After the Globes and Saturday’s Spirit awards, there were few real surprises.
It was nice that James Ivory got the best adaptation for “Call Me By Your Name”. I actually think he improved on the book. While often moving, the book was rather fey and overwritten at times. It was narrated by the adult Elio looking back on his gay affair, at seventeen, with Oliver, who was in his twenties and worldly. That allowed for long stretches of gauzy gazing at the past, with metaphors in overdrive. Ivory wisely let with story tell itself, all but ditching the narration.
Sam Rockwell hit the trifecta alright, and I can’t say he didn’t deserve it. But I wonder if the sublime Richard Jenkins will ever get a role to match his talent.
As I noted in my review, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” was hollow and often silly, like an odd-looking sand castle at low tide. It had none of the flavor of rural America; Martin McDonagh directed it like the Irish tourist that he is.
I expect the Oscar will give Sebastian Lelio’s “A Fantastic Woman” some extra time in the theatres, which should allow me to see it. Of the three foreign nominees I saw, I thought Zvyagintsev’s “Loveless” beat out “The Insult” and the overpraised “The Square”.
One surprise was in the best song category. Usually, the one that gets the most enthusiastic reception is the winner. “This Is Me”, from “The Greatest Showman”, was given the kind of socko production you’d see on the Tony awards, and brought the audience to its feet. Then, when the winner was announced as “Remember Me”, from “Coco”, it seemed an anticlimax.
Of the acting winners, Gary Oldman’s speech had grace, strength and unforced humility. Loved it when he told his 99-year old mum to “put on the kettle”.
The best original score prize, at least for me, was between Alexandre Desplat for “The Shape of Water” and Hans Zimmer for “Dunkirk”. Both were amazing jobs. Desplat’s music had to carry us past some truly weird moments, including an inter-species sex hookup. He deserved it, but Zimmer’s contribution was awesome too. It was one of the longest sustained music scores I can remember, and the way it avoided wince-inducing war movie cliches was absolutely remarkable.
It was gratifying that the great Roger A. Deakins finally won (for “Blade Runner 2049”). Still, the virtuosic work of Hoyte van Hoytema on “Dunkirk”, was prize-worthy in itself. This was a multi-strand story that kept shifting locations, at breathtaking speed. To confuse the audience about where it was – at any single moment – could bring momentum to a halt; a real disaster. Hoytema made everything crisp and fully differentiated at all times. At least the Academy rightfully recognized Lee Smith’s brilliant editing for the film. Also for the sound editing and sound mixing (but will I ever really understand why they are considered separate categories?).
I should mention, in closing, that this year’s political theme was “female domination” – and I don’t mean as a porn fetish. We were reminded – ad nauseam – that “the new era” has arrived. If there was some dolt who missed it, Frances McDormand sent it home by requesting (more like commanding) every female nominee to stand for all to see. Now, for a producer to dare not to green light their next project is to risk banishment from the industry. We are on notice!