Kris Tapley‘s latest award-season analysis piece (“Are You Ready for the Most Exciting Oscar Race in Years?“) appeared this morning. It’s mostly an accurate read. Especially if your definition of “accurate” is taking the pulse of your Gurus of Gold and Gold Derby go-alongers (i.e., the people who hold their moist fingers to the wind before deciding what they like or which film has the heat). How is Hollywood Elsewhere any different? I’m as aware as the next guy about which way the winds are blowing, but forecast-wise I go by insect antennae vibrations.
The four Best Picture biggies right now, Tapley is saying, are Dunkirk, The Shape of Water, Darkest Hour and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
Two of these, Dunkirk and Three Billboards, are ballsy stand-outs that deliver something extra by setting out on their own paths. The Shape of Water is a geeky Beauty and the Beast thing attempting to slide into the Oscar fold on a current of emotion and erotic fantasy, and Darkest Hour is the most traditional or old-fashioned of the bunch, a historical drama that is both stylistically striking while walking a very familiar path, and with a lead performance that screams “I am doing almost everything that an Oscar-baity performance can possibly do to win your allegiance — clever mimicry of a famous voice, elaborate facial prosthetics, big cigar, quirky behavior, etc.”
I know what I’m about to say will irritate some people, but I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t also describe Tapley’s article as a very cleverly phrased takedown thing (and I’m saying this with genuine respect). It manages, almost by sleight of hand, to lower the Best Picture chances of Luca Guadagnino‘s Call Me By Your Name. If the 98% Rotten Tomatoes rating and Toronto Film Festival reactions are any barometer (CMBYN was the 2nd runner-up in the TIFF people-ballot vote), this is certainly one of your Best Picture slam-dunkers. But Tapley has given it the elbow.
What’s happened is that Tapley (who, don’t forget, expressed vague annoyance last July at the “overbearing Call Me By Your Name mafia”) has thrown in with David “punching chance” Poland as well as a modest fraternity of “older, vaguely prudish industry guys” in describing this Sony Pictures Classics as a deserving but struggling second-tier contender, trying like hell to climb aboard a moving train.
Respectful denigration is an art form, and Tapley has mastered it. I do this shit myself from time to time so don’t tell me.