The nine nominations for best motion picture in the Hollywood Academy Awards don’t tell the full story of last year’s viewing. The same applies to the Baftas, the British equivalent of the Oscars.
This is partly because they discriminate against movies screened earlier in the year.
It is no coincidence that all five of the Bafta best film nominations are also in the Oscar line up. Only one, Dunkirk, was released earlier than December. Of the four others in the Hollywood lineup, all but Get Out is a current release.
Another complication has been a boycott of any film associated with people accused of sexual misconduct, such as productions by the Weinstein Company, which included Wind River and Tulip Fever.
That is not unexpected but overall it means titles on many “best of 2017” lists are missing from Oscar contention. As examples I would include two featuring Nicole Kidman (Killing of a Sacred Deer and The Beguiled), A Ghost Story, Personal Shopper, Detroit and even Wonder Woman.
The “foreign language” category fares better, as most of these have featured at key festivals during the year, such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes, Venice and Toronto.
The Bafta contenders were all seen here last year — Elle, First They Came for My Father (Netflix), The Handmaiden, Loveless and The Salesman — while the Oscars’ selection is chosen from submissions by non-English speaking countries.
Russia’s Loveless makes both lists, while Sweden’s The Square and Chile’s A Fantastic Woman were at the NZ International Film Festival but have not been given wider release. The other Oscar hopefuls, The Insult (Lebanon) and On Body and Soul (Hungary) remain unseen.
Call Me by Your Name (Sony Pictures Classic) would qualify as a foreign film, though much of it is spoken in English. It is nominated for best picture in both the Baftas and Oscars, making it the most celebrated European film of 2017.
This is not surprising, given Italian director Luca Guadagnino’s two previous stunning films, I am Love and A Bigger Splash, also made partly in English.
I would trace their appeal back to the classics of French cinema, particularly those influenced by the nouvelle vague (“new wave”) and made in the 1980s. That was a peak period for Eric Rohmer, a conservative Catholic born as JeanMarie Maurice Schérer.
I spent the holidays viewing his six-part series Comedies and Proverbs, made between 1981 and 1987. Guadagnino uses the same techniques to explore relationships — extended conversations that often turn brittle, scenes shot in middle frame on simple locations and with minimal embellishments such as music.
In Rohmer’s case, the characters are all young heterosexuals agonising over whether they would be better off with this or that partner.
Guadagnino opts for a homosexual angle, based on André Aciman’s novel that is heavily influenced by Rohmer.
The location has been moved from the Italian Riviera to Lombardy, as the teenage son (Timothée Chalamet) of an historian (Michael Stuhlbarg) is attracted to a visiting American scholar (Armie Hammer, last seen in Final Portrait).
Rating: Recommended for audiences over 13. 131 minutes.