[#2018oscardeathrace] Darkest Hour (2017)

Director: Joe Wright

Cast: Gary Oldman, Lily James, Kristin Scott Thomas, Stephen Dillane, Ronald Pickup, Ben Mendelsohn

Screenplay: Anthony McCarten

125 mins. Rated PG-13 for some thematic material.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Picture [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Actor [Gary Oldman] [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Production Design [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Cinematography [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Makeup and Hairstyling [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Costume Design [Pending]

 

I had been under the belief that Darkest Hour would not score a Best Picture nomination. While it seemed to be trending for it late last year, that steam was lost by 2018’s start. I don’t think there were any doubts of its nominations for Best Actor in Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Hitman’s Bodyguard) and Makeup/Hairstyling, but the question looms: is Darkest Hour worthy of Best Picture?

Darkest Hour recounts a small but important slice in the life of Winston Churchill (Oldman), specifically his appointment to Prime Minister to his fateful speech at Parliament. His strained working relationships with secretary Elizabeth (Lily James, Cinderella, Baby Driver) and King George VI (Ben Mendelsohn, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, TV’s Bloodlines) are particularly highlighted, as is the disdain felt by his predecessor Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time) and Edward Wood, Viscount Halifax (Stephen Dillane, The Hours, TV’s Game of Thrones).

Darkest Hour is a damn fine character piece. The work given by Gary Oldman here is exemplary, and I dare say it like we always do, it may be his best work to date. That’s truly saying something about the prolific actor who seems to get better and better with each outing. He deserves the Oscar. I’m calling it.

That isn’t to take away from the amazing work from the entire cast. Lily James shines in her scenes, Dillane and Mendelsohn are fully fleshed out adversaries, and Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient, Only God Forgives) is terrific as Clementine Churchill. It only breaks my heart that we didn’t get to see the late great John Hurt as Neville Chamberlain. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing bad about Pickup’s performance, but I feel like Hurt was perfect for the role and the film’s dedication to him proves how missed he is as a screen presence.

Director Joe Wright’s film is an ambling presentation of the stellar work of its cast. The faults come with the pacing of the film. The movie loses its focus as it inches closer to its finale, and I feel like the film was nominated purely because of Oldman stellar achievement. The pacing doesn’t kill the film, but I think it does lose its Best Picture quality with it.

Overall, I won’t fault this tremendous achievement. Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour is a great movie, and it works even better if you double-feature it with Dunkirk or, hell, put The Imitation Game in there too for a WWII marathon. While the film gets a little too meandering at times, this is high-quality film-making from Wright. This timely film is definitely worth your’s.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Philomena (2013)

philomena

Director: Stephen Frears

Cast: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan

Screenplay: Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope

98 mins. Rated PG-13 for some strong language, thematic elements and sexual references.

 

At this point, I’ve seen each of the ten Best Picture nominees from this past year’s Academy Awards, and I will admit this: the surprise win of the year is Philomena, a delightful little film about a woman on a search to find the son she gave up decades previous and the writer looking for a story who joins her. It is a simple premise with an extraordinary path waiting to develop. Judi Dench (Skyfall, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) is Philomena Lee, and easily deserves the nomination she received for her performance. Her character is equal parts comedic genius and devastating regret. I recall the connection I had with this woman just watching her struggle with maintaining a positive outlook on her often dismal journey.

Steve Coogan (Alan Partridge, Despicable Me 2) is Martin Sixsmith, a disgraced writer who takes on Philomena’s life as a possible return to success. Their relationship is what makes this film so magical. The way Philomena views life and the discussions between her and Martin, I could listen to them discuss TV Guide. In fact, there is a sequence in which Philomena explains the plot of a romance novel to Martin, and I couldn’t stop giggling.

This is a film with the ability to be both the feel-good movie of the last year and the film to make you reflect on the regrets that you have made. It is thought-provoking, it is beautifully crafted by director Stephen Frears, and it is watchable.

philomena09

Philomena may be one of the most perfect unwatched movies of recent memory. Now why haven’t you watched it?

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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