Oscar Quest 2018: “Phantom Thread”

Phantom Thread!

“Why, hello, viewer. Join me for breakfast and ambiguity, won’t you.”

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

This time of year is my annual Oscar Quest, during which I venture out to see all Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, regardless of whether I think I’ll like them or not, whether their politics and beliefs agree with mine or not, whether they’re good or bad for me, and whether or not my friends and family have ever heard of them. I’ve seen every Best Picture nominee from 1997 to the present. As of February 21st I’ve officially seen all nine of this year’s Best Picture nominees. I’m not sure I’ll be able to cover the others in full before the Oscars telecast on March 4th, but let’s see how far I can get before I burn out.

Onward to nominee #7: writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread, reportedly the acting farewell of Daniel Day-Lewis, the closest that men have to an answer to Meryl Streep. I’ve only seen one other PTA film, the stunning There Will Be Blood, in which he guided Day-Lewis through brutally yet artfully steamrolling any and all other actors in his path. In their latest team-up he plays another smug period-piece professional with deplorable ideas about how to be the best there is at what he does, but this time winning the movie through sheer force of will wasn’t quite so simple.

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“Lincoln”: a Multi-Purpose Crossover of History, Morality, and All-Star House Party

Daniel Day-Lewis, "Lincoln"Despite a few dissidents who wished for something more, Stephen Spielberg’s new film Lincoln has received a host of rave reviews and much name-checking in articles about Academy Award predictions. The film aims to operate numerous levels, which may or may not work depending on what set of preconceptions and expectations you hope to see fulfilled:

* Historical drama: Based on the nonfiction book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin, the script by Pulitzer Prize winner Tony Kushner (Angels in America) is a meticulous chronology of January-April 1865, when our beleaguered sixteenth President sought to end the Civil War and legislate abolition, but struggled through his negotiations with Congress to ensure that each occurred in the correct order, lest one set of dominoes send the other sprawling into chaos. Dozens of historical figures vie for screen time and take turns having their shared moment with either Lincoln or his henchmen. The result is a lot of nineteenth-century trivia compacted into a series of staged conversations, some of which are drier than others. Chances are, though, very few viewers will be able to say they’ve heard all of this before.

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