Editor’s note: This is part of a 37-part series dissecting the 86th Academy Awards, brought to you by the Large Association of Movie Blogs and its assorted members. Nearly every day leading up to the Oscars, at least one new post written by a different LAMB will be published, each covering a different category of the Oscars. Also, every Best Picture and Best Director nominee gets its own post. To read the other posts regarding this event, please click here. Thank you, and enjoy!
BEST PICTURE: PHILOMENA
BY BERNARDO OF THE MOVIE RAT
Out of the Best Picture nominees, as of this writing I have seen three of the nine, and only Philomena ended up in my top 30 list, appearing at number 20. Here was my initial take during my Year-End Dash, a running post where late-in-the-year viewings get a quick reaction such that I can take their facets into account when creating my year-end lists and awards.
This film came as a great surprise and, once again, is a case of knowing very little about it going in. Based on the commercials you know the basic premise: an elderly woman seeks to discover the fate of the child she put up for adoption 50 years prior. It plays it up like it’s going to be all giggles and a heartwarming “human interest story” as Steve Coogan’s character would’ve derisively put it at the beginning of the film. But much like that journalist we are treated to, yes, some laughs, quite a few surprises (both good and bad) and some tears. The film has some touches to it like its montages of home video that foreshadow the child’s life being learned about and the weaving through time Philomena’s memory occasionally does. Judi Dench is positively marvelous, as is Steve Coogan who plays against type and wore many hats to help make this film happen.
My awards slate, the BAM Awards, nearly nominated this film in a few other categories, as the shortlist would indicate; However, I only nominated the film in the Best Actress category. The Academy nominated it four times, in addition to Dame Dench’s nod there’s one, of course, for Best Picture, for the screenplay adaptation by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope and the scoring by Alexandre Desplat. Though almost any Weinstein film has a fair shot at some Oscar nominations, but I cannot really argue against any of those nominations. Furthermore, I was close to including it in some of those selfsame categories including Editing, which usually has a very close tie to determining the Best Picture winner. There are many wonderful things at work in Philomena, and I will attempt to illuminate those as vaguely as possible. Since it’s based on a true story and a nonfiction book the information (i.e. spoilers) are out there, but I’ve seen others say as I have that being as blank a slate as possible is best going in. And in another case of somewhat misleading marketing being a boon (see Frozen) the trailers and ads don’t really show you what you’re in for. There is a wonderful bit of editing both in time and tone as the film goes back and forth and into Philomena’s mind and shows, why after so many years she feels compelled to step up this search. Dench’s character is a deceptively simple one she plays marvelously conveying, in mostly unspoken terms, the emotional complexity that she has. In this tale there is a bit of intelligence in the way it nearly does fourth-wall breaking commenting on the type of story you expect. Sixsmith (Coogan) is, of course, commenting on the news story but it pertains to the film as well. There is, of course, the element of mystery inherent; comedy; the personal dynamics of these foils; the complicated relationships we have with religion whether we believe or not, and much more. Philomena is a dark horse in the Oscar race, probably in all its nominated categories. I make no claims of being a prognosticator but its chances, like the film itself, ought not be written off. Its presence on film’s biggest night is sure to make this film’s presence known to those who may not have had the pleasure of seeing it yet.
Tags: LAMB Devours The Oscars