The Talon

Let’s Talk Oscars

The Talon discusses predictions and top picks for some of the biggest nominations at this year’s 90th Oscars.

Carissa Lee

Carissa Lee

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‘Lady Bird’ Epitomizes the Coming-of-Age

An exquisite love letter to the woes of adolescence and the “Midwest of California,” “Lady Bird” is relatable, hilarious and unexpectedly hard-hitting. Featuring an outstanding cast — with powerhouse performances by two-time nominated Saoirse Ronan as the high school senior Lady Bird and Laurie Metcalf as her loving, attentive mom — the film bleeds a nostalgic yearning for the past but a sanguine hope for the future.

Against other Best Picture contenders like the fantastical “Shape of Water” and grim “Dunkirk,” “Lady Bird” seems much calmer and more innocent. It’s earnest and honest, like its title character. Debut writer-director Greta Gerwig infuses passion into her realistic characters, helping the movie subtly depict truths about love and life. (The movie follows Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson through the ups and downs of her senior year; it’s a slice of life.)

Ronan anchors the movie with her charming performance; “Come here often?” Lady Bird attempts to suavely ask her crush at one point (he doesn’t get it). She so wholeheartedly expresses that wild range of teenage emotion — hope and first love and heartbreak and wonder — you can’t help loving her. Central to the movie is her relationship with her mom and their love, and Ronan and Metcalf effortlessly shift from arguing to reconciling.

The movie unwinds briskly with a runtime of 94 minutes, but by the end, you already miss everyone in Lady Bird’s world. Time gets lost in itself, the way it only can when you get to experience great art for the first time. Maybe it’s because it portrays the ordinary so beautifully it feels like real life. Maybe it’s because I inherently relate to Lady Bird’s experiences, currently living through them myself.

Detractors may naysay the movie as simple and too conventional a coming-of-age narrative. Yet its beauty lies in the poetic simplicity of the plot and depth of Gerwig’s lovable characters. Yes, there’s a too-good-to-be-true boyfriend and chubby, comedic best friend, but Gerwig writes them into unconventional, believable directions (which I can’t fully describe and don’t wish to spoil).

Gerwig’s loving attention to character and detail make “Lady Bird” most deserving of Best Picture. It’s hard to describe how well “Lady Bird” captures life in all its unpredictability and wonder and sorrow. But that’s what it does, that’s why it’s great and that’s why it should win.

‘Call Me By Your Name’ is a Quiet Triumph

Though it might seem like just another coming-of-age romance, the mesmerizing performances, obvious passion placed into its making and the dedication to its authenticity came together to create a spellbinding, authentic and kind-hearted film.

Set in the early 1980s Italian countryside, the film follows the romance that unfolds between Elio, the son of an archaeology professor, and Oliver, the assistant brought on for the summer.

This film’s emotional center is the 17-year-old Elio, who spends his summer days transcribing music, reading and trying to talk to girls. Timothee Chalamet captures it all perfectly — equal parts stubbornness, reckless optimism and unrelenting vulnerability — sinking into his role and effortlessly communicating each thought and emotion with a single look. He makes this movie the triumph that it is.

Chalamet delivers Elio’s confession for Oliver while hidden behind a pair of sunglasses, yet is capable of making the audience feel each second. He leads with an acknowledgement of how little he knows of things that “truly matter.” As Oliver implores further, Elio’s worry and apprehension are revealed; we see the fidgeting movements and unsure pauses he takes, the silence nearly becoming a third character in the scene. But we also see the guileless unwillingness to back down from speaking this truth, seen through the childlike tilt of his chin up to Oliver, as if challenging him. Every nuance and subtlety in this scene is delivered perfectly by Chalamet.

Guadagnino captures Elio and Oliver’s summer in flawless clarity. Italy, through Elio’s eyes, is saturated in a haze of warm tones, conjuring this feeling of an endless summer with Oliver. And we’re later stunned by their inevitable separation, the starkly cold color palette and hard machinery of a train station contrasting sharply to gentle small town bike rides. Each aspect of this film was executed with purpose. The long-establishing shots, the original music of Sufjan Stevens and much more came together to form a world achingly real while simultaneously dreamlike, but above all, unquestionably Elio’s.

Finally, this film’s authenticity was its spark. I have never seen a truer story portrayed on screen. Each time I speak about this film I find myself saying it aches, exuding genuinity and truth. Other coming-of-age movies always seemed too sugary sweet to be real. But in Elio, I found something that has managed to ring true in my heart in a way nothing else ever has. I had the great fortune, or misfortune — I’m still unsure — of feeling and experiencing every one of his awkward fumbles, missteps and worries in a summer that, much like Elio, will be rooted in me for years. So I can say, with absolute certainty, that though its outsides appear skin deep and picture-perfect, the story it’s telling is rooted in simple truth.

“Call Me By Your Name” examines the human ability to love and advocates for feeling above all else. In all these ways, “Call Me By Your Name” deserves every accolade and more.

‘The Disaster Artist’ Isn’t ‘Oscar-worthy’ (and that’s why it’s the best movie of 2017)

When “The Disaster Artist” wasn’t nominated for Best Picture, I wasn’t surprised — it would’ve been more than lucky to be up for any Oscar. But in a year where reality television stars can be elected the president of the United States, “The Disaster Artist” seems to embody the absurdities of 2017. The film reminds us, in the age of Hollywood big-budget cash grabs and Oscar bait, that movies can just be stories viewers can empathize with.

“The Disaster Artist” chronicles the hilarity behind the making of the movie “The Room,” universally credited as one of the worst films ever made. At the same time, the film illustrates the importance of believing in yourself. When James Franco emerges on screen as Tommy Wiseau —  the “mastermind” behind “The Room” —  with his matted, long hair, and donning a thick Eastern European accent, the audience knows they are in for a comedic joyride. From his iconic laugh to dialogue that seems like it was written by an alien, Franco’s portrayal of Tommy reflects “The Room” being “so bad, it’s good.” The film’s inability to take itself seriously allows for the comedy to write itself.

Critics denounce the film for having no deeper purpose. But through Tommy’s pursuit of being a “great American hero,” the film does end up being more than a comedy. It’s a tribute to those fighting for their dream. Tommy is repeatedly, and rightfully so, told that he can’t make it as an actor in Hollywood. Even though I laughed throughout the movie, I could also feel my heart wrench as Tommy contemplates his incompetence. I rooted for Tommy to ignore his critics and use his mysterious fortune to write, direct, produce and star in a movie of his own. Though it hilariously ends up horrible, you can’t help but admire “The Room” to be the culmination of his dream.

Even though it will most likely not win an Oscar, “The Disaster Artist”’s commitment to telling the entertaining and heartwarming story of a dreamer made it the most enjoyable movie I saw in 2017.

**Should we have published this article? We acknowledge the gravity of the sexual assault allegations made against actor James Franco. We think we made the right decision here, but we’re not sure where the line stands for separating artists from their art. If you’d like to express your opinion on this issue, comment below**

Our Extra Picks

Best Actress: Our Pick: Margot Robbie — “I, Tonya”

Her performance as figure skater Tonya Harding was exceptional because of the blunt physicality and anger she brought to the film that defined her performance. She bleeds vulnerability in a story about someone who was shunned by society for so many years.

Best Actor: Our Pick: Daniel Kaluuya — “Get Out”

He showed genuine emotion through physical expressions and movement, revealing an extreme case of modern racism without excessive dialogue. While the film is not common Oscar “bait,” it is worthy of any attention it receives because of the unique acting of lesser-known actors, intelligent script and intense directing.

Best Director: Our Pick: Guillermo Del Toro — “Shape of Water”

For excellently crafting and executing the year’s best fantastical love story with “Shape of Water,” Del Toro deserves the win. He paid careful attention to cinematic detail with scenes in the rain and a vividly memorable dance scene, creating compelling characters by rounding them out with insightful, touching dialogue.

 

 

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