Five new awards season reviews from Don Shanahan and Every Movie Has a Lesson

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Click on the titles for the full reviews

PHANTOM THREAD

Phantom Thread, everyone who enters the studio, workplace, and residence of The House of Woodcock, occupied by renowned London dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock, climbs a winding staircase incandescently lit by a blend of chandelier and skylight.  The symbolism to this trajectory feels twofold.  Each customer or guest could be ascending into the brightness of a heavenly place towards a stature of regality granted by Woodcock’s legendary garments.  They could also be rising to an unknown height of peril, blinded by the perception of dashing decadence they think awaits.  In many ways, both are occurring for the characters and also we the viewers.

ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD

Before the new year arrives and we all start a diet we’re not going to keep, let’s bring out the food analogies for All the Money in the World.  The meat and potatoes of a proper kidnapping film are more often than not the proverbial chase, mystery, and waiting game.  The act of the snatch-and-grab crime is a mere appetizer or aperitif to the slow-roasted chess match of what actions, decisions, and sacrifices will be required to recover the loved one or influential mark.

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

For this writer, Call Me By Your Name begs a volley of questions on the precarious notion of love.  Are there undisputed traits of love regardless of the culture or orientation of the coupling?   Do all of the words and acts of love come from the same sense of soul if the person was white, black, gay, straight, rich, poor, religious, atheist, or any core belief and demographic in between?  At the same time, what are the irrefutable boundaries that cannot be crossed, even in the name of love?  What informs and enforces those romantic edicts?

THE POST

There is a stream of visual exposition scenes at the beginning of The Post that detail how former Vietnam War military analyst Daniel Ellsberg, played by Matthew Rhys, absconds what would come to be known as the Pentagon Papers.  Part of the tedious process involves Ellsberg and his partner Anthony Russo photocopying the 47 volumes of documents after hours in secret, a minefield of paperwork and a haybale of secrets.  With tight zooms under searing fluorescent lights probing the workplace machinery from cinematographer Janusz Kaminski and laser-sharp editing from Michael Kahn and Sarah Broshar to make every lighted Xerox pass look like a blade of righteousness cutting through decades of corruption, Steven Spielberg and his esteemed team of regular artistic collaborators can even make a copy machine look ominous and intimidating.

DOWNSIZING

Matt Damon has gone on record stating that he solely chooses his projects based on the director.  In doing so, the man has one of the most decorated resumes in Hollywood lined with smart choices and a collection of the best filmmakers in the industry.  That said, he is having a rough year on the silver screen (off-screeen is another story).  The Great Wall and Suburbicon may have carried the Zhang Yimou and Coen brothers pedigree, but both films were questionable and subpar at best and box office bombs for Damon continuing The Martian’s good graces.

 

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