Call Me By Your Name
You probably know that this film was nominated
for the Best Picture Oscar. It is a coming-of-age drama
about the romantic relationship between an adult
doctoral candidate and a 17 year old.
"What?" you say, "It glorifies a pederast?" No, because
both the adult and the child in this case are male,
which makes it OK.
Society's values have really changed.
Picture this: you are a professor and have a gifted,
vulnerable 17-year-old daughter. A grad student lives in
your house for the summer as part of an intership within
his Ph.D program. While he is there, he seduces your
daughter, then runs back home and gets engaged to his
fiancee, leaving your daughter in tears as the story
Do you think that movie would play out as an Oscar
candidate in today's cultural environment?
And yet, if you simply change the word "daughter" to
"son," you create an instant metamorphosis from a
tone-deaf glorification of pederasty to a tender,
I am not criticizing the film or its authors. It
actually is a tender romance. What I am criticizing is
society's hypocrisy, and the same hypocrisy reflected in
the Motion Picture Academy.
So did I like the movie? Not so much, but that's
unrelated to the subject matter. It's more a matter of
my personal taste. Call Me By Your Name has the
sensibility of a European art film, circa 1965. The
story, such as it is, progresses slowly, in three
different modern languages, with occasional discussions
of Latin and Ancient Greek. Some individual scenes which
seem to be part of the narrative end before making their
point, while other scenes which do nothing to advance
the story or characters can be utterly annoying in their
languid pacing. Picture this scene, for one example:
it's a beautiful summery day on a charming, deserted
country lane in rural Italy. Near the camera, two young
males climb on their bikes and start to ride away. They
ride and ride and ride and ride until they disappear in
the distance. The scene is captured by a single
stationary camera which never uses the zoom. This was
one of many scenes when my mind wandered and I nearly
So, really not my kind of movie. There were only two
moments I found genuinely impressive. The first
consisted of some exquisitely beautiful still-lifes of
Italian landscapes in winter. The other was a speech
delivered by the professor (Michael Stuhlbarg) to his
young son after the boy's older lover had departed.
"What you two had, had everything and
nothing to do with intelligence. He was good, and you
were both lucky to have found each other, because...
you too are good.
Both of the scenes I liked happened in the last ten
minutes of the film. That's a long time to wait for
something to admire in a film.
We rip out so much of ourselves, to be cured of things
faster than we should, that we go bankrupt by the age
of thirty and have less to offer each time we start
with someone new. But to feel nothing so as not to
feel anything - what a waste!
Let me say one more thing. It'll clear the air. I may
have come close, but I never had what you two have.
Something always held me back or stood in the way. How
you live your life is your business, just remember,
our hearts and our bodies are given to us only once.
And before you know it, your heart is worn out, and,
as for your body, there comes a point when no one
looks at it, much less wants to come near it. Right
now, there's sorrow, pain. Don't kill it and with it
the joy you've felt."
Actually, I thought it could have been a good 90-minute
film that was poorly edited to 130 minutes, but you
should probably also note that my date pretty much hated
everything about it. I have learned to tolerate,
occasionally even appreciate, the peculiarities of
1960s-style European art films. She has not. She found
the grad student (Armie Hammer) to be plastic,
superficial, vanilla and totally lacking in personality.
She was utterly annoyed by the film's constant and
pretentious digressions from the main story and its
occasional arty color filters. (One brief scene is in
red-and-white for reasons mystifying to me.) She laughed
out loud at how some of the characters reacted to other
characters. (Example: a guy who looks like a "hood"
character out of Grease smoked a cigarette impassively
in front of his red sports car when Armie Hammer
commandeered his female friend for a dance through some
ruins. Not a "what gives?" or even a change of facial
expressions.) Fortunately, the story was told in
chronological order, because my date told me she was
walking out at the first sign of a POV flashback.
By the way, what could be more representative of
pretentious Euro-films than "dancing through ruins"?
That should actually be the title of a European art
Possibly this one.
This is yet another Best Picture nominee that I
found utterly tedious. Daniel Day Lewis plays a
sophisticated, prickly, rigid head of a fashion
house in 1950s London.
Are you still awake after that description?
DDL's regimented life is disrupted by a young waitress
whom he cultivates as a model, then muse, then lover,
then wife, all the while ignoring her completely unless
he has an urgent need for something. She is a
strong-minded woman who decides that she will make him
Her means toward that end, and his reaction to it, are
the engines that drive the plot train.
appears in a see-through slip with no bra
I have now seen all nine of the
Best Picture nominees. This is my take on the other
seven in thumbnail sketches:
The Post and Darkest Hour - basically just
docu-dramas consisting of great actors talking in
dark rooms. Darkest Hour almost succeeds in making
WW2 boring, although Oldman is absolutely tremendous
Lady Bird - a very charming film, easy to watch. I
liked it a lot, but I felt that I had seen it about
a hundred times before
These four seem to me to be legitimate Best Picture
Dunkirk - a brilliant job of directing one of the
great stories of the 20th century.
The Shape of Water - a weird, imaginative marvel of
Get Out - a great genre film. I don't expect a
horror film to win Best Picture, but it might have
an outside chance because of its effective
undercurrent of social criticism, which might
elevate its "importance level" into Oscar territory.
Three Billboards - a powerful drama with a very
entertaining overlay of black comedy. I expect
Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell to get Oscars,
and Woody Harrelson was also effective in perhaps
the most nuanced role of the film.
In my opinion. the Best Director award should go to
Nolan (Dunkirk) or Del Toro (Shape of Water). I also
have to admit (grudgingly) that PTA did a fine job
of directing Phantom Thread, boring though it is.
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