfriend, Rose (Williams). But as he spends time with her family and their affluent, somewhat bizarre friends, Chris discovers that this visit might involve more than he bargained for.

Teaser_poster_for_2017_film_Get_OutJordan Peele impresses in his directorial debut – some shots and sequences in this film are downright Kubrickian in atmosphere and scope, especially the basement scenes. I felt tense just watching the interactions of the characters and the various uncomfortable and downright creepy situations. The screenplay is also unique and features an original plot with fresh twists; this doesn’t feel like a story that’s been told a thousand times, a pitfall that plagues so many films in the same genre. It features realistic horrors with a surreal twist, amplifying genuine situations through a horror-based lens, thus keeping the film grounded and making it feel real. Obviously, the film also contains a relevant and timely social commentary that feels both refreshing and necessary, especially for a film of this genre. It also is the type of film that keeps the viewer guessing; I kept trying to figure out how all the visual hints (deer antlers, anyone?) and the little cues in the dialogue were going to lead up to some kind of big reveal, and was not disappointed in the least as the plot fell into place.

The acting is great all around, but especially Kaluuya as Chris. The hypnotism scenes in particular, where he displays genuine terror and helplessness, make the stakes feel brutally intense. Overall, Kaluuya portrays the everyday sort of protagonist that is easy to root for and relate to, as he is refreshingly capable and reasonable – not the type of horror film character who makes stupid decisions and more or less deserves to be chainsawed in the face or whatever. I definitely wanted him to GET OUT, one might say – but, though his stellar performance earned an Oscar nod, I don’t think he’ll be able to edge out the competition. Allison Williams also turns in an excellent performance, and Lil Rel Howery, playing the most likable TSA agent of all time, supplies enough laughs to weave levity into the plot.

Admittedly, I’m not a horror person, so I likely wouldn’t have seen this film if it hadn’t been nominated for Best Picture. Keep your Jasons and your Michael Myerses and your Freddies away from me. But Get Out is horror done right, and done well – though if you seek out horror movies for outlandish scenarios, absurd monsters, and escapism, this isn’t the film for you. I did find myself wishing this film were a bit longer, with more layers to the characters and the story, and deeper exploration into the history of the Armitage family – but simultaneously, I think the lighter exposition is a strength, as it would be all too easy for the film to go overboard with the explanations and make the plot drag. The screenplay is a triumph; Get Out feels like an elongated Twilight Zone episode, with enough subtly terrifying moments and jarring twists that force the viewer to think through and analyze each instance of discomfort and fear.

I wouldn’t mind seeing Peele take home the gold for his screenplay or his directing, but the competition is going to be fierce, and the same goes for all the other awards this film is up for. But even if it doesn’t emerge victorious on March 4th, Get Out was a well-deserved success for all involved, and I look forward to seeing future projects from Kaluuya and Peele.

Oscar Nominations
Best Director (Peele)
Best Original Screenplay (Peele)
Best Actor (Kaluuya)
Best Picture 

Best Picture Countdown #9: The Post

If we don’t hold them accountable, who will?” – Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee, The Post (2017)

Based on the true story of the controversial revelation and handling of the confidential Pentagon Papers, which detail the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War, Steven Spielberg’s 2017 film The Post follows Washington Post heiress Katharine Graham as she grapples with the decision of whether or not to put her paper in the line of fire for the sake of journalistic integrity and truth, or preserve her friendships and relationships with those entwined with the Nixon administration.

On a surface level, political thriller The Post checks all the boxes. You’ve got Tom Hanks. You’ve got Meryl Streep. You’ve got Steven Spielberg. You’ve got John Williams. You’ve got early 70’s fashion. You’ve got a relevant message that rings true in today’s controversy-mired and volatile political system. And yet, even with such a stacked team of people working behind it, The Post is simply fine. It’s a thriller, but not an edge-of-your seat, suspense-laden thriller.

The_Post_(film).pngBut that’s not to say it is undeserving of the nominations and awards it has garnered thus far, or that because it checks off all those boxes, it automatically gets award nods. I found myself invested by the plot of this film, especially knowing that it is rooted in true events of American history. There was a lot about the history of this era that I was unaware of, as American History classes in high schools today tend to shy away from events that might skew perceptions of our government. Each member of the cast delivers capable, if not career best performances; Streep, Hanks, and Bob Odenkirk in particular nail their roles. For her role as Katharine Graham, Streep is also nominated for Best Actress, and though she certainly deserves recognition – her emotional turmoil and struggle to assert her leadership is convincing and, at times, heartbreaking – I think a couple of other names in the Best Actress category turned in stronger performances this year.

Overall, The Post is a film worth watching and is one of the most socially and politically poignant films to come along in recent years, but in the race for Best Picture, it falls a little shy of the competition. Of all the nominees, I’d rank The Post the least likely to take home the gold on March 4th, but it’s still a solid entry and one of the top films of 2017.

Oscar Nominations:
Best Picture
Best Actress (Streep)

Stream of Consciousness OSCARS Reaction

Instead of writing up a proper review/reflection for the Oscars for this week’s post, I’ve decided to post my (mostly) unfiltered thoughts as they pop into my head – more a “stream of consciousness” type babble with some minor structure than an official reaction. If you follow me on twitter, you may know that I also live-tweet(ed) the event, so this post might contain repeat thoughts. Here goes!

Pre-show:

Where did Lucas Hedges’s hair go?????
JOHN LEGEND is performing the La La Land songs?!? I am down with that.
Hidden Fences strikes again! Someone needs to make an actual movie, now.
DEV. PATEL.
How tall is Matt Damon? Is he not tall or is Michael Strahan just super tall?
Aw, the boys of Moonlight all together in one picture!
Isabelle Huppert’s dress is GORGEOUS.
Excellent use of the word serendipitous, JT.
I’m pulling for La La Land for Original Song, but if Miranda wins I won’t even be mad because EGOT.
RYAN GOSLING!!!! Not a fan of the ruffle, but it’s definitely in the spirit of the film.
Petition for Casey Affleck to get a haircut. (edit: It’s for a role, nvm.)
I thought this was over at 8. Guess not.
Michael Strahan is taller than The Rock?!? I guess that answers my previous question.
Ah, I love a good photobomb.

Monologue/Opening:
I constantly forget that this song is from a movie.
What a great way to determine if the nominees in the first few rows can dance/possess rhythm.
I just screamed “VIGGO!” out loud, so you know where my attention is. My LoTR cast radar is always turned up.
With Kimmel as the host the snark-meter should skyrocket. (edit: It already has)
“Smooth move, dumbass.” I love it.
MERYL!
This monologue is better than NPH’s entire hosting stint 2 years back.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
WHY OH WHY WAS SUNNY PAWAR NOT NOMINATED? I am OUTRAGED.
Mahershala was soooooo good. Fingers crossed.
I also love Jeff Bridges. But that’s just, like… my opinion, man.
DEV. PATEL.
YAAAAAAAAAAAASSSS!!!!!!!!! Mahershala Ali! What a guy!

BEST COSTUME/MAKEUP/HAIR-STYLING:
Star Trek over Suicide Squad all day every day.
Pffffft.
The dudes are cool, though.
YEAH, FANTASTIC BEASTS!!!! That makes up for the Star Trek loss. Sort of.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE:
Need to see Hidden Figures. What a stellar cast.
I need to step up my documentary game, too…
Still picked right, though!

“My twin, Lin Manuel Miranda.” Lol.
I am sad I still haven’t seen Moana…. or Zootopia.
But DAMN, that girl can sing! Didn’t even falter when a rogue wave smacked her!

BEST SOUND EDITING/MIXING:
The only category sci fi films  stand a chance in, besides effects!
Also, CHRIS EVANS!
Sound was such a huge part of Arrival, so glad to see it win something.
Abbot and Costello would be proud.
DAMMIT I wanted Rogue One to win something. ;_;

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
Sidenote, Mark Rylance is the only winner I’ve ever picked immediately after I saw the film in theaters; before the nominees were even announced.
Was pulling for Naomie Harris (I mean, she was unrecognizable in Moonlight), but I love Viola Davis. Should have been a “Best Actress” nom, though, not supporting.
D’awwwww, Denzel. ;_______;

I don’t know why, but seeing Meryl eat Junior Mints is just… A+.

BEST FOREIGN FILM:
Picking A Man Called Ove just because it’s up for more than one.
Not a great strategy, as it happens.

DEV PATEL!

BEST ANIMATED SHORT:
PIPER PIPER PIPER PIPER PIPER PIPER
YAYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE:
KUBO KUBO KUBO KUBO KUBO KUBO KUBO
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN/SET DECORATION:
Would love to see Arrival, but I’m thinking LLL.
Tbh, the entire epilogue sequence of LLL was worth that award, though.
But that dress is unfortunate.

….. Could these people be less impressed?
Okay, now they’re warming up. Except that dude chewing gum, he could not care less.
That woman got a hug from Viggo I am DYING.
AWWWWWWW SO CUTE! Couple goals.
Gary from Chicago is my hero!

The Bicycle Thieves!
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon!

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS:
Riz Ahmed looks dapper and Felicity’s dress is beautiful – best dressed duo thus far.
Also this category is STACKED.
The Jungle Book was literally 90% effects. How could it NOT win?
Was secretly pulling for Kubo, though.

BEST FILM EDITING:
Is Seth Rogen wearing moon boots?
Guess I need to see Hacksaw Ridge now.

SUNNY PAWAR!!!!!

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT / LIVE ACTION SHORT:
Not even gonna pretend I have a clue what any of these films are…

I have a strange craving for mustard, just now…not sure why…

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY:
This category is stacked, too – and I actually saw all of the nominees but one!
LLL strikes again! Has the trend begun?

I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR THIS MOMENT say what you want about La La Land, the music is the bomb.

god that performance was STELLAR

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE:
Is blue velvet in this year? This is blue velvet suit jacket number 3!
And it’s LLL again! In other news, grass is green!
Tbf, the score for LLL is fantastic.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG:
WILL WE SEE THE EGOT????
Update: Nope.
I am def of the opinion that City of Stars is better than Audition, though.

The In Memoriam section hits me in the feels EVERY TIME. ;______;

Kimmel is slaying it tonight. I will never get tired of the Damon/Kimmel feud.
“AND GUEST” I’m CRYING.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:
MbtS better win this – it was a beautiful script and Lonergan is a word wizard.
Loved LLL, but it wasn’t for the writing.
WOOOOOOO!!!!!! *fist pump*

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Come on, Lion or Moonlight….
Wow that is some height differential.
Moonlight was absolutely beautiful – so happy to see it get recognized.

BEST DIRECTOR:
Would be literally happy with any of these except one, but I’ll leave that to the imagination.
And that’s another one for LLL! I am SHOCKED. Shocked!
He’s 32 going on 14.

Dude I gotta get up at 4 can we wrap this up pls

BEST ACTOR:
It has GOT to be Affleck. I love Denzel and Gosling (AND VIGGO), but Affleck MADE that movie. He was the picture of misery.
I mean… I am not opposed to a surprise Mortensen win, though.
Awwww, the Affleck bros!
At least he looks like a vagrant for a role, though. Like, there’s a purpose for it.

BEST ACTRESS:
Can Stone pull it off?!?!?!? Would love a surprise Negga win.
Meryl Streep was AMAZING though, fyi. I have never laughed so hard in a Meryl Streep movie.
This is the first I’ve seen Leo since last year’s Oscars. Did he get lost in the wilderness again?
AWWW is it even possible to dislike Emma Stone?

FINALLY I need to go to bed so let’s get this done it is literally the nEXT DAY

BEST FILM:
God, I only saw five of the nominees this year. Gotta step it up in 2017.
I enjoyed La La Land the most, but I think Moonlight is a superior film, so it’s my pick.
MbtS is borderline for me, though it hit me very hard. I think it won for what it should have won.
Lion’s a long shot, as is Arrival, but they are all excellent films and if either of them win I won’t even be mad, tbh.

….Well, I’m not surprised.  Would have loved to see Moonlight walk away with it, but really, all nominated films are deserving, and LLL was phenomenal too…

wAIT A MINUTE WHAT?!?!?!?! A mistake?!?!?!

OH

MY

GOD

YESSSSSSSSS!!!!!!

Feel bad for the La La Land team, but WOW. What an upset! Glad to see Moonlight take it after all, but what a plot twist!

now sleep