Globes for Mendes, Tarantino, and Bong

George MacKay in Sam Mendes’s 1917 (2019)

Since it won’t open wide until Friday, most of us haven’t yet seen 1917, Sam Mendes’s First World War drama tracking two lance corporals charged with going behind enemy lines to warn another company off a planned attack. Members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, however, have seen it, and last night, they awarded 1917 their Golden Globes for best drama and director. Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood won in the best musical or comedy category, with Quentin Tarantino taking best screenplay and Brad Pitt winning best supporting actor.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening was the poor showing for Netflix, which went into the race with thirty-four nominations and emerged with only two wins: Laura Dern for her show stopping supporting turn in Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story and Olivia Colman for her understated performance as Queen Elizabeth II in The Crown. Other acting awards went to Renée Zellweger for Judy, Awkwafina for The Farewell, Joaquin Phoenix for Joker, and Taron Egerton for Rocketman. The least surprising win of the evening was surely Parasite’s for best film in a foreign language. Accepting the award, Bong Joon-ho scored an enthusiastic round of applause when he advised: “Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”

Parasite, by the way, was named best picture of the year on Saturday by thirty-eight voting members of the National Society of Film Critics. Calling it Bong’s “latest—and most unsparing—depiction of class struggle,” Reverse Shot places Parasite at #3—after Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman and Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir—on its smartly annotated list of the top films of 2019. Other recent best-of-2019 lists of note come from desistfilm and In Review Online,Walter Chaw,Fernando F. Croce,Ryan Gilbey (New Statesman), Dan Sallitt,Srikanth Srinivasan, and Blake Williams. And while we’re at it, let’s note that members of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association have voted up a list of the best films of the 2010s, and for more favorites of the decade, see Ultra Dogme,Stephen Cone,Duncan Gray,Darren Hughes,Srikanth Srinivasan, and Neil Young.

To return to the Globes for a moment, most of the commentary today has focused either on Ricky Gervais’s fifth and final evening as host (see James Poniewozik in the New York Times, for example, or Catherine Shoard in the Guardian) or on the fact that 1917’s win now positions the film as a frontrunner in the Oscar race. The nominations will be announced a week from today. For Jake Cole, writing at Slant, 1917 “comes closer than any film since King Vidor’s silent war drama The Big Parade to capturing the mind-shattering hell of the Great War . . . In many ways, though, the most thrilling and haunting details of the production design are actively undermined by the chief technical gimmick of the film: that of being shot to look like one take. There’s a modern misconception that long takes aid the audience’s immersion into a film’s characters, when, in truth, unbroken, intensely planned shots are among the most visibly artificial affectations in all of cinema.” At the A.V. Club, A. A. Dowd agrees that “the sheer elaborateness” becomes “almost a distraction.”

The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw, on the other hand, finds 1917 “as exciting as a heist movie, disturbing as a sci-fi nightmare . . . The single-take technique fascinatingly creates a kind of theatrical effect: the spectacle of two people moving through an unbroken space. It is immersive, yes, but that dangerously overused word does not quite convey the paradoxical alienation that is being created: the distance, the pure strangeness.” And for Jason Bailey at the Playlist, the “proximity and intimacy of the technique render [the soldiers’] journey more visceral, and more frightening. And as a result, at its conclusion, the catharsis lands with the force of a hammer.”

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