Normally I’m still finishing up watching the Oscar nominees as late as the morning of the ceremony, but today a full three weeks before this year’s event, I’ve finished watching everything on the lists. I don’t believe that I started substantially ahead of any prior year, but rather the combination of this film watching project and no new releases in theaters has kept me singularly focused on this set of films.
Greyhound (2020, Dir. Doug Roland)
I appreciated this much more than I thought I would. Much of my Oscar viewing this year has had me considering on the cinema landscape has changed in my lifetime. The Oscar bait picture, while not completely dead has no real room anymore. Within the first 10 minutes of the film, I was worried that Greyhound was going to fall into that trap as a film out of time. In those minutes, Captain Krause (Tom Hanks) and Evelyn (Elisabeth Shue) discuss their shared love and plans for the future. With this framing, I anticipated a 90s style sprawling love story through a lens of war, but after this initial scene, the romance component was dropped for the remainder of the film for all intents and purposes.
Instead of relying on the schmaltz set up in the initial scene, the film relies on 80 plus minutes of continuous tense set pieces that are as exhausting to watch as they are for the characters. This relentless pacing is what elevates Greyhound beyond the Oscar bait premise. By staying so one note and continuously elevated, the film takes on an almost experimental stance eliminating much of the three-act structure for continuous action. And while it doesn’t quite succeed on that level, its uniqueness is much appreciated.
The Life Ahead (2020, Dir. Edoardo Ponti)
Make that two for two on films that subverted my expectations tonight. When I viewed Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga I commented on how the films nominated exclusively for best original song are the bane of Oscar film watching. The Life Ahead, however, felt like the kind of film I would catch at an arthouse theater and attempt to champion in vain. While the nominated song was fine, the movie itself was the standout. The film is essentially a coming-of-age story for they young Momo (Ibrahima Gueye) as he’s forced to carry out the last wishes of Madame Rosa (Sophia Loren) his ailing caretaker. The emotions expressed by the film are well earned even if the film verges on melodrama at times. In full disclosure, I’m going to keep this post rather short, because the character of Lola (Abril Zamora) has me intrigued enough to write a longer piece on the film. For now, just know that the film gets a recommendation from me.