Oscar Bait – Call Me By Your Name / Darkest Hour

Title: Call Me By Your Name
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Year: 2017
Country: Italy/USA

Today’s pair starts off with a film that left me emotionally winded. I didn’t find myself bawling like a lot of people on the internet seem to have ended up, but this is a film that truly moved me. And by moved I mean that I was sat there in a state of emotional shock as the credits rolled beside Timothée Chalamet’s face.

For the uninitiated, Call Me By Your Name tells the romantic coming-of-age story of a 17 year old boy falling in love with a 24 year old visiting academic with Northern Italy as the backdrop. This sounds like the synopsis of a number of different gay interest movies, I know that, but there is an honesty and a style that sets this apart. It also has world class acting and Michael Stulhbarg in a supporting role (who I have adored since seeing him in A Serious Man back in 2009).

This is about as far as I want to go when talking about Call Me By Your Name. I went into this film unspoiled and this is nowhere near old enough a film for me to delve into those. What I can say is that this movie kept me thinking days later and even got me listening to the soundtrack when I was in the office (the appearance of Sufjan Stevens helps here). The world created in this film feels like a more tolerant one than would have probably existed in 1983, but that’s a small niggle in another excellent film.

The fact that, at some point in awards season, a film like this could have been considered a front runner shows how far we’ve come. Between this film and Moonlight‘s win at the Oscars last year, it is heartening to see these slower independent films about homosexual love getting some recognition. Lightning probably won’t strike twice here in terms of award wins, but it will be interesting to see how it turns out on Sunday.

Title: Darkest Hour
Director: Joe Wright
Year: 2017
Country: UK

Right, so I really wanted to stop watching this about 30 minutes in. Pretty much every year there is one nominee that I find frustrating. Last year this was Fences and this year it’s Darkest Hour. However, unlike Fences, not only did I find Darkest Hour frustrating but I also found it quite dull.

Getting platitudes out of the way first, yes Gary Oldman gives a great performance in this film and is able to completely disappear into the character.  It’s a performance where, much like Meryl Steep’s rendition of Julia Child, he is able to give an excellent rendition of what people expect Churchill to be rather than what he was probably like.

Okay now that’s over and done with – boy did this film paint with broad strokes. Anyone who disagreed with Churchill (and actually wanted peace) might as well have been standing in the corner twirling a moustache. Similarly, I understand that this was a dark time in Britain’s history… but I am sure there were still ceiling lights. Every time Churchill gives a speech it’s like the opening scene from The Lion King.

Still this would be mostly forgivable if it wasn’t for the fact that the final 20 minutes of this film are complete and utter fiction. It’s such an aggravating choice for Joe Wright and the scriptwriter to have made to have Churchill base his final decision around the Dunkirk evacuation on a straw poll of the British public that he encountered on the longest tube ride in British history. 10 minutes for one stop? Give me a break.

In the end, if I ask myself the question of why this film was ever made – the only answer I can give is Oscar bait. I know this is why a lot of films end up getting full funding, but as a piece of art I don’t see it and, more importantly, as a way to cast light on an interesting period of history this film fails because of that awful piece of fiction on the London Underground.

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One thought on “Oscar Bait – Call Me By Your Name / Darkest Hour

  1. I loved Call Me By Your Name. Having the Psychedelic Furs and Sufjan Stevens in the movie probably helped matters. Well that and the top notch acting from the two leads, the gorgeous Italian countryside, and the moving ending that packs a punch. I felt that certain scenes could have been cut, however overall it is a fantastic movie that I am still thinking about.

    Darkest Hour is Oscar bait, but its good, reliable Oscar bait. I hate that Gary Oldman did not win for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (really it should have been for The Professional, yet of course Oscar ignores action movies) but will most likely win for this movie, which is not as good and was made for him to finally get a little golden statue. However, the movie did offer plenty of criticism of Churchill, even painting him as a stubborn jackass at times, not to mention having people who noted his drinking and poor decision making in the past.

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