The best in movies so far Kid­man, Gere, “Big Sick” are on top

The Denver Post - - LIFE&CULTURE - By Ann Hor­na­day Niko Tav­ernise, Sony Pic­tures Clas­sics Ben Rothstein, Fo­cus Fea­tures Lionsgate

Ear­lier this year, I wrote a col­umn about awards sea­son as a cru­cial, of­ten prof­itable way to draw at­ten­tion to smart, well­made films that cater to adult, non-comic-book-ob­sessed au­di­ences.

The ad­van­tage of that busi­ness model has been the preser­va­tion of the kinds of movies that, in the ab­sence of “earned aware­ness” award cam­paigns and Os­car pres­tige, Hol­ly­wood might not make any­more. The down­side, as I noted, is a dra­mat­i­cally lop­sided movie year, wherein film­go­ers are starved for qual­ity ma­te­rial at the mul­ti­plex un­til Oc­to­ber, at which point keep­ing up with good movies is akin to drink­ing from a fire hose.

The rea­son stu­dios hold back the good stuff is that they’re afraid movies that ap­pear early in the year will be long for­got­ten by the time academy mem­bers sub­mit their nom­i­na­tions. And it’s true: Ev­ery year, wor­thy movies that open in the late win­ter and spring are de­nied the box­of­fice boost of their late­break­ing brethren. Last year, the Colo­nial-era thriller “The Witch,” the drone-era thriller “Eye in the Sky” and erotic com­edy-drama “A Big­ger Splash” be­came de­served art-house hits, each of them su­perbly crafted and fea­tur­ing memorable per­for­mances from the likes of He­len Mir­ren, the late Alan Rick­man, Tilda Swin­ton and Ralph Fi­ennes. But they opened be­fore sum­mer, mean­ing that, by Os­car-time at least, they were non­starters.

The academy has largely washed its hands of the back­load­ing prob­lem, in­sist­ing it’s up to stu­dios to re­al­ize that the cal­en­dar has 12 months. That’s true but, as we head into the se­cond half of 2017, what more per­fect time to hold a midyear mini-Os­cars, if only to rec­og­nize work that will de­serve to be con­sid­ered six months hence?

Ladies and gen­tle­men, here­with are my hum­ble nom­i­na­tions for the year’s best so far, prof­fered in the hopes that, come next Jan­uary when the fi­nal short­lists are de­cided, they won’t go un­no­ticed.

Best screen­play: For wit, clever struc­ture and gen­uine sur­prise, we’ve been spoiled for choice so far this year, with such win­ning come­dies as “Colos­sal,” star­ring Anne Hath­away as a woman com­ing to terms with her own an­ar­chic power, and the World War II satire “Their Finest,” about a Bri­tish pro­pa­ganda team stag­ing a drama­ti­za­tion of Dunkirk. The ac­tress Zoe Lis­ter-Jones — al­ready a sea­soned writer — de­liv­ered a break­out di­rec­to­rial de­but work­ing from her script for “Band Aid,” about a cou­ple work­ing through grief and es­trange­ment by mak­ing mu­sic to­gether. Azazel Ja­cobs cast a sim­i­larly ob­ser­vant eye on the chal­lenges of long-term in­ti­macy in “The Lovers,” a rue­ful por­trait of in­fi­delity star­ring De­bra Winger and Tracy Letts.

Best di­rec­tor: Although su­per­heroes and ef­fects­driven spec­ta­cles are of­ten over­looked in this cat­e­gory, at least three such films this year have been ex­e­cuted with ex­cep­tional chops, taste and in­ge­nu­ity: James Man­gold’s “Lo­gan,” Patty Jenk­ins’ “Won­der Woman” and Matt Reeves’ “War for the Planet of the Apes.” I would add James Gray to the list for “The Lost City of Z,” an en­gross­ing, fas­ci­nat­ingly dream­like por­trait of Bri­tish ex­plorer Per­ci­val Fawcett that de­served far more at­ten­tion from view­ers than it re­ceived.

Best ac­tor: Along with the afore­men­tioned Letts, who por­trays a wan­der­ing hus­band with just the right mix of obliv­i­ous hu­mor and in­fu­ri­at­ing nar­cis­sism in “The Lovers,” let’s please not for­get Richard Gere’s on-point por­trayal of a noodgey New York fixer in the Man­hat­tan bagatelle “Nor­man,” or Liev Schreiber’s touch­ing por­trayal of a bruised boxer in “Chuck” or Sam El­liott’s one-man master class in screen act­ing in “The Hero.” Chris Pine em­bod­ies the term “sup­port­ing ac­tor” in “Won­der Woman,” as does the sub­limely funny Bill Nighy in “Their Finest.” In “Colos­sal,” Ja­son Sudeikis per­forms a crafty take on the mil­len­nial “cool guy” that went from sunny to sub­ver­sive at the pop of a beer.

Best ac­tress: Cyn­thia Nixon im­bued the poet Emily Dick­in­son with lit­from-within spirit in the oth­er­wise starchy “A Quiet Pas­sion.” Con­tin­u­ing a mag­nif­i­cent run in­clud­ing her nom­i­nated turn in last year’s “Lion” and the HBO se­ries “Big Lit­tle Lies,” Ni­cole Kid­man once again proves her bona fides in Sofia Cop­pola’s Civil War­era hor­ror film “The Beguiled.” Rachel Weisz el­e­vates the oth­er­wise hum­drum “My Cousin Rachel” with a tricky per­for­mance that’s both sym­pa­thetic and quite pos­si­bly ma­lign. Hayley Squires is shat­ter­ing in Ken Loach’s Bri­tish drama “I, Daniel Blake,” in which she plays a des­per­ate sin­gle mother nav­i­gat­ing poverty and pun­ish­ing pub­lic bu­reau­cracy. And no one will for­get Betty Gabriel’s unset­tling, as­ton­ish­ingly well-cal­i­brated in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Ge­orgina, the do­mes­tic worker with a stun­ning se­cret in Jor­dan Peele’s break­out Fe­bru­ary hor­ror hit “Get Out.”

Best pic­ture: Fans of “Get Out” will note that I have men­tioned that movie only once so far. That’s be­cause I be­lieve that, along with the brac­ingly funny and sen­si­tive ro­man­tic com­edy “The Big Sick,” it has gen­uinely strong chances of be­ing re­warded next year. Both films at least de­serve recognition for their smart, novel screen­plays — but, con­sid­er­ing “Get Out’s” im­pres­sive com­mer­cial suc­cess and “The Big Sick’s” sim­i­larly promis­ing prospects, it looks like they might go the dis­tance to com­pete for the big­gest prize of all. Let’s hope that, as they fill out their bal­lots, academy mem­bers sharpen their mem­o­ries along with their pen­cils.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.