Awards Season is Here!
The red carpets of Cannes, Venice, Telluride, Toronto, and New York are all rolled up, and festival prestige has taken up residence on the Ragtag’s marquee—awards season is upon us. From Palme d’Or winners and International Picture hopefuls, to career-best accomplishments, some of the most anticipated films of the year will make their way to our humble cinema, all in anticipation of the 95th Academy Awards.
Two such films have already landed in October. Triangle of Sadness, the 2022 Cannes Palme d’Or winner and latest provocation from Swedish enfant terrible Ruben Östlund (The Square, Force Majeure), is an acidic satire taking dead-aim at the absurdity of the idle rich before, during, and after a gleefully disastrous luxury cruise. Meanwhile, Todd Field (In the Bedroom, Little Children) returns to filmmaking after a 16 year hiatus with TÁR—the massive and surgically precise story of the unraveling of a fictional classical music titan, Lydia Tár. The film is fully a collaboration between filmmaker and performer, as Cate Blanchett delivers an athletic, at times monstrous, and all together awe-inspiring depiction of ruthless perfection. “I feel shifted off my axis by the experience of making this film,” Blanchett offered in an interview. “And, I hope, for the better.”
The path towards the Oscars continues through November and December with even more festival standouts. Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin (opening November 4) pits Brendan Gleeson against Colin Farrell in a pitch-black bit of Irish farce, in which, on a quant island a sea away from the Irish Civil War of 1922, Colm doesn't want to be Pádraic's friend anymore. The comically petty grievances that incite this small tale escalate to imperil their even smaller village—which, from the vantage point of the film’s tragicomic cast of characters, might as well be the whole world.
Following the electricity at international scale of 2019’s Parasite, this year’s Academy Awards official entry for Korea, Decision to Leave (opening November 11), has already taken the Best Director prize at Cannes. The dizzying genre-bender from Oldboy and The Handmaiden-auteur Park Chan-wook, tracks a slick Korean detective and an enigmatic Chinese femme fatale as they fall into one another’s orbit. An infinitely inventive game of cat and mouse (and mouse and cat), the film’s form ping-pongs between hard-boiled crime familiarity and Hitchcockian romantic obsession—with parallel leads Park Hae-il and Tang Wei pivoting positions between that of Vertigo’s Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak.
The surprise (but not unanticipated) standout—across category and scale—from this year’s Toronto International Film Festival is The Fabelmans (coming soon). Steven Spielberg’s autobiographical epic, with no exaggeration, is an all-timer. The divorce between Spielberg’s parents (and its quiet influence at the heart of some of his blockbusters like ET and Close Encounters of the Third Kind) here is the big picture—if second only to how a young boy might fall in love with moviemaking. Also baked into the film is Spielberg’s Judaism, from generational customs to daily specificities, and, in post-World War II America, the constant message that he was different for it. This raw honesty is countered by its nostalgia, carrying an Amarcord-flavor of the fantastic—but would we expect any less grandeur from the person who gave America so much of its cinematic language?
A closing thought: Just as the most passionate footballers are often the most acutely aware of the worst aspects of the World Cup, cinephiles make for some of the Oscars harshest critics… and ought to be for our love of the form. With or without a drop of cynicism though, we know that beyond the pomp and circumstance, the Awards carry serious implications for what films get made, who gets to make them, and—in a treacherous time for theaters—how we get to see them. Outside of the heady scenes at festivals and cinemas like ours, ars gratia artis (art for art’s sake) isn’t a terribly motivating factor for Hollywood. But lest our beloved theatrical spaces fall further under the shadow of the monocultural Superhero Industrial Complex—ephemeral awards prestige, thankfully, still summons crowds at the box office…which is more than just ars gratia artis.