Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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Four Oscar Nominated Films That I Won’t See, and One That I Wish I Hadn’t

There are three films that have received an Oscar nomination for “Best Picture”, plus one other that has received several nominations, that I won’t be seeing, and I’ll share with you why you might want to consider passing on them as well. In addition, there is one film that has received an Oscar nomination for “Best Picture” which I’ve seen but wish that I hadn’t.

I’ve previously shared these 5 resources that I use to help me be discerning when I’m considering going to see a movie or watch a television program. Most films, unless they are specifically aimed at a Christian audience, have some content issues such as sexuality, nudity, language, worldview, etc. This even includes films that are targeted to children. An example of this is the forthcoming animated film Sherlock Gnomes. In this trailer alone, there are several things included that parents of young children will have concerns with.

Here are the four Oscar nominated films that I won’t be seeing:

Call Me by Your Name – This film received four Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Lead Actor. The film is about a 25-year-old man working as a research assistant with a professor in Northern Italy who befriends the professor’s 17-year-old son, and their relationship blossoms into sexual romance. In many states in the U.S. this would be considered statutory rape.  Ted Baehr of writes about the film that “It confuses lust with love. As such, it’s one of the most explicit, abhorrent mainstream movies of the year, homosexual or heterosexual”. The film includes a significant amount of sexual content and nudity.

I, Tonya – This film received three Oscar nominations, including Lead Actress and Supporting Actress. The film is about the life of Olympic hopeful ice skater Tonya Harding’s relationship with her mother and husband, and the 1994 incident in which Nancy Kerrigan was attacked by Harding’s husband. The film includes a significant amount of adult language and some sexuality.  I remember this when it actually happened – why is it worthy of a movie?  She has been banned for life from the U.S. Figure Skating Association.

Lady Bird – This film received five Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Lead Actress, Supporting Actress and Director. The film follows a high school student through her senior year of school as she struggles with her mother and other people in her life. The film contains a significant amount of adult language and some sexuality and graphic nudity.

The Shape of Water – This film received a leading thirteen Oscar nominations, including Best Film, Lead Actress, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actor and Director. This film is about a love story between a mute female janitor and an amphibious creature. The film contains a significant amount of sexual content, nudity and bestiality. Ted Baehr of calls this film that has received thirteen Oscar nominations “One of the worst, most abhorrent movies in recent years”.

In addition, here’s one additional film that has received an Oscar nomination for “Best Picture” that I saw, but wished I hadn’t:

Phantom Thread – This film received six Oscar nominations, including Best Film, Lead Actor, Supporting Actress and Director. The film is about a British dressmaker and the women in his life, starring acclaimed actor Daniel Day-Lewis. The movie is beautifully filmed and is supported by a very good musical score, but ends with a disgusting, perverse and twisted turn in the relationship between the lead character and his wife.

Each of the above films probably has much going for it – acting, directing, writing, etc., and as a result we may be tempted to go see them. But as a person of faith, I’ll be taking a pass on these films, as Hollywood continues to try to push moral boundaries. If you have seen one of these movies, please let us know what you thought.

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Phantom Thread, rated R
** ½

Phantom Thread is a very well-acted film about a British dressmaker and the women in his life, starring acclaimed actor Daniel Day-Lewis. The movie is beautifully filmed and is supported by a very good musical score. Unfortunately, none of the main characters in the film are very unlikeable and thus I didn’t find myself caring about them. In addition, there is significant content concern which discerning viewers will want to make note of.
The film is directed and written by six-time Oscar nominee Paul Thomas Anderson (Inherent Vice, There Will Be Blood, Magnolia), who also served as cinematographer for the film. It was nominated for two Golden Globe awards (Best Actor and Best Original Music Score), and will most likely receive some Oscar nominations in the near future.
There are three primary characters in the film which is set in postwar 1950’s Britain. Three-time Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln, There Will Be Blood, My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown) announced that this would be his last
film as he will be retiring from acting. He portrays the renowned and self-obsessed fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock. The character is rumored to be based on both Cristóbal Balenciaga and Charles James.
Woodcock, a confirmed bachelor, can be demanding and cruel. He and his sister Cyril, who he refers to as his “so and so”, played by Lesley Manville (Another Year), run the House of Woodcock and are the top choice of the British elite for fashion. Many of the staff at the House of Woodcock are played by real seamstresses and are persons connected with the fashion world.
We see that there are love interests that come in and out of Reynolds’ life, but he soon tires of all of them. Sister and business partner Cyril is his only lasting relationship.

One day we see Reynolds meet Alma, a waitress at a hotel restaurant, played by Vickie Krieps. She is much younger than Reynolds. They make an instant connection, and Woodcock asks her out to dinner that evening.  Reynolds tells Alma about his late mother, but doesn’t ask Alma anything about herself. Reynolds had a very close relationship with his mother, and continues to feel her presence. Later that evening, Reynolds and Alma go to his country home where he measures her for a dress. She is the ideal size as a model for him.
Soon Alma moves into the home of Reynolds and Cyril, which also serves as the location of their dressmaking business. This doesn’t please Cyril, who is loyal to her brother and their business, and we see a competition of sorts between the two women for Reynolds’ affections and attention. A theme throughout the film is the shifting of power between the two women.
Reynolds has very established routines and doesn’t react well to any changes to them. More than just a dress designer, he’s an artist. He’s also a narcissist, and can be mean and rude. We don’t see a lot of affection between he and Alma.  She’s not really sure why she is there.  Is she just a model, or Reynolds’ lover? Then we see Alma take a shocking action aimed to draw Reynolds to her.  Keep an eye out for the themes of being needed and being in control.

Music plays a large role in this film through the score of Jonny Greenwood and other classical music. The movie is beautifully filmed, with an excellent use of color and precise details as we see Reynolds and the seamstresses work on the dresses. But key to the film is the juxtaposition between the beauty of the film (color, dressmaking, homes and landscape, people and music), and the darkness of the nature of the relationships between the three main characters.
Phantom Thread is beautifully filmed and superbly acted by all three of the main characters, though a bit slow moving. Daniel Day-Lewis may very well earn another Oscar nomination for his work here. The film receives an “R” rating for some adult language, primarily from Reynolds, and the perverse and twisted manner in which the relationship between Reynolds and Alma plays out. Because of the latter, we cannot recommend this film for people of faith.